Catching up: Plants, Gardens, Cars and Other Things

There’s been a bit of a blog hiatus these past weeks, as some of you have noticed (thanks for caring!) due to a number of factors. On the plus side, we have been very busy with the garden. We now have a splendid off-road parking area (Scottish beach pebbles, like we ordered for Mum’s back garden last year, although slightly larger and Mum insists not nearly as nice as hers) and slabbed paths. We have a large rose-bed outside the front door which Dee has planted with a choice selection of ancient roses from Peter Beales (Rosa mundi, R. gallica, Josephine Bruce, Eglantine …) and a miniature lavender border.

P1020907.JPG We have an enormous shrub bed the length of the front garden which we have had great fun planning and scheming. Its larger features are an ash and a lilac that were there before, a Hamamellis mollis ‘Pallida’ (witch hazel, fabulous golden-orange flowers in February/March), and a (wait for it) Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Katsura tree) which does golden-bronze leaves from early Spring that smell like burnt sugar when they fall in autumn. We have also found a corner for Silvia our Korean fir ‘Silberlocke’ which served as our Christmas tree during the festive season.

The larger trees, along with an apple tree (James Grieve), a pear (Concorde) and a greengage (because successive trips to France have served only to deepen a profound love for reine claudes) were purchased from Smeaton nurseries in East Lothian on Dee’s birthday in February. That was a grand day out. We had lunch in Haddington where as well as delicious soup and sandwiches we found a most intriguing little walled garden with a laburnum walkway. Then after a grand tree shopathon at the nursery, we had afternoon tea at the Buttercup Cafe in North Berwick, where I had an enormous banana split (to make up for the disappointing knickerbocker glory I had on my own birthday in Luca’s in Morningside, isn’t it ridiculous how these things stick in the 51-year-old memory!), and Dee fought her way through a crepe with ice cream, served by a larger-than-life Greek gentleman in a kilted apron). Then we walked all this off along the beach watching the redshanks and listening to the eiders coming in and settling down for the night on the edge of the swimming pool. The Bass Rock is strangely dark now that white covering of gannets has gone elsewhere for the time being. I think I sometimes see things more intensely now – I thought eiders were black and white birds, I’d never really noticed that they have pinkish chests, and the most beautiful blue-green hue to their cheeks (well it’s coming into the breeding season of course, and I do have rather excellent binoculars. Although I’m still more than capable of missing something obvious staring me in the face.)

22032012228.jpg Then in the middle of March we went up to Abriachan to collect a large order we had put together from Donald’s catalogue. Some ‘must-haves’ from my time working and learning there a few years ago, like a Salix boydii from a cutting I think I took and potted up, and a Daphne retusa for its unforgettable early Spring scent, and some Primula auricula, and a Dierama, and about thirty others. Impulse purchases included some strawberries which Hamish Davidson says will be either ‘Elan’ or ‘Honeoye’, whichever, doesn’t matter, is a good cropping well-flavoured cultivar.

P1030094.jpg On the way north we stopped at a new garden centre for us, the Glendoick rhododendron and azalea nursery near Perth, where of course a number of interesting items were also procured. Dee has been busy and all of these fine specimens are in the ground now, and, as Donald used to say, ‘sitting up and taking notice’. This garden of ours, already a lovely, colourful and peaceful place, is going to be just spectacular in a year or two. And productive – there’s already blossom on the greengage tree and promising leaf growth on the other two fruit trees. And practical – Dee has her security bicycle shed to store all the practical mechanical stuff, and I have my ‘Sunflower’ potting shed where I can make mud pies with relative impunity (complete with attached bug house, an insightful present from the Lockeys).

27032012232.jpg The Abriachan trip was, however, the final nail in the coffin of my relationship with Harriet our faithful LHD Hyundai. She pulled the caravan through France and Belgium in all that terrible weather with all our worldly goods and chattels inside (including the kittens) and our bicycles on the roof. She’s always started at the first time of asking and never complained about anything. But she was never particularly comfortable to drive and was especially hard and bouncy as a passenger, the LHD bit was taking its toll on us both, so I said to Dee ‘enough is enough, get me a Golf’, and she did. And we are very, very happy with Gudrun, our new blue graphite Golf Blue Motion deutsche Qualitätsarbeit.

Meanwhile, I’ve been a bit poorly. Without going into too much detail, the fluid gathering in my abdomen was making eating and drinking increasingly problematic. Draining the fluid while maintaining some kind of blood chemistry balance proved something of a challenge for the NHS staff at the Western General (for whom I have nothing but thanks and praise) and I have been back and forwards a few times over the last couple of weeks trying to get things sorted. I now have a permanent drain fitted which makes ‘little and often’ drainage possible. Charlie came back from leave on Monday and decreed, with which Dee and I wholeheartedly concur, that no further heroic chemical balance exploits should be attempted, that I should be allowed to come home to my own comforts. District nurses and Marie Curie are there to help when we need them, and Dee is able to drain as much or as little as we think appropriate (within the guidelines of course).

Even more to the point, it keeps me hungry, or peckish at least! It’s official, I can eat whatever I like. Sometimes my requests are reasonably adult (I want sushi), others amusingly childish (chips, cola, chocolate ice cream). Dee can of course make the most nutritious and tasty treats from a few simple ingredients and I can spend much of the afternoon deciding whether I’d rather have my hot smoked salmon peppered or honeyed, and basil or chives in my avocado salsa (with chips of course). Curiously enough, I am having a rather lovely time 🙂


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