Six on Saturday – Greatest Hits

This week, in the pretence of treating you to some joy at this festive time but in reality is because it is tipping with rain and I am in a grump, I will be presenting to you lovely folk six happy recollections of the year past. Whether or not this is permitted, perhaps an addendum in the tome that is the Six on Saturday rule book, quite frankly my dear etc etc. Please feel free to pop over to see what the generally law abiding SoS elves have been up to and if our very own Santa Prop has got his gardening mojo back. Let’s get this party started.

In the eye of the storm I managed two visits to RHS Rosemoor in the space of week. They were both joyful events. This photo is not staged. At the time I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I am still undecided.

In February, when we were all still innocents, we had an amazing few days in London. Always on the lookout for the green, on the banks of the Thames I spied some valiant lichen and evidence of a passing angel.

This picture always makes me happy. It is the seedling of, what I believe is, a lesser spotted orchid which has made its home in the furry arms of a large fern at Westwell Hall. And why wouldn’t you?

Onto a green variegated zantedeschia, donated by Mrs Bun to Max. It is always good to share, especially a plant which sounds so unlikely to be beautiful, and never fails to prove you wrong.

My cosmos were rubbish this year. Nancy Nightingale’s were wonderful. More than wonderful.

In August, as a birthday treat, Hero whisked me off in her campervan. After visiting Atlantic Botanic and a delicious picnic, we went for a walk on Braunton Burrows. I spent much of the time with my head down, marvelling at the wildflowers, including this little echium, growing in almost pure sand. A memorable day.

And to finish (and yes, I can count but refuse to cull any of the above photos, so stuff that in your pipe and smoke it) three doves. They are the symbol of peace and hope and of course love. Which is exactly what I wish for you all.

Cuddle

This morning, more than any day throughout this wretched pandemic, I really needed a hug. Far more importantly, I desperately needed to hug someone. But I am not allowed to hug that person. Although a fleeting physical closeness wouldn’t have fixed anything or anyone, it might have helped us both just a little. Such cruelty. It has left me feeling helpless and hopeless as it was all I had to offer.

This Salvia leucantha ‘Midnight’ is as close to a floral cuddle as I can muster. It is the best I can do.

Six on Saturday – Distracted

I have been a little distracted of late, which has resulted in a deficiency in the blogging department. The reason for being even more away with the fairies than normal is that we are moving house. To be more accurate, we are attempting to. Yes, you heard me right, we trying to sell our house in the middle of a pandemic. We wouldn’t want it to be too easy. For this reason, my mind in the last few months has often been elsewhere; wondering if anyone is actually doing anything constructive to further the cause and would someone please remind me how much an hour our solicitor gets paid for doing exactly what? In a sublime piece of synchronicity, several of my clients are also moving on, or have done already. Times are very strange on Planet Gill. Of course, to everyone in the else in the world all this is of meagre consequence, and quite rightly so. I bet our leader, The Prop, doesn’t even mention it. So, without further excusing, let us get on with the task at hand.

First, we have a plum pudding. Not really, it is a well wrapped Grewia occidentalis. This tender, cos it’s worth it, plant stubbornly refused to flower this year, possibly due to inadequate protection last winter. Slightly shamed by my short-comings I have made a special effort. Others thereabouts are quite rightly feeling a little miffed. Hopefully I will get around to them before too long.

Last Sunday I had a good clear out, horticulturally speaking. I rearranged and titivated The Step and surrounding area. The glass door opens out from the dining room, but is (luckily) seldom used. Sneaky slugs were dealt with, the disappointing dahlias put to dry and chosen pots snuggled together ready for their fleece as and when necessary. It was a cathartic experience and a start. Choices will have to be made; only the strong will survive.

Now, a lone, valiant, battered flower of Erigeron karvinskianus. A shadow of its heyday self, but still a daisy is a daisy is a daisy and always welcome.

Then, another lone survivor, the last leaf on our peach seedling. Whether this tree-ette will ever amount to anything is doubtful. Still, we don’t care, which is all that matters.

Onto, a spilling seed pod of the big blue agapanthus. It is big, it is blue and it is an agapanthus, any more I can’t tell you. Except it is liable to seed itself all over the place, which is both a blessing and a curse. I am hoping one will lodge in a pot to be carried to pastures new. Or I could just collect the seed, which doesn’t seem quite as romantic.

Lastly, a festive primula. Bright and joyful and all the things we need in these dark days.

Keep the faith, my friends. Now the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, I will attempt to shield you from the worst of our conveyancing traumas. Which I know are inevitable. And hope that sometime in the near-to-middle future we will have a new garden to dissect for SoS. Although sometimes the prospect seems a long way away.

Careless

“’To lose one client, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.” Almost Oscar Wilde in The Importance of Being Ernest.

Today was my last visit to The Buns’. Ever. Yes, another of my clients has wriggled from my clutches, another has sold up and is fleeing my domain, they will no longer be under my horticultural spell. And I am feeling rather sad. This is possibly the only downside for working for people you are fond of, when your working relationship draws to a close, as all things must, you are bereft.

Whilst working this morning myself and Mrs B chatted about our time together, our greatest hits, so to speak. How I first met Mr Bun when naughty Bobbie, their perennial puppy spaniel, made herself very much at home in the herbaceous borders of Cliffe. How Mrs Bun and her buddy came to check me out the next day and how we hit if off instantly. First impressions did not let me down.

Over the following (possibly, a recount has been requested) five years we have had our thrills and spills. On my first visit I ripped my trousers on a particularly vicious rose; Mrs Bun was mortified; I was embarrassed at my clumsiness. I still eye that well-armed but beautifully bedecked shrub with caution. Over my tenure Mr Bun created a well-researched and sublimely successful wildflower patch, he also mowed and trimmed and made fire. Myself and Mrs B planted and shuffled and sowed and pricked out and planted again. The seasons passed. And we laughed a lot. My every visit was greeted in the most exuberant, totally over the top and then over that top, style by the joyous tomato and cucumber thieving Bobbie, putting an enormous grin on my face and warmth in my heart before I’d even started work.

There have been many highlights. I will never forget the waving Father Christmas on route to the local school, courtesy of the Coastguard’s Sea King; or the most splendid chicken of them all, Big Bertha (big boned, I’m sure); or Mrs Bun’s hilarious milk carton, rose cutting container; or planting up the kayak; or wondering for years why the rhododendron was struggling, only to discover it had been planted upon lumps of limey concrete; or Mr B’s pre-wedding weeding; and much, much more. And I will forever wonder if the wisteria will have its inaugural flowering next year, to much applause from the new owners.

Before I woman-handled my tools back to the car park for the last time, we sat on the patio, supping freshly brewed coffee and scoffing some of Mrs Bun’s finest cake. The caring soul that she is, she found me a rug and we sat wrapped up and chatted some more. There was even a guest appearance from Mr Bun.

Mr Bun has tolerated my incessant, compulsive cheekiness and strange habits with good cheer and a wry grin and Mrs Bun has become a confidant and close ally. They have fed and watered me, shown me love, they even provided me with a weekend retreat. These are good people, truly special souls, to be cherished. And I am proud to call them friends.

Today I left with more than one tear in my eye.

Decisions

At Nancy Nightingale’s today we planted out more bulbs, dug up dahlias for their winter sojourn and said “NO!” and “DROP IT”, on repeat, to Scooby the puppy.

Whilst stuffing the compost bin with the defunct dahlia vegetation, I rescued some seed heads, certain that my collection needed a boost. Which of course are the thoughts of a delusional idiot. Still, it makes no difference, room for another little bag and they will happily join the throng. When I got home I (unusually) remembered that I had stuffed them into an empty Gladious nanus bag and then into my handbag. I tipped them onto a piece of printing paper and started to process them, breaking open the pale husky layers to reveal the dark potential within. The problem is, where do I stop? I have plenty sorted, more than plenty if I were to be honest. But there is a nagging voice whining in my subconscious; what if one of the rejects, the seed not yet in the “to be dried and stored” pile is The One. The outstanding specimen, the one that folk will swoon over, will arm-wrestle each other just to get a glimpse, who will remortage their homes for a slender tuber. But can I be bothered to continue my search on this dismal afternoon when a new novel beckons and the chance of dahlia breeding superstardom is slim?

Luckily there is a handy equation to help in such trying circumstances:

For those of you unaccustomed to the intricacies of pure mathematics/high-faluting nonsense, I will simplify it for you. The amount of seed extracted equals the potential for a humdinger divided by ennui.

A few more wouldn’t hurt. You just never know. And I can always share my treasure.

Six on Saturday – Confusion

Anyone know what day it is? No, nor me. Hang on a minute, it must be a Saturday of some persuasion because I have that nagging feeling that I should be SoSing. That is all I’ve got. Perhaps The Prop will have more details, but be warned, you will find out an awful lot more than the date. Most of it will be good. Let us proceed.

First, we have Fuchsia ‘Bornemann’s Beste’, looking splendid even after a couple of chilly nights. Long may he reign.

Next, the aeonium that I bought from the house across the road during the first lockdown. It is now concertina-ing out in an alarming manner, I wonder what is going on?

I may have mentioned previously, that I try to only buy plants the names of which I can easily pronounce. Often, I fail. This is Correa schlechtendalii, who I believe was once a member of The Pussycat Dolls.

Now some variegated ivy, which caught my eye when buying my meagre winter bedding. I’m not usually a great fan of ivy, except of course of its wildlife nurturing properties, but this little one somehow wooed me. I think it was a good shout, it is looking rather lovely.

Next Salvia elegans. Hard as I might try, with camera or phone, I have never taken a decent photo of this lovely salvia. I’m sure there are all kinds of technical reasons, I like to think it is a curse. I will not be daunted, here it is, half the measure of flower it is in reality. You may have to use your imaginations.

Last, but definitely not least, is Nerine ‘Bicolor’. Lush, to the extreme. No confusion there.

That is it for another week or fortnight or month or whenever. In the meantime, stay safe and well and happy.

Hedge

After a successful morning in the garden, Mrs Bun and myself were sat on the Lutyens-esque bench, chit-chatting over a cup of tea and a piece of homemade ginger cake. The side gate swung open and a woman peered at us inquisitively. “Is this your dog?” she asked. And indeed there was the lovely Bobbie, at the end of a borrowed lead, looking very pleased with herself. “We found her at the other side of the village rummaging in the recycle bins.”

Let us get something clear from the start. Mr and Mrs Bun care very well for Bobbie. She is the recipient of all the best things in the doggie universe: long walks, a warm bed, plenty of grub and of course a plethora of love. In return for this canine cornucopia she is charming, adorable and mischievous to the point of being perpetually forgivable.

But she refuses to grow up. At the age of eight she should at least be making an attempt at “refined”, perhaps slowing down just a little. Instead Bobbie is a turbo-charged bag of craziness and, most importantly in this instance, a demon of the sneaky side-step.

Bobbie’s kind rescuers must have wondered what sort of home this canine delinquent had come from. However, I think their mind was put at rest when Mrs Bun said, in an attempt at explanation “She lives in the hedge and we thought she was in there.” Yes, I thought, that will definitely have reassured them, she lives in a hedge.

It is true that Bobbie enjoys snuggling into the ample privet hedge that runs down one side of the garden. From this slightly elevated position she can spy on all things that a wayward spaniel considers attention worthy; next door’s cats mainly. After months of trying to dissuade her; blocking holes, firm words and such like, it was decided to let her have her way, she was at least out of trouble’s way.

However, she was in for the long-game. Little did The Buns know, this was all a ruse for a future escape plan and a lunchtime munch on some leftover takeaway foils.

Very naughty, but of course forgiven. Whether or not the hedge excuse will work again, we will see.

Windblown

There is nothing like a strong north-westerly and a hike up a steep hill to blow the blues away. It also helps if you are accompanied by a good friend who listens patiently to your Moaning Minnie diatribe. Perhaps she had ear plugs in. It made no difference; either way, I felt much better by the end of our, often muddy, exploits. And she didn’t complain, or even sigh, when I admitted that I wasn’t absolutely sure where we were. By the time I was home, there was not a cobweb left.

Thanks Lady M, it was good, socially-distanced, fun. The Mantles are commencing their own, slightly less steep, adventure this weekend. This was a bit of a surprise. I had got the sequence of events and locations a little confused (moi?) and thought they would be living in the shire for a while longer. It had to happen eventually, so with a tear in my eye, I once again say “good luck my lovelies, I will see you in the gloaming”. x

Booster

I thought it would be enough, but it wasn’t. It appears that we need a little more than the vibrant chrysanthemum to keep our spirits buoyant. Mine, anyway.

For those who could also do with a little extra sparkle, here is a booster shot. A dew-bedazzled Inula hookeri. It helped me.

Needed

For those of you who, like myself, have suffered a weekend of rain, wind and misery (a blatant exaggeration for dramatic effect), this vibrant chrysanthemum might come in handy. In the cheery-uppy department.

You are most welcome.