July 3, 2011



Okay, we’re good to go.  The Silly Signing Clothing Contest begins now.*  Ajlr is going to post a thread—or rather, probably already has done by the time I get tonight’s entry up—in the forum for you to post links to photos and photos themselves**, and she also, because she is a Wonderful Human Being, is going to give you a little how-to about photos and links and things, which most of you won’t need but anyone like me will need, with assistant flourishes and a heavenly choir singing alleluia.***  On Facebook you can post photo links under tonight’s entry only:  having entries in as few places as possible will make tallying up at the end easier.  On Twitter you can post photo links to #sillypeg. 

            Most of this I’ve told you already, tonight is merely the Official Launch.  We’re having a contest for another signed copy of the new UK edition of PEGASUS†.  To enter you must post a photo of the lurid and eccentric clothing you might have worn to the PEGASUS signing at the Forbidden Planet next Thursday if you were so fortunate as to be in London on that date††.   The drawing will be random so it’s not like you have to come up with something that’s better than everyone else’s, but please try to stay within the spirit of the thing, which is also to say that as Hellgoddess I reserve the right to throw out any entries involving navy-blue pin-striped suits†††.  The spirit of the thing also includes that this a family-friendly blog overseen by a fierce headmistressy type named Pollyanna and you need to stay polite.‡ 

            And since this whole schemozzle began with Ajlr intemperately referring to a pink catsuit and my responding even more intemperately that I’d wear my black leather mini if she’d wear her catsuit, I would prefer the photo of the clothing to have the person entering the contest wearing said clothing.  If you are in the clothes in the photo you get your name in the drawing twice.  If you have merely laid them out empty in an alluring manner and taken a photo of them that way, you get your name in the drawing once.  Hey, I have to suffer:  I am wearing the mini, even though Ajlr has reneged on the catsuit.‡‡ 

            Someone asked how many times you can enter:  I think I’ll say three times.  Because if you’re wearing all three sets of clothing—and note that there can be no overlap between entries, I don’t care how great the black velvet cape looks with everything—that’ll give you six chances and I think any more would be bad for your mental health.

            Okay?  Okay.  I (or Ajlr) will answer questions as they arise.‡‡‡  You have till midnight Wednesday GMT to get your photos in.  And please . . .  have fun.  That feather boa you haven’t thought of in twenty years?§  Go for it.

 * * *

* Anybody who has just clicked onto this blog for the very first time has just clicked away again.  Fast. 

** Friendly reminder!  100K limit on photo size! 

*** My mind is running on heavenly choirs because we’re just back from a faaaaaabulous choir concert.  I told you that Ravenel not only tortu—directs the Muddlehamptons but is himself in a fancy local choir?   The—er—Seraphim.  I have, to my shame, not paid a great deal of attention to local music, despite there being an assortment of cathedrals within concert-going range, and cathedrals do tend to attract wandering heavenly choirs and music festivals.  The Seraphim give two or three concerts a year, I think.  I am putting myself on the mailing list. 

            This one was a part of a music festival.  So the first thing that happened was trying to negotiate the temporary, festival-only web site to buy tickets.  I came out the other end of this scarring process with a print-outable page that says, two seats for the Seraphim concert 2 July 2011, paid for, kaCHING!,^ bring this page with you.  So I did.  And when we got there—having parked in the car park helpfully signed CAR PARK FOR ST AURELIA we had to walk eight leagues through troll^^ country because the gate into the close was locked—and I handed my piece of print-out to the nice young woman at the door, she looked at it for a minute and said, Where’s your ticket?

            It went on like this for a while.  Fortunately we were early—because I was worried about things like the car park^^^ and the lack of proper tickets.  We became close personal friends with the fellow who discovered (eventually) that we did have tickets, although they weren’t being held anywhere that anybody had thought of looking.  He started telling us everything else that had gone wrong:  the double bookings of both the hall and the Crusaders’ Garden where we went for the interval#, the tickets that hadn’t been sent or had been sent to the wrong venue . . . oh yes, and the locked gate, so that people in their party clothes had to walk eight miles through troll country (and cowpats).  He was a tall, easy-going bloke with a good line of dry humour, and I didn’t take his tux too seriously, because ushers often wear tuxes.  He was one of the singers.  I can’t imagine much I’d less want to be doing right before a major concert than deal with frelled-up members of the public, even innocent frelled-up members of the public.

            But the music. . . . ooooooooh.  Except for some hooting from the organ at the very end and some eccentric strings for the Baroque stuff it was all a cappella and . . . well, I have a serious weakness for this kind of music and there just isn’t anything better.   There were pieces by modern composers (nothing too threatening) and pieces from back as far as Monteverdi.  Most of them were sacred, but after the interval there was a little burst of settings of folk songs including The Turtle Dove by Vaughan Williams and I was sitting there thinking##, how can he stand it?  Listening to us when he’s singing it with the Seraphim?  In fact it’s that the Muddlehamptons are singing it in their summer concert that is the most powerful risk factor for my losing my mind and joining in.  I can’t decide if hearing the Seraphim do it makes me more or less likely to go ahead and lose my mind.  I tracked Ravenel down during the interval to tell him how fabulous the Seraphim are.  I also told him that I should have come to choir practise on Thursday, that we walked out of THE CHERRY ORCHARD—and he laughed and reminded me that I should have a go at the Muddlehampton concert anyway. . . .

^ Hands up how many people actually remember tills that go kaCHING! 

^^ Also nettle, cowpat and ankle-breaking-hollow country 

^^^ I’ve hurtled two generations of hellhounds around St Aurelia, but I’ve never been to a concert there 

# As I was leaving the cottage I noticed that my little windowsill weather forecaster was saying rain.  I was wearing a silk skirt and carrying a suede bag.  Better hadn’t, I said.  It didn’t. 

## Sitting there thinking and knitting.  The lights stayed up for the whole thing so . . . I kept knitting.  Not having anticipated this I almost ran out of yarn.  Brrrr.  Next time I’ll take a spare skein.  I should perhaps add that we were sitting near the back—there was a row of real chairs with, like, seat cushions among the pews, which Peter made for in a not-to-be-deflected manner.  I’m not sure I’ll knit through a concert where I’m close enough for the performers to see me.  Even performers who don’t look at the audience—I’m one of them, I should know—might find knitting a trifle eye-catching. 

Do not forget the crossword puzzle from last Saturday which is still open for entries.  

†† And no, there’s nothing stopping you from entering even if you are coming.

††† Unless of course you’ve done something involving studs, leather, glue and spray paint to the dreadful object.

‡ Since these are, however, photos, dress swords will be permitted, since if you take it off to whap somebody you’ll only make a hole in your computer screen. 

‡‡ Also remember that while I will be wearing the frelling mini in public and will thus have to be viewable from a variety of cruel angles, you only need to take a photo of your best side.  If the side away from the camera is festooned with safety pins or features a zipper that wouldn’t close if the finishing of PEG II depended on it . . . it doesn’t matter.  

‡‡‡ For example, Didn’t you say you’d post a photo of the mini and the new UK ed of PEG tonight?  Answer:  yes.  I did.  Now/again I’m saying tomorrow.  

§ Ah.  Hmmm.   I don’t think I’ve seen my boas since we moved house.

Real Magic


Gods, dragons, pegasi, and anything else you want to throw in, I love homeopathy.  I was going to tell you this story tonight anyway, it having happened late last night, and then today as it happens there’s been another outburst of bleating from the so-called quackbuster gang about what dangerous lunatic rubbish homeopathy is.  Siiiiiiigh.  I’m not a good debater;  I get angry too quickly.  Listen:  Homeopathy works.  It doesn’t work for everybody or everything—but then nothing does, most emphatically including standard doctor medicine.  And sometimes, when you manage to take exactly the right homeopathic remedy at exactly the right time, the effect could very well pass for magic.  Last night was one of those times.

            I tweeted yesterday about the morning hurtle being through clouds of grass pollen as we swished through the edge of a long field.  If I’d known, we’d’ve gone some other way, but by the time I realised, I figured we might as well keep going as go back.  Hellhounds, who were meeting it at face level, prudently dropped behind me, so I was swathing through it.  My black jeans were straw-yellow with it by the time we reached the road, and there was a fair amount of it on my shirt front—and of course it had gusted freely into my face.  All three of us were sneezing.

            Hellhounds had pretty much stopped sneezing by the time we got home (I had brushed them off before I let them in the car).  I had not.  I think I’ve told you that one of the clear gains of menopause is that my beyond-description-life-destroying hay fever is about 98.5% gone.  I don’t like the wrinkles, the falling chin line and the weird flesh, but I’ll take it all like a shot over wondering if I am going to live through another summer.  When I was first living in England twenty years ago . . . well.  Gruesome.  Hay fever doctor drugs make me sick or crazy.  But I started eating local honey* and I still had hay fever, but it dropped down to stupid-nuisance level.

            Fortunately menopause has mostly finished the job, because menopause has also bestowed upon me the unwelcome gift of Zero Metabolism.  Zero Metabolism means that thinking about lettuce makes me gain weight.**  One of the things that got subtracted from my daily intake was the local honey.  Which, most of the time, is okay.  But my elderly hormone-deprived ME-distracted*** immune system will still react to extreme provocation.  I spent most of yesterday sneezing and grumbling and watering at the eyes, but it didn’t get really grisly till I went back to the cottage and tried to go to bed.  YOWZAH.  I felt like hell, I couldn’t breathe, my ears, my head and my throat hurt, and while there was no visible rash, I was savagely itchy.  But my eyes were the worst:  the lids were so swollen they only opened about halfway, and when I looked in the mirror—AAAAAAUGH—both the lids and the whites were bright red.  Fiery red.  Which is how they felt.  And haemorrhaging tears.

            I have no good excuse for not having hit the homeopathy hours before.  But I’d learnt to be stoic decades before I discovered homeopathy—the occasions I do myself serious damage now tend to be when I’m so busy being stoical I forget to take the arnica right away.  So yesterday I was close to the life-threatening edge before I finally remembered . . . well, in this case, allium.  It was looking at my red eyes in the mirror that did it:  if hay fever is making you miserable but the worst thing is your eyes, the first thing to try is allium cepa.†

            I tottered over to the chest of drawers where I keep my remedies and fished out the allium.  Homeopathic remedy bottles are little, and the labels on them littler still, and I could barely read.  But I found what I was looking for, tipped a little white pill into the bottle cap and then into my mouth†† . . . and it began working instantly.  Contact with mucous membrane and it starts the business.  My eyes stopped burning.  I stopped sneezing.  My head cleared.  I could breathe.  I stopped itching.  I could open my eyes more than halfway.  When I opened the kitchen door to let hellhounds out the last time a few minutes later, I was fine.  I slept—slept!—with the window open.  I’ve been fine today, although it’s been drizzly, so you can argue that it’s damped pollen and other evil floating substances down. 

            Homeopathy works.  Placebo effect?  Eh.  Sure, sometimes.  You get the placebo effect with doctor drugs too, sometimes.  But homeopathy works on babies and animals—and I think the argument that your dog or your child gets better because it wants to please you is just silly.  And I’ve dosed myself—and not got the desired reaction;  I was already figuring out what I was going to try next, last night, while I was unscrewing the lid on the allium.  I’m a rotten debater, as I said, and I’m not interested in arguing—homeopathy works.  There.

 * * *

* And if anyone either wants to try this or has tried it and thinks it doesn’t work . . . in my experience it has to be really, really local.  ‘Hampshire’ honey isn’t good enough.  It has to be within about five miles of where you live.  I used to get my therapeutic honey from our next-door neighbour at the old house, and honeycomb to chew as well.  You also have to eat it faithfully, beginning several months before your hay fever season starts.  If you’re careless and keep missing days, it doesn’t do much–and you need a good-sized, calorie-laden blob, not just a thin scrape.  I’m sure this is another of those things that doesn’t work for everybody, but it worked amazingly for me.  And you don’t have worse hay fever than mine used to be, and live.  It’s one of the reasons I ended up back in Maine;  I couldn’t take the summers farther south—although it’s also part of the reason I liked Manhattan in August.  Less pollen there^ than in Maine’s brief, ferocious summer.  Lush southern England was walking into Smaug’s lair without a Ring or a sword.   

^ But stay away from the 843 acres of Central Park. 

** Menopause may have got hay fever right but it got chocolate wrong.   My chocolate craving is waay worse now than it ever used to be.  I’ve always loved chocolate and I’ve always had a serious sweet tooth, but I only morphed into a ‘just hand me the chocolate and nobody gets hurt’ megabitch with menopause.  This is an interesting situation with Zero Metabolism.  But I’ve been thin for nearly forty years, and I’m not giving up without a struggle.  Not to mention my ridiculously flimsy, non-weight-carrying knees, which are a cheap Gflytchian knock off, and not made out of real human bone and sinew at all. 

*** It would be interesting to know what input the ME has had on my no-longer hyper-reactivity to a very long list of allergens.  

† One of the reasons, I think, that there’s so much bad press about homeopathy is that it is such an individually-tailored system.  That’s its strength, but also its weakness from a public-relations viewpoint:  you can rarely prescribe for anything, even a lot of minor things, without knowing rather a lot about your patient, or trying several remedies before you find the right one, or both.  This makes it look haphazard or inadequate, when—say I—it is exactly the opposite.  But think of how vastly complicated and unique each individual human being is:  you’ve got to get every symptom, every clue, every trait in the right place, or the jigsaw doesn’t fit together.  Even arnica, which has probably converted more people to homeopathy than every other remedy combined, doesn’t work for everybody.  And allium cepa works for most hay fever sufferers whose burning, tearing eyes are their worst symptom.  But it doesn’t work for everybody.

 †† You don’t touch the pills if you can help it.  You tip one into the bottle cap, toss it into your mouth, tuck the pill under your tongue and let it dissolve.

My Jungle


The view from the hellhound courtyard at the kitchen door. Enter at your peril.

It’s not absolutely all roses.  There are a few freshly planted dahlias that you can’t see unless you’re really good at differentiating one green leaf from another.*  And how about a nice poppy?

Poppy in MORNING sunlight. That's MORNING sunlight.

She’s just off screen to the left.  Or a nice miniature clematis in a hanging basket: 

Yes, I should PLANT her in her hanging basket. But this is the famous hanging-basket pole that BOWS under the weight of a, er, hanging basket. I found this out AFTER I had Atlas cement it into place so it would stop taking out the rose that climbs up it every time it levered itself out of the ground. If I planted her she'd weigh more.

She’s just out of sight on the right hand side.  Her name is Filigree . . . and in the process of scampering through the Taylors Clematis site http://www.taylorsclematis.co.uk/ to rediscover this since of course her label has been eaten by wolves, I’ve compiled quite the little list of new clematis I’m sure I need.  **

But I admit there are a lot of roses.  That dark red babe on the right is Tess of the D’Urbervilles, which has–heretofore–always been a total flimsy fainting heroine–she even died on me at the old house.  I’m not even sure why I bothered to try again at the cottage when I have NO space for flimsy and fainting.  But–when she produces them–she really does have flowers to swoon over.

Mmmmmm. She also smells divine. It is perverse how many red roses there are that have no smell.

Her first couple of years at the cottage she tried the feeble thing and I was like yeah, yeah, get on with it, either pull yourself together or croak so I can put something else in there.   I do keep feeding her.  Last year she was pretty good and this year she’s amazing.


She grows in a great tangle with Mme Isaac [Periere], who also likes to bow and lean, but of course I have completely failed to get a persuasive photo of this phenomenon.  This is one of those things about photographing gardens that many of you will know:  your eye picks out the flowers.  The camera relentlessly points out that actually the view is mostly green

And the combined scent--Mme Isaac has a notoriously powerful fragrance--will make you drunk. Or at least a little giggly.

The flowers are unmistakably different as soon as you have the chance to compare them.  Mme Isaac is a deep raspberry pink;  Tess is rich dark red.  Mme Isaac is a genuine old rose and Tess is one of David Austin’s little darlings,  and clearly modern.  But hey.  With roses this superb, whatever. 

Roses. Mmmmmmmm. Roses.

To Be Continued. 

* * *

*Plants.  Gaaah.  I have [rmmph] dahlias to plant out, standing in little rows in their little pots.   They arrived as cuttings, and you whap them into small pots to give them a chance to develop a root system, and then you put them where you want them to grow and be dazzling.  You watch them–well, theoretically you watch them–so you can get them out of their little pots before they get cramped and cranky.^   So I’m trying to plant them out as they’re ready.  I have one that’s already a good two foot high so I thought, yeep, get that one planted.  So I Prepared the Hole and tipped her out and . . . she has no visible root system yet.  The faintest of white threads.  GAAAAAAAH.  I planted her anyway.

^ Although I’ve grown some astonishingly large dahlias in astonishingly small pots when I’ve not been paying attention.  Oh, gods, I’d say, and dump a little more flower food on it, and stab in another bamboo pole for it to lean on.

** I also seem to have lost most of an hour.  Hmmm.

Gardening Update #1811, or, Bleeding Profusely Again


I’ve been pruning roses. Well, tidying them up a bit anyway. I don’t do much real pruning; I belong to the school of thought that says that a rosebush wants to be the size she wants to be, and she’ll waste a lot of time and energy regaining that size before she starts producing flowers. This varies, of course; roses are fey fickle creatures, and some of them will let you hack them back and meekly produce flowers at the level you want. But my experience is that you will get more flowers if you (a) feed her as if she’s the rooty green equivalent of an entire high school football team and (b) let her grow more or less as she wants.*

You wouldn’t be doing real pruning this time of year anyway or you’d be cutting off your incipient floral extravaganza, which would be even more deranged than growing roses in the first place.** I tend to be so conservative about cutting back in the autumn that I frequently don’t get around to it at all, partly because of that pesky time problem and partly because I worry more about die-back*** than I do about wind-rock†, which means I should do some kind of a prune in the early spring before active growth starts . . . but I usually don’t get around to that either. Which means that when Jungle Season arrives it’s bloody dangerous out there. Literally. We had the whole lacerated-scalp-blood-sheeting-down-forehead thing again today, only this time I noticed it before it started running into my eyes, and managed to dam it before it blinded me.

I have way too many roses that are thornier than average. I’d started by trying to cut out the dead under-bits of Mme Alfred††, who mostly hangs down rather gracefully, like a green awning, but the dead dangling under-bits will get you if they can. But Mme Alfred is only averagely thorny, and I felt quite calm when I moved on from her to Sombreuil. Sombreuil is not perhaps the rose that most needs a tidy-up (spoilt for choice in that category, I am) but I noticed that she had reached a long floriferous arm over the wall into my neighbour’s garden, Mr Ugliest Shed in the Universe and the Roof is Ruining the View from My Office Window, Thank You Very Much You Blergwad and Furthermore All the Ground Elder in that Same Densely Shed-Populated Universe Comes under Mr Ugliest’s Wall into MY Garden, You More Than Ratbag, You Unspeakable Fungus from Yuggoth.††† My Sombreuil isn’t going to waste any of her flowers on him.‡ So I had to haul her back to this side and tie her down. Ow. Ow. OWWW.

One way or another I spent way too much time in the garden today: it’s that time of year. And especially after that burst of decent rain‡‡ everything is storming up, and laying siege to anything it can wind its little tendrils around. If I’m lucky by the time Alicia-my-friend-the-serious-gardener arrives tomorrow we won’t be able to get out the kitchen door. She’s not likely to be in a very charitable mood because I’ll be making her ring handbells.‡‡‡

Although I was thinking today as I found another forty-seven little things in pots tucked away in a corner that I’d forgotten about, it would be surprisingly, if horrifyingly, easy to make a National-Gardens-Scheme‡‡‡-level garden out of something even this size, if you were mad and focussed enough. I’m mad enough, but I’m not focussed enough—there are a lot of healthy, vigorous weeds in my garden and a lot of—ahem—unplanned and possibly insalubrious botanical combinations. I also have low tastes. Dahlias. Busy lizzies. Petunias. Roses. I got away with being vulgar at the old house because the setting was so gratuitously romantic even dahlias couldn’t spoil it—and Peter provided a counterbalance of tactful perennials and a posh accent spouting Latin names—but if I were doing it in a tiny town garden I’d have to turn into a plantswoman and I’m not.  I’m not and I’m not going to.

But don’t talk to me about Third House’s garden. Third House’s garden is another small town garden . . . but it’s plenty big enough. Fortunately I still have low, vulgar, anti-plantswoman tastes. Which is just as well. I wasn’t ringing frelling handbells and taking voice lessons when we were still at the old house. There are limits.§§

 * * *

* Sigh. The impenetrable-jungle aspect of the cottage’s garden would be significantly less both impenetrable and jungly if I kept my roses to the sizes they’re supposed to be. On the other hand, that would mean spending more time pruning, which means MORE TIME and also more blood loss.

** No, no, growing roses isn’t deranged, but jamming nearly fifty into a space the size of the cottage garden is definitely deranged.

*** Where the stem-tips die, and you have to cut back to live wood. If you’ve already pruned too much off, you’re in trouble.

† Where the wind knocks your rose around so much her roots start coming loose, so the wind is rocking her back and forth, not just the above-ground plant, but down into underground. Roses hate wind rock. Back at the old house I was always torn by the ghastly dilemma of choosing between pruning, and risking die-back, and leaving the above-ground growth available for the wind to get a grip on. Those short skeletal winter rosebushes you see in some gardens are pretty well wind-proof. But the tiny walled cottage garden mostly doesn’t get bad winter wind. So I can pretend not doing the autumn prune is deliberate.

†† —Carriere, who is the creamy thirty-foot-high-and-launching-herself-into-space-over-my-semi-detached-neighbour’s-roof one. I’ll post photos of her this year too.

††† Except for the all-the-ground-elder-in-the-universe that comes in under the wall at Third House. Third House has major bindweed too, which also comes under the wall. Siiiiigh. Neighbours are the blight of a gardener’s existence.

‡ My garden has the cottage on one side, obviously, and my semi-detached neighbour is on the left (as you stand in my kitchen door, looking out in alarm at the prospect), and Mr Ugliest is immediately opposite you. On the right is the neighbour who owns the downhill half of the two-car garage I own the upper half of.^ This is a nice neighbour^^ who furthermore used to have a Climbing Cecile Brunner on that wall so ebullient she used to come freely over to my side. I haven’t seen her in a couple of years and I’m afraid to ask. It’s all right though, I’ve put her—the rose, I mean, not the neighbour—in at Third House. Where she’s joyously eating the hedge.

^ I keep telling you it’s a jigsaw here. The little old section of a little old English village. Get out your micrometers.

^^ Barring their occasional visitor whose unnecessarily large shiny car’s car alarm doesn’t like anyone getting too close to it in the process of getting into the car next to it: Like we have a choice. Shut the ungleblarg up or I’ll give you something to yell about. If there’s an unnecessarily large (shiny: shiny takes up even more room) car next to Wolfgang, hellhounds and I must perforce sidle.

‡‡ Bronwen will be here too, but she’s an untidy gardener, like me, and she likes handbells.

‡‡‡ She says perhaps a trifle grimly, and averting her eyes from the rain-wreckage on the right-hand wall as she looks out her kitchen window.

§ http://www.ngs.org.uk/about-us/open-for-the-ngs.aspx

I haven’t looked at their guidelines recently but when we were opening our garden at the old house the rule of thumb was that a NGS garden had to have enough in it to remain interesting for half an hour. Hey, people crawling around on their hands and knees with magnifying glasses are really slow. Also leaning against the wall in hysterics at the pots-in-pots-in-pots-in-pots array slows you down.

§§ And speaking of Secret Projects, as I was last night in yarny terms . . . I now have a secret gardening project. Mwa ha ha ha ha.^ I potted it on today. Nice root system. If it croaks, it will clearly be my fault.

^ Although this blog business of having to third guess myself because not only do I not want either to Reveal All for a variety of reasons or to embarrass anyone but myself, which is the second-guessing part, I also have to—third guessing—allow for stuff I’d be perfectly happy to tell the rest of you, barring the One Wrong Reader. Feh.

I love this time of year, continued


First rose:

The Fru

 I do know–or anyway I once knew–that ‘Fru’ is ‘Mrs’ (ref a forum comment)–I’m afraid I just like the word.  Fru.   Dagmar, to my frivolous ear, sounds way too solemn.  Fru I’d have round for a cup of tea and a chat, and we’d probably like the same books.  Dagmar . . . Dagmar would always have clean fingernails, even when she’d been gardening, and she’d keep trying to get me to read books that would be good for me. 

She's already been out several days--the flower in front is already going over.

And . . .

She heard me talking about her and said, Pssst! Hurry up!

Second rose.  Old Blush is also out.  She is frelling covered in buds.  She’ll be amazing in a week or so. 

Don't listen when they tell you you can't grow a proper full sized rose in a pot. She's six years old and doing fine.

Okay, Agnes, you’d better get a move on.  Agnes is also covered in gigantic fat buds however, and will be amazing in due course.  Especially the three-storey stem growing straight up.  Sigh.  I suppose I should get a lasso around her and tie her down.  I think putting her in facing Souvenir [de la Malmaison] has been giving her ideas (ahem) above her station.  Souvenir is also covered in buds, but they aren’t getting ready to pop in the next three and a half minutes.  I can nonetheless tell you exactly when Souvenir’s buds will open:  the moment the current drought ends in a downpour that will last . . . as long as it takes to frell all Souvenir’s rain-allergic flowers. 

But speaking of amazing things in pots. 

Purple spider

No, that’s really her name:  Purple Spider.  She’s a macropetala clematis which means that over the years she will develop into an intense impenetrable tangle . . . but at least you don’t have to prune her.*   She’s also supposed to grow 6 to 8 feet, according to Taylors Clematis where I bought her.  http://www.taylorsclematis.co.uk/clematis-purple-spider.html   I bought her because I like her, and she’ll also take a fair amount of shade.  Usually when some variety of a plant that likes sun is described as willing to tolerate shade, it means she will probably find shade rather quelling.  My purple spider isn’t even in a very big pot . . . and this her third year she’s fifteen feet and going on twenty.**  She is going to be a serious impenetrable jungle. 

One view of Robin's little pot problem

Yes, ha ha ha ha ha ha, come back when you finish laughing.  I have a pot problem.  A flower pot problem.  Pretty much the whole garden looks like this (and you know what the front steps look like) but this particular corner is looking toward my sitting room window with the kitchen door on your left in the wall facing you, and the wall on your right is my neighbour’s kitchen.   You can see Purple Spider on the right and, oh, I almost forgot . . .  


I consider tree peonies to be terribly esoteric and exotic and scary, but they’re suddenly all over the plant-fashion landscape, like lurid clematis a few years ago.  I’m guessing that other gardeners find them esoteric and scary however because they suddenly went on major sale toward the end of last season, it was like:  Buy a tin of gardening twine worth £2.99 and get a FREE TREE PEONY WORTH £1,000,000!  So, hey, I bought some twine.   It never occurred to me she’d actually grow up and flower.  Gee.  Also, I forget what her name is (and of course the label has disappeared) but she is supposed to be deep magenta pink, which she isn’t, she’s sort of a fuchsia purple, but it’s still pretty spectacular.  I’ve just wasted about twenty minutes dorking around with my rudimentary and unsatisfactory photo-editing tools trying to get her colour anywhere near reality, and this isn’t it.  It’s just better than what my camera produced unaided.   Some things don’t change much:   most of the reds were a ratbag on film too.

               But speaking of red, aren’t these cute?

I've done far better for tulips this year than I deserve, considering how late most of them went in. Ahem. Cold winters are clearly good for something: keeping your tulips, still in brown paper bags in the greenhouse, in a good mood.

I have a thing for stripes, what can I tell you.

But speaking of red tulips, what about this one? 


To Be Continued again. . . .

 * * *

* I try to stick with the Group 3 clematis, which you cut off a few inches above ground every winter.  You do have to do it, but at least it’s simple.  I have a few Group 1s, which you allow to become a jungle.  I avoid the Group 2s, which you have to prune and pay attention to what you’re doing, and even so you’ll do it wrong.  Group 2s are the devil’s clematis.  I have Nelly Moser anyway, who is a Group 2, because she was the first of the really in your face lurid ones before lurid clematis became a fashion accessory.   Nelly was vulgar.  http://www.about-garden.com/a/en/1491-clematis-nelly-moser-clematis/  I love her, of course.  I’ll try to remember to take photos of my Nelly this year.

** It’s a popular wall.  It’s the wall where Mme Alfred Carriere is launching herself into space about thirty feet up over my semi-detached neighbour’s rooftree, and Mme Gregoire Staechlin is not far behind.   Lady Hillingdon, only two years old, is gaining . . . and now we have Purple Spider who wasn’t supposed to be a contender.

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