what’s happening = not much and no excuses. Me, and the cat, have been lolling around trying to fill our days. He’s much better at it than I am. I was brought up in an industrious household where folks were always busy doing six things at once and shame on you if you didn’t follow suite.

We have had serendipitous tulip planting in the pots in the garden.  Interesting as I thought I bought soft pink and dark burgundy tulips but have ended up with strong reds and yellows . . .

. . . no matter and it’s good to be shaken up. The Bengal crimson rose is in full throttle – the cane and plant pot hood denote the position of a dahlia – such a jolly rose and marvellous value. Really I love it to bits.

Am also totally gone on the combination of Hardenbergia violocea (tender as an Australian native and so needs fleecing up in cold months) scrambling through Solanum laxum ‘Album’ (a South American native), evergreen, fast and easy to manage. It’s a romper.

Other containers are in party mode  – well it’s easy before they suffer from high heat  – before drying out – and there’s the perfume too. The osteospermum has a strong aroma thats reminds me of a lovely spliff . . .

. . . Iris ‘Bel Azur’ from Cayeux  – the only really decent Iris suppliers – with Solanum rantonetti, a marvel – goes on and on – and easily manageable.

At the allotment or ‘jardin’ across the square/ place,  I notice that I should contemplate hanging a new gate . . .

. . .  but we’re all ready to go. Although it looks bare under the earth  potatoes and sunflowers waiting to thrust through. Never have my grass paths received so much attention . . .  but looking upwards to the boundaries, my neighbour’s plot has espaliered pears that are showing beautifully . . .

. . . but the other neighbour needs to do some pruning here.

Across the small path, Chemin des Jardins by the lavoir, a plot that has always until now been a home to a couple of horses. However,   no more – what is this instead? some discussion on a possible art installation or just new trees . . .

. . .  good news to us all is that the lavoir is full.

Fumitory abounds in the verges and a delicate low sedum over the walls. I will do better. Somehow . . .

It was a perfect day
For sowing; just
As sweet and dry was the ground
As tobacco-dust.

I tasted deep the hour
Between the far
Owl’s chuckling first soft cry
And the first star.

A long stretched hour it was;
Nothing undone
Remained; the early seeds
All safely sown.

And now, hark at the rain,
Windless and light,
Half a kiss, half a tear,
Saying good-night. Edward Thomas Sowing


pictorial allotment

September 14, 2014

cosmos + gladiolus murieliae

Attractive grouping on plot 30 of Cosmos and Gladilolus murielae (undoctored photo) which I will make a note of.  One note is to sow seed of  colourful cosmos as against the purist white form – beautiful but leggy, which some might think is a sign of elegance but leggy can also mean floppy – and plant in a block format as against popping in in 3’s into the perennial matrix. Always useful to absorb other viewpoints. The clump is backed by borage seen in the big view to East Hill.  The last pic of this planting taken into the light from the west, so a tad bleached out but with pleasing upright strikes of couch grass (can it ever be a pleasure?) in the foreground . . .

cosmos glad + borage


cosmos + beyond


. . . now. I’m focused on looking at detail of constructions – mostly pieces of timber that are ripe for reuse and, that over time, fall into disrepair and then disintegrate or get burnt. A constant cycle of hard material that matches with the production cycle. Texture to the fore then without the visual disturbance of strong colour – also shown in the seed heads and seasonal fruits now in late summer (oh, what a horrid phrase)  . . .




self portrait

. . . on plot 53, a self portrait taken looking into the old water tank. I admire the pendulous racemes of Sanguisorba tenuifolia ‘Alba’ (no scent)  brought back from Piet Oudolf’s nursery (when he still had a nursery) and my favourite Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’ supplied by Peter Beales. No perfume either but enough gorgeousness anyway. Lovely afternoon.



rosa odorata mutabilis

I can’t turn a smell

into a single word;

you’ve no right

to ask. Warmth

coaxes rose fragrance

from the underside of petals.

The oils meet the air:

rhodinol is old rose;

gerianiol, like geranium;

nerol is my essence of magnolia; eugenol,

a touch of cloves. Jo Shapcott  Rosa odorata


It was a perfect day

For sowing; just

As sweet and dry was the ground

As tobacco-dust.

I tasted deep the hour

Between the far

Owl’s chuckling first soft cry

And the first star.

A long stretched hour it was;

Nothing undone

Remained; the early seeds

All safely sown.

And now, hark at the rain,

Windless and light,

Half a kiss, half a tear,

Saying good-night. Edward Thomas  Sowing,

on a mild day

February 17, 2013


February 17 marks the first meaningful trip to the allotment partially to enjoy the morning sun but also to make some sort of vague plan for what to do following the wet winter. So what to grow when and where. Some folks have maintained tidy plots – congratulations to whoever manages this plot (pic below) well sheltered within the hedges and light woodland of the West Hill. Feel ashamed when seeing the contrast with mine above (great borrowed view though) – what have I been doing this winter . . .

well kept 2

. . .  peeping through the opening of the plot opposite mine shows some well dug ground . . . . . .

growth 1l k

. .  and further along the site in the large open area, neat rows of leeks and signs of activity. Just noticed the road sign!


Even before this visit,  the plan was to give up one of the allotments, 53A, and try to make full use of the remaining plot. So 53A, with the higgledy piggledy character, as below, may find a new more attentive owner even ‘as tidy as a bachelor’ with ref. to the poem.


Before things sprout in late spring, the timber constructions take centre stage . . .

constructions 1

constructions 2

. . but the Hebe parviflora hedge retains a green presence.

hebe hedge


Ghostly qualities remain of seed heads just clinging to their final days.

artichoke 2012

artichoke 2013

And a hint of what might be. New arching foliage of artichokes and graceful young flowering heads of euphorbia. And some fun from U.A Fanthorpe. Still with us with zany wit.


As mute as monks, tidy as bachelors,
They manicure their little plots of earth.
Pop music from the council house estate
Counterpoints with the Sunday-morning bells,
But neither siren voice has power for these
Drab solitary men who spend their time
Kneeling, or fetching water, soberly,
Or walking softly down a row of beans.

Like drill-sergeants, they measure their recruits.
The infant sprig receives the proper space
The manly fullgrown cauliflower will need.
And all must toe the line here; stern and leaf,
As well as root, obey the rule of string.
Domesticated tilth aligns itself
In sweet conformity; but head in air
Soars the unruly loveliness of beans.

They visit hidden places of the earth
When tenderly with fork and hand they grope
To lift potatoes, and the round, flushed globes
Tumble like pearls out of the moving soil.
They share strange intuitions, know how much
Patience and energy and sense of poise
It takes to be an onion; and they share
The subtle benediction of the beans.

They see the casual holiness that spreads
Along obedient furrows. Cabbages
Unfurl their veined and rounded fans in joy,
And buds of sprouts rejoice along their stalks.
The ferny tops of carrots, stout red stems
Of beetroot, zany sunflowers with blond hair
And bloodshot faces, shine like seraphim
Under the long flat fingers of the beans. U A  Fanthorpe Men on Allotments

cooperation and party spirit

November 12, 2012

Moveable Feast is an exciting and worthwhile asset here in this urban environment. Yes, we are a seaside town that, we are told, is  ‘on the up’ but, it’s a slow haul and we are still classed as the down and out or ‘edgey’ poor cousin of smarter Hastings. But, probably nothing so inventive could ever rise up out of the ashes in Hastings . . . .  too middle class! So Moveable Feast is a community fruit and vegetable garden that might be regarded as temporary only in its present position – but the rationale and feedback would indicate that this ‘big idea’ is here to stay – it’s a breath of fresh air . . . .

. . .   so this imaginative group (check out the links to see how forward looking the W I can be) , have found a south facing derelict site owned by a housing trust. The site may be built on soon but it’s a great site – just a 1 minute walk from shops and the heart of the town –  and also because the open boundary treatment of metal railings and wire mean that the garden is a shop window. All the planting is in containers – bulk bags, timber, tyres, super market trolleys – which is encouraging for all those who choose to interact with the ideas of Moveable Feast – the young, the middle age and the slightly more advanced middle aged. All are welcome to have a go and enjoy time in the open air growing useful produce.

Ben Eine, of the dropped shadows, designed the graphics on the focal point wall. Ben’s done another show stopper just close by.

The produce looks even more appetising than if grown in an allotment environment.

. .  brilliant container as are the’ Californian’ looking circular forms holding the fruit trees . . . attractive enough to encourage residents in.

There’s a stylish feel generally  . . .

. .  liked the use of pallets maybe holding compost, not quite sure, but anyway set vertically to support growth on strawberries.

Even produce within the poly tunnel (excellent building – on Xmas list) is displayed with a designer/makers touch . . .

. .  look at the links to see locals playing and enjoying the garden. And look at this link to see Sally’s other interest – they work well too! Good luck and thanks for all the great effort so that we can enjoy it too.

You come to fetch me from my work to-night
When supper’s on the table, and we’ll see
If I can leave off burying the white
Soft petals fallen from the apple tree
(Soft petals, yes, but not so barren quite,
Mingled with these, smooth bean and wrinkled pea);
And go along with you ere you lose sight
Of what you came for and become like me,
Slave to a Springtime passion for the earth.
How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed
On through the watching for that early birth
When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed,
The sturdy seedling with arched body comes
Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.      Robert Frost  Putting in the Seed

A hot and lovely morning. 30 years ago, it was cold and windy but memorable and a cause for celebration. Happy Birthday Claudia!

On Paddy’s plot, he recycles drinking vessels and the odd glove with a raised finger in the camp style – all jolly and productive – and grows good chard too, I see . . .

. . .  the bolted leeks are still providing nectar for bees and hover flies as well as looking great with the smaller Allium sphaerocephalon. Picked a few leeks and hung them on the shed as the heat is causing a big droop so the rest will be cleared tomorrow.

Many of the plots now have spreads of onions  –  left out to dry off  . . .

. . . I lifted mine awhile back in the wet weather of July and dried them off in the shed quite successfully. Hence the large gap between the nasturtium clad willow hurdles and the stand of verbena . . . .

. . . just one of some beautiful artichokes and mixed pink tones of sweet peas. An image for all those that pick up my image from this post written a while ago. If you were in this country Claudia, you’d have a birthday bunch! X

‘What did Thought do?’

Stuck a feather in the ground and thought

it would grow a hen.’

Rod by rod we pegged the drill for sweetpea

with light brittle sticks,

twiggy and unlikely in fresh mould,

and stalk by stalk we snipped

the coming blooms.

And so when pain

had haircracked her old constant vestal stare

I reached for straws and thought:

seeing the sky through a mat of creepers,

like water in the webs of a green net,

opened a clearing where her heart sang

without caution or embarrassment, once or twice. Seamus Heaney  Sweetpea

évènements inattendus

July 30, 2012

Many of the walks out from the hameau are nicely circuitous and also flexible in length. Usually, my early evening routes are 7, 10 or 12 kms of up and down hill and through varied scenery – vineyards of course, holm oak woodland, garrigue type scrub, wild flower knolls, along streams, village roads – all without seeing another human at close quarters. Work goes on in the vineyards until dusk and many vehicles use the small road network – most drivers make acknowledgement (crazy English – walking!!). It’s possible to cast the eye across 180 degrees and see not a sign of human life – no buildings or roads – apart from the obvious tending of the vines. Yesterday’s stroll encompassed Les  Mattes and the wild flower knoll (on a previous post) now ploughed up for the planting of more vines. Areas get left fallow and then bought back into use on a cyclical system. I was keen to find the correct route, having failed last time, around Le Grange de Péret. Then I ended up ploughing through bramble and  jumping ditches!  The land that I presume goes with Le Grange is quite beautifully managed – as though unmanaged – with well selected objets left as though . . . .  such as this part of a camion.


. . .  opera pours out of the open windows of Le Grange and lots of German voices to be heard yesterday – thought so!   Just before the buildings I found 2 plants of Echinops ritro, thrusting out of the path edge. That was my ident anyway! Native to here, yes, but strange in this very rural landscape although there is plenty of a dwarf and very pale papery Eryngium which looks at home with the other flora.

Round the bend into the back end of Lenthéric and its many domaines, decided to stop by some varied cultivation – quite a relief after acres of vine stripes – and monitor the tomatoes.  There should be a photo of the guardian – four paws – here, but he was too busy trying to eat the camera. Farm dogs – usually hounds for la chasse – make a lot of noise and fuss, need to sniff, and quite often accompany whoever for a few metres along until boredom sets in. Sort of predictable and quite amusing!

Strolling out off the village to the moulin, a strange sweet smell wafted from the west. Very sweet but also pungent . . .

 . . . dark skinned blacks, of course, to avoid skin cancer. A big surprise to see a herd – more than 50 – in this area. We’re used to goats and some pale cattle inhabiting the oak scrub, but the warning is the sound of bells as against  ‘perfume’!

Little piggy bottoms! And a poem that some might find tasteless and some tasty! and a video – poem by S. Milligan.

In  England once there lived a big
And wonderfully clever pig.
To everybody it was plain
That Piggy had a massive brain.
He worked out sums inside his head,
There was no book he hadn’t read.
He knew what made an airplane fly,
He knew how engines worked and why.
He knew all this, but in the end
One question drove him round the bend:
He simply couldn’t puzzle out
What LIFE was really all about.
What was the reason for his birth?
Why was he placed upon this earth?
His giant brain went round and round.
Alas, no answer could be found.
Till suddenly one wondrous night.
All in a flash he saw the light.
He jumped up like a ballet dancer
And yelled, “By gum, I’ve got the answer!”
“They want my bacon slice by slice
“To sell at a tremendous price!
“They want my tender juicy chops
“To put in all the butcher’s shops!
“They want my pork to make a roast
“And that’s the part’ll cost the most!
“They want my sausages in strings!
“They even want my chitterlings!
“The butcher’s shop! The carving knife!
“That is the reason for my life!”
Such thoughts as these are not designed
To give a pig great piece of mind.
Next morning, in comes Farmer Bland,
A pail of pigswill in his hand,
And piggy with a mighty roar,
Bashes the farmer to the floor…
Now comes the rather grizzly bit
So let’s not make too much of it,
Except that you must understand
That Piggy did eat Farmer Bland,
He ate him up from head to toe,
Chewing the pieces nice and slow.
It took an hour to reach the feet,
Because there was so much to eat,
And when he finished, Pig, of course,
Felt absolutely no remorse.
Slowly he scratched his brainy head
And with a little smile he said,
“I had a fairly powerful hunch
“That he might have me for his lunch.
“And so, because I feared the worst,
“I thought I’d better eat him first.”  Roald Dahl

Just another strange sighting of a doorway in Aigues Vivres – close by here. Hooves, yes, but of what. I’ll stop now as it’s getting ghoulish! 

Sunday, 22nd July, was pirate day in Hastings again following on from 2010 when the world record for The Largest Gathering of Pirates was recorded by the Guinness Book of Records at 6,000 participants. This year the record was easily beaten and so stands at 14,000.

Not such a great and joyous event for me was my first visit to the allotment for 5 weeks. I didn’t expect much – except a lot of weeds –  and that is exactly what I found  . . . the leeks had bolted and flowered but looked attractive and consequently may retain their place for insects to visit . . .

. . . . .  much growth and rather messy in appearance after weeks of rain.

The paths have lost their definition – surfaces covered with weeds . . . .

. . but good to see the Hebe parviflora hedge flowering . . . .

. . splendid flowering on the agastache, above, and the many hundreds of Allium sphaerocephalon, below,  . . .

. . . and great wafty growth on the Stipa tenuissimas – moving like bows on the violins in an orchestra,  in the breeze.

To contribute to Pirate Day, the Red Arrows turned up and put on a wonderful display of dancing in the skies above the sea . . . show stopping . . .

. . . .  every little boys or  girls dream to do acrobatics in the sky.

Wild nights – Wild nights!

Were I with thee

Wild nights should be

Our luxury!

Futile – the winds –

To a Heart in port –

Done with the Compass –

Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden –

Ah – the Sea!

Might I but moor – tonight –

In thee! Emily Dickinson  Wild Nights – Wild Nights

playing hookey

February 23, 2012

Brilliantly sunny afternoon – 15 degrees apparently – today February 23rd! So after a morning on a site visit, the call of the allotment won over sitting indoors reading documents and preparing talks. I can do that in the dark of the evening after all! The allotment cat was there showing off as usual and being frolicsome and flirtatious.  The seeded Stipa tenuissima that grow in all the most difficult places – like the paths – are also quite flirtatious . . .

Euphorbias also seed around. they look great at the moment – just going into their lime green fancy dress mode – and set off well by the ruby chard. Many pickings from these . . . and a single euphorbia which may be E. ‘Portuguese Velvet’ getting on well with the willow strips that form partial boundary screens. These were a mistake as they grow too vigorously in this situation. However, they might all be coppiced down harshly just for their slender stems that can then be woven into low panels as a decorative boundary line.

The light of the sun bounces of the glistening willow and contrasts with the now papery, brown flower heads of the sedum . . .

. . and ‘the old shed’ which I should write a poem about, or to, as I’m very fond of it, is just staggering into final degradation. The site secretary is now commenting on the state of it. If only we could all look so good in old age!  Just the scent of a new season.

The trees are afraid to put forth buds,
And there is timidity in the grass;
The plots lie gray where gouged by spuds,
And whether next week will pass
Free of sly sour winds in the fret of each bush
Of barberry waiting to bloom.

Yet the snowdrop’s face betrays no gloom,
And the primrose pants in its heedless push,
Though the myrtle asks if it’s worth the fight
This year with frost and rime
To venture one more time

On delicate leaves and buttons of white From the selfsame bough as at last year’s prime,
And never to ruminate on or remember
What happened to it in mid-December.  Thomas Hardy  A Backward Spring

allotment wears a white coat

February 11, 2012

Not a visit I’ve been looking forward to and, consequently made with trepidation, but I needed to see if the potatoes set for chitting in the shed needed covering with fleece. The temperature in the sheds here high on West Hill can drop way below freezing.  First glimpse on entering the site is the stark vision of just the ‘constructions’ showing above the layer of snow. . . .

. . .   this snow is now a week old and has that messy look  . . . . footprints of hungry animals have imprinted everywhere . . . .

. . the square, well made brassica tent has become a teepee and Duncan’s carciofi have flopped too, under the weight of the snow . . .

. . .  things take on a new character in the white stillness. There’s little to be done until a thaw is well under way so I can turn my back on it without guilt!

On longer evenings,

Light, chill and yellow,

Bathes the serene

Foreheads of houses.

A thrush sings,


In the deep bare garden,

Its fresh-peeled voice

Astonishing the brickwork.

It will be spring soon,

It will be spring soon –

And I, whose childhood

Is a forgotten boredom,

Feel like a child

Who comes on a scene

Of adult reconciling,

And can understand nothing

But the unusual laughter,

And starts to be happy.  Philip Larkin   Coming

on being put to bed

November 16, 2011

On being put to bed relates, of course, to things horticultural at this time of the year but this phrase also relates to the youngest member of the family.  And, since he’s been in this house a good bit lately, my mind is focused on his needs as against preparing the allotment for the winter sleep. He needs, so his parents say, a firm routine of supper, bath, quiet time and then bed. Supper and bath are easy and fun. Quiet time consists of flopping around and crooning nursery rhymes like:

Bye Baby Bunting,

Daddy’s gone a hunting,

Gone to get a rabbit skin,

To wrap his baby bunting in.


Hush-a-by baby on the tree top,

When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.

When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,

And down will fall baby cradle and all.

The narrative is quite gruesome really and thank goodness, it’s all about rhythm and intonation to him and not about his Daddy going off killing and also being hurtled to the ground in the wind! So after this quiet time we do ‘bed’ which is not seen by him in the same light as putting things to bed horticulturally at all. The little one sees it as missing out on what the rest of the family do – he wants to party on. His Uncle Beard had a similar character and expected to party 24/7 but years on he’s the one who falls asleep before the overture or prologue is half way through! So horticulturally, we tidy, mulch, wrap and generally do our best to ensure plants are warm and safe  – Baby listen to me, you know it it makes sense – to get our plants through ‘the night’ of winter so they can thrust up, leaf up, blossom and fruit for spring. Little one, of course, will do that for his next 365 mornings and on and on, even though he makes a fuss.

Tidying up, covering up . . . .

. . . digging over and adding all good stuff and mulching pots of bulbs.

November smells of rue, bitter and musky

Of mould, and fungus, and fog at the blue dusk.

The Church repents, and the trees, scattering their riches,

Stand up in bare bones.

But already the green buds sharpen for the first spring day,

Red embers glow on the twigs of the pyrus japonica,

And clematis awns, those burnished curly wigs,

Feather for the seeds’ flight.

Stark advent songs, the busy fungus of decay –

They are works of darkness that prepare the light,

And soon the candid frost lays bare all secrets. Anne Ridler Winter Poem

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