More Words on the Weirdness of the Season

At last I now understand why politicians have invented Quangos (Quasi-autonomous non-governmental  organizations). It is of course to avoid blame. More to the point it’s to avoid having to make long-term decisions. So you tie the Quangos’ hands with stupid Treasury rules and then blame them when the Thames and the Somerset Levels flood. Meanwhile what’s happening in Holland, where the land is far lower-lying? Because the politicians there are more rooted in reality (i.e. they don’t inhabit a privileged Westminster Village), they realise that flooding events matter and affect the lives of ordinary people. So they have taken a long-term view and have set aside proper ‘washland’ areas that can absorb flood waters – indeed, we have similar things in the Fens (in part thanks to Dutch influence and advice).

My utter contempt for the short-termism of British (or more specifically Westminster) politics has just reached a peak, after listening to Eric Pickles MP blamed ‘the experts’ at the Environment Agency, whose Chairman, Lord Smith has turned round and blamed the Treasury who then pointed out that a previous (Labour) government had set the Treasury rules… Meanwhile, ordinary people, their farms and households, are being swamped beneath metres of sewage-filled floodwaters. That’s why I have just Tweeted:  ‘Dear Father Thames, hurry up: PLEASE flood Parliament!’ (and to my amazement it has been extensively re-Tweeted and Favourited). Trouble is, a far-sighted civil engineer, the great Sir Joseph Bazelgette, constructed the Thames Embankment while he was transforming London’s sewer system, in the 1850s and ‘60s and a by-product was the protection of the House of Commons (I discuss it in The Making of the British Landscape, pp. 548-9). So my selective flood almost certainly won’t happen – which I’m not really sad at, because I’d hate to see the Abbey and Westminster Hall under water. If only we could squeeze all the politicians into an Ark and pack them off to Mount Ararat… in evening dress…in the depths of winter. But I fear I digress.

But it has been a weird season. Yesterday we were pruning roses (me with a chainsaw, Maisie with secateurs) and Maisie came in for tea with this lovely little bunch of mixed David Austin roses. We’re very fond of his newly hybridised English Roses, which all have good disease resistance and most have fabulous scents.  They also survive well into winter and normally we can pick several for Christmas, but this year they have been exceptional. The varieties we grow include, Brother Cadfael, The Crocus Rose, The Generous Gardener and Sharifa Asma. Their leaves tend to get a bit blotchy in winter, but we don’t bother to spray against fungus then; life’s too short. Apart from the early bulbs, which I described in my last post, the other plant that has been wonderful this season has been Iris unguicularis (older gardeners will remember it as I. stylosa). It favours hot, dry rubbly and well-drained soil, so we have it close by a south-facing wall, in full sunshine, alongside a gravel path. Its flowers only last about 48 hours, but they smell gorgeous and are as delicate as any plant in the garden.

I’ve included two versions of the photo, one taken with, one without flash. They’re both very different. I suppose it depends on what you’re after: a record of the time, the flowers and the room, or a picture of the flowers. Can’t decide.

Oh, and one final thing. I made a mistake in my last blog post when I mentioned ‘agapanthus’; I should have said ‘acanthus’. Sorry!

Winter flowers (taken with flash)

Winter flowers (taken with flash)

Winter flowers (without flash)

Winter flowers (without flash)

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