Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Ta ta tristesse....


A rose the colour of cassis

By last weekend my post holiday blues had deepened into a melancholy which had me waking up crying for no obvious reason. These things happen and these things pass but it was perhaps a mistake to pay a long overdue visit to my brother with all the emotional baggage that anything to do with my family entails.  Nevertheless my brother lives not far from Cottesbrooke and what could be more guaranteed to lift me out of the slough than a visit to a plant fair? (other than, perhaps, a shed load of chocolate!!). Sadly this guarantee had run out and although I didn't feel overly bothered by the 45 minute queue to get in (it was through pretty country lanes and I listened to the music from 'Diva' to indulge my tristesse) even the sight of a multitude of stalls burgeoning with beautiful plants failed to lift my mood.   I mooched around for a while but when I found that I should have got a ticket for James Alexander Sinclair's talk, which was by this time standing room only at the back (normally I would stand on hot coals for one of James' talks) I decided to give up on the day.

A new dawn, a new - albeit rainy - day and I have regained my belief that a bit of Garden therapy will enhance my mood so I am off with my brother and his wife to Coton Manor.  We spend a reasonably jolly time on the drive there discussing how we are going to cope with Old Ma Sock and in particular her presence at the wedding of my niece next year.  The problems with this fall into several categories

1)  How will we persuade Old Ma Sock to buy a decent outfit and not wear the strange multicoloured trousers she favours that she bought many years ago in Thailand. (For years Old Ma Sock has steadfastly refused to be taken out shopping to buy anything new!).

2) No-one has mentioned to her that my other niece is gay and will be attending with her girlfriend.  Whilst none of us believe that Old Ma Sock is likely to be outraged or offended by this, she can't be trusted not to come out with something totally insensitive, particularly if she is 'caught on the hop' and has to think of something to say.  My view is that it is pointless telling her anything as she will forget in two minutes and the whole conversation will have to be repeated infinite times.

3) I have the distinct feeling that ensuring that Old Ma Sock behaves at the wedding will be left up to me and the Bedsock.  I hate weddings anyway and am wondering if I can accidentally book a long holiday abroad to cover all possible wedding dates.

At least this new potential problem has taken my mind off my present despondency and we arrive at Coton Manor in a better frame of mind for the plants to begin working their particular kind of magic on my mood.  I am not disappointed.

A chic and cheering display of pelargoniums and Salvia 'Hot lips' greets us

I don't know what this plant is but it certainly zings...

I love this combination of allium seed heads and nicotiana langsdorffii which I think is the one I was rather taken with when Monty Don showed it in his garden on GW.

The scent of roses permeated the damp warmth of the garden and although roses are not generally amongst my favourite flowers they certainly worked well here

Then disaster! A faux pas of the most ghastly proportions!  Up until this point I had been impressing my sister-in-law with my knowledge of plant names (OK I made some up but she doesn't know that). I knew that James A Sinclair had designed some of the borders at Cottesbrooke and the previous day I had not really given them my full attention being too absorbed with myself.  However, for some reason it had stuck in my mind that James was also linked with Coton Manor.  Seeing one of the gardeners working on the long border I asked "Has James A Sinclair designed any of the borders here?"  She turned and fixed me with a steely, patrician glare.. "Most certainly not" intoned the lady of the manor indignantly, her vowel sounds indicative of years of high breeding "we do ALL of our OWN gardening and design here!"  Eek!  "And very beautiful it is too and these dull skies are perfect for photographing them" I gibbered whilst a voice in my head said "Shut up! Shut up and walk away NOW!".  I ignored the voice and told her I was confusing it with Cottesbrooke.  "Ah yes James designed the borders there but I don't think he uses roses which we have in abundance here" she replied softening towards my predicament. I mumbled in agreement as I edged away to stop my brother eating cherries from the tree next to us.

The rest of our tour continued without mishap.  All over the garden chickens, ducks, and

A border to crow over

er.. a few pink flamingos wandered freely,  posing artfully around the hosta beds.

My brother told me that they feed the flamingos strawberries in order for them to keep their pink colour... but this might quite possibly be a fib.

At the bottom of the garden a wildflower meadow looked lovely but for some reason seemed somewhat short on bees and butterflies

Another attractive border, limited colour and full of texture - does anyone know what the dark leaved plant is and also the green plant top right with the weeping leaves?

To make up for the shortfall on plant purchasing of the previous day I allowed myself some impulse buys from their nursery.  I was struck by how the main draw of this plant would be the fabulous little lichens or mosses invading the pot..

A nice lunch in Coton's cafe and a piece of carrot cake and I was feeling nearly me.

Not quite out of the woods on the woe front but certainly seeing the light through the trees.


Sue (aka Trillium) said...

Coton Manor looks wonderful - have added it it to my list.

The dark leaved plant looks rather like Ligularia Desdemona, which they have artfully removed the yellow flower spikes from.

The plant top right is Helianthus salicifolius. Lovely hardy perennial grown purely for its foliage. The flowers are a gaudy spray of gold in early autumn, but by then, who cares, its done a lovely job all summer.

Hope the garden visit worked its magic.

Plant Mad Nige said...

What a great post!
The plant with zing is Lilium pardalinum, or Leopard Lily - I think a native of the americas and unusually for lilies, it quite likes wet feet. I have it too, and use it to feed our pet lily beetles.

The 'Lady' at Coton is an absolutely utter darling and a superb and indefatigable gardener. I think JAS has taught, there, at the gardening schools which are great fun and which you should attend. I had a lovely day doing one earlier this year about woodland gardens.

So sorry about your sads. But having a mother who must not be too dissimilar from OMS, I sympathise.

It was, however, my father who was champion of the foot-in-mouth routine. Worst of all was when he once said to a head-waiter who happened to be black, 'Aha! I fought with you chaps in West Africa, during the war.' Never had the rest of studied our menus so hard, as at that moment, and in such agonising silence.

Simon S said...

Aah yes. That brings back memories. The old Triumph Tristesse. One of the finest cars ever made. Whatever happened to the British motor industry.

Normally it is a little outré to mention the WV, but I rather like today's. "nipinhes" sounds like a cross between a carnivorous plant and......well that's best left to the imagination.

The Constant Gardener said...

My toes are curling on your behalf: I too have had many such conversations with scary people in gardens ending in me scuttling away feeling the size of a woodlouse and about as welcome. Ah well at least she tried to be nice to you in the end!

Sympathy re mother problems: mine isn't that bad but I know many friends with similar (when/if your niece gets 'married' she should be priceless)

that's a fine cockerel there

and what they said re the unidentified plants :D

patientgardener said...

I really enjoyed my day earlier this year at Coton Manor Garden School and also the gardens. it was nice to see some pics of the borders later in the year as I intended to go back but suspect life etc will stop me this summer.

I was convinced that JAS was involved with Coton Manor as well and asked him this but as Nigel says he hasa given talks there.
My understanding is that the pink of flamingoes comes from nutrients in the water not from strawberries but I could be wrong!

VP said...

It's a fib. In the wild they get their colour from e.g. eating blue-green algae or shrimp which are high in carotenoids.

In captivity this is added to their diet either in artificial form and/or prawns.

That sounds just as fantastical doesn't it?

Paddy Tobin said...

Once reported to me: friend approached lady (gay) at bar. Lady rebuffs him saying, "I'm lesbian". "Really", he says, "and what part of Lesbia are you from?"

Re the sads/melancholy, I find that all I can do it persistently plod on knowing that it will eventually lift, a little at least. Visiting GOOD gardens is very helpful for the mood but visiting bad gardens is really the pits.

Give up minding your mother. Go to the wedding, determined to have a good time; get out on the dance floor and don't come in again.

Good gardens there!


Paddy Tobin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Paddy Tobin said...

Sorry about that!

Victoria said...

Paddy Tobin's advice sounds very sensible. Why on earth should you or anyone else have to take responsibility for what your mother wears or says? If she's anything like mine, that sort of thing will only make her worse. (Mine takes a positively childish delight in being outrageous.) Your niece is probably only too aware of what she's like and has probably entertained her partner with family horror ries.
Your job is to go to the wedding and have a good time. End of. And if you start feeling embarrassed about your mother, remember she produced a brilliant daughter like you, so she can't be all bad!

Arabella Sock said...

Coton Manor was lovely Sue - I think there are a few places worth seeing in that area. THanks for the plant ID - I'm glad I'm not the only one who trims flowers off things for better effect (heucheras being a case in point!).

THank you Plant Mad Nige - the 'Lady of the Manor' was indeed very nice, as were the rest of what was presumably the family working there. I'm sure she wasn't overly perturbed by my question.. they must be used to answering a great deal of nonsense. I've done a lot of 'menu studying' in my life - but then I've caused a bit of it too!

Simian - I have a very vivid imagination as you know!

Constant - Old ma Sock suffers from "Don't mention the war" syndrome. She seems to instinctively think of the worst thing to come out with under various circumstances and then is unable to contain it! Sometimes it is very funny.. but only sometimes!

VP and PatientGarden I'm sure you are right but the image of strawberry eating flamingoes is too good not to be true.

Arabella Sock said...

Paddy and Victoria - what you say is true. I don't really care what Old Ma Sock wears and the whole family live out on stories of her eccentricities. One of the reasons why I don't like weddings is these rules and formalities of behaviour. When the Bedsock and I finally got married after 17 years (ish) of living together we didn't tell anyone. When I finally told them Dad described me as "very odd" and Ma predictably said "Well at least we don't have to buy you a present".

Anyway I shall buy an enormous and ridiculous hat or fascinator and a long swirling skirt and I shall drink and dance until I drop!

Paddy Tobin said...

Definitely hat, not fascinator.

You definitely strike me as a lady who can carry a hat with style.



Victoria said...