Yesterday the garden fair was all ice cream and summer dresses. Today was the sort of day when the hills disappear, when the rain streams down your face into your mouth in spite of the storm hood, when water runs into your sleeves as you take a bite of damp cake, when you snap no photos and send no texts in case the phone drowns, the kind of day when the legs of your jeans are so heavy with water that they start to fall down off your bottom as you walk. A few keen gardeners traipsed around, bought a plant or two, and went home for early lunch, no doubt consoling themselves that their £7 entry was going to a Good Cause. The show was officially declared rained off at three, and we packed up as the angrily-flapping canvas tried to take off in the gusts, and just as the ground paused on the verge of becoming an un-driveable quag.
It was, indeed, the sort of day when you strip off your horrible trousers as you walk into the house, indifferent to the privacy of a bathroom or bedroom (or even a closed front door); and when you utter thanks to those trusty old soldiers in your service –
– feet being the only parts of the anatomy which were still both warm, and perfectly dry.
There’s a gracious backdrop to the confusion of cars, vans, marquees, gazebos, trestles and tables, residue from about a hundred geese, and other impedimenta. Crucially, we found the tap.
We were slightly concerned by the number of people attaching storm straps or extra guys to their canvas. We don’t have any for ours. The forecast is fair overnight, but I find my ear is cocked for a change in the wind.
Because they have all gone home. Whew.
Leaving me with time to take a survey of the perennials whose seeds I planted back in the early spring. Some have done well, some started well and then sulked, some looked pathetic and then changed their minds and went woosh. I’ll never understand plants.
I have been particularly taken with the agastache. They have a pleasing aromatic foliage, and the bees LOVE them; there’s a continual buzz of bumbles around them (already in progress by six this morning), which has to be good for all of us.
Then there are these rich, dark rudbeckia. At the moment the plants are a bit on the spindly side, but on this showing I’m really hoping that they live through the winter and fatten up next summer.
The weather has taken a turn: sea rolling grey and white, sky heavy. Avoiding the wind we walked under the trees, past the reeds and brackish pools and a few reposing gulls.
There’s no getting away from it. Chickens make some of the most ludicrously dismal noises in the world, only to be compared to small children learning to play the violin.
This morning I let the guest chooks out to stravage about the garden for a few hours, watching in case they explored into next door or ate my young plants. It was fairly easy to keep an eye on four of them as they scratched deep in the vegetables and weeds, but the fifth was more difficult to see.
Indeed, occasionally I put shoes on and went out to find the highly camouflaged Dotty, as I don’t want to have to Explain Myself to a tearful owner, but luckily she always turned up.
She was more visible when on a green background; an odd-looking creature, her booffy britches fluffed up and twirled by the wind.
The main task for the morning was to lead them up and down the garden a few times with trails of brown bread crumbs, of which they are inordinately fond, in the hope that they will associate me with treats and thus come when called. The evenings are reserved for Fluffers, who has her own indoor space (she is too small to associate readily with the outdoor flock, and thinks she is a person anyway). Occasionally she condescends to use me as a heated mattress.
Chicken selfies. Sigh.
On any list of Silly Things To Do, potting on dozens of plants while wearing a white dress must be fairly high up. But it is my loosest and airiest dress, and at eight this morning it was already hot. Smears might come out in the wash – maybe.
Meantime, the tide of plant pots rose and rose, filling the garden tables, obstructing the paving, covering the coal bin, overflowing down the steps, and lapping at the doors. Plant after plant, knocked out of its small pot, was tucked briskly into the new litre pot with nice fresh compost; I was amused to detect in myself the manner of an old-fashioned nurse doing her hospital corners. If I can fend the slugs off, I trust most of my patients will survive.
This is a table. I haven’t seen it for several years as it has been covered with guinea pigs and seedlings in trays and plants in pots. Look: still shiny!
When not shrieking with horror, I am interested in invertebrates, and was curious about a tiny white crab spider. Turns out that female Misumena vatia are able to change colour from white to yellow to green, in order to match the flower or plant on which they are currently sitting. Like all crab spiders, they are active hunters, not web-builders.
I did wonder what this one will do when the pale buds open and become blue flowers; but perhaps there will be enough residual whiteness to accommodate her.
And I fully subscribe to the active habit label; she was well aware of me near her flower, and as I approached she nipped instantly round the back of the bud to put it between her and me. After making multiple circuits of the agapanthus in pursuit, snapping photos of her bottom as I went, I conceded, and sulked hotly off for an ice lolly.
So: spider bottom. This was the best I could do.
Embarking on a massive potting-on orgy of eryngium, evening primrose, osteospermum and others, I leapt into defence mode when something squirmed in the bottom of the compost bag. Closer inspection found a little charmer.
I apologised all the way up the back garden as I deposited him in a thickety bit, and wished him luck.
The fragility of water iris: here for a day, and then gone.
It’s fun to watch the young blackbirds bathing; not as funny as the blue tits, however, which are so tiny they are up to their necks when they get in. Look at me swimming … glug …
Not much throwing lately; time to rectify this, but all spaces in this house have to multi-task, so first I had to remove from the wheel about forty agastache, bergamot and aquilegia seedlings, a tray of pricked-out snapdragons, an ounce or so of escaped potting compost, and some curly lettuce. (Obviously didn’t move them far enough, as I then trod in the lettuce. Never mind, they were annoying anyway.)
Some of the beach clay I collected last time was so fine it seemed worth trying to throw with it – most of the beach clays go for hand-building, as the coarse texture would sandpaper your fingers if it was whizzing on the wheel. This fine one is very unspringy, and, being out of practice, the first thing I made was a splot, and another effort was destroyed by an undetected small stone in the clay ball. However, there are now a few grey basics sitting on the side to play with and decorate later. I’ve no idea how this will fire.
Then it was time to exercise my civic responsibilities. Many compatriots will understand when I say that I came home with a large chocolate bar, and feeling glum.
I wonder if coloured paper and scissors and glue will make things better … and tea in a proper cup and saucer … and space opera?
Definitely space opera.