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Welcome Tua Pek Kong, the Mitcheldean Garden
This page is part of a series of garden blogs from 2018. Click here for the index.
There's a huge amount of tidying up for me to do through October, by which time the weather is not conducive to getting out and about. With a mid to late November departure for Penang, there's little room for error. Every year I leave the geraniums, begonias, tender fuchsias and dahlias out till the last possible moment and then they are whipped away to either the garage or the greenhouse. The bare beds are next laced with horse manure and leaves and finally filled with hyacinth and tulip bulbs (over 500 in all) which are then left to their own devices while we are away.
In 2017, we were greeted with rows of smiling daffodils and hyacinths. Anecdotally, it had been a traditional (cold) winter, when we got home in mid-March 2018 we found the grass about the same length as I had left it and I was glad I had resisted the temptation to leave the dahlias and begonias in. The greenhouse plants at least looked 'normal' which meant that the geraniums had largely survived the house sitter again failing to water them as instructed and the fuchsias not looking at all good for the same reason. Outside, the only flowers in evidence were the small crocuses which we rarely see before they finish. Not that it mattered, because two days later, the garden got a covering of snow, something which had happened before back in 2013.
This time the ice wasn't too thick and all but one of the frogs survived. We didn't go out for a couple of days and then with a thaw in prospect, I swept the steps clear and recorded the scene.
No self-respecting Hakka farmer in Penang would fail to have an altar with a Tua Pek Kong figure in the house (or failing that a picture) and in many cases a small shrine nearby and we have installed one at home too as a permanent reminder of our second home there. We have no plans to build a temple dedicated to him; unlike our former neighbours in #39 who had a wooden Buddhist retreat at the top of the garden, not that it did them any good as they ended up divorcing with the house repossessed by the bank.
On my first tour of inspection, I found that the long dead tree in the adjacent field had come down. Fortunately, it had only crashed into the beech hedge and not quite reached the summer house. I had previously asked the tenants to get the owner to do something about it. In the end it was quicker to cut it up myself than waste time trying to get them to do it. When the ferns start to grow strongly, I'll simply remove them by lighting a fire.
There must have been a strong gust as 31's hawthorn had come down too. Again it was easiest for me to clear it myself and this time I had the bonfire immediately. It will actually make it easier to cut the common Leylandii hedge.
So there's almost no colour in the garden as April approaches. All our camellias are now big enough to flower profusely and this one at the front was first out. By the time we got a sunny day, the crocuses were almost finished.
Next up will be the primroses and daffodils then maybe the forsythia and the hyacinths. Meanwhile the front and back gardens look like a blank canvas. The yellow tinge is not a trick of the light, it's moss which will need attacking shortly otherwise the ground will become waterlogged. I've since applied the first light cut of the year, procrastination is the gardener's worst enemy.
Rain or shine, but not in the snow, Yuehong has been walking to Cinderford through the woods every day, I join her when I don't have a tree to deal with. We come back on the bus, walking 5km with the shopping, especially downhill at the end isn't too kind on the knees. The first lamb of the new season had just been born on this occasion, it would have been a white dot in the picture only Yuehong wasn't wearing her glasses and couldn't see where it was.
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Rob and Yuehong Dickinson