Bluebells

Bowood House, near Calne in Wiltshire, is a fine example of an English Country House. The gardens and part of the house are open April-November and are well worth a visit. Every spring the owners open their justly famous Rhododendron Walk to the public, and this year I was able to go. But though the rhododendrons are spectacular, my interest was elsewhere…IMG_0339

Descanso in April

More technical issues this month, but I did manage to make one successful trip…

I fell in love with some new trees. This (I think) is the redbud I photographed before, now in full leaf.

P1020365What a beauty!

A strawberry tree in the entrance courtyard.

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This is a magnolia, I think. Just beautiful.

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A huge bottle-brush tree by the Bird Observation Station.

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And I was captivated by the tulip tree outside the Boddy House.

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House Update: Crane Day…again…

I thought once our roof was on we would be done with heavy machinery. But no…

Once the house was done we wanted to add a pool. The original plan was for a classically-styled in-ground pool with a spa and a tanning platform, all tastefully landscaped to match the rest of the house. Then we found out how long the planning process would take and what it would cost in permits and fees before we even broke ground, and we simply didn’t want to wait. So, on to plan B.

We’re neither of us big swimmers, and there isn’t much room on the terrace, so we decided to go for an above-ground swim-spa. It has seats around the edges for relaxation, and a deeper section in the centre where one can do water-based exercises, or swim against a current. We chose one made by Arctic Spas, which arrived on a lorry from Canada, and after some palaver getting it off the back of the truck, sat on our driveway for a week or so while we did the prep work on the terrace.

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But, it weighs 2000lb, so there was no way we were carrying it around the back by ourselves! Which brings me to the heavy machinery…

First came thisIMG_4037

Which lifted the tub off the driveway, across the garden and into the back…

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And then came this little baby

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which was walked through the garden onto the terrace, where is did this…

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…and then this…

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After some maneouvring

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the pool is in place and in use.

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It’s not as pretty as we would have liked (more landscaping required!) but it took eight weeks to install, from placing the order to swimming. Yay!

Friday I’m in Love: First Fruits

So exciting…! I have been so preoccupied with house and visitors that I have rather neglected my kitchen garden. But this week I got two new presents.

First is a pair of gooseberry bushes. IMG_4156It seems gooseberries are not popular in California but Lovely Man loves them. And so I managed to track down some plants. Here’s hoping…

And second is my first actual produce…IMG_4157…mulberries. Not going to be making jam any time soon, but it still very rewarding to have results so quickly. Now if I can only keep the birds off until they’re properly ripe!

Friday I’m in Love: Pool-friendly plants

I’m planning a planter to go alongside our new hot-tub (on which more next week). From a practical point of view the plants need to be hardy, drought tolerant and evergreen. Ideally they should be tall or visually interesting, to disguise the boring wooden sides of the spa.

I’m leaning towards succulents. Nothing spiny or sharp, but there are some beauties out there that would make a striking display. Here are some inspirations from Pinterest…what do you think?

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Friday I’m in Love: Tulips

If bluebells are the shy beauties of spring, tulips are the chorus girls. They are typically colourful and wildly effective en masse. Attractive enough to have caused arguably the world’s first speculative bubble and to have inspired some of the world’s most best artists.

I was late planting mine and so I’m only just seeing flowers.

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Descanso Gardens is more organised and the results are spectacular!

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Friday I’m in Love: Mystery Fruit

A true mystery this week…I picked up these

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in the car park of Descanso Gardens this week, some of the few not destroyed by being run over by cars. Clearly some kind of seed pod, and from a tree since that’s all that grow in the car park, but I couldn’t identify which tree they’d fallen from. They are cuboid, approximately 1.3cm or 1/2 inch per side, and the longest one is almost 40cm or 16 inches long. Very hard, and they rattle when shaken so obviously full of seeds! Does anyone have any idea what they are?