Saturday, 16 October 2010

Red Planting and Political Blues

Verbena bonariensis and Cornus alba sibirica, with sedum in the background

I have been taking a good look at my front garden, which, despite needing a bit of a tidy is coming on nicely. It is north facing on very sandy soil so not the easiest spot, and its autumn-to-winter look is basically red and green. The leaves have come off the Cornus sibirica leaving red stems, there are big heads of sedum flowers, a few dark red snapdragons left, Parthenocissus henryana climbing the wall (although the Hydrangea petiolaris seems to have died on me) and lots of lovely ornamental fruit on the little Malus sargentii. The green bit is provided by Choisia ternata, bamboo, a small rosemary, a Sarcococca and a few other odds and sods that flower at other times of the year.


Malus sargentii and sedum, neatly colour coordinated
with my neighbours' car and front door

Trouble is, I think I am being too subtle. There are a few mauve highlights from the sage which is romping away (told you it was well drained) and Verbena bonariensis, which I thought would lift it and they do look quite nice as a contrasting colour. But when I returned from the garden centre today with a couple of red cyclamen, it seemed de trop. I have put in some pink, autumn flowering saffron crocuses although they are not quite up yet, and I am wondering about experimenting with cerise and white cyclamen instead of red. The colour scheme is so very controlled it can probably take it. I might buy a box tomorrow and see. They can always go elsewhere if it looks dreadful.

Meanwhile, I was at the DIY shed yesterday, buying compost, and I was struck by the plethora of faded and weathering garden ornaments. Pale gnomes, rusty flowers, dubious twisty things with glass nuggets, ceramic smiley sheep, that sort of thing. Most disturbing were the cherubs. Cast in low-grade concrete with lots of added coir, the cement was weathering away to leave a kind of green fur. Under-wing hair is not a good look on a cherub.

On the work front I am exploring. Coming soon to a print medium near you. Just just found my feature on my nascent apple juice empire in The Guardian. And I have just come off the breakfast show on BBC Radio Berkshire where I was talking to the lovely Nikki Whiteman. Tell you what, if you want to sound awake at 7.30am, listen to punk while driving. Green Day did the job this morning, which is a good link to the next bit (King For A Day. If you've got to ask, probably best not to know).
I am vexed with the coalition government. The latest estimate to put my kids through decent universities is what is known in the business as 'Titchmarsh Money'. So watch out Titchmarsh, I am after your job. This is not just ambition, it is Marks and Spencer’s ambition.

I mentioned this to my brother and he explained his theory that the Conservatives were probably back for a while. He reckons that one should not underestimate the British fetish for being told that they are very naughty voters and being spanked with austerity measures. Yikes.

Monday, 4 October 2010

The Queen and the Worlds Biggest Caterpillar

Today, we are mostly hitting our head against horticulture. Hmmm. We are not the Queen.


Today, I am hitting my head against horticulture. What to plant in the veg patch to make it gloriously productive and wonderful through winter. And if I plant it, will it survive anyway? The potatoes have gone and an early frost nipped the corn. I have stopped picking the beans and hopefully the last ones will fatten up to produce some very superior kidney beans, for very superior bean salad.

Then what? I think that various oriental things such as mizuna and mustards might be the thing, and spinach sounds promising, but it is all terribly experimental. I am going to put in some exciting garlic varieties and I have scored some rather jolly looking flower sprouts from Suttons. Like mini pink and green cabbages, I hope they taste as good as they look.

I also have a big box of bulbs from De Jager, which is extraordinarily exciting. De Jager does big bulbs as standard and in the spirit of getting what you pay for, bigger really is better. (As I discovered with some chunky Acidanthera that I got from Avon Bulbs last spring. My track record with summer bulbs is dismal but these ones worked and hope springs anew). I really, really want to get planting but it will have to wait until the weekend when I will vanish in a flurry of fritillaries, a nest of narcissi, a...um....posse of paperwhites? [enough! Ed]

Anyway, it is going to be good.

The picture above is a particularly awesome caterpillar that Isabella and I found on Sunday. It was vast and hairy and handsome and everything I admire in caterpillars. According to the internet it is a Fox Moth but if anyone knows different then do say so.

Listening to: Well, the soundtrack in my head is Oasis’s ‘The Importance of Being Idle’ which is an improvement on much of their recent work and a lesson for us all. In real life, the last thing I heard which I liked was ‘Big Red Combine Harvester’ at my offspring’s harvest festival, which we sang with enthusiasm all the way to school.

And there was some dire, miserablist wailing from my daughter’s stereo earlier, with some fellow claiming he needed ‘love CPR’ which must go down as one of the most rubbish lines in history. Trouble with some bands is they think such claims will make them sound sensitive and interesting (don’t start me on Scouting for Girls). Which they may, if you are pre-teen or take medical dramas seriously. Not me on both counts.

I think such chaps should wake up, smell the substance abuse and start smashing guitars. If your Rolls Royce is not in the swimming pool you are not doing it properly. So there.