Bone Structure

A garden, just like a human face, needs good bone structure. It’s the hard landscaping, the paths, steps and retaining walls that set off the plants and there has been a bit of progress in that department over the past two weeks.

A first section of edging is in place in South America – a job rather more challenging than at first envisaged. I believe the wonderful man who manufactures ready made edging out of fencing wire and split round posts is called Mr. Mulley. Three sections of his clever product, left over from the construction of the lime and acid landscapes (large raised beds), have been utilised in S.A. but proved insufficient in depth.

South-American edging

Underpinning them with securely wedged stones has done the trick but there are twists and bulges where subterranean boulders prevented the posts from being anchored deeply enough or precisely where they were needed. I’m telling myself that the results look interesting rather than shabby and unprofessional.

water steps

But the real transformation has taken place much further south. At long last the pond is nearing completion. James has taken a brief holiday and is finishing the margins, carefully cementing stones to camouflage the ugly black liner.

For the past four years surplus water just ran down a little valley, covered in the above mentioned butyl liner, and I was expecting nothing more than a cover of suitable rocks and stones…

My husband, being a perfectionist, had other ideas, and the water now cascades down a stone staircase, creating wonderful curtains of water and even more wonderful sounds.

Torrential downpours in June are highly undesirable, as they can flatten a glorious border in a few short hours, but the one we had last Monday, was eagerly anticipated. Within a couple of hours it had raised the pond level sufficiently to create stunning cascades of water.

fishy mowing edge

It rained all night and what was highly enjoyable for humans turned out to be life-threatening for the tadpoles, as the pond burst its southern bank. Who would’ve thought that an overabundance of their element could become their undoing?

I have no idea how many had already been washed into the drains and ultimately the sea, when I found thousands of them in tiny puddles and in the matted wet grass below the pond. At first I scooped them up in my hands and threw them back into the water, then used a large glass jar to speed up the process. The more I scooped, the more appeared and in the end I decided more drastic measures were called for.

A series of small temporary “ponds”, hastily dug, now hold them for the time being. Quite a few probably perished during the chaotic construction phase but, what joy, the vast majority of those returned to the calmest part of the pond seem no worse for their ordeal. They instantly fell upon the few mangled corpses I had returned with the living on the “waste not want not principle” – the first time I  have witnessed tadpole cannibalism.

heading for the pond

The place is hopping with minute, newly hatched froglets, some still in the process of absorbing their now superfluous tails. They were dwarfed by a little golden frog – one of last year’s crop – who, disturbed by the building work, hastily negotiated its way up the steps to the shore, than swam to the nearest nymphia to rest on a lily leaf after its exhausting journey.

Water lilies. I bought two, a white and a yellow one – my pond was going to have an air of elegant sophistication.  They flowered in their second year – one pale pink, one dark pink – a little elegance but no sophistication. So I decided to take pot-luck with three “mixed colour” plants from a supermarket chain. Two died instantly, and the third presented me with its first – pink – bloom last year. I am doomed to have a Barbara Cartland pond.


Rhododendron pink is on the wane, apart from Azalea ‘Wombat’ mentioned last week, and there is more pink from other genera, like Rosa rugosa ‘Fru Dagmar Hastrup’, a strongly-scented single rose, and a broad, low shrub that is capable of standing up to all weathers.

Azalea 'Wombat'

Another good single, red this time, scent-less alas, is the magnificent Chinese species R. moyesii. It is a tall, vigorous rose that would work well trained against a wall as a climber.

Rosa moyesii

The irises are coming into their own just now and I wish I’d kept better records, as the oldest have long since lost their labels.  Iris sibirica and Iris setosa are unmistakable, and the dwarf form of the latter is one of the most charming June plants for the rockery or front of border


Iris sibirica ‘ Silver Lining’ flowers profusely one year, than only produces a few blooms the next, but its size and splendour make up for the lack of numbers. Mine is planted, rather fetchingly, above and behind grey-leaved Salix helvetica.

It’s high time for a Victor update. Since the beginning of June he’s been going to Lämmergarten five days a week. As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy for him at first. He was bullied mercilessly by some of the bigger ram lambs, but soon made friends with some of girls and now enjoys his twice daily playtime with an appropriate genus. (There’s some severe bullying going on other parts of the garden – more on that next week)

I forgot to explain the term catmogit– it means his belly is a different colour from his back.


He’s a highly intelligent, sturdy little sheep and has rather refined tastes, he is in fact turning into a bit of an ovine gourmet: now weaned of his passion for terrestrial orchids, he’s dining on porridge oats, courgettes, lettuce and carrots most evenings.

Baabin is rather jealous of him and has taken to stealing his place in front of the Rayburn whenever she gets an opportunity, which leaves poor Victor homeless. We’ve now solved the problem by moving Baabin’s basket next to Victor’s little hearth rug, so the wolf can lie with the lamb.

Few things in life are more exciting than the first flowering of a rare and precious plant, and two found in the same week are cause for celebration. Break open the bubbly James.

the wolf lies down with the lamb

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