Each day high winds leave a spattering of glass from the greenhouse roofs across the ground, so the builder’s wish to remove all the panes and replace them with polythene is precipitating a first prune of the vines: the unruly framework of the plant is hampering their work.
So now we have a skeleton structure of peeling thick brown stems, a contrast to the summer when grapes hung from the roof in profusion: effusive fruiting thanks to some care at the root. Our husbandry involved picking hundreds of crocosima corms out of the hollow base of the black grape vine with a skewer, about 8 hours work, then water and feed. But I was perplexed to find the black grapes never lost their tartness, even though I gather they have won prizes before at the Horticultural Show. This lack of ripening must be due to overcrowding, poor airflow or low light levels, thanks to dirty windows I dare not touch. Also, frustratingly, I can’t do anything about the fact that the plant, which according to proper practice is planted outside and brought through a gap in the vinery wall, has far exceed the 4 x 4″ gap allowed for it. It is compressing a main stem twice that diameter through there. It is quite sculptural in the effect it has made as the stem has thickened around the available space.
Elsewhere the builders have been busy with their ‘welfare facilities’: many, many loos, site offices and lock up stores, while inside the house, all is immaculately swept and organised in readiness for… well, action I hope. The seaward drawing room is a mess hall with heater, microwave and samovar-esque water heater suitable for making industrial quantities of tea. The dining room is rather like the Oval Office, with desks of statesman- like scale and swivel chairs where people in high viz sit tapping i-pads. I try not to let the nervous tension creep into my face as I brightly pop in ‘to see how it’s going’. Imagine how much they like that.
So back I go to the vinery to hide, to bemoan the fact that the maidenhair fern, a devil to grow in the house , which is seeded in every crack, will almost certainly not survive the building work and to consider what we will do with the massive strelitzia, brugmansia and monsteria (cheese plant) while work continues. Perhaps Aiden next door will care for the plants. This way they will come back far healthier than when they left.