News From The Front Line









A suitably autumnal look to the bank this month.


The preceding foliage post, photographed in the more developed parts of the garden, serves as a reminder that, one day, it might all come good. On the front line though, we’re a long way from that. I’ve been doing more work in the bottom right corner, clearing more brambles. Overall, the hart’s tongue ferns have been thinned just a little to make way for the first of the new plantings: an acer, witch hazel, hydrangea paniculata and persicaria amongst others.

At the far edge the bank is truly precipitous. Vertical in fact. And on the same level as the house roof. Stomach churning stuff. It’s not so much a fear of heights. It’s the awareness of what tends to happen when the bramble root you’re tugging on suddenly gives way. An automatic step backwards that’s almost impossible to avert. 10 feet straight down to the nearest ledge.  More, if I was unlucky enough to bounce. I had mentioned as much to Mike over lunch. Naturally he expressed concern. “Well, you’d better be careful then. With the floor sander going I wouldn’t hear if you were to fall and cry out. Crikey, the first I’d know about it would be when my coffee didn’t turn up…”

Don’t be fooled. There is irony contained therein. It is rarely me who makes the coffee. Mike does it as a rule. If I am very, very lucky it is delivered up to the top of the hill and on hot summer days supplemented with an ice cream. Thereafter we would sit upon the drive and watch ‘The Ladies’ opposite go inside for milking. The farmer rounds them up assisted by a couple of his dogs. So, in true One Man And His Dog style, points would be awarded for The Fetch.


Acer palmatum 'Senkaki'


Acer palmatum ‘Senkaki’

The Coral Bark maple


On those same hot summer days the farmer has a problem. The Ladies, mais naturellement, tend to gravitate downhill towards the river where the air and the soil are moist and there is shade from the trees. By the end of the afternoon it’s a long climb back up. Especially if your undercarriage has become a tad full. A high score for The Fetch does not just rely on speed. The absence of disgruntled mooing and, indeed, indelicate language from the farmer carry equal weight.


Hydrangea paniculata 'Unique'


Hydrangea paniculata ‘Unique’




To the right of shot the Katsura tree, Cercidiphyllum japonicum. Oh what a joy to be weeding under that tree over the last couple of days with the scent of burnt sugar wafting down. It might have set off cravings for salted caramel (again) but it’s heavenly nonetheless.


Cercidiphyllum japonicum


Cercidiphyllum japonicum

Sniff, sniff..


I only wish the scent would also deter the midges. One of the more disagreeable aspects of clearing operations having reached the woodland edge is the increased likelihood of being bitten. The Devon midge taught the Scottish midge everything it knows, I swear it. Following an unfortunate separation between T shirt and trousers in the rough and tumble business of scaling the bank I now sport no less than 20 bites in a not insensitive area.

Fear not though, help may be at hand from an unexpected source. I was talking to someone this week who swears by a product called ‘Skin so Soft’. It is manufactured by a long standing company historically having distributed their wares via a network of ladies selling door to door. Remember ‘Ding Dong Avon calling’? Admittedly you do have to be of a certain age.




The woodland edge


Anyhow. The product, a moisturiser, has become more recently renowned for its unanticipated additional benefit as a bug repellent by virtue of the citronella used to provide the lemon scent. It’s apparently so effective in this regard that it has been adopted by the British Army. Isn’t it comforting to know that our squaddies are all yomping around Afghanistan or wherever with skin sweetly fragranced by lemon and soft as a baby’s bum?

I shall follow their lead. At least in as far as acquiring some Skin so Soft albeit, befitting modern times, it’s now obtained more readily through Amazon than a nice lady who knocks upon the door. In the interests of science I will, of course, be reporting back.


Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Fat Domino'


Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Fat Domino’


Oh dear. It could be I’ve rambled and digressed more than ever this week. But did I manage to distract you from the dearth of blooms?

Linking to Helen at the Patient Gardener for the End of Month View.


Acer palmatum 'Osakazuki'


Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’

Not on the bank. But nor could it be ignored.