The Pernicious Armadillo And His Gang Of Evil Quail

When we first bought Blackpitts – way back in 1992 – it was a bit bleak. Architecturally it had nothing to trouble Norman Foster, horticulturally there was nothing much except nettles and there was no wildlife. Except rats and starlings.

Since we have been here more and more creatures have moved in – although the starlings left pretty quickly (we mended the bargeboards and in the process inadvertently evicted them: haven’t seen one since). The first year there was a massive influx of ladybirds and everything else has followed. We have hedgehogs, toads, frogs, newts, butterflies, moths, aphids (of every colour), rabbits, squirrels and muntjac etc etc (1).

We also have birds in abundance: I was always a bit bored by birds but I am beginning to see the point. My grandfather used to feed the birds every afternoon at about 4.00: he sat on a bench with his pipe and a tin of peanuts while various tits and robins would come and feed from his hand.(2)

The presence of all this thriving wildlife rather backs up my principle (about which I drivel on occasionally in lectures) that it doesn’t matter much what you plant provided to plant something. It doesn’t necessarily have to be native, it just has to be alive.

If you plant things, wildlife will come.

Anyway, swallows….  they are the most divine of birds much more interesting than, say a common Dunnock,(3). They moved in a few years ago and now nest in almost all of the various barns and sheds that surround us  We spend an inordinate amount of time watching them swoop and chat and swerve (occasionally they dive in through my office door but and generally pretty unimpressed and leave soon afterwards). In the evening light they are particularly enchanting as the setting sun catches the reddish bits under their chins. The Creator must have been in a very good mood the day he (or she) invented Swallows. I can’t think of many other birds that are quite as enchanting.(4)

Gnarled and twisted vines

I went to a sensational garden on Thursday: Waltham Place in Berkshire. If you have not been then you should clear a space in your diary as soon as you can. It is open to the public on Fridays.Unless you are a group. It is owned by the Oppenheimers (the diamond people) and the garden was planted by Henk Gerritson starting in 1999. The structure of the garden is, I think, mostly Edwardian with stone edged ponds and brick pergolas draped with magnificent climbing roses. The planting that Mr Gerritson has inserted amongst these bones is light and airy and naturalistic (in a very good way). There is one garden full of Persicaria polymorpha (an excellent plant if you have space) and Telekias (that I thought were Inulas until I was put right by Toby and Chris Marchant from Orchard Dene). Another with fennel and Delphiniums and Sorrel etc etc etc. Go and see for yourselves, I can’t be expected to tell you everything!

It was organised by the estimable Tim Richardson and Dr.Noel Kingsbury (5) as a jaunt and a chance to hear some very earnest German designers talk about their work. We also had a very good dinner although, having arrived late (from seeing charming pug owning potential client) I also had to leave early.

Before pudding which was a slight blow.

I took some pictures but was told by the ever law abiding moral sentinel Ann-Marie Powell that I was not supposed to: I must have missed the sign. Do you think it is okay to put them on this Blog? Probably not, so I won’t except for this one of a Wisteria that could be absolutely anywhere.

I am very grateful to Susan Cohan who very kindly chose this Blog for her “From My Reader..” series. Susan is a thoughtful and experienced designer who works in New Jersey. She is also very sound on biscuits: Mallomars, in particular.

Interesting thing Blogging: I like to think that I write this stuff mostly because I rather enjoy writing and like a gentle chunter along my own synapses. Nobody pays me and nobody chases deadlines. I am, however, flattered that anybody reads it and – like most bloggers – get a slight spinal frisson every time somebody leaves a comment. It took a long time before anybody left one: I have sadly lost all the comments on my earliest posts so I cannot remember my actual deflowering.

In a perfect life I would like to see ten comments per post: that makes me happy. More than that is lovely . Less than that, and I begin to worry that I am being uncommentworthy and dull: which is a bit sad really. I shouldn’t really be bothered if the odd post gets two or three comments, after all most people have a long list of better things to do with their time (vi). I suppose that deep down (or not very deep down actually) I am really only writing to satisfy my own ego and blogging is really a big showy off thing. “Look at this, I wrote it. Say nice things please”.

I am about to migrate this Blog to a shiny WordPress site (the embryonic version is here) so I will probably have to tell you all lots of times. Sorry.

Four years ago I wrote really short posts, like this one.

Three years ago I was playing cricket: I am doing so again on Saturday although sadly not in the Gardeners world v River Cottage grudge match in Devon. Mine will be more civilised but I will miss the chance of seeing Mark Diacono struck in the box by one of Carol Klein’s nastier off-breaks. They will also almost certainly have more pork products available. You can go if you wish, details here.

The picture is of Echinops ritro flowers: I thought they looked a little other worldly.(7)

I am just listening to Bjork which is punishment enough for anyone. A track called Earth Intruders which starts off like the jungle book then there is some discordant wailing mixed with cowbells and it ends with a number of ships’ foghorns. I am unsure why I have not yet deleted this track from my library. Thank goodness it has just changed to Al Green singing Let’s Stay together.

  1. These last three are not welcome in flower beds and run the risk of elimination should they transgress. Wildlife is all very well up to a point and a rabbit is definitely it.
  2. My other experience with birds was via a friend of mine who is an obsessive bird watcher (he even runs birdwatching holidays from his hotel in Portugal). This always struck me as odd as at one point in our lives he was a particularly unsavoury motorcycle messenger. He had a disgusting sleeveless denim jacket that he wore over his leathers: enormous pride and prestige was wrapped up in how much oil and filth the garment retained. My mother washed and ironed it when he was staying with us: he never really recovered.
  3. This does not mean that I have anything against Dunnocks, per se. I am convinced that they are useful members of society and loved by their mothers.
  4. Although various tits (in particular blue,coal and long tailed), green woodpeckers, partridges, wrens, robins, ducklings and blackbirds are also charming. Actually, before I get into an argument, they are all charming except maybe Vultures (although they are quite useful if you have any carrion lying around).
  5. I should add that Dr Kingsbury holds a horticultural doctorate and is absolutely the wrong fellow to question about any ailments from which you may suffer.
  6. Toenail varnishing, for example, or exfoliation. Cleaning out livestock, washing up and lying in the sun drinking gin are also high up on the list of alternative activities.
  7. You will have noticed an excess of footnotes here. This is because the excellent Cornflowerbooks said on Twitter that she liked footnotes (viii) and I try to keep everybody happy. Any requests?
  8. I think she is a she but am not absolutely certain not having had the pleasure of being introduced