Thursday, 30 August 2012

Thank you

Thank you all so much for your kind and comforting words.

Old Dog`s friend ( and distant cousin), Whisper Dog,  is finding this as hard as we are. Whisper is the one with the white end to his tail in this photo of the two dogs in the garden. He spends a lot of time looking over our cattle grid by the gate, waiting for his friend to come home from a Forest walk. Taking Whisper walking and playing ball ( gently - he is almost fourteen and has arthritis too) has helped to cheer him a little.

Yesterday was hard. Today, we feel better for a while and then the loss suddenly hits home again. That is the way that grief works, so we just have to take each moment as it comes.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Goodbye Dear Old Dog

Yesterday we lost our dear Old Dog, who had become weaker in recent days and then lost the use of his back legs on Monday night. A kind young vet and a vet nurse came to the house and Old Dog quietly slipped away, after a treat of banana ( his favourite), on a rug in our living room. He did not need a scary car journey or a visit to the Vet Surgery on his last day.

On Sunday, we took both dogs for a short walk up into the heather. They loved sniffing around and following familiar tracks, but old dog tripped over once or twice and had to be helped to his feet. On Monday, he managed just a five minute walk onto the flat green at the bottom of our hill, and that was his last walk.

He was fourteen years and eight months old. A good age for a collie and he was part of our family since puppyhood. There is a huge void here today. Everyone, human and animal, is missing him.

Here he is in the garden this spring.......

....and sharing his bed with Lucy on a cold morning.

Monday, 27 August 2012

In the Garden at Avebury Manor

The small village of Avebury is just to the west of Marlborough, in the chalk downlands of Wiltshire. It is famous for its ancient henge of standing stones and for the sixteenth century manor house which stands adjacent to the village church. Last Thursday, we visited the manor house and its gardens, before walking around the Avebury Stones as the daylight began to fade.

Avebury Manor and its garden now belongs to the National Trust. The house used to be an almost empty shell, but a recent collaboration with the BBC has lead to refurbishment of the rooms in the styles of differing periods in history. The television series, "The Manor Reborn", included the renovation of the gardens, so we were interested to see the results of a spring and summer of hard work both inside and outside the house.

We entered the gardens, through a gate beside the churchyard wall, to find a walled garden with borders and with many beds surrounded by small, clipped box hedges. Masses of colourful dahlias and cosmos bloomed inside the box borders.

A white, old English rose grew against the thatched wall, between the garden and the neighbouring churchyard.

Two vigorous buddlea bushes grew in a corner of the high walls. They were a feasting place for honey bees and this striking insect , which I can`t seem to find in my Insect book. Can anyone identify it?

The Manor House across the walled garden.

A small tortoiseshell butterfly drinking nectar on a dahlia bloom. One of the only small tortoiseshells I have seen this summer.

The next walled garden sheltered old fruit trees.

Through a gate in the wall, we found a lovely border of herbaceous perennials. Glowing oranges and bright yellows of rudbekkia, verbascum and dahlia were mixed with softer blue and white flowers.

Bright perlagoniums in a garden urn.

We walked through a clipped yew walkway and found ourselves in the formal kitchen garden,where raised beds of vegetables grew in military lines beside gravel paths.

Watched over by a scarecrow.

We found the garden just behind the main house. Vivid green topiary shapes and geometric hedging beside the pond were skillfully done.

An interesting and well intentioned garden, but I became aware that everything seemed contained within border walls of wood or box hedge and that much of the hedging was clipped into formal shapes. Although a reflection of older styles of gardening, it did seem to be a place where those in charge were determined to clip and control Mother Nature into shape! A contrast to the ancient and mysterious fields of standing stones just a few hundred yards away.

As someone who prefers a less formal , cottage garden style of gardening, or the wonderful  mixtures of  colours and textures in the English country gardens of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the formal plantings here were interesting but not very inspiring.

One of my favourite plants in the gardens at Avebury Manor was this rampant, climbing blue clematis, tumbling up and over a wall as though disobeying orders!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

A Crack in the Liquidamber

The Liquidamber Tree, or American Sweetgum, was planted by the last family who lived in our house so it must be around eighteen to twenty years old. Every autumn its leaves turn from green, to yellow, to red and then to deep maroon. A beautiful tree.

From the grass, it looks lush and sturdy, but this is deceptive. If you walk around the tree, one half of it is split, broken and waiting for surgery after one night this week when we had strange, localised winds that rushed through the trees on the edge of a storm. In the morning, I looked out of the window to find a main limb of the tree splitting away.

The following day, the split had grown and another limb had fallen, fully leaved, across the garden.
We sawed and cleared as much as we could, but already the weight of the broken branches had torn the trunk in half and the upper branches look precarious. A tree surgeon is to be called as the whole of the right side needs to be pruned and I expect those upper branches will need to be felled.

The extreme wetness of this spring and summer, followed by a few hot , sunny weeks, has made the tree grow more vigorously than in other years. We wonder if the extra growth and heavy foliage has overburdened its branches, The wood of the Liquidamber is known for its brittle quality. This year, even the stronger stems could not cope.

Piles of foliage are waiting in the yard, to be composted or burned. As many logs as possible will be saved for the fire.

I only hope that an expert tree cutter will be able to reshape both sides of the tree so that it can survive and start again.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

An August Morning Garden

Despite grey skies, the light was good this morning so I walked around the garden, catching colours and late summer flowers with my camera. The roses have been so damaged by rain this year, but a few blooms are surviving beautifully in these warmer, late August days. The iceberg rose, above, looks lovely amid the blues of perovskia and agapanthus. There are self-sown teasels and evening primroses in this border.

Two agapanthus blooms against dark foliage.

Honey bees were finding nectar in rock rose flowers.

Across a corner of the little wild grassland "hay meadow". In the back of the border on the left is a tortured willow that I grew from a cutting and a Davidia tree showing green between the purples of  berberis and  cotinus ( smoke bush).

The young Indian Bean Tree is growing well now. We planted it about ten years ago. I love the way that its bright, yellow green leaves catch the light against the darker trees behind it.

We usually have a heavy harvest of ornamental crab apples, which feed the birds for weeks and give enough fruit for crab apple jelly. This year the fruit is scarce. Elderberries are also being eaten by the birds as soon as they ripen.

In a patch of yellows and purples,  tansy and potentilla flower against a hebe and a half hidden clump of scented phlox.

The yellow stars and fluffy seed heads of Clematis mackenzii  scramble up the fence beneath a tall Scots Pine.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Meeting Mr B. and his Donkey Neighbours

One afternoon this week, I drove up into the north of the New Forest to visit my friend`s new horse, who lives at a friendly, family run  riding stable. Mr B is Andalusian x Thoroughbred and is a lovely looking horse. In the future, my friend hopes to school him as a dressage horse. He is still getting used to his new surroundings but has settled well with the other geldings in his paddock. Already he knows his new owner and he calls to her when she whistles to him across the fields. When he was tied up in the yard, he watched her wherever she went.

Enjoying a haynet while we shampooed his dusty tail.

Here he is again, with his fly mask on, grazing in a small enclosure next to his field. In the far field, a small herd of deer had jumped in from the Forest and were grazing contentedly.

Mr B had never met donkeys before he came to live in the New Forest. Someone has told him that they are dragons and he is seriously worried about them! Outside in the lane I found a donkey foal and its mother.

The foal had enormous ears....

...and his mother had a Join-up- the-dots pattern along her side.

As the foal began to suckle....

....his Mum dozed in the sun.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Sea Views from Durlston Castle

At the end of our walk, we found a shaded tunnel of trees that passes through the clifftop wood at Durlston, and followed the path to the Country Park`s new centre at Durlston Castle.

 The castle was once a Victorian folly built by a local stonemason and landowner but has now been converted into a wonderful centre for visitors. An educational area gives colourful and accessible information about the geology and natural history of this part of the Dorset Jurassic Coast. There is a restaurant with views across the bay. There is a shop and an art gallery displaying the work of local artists and sculptors.

From the Castle terrace, the sea views were stunning. Across the calm sea we could see Peveril Point in the foreground with the chalk cliffs of Ballard Down and Old Harry Rocks in the middle distance. Far across Poole Bay to the east were the clifftops of Bournemouth and the coast stretching along to Hengistbury Head.

Here are distant and closer views across the Channel, to Tennyson Down and the chalk Needles on the the western tip of the Isle of Wight.

A wildflower garden by the terrace hummed with insects. White discs of yarrow mixed with daisies, grass and purple vetch against the bright summer blue of sky and sea.