Tuesday, 16 March 2010


Alyogyne Huegelii - a delightful Australian hibiscus which won't stop flowering.

The spring weather has brought a spring to our steps, don't you think? Wendy is beginning to wake up and bring forth her sweetness. For too long, hateful cloud and 'starving' weather has kept my propagules cold, un-stirring and liable to rot off. But now, the cucumbers and tomatoes are up and ready for pricking out, the bedding is coming on and it's all systems go.

I've over-produced easy stuff, of course, as one always does, but am thanking providence that I had the sense to root cuttings of my more hardy pelargoniums. All, without exception, have perished outdoors, so my little babes, cherished in the Ark known as Wendy, have become extremely important.

Wendy, shot earlier today.

Now, a little shameless name dropping. We dined last week, my dears, with the sparkly Titchmarshes at a private supper party, chez the RHS President Giles Coode-Adams. And we stayed overnight with the Johnsons.

The mighty Hugh Johnson, who I've always admired enormously, not only because his World Atlas of Wine – first published in the early 1970s and revived in a myriad editions – taught me a great deal of plonkmanship but also because his written English, in style and construction, is sublime. He would never have been guilty of a sentence as clumsy as the one I've just written.

If you recall 'Tradescant's Diary' which used to appear every month in The Garden, you'll want to see this link and to discover, with joy, that Trad is still keeping up his journal.

The Johnsons are terrific gardeners of course, and our breakfas
t time tour of walled garden, dells, vistas, Japanese pool, trees, trees, trees and other delights put us in the best possible mood for the day.

A distinctly chilly, windswept Hyde Hall was our
next stop where we witnessed the Official Opening of the new Visitor Centre by El Magnifico Titchmarsho. Ceremonial ribbon snipping preceded an expertly conducted tour of the garden. We were split up into groups, for this, and as luck would have it, my gang ended up with the enthusiastic, ebullient Essex native James Nolan. James is responsible for all the new garden area which leads visitors from the centre gently up the long, long hill to the Dry Garden and beyond. He has a remarkable resemblance to Robson Green and I couldn't help thinking, as we toured that there might be a gruesome mangled
body somewhere.

Finally, when completely rigid with cold, we ducked under cover for what is known as a 'finger lunch.' I have to say, I didn't see any of the said digits among the food, but there are things one should never, never attempt at such events:

One is to try to drink fruit cup, when there are thousands of bits of fruit in it, when both hands are occupied juggling a plate and trying to stop the small, snacky things from rolling off. By magic, a tempura object fell, kerplunk, into the fruit cup which I subsequently managed to tip over someone's shoes.

Some of my tomato seedlings - hating peat-free compost.

The other thing is always, always, always avoid meringues like the plague at stand up events. They always explode, depositing their cream on your nose while the fragments waft away onto other peoples smart luncheon clothes. I should have known, but it is a well known fact that Hyde Hall meringues are the best - the absolute best. And they make them tiny, so you think they'll be manageable. But they aren't

The day went rather downhill after that. Cruising down the M2 - to visit my brilliant brother and help celebrate our Mother's birthday - don't ask - and cruising at a well-managed and legal 70mph, my car smacked into a metal object left in the road with a sickening thump. This trashed the back tyre and bent the wheel.

Changing a wheel on a motorway hard shoulder tends to make one work quickly and efficiently and we were away again within about 15 minutes, on a barmy army spare wheel which looked as though it had been borrowed from a bicycle.

But despite my resourcefulness, in remembering where the tools and spare tyre were kept, and the icy, controlled calm of the Photographer General, I got rather a ticking off by the attractive and extremely decent lady at the Canterbury Audi Garage.
'It's quite scary, changing a wheel on a motorway hard shoulde
r,' I said.
'You shouldn't have,' she said, severely. 'You should have called the RAC.'
'Have I been silly?' I asked, unaware that changing a wheel was apparently beyond my official skills.
'No' she replied, wearily, 'you just did it because you're a man.'
Alyogyne huegelii

But enough of all that!

I'm listening to the PG, threatening me with violence if I don't get away from this computer.

This week's film was The Thirty Nine Steps - the Hitchcock one with Robet Donat. It's an absolute gem, riddled with dark humour, deliciously told and with early vintage performances from John Laurie and Peggy Ashcroft. Every moment pleasurable and exciting. If only trains were like that now! Ah me!

This day in 2006 I was at Rosemoor, for a meeting of the Gardens Committee. A senior member of staff suggested that RHS volunteers, since they loved what what they did so much, might be invited to pay for the privilege of helping out with the garden!



  1. Really good meringues should really be pocketed for later consumption as they are never very elegant. Anything that cannot be easily slotted into the average mouth should not be allowed at that sort of thing.
    Biting is always a recipe for disaster: I have bitten into a sort of spring roll thing during a crowded stand up lunch thing and watched as various beanshoots etc scribed a graceful parabola onto the chest of the lady with whom I was engaged in conversation. (In mitigation it was a very crowded room and a large chest).
    Since then I have always tried to turn my head at least 30 degrees if compelled to bite things in public.

  2. I thought you got charged if you called the RAC out for flat tyres and lack of petrol even on the motorway.

    As an organiser of events with finger buffets I always try to avoid subjecting my guests to embarrassment but sometimes our caterers surpass themselves with the most ridiculously difficult to eat stuff.

  3. Beautiful flowers it is.So you are doing gardening right.

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