Bug patrol and peony joy

Going into the garden for some heavy pruning and edging, I found myself on non-stop bug patrol. The green/black fly have started on the roses, are continuing on all the soft fruit and still attacking the new growth on the maples. I prefer to share the job with ladybirds than to use to insecticide, and the ladybirds are in short supply, so to keep up with them I have to spend the time.

Then there are the lily beetles. If there is anything nastier than squashing a lily beetle, it is dealing with their larva. These are encased in revolting black smeary gunge and need a strong stomach, but as far as I know, there is still no known predator in the UK. I love the lilies so it’s worth it.

There are compensations, peonies don’t seem to be afflicted with bugs:

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Mahler and garden ghosts

White souls have been inhabiting the garden last two mornings. These rather beautiful ghosts are the frost covers that I wrap around vulnerable plants that are just coming into new leaf. And yes, I know I should only grow hardy plants, but sometimes the tender growth on tree peonies gets zapped and one of the great joys of spring is waiting for the oh-so-slow buds to open into fragile cabbage-sized blooms. I am equally soppy about the new growth on my maples. In fact I go a little gaga each spring as I watch the leaves unfolding (and again in autumn as they blaze before dying).

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Last night was a treat beyond description. We had recorded a performance of Mahler 1, conducted by Simon Rattle with the Berlin Phil, in Singapore. I am a Mahler addict anyway, but this was so beautiful, intense and powerful, that I cannot imagine a more fulfilling experience. I so much prefer to have my heart beating too fast because of a musical crescendo than because a foolish character in fiction or TV drama is blatantly putting themselves in danger and we are invited to watch their downfall.

Shattering, but immensely satisfying day playing with bricks. The brick paving on the drive was washed so all the sand has gone. Over the twenty years they have been there many bricks have sunk and there are bad, wobbly patches. I found I could extract the bad bricks, introduce sharp sand and make them level again. I have also been robbing the bricks from the area that is being redone (THEY START TOMORROW – only a week later than scheduled) and my brick paths can progress at last. The garden is a war zone now, with piles of earth, turfs, pots full of uprooted shrubs and bulbs, bags of rubble and sand.

The birds are unfazed and nesting industriously. The early martins have stayed and settled and are burbling away outside the bedroom window.

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On Thursday I did some serious work on Border Line and managed to post another submission yesterday. I don’t plan to talk about politics in this blog, but the events in Boston and elsewhere have made an uncomfortable backdrop to our domestic and very lucky and privileged lives.