August 31, 2011

Why I Should Not Be Allowed Out without a Minder


There are many drawbacks to shopping on line, the chief one probably being how frelling easy it is.*  However I feel that insufficient attention is paid to the dangerous shock to the computer-screen-inured constitution when some pale, wasted, indoor geek** ventures out and . . . goes to the shops.  Ooooh!  Shiny!

            Peter usually goes to the farmer’s market in Mauncester on Wednesdays but he couldn’t go today so I said I would.  It would give me the opportunity to get back to WH Smith’s and hoover up a few more sketch pads.  Oh gods drawing kit.  I am so hopeless.  I’ve been fondling the seventeen dozen different kinds and sets and introductory packs of coloured pencils and pastels and oil crayons and gods know.***  And watercolours and watercolour paper . . . I used to dabble in watercolours . . . I enjoyed dabbling in watercolours. . . . No no no no no no I do not need more KIT.  Of ANY kind. I have a SMALL HOUSE† and it’s ALREADY FULL.

            Leaving WH Smith’s, however, with no worse than three little sketchpads and another pink-polka-dot magazine box file, I saw this:

AAAAAAAUGH. Even pink won't save this one.

 NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!  For pity’s sake, doesn’t anybody check these things?!?!?  Jeezum frelling crow.  EPIC BLOODY FAIL, WH SMITH!!!!††            

At this point I clearly had to go cheer myself up.  Civilisation is breaking down, go buy something.  I need planting-up compost and more flower pots . . . I have millions of flower pots, and there’s a flower-pot avalanche every time I walk through the greenhouse, but they’re not the right size.  This is one of those laws of the universe:  the flower pots on hand are never the right size.

            So.  You see a successful raid for compost and flower pots.  Well, they didn’t actually have any of the right size. . . .


The brown paper bags are hyacinths for indoor forcing. Yes, I remembered to write each colour on each bag.

            Eventually I went to three garden centres.  I may have bought one or two more plants.

No it's not the cactus that ate Brooklyn. It's the angle. It's only about nine inches high. Including the pot.

 I gave up cacti, because they bite.  First thing this one did was bite me.  Second thing it did was bite the clerk.  Sigh.

And a nice white Christmas cactus, flowering in August. Which may be why it was half price.

 Because 1,000,000 pink Christmas cacti–the original and all its descendents–isn’t enough.  Also you can see one of those Labels That Don’t Come Off round to the left.  That’s not the pot it came in.  That sweet little flowery pot the real cactus is in is my little joke too.

            And I did eventually find some pots.  Mwa ha ha ha ha ha.

I should have bought more. Especially of the purple.

 But the, ahem, flower of my achievement . . .


Oooh! Shiny!

I have a perfectly serviceable pair of black wellies . . . which I never wear.  Because they’re so boring.  Now that I have a tiny garden I can kind of duck the wellie issue:  I wore them constantly at the old house.  There’s been a fabulous burst of coloured and patterned wellies in the last ten years or so which I keep eyeing but in the first place I can’t choose, in the second place on close examination they tend to be less for use than show and I have All Stars for that purpose . . . but hot pink Barbours.†††  And they only had like three pairs left and one of them was in my size.

            Yes, I’m feeling very much better, thank you.‡

 * * *

* Except, of course, when the site is having her period^ and, for example, having first demanded that you register if you want to buy anything, then makes you start all over and once you’ve toiled through the sixty-two introductory pages and the photos of the CEO’s dog^^ again finally says, coyly, log in please, and when, wearily, you do, promptly declares incorrect password.  I ONLY JUST REGISTERED FIVE MINUTES AGO YOU . . . MACHINE.^^^ 

^ Menopause = Permanent PMS+.  There are sites like this too. 

+ PMT.  Whatever.  When your hormones are screaming for murder and mayhem and you don’t care what the neighbours think. 

^^ Something with a really dumb haircut 

^^^  I do now use amazon because life is short and amazon is what there is.  Amazon is always what there is.  Amazon is the entire African continent of elephants+ in your living room.  Sigh.  However I still use Book Depository for choice.  But the fact that I have to re-log in every time I want to add something to my wish list does not endear them to me.  I even emailed them about this and they answered++ . . . saying, oh, your security settings are too high.  Lower them.  What?  In the first place, what do security settings have to do with being automatically logged in or not?  Amazon—and its minions, including, lately, audible—has no trouble keeping me permanently logged in, the better to bombard me with things they’re sure I need to buy immediately, when mere email nagging is not enough.  In the second place, what responsible member of our modern techno-fanged world of internet diabolism recommends someone lower their security levels?+++  Not that the Book Depository can be expected to have my best interests at heart but a customer who has had her bank account hacked into is an ex-customer. 

+ I know they are endangered.  There are still a lot of them to fit in a living room.  Also, African elephants are the cranky ones.  

++ Gosh 

+++ Furthermore note that I only do what the archangels tell me about this matter.  I would no more tinker with my computer security than neglect to bring a virgin black goat to Hecate’s All Hallows Eve party, when we sit around singing campfire songs and eating s’mores.  It wouldn’t be the same without a virgin black goat or two, eating people’s headgear and contributing interesting harmonies. 

** Which wouldn’t be me, of course.  I have hellhounds.  

*** But it would be nice to differentiate a Fast doodle from a Tsornin doodle, wouldn’t it? 

† All right, I have two small houses.  One of them with a weight bearing attic floor.  And a patient husband with a third small house . . . that happens to have my piano in it.  The principle remains.  I’m telling you the principle remains.   

†† For any confused non-English-majors out there:

You want the second to last line.  It’s like the most famous line in English literature, maybe second to some damn florid nonsense by that show-off Shakespeare.  Even chess masters and carpet-layers and Martians and WH Smith project managers ought to know ‘Beauty is truth, and truth beauty.’  GAAAAAAAAH. 

††† All I need now is the quilted gillet and the posh accent.  And the muscle car that claims to be a Land Rover but looks like a rhinoceros on steroids.  

‡ Although that may have more to do with the fact that the hellhounds have now eaten five meals in a row.

Yet another less than optimum day


. . . which began again last night when hellhounds, who have been manifesting extremes of insanity unusual even for them, suddenly decided that supper was the worst idea they’d ever heard in their lives.  Never mind that the night before when they’d finally decided to eat their final meal after all, you never saw two such transported-with-delight hellhounds in all your life.  Oooh!  Food!  Why, how lovely!  Hellgoddess, you spoil us!*  They went from sullen, slinking, slitty-eyed varmints to sparkly angelic** beings in about three seconds.  And once started, they didn’t want to stop eating.  Mmm!  Yes!  Mmm!  Yes!  Oh, but hellgoddess, just a little more—!

            They’re crazy. 

            Sooooo . . . last night they were back to the slinking, and the trying to look invisible in the back of the dog crate again.  After rather too many games of Montezuma*** during which I failed to go up any levels because I was too busy being hysterical, I gave up and went to bed, listening, as it were owlishly, to the dawn chorus tuning up outside.  But hellhounds were restless, which made me restless and when we all variously fell out of bed rather late in the morning there was positively four- or possibly eight-part harmony of rumbling (canine) guts†, whereupon I had a nervous breakdown.  Which they blithely ignored, since they’re accustomed to my blowing up/caving in about one damn thing or other, most often technological, but roses, dahlias, and the corner of the spice rack that likes to lean forward when I’m straightening up from crouching under the stairs to deal with the washing machine which lives there because there ISN’T anywhere else where, for example, someone could STAND UP STRAIGHT come into it as nervous-breakdown material too.  And the washing machine is pretty much across from the hellhound crate, so they are also used to the display being very close at hand.  I was careful not to aim this particular nervous breakdown at its furry fons et origo.   

            Clearly the only thing to do was go for a hurtle and plug in.††  It was a more ambly sort of hurtle than usual, however, since when hellhounds  don’t eat and their stomachs get upset, they aren’t very interested in hurtling either.  GAAAAAAH.  And since my skill with digital audiobooks is pretty much on a par with my skill with computer games††† the only thing I can do is Turn Current Book on or Turn Current Book Off‡, and what I’m listening to is and it’s really depressing‡‡.

            We got home and I decided to cheer myself up by cruising for ebooks.  AAAAAAUGH.  No, that’s a blog for another night.

            But hellhounds ate both lunch and dinner.  Unfortunately as soon as I close down here I’m going to have to try with supper again.   Whimper.  

* * *

* True.  I will indulge almost any radical behaviour that may give me some leverage.  Chaos was so filled with nutritional glee after dinner tonight that he came and scavenged while I was cutting up chicken liver for my own dinner.  So I arranged for some to fall on the floor to make it worth his while.               

** Although I don’t think I’ll ask them to fix my computer.  They’re probably only cherubim or seraphim level anyway. 

*** Vikkik has already broken it to me that yes, there is an Montezuma 2.  I think there may even be a Montezuma 3 which is almost too horrible to contemplate.   Meanwhile in answer to an ill considered question . . . 

Mrs Redboots wrote:

When you finish Montezuma, you do it again in difficult mode!^ That way you get – well, I won’t tell you what trophy you get, it would spoil it.^^ And then you do it again several times more (in easy or difficult mode, as you choose) until you have Gold in every single trophy.^^^ At which point you are probably bored with it for now, but if you aren’t, you start again as a different player, so that I, for instance, might play one game out as “Annabel”, but I’d play the next game out as “Mrs Redboots”, or something similar.^^^^   


^^ I have no clue about the trophies.  Every now and then game play stops apparently at whim, and you find yourself on some other screen with a large glowing object floating like something out of a Charles Williams novel across what looks like an underground chamber—this is an archaeological game, after all.  You admire it nonplussedly for a moment or two and then hit ‘close’ to get back to the blowing-things-up screen.  

^^^ Nooooooo 

^^^^ AAAAAAAUGH.  But . . . how do you know all this?  What buttons are you pressing that are invisible to me?  I’m still stuck not understanding what half the frelling totems do.  And one of my several fiendish enablers, in inquiring how I was coming along, mentioned her high score.  Score?  I’d just been crawling slowly up through the levels.  After much anxious button-pressing . . . I can still only sometimes find what my score is, when it deigns to appear . . . and I exist as player since I have no idea how to name myself!

            . . . Clearly I should stick to jigsaw puzzles.  The kind where the dog(s) make off with crucial pieces and later on you find little bits of mushy cardboard in the dog bed. 

† Diane in MN wrote:  There’s an acupressure point near the stifle that I use if anyone’s stomach strikes my neurotic brain as being a little tense.

            Excellent.  Where do I find an acupressure chart??   I have googled around about this, but mostly I get sent in circles, much enhanced by being offered mail-order brides all of whom seem to have salaries of at least £60,000, which is intimidating, and The One Funny Old Tip for a Small Belly which I swear if I see again I will throw something large and heavy across the room^, and a rich and migraine-inducing cordillera of flashing smileys.  This is my best attempt so far:

^ A chair, possibly.  I’d probably regret it later if it were either a computer or a hellhound.  Although the hellhound might enjoy it.  

†† This is somewhat aggrieved at the moment since my earphones are broken but if I hold the wire in my teeth to keep the broken ends mostly in contact with each other . . . today I received a repulsively chirpy Hi!  Your order is on its way! from the sellers of my new set of earphones . . . last Saturday there was a Royal Mail card through the door saying primly ‘collect your parcel at our office’ so I went in finally, breathing fire and smoke, today, it having been a three-day weekend, and said grimly to the woman who gave me my parcel, would you please remind the postperson to LEAVE parcels, please?  

            You could see her drawing herself up to her full height.^  Oh no, she said.  We can’t do that.  You—? I said.  But—you always do!  —Almost always.  Not this Saturday. 

            We’re not allowed, she said, straining for extra inches.  And besides, she added, it was raining.

            You’re going to damage your neck, I didn’t say.  I said:  There’s a little roof.  Round the side.  Where they usually leave parcels.  Including when it’s raining.  Because of the, you know, roof. 

            Round the side? she said as if I’d mentioned cocaine and orgies.  You can put a box with a lid and a lock next to your front door. . . .

            It’s a great pity the hellhounds had nothing to throw up on her floor with.

^ Don’t bother, honey.  I’m taller.  Also, I have hellhounds. 

††† See previous footnote. 

‡ abigailmm mentioned LibriVox which looks fine and admirable and, furthermore, interesting, but at the moment it is entirely defeating my attempts to use it.  I think this may have something to do with a Collision of Philosophy between it and Apple.  Apple really hates giving anything away for free, so downloading into your Apple device begins with the sorting out of the several million separate grains of this and that only without the ants that gave Psyche a boost.  Arrrgh.  I will pursue this further . . . but not tonight. 

‡‡ I’m sorry, but American history is not funny, I don’t care what the book reviewers say.  The jokes are all bleak and ironic.^  How about for example?  First American woman to have a statue erected to her?  For scalping the Indians who kidnapped her and killed her baby?  How edifying is that? 

^ In my limited exposure, pretty nearly all the jokes in all of history are bleak and ironic.  There’s a reason I took up fantasy and always write happy endings.+ 

+ Yes.  PEG too.  Mostly.^  Just not the first volume.  

^ There are still people who hate me for killing off mmmph in HERO.  Well, the same people are going to hate me for killing off mmmph in PEG.

Millions of Geraniums


And to think I used not to like geraniums.  I can’t even remember why any more.*  Then three things happened.   First they invented the so-called ‘Appleblossom’ geranium, or anyway it started appearing in the gardening catalogues I read**;  second we moved into town and little gardens, so I had an excuse to mess around trying to keep frelling tender frelling plants through the frelling winter;  and third, the second summer I was here I walked past two wilted geraniums lying on the pavement.  They looked like they’d fallen out of someone’s by-the-yard crate of standard bedding geraniums—they still had their roots attached but they weren’t going to last long prostrate in the street.  I told myself if they were still there I’d pick them up on my way back to the cottage.

            Two hours later, they were still there.  I hate to see anything die that’s still trying, you know?, so I took them home and potted them up, not expecting much.  They barely hesitated.  They sprang back to life and flowered and flowered and flowered and flowered.  Anything that willing gets my vote.***  I’ve been buying geraniums ever since.  But my habit is getting a little out of control.†

            Since they’re tender there is a certain amount of predictable attrition every winter.   I’m both forgetful and disorganised, so even now that I have the perpetual-summer/greenhouse at Third House, first I have to get it ready to receive visitors†† and then I have to get the visitors into it before the first hard frost, including remembering where all the fetchingly dotted-around pots of tender things are . . . and then I have to keep the collected visitors watered and the evil indoor-plant bug population down, which latter, since I won’t spray, can be complex.†††  And things die anyway.‡  But most of the geraniums come through.  Year after year.  Meanwhile I keep buying them—just to make sure I don’t suddenly run out of pink flowers—and most of the windows at the cottage are now stuffed with (mostly‡‡) geraniums, and if one of the very long arms that indoor geraniums tend to produce‡‡‡ snaps off . . . I put it in water till I have time to pot it up and, lo, I have another geranium.§  I do occasionally manage to rotate the windowsill ones outdoors, and I usually then prune them back and feed them up.  And then I put the prunings in water, and . . .

            I spent four hours in the garden today.  I was planning on doing my avenging-flame thing toward clearing out some space to plant spring bulbs.§  Mostly I spent it potting up geranium cuttings.  Oh, so that’s where all my vases have been. . . .§§ 

* * *

* This is either because subsequent enthusiasm has blotted out previous inexplicable prejudice, or it’s another spasm of Menopause Brain.  Let’s go for the former.

** Which looks like this:

Except when it doesn’t.  I keep meaning to do a blog post on All the Plants that Aren’t What’s on the Label, which has been particularly bad this year, and in the lead is Geranium/Pelargonium Apple Blossom, of which I have both purple double and hot pink single examples of this year. 

            Yesterday I tweeted about objecting to a pansy named ‘Sweet Pea’.  I had various responses, both those of you who think that plants named after other plants is just the way it goes, and others of you who don’t like it either.  Possibly as a result of coming to gardening late and marrying a passionate gardener and spending my first thirteen years in this country listening to him talking over my head with other passionate gardeners in Latin^ when we had the garden at the old house open on the National Garden Scheme^^ but I’m a little twitchy about confusing plant names.^^^   First there’s the whole Geranium/Pelargonium thing.^^^^  Then there’s the fact that ‘Appleblosson’ is usually advertised as ‘the rosebud geranium’.  Or pelargonium. 

            I like fake flowers.  They don’t require feeding or watering, they stay the same size, they don’t make messes on the floor, and you don’t buy them as little green nubs which grow up to be something else entirely.  

^ The ‘in Latin’ part also included his passionate-gardener brother and various friends.  Inferiority complex?  Me? 


^^^ Some of the answering tweets suggested cabbage roses and tea roses, and the ‘lettuce-leaved’ rose.  Personally I draw a line between something that is essentially descriptive—cabbage roses are supposed to be cabbage-shaped+ and tea roses smell like tea,++ and something that is specifically and individually attached to something else as its, you know, call name.  It’s like naming your hammer ‘Tin-opener’ and then if you ask someone to pass you Tin-opener, they pass you a tin-opener and what you need is something to hit nails with.  Or naming your computer Typewriter and asking an archangel to come fix it.  Although if I rang up Raphael or Gabriel and asked them to fix my typewriter, they would say there, there, Robin, why don’t you lie down for a while and we’ll be along as soon as we can?+++ 

+ Cough cough cough 

++ To other people.  And Bullata’s leaves don’t look like lettuce to me either.  All the centifolias—and a lot of old roses generally—have crinkly leaves.  But—lettuce?  I wasted  too much time trying to find out if ‘bullata’ translates into anything lettuce-like but my google skills are letting me down again.  Since it turns up in a number of plant names it clearly means something.  The closest I got is  whose elegant nickname is ‘stinkwood’, and which includes this description:  ‘The leaves are dark and glossy green with blisters or bubbles on the upper surface, known as bullae, hence the specific epithet bullata.’   I’ve seen Bullata-the-rose but I haven’t grown her.  Surely if she were lumpy someone would have mentioned it?  So where did she get the name?~  I have—it will amaze no one—several weird old books on weird old roses and I will pursue this further in my copious free time.  But not tonight. 

~ There’s also a marine snail.  It’s beige and swirly.  Not helpful. 



*** My conversion is patchy however.  I still think most of the standard cottage-garden herbaceous cranesbills are a dead bore.  It figures that the hardy members of the family are boring.

            PS:  Apologies if I’ve told you this story before.  I kinda think I have.  But even aside from Menopause Brain, in a daily blog this is going to happen.

† Do I have any habits that don’t get out of control?   Am I capable of developing a repetitive behaviour that doesn’t plunge directly forward into out of control?  

†† With significant help from Atlas, who does all the hard stuff, like rehanging the sun lamp and making The Timer Thing Work. 

††† Read ‘unsuccessful’. 

Somebody tell me how to winter over a chocolate cosmos.  Including getting it started again in the spring without it changing its mind and dying anyway.   

‡‡ Also begonias, a Christmas cactus which is getting as big as a small room and its rather-too-many offspring:  turns out bits of Christmas cactus root rather easily, several Unknown Things bought at plant fairs and open gardens, the occasional orchid, busy lizzie, fuchsia . . . 

‡‡‡ Some day when I have lots of money I will install plant lights over all the windowsills.  Geraniums will flower anyway but they would clearly prefer outdoor levels of sunlight. 

§ Until I fell off the cliff of lucidity last night I’d been planning on telling you about spending the afternoon ordering spring bulbs.  I was way too tired and frazzled yesterday to do much work^ so I thought I’d get my bulb orders in.  This may or may not have been a good idea.  Ask me mid-September when whatever I did starts arriving.  

^ It’s true that even near the uttermost reaches of frazzledness I can still work.  But since the ME moved in the cost is too high.

§§ Er . . . the footnotes are longer than the blog tonight too.  But not as badly.

Intelligibility not guaranteed


Due to the continuing unpropitiousness of hellhounds I got . . . three, maybe three and a half hours of sleep last night*.  And I think we will pass over service ring in tactful silence.**  My vocabulary is down to about 500 words*** which I am allowing to give me an excuse to be slightly short tonight.  I apologise for my inability to do anything about either content or coherence.

 * * * 

* This is aggravated by the fact that I get so wound up by hellhound delinquency that when I am finally in bed I can’t sleep.  I had books on animal health, behaviour and insanity all over the bed last night^ and I now have Astarte which means I can google.^^   Plus that her slim pink-embellished self contains a slowly but steadily increasing number of ebooks.^^^ 

^ A fresh top layer, you understand.  There’s a good deep sedimentary book layer there already. 

^^ Of course she goes to bed with Pooka and me.   On a bad night I need a round of Montezuma to calm my nerves.  Erm.  Or something like that.+ 

+ At the rate I seem to be trudging on I may even finish this game.  This has never happened before in the history of my world.  What do you when you finish a computer game?  Start over?  NOOOOOO.  Download Part Two?  NOOOOOO.~  Find another game?  NOOOOOO.  —There’s an echo in here, and whoever she is, she isn’t happy. 

~ I don’t suppose there’s any chance there won’t be a Part Two?  That would be too easy. 

^^^ All of them thus far but the ritual first download of LOTR are nonfiction.  If I’m going to read for enjoyment at home where the weight of my knapsack isn’t an issue, I want a real book, which is to say covers that open and pages that turn, and if I want to make a note in a margin+ I need an old-fashioned Writing Implement and not a tap on a screen.  But engaging in a cool intellectual fashion with crisp factual words in shiny pixels works fine.  I’ll worry about what I’m going to read on the train next time I’m going to be on a train.  It does seem to me that an iPad is an ultimate in the dignified disguise of embarrassing fiction, and it’s a pity to waste it.

            Which reminds me to remark that I’m a trifle nonplussed at some of the reactions to my struggle to bend the concept, not to mention the intangible reality, of audiobooks to my will.++  If you don’t like audiobooks I don’t think it’s a requisite for forum membership to listen at least two hours a day.+++  It’s only horses for courses.  My bottom line, as above, is if all things are equal, I’d always rather a proper book with pages in my hands.  But the last few months, when the ME seems to be more often more bad than less bad, I still have two hours of daily hurtle to get through, and when I’m already tired I’m less up for risking Hound of the Baskervilles adventures in the wilderness, and walking in or near town is mostly pretty boring.   Hence having a stab/shamble/whatsit at audiobooks.++++   Worth a try.  I agree that being read aloud to is an entirely different experience, and sometimes it’s pleasant and sometimes it’s not so pleasant and sometimes it’s deleting-digital-is-nowhere-NEAR-as-satisfying-as-throwing-a-book-across-the-room.  But I think audiobooks might have a place in my life.  If I can figure out how to run the frelling programmes.  

+ I know.  We’ve had this conversation.  I’m a book-defacer.  It has to be my book, and generally again it’s nonfiction, and it can’t be a really elegant edition . . . but yes.  Quite a few of the books I own have notes in the margins.   And I’m glad.

++ At the moment the audiobooks are winning.  Why does the audible download manager keep shouldering into the bottom open-programme bar?  And refusing to close?  Whimper. 

+++ If it is, I’m disqualified. 

++++ I also want to try knitting and listening—violinknitter among others talks about doing this.  And it’s going to be a long time before I can knit and watch TV.  But I’ll be interested to see if what I want to listen to indoors and sitting down and not worrying about what the hellhounds are going to see two-thirds of a second before I do—a hellhound can cover a lot of ground in two-thirds of a second—is any different from what I want to listen to when I’m outdoors seeking not to have adventures. 

             It’s not like you’re safe in town either.  We were walking down a little alley we often walk down—and I was just noticing a Very Large Man on one of those electric mobility carts taking up most of the path ahead of us—when a Very Large Dog nearly came through the chainlink fence at us.  KERRANG.  The Very Large Man was getting up off his mobility cart and I was involuntarily noticing that the only thing he was wearing—just by the way it’s a chilly day:  I’m in layers—was a pair of sweatpants whose drawstring had been insufficiently curtailed around the top.  As he stood up, the sweatpants were subsiding . . . He saw us and said, Don’t come any closer while the gate’s open!  —while dog and sweatpants were penetrating in an awful, confused fashion into my stupefied brain.  Hellhounds and I turned and fled.  I could hear him calling after me—You can come on now!  No!  I don’t think so!  We may never walk down that alley again! 

**  There were seven ringers this morning.  How annoying is that?^  If I’d known I could have turned over and put the pillow over my head. 

^ You want six or eight.  I don’t know if it’s just needs must, but while we among many other strapped-for-numbers bands frequently ring doubles on five without the tenor behind, if there are seven ringers, rather than ringing triples without a cover, usually someone sits out.  Although Niall has a bizarre and possibly unhealthy habit, in these situations, of making us ring minor (six bells) plus a tenor-behind.  You don’t ring minor with a tenor behind.  And it’s surprisingly confusing, at least to those of us who are rhythm-challenged anyway.  And possibly very short of sleep. 

*** There’s a word for unpropitiousness.  I just can’t think of what it is.

† You’ve thought I’ve abused footnotes before?  I think tonight I win some kind of award. 



A Visit to RHS Wisley (guest post by AJLR)


Last week, R and I met up with Southdowner at Wisley, the headquarters (in Surrey, southern England) of the Royal Horticultural Society. It’s always a pleasure going to Wisley and this was the second time that Southdowner had had the joy of being dragged round most of the 60 acres of the garden. I must say, she put up very well with me going ‘Ooh! lookit, lookit’ (a horticultural exclamation) at regular intervals. I tend to get a bit over-excited about plants…

We started by walking up to the glasshouse that was erected to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the founding of the RHS.  The interior is divided into a number of different climate zones. You can see more details about the glasshouse here.

A lot of people contributed to the funding of this glasshouse and it’s certainly an amazing structure.

We were particularly struck by the Aeoniums (the dark rosettes, on long stalks), here looking as if they’re escapees from something like the landscape of Mars.

In the dry area of the glasshouse

In another part of the dry area, some cacti were flowering beautifully. I love the shapes here.

Amazing shapes

When we walked through into the moist tropical area, the fern shown below had fronds (those stems are as wide around as my forearm)  unfurling that looked slightly uncanny.

This large fern looked almost sentient – not sure I’d want to be around it after nightfall.

Leaving the glasshouse, we started walking up through a very large area that has been planted up in the ‘prairie’ style made particularly notable over the last decade or so by Piet Oudolf. This style uses large masses of herbaceous perennials to create a colourful landscape that is moved by the wind. Echinaceas and Eryngiums, seen below, are two species that are often included.

Lovely colour and shape contrasts between the pink Echinacea and the silver Eryngium

By the time we’d admired the use of plants here and noted the wide variety of beneficial insects that had been attracted by them, we’d all decided that it was time for a little something. How fortuitous that this ethical eating place was to hand.

The sausages were lovely.

The sausage house is right next to the model (in the sense of being educational) fruit and vegetable  areas of the garden. I really enjoy growing such things and I love the sense of purposeful but decorative order that one gets in such ‘how to’ displays. Now if only I had their light soil, instead of my heavy clay (yes, I know mine doesn’t dry out as badly in hot summers but it’s a real b*st*rd at other times). The pear archway, below, is a pleasure to look at and very productive as well.

A structure that is both pleasing to the eye and useful.

Once I’d dragged myself away from the fruit and vegetables (Southdowner and R were both interested in these but I couldn’t see the gleam of fanaticism reflected in their eyes, so…) we wandered down to see a part of the garden now named the ‘Bowes-Lyon Rose Garden’ (of which there’s a short video, here). Strangely, to our eyes, there seemed very few roses here in comparison with the rest of the planting. We were not very impressed with it overall, but there were some interesting colour and shape contrasts among the herbaceous plants, if not the roses. Perhaps we were being too hard on it – that area has only just had the planting finished and been opened.

The colours here, below, are certainly vibrant in the summer sunshine.

That's a lot of plants!
I particularly liked the dark-leaved sedums, on the right, at the front, here – so the did the bees and butterflies.

We decided then to walk on over to the trials area of the garden, where the RHS invites submissions from commercial and other horticultural suppliers for the trials of particular species and varieties that evaluate how good a plant is. This is carried out over a number of years (often three) and the results are then made available  to everyone.

Results from the trials of plants, here, go out all over the world.

I particularly enjoyed the dahlias that formed part of one trial. Some of them had flowers that were so eye-searing in colour it wouldn’t have been kind to show them here. I liked this compact (about three feet high) variety though.

Love the name. Someone’s got a sense of humour.

By the time we’d had a good walk round the trials all three of us were beginning to feel the need of rest and shade. So we sauntered back up the hill and into the garden proper, where my husband fell into conversation with a gigantic Gunnera.

Man and Gunnera in close conversation

After Southdowner and I had separated these new friends we continued on down into the plant sales area, where I had to restrain myself, drastically, and then it was time to leave. It had been a lovely day, and we’d all really enjoyed ourselves.

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