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The possibility exists that I am at this moment in Cornwall and that by the wonders of technology I have written this post on Saturday and it has been scheduled to be posted on Monday. If you are not reading this post then technology has obviously failed me yet again!

Good news. The chap who owns the plot next door has finally turned up. His excuse for having done nothing whatsoever this year to his allotment is that he is busy with all the arrangements for getting married next September. A reasonable excuse I suppose.

He has the rolling accent of someone from Liverpool. In other words, he is a ‘scouser’ as we affectionately like to call folk who come from that part of the world. The plot belongs to his wife-to-be. Perhaps her terms and conditions for entering into marriage is that he proves himself to be handy with a spade. He has certainly attacked the plot with gusto and made up for lost time.

His saving grace is that he cleverly covered his plot last winter with a landscapers fabric weighed down with hefty boulders. When he lifted the fabric for the first time this week it revealed a weed-free soil that only required a quick dig through before seeds could be sown and potato tubers planted.

On our plot everything is slowly growing up. The tomatoes and courgettes have been planted out and look happy enough.

Back next week with more photos I promise you!

 

welsh poppy maxwell arnott may 2011

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This Sunday our thoughts are for the Middle East and the hope that one day peace will reign in the hearts of the leaders…

The photo is of an Adonis Blue taken on Fontmel Common.

A solitary crow, flapping his wings like a metronome, makes steady progress across the skyline. By contrast, the swallows dart in and out of the stables and then fly loop-the-loop with casual daring just for the fun of it. The blackbird below seems to have two wives and looks rather dishevelled by it all.

The news this week is that I have backache which is the curse of all gardeners. I have no idea how I managed to hurt my back, the pain was just there one day and seems to have no intention of leaving. I do try to look after myself and always seek help from Charlie and Bones if anything heavy needs lifting.

I feel fine when I am up and walking about but when I sit down then my back seizes up. I have become a character in a Greek tragedy, doomed to spend the rest of eternity walking the earth unable to rest for even a moment. My wife is fed up with all my moaning and groaning and has booked me an appointment with the doctor.

 

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The appointment is at the inconvenient time of midday causing me to make a mad dash from work, shower and smart clothes and then on to the surgery.

The receptionist looks up with a disgruntled look that tells me I am disturbing her. She points with a sigh to a machine on the wall by the door that I failed to notice when I came in. I touch the screen and the machine asks my date of birth and sex and then welcomes me to the surgery and invites me to take a seat and wait. Medical science has clearly advanced in leaps and bounds since I was last here.

My usual doctor is a pleasantly chubby fellow with the ruddy complexion that comes from drinking copious amounts of fine wine. But unbeknown to me my wife has booked me with a young female doctor who now beckons me into her office with a bent finger. I enter with trepidation.

Having explained my predicament she invites me to strip to my underpants. It has certainly been a long time since a young lady has asked me to undress. Thank goodness I changed knickers. I comply obediently.

She asks me to bend down and touch my toes. I reach down slowly and get within spitting distance of them. It has been a long time since I have seen these fine toe fellows. She prods my spine with her fingertips.

Then she has me on her couch and lifts up my knee and bashes it with a hammer.

Apparently all is well, just some bruised muscles. Nowt is broken. I leave gingerly with a relieved heart.

By the time you read this letter I should be on my way with the missus down the A303 heading for Cornwall for the weekend.. My back feels better already. Will send you a post-card. Promise!

 

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I vaguely remember in my childhood, many years ago, grabbing what looked like stinging nettles and eating them. I was trying to impress a young lady but she clearly thought that my macho ways with weeds was rather daft because she began dating my best friend instead. Life is full of such sadness.

The plant that I was happy to handle without fear of being stung was the look-a-like ‘white deadnettle’ or ‘lamium album’ to give it the posh name.

It has very similar leaves to the notorious stinging nettle but its white flowers betray its gentler nature. The flowers are designed for bumblebees. The bees land on the bottom lip and then squeeze themselves into the flower tube heading for the nectar. The bees brush against the stamens that hang from the upper lip and collect pollen which they carry onwards to other flowers.

The white deadnettle may be classified as a weed but it has a friendly nature and grows in the shade under the apple tree and is quite content to help the bees out.

 

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I wandered around the allotment this evening admiring the other plots. Some have not been touched this year and are an abandoned mess of weeds. One plot has the neatest rows of earthed-up potatoes that I have ever seen. Another is artistic with lavender and fancy paving. Each one is an expression of their owners.

The best plot of them all though must belong to Alf who is inclined to spend much of his time sitting on a portable chair admiring his pristine garden. Vegetables are sprouting up everywhere but there is not a weed to be seen.

It has been noted though that Alf never seems to do anything in his garden. Whilst everyone is toiling away he just sits there with his flat-cap slung low over his eyes dreaming away. Perhaps he takes up his hoe in the night when everyone has gone home? It is a complete mystery to us all.

Our plot continues to flourish and we have planted out the tomatoes, courgettes and beans. There seems little in the way of frosts on the horizon but I have a sheet of fleece ready just in case.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we continue to live on a diet of radishes!

 

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This week our thoughts and prayers are for the parents of Madeleine McCann, the little girl who disappeared in Portugal on May 3rd 2007.

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a small copper butterfly…

Over the internet I read of fellow gardeners struggling with drought or flood but in Dorset at the moment we have the heavenly combination of sunshine and showers. The garden is at its best and one can only step back and admire it in all its May glory.

All last week Cook Jenny and the domestics nattered of nothing else but the wedding. Over coffee they have turned to endlessly discussing the Royal couple’s honeymoon in the Seychelles. And Charlie and Bones can natter only of Pippa. I leave them all to it and get back to the sanity of the garden.

The combination of the asphodeline lutea or Jacob’s rod and the veronica gentianoides caught my eye.

 

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But the photo below is of the beauty and the beast. The innocent bluebell grows in the midst of a clump of ground-elder. We try to keep on top of this pernicious weed that grows most everywhere in these parts. If it is allowed to set its white flowers then all  will be lost. It gets its roots under walls and in the midst of the roots of shrubs and trees and is impossible to eradicate. As soon as a clump emerges like this I resort to spraying with glyphsophate which I usually hate doing but with this weed I have no choice.

 

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On a happier note: the gooseberries are getting bigger by the day with no signs of sawfly yet!

 

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The season is chuntering along. The lilac has dropped its flowers that now lie damp and untidy on the terrace and needs to be cleared up before the Duchess has words with me. The viburnum plicatum are in full swing and shine out like white tiered lighthouses. But the buddlejas are no more than dull leaf and one would hardly imagine such a plain looking shrub will burst forth soon into butterfly- smothered blooms.

This is a good time of year and all is content within the heart of this poor old gardener today.