The Garden in Early Summer

It never rains, but it pours – even in dry weather. All of which is, I concede a bit Delphic, but that’s how I’ve been feeling lately, as events pile up to make life difficult. And, to add yet another inappropriate simile: is there light at the end of the tunnel? What tunnel, I ask, and how do you know it’s dark? Confusion heaped on chaos. Disorganisation structures anarchy and meltdown. Or am I going over the top? Probably, but what the hell, my hip hurts and I can’t think as clearly as I once did.

The saga of woe began a few years ago, when a washing machine sprung a big leak and poured water all over the floor of the room next door to the kitchen, where we wash vegetables, do the washing-up, prepare lambs’ milk, wash pieces of ancient wood and eviscerate the occasional rabbit, pigeon, pheasant or partridge. We call it the scullery, and it’s a space that can be found in any rural house or cottage, where food isn’t bought-in ready-washed, cleaned and prepared. Well anyhow, that leak caused the scullery floor to rot and before we knew it, our feet were standing on something distinctly spongy. Then I went and put a step ladder foot through the floor, down to the concrete raft three inches below. Cue for a call to our insurers, who agreed to pay (it was our first claim in 23 years!). And now we’ve got the builders in. They’re a small local firm: very friendly and extremely competent, which is a huge relief, but it still doesn’t remove the noise of drills and the constant coming and going.

While all of this was happening, the sheep had to be shorn. At the same time I had to meet an urgent publisher’s deadline and a sudden hot dry spell after heavy rain set the grass everywhere growing like mad. Then about two weeks ago, my hip began to give me a lot more pain. Our local NHS hospital (the North Cambs., in Wisbech) X-rayed it, and this showed heavy wear on my left hip with both bone and cartilage worn away, such that my left leg is now 10mm shorter than my right. I saw an orthopaedic surgeon at Wisbech on Monday and he was in no doubt: a total left hip joint replacement was needed. I asked when that would happen and he reckoned within 2-3 months. So to celebrate (and on his advice) I bought a pair of matching, adjustable walking sticks – which have made a huge difference. At least I can now get about without too much pain.

So let’s try to look on the bright side. Ninety-nine percent of modern hip replacements are 100% successful. So the prognosis is good, and I’ve just got somehow to struggle through the next few months. But, as I said, let’s look on the bright side. There’s nothing like a few personal and domestic problems to put global issues in perspective: creeps like that chap who runs North Korea, or Tweetie-Pie Trump, or even those Brexiteers on the hard right of the Tory Party, who seem to be running things at present, somehow seem slightly less poisonous and rather more pathetically laughable, given all my other problems. And then of course there’s that ghastly tragedy at Grenfell Tower. But even so, there are signs of hope, especially in France – or am I being hopelessly naïve?

The other alternative is to disengage from the world entirely. And in my case, that means I take a walk – or rather a hobble – around the garden, trying not to look too closely at the weeds, which I’m finding increasingly difficult to pull out now that the hip is so stiff. And I must admit that the borders have been looking pretty stunning throughout June. So here are four pictures I took on the 25th, when it wasn’t so hot that flowers everywhere were wilting.

Oh, and one final thing. My next blog post will be quite soon and will be written by Mrs Pryor, aka Maisie Taylor. It’s all about what happens when a qualified archaeologist carries out a close survey of the many items that lurk towards the back of the fridge… And I think you’ll be surprised at what she revealed!

Poop Deck wall

A view along the base of the Poop Deck wall, with the Nut Walk in the far background, across the pond lawn. Wall bases are difficult places to plant, often being either too wet or too dry. This one is both: too wet in winter and too dry in summer. We have found that the Hemerocallis Bonanza does very well here.

Small border

The Small Border was rather a sad place when we first laid it out, back in 1993. It had to be there, if only to provide access to the back of the Main Border and an edge to the very wet rose bed behind the house. But over the years it has developed a character of its own. The Hemerocallis closest to the camera is Burning Daylight. The focus of this view is the Arts and Crafts jardinière, which I featured in an earlier blog post; it’s planted with a variegated Cornus.

Entrance from yard

If the garden can be said to have a formal entrance, it’s from the yard, down a short grass path, towards a golden Metasequoia Gold Rush. This spring and early summer, despite some gales which damaged the foliage, it has looked very spectacular and is well set-off by the red Hemerocallis and scarlet Pelargoniums in the tall, slightly flared Yorkshire Pots (which are reliably frost-resistant and well worth the slight premium you have to pay for them). By the end of the season, the plants in the pots will have doubled in size. I will then take cuttings, which will be over-wintered indoors

Main Border

The Main Border looking NW, with the house on the left. This view is taken from half way along the border. Various old and David Austin roses can be seen. Note also the vivid red flowers of Lychnis chalcedonica, which seems to thrive in our heavy, damp soils.

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