Thursday, 24 February 2011

Pedantry, snowdrops and snakes

Spreads of snowdrop Galanthus nivalis at Welford Park in Berkshire
 Anyway, there I was at 7am last Saturday listening to one of those compilations with a title like 'The Essential Power of Ultimate Music, Ever', on my way to a hot date to talk gardening with BBC Radio Berkshire, when up pops Alice Cooper’s ‘Poison’. You know: I want to love you but I better not touch (Don't touch) /I want to hold you but my senses tell me to stop/I want to kiss you but I want it too much (Too much) /I want to taste you but your lips are venomous poison. etc.

Driving when one should be sleeping leaves plenty if time to be pedantic about artistic licence. As any fule kno, but possibly not as any snake-fancying rock icon kno, poison is not in itself venomous. Venomous animals use fangs or a sting to inject their venom which is a biotoxin. Poisons can be absorbed, ingested or inhaled and need not be organic. Technically, wasps are venomous while poison arrow frogs are, well, poisonous. If Mr Cooper ate his venomous snake it would (probably) not poison him. And so on. Nothing that a spot of punctuation wouldn’t solve. Alice, if you are reading, let’s talk.*

With such things sorted, I rocked up in Reading feeling upbeat and had a lovely chat about snowdrops and pruning with Nicki Whiteman on the BBC Berks Breakfast show. On the snowdrop front, Welford Park and Kingston Bagpuize House will be looking awesome round about now (check out my spring feature in Period Homes and Interiors, Feb issue for an in-depth on Kinston Bagpuize garden) and Foxgrove Nursery is a prolific local source of unusual varieties (see Feb issue of Berks and Bucks Life). Coming up, I will be off to the launch of the Buckinghamshire National Gardens Scheme booklet and I am looking forward to seeing the 2011 NGS Yellow Book as I contributed to it this year. Enough trumpet-blowing. Things are sprouting, planting is a-go-go and I will tell you all about it soon.

*I don’t, however, have the original album sleeve so I may be doing Alice Cooper a grave grammatical injustice here.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Of Mud and Moonlight

Exploded Spaghetti

It has finally got warm enough to do some gardening, which is rather nice as it is high time I gave my plot some attention. A merry hour or two has been spent mulching and cutting things back and while not exactly finished and not exactly tidy in every facet, it does look a little bit more intentional.

This weekend I also got around to putting up a new rose arch (glamorously leading to the compost heap), planted Rose ‘Malvern Hills’ up against it and spread around the packet of Biochar soil conditioner that I was given at the Garden Press Event last year. Been busy, that is my excuse. Anyway the borders in question will doubtless be grateful.

Still on the to do list is to tie up the Parthenocissus henryana as the top stems are drooping somewhat and it needs to work twice as hard this coming year to make the wall look nice following the sad demise of the Hydrangea petiolaris that couldn’t hack its dry position.

Despite the chill, the plants seem to be sending up little shoots – the clematis and roses are sprouting, all the bulbs are poking their noses out and there is a flash of brilliant pink from the rhubarb. So all good there.

When I was on holiday recently I read (or re-read) three books, James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small, Laurie Lee’s Cider With Rosie and the autobiography of rose-man Peter Beales, Rose Petals and Muddy Footprints. The choice was coincidental but there were some interesting parallels between the books. These were the biographies or fictionalised biographies of people who had been children or young men in the 1920s and 1930s, with the fallout from war and pervasive economic hardship.

The styles were very different – Herriot’s light, self-effacing irony; Lee’s lush, sensual descriptions of the bitter, surreal and hyper-real life in a relatively isolated community. And Beales’, the least literary (perhaps no surprise as he didn’t seem to spend much time at school) but no less vivid in its bleak description of the hard work of rural life which was all about hewing wood and drawing water and the excitement of motorbikes and cars versus horses. All interesting reads and I found myself looking over my shoulder again at my own grandfather who, during the war, would ride his motorbike from Exeter to London on a bright moonlit night as headlights were forbidden in the blackout.

This is a picture of what happens if you drop a full packet of spaghetti onto the kitchen floor.