Saturday, 20 April 2013

Plants up posts

The Post
  Sweet pea pole
They call it goosewinging. The front sail blowing to one side of the mast and the mainsail to the other, effectively blocking the view ahead. I think it's a symptom of the wind coming from directly behind.

Anyway, that was what was happening as we skimmed over one of the Norfolk Broads in an engine-less yatch. The water was made choppy by the life-giving wind and the sun reflected in staccato bursts of brilliance. A cloud in the shape of a galleon mirrored the yacht across the sky, puffs of cumulus representing the activity of its guns.

I was sitting at the front, enjoying the way the boat sliced silently through the water, leaving no bow wave - a contrast with the floating bath-tubs which predominate in that part of the world: they chug along,  filled with tellies and kitchen sinks, displacing so much water that the wave they creates damages banking and wildlife alike.

I glanced up at the sky. The galleon was beginning to break up. Its bowsprit and front sail had become detatched, moving slowly away from the larger bulk with a fatalistic serenity.

Across the dazzling surface of he water, something caught my eye. Black and finger-like it pierced the silver, leaning slightly in mid-beckon. It was the only break in the surface of the massive stretch of water and we seemed to be heading straight for it.

"We're on line to hit something", I called to my wife and Charlie Gee, who were talking in the well of the boat, but the screening effect of the goosewinging sails stopped them hearing.

This was way back in the seventies and Charlie Gee was the original hippy. For the period of the holiday, he had left his Mum to look after his greenhouse, under the fond impression that he had found a respectable interest. Sadly, the 'Australian Mint' she was so dilligently watering was in fact his cannabis crop.  He first earned my respect by sailing full tilt down the River Bure in Yarmouth and attempting to navigate the low railway bridge with the mast up. The attempt was unsuccessful. The top of the mast broke off and hit Charlie on the head on the way down, knocking him senseless. I can't remember the details but it was something to do with the tide. When it was ebbing a tremendous current was created and plenty of people had been caught in the same way. It collected notches like Billy the Kid's gun. His idea had been to approach the bridge at speed, lowering the mast, with the aid of his carefully trained crew, at the last minute. There was an element of disaster in the air. A man walking his dog past us along the bank stopped to watch and I had the distinct impression that the birds had stopped singing.

"Prepare to lower", shouted Charlie.  His long blond hair streamed out on the wind and, with his beard, he looked every inch the captain.

"Er, which rope was it again", came a query from the carefully trained crew.

The one next to your hand you pillock, unhook it and lower the mast".

The man and his dog had been joined by a jogger who had also sensed impending disaster. The dog was capitalising on the moment by cocking his leg against the man's track suit leg, presumably under the impression that it was a striped lamp post.

By the time the carefully trained crew had remembered how to lower a mast, there wasn't one left to lower and the skipper was communing with a galaxy of stars.

I was remembering this now as I uneasily strained to make out what it was we were heading towards. Overhead, the galleon now sported a gaping hole through the lower decks.

"Post", I shouted, as it became clearer, directly in our line of travel. It was no use though, they were singing 'Leaving on a Jet Plane, which was popular in folk clubs at the time.

As a cloud fleeted in front of the sun, the water assumed a blackness. The mainsail of the galleon had disappeared and only a battered hulk continued its voyage across the sky.

The post, larger now, was still directly ahead.

"Post", I bellowed, urgently.

"Toast?", came the reply, "not on this cooker, mate".

Dead ahead loomed the post. Old, adorned with large rusty bolts, and close.

"Post! Watch the bloody post!"

It was too late. Only four feet to go. Three, two, one.......

Instinctively I jumped. Not outwards, but up, perhaps with some forlorn notion of being in the air when impact took place. My head was flung back and in an airborn fraction of a second, eye signalled to brain that the galleon was gone.

We reckoned later that a couple of inches either way and the speeding yacht would have stove in her boards and sunk. As it was, she hit the post absolutely head on, distributing the impact equally throughout the structure and coming to a dead, shuddering, stop. The folk singers in the well weren't quite so lucky. 'Leaving on a Jet Plane' was quite appropriate in a way, because when the boat stopped, they didn't. Somehow they crashed two abreast through the closed doors of the cabin which were normally only wide enough for one. Charlie was brought to a rib-jerking halt by the edge of the table, while my wife shot horizontally across its smooth surface, only stopping when she hit the bulkhead at the far end. Thankfully, she didn't damage it.

And of course, my gardening subject is 'posts'.
Rose pyramid
Something  often not recognized is the need to provide height in the garden: a plot can appear perfect in that colours are carefully chosen, weeds have been banished, the lawn is neatly edged and all the plants are healthy. However, something is missing. Everything is down at the same level. Even a display of bedding plants needs something  taller to give it that extra interest - a castor oil (Ricinus) plant or Koschia will do the trick here but in the garden proper something bigger is needed. If there are trees, they answer the problem but, in their absence, a post can do very well thank you. It can be quite a workmanlike structure as well: I once had a couple of posts supporting cordon apples and they weren't aesthetic, to say the least. This was overcome by tying garden string from the tops to the bottom, forming a sort of wigwam, then planting sweet peas to grow up them. In this way an eyesore was made into a feature and this is a gardening philosophy well worth bearing in mind - see something ugly in the garden and find a way of beautifying it - there is usually a way. A dead tree can also be a boon if the trunk is left standing as a support for climbers.
Patio Clematis
Begonia pyramid at Wisley
Some roses and clematis are ideal plants for growing up posts but bear in mind that clematis climb using tendrils, so need something like plastic netting to hold on to. Equally, rambler roses need tying up for support. Roses recommended for this include Dream Weaver, Mlle Cecille Brunner, Altissimo, Paprika, Sally Holmes and Royal Sunset. The choice of Clematis is large but go for the less vigorous varieties. There are even patio varieties now which grow no higher than four foot. For the more ambitious, bedding plants like Begonia are now used to give height when grown on tall pyramids.

1 comment:

  1. Very lyrical. I still have marks from that encounter with the post!