Sunday, July 27, 2014


THURSDAY MAY 15th 2014

This morning we began the journey back down to the coast and a return visit, with overnight stay in Lyme Regis. Our journey took us past Barrington Court (NT) which we had visited several years ago. You can see my post here.
The Tudor house was the first major houses to be acquired by the National Trust and a big learning experience for them. The words "Remember Barrington Court?" were words often spoken when a new acquisition was being looked into. The problem came in the high cost of repairs and maintenance. From then on if properties were to be acquired they must come with a considerable endowment.

The time between spring plantings and summer flowers is often a difficult time for gardens. Some late tulips were still blooming among the wall flowers and the impressively large vegetable gardens were just getting started. Remember, this area of the country was just coming out of a very mild but very wet winter with flooding in many parts of the south.

Greenhouses and cold frames

Forcing jars

Fruit cages

Our visit was to be brief, and we did not go into the house this time. We had one more place to visit before heading down to the coast but finding it turned out to be a challenge.

Stoke Sub Hamdon Priory appears in the National Trust Handbook but there is no information on how to find it, other than it being 2 miles west of Montacute between Yeovil and Ilminster. Almost all National Trust properties are marked on brown road signs, but not this one. I'm not sure they want anyone to find it. We had to park in the village and find someone to ask and when we found the entrance we parked on the roadside outside a large gate in a wall. I had no expectation that the handle would open the gate but it did. There was no one there to check our membership card and no one else visiting.

No restoration work is going on here although it looked as though they had secured the roof of the great hall.

Built of Ham stone in the 14th and 15th centuries the buildings were never a priory but a college attached to the chapel of St Nicholas.

It is always fascinating to look at the walls to see the changes the various people, who have lived here through the ages, have made; rooms divided, openings closed over, new windows, new doorways made.

Will these buildings see many visitors in the future?

We walked around the property peering into ruined buildings but there was little else to see there.

As we closed the gate to leave I saw an amazing display of those campanulas growing out of the wall across the road. A quick photo and then time to get on the road to Lyme Regis.

The ammonites down at the coast were beckoning and we needed to catch the low tide to see them at their best. But first to find our B&B. Yes, the place was called Coombe House and I had written down the telephone number. The problem came when I tried to call for directions on how to find the place. I had written the number down incorrectly. How we missed 4G at that very moment.  I was in trouble and there were a few heated words. We found ourselves heading down the steep hill into town with no idea where to go. Fortunately I spotted the information center so I jumped out of the car, ran inside, finding out the B&B was just 100yds away. All is forgiven! We checked into our B&B and headed down to the beach. How nice to be staying within walking distance of the beach. It's quite a long walk along to the ammonite pavement, first along the promenade past the beach chalets and then through the harbor and over the sea wall onto the beach. The footing is difficult because of the pebbles and then larger rocks along the beach. You can see how far we walked.

The reward is to see the remains of the ammonites embedded in the rocks and worn away by the surf.

The Jurassic Coast.

We did pick up a few ammonite in the loose clay shales but did not venture too close to the cliff face. With all the flooding this winter there have been many landslides and we heard some small slips while we were there. As we headed back we passed the lawn bowling green. My father, grandfather and great grandfather played lawn bowls but they played on crowned greens. These were flat greens.

The harbor wall at Lyme Regis is known as The Cobb and was the scene of the French Lieutenant's Woman and of Jane Austen's Persuasion. Jane Austen is known to have visited Lyme Regis on two occasions and probably researched for the book Persuasion at the time. The book was published posthumously.

We also passed by the little rock garden named the Jane Austen Garden. Oh that I could grow all those pretty rock garden flowers.

Back at the B&B our hostess suggested we eat at a little vegetarian restaurant called Tierra Kitchen, just a few steps from her door.

My choice
Wow! Their food was both artistic and incredibly delicious. The sauces out of this world. They even have some of their recipes on line.

David's choice

Shared side dish of goat cheese and beets
In the morning our hostess, Dympna, wheeled a trolley into our room with our breakfast. The B&B was so tiny there was no dining room.

We sat in the window in the bright morning sunshine.

It would be nice to have spent more time there but we had a reservation at Greenway House at 12:30. Time to load up and get on the road.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Sometimes, after I turn out the light at night, I think about what I might do in the garden the next day. It isn't a real plan but a suggestion to tackle some of the many things that need my attention. The fact is if I made a list it is unlikely that I will do many of the things on that list. This morning was a good example.

My pretty little Mexican trailing purslane, Portulaca Mexicana, in a planter high up on the wall, was being visited by ants. I know immediately that spells trouble. Is it root aphids, stem aphids or scale? It had to be one of those. Closer examination revealed this-scale. I brought the leaves inside to take a good photo of them.

Scale needs to be dealt with immediately otherwise it will just overwhelm the plant and bring about its death. Early intervention is the answer. I have already battled scale on one of my cactus this year. It took a lot of effort but I think it is now scale free. Scale also likes prickly pear and citrus.
Some time later I was filling up a watering can at the barrel when I notice ants crawling up the side of the water tank garden. This time it is aphids.

There I was the other day just thinking how carefree the water garden was and now this. The mud baby, Echinodorus cordifolius, was infested with green aphids. I ran my fingers up and down the stems removing most of them and then dunked the flower heads in the water to remove the rest. I'm not sure what to do here other than hand removal because I don't want to spray with oil. I can't remove the plant because it is growing among the papyrus. I will have to go out with an artist's paint brush to remove the remaining aphids in the cracks and do this regularly until I am sure there are no more. They do make an untidy mess on the water and lily pads with their molting skins. And then there was this......

 I searched for this on the internet thinking it was some kind of mealy bug but the only photograph I came up with said it was a ladybird larvae, Hyperaspis. I have never seen one look like this but apparently they secrete this waxy substance along their sides as a protective device. I'm glad I left well alone because he can get busy eating the leftovers.

Next it was the Manfreda sileri. When ants build up around the base of plants I am always concerned for root aphids. These aphids cannot be seen above the ground but settle onto the roots and suck the plant dry. They are particularly prevalent under dry conditions and favor certain plants like blackfoot daisies, skullcaps and Gulf coast penstemon to name a few. If you see a plant start to fail and there is no visible reason then consider root aphids. They do their work silently below the ground but little do they know that ants give the game away above the ground.
Now it was time to get round to doing the garden chore I had planned; removing the A. parryi pup from underneath mother. Almost buried underneath the mother plant I knew I needed to remove it this summer so that it would have the chance to settle in before winter. I have been leaving it until it was old enough to have its own root clump which it did. The damp soil made extraction easier.

Now, I could cut off the old leaves and the second pup, growing a little further away, would have more room to grow.

The pup was planted along the edge of the dry creek with plenty of room. Next on the list is to try to remove the Whale's tongue agave pup. That will be more of a challenge.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


The four echinopsis flowers opened this morning. Why waste those exotic, one day blooms in a place where they cannot be admired.

They joined us at the breakfast table this morning.

Along with a little pollinator.

If I was to choose just one cactus it would be this one for its faithful annual blooms. It has boomed 4 times this year and I think there are two more blooms to come. They open during the night and close by lunch time, but they are oh so lovely.

Monday, July 21, 2014


It's about the 3" of rain in my garden this past week. The garden is screaming into action. One plant we always expect following rain is the rain lily, Cooperia drummondii, (Zephyranthes drummondii) The flowers pop up within two or three days of rainfall opening during the night. If you look at the flower closely you will see that there are three petals and underneath three sepals, all of which are white. This rain lily has a very long calyx which distinguishes itself from the other white rain lily seen in Texas.

But that's not the only rain lily that showed up today. This yellow Zephyranthes sp. popped out of the ground in the sunken garden.

Will there be more tomorrow? I think so. They are popping up all over the place.

The Euphorbia has put on new growth and added leaves.

The Texas barrel cactus, Ferocactus hamatacanthus, is opening its first flower of the year with two more to come. This cactus is sometimes referred to as a giant fishhook cactus because of the hooked central spines. It has hooked me several times even pulling itself out of the ground when it was younger. Hardy for our area.

Another flower bud here on this unnamed cactus.

And four flower buds at one time on the Echinopsis.

A new bud on the Gymnocalcyium baldianum. I look forward to its red flower.

Toadstools fighting for space.

Of course everything else is going to start growing too and that means weeds and weedy plants. Bluebonnets are already germinating by the hundreds and fig ivy, Ficus repens is about to turn this garden wall into Angkor Wat.

It's going to be another busy week in the garden.

Saturday, July 19, 2014



Another sunny morning greeted us as we left Corfe Castle. I had to stop to take a photograph of these steps on the main road. The plant is a type of campanula or bellflower and seems to grow with ease wherever it can find a crack.

Our first stop was at the cottage of T. E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence was born August 16th 1888 and from the age of eight lived in Oxford. In his early twenties he spent much time in the middle east becoming an expert in Arabian affairs which later resulted in him being assigned to the British Military Intelligence office in Cairo. It was here he helped King Faisal of Saudi Arabia lead a revolt against the Ottoman Turks in 1916. Returning to England in 1923 he joined the Royal Tanks Corps at Bovington Camp, Dorset. Desirous of a quiet bolt hole he found the small cottage at Clouds Hill and began his autobiographical book Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which he completed in 1927.

Money earned from the book went towards improvements at the cottage and to increasing his collection of George Brough motorcycles, of which he had, at various times, owned seven.

He entertained several of his literary friends here including, EM Forster and Robert Graves and was a great firend of Thomas Hardy whose cottage we will visit next.

On May 13th 1935, while out riding he came off his motorbike while trying to avoid two boys on bicycles. He never regained consciousness and died a few days later. He is buried in the churchyard at Moreton, several miles away. We visited the church, St Nicholas, which is known for its beautiful etched windows by LaurenceWhistler. They replaced the glass blown out by a bomb during the war. A group of hikers were sitting on the steps outside the church. They must have been taking the 3 mile hike though the countryside which passes by the point where the accident happened. There is a marker by the roadside.

It was a beautiful church inside, full of light. We walked around the church to view the unusual etchings.

Then a short walk to Lawrence's gravesite.

Our second cottage of the day was that of Thomas Hardy. From the car park we took the 15 minute walk, along the bridleway and through the woods, which brought us to a splendid view of the thatched cottage below. Maybe in need of new thatching or was it just the sun on the thatch.

The cottage was built by Thomas Hardy's grandfather, and Hardy was born here in 1840. Although he was educated as an architect his first love was writing, and he wrote poems and several books while living here including Under the Greenwood Tree and Far from the Madding Crowd.

The cottage-stye garden was a little disappointing. Maybe we were once again too early for the big show, although we were gong to see a glorious bluebell display as we left to go back to the car by the road.

The cob and thatch cottage is typical of the time as was the open hearth with settle. There have been few changes to the house since Hardy left. I became entranced by the many small windows we saw on this trip and all had vases of flowers.

It seemed to me a bright and cheerful place on this sunny morning but one of the poems that Hardy wrote gives a clear idea of his feelings about living here.

                                                        Concerning his Old Home
Mood I
I wish to see it never
That dismal place-
With cracks in its floor-
I would forget it ever.

Mood II
To see it once that sad
And memorial place-
Yes, just once more-
Should be faintly glad!

Mood III
To see it often again-
That friendly place
With its green low door-
I'm willing anywhen!

I'll haunt it night and day-
That loveable place
With its flowers rich store
That drives regrets away!

The bluebells in the woods alongside the road were fabulous and reminded me on bluebonnets in Texas. Our next stop was to be near the town of Cerne Abbas to see the Cerne Giant. We stopped to photograph this row of early 16th century Tudor houses on Abbey Street in Cerne Abbas.

We arrived in the parking lot at the Cerne Giant and it seemed like the perfect spot to eat our rather late picnic lunch. ( I bought jars of pate in France).  Standing over 180' and proudly sporting his 36' manhood, the Cerne Giant is of unknown origin. Earthworkings around the area date back to the Iron Age but there is no mention of the giant prior to the mid 1700s. Cared for by the National Trust there is a popular hike up to the giant.

We didn't have time to take the hike but saw many tiny figures crossing the fields. We were next to visit the medieval manor house at Lytes Cary. We had been unable to visit two years ago due to it being closed on the day we were passing though. To visit this house and garden was the main reason we took the detour up from the coast.
Named for the original tenant family named Lytes and the nearby River Cary, Lytes Cary Manor was built between the 14th and 16th centuries. By 1900 the building had fallen into disrepair and the original gardens had suffered a decline. The property was purchased by Sir Walter Jenner who restored the hall leaving it to the National Trust in 1948.

We decided view the garden first but before we entered David couldn't resist climbing up on the horse mount.

We passed through the gate and found ourselves in the Apostle garden.

The Apostle garden with its magnificent topiary, planted in 1911 by Jenner, and with the dovecote in the distance.

There is a splendid view looking back at the house from the end of the walkway.

By the house there is a small chapel which was built in 1343.

And one of those delightful small windows in the lichen encrusted wall of the house, outside the chapel door.

We couldn't find a way into the rest of the garden and had to break the rules by going through this door in the wall for disabled access.

We found ourselves on the croquet lawn. The garden is laid out in the Art and Crafts style with rooms separated by tall hedges.
Croquet lawn
A series of garden rooms led one from another. This one the lavender garden.

There wasn't too much color in the herbaceous borders, another reminder that maybe we are a little early in the year.

There were few visitors, even though the day was fine. I felt overdressed and overheated and would have loved to have seated myself on the bench which offered this view between the hedges down the long walk. It was occupied.

We continued our walk around the estate until we reached the pleached lime walk which would take us back up to the house.

We entered the house into the great hall where a docent was waiting to answer any questions. We chatted with her for some time about the Lyte's Herbal, a copy of which was in a case on the table covered with a light excluding velvet cloth. She permitted me to take a photograph without flash. This first edition copy, from 1578, was an English translation, by Henry Lytes, of the French translation of the original 'Cruydboeck' by Flemish botanist Rembert Dodoens.

Looking down into the great hall.

We now left to find our B&B for the night, Church Barn Farm, Podimore, a working farm. Heather was busy helping with the milking when we arrived but quickly showed us to our room and made us feel at home bringing us tea and cake. Very welcome after our long day. I have to say that this is one of the nicest B&Bs we have ever stayed in. Absolutely first class.

Our bedroom

Sitting area


Looking down into the dining room

We were able to walk to the Podymore Inn for dinner. Like to take your dog there? You can and they will even give him/her dinner!

We walked back to the B&B along the country lane, stopping to visit with the day-old calf in the field, before we retired to our room for a wonderful night's sleep. Next morning this delicious farm breakfast.

 I went out to take a quick photograph of the rock garden and we headed off for the day.

We are heading back down tot he coast today for some fossil hunting.