Problems with bedtime reading

There are worthy novels by my bed, but they remain unread. Instead, before bed, I continue to work my way through the estimable ‘Shire Guide’ series, which for those who don’t know them are concise histories of, well, almost anything one might collect, research or restore, written by the knowledgeable enthusiast or highly qualified historian. Of great help so far has been ‘The Victorian Fern Craze’,  its pictures of the most accomplished and ambitious ferneries giving some idea of what the small example here aspires to. I have also ploughed through all the titles on Victorian and Walled Kitchen Gardens, Orchards and Glasshouses and  have now moved onto ‘Decorative Leadwork ‘, having spied from the top floor of the house two discrete but rather battered lion head masks along the guttering, which must be preserved, and in fact are a rather nice detail to add to the regency section of the house where the guttering has been lost. There is also one remaining slightly interesting hopper head, which might be copied where necessary.

Training my eye into any detail worthy of a Shire Guide is focusing my mind on the lovely remaining features of the house. In many ways it is not a beauty, but I love its Victorian bravado. The chutzpah of the self made man, on the up, taking a modest and pretty regency house and slapping two stone crenelated  wings at either end, complete with four towers, overpowering, out of scale and dare I say it, a little bit nouveau riche.  I think it probably suits us rather well. Time has mellowed the whole a little too much, to a deep, drab, grey, and so the effect is a little as I would imagine some description from ‘The Castle of Otranto’ or ‘The Mysteries of Udolpho’, both books which I am too lazy to read. I am not going to paint the house either. It will frighten my grand children and look marvellously neglected.

To feed your imagination, as it feeds mine, here are some pictures of Shire Guide worthy details.

One last thing, to clarify last week’s blog, to plant snowdrops ‘in the green’ is to split and move them immediately after flowering, while the greenery is still fresh. This is the traditional method of increasing a snowdrop collection. However, to move them at this time means the full nourishment the bulb will gain from the period of photosynthesis after the flower has finished is curtailed and the bulb will struggle to perform the following year, the roots having been disturbed and the snowdrop being rather stressed by its new home. A condition I sympathise with.


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