I thought I’d ordered a swift and nostepinne. But two days went by and there was no reply to my email. Whimper. Here you are trying to support local/indie talent and not order from frelling amazon and THEY DON’T ANSWER.
They answered. Today. There was a spam bin involved. WELL OF COURSE THERE WAS A SPAM BIN INVOLVED. THIS IS WHAT SPAM BINS DO, IS EAT GOOD MAIL AND LET THE TOXIC GARBAGE THROUGH.*
I now have a swift and nostepinne coming. But the indie talent are still a business, drat them, and they’re not sending them out till MONDAY. Monday is three days away. And then it still has to get here.
I spent a good deal of the afternoon in the garden again, working off Lack of Swift.*** There’s a rather unfortunate Spending Time in the Garden Syndrome however. You’re not a big bedding plant person—you’ve already let the labour-intensive thing get out of control by having too many roses, you don’t need bedding plants too—you’re a mental case of course, gardeners are, but you have no illusions about ‘tidy’ or ‘design’. Stuff goes in where there’s room† and the weeds are really healthy because the one thing you are usually pretty good about is feeding. So you look at the labyrinthine wilderness out there and you think, all I really need is a few good days.
The garden at the cottage is tiny. All I need is a few not-freezing, not-raining afternoons—!
Wrong. The more you do the more you see. And the more you see the more you DESPAIR. Having got most of the urgent stuff potted up or potted on††, the most hostile of the roses tied ferociously back††† and (semi) pruned as necessary, I was reduced to WEEDING today. I actually like weeding‡ but when the forest of ground elder closes over your head and the enchanters’ nightshade twines up your ankles and pulls you down—and enchanters’ nightshade grows fast enough to do this, if you stay somewhere too long, levering up wild poppies or creeping buttercup or those black-leaved pansies that look so cute and innocent and have long almost-invisible roots reaching to China or possibly Mars—AAAAAAAUGH. I’d rather be winding hanks of yarn.
What’s the weather this weekend? I should probably hoover the floor indoors before my friend arrives on Monday. Just don’t let me notice how much else I should be doing. . . .
* * *
* Griselda is in Pago Pago and all her money has been stolen and would I please transfer the entire contents of my bank account to the Evil Scam Holding Syndicate so she can get a glass of water?^ But . . . but . . . I had a cup of tea with her yesterday afternoon and she didn’t say anything about Pago Pago. There must be some mistake. . . .
^ Which is about what the entire contents of my bank account would be worth. Tourist traps are expensive.
** NOW. NOW. I WANT THEM NOW. —You know I’m expecting a mere eight-months’-old puppy to calm down and stop being a manic git. Clearly we were made for each other.^
^ Hellhounds open one eye. Possibly one eye each. Does whatever this thing is run? Can we chase it? —I think a swift on end given a push downhill might canter a bit.
*** Stop laughing. Hmmph.
† And sometimes when there isn’t. That’s where the tiered effect comes in handy.
†† Although it’s been a bad season for mail-order errors. The usual response of big on-line gardening sites is ‘keep it and we’ll send you the right one.’ Or ones. I didn’t actually want four hundred and twelve osteospermums or nine hundred and sixty apple blossom geraniums, some of which actually are apple blossom geraniums, and which are all going like thunder and will need somewhere to put their roots down soon. I was poised to send the sellers photos of their errors as evidence but they must have a certain percentage of goofs built into the system. Do they keep track of who protests? Do they put tick marks against your name? Or merely fry in oil the staff responsible for the blip that caused Hampshire to be carpeted in non-apple-blossom geraniums?
And of course, like every other year, I am waiting breathlessly to see how many of my dahlia cuttings grow up to be what I ordered. I go on ordering them because they’re so much cheaper than tubers—and the awful truth is that I rarely have a cutting failure, while my tubers rather too often decide that the accommodations don’t suit them, they were looking for something a little more up market, with designer chocolate on the pillow and free wifi. But cuttings are wildly unreliable in their own fabulous way. Up to about a quarter of the frellers are anything but what you ordered. It does make you wonder, speaking of staff, what the staff are, you know, smoking.
††† That faint unfriendly humming noise you hear, like a nest of wasps in a bad mood, is the sound of various whippy-stemmed roses with known violent tendencies gnawing through their restraints.^
^ I am still sad I didn’t get around to buying the ‘some days it’s not worth gnawing through the restraints’ t shirt before they inexplicably cut it. There are still cheap knock offs available—and one of these days when it’s not worth gnawing through the restraints I will probably buy one—but this one was a QUALITY t shirt.
‡ There’s a quote out there somewhere that I am failing to google into confirmation, that says something like ‘No one is a gardener who doesn’t like weeding’ which is just a specific-object version of one of the quotes on the blog’s quote thingy: ‘The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves.’ Yep. You don’t like rewriting, don’t be a writer. Anthony Trollope may have got away with turning in his beautiful copperplate handwritten first drafts to his publisher, but you and I won’t. Aside from the beautiful copperplate part.
The very last thing I do every night is put Pav out for a final pee*. When this happens EVEN LATER THAN USUAL because, say, I’ve been reading something and HAD TO KNOW HOW IT ENDED**, it may no longer be awfully dark outdoors by the time we get out there for this ritual moment. Hey, it’s barely a month to the longest day, it gets light really really REALLY early, okay? So it was like twilight out there this morning, and I was standing there in my nightgown ready to fend the little varmint*** off the rose bushes and my peripheral vision was caught by movement where no movement should be. . . .
There was a big fat mouse lowering the bird-seed level in the feeder by a rate of knots. ARRRRRRRGH.†
This is my fabulous squirrel proof bird feeder, you know? The one with the integral cage that only little birds can get through. Little birds and the occasional frelling mouse—who was soon going to be too frelling bulgy to get out again. I picked up a stake that didn’t happen to be propping anything important and gave the feeder a move-or-die whack. Mouse leaped out into the shadows—Geronimoooooooooo!—and disappeared.††
The real ratbag about this is that I’ve pretty much decided that the birds don’t like this feeder. I have lots of birds in the garden, and the suet block in the other feeder is eaten down pretty reliably. Er. By birds: I see them doing it. This one—nope. I assume they don’t like the cage.
So today, which was a lovely day†††, I spent a good bit of in the garden. ‡ And one of the things I did was tie the clematis and the rose-bush that are the likeliest mouse-access-providing culprits away from the seed feeder.
* * *
* Hellhounds scorn such wimpery. Pav is extremely continent^ but she’s also always delighted to be allowed to burst out of her crate and attack something. If the price for this indulgence is that she stop attacking things^^ long enough to have a pee, she will do that with reasonable grace.
^ Barring the standard canine disasters. My latest trial is that she’s decided that sheep crap is a delicacy. ARRRRRRRRGH. Even if I hold her upside down and shake, the stuff is kind of friable, you know? It doesn’t all hold together neatly and pop out in a nice cohesive lump.
^^ Dirty laundry, nightgown hems+, feet, towels hanging on the Aga rail, etc. If she’s desperate, dog toys.
+ She has, relatively recently, discovered the joys of rocket-launching her solid little furry self upward inside the circle of hem of the nightgown you’re wearing YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.
** I’ll tell you all about it. Some day.
*** With the little glistening varminty eyes
† Speaking of ARRRRRRRRGH. ARRRRRRRRRGH.
†† Pav was sure she’d missed something. I’m glad to say the mouse leaped into the shadows on the far side of the little courtyard fence. I don’t like mice, but I didn’t in the least want my hellterror catching one.^ Or diving through a rose-bush to try.
^ Either she’d eat it—and its unknown but guaranteed undesirable parasites—or she’d just mangle it a little. They scream, you know. Like bunnies. Bunnies scream. Dog owners need to know how to kill things. Whimper.
††† After we got down to a NEAR FROST last night. One of my pathetic and ridiculous excuses for staying up reading was so that I could keep an eye on the frelling thermometer. The temperature had turned around and was going up again by the time I turned the light off. I get to do this again tonight. Or not, of course.
‡ Have I told you I have two lots of American visitors coming next week? I have maybe half a dozen overnight-staying, pond-crossing visitors in an average year . . . and I have THREE of them NEXT WEEK? WHAT? One of them is an old friend, and if the house(s) is a tip and the garden(s) is a jungle, eh, she’s seen it all before. The other one—and her husband—I’m a little afraid of. Sigh. But nothing is going to turn me into a magnificent housekeeper, a sublime gardener and a superlative hostess in the next ten days, so we’ll just have to muddle along somehow.
It’s the third of frelling May and I am planting stuff out. And we’re not going to have any more frosts, okay? Yes? Okay?
I’ve also taken the plastic sheet off the Winter Table over the hellhound crate in the kitchen, and I’m going to ask Atlas to take it DOWN on Monday.*
They have seriously not liked the last fortnight or so of still being stuck in their potting-up pots. I am hoping they won’t waste a lot of good growing time sulking. I bought a different range of sweet peas this year and I’m going to have no idea how they measure up against previous standards because it’s been such a weird, not to say bloody-minded, year so far.
The clematis they will be climbing through is just old basic durandii, but some of the old basic ones of things are the best. She is herbaceous–not clinging–so you do have to give her string to drape herself over, but she produces cascades of that clematis dark indigo-purple coloured little curly flowers. Although this brings up a little problem with the sweet peas. There was a Terrible Accident soon after delivery and while I know what sweet peas I bought I have no idea which is which. This year’s colour scheme may be a trifle unusual.
You can’t tell much from the photo but since it’s me you might hazard that the long bare stem in the big round pot is a rose. Yup. Mortimer Sackler and she’s almost as good as her hype. She might possibly do with more leaves however (I mean even after she gets going) and last year was adorable with sweet peas climbing up her. Barring accidents of a colour variety, as referred to above, I hope to repeat the effect this year. The clematis in the pot at the back is Fuji-musume and has the most amazing big flat blue flowers: the catalogue description is ‘Wedgewood blue’. I’ve never seen anything like it on a clematis.
I love double primroses, of course, because they look like rose roses. I have a lot of doubles. I also have a million volunteer cowslips, including, this year, two rusty-red ones. I thought wild volunteer cowslips were always yellow.
And if you have to move them, or if you just think to dig them up, you can break them gently in pieces and have several primroses. I’ve got half a dozen clumps of yellow around the garden and they’re all from a single original. Oh, and the naked (rose) stem in this picture is the Herbalist.
You may correctly gather that barring frelling roses I do tend to have a lot of what is happy to grow around here. Although this is considered a good rose-growing area, roses may always take some persuading.
Berenice Perfection, if you’re counting. Camellias are an enigma. I treat them all the same, and they either thrive like mad or die. I have no idea. I do know that if you have a dry end of summer you’re likely to lose a lot of next spring’s flowers, but I’ve usually forgotten by next spring. It must have been okay last August because most of my camellias are flowering exuberantly. I’m going to try to get a few more pictures, but thanks to the beastly weather a lot of the flowers have been frosted. Berenice happens to be both huge and in a corner so she has more flowers and more shelter.
We had this one at the old house and she’s one of the first to flower and I always loved her but I got the idea that she was hard to grow and I dithered for years before I bought one. This is her third year and she . . . looks pretty happy.
And because I have one photo slot left, let’s have another Markham’s Pink. (Note that she is a very purple pink, but she is definitely pink. Pinker than these photos.) Looking at her and primroses and unfrosted petunias** and sweet peas makes me smile. It’s a good day: both hellhounds ate dinner.
* * *
* Although this also has to do with hoping to find a better hellterror solution at the cottage than what I have at present. She should have a view.
** Next photo post. I planted some of them out today too.
It’s been another fabulously gorgeous SHIRTSLEEVE day and . . .
. . . I’m not in a very good mood. In the first place . . . yurk, where do I start ‘in the first place’? Okay, top contenders for ‘in the first place’:
1. Speaking of fabulously gorgeous shirtsleeve weather WE’RE GOING TO HAVE FROST AGAIN OVER THE WEEKEND. And I have several brand-new trays of snapdragons and diascias sitting around waiting hopefully to be planted. As well as a few dahlia tubers that have been planted in pots* and will therefore join the frelling kitchen queue this weekend . . . Not to mention the petunias, begonias, geraniums, hippeastrums, sweet peas etc that have been out there a while already, when they aren’t cluttering up the Winter Table and the kitchen floor. And if I don’t get my glads in soon they won’t bloom till . . . after the first frosts this autumn.
2. Hellhounds are eating about one meal in three. Sort of. It’s hard to tell because I’ve cut back to about half rations . . . and they’re still playing a sort of hopscotch game the rules of which are opaque to me, where one of them may eat one meal/day while the other one doesn’t eat at all, or one of them will eat one third of this meal and two thirds of the next while the other one finishes the first meal and has two and a half mouthfuls of the next. Their ribs look more like toast racks every day. And as I have just been telling Darkness, who ate none of his lunch and has deigned to eat about two-thirds of his (half-size) supper, if I weren’t worrying about their making themselves ill, I’d just frelling let them starve themselves into a citation from the RSPCA. Fine. Let the RSPCA try and get the little ratbags to eat. How am I supposed to know:
(a) When they’re just being total little scum-sucking ticks and
(b) When they’re going to go over the line into making themselves ill?
I want to know BEFORE we reach (b), okay? Meanwhile the recycled kibble levels are getting extreme and eventually you have to throw it out. £££££££. Not amused. Not amused at all.
3. The hellterror has the runs. No, she has the fountains.
3b. The hellterror is also coming into her first heat. JOY. I don’t know if these two items of interest are in any way connected. I have known bitches who suffer bowel irregularities while they’re on heat but this is a little . . . ultimate. Hellhounds are not, fortunately, the slightest bit interested in local hormonal mayhem—at least not so far, but she’s not in full, you should forgive the term, torrent yet either—and maybe the first puppy heat causes maximum internal uproar and minimum exterior captivatingness? Dunno. But if she’s planning on having excretory melodrama every heat, she’s not going to keep her ovaries long enough to have a litter. Stay tuned.
The good news, such as it is, is that none of this is bothering her in the slightest. She’s the same manic little furball as usual.
4. The ME is biting me. Hard. Still. All this sunny shirtsleeve weather in the garden has been lovely, and the whole sudden change of season thing stuns normal healthy people too, and it may take them a few days to find their summer rhythm**. And the plants don’t care if you’re moving kind of slowly.*** But. . . .
4b. I’ve officially quit the Muddles . . . again. Damn. But I haven’t got the stamina for those two and a half hour rehearsals and I feel a little less than enthusiastic about exposing my never-a-strong-point lungs to that air in that church when I’m coming off flu; furthermore there isn’t time for me to learn the music, now, before the next concert. I don’t know what I’m going to do about singing; I am NOT giving up my voice lessons, but it feels dumb and silly not to be doing something with what I’m (theoretically) learning, and at my level of ability that’s some kind of undemanding group. And undemanding-group choices in this area are limited.
4c. Having cut back significantly on the amount of time I spend on the blog† . . . I probably haven’t cut back enough. I don’t like the feel of this go of the ME: I don’t like the glint in its steely little eyes. I think that look it’s giving me is telling me that the Muddles is only the beginning. I think I am going to have to do more hacking and hewing. This is sure to hit bell ringing . . . especially because of all the driving to this and that tower, and driving is always my most obvious weak point. At least the blog I can do on the sofa/kitchen table/bed.
Maybe I can knit more.
Maybe I can READ more.
But . . . sigh.††
* * *
* Large pots. Dahlia tubers tend to be large.
** Especially if it keeps going away and dropping everyone back in their fleeces and flannels again.
*** Yoo-hoo! Over here! Don’t forget us! We’re hungry/thirsty/an impenetrable jungle too!
† And GREAT GROVELLING REPEATED THANKS to all you guest-post providers who help with this.
†† And I am NEVER going to try to write an outline on Microsoft Word again. ARRRRRRRRGH. I can hardly wait to see what WordPress does to my attempts to outflank bloody Word’s idea of how to write an outline. . . .
Wall wall WALL WAAAAAAAAAAALL!!!!!! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLL!! WALLWALLWALLWALLWALLWALLWALL!
WALLITTY WALL WALL WALL WALL WALL.
::happy dance:: Happy happy happy happy, happy happy DANCE!
. . . Er. Well. In its small but in-my-face way, the wall story has been rather TRAUMATIC. Now . . . I’ve already had the other piece of that wall rebuilt by Atlas, I think the first year I was here; opposite that now entirely replaced wall is Phineas’ house, the third wall of my garden is my house and the fourth wall . . . I hope that wall stays up because I’m pretty sure those neighbours and I would have difficulty seeing eye to eye about things. Ahem. Life in a small town. It’s wonderful. Here’s to walls. YAAAAAAAAY. WAAAAAAAAAAALL.
Hellcritters and I took a fast sprint to a local(ish) garden centre this afternoon. The point about taking critters along, aside from giving them a change of scenery, is that they FILL UP THE BACK SEAT so there’s a limit to the damage I can do.** Also we went late, so I didn’t have a lot of time to look around before the shop closed. I needed compost: my little all-the-plumbing-in-Hampshire garden is putting Westland’s frelling shareholders’ children through university, I buy so much frelling compost for all my pots. And while I was there I was going to look for snapdragons.*** Which means going into the plant area. Noooooooo . . .
I did very well. I bought three trays of snapdragons . . . rather too many little diascias† because they come in such good colours, a few pulsatillas†† which is another of those can’t-kill plants that keep dying on me, a pansy or two, a couple of hanging-basket liners and . . . a King Edward flowering currant.††† Which will grow seven or eight foot before it’s done. Arrrgh. It’s just . . . well, I have no self-control.‡ And we had a flowering currant at the old house which I loved, and it’s been on my list of Things to Replace for . . . eight years. And it called my name, okay? How are you supposed to walk away from something that knows your name?‡‡
And I got home and realised I should have bought more compost.
* * *
*Which is to say before Souvenir de la Malmaison went in. Generally speaking you worry about your plants when someone is stomping over their beds and digging ditches through their roots and filling those ditches up with cement and so on.^ In Souvenir’s case you worry about anyone loose in her vicinity, however well defended with spades and scaffolding.
^ I would be very sorry to lose Golden Spires+ and Brother Cadfael++ but at least I could replace them. I’m holding my breath about my apple tree. Not only is it some kind of old—I’ve been here eight years and it was already stooped and wrinkly when I arrived—but I have no idea what sort it is, so I couldn’t replace it, and it produces fantastic apples. It’s leafing out now. So far so good.
** Actually there isn’t. This wretched garden centre delivers locally.
*** Individual colour snapdragons. Major pet peeve: mixed trays of bedding plants so you have no idea what you’re getting till they flower. So you plant a mixed tray of snapdragons/busy lizzies/begonias/bedding dahlias/whatever under your old-fashioned lavender-pink roses and they come out scarlet and orange. THANKS EVER SO.
‡ However I flatter myself I’m not a complete fool. http://www.manufactum.co.uk/terracotta-tile-clematis-root-protector-p1443402/
What. The. Frell. I’m supposed to spend twenty-three quid on a broken pot? I have DOZENS of broken pots sitting around waiting to be recreated as further-broken-up bits in the bottoms of other pots.^ If I wanted to do it that way I could erect an Eiffel Tower of terra cotta pieces. Furthermore, what a waste of opportunity: most of my clematis have clusters of littler pots of things like geraniums and pinks protecting their roots from sunlight. When there is sunlight, of course. Feh. Oh, and burying terra cotta in the ground? That is so doomed. ‘Frost resistant’. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
^ I know, they’ve proved it at least annually for the last several decades that shards in the bottoms of pots do not improve drainage. Well, yes and no. They do prevent the drainage holes from getting blocked. They also weigh the pot down: most pots flare from the base. Tall thin pots do well to have a nice stabilising layer of stones or pottery pieces in the bottom. And when you’re potting on I’d much rather untangle overexuberant roots from loose shards than from impacted soil—plus you have a smaller rootball to transfer. I still put something in the bottoms of pots before I put the soil in.
‡‡ And there’s always Third House. Third House’s garden has several Largest _____ You’ve Ever Seen which began life with me at the cottage.