August 2010


This is the capital on the top of one of the pillars of a Victorian drinking fountain. The leaves carved on these things tend to be Acanthus, but I don’t think these are. Having said that I have no idea what plant they’re supposed to be, but then neither it seems do English Heritage who describe it simply as a “foliated capital”.  

On the last day of our holiday it rained. Man alive did it rain. And it kept it up all blinking day as well.

Being housebound we were all prowling around inside looking for amusement and diversion, when I discovered “Let’s Garden” by Enid Blyton on some bookshelves.

It’s not a book I have come across before, despite my addiction to the things. Published in 1948 it is very much of its time in terms of language, and has illustrations by William McLaren of the kind which I suspect it is mandatory to describe as charming, .
There are about twenty chapters starting with those on preparing garden, soil etc, and then moving into subjects like growing plants, rose pruning
taking cuttings, even one on what to plant in a shady bed.

My favourite though is “Some Queer Things Explained” which has sub-chapters – Why leaves fall, Why leaves change colour, What is a fairy ring, What is an oak apple? What is gossamer, Why does mistletoe grow on an oak tree.
The last one seemed appropriate as there was mistletoe all over the place in the part of France where we were, but was also a bit misleading. After all mistletoe doesn’t really grow on oaks. At least not very often. Common in apples and popular in poplars – but not on oak – which was of course why druids took oak-grown examples to have special power. This brought to mind Asterix and the magic potion, and then in turn telling Little Boots about blackthorn and the like, a few days earlier.

There are lots of gardening books for children/families (though many are not as good as Enid’s). Is there perhaps scope for one about some of our native flora? Not so much centered on the identification, but the rich history and lore attached to such plants.

I can’t recall one. This then made me think on a bit further. Perhaps I could write one?
Hmmm.

That might be a pipedream, but it also might be one I’d like to explore further.

On Thursday I stuck six blog posts up here. The intention had been to do a dozen – don’t ask me why twelve – it seemed a number with a certain amount of weight about it.

But why do more than one in the first place?

Well before school beckoned Little Boots and I used to spend two days a week together – just the pair of us. We’d go off wombling, maybe round the shops in nearby towns, or along the riverbanks, or across the fields. Sometimes we’d just hang around at home making stuff at the kitchen table, or cooking, or noodling around in the garden.

Not unexpectedly I miss that contact and I miss those days. They were golden and unlike many wonderful eras I knew so at the time. When they stopped the sense of loss was palpable. In part this whole blog was a started to counter that and also, going forward, to act as an aide memoire for the future precious moments.

As time has gone and memory fades, I wish that I had documented those early years. So, since the days last week had very much the vibes of “pre-school times”, I thought I’d chart one.

Unfortunately actively participating in what was a great day, does kind of kibosh live blogging about the topic.

It would be disingenuous to claim that Little Boots’ allotment participation is due solely to a passion for veg, even though the “black beans”* are a current fave. No, the presence of a playground thirty yards from the site gate, is undoubtedly a much bigger factor.

 A visit to the allotment is coupled with a runaround on the swings and slides, which is for each of us a yin and yang deal – we would both rather be doing one, but don’t mind the other.

For me, whilst I relish the chance to flop on the bench and recuperate, it is a bit hard to sit and watch the munchkin belting around the place if I haven’t finished what I need to do on the plot.

But today I seriously got involved pushing swings and hareing about and I’m glad I did, or I might have missed this:

The playground is surrounded mostly by sycamores, ash, hazel and birch. There’s also a big old oak and a few field maples, but nothing massively exciting or unexpected. Or so I thought.

I was racing around the swings when suddenly I stopped dead in my tracks having spied the hornbeam nut.

“What is it?” said Little Boots.

“Nothing,” I replied, because it was little persons’ time, not grown up’s botanical blathering time.

Despite what I have read, hornbeam is not a common tree in the wild round here and I cast my eye around as I pushed the swing to increasing squeals of “Higher! Higher!”. Perhaps the seed had been carried in on someone’s muddy shoes? And then I spotted it, not very big, and tucked away in a dampish spot under a big ash.

“Whoo!” squealed Little Boots.

“Whoo!” I thought.

At the allotment Little Boots is no longer such a liability, and seems to actually enjoy working with me down there, rather than constantly demanding to be occupied and entertained.

Certainly my back is grateful, when digging spuds, for a short assistant to pick them up.

The munchkin can also be employed in picking beans, although this is not without problems.

This year I grew my climbing French beans on string cordons much as grapes are grown.

The idea was that they could then be picked from both sides which would be more effective than if they were grown up wigwams.

What I did not spot was that there was a fundamental design flaw in this plan.

Is there a more unappetising word than leftovers?

Saying that you’ve made a meal from leftovers sounds like the food’s been picked out of the bin – well it does to me anyway.

At Boot Hall we use the phrase “Tumble Down Food” which is something we appropriated from the TV programme Economy Gastronomy.

Often when I am home alone with Little Boots we spend some time in the kitchen making food. It’s something we’ve done since the little person was so tiny as to only be capable of destroying mushrooms with a blunt knife. Earlier in the week we made a chicken stew, which today we tumbled down into an amazing chicken curry soup.

And while LB was going banzai with the hand-blender I was picking over Wednesday’s roast chicken remains ready for tonight’s meal – a Hugh F-W recipe involving lardons & cream, which I zhoosh a bit with mustard and white wine.

Gorgeous.

  

Quite some time ago I realised that I was not going to be able to stop buying gardening books.

So, to try and at least restrict the amount of purchases, I only buy certain categories. 

One of those is books by the late Graham Stuart Thomas. 

Yesterday I picked up a copy of his Ornamental Shrubs, Climbers and Bamboos. 

It’s a whopper, running to nearly six hundred pages and weighing almost a kilo and a half, which is 3lb, 2oz in old money. 

Of course size isn’t always everything, but this is Graham Stuart Thomas we’re talking about added to which it was a bargain, coming in at about a pound a pound.

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