Tag Archives: gardening

Si vis pacem pare hortum II, or Willow, willow, willow III

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If you care to return to old posts – Si Vis Pacem Pare Hortum  and Willow, willow willow, you’ll find the day four years ago that  I rescued this bench from being demolished by a willow tree falling across it.

The bench would be sittable-on, were it not for the weeds, and the willow is doing its job as part of an informal hedge. A change of crop in the field beyond, and fewer rainstorms,  may both have contributed to its not being further undermined, but those vertical shoots are still vertical and almost thick enough to become fence posts if needed.

A good spot to curl up with a book, especially if you bring a scythe along with you!

And a job well done, if I say so myself.

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At this table

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A meal in the garden in the company of friends is a great blessing, one Mrs T and I shared this week in Wales. Good local food well cooked. Our friend’s granddaughter has a chef for a brother and seems to share his love for cooking – one passed down the generations!

There was talk of the brother as well, of course, of cabbages and kings. The lad takes a pride in his work, to the extent that he has persuaded his bosses to buy butcher’s meat and fresh fruit and vegetables so that he could prepare better meals at no extra cost. He is feeding young people on activity holidays.

‘And now, instead of frozen, ground down whatever and jars of sauce, they have spaghetti Bolognese with proper, lean minced beef and sauce from scratch.’

…….

I hope you enjoy a few outdoor meals this summer, and that the cooks enjoy them as well as the diners. The next day was bread and cheese for just the two of us, halfway up a hill in Herefordshire. That was enjoyable too: we’d walked up an appetite!

 

Less unexpected birds in the city.

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The garden spectacle this week has been the two fledgling sparrows that have left the nest in next-door-but-one’s roof to flit and flutter to our back gate where they can perch, and cheep and flutter their stubby wings in the hope that their parents – or any passing sparrow for that matter – will feed them. There must be hope they will live, now they have spent two days out of the nest!

Here is one of them watching intently as his mother (or is it his aunt?) pecks at the fat balls over the gate. The fact that he was fed did not prevent him starting to call again as soon as he’d finished swallowing.

Although the adults are very tolerant of humans moving about the garden we share with  them, Chico took off as soon as the back door opened. Three metres’ flight to the washing line, where he could not get a grip, turned base over apex before achieving enough co-ordination to crash into the holly bush.

The two chicks were soon back on the gate, ‘Please Sir (or Madam) I want some more!

Unexpected birds in the midst of the city: II

It began with a low flypast by a Spitfire and a Hurricane, fighter planes from World War II; after that our eyes turned again and again to the deep blue sky. Then Vincent spotted a buzzard, not unknown in Canterbury – see 3 September 2015, Bravado of the Birds.

Not unknown, but worth downing tools for. Who was going to see him off, I wondered, recalling ravens, jackdaws and gulls escorting these predators away from their children – though sadly ravens are not seen over Canterbury today. But no jackdaw nor gull appeared, instead there was another buzzard soaring over us, and then two more. None of us earth-bound humans had seen four together over Canterbury before.

Too early in the year for this season’s chicks to be on the wing, surely? Were these four juveniles or two parents with last year’s offspring? Certainly two bore pale flashes on their underwings, and one of these was audibly and physically corrected when it flew too close to one of the others. We heard it over the roar of traffic from the inner bypass.

From up there the birds could see a long stretch of green: our little acre is on the river and just across the main road that runs behind us lie the Westgate Parks which lead to the meadows, and the cycle path to Ashford which we earthlings visited yesterday.

Two or three days in the year.

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Yesterday Abel was coming away from the L’Arche Glebe garden when his eye was arrested by the round, tan-coloured husks beneath the hollow yew outside Saint Mildred’s church. They must really be discarded cones, since the yew is a conifer – with no recognisable cone. 

I was half reminded of something. Then today Mrs T and I went to see the cowslips near Brogdale, happily growing on the chalk. Another chalk-lover is the beech tree, one I loved to climb as a boy, and a mile or so on from the cowslip field our walk took us through a beech wood. Unlike this picture from last year, it was a grey day, the path was wet, but we could still appreciate Edward Thomas’s observation in The South Country.

 

Then in the early morning the air is still and warm, but so moist that there is a soul of coolness in the heat, and never before were the leaves of the sorrel and wood sanicle and woodruff, and the grey-green foliage and pallid yellow flowers of the large celandine, so fair. The sudden wren’s song is shrewd and sweet and banishes heaviness. The huge chestnut tree is flowering and full of bees. The parsley towers delicately in bloom. The beech boughs are encased in gliding crystal. The nettles, the millions of nettles in a bed, begin to smell of summer. In the calm and sweet air the turtle-doves murmur and the blackbirds sing — as if time were no more — over the mere.

The roads, nearly dry again, are now at their best, cool and yet luminous, and at their edges coloured rosy or golden brown by the sheddings of the beeches, those gloves out of which the leaves have forced their way, pinched and crumpled by the confinement. At the bend of a broad road descending under beeches these parallel lines of ruddy chaff give to two or three days in the year a special and exquisite loveliness, if the weather be alternately wet and bright and the long white roads and virgin beeches are a temptation.

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There is never enough traffic on this bridleway to order the husks  into parallel lines, but there they are, colouring the path. The nettles are in evidence ahead; we would discern the white of cow parsley if we were closer, but the pale celandine was not yet in flower here. (The bright, low-growing, lesser celandine is all but finished.)

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Close to, the russet husks are indeed cool and luminous. Who would have said that brown could shine?

Thank you Edward Thomas!

Woodland in the Midst of the City

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Mrs T and I went to London to help George extract a tree stump and lay down a lawn.

Just across the road was a gateway into an urban woodland, a cemetery abandoned for half a century. No time to do more than take a quick peek but the trees were starting into leaf and blossom, the bluebells and other Spring flowers were inviting smiles from the walkers and cyclists enjoying the woods.

Read more about the park by following the link:   Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park  

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I hope you have an oasis near you, and are enjoying the Spring, if you are in the Northern hemisphere!

 

At the Edge of the City: Manchester.

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Even London eventually comes to an end, an edge, though it’s swallowing up more of the Kentish countryside and creeping ever nearer to Canterbury.

Recently Mrs T and I were at the southern edge of Manchester, in Didsbury, and walked away from the houses, across the main road, into Fletcher Moss Park. I expected Fletcher Moss to be a wetland, as in Chat Moss and other boggy areas around Manchester, but it is named after Mr Fletcher Moss, who gave his house and estate to the city of Manchester early last century.

The land does slope down to the River Mersey, and the lower areas were too wet for our city shod feet, so my expectations were not altogether dashed.

Before we arrived at the park, we crossed the tramway by this Poppy bridge, remembering the fallen of the Great War. Nearby children from three local schools have scattered poppy seed, to flower this summer, 100 years since the end of that war.

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After walking through Didsbury Park, well populated by young children and parents off to meet children from those three local schools, we came to the edge of Fletcher Moss Park, with its sports fields and fine benches including Rory’s Bench, covered in carved creatures, and a formidable lacrosse player. The game is more popular in these parts than most of England.

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Mr Moss’s garden had been a little neglected in recent times, until a voluntary group was formed to undertake many of the City Council’s responsibilities. We admired the hellebores in the beds near the house, including this one, thriving in the cold.

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Also near the house were witch hazel bushes, worth seeing silhouetted against the grey sky as well as in colour on the dark background of walls and branches. This computer cannot share the scent, clean and sharp.

 

More scent, sweeter this time, at ground level from snowdrops and oxlips, a hybrid between primroses and cowslips.

 

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A little further and we were at a corner of rainforest – well most English people know that if you can see the Pennine Hills from Manchester, it is going to rain; if you can’t see them, it must be raining.

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It wasn’t raining yet … and just around the corner a bank of heather – erica – a plant that shuns our alkaline soil in East Kent.

How’s this for early March?

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We wandered down to the next level; as I said, it was too muddy for city shoes to approach the river, but there was a clump of young willow ablaze in the afternoon light. I’m told by my colleagues at L’Arche that for weaving and basket making, the golden-green and the dark red not only contrast well when woven together, they have slightly different properties. I must learn more.

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And I must come back to Fletcher Moss next time I’m visiting family in Manchester, and see how it looks in other seasons. Many thanks to the volunteers who are helping the City council care for this treasure.