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Sunday, 9 June 2013

Cut backs

I've been waiting all year for Derby Day - the traditional day to cut back your box - and somehow managed to miss it. I had imagined all those gardeners armed with their clippers and secateurs(my spell check keeps insisting it is scooters and now I can't get that image out of my head) waiting for that precise moment to cut, slash and topiary their box plants. On discovering I'd missed it I spent the afternoon cutting back Harry the horse's feathers on his legs. He must have  some Shire horse in him somewhere because if left untamed his feathers just grow so long and thick you could build a nest in them.  They are wonderful but (a) the blacksmith won't shoe him if they're too long as he can't see his feet and (b) in the summer it is a haven for harvest mites. It is a shame because he looked so magnificent- but an hour later, having wielded the shears, he looks half the horse he was and not unlike a Native American's Pinto pony. I did actually go to a cowboy party once as a medicine woman with a top hat and long woollen plaits and we put a blue handprint on Harry's rump and a feather in his mane and he was so obliging. I thought later it was a crazy thing to do, to sit on a horse in a crowded party tent but he just stood there quietly and didn't kick any of the guests or knock over or consume too many cocktails.
Anyway - now you can hear the whole countryside alive with the sound of cut backs.(and people on scooters) Sheep being sheared, grass being cut, flowers being snipped. This is the last tulip and I had to pick it and photograph it - it is Tulipa Marilyn with a a load of the pink sweet peas and I think she is magnificent with her luscious lipstick pink stripes. Definitely on my tulip order list each year.

Tulipa Marilyn with the sweet peas
Also out now are the beginnings of the roses. This one is Souvenir de St. Anne's - a heavenly rose which flowers all summer and well into Autumn and smells good. It's a sport of Souvenir de Malmaison and was found in St Anne's Park in Dublin. It is definitely one of the best roses though it doesn't last long if you pick it as a cut flower.
Rosa Souvenir de St Anne's
The other plants in abundance now are the alliums. Allium Purple Sensation are a real bonus in a garden as they seed well and their seed heads last for ages. Once the leaves have died back, usually before they flower, they take up no room at all and can easily be underplanted. Buy in bulk from Peter Nyssen or Parker's Wholesale Catalogues.
Allium Purple Sensation

Pixie, Beezle and Pocket(quarter Bengal)musing on the cut backs
 The weather has been so gorgeous we managed a picnic in the New Forest. The smell of gorse which is exactly like coconut is breathtaking and the spot we chose was full of it. It was also full of ponies, foals and numerous donkeys, all who fancied some of our sandwiches.  We showed them the leaflet that said Absolutely Do Not Feed the Ponies or Donkeys and here is a picture of one of them trying to make sense of the lettering.
the picnic donkey

We made some gorse flower wine one year which was delicious, fragrant and coconutty. Fortunately it doesn't have the same effect as Wheat and Raisin wine - nicknamed The Fighting Wine because  when you drink it it makes you extremely arguementative. We had a glass each with some friends one year and ended up on a walk arguing the whole time. "Look there's a badger trail." "No it isn't it's a deer." "No it isn't --............""Yes it is...."


This really is a beautiful time of year and all is looking verdant and floriferous. I like this gentle reminder of nature that a friend sent me.

A FIELD IN LUDLOW BY W J IBBETT, early 20th century

I’m Barter’s now,
  Last year for Gatehouse I
Nurtured a pretty crop of
                  Vetch and rye –
When Barters’ dead, some
     New-named man will say
‘All this is mine,’ and go
           The deathward way,
Rye, vetch and man all
        To the seasons yield,
While I lie low, the same
       Old smiling field.

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