Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Dancing with Hens

Brugmansia sanguinea
The late season sunshine has meant that my Brugmansia sanguinea has had its moment of glory in the nick of time.

Season of fog and ambiguity
There are still quite a few potfuls of summer goodies on display so the season seems to vary depending on which way you look. In the centre of the courtyard garden there are still some dahlias, the Brugmansia and a large pot of Ornithogalum saundersii, all redolent of late summer.
Brugmansia sanguinea, Pelargonium 'Paul Crampel', Ornithogalum saundersii,
and Dahlia 'Black Jack' in Whichford Pottery's courtyard garden

Whereas around the corner in the stockyard the first batch of winter plantings, which I did a few weeks ago, has established nicely and is beginning to fill out.

Ready for winter: Parahebe catarractae, Viola 'Sorbet White', Leucothoe 'Scarletta'.
Beneath these lie Tulipa 'Jan Reus', T. 'White Parrot' and Muscari latifolium
Recent warm, windy weather and cool nights have made it difficult to get the irrigation right and some of the big leafy plants are really beginning to look battered, so Babs (my Tuesday glamorous assistant) and I have dismantled many of them.

Putting it down to experience
This Monday I had more help in the form of my very first work experience person. The pottery regularly takes work experience youngsters from local schools and colleges but most of them are art students wanting experience in ceramics. Donna is studying horticulture at college and will be coming here on Mondays for a few weeks to help broaden her practical experience.

Donna pots up a Heliotropium arborescens 'Marine' (one for the ident notebook!)
I hope the experience will be useful to her - I did carefully tell her that I don't always do things the 'approved' way - but she will at least encounter a wide variety of plants here. I think it will be a very useful exercise for me too, because I have to think harder about why I do certain things so that I can explain them to her. It will probably help me to identify inefficiencies in the way I work, although whether I act on that knowledge or not is another matter!

Clearing away another summer display with the help of Henny-Penny

Andy and the performing hen. Soon to be seen
on Britain's Got Talent.
Helpful hens
This week we dismantled the display inside the entrance to the courtyard garden, much to the delight of Jim and Dominique's hens. The hens have been very free range for a few weeks, their scratching about makes an awful mess and they have marmalised a clump of pinks, but I am tolerating it for the moment because they are doing a good job of gobbling up earwigs, woodlice and vine weevils, all of which have thrived in this dry summer.

This hen is ridiculously tame and has learned to turn up at lunch time, keeping a beady eye on our sandwiches and doing tricks in return for a crumb or two. I'm getting rather fond of her, so the fox is bound to get her soon.
Field maple praying for rain

This way please!
Rain has threatened several times in the past few days, and pregnant black clouds have formed a fine backdrop to the field maples but the showers have been passing us by. I have been feeling more and more desperate and did consider performing a rain dance...

No need! As soon as I had embarked on planting up the new display in the courtyard fat drops began to fall and soon my hair was plastered to my head and a layer of compost was adhering to every inch of my clothing.
Fully committed to planting up and here's the rain at last
Look on the bright side
Although this was particularly wet rain I didn't mind at all because it has been such a long time since we had proper rain; I could hear the plants sighing with relief.

It did remind me that I need new boots though.

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
And when I went into the Octagon to record the plantings in my notebook the contrast between my soggy state and the smugly fluffed-out Puss-puss was painful:

Puss-Puss. Warm, dry and fluffy in The Octagon

Salvia confertiflora enjoying the rain

I did stop planting to run about with my camera for a bit and celebrate the rain: when bright skies mix with heavy showers colours glow beautifully and the paving and pots gleam.

I felt like I did when I was small and thundery showers arrived after a dry spell - I used to make my mother laugh by dancing around in the garden, getting drenched and letting the soggy grass squidge between my toes. No dancing now, especially in steel toed boots, but I still felt elated.

The novelty will soon wear off!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Harriet! Great post and great photos! I can sure appreciate your feelings about the hens. When ours are free ranging, they do a great job with the bugs, but they sure can tear up the garden with their constant scratching and their dirt baths. On the other hand, I have to admit that they provide a lot more entertainment than any perfectly mulched bed I have ever seen! --Joe