Thursday, 21 April 2011


Good morrow, good day, hullo and good luck!  And whatever your Paschal or other vernal/aestival proclivities might be, good luck with those, too!  It being Maundy Thursday, as I write this, I now have a mere 34 hours to wait, before I can gorge gluttonously on the chocolate and sweeties that I've foregone since Ash Wednesday.

This tulip was sold to me as 'Shirley' which is white, with a subtle and delicate lilac-mauve edge to the tepals.  There's nothing subtle or delicate about this one, but I love its brash cheerfulness.  (Close-up portraits by the PG.  Wides by me.)  CLICK ON PICS TO SEE BIGGER.

What can I say?  Is this really spring? Or is it a precocious summer, to be nipped in the bud by cruel May frosts and a flooded Chelsea?  We shouldn't care, I suppose, but should enjoy each glorious golden day as it comes. But I can't help thinking that there'll be a vicious sting in the tail of this heatwave.

Some triumphs:

A wide view of my mini-woodland garden

I have to say that my micro-woodland garden has been an unfettered joy this spring. At last, the treasures that I've been secreting into the leaf-mouldy soil are beginning to look as though they turned up there naturally, rather than having been planted in self-conscious, allotted spaces.

Left to right, Anemone nemorosa 'Viridiflora,' A. n. 'Royal Blue,' fading, with 'Parlez-Vous' behind. Dying oxlips to the right, budding Trillium flexipes on left. 

The wood anemones which surprisingly, the wood pigeons ignored this spring, were spectacular, creating a lovely patchwork carpet with the lilac mauve of Anemone nemorosa 'Robinsoniana,' Ash Wednesday blue-grey of the curiously named 'Parlez-Vous' - I keep thinking of German officers crossing the Rhine - the startling azure of 'Royal blue' and all the oddities like 'Viridiflora' which has no flowers at all and the gigantic 'Leeds Variety.'

Anemones are on the wane but we have other sylvan delights including Trilliums, Uvularia, Cyclamen repandum, Omphalodes verna 'Alba' foam flars, some spidery epimediums, a plague of oxlips, both true and false, plus dottings of this and that.

Trillium flexipes just coming into flower.

The place works as it should.  When I walk from the 'Tea Lawn' through the archway, into the wood, the atmosphere changes, the temperature drops a little and it smells different.  People whom I've ushered through invariably say 'Ah!' Or, if they're really appreciative, 'Aaaah!' without actually being able to put their finger on why.

The mini meadow isn't bad either.  The snakeheads are getting established, despite unwelcome attentions from lily beetles, and our wild cowslip colony has multiplied superbly.  More to the point, the grasses and flowers are already full of insect life.

Do we have a downside?  Well of course, who doesnt?  I'm still on one crutch, after my hip operation on 25th March, but can walk for a little while without any aids at all.  I can walk behind a mower, therefore, can water things in the greenhouse and do the odd light job but it's still a bit of a bugger getting down onto the ground, and up again.  And in a garden like ours, there's only one possible kind of weeding - down on your knees and by hand, or with a little hand fork.

It's going to take a long time, to get total control back.  Or, will I ever get control.  Do I want to have full control?

Nature is giving us exquisite pleasure this spring.
The swallows are zooming in and out of our garage, so we're hoping they'll nest in there again this year.  If only there were more swallows.  I sense that numbers are falling, year on year.  As for cuckoos, I only heard two last year, from the garden.  Another distressing population crash.

We've enjoyed a big hatch of Holly Blue butterflies, not to mention Orange Tips.  I've seen the year's first Speckled Wood, too -  female in exquisite condition and with perfect markings.

Also - my auriculas - all outdoor tough-guy varieties, are looking delicious and smelling extremely attractive!  You've got to slog through a bit more text to see a piccy of one.

Erythronium 'White Beauty'

AND NOW, two rather pointless observations.

1.  I'm only going to Chelsea on the Monday, purely as a guest.  And even then, I'm going mainly for the lunch. No journalistic work, no RHS work that I know of, and no responsibilities.  Lovely!

2.  When discussing proposals for a new farm housing 2,500 breeding sows in Derbyshire,  Lord Melchett informed me, via Radio 4, that I don't want large animal farms in Britain, but preferred smaller, traditional farms.  He didn't name me personally, of course, but rather sweepingly said something along the lines of  'People in Britain' or 'The British people' don't want this kind of thing.

I HATE it when leaders of pressure groups make sweeping statements on behalf of 'the people' or the 'silent majority,' as if they had inside knowledge of what genuine, analysed public opinion on the subject may be.

They do it to buy credibility, of course, but it doesn't bloody work with me, and I'm part of 'the British people.'

May I point out that I welcome large, efficient farms, provided the animal welfare is of a standard high enough to guarantee happiness, security and comfort for all the livestock, and that working conditions for the staff are also comfortable, safe and  bring fair rewards for the work.  And provided the carbon footprint of such farms is smaller, per unit of production, than on more traditional ones.

I welcome the efficiency of such farms if they will help to produce good food at competitive prices. And since Britain is only about 65% self-sufficient in food, it makes sense to increase our productivity.

I also suspect that if a detailed analysis was made, of the 'British People,' the majority would be found to buy food largely on price, given minimal quality standards, provided the animal welfare is up to scratch.  I'm not saying that is good or bad. I'm simply questioning sweeping statements about what the man on the Clapham omnibus really wants.

As a footnote, it's interesting that as living standards have fallen, a tad, sales of organic produce have slumped.  That speaks volumes.

Primula auricula 'Eden Greenfinch.'  The name doesn't seem apt, but this shot was taken several days ago.  The flowers have now turned much greener.

I'm listening to The 'Good Friday' music, from Wagner's Parsifal.  The incomparable Peter Hoffman, who sadly died last November, is singing.

This day in 1991, my diary says, the night temperature dropped close to 0ºC and damaged our fruit crop.  I was reading Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson.

This week's film was Christopher Nolan's Inception. I was told it would a riveting film with a complex and absorbing plot, superb effects and a brilliant story.  What I dozed through - and I admit, I was only half awake for much of its inordinate length - was a pointless ramble through a 'Matrix-like' world with a McGuffin which, as far as I could be bothered to tell, turned out to be valueless.  The acting was uninspired, as you'd expect with such awful material and the soundtrack, with relentlessly repeated, juddering musical bangs and phrases, was agony to endure.  To some, perhaps, a great action film. To me, it was puerile crap.  I was staggered to see that it won some Oscars.  But then, so did Titanic!

Bye bye, and happy holidays!


  1. Seen my first swallows of the year since we have been in the Gower, but there is one which sits outside the cottage on its own. Saw some wonderful Trilliums and other woodland planting at Aberglasney.
    As for Cuckoos happy they are declining as I think they are evil things!

  2. PatientG - I think it's a bit hard to consider cuckoos to be evil. I know what you mean, but they simply do what they've evolved to do, horribly cruel though it may seem.

  3. I love your woodland garden, having just been wandering around our local woods it does look amazingly natural. I now harbour dreams. I envy you swallows swooping by, we don't seem to get many here, although when I lived on Anglesey they nested in the large barns, one of our jobs was to make sure all the doors were kept open to make it easy for them to survey the area and pick a spot. It made a bit of a mess of the stuff stored in there though... Good to read that you are hobbling more easily now, hope you are soon able to get up close and personal with your plants.

  4. Nigel, It’s a very rainy Spring day so I thought it would be a good time to check in on you and the other Blogs I follow. Can not be out in the dirt so I am here at the computer. Your woodland garden is beautiful. So nice to see all the Spring flowers "doing their thing". Here it has been such a long Winter. Yesterday I walked the beach just to see if anything is turning green. Posted a few photos of the walk today. After all the snows things are coming back. Yeah! Jack

  5. Shirley is one of my favourite tulips and I would hae been horrified to have that yellow and red monstrousity turn up instead!!! I'm afraid your primula instead doing it for me either.

    I hate it when someone says "What WE want is..." when they are just giving a personal opinion.

    Can't believe it has been a month since your op - by the time Chelsea comes you will be racing around.