It's just as well I was up and about early this morning, because just after eight as I was checking the watering in the greenhouse I heard the sound of the lorry arriving with my two large bags of gravel. I rushed towards the entrance, palms outwards to signal to the driver to stop as he advanced inexorably, dragging his nearside mirror through the unfortunate Eleagnus hedge, and panic stricken cats scattered in all directions. Eventually the lorry stopped and I persuaded the driver to come down from his cab so that we could talk to each other over the noise of the engine, and I was able to explain that I'd like him to offload the two bags next to the drive just inside the entrance and that he needn't come into the garden at all. I don't know what it is about men and lorries. Put a man in a lorry and send him to deliver something to a private house and he seems to have an irresistible urge to drive right up to the front door, instead of stopping when the going gets narrow and advancing on foot to see what the plan is like a sensible person.
Part of the gravel is destined for the middle of the turning circle, where I have been digging out some of the clumps of ornamental grass. It had seeded itself madly until there was far more of it than I wanted, and was no longer ornamental because a lot of the clumps had become thoroughly congested before dying in patches and collapsing. I am not at all sure what it is, since one of the difficulties of growing self seeding plants is that they aren't labelled. It might be Eragrostis curvula, which I did plant in that part of the garden in May 1998, but I'm not going to go through all 3.409 lines of my planting spreadsheet looking for the names of any other grasses planted in the turning circle. I am not at all good on the names of grasses.
This one has an odd growth habit, making little tufts of growth on long stems as well as flowering, and if I were to note down an exact description (maybe even take a photo) and ask an expert I could probably work out what it was. The young plants are very pretty when the wind ripples through them, and since it seeds so freely I am being ruthlessly taking out a lot of the old ones. I expect to get replacements, though if I do I shall edit them severely because I'd like to use the newly liberated space for something other than grass. And if no more come up then that's fine, given I have other plans.
I thought I would scatter seeds of prickly poppy, Argemone grandiflora, and a lovely burnt orange double poppy, Papaver ruprifragum. I tried starting them both in pots last year and they hated it. The true poppy didn't survive pricking out, and the Argemone made sad little plants that barely did anything when planted out, when they should grow over two feet high and carry white, poppy like flowers over glaucous, prickly, poppy-like leaves. I ordered fresh packets of seed from Derry Watkins' Special Plants nursery and shall try simply chucking them about where I want them to grow.
I spread quite a lot of the first bag of gravel before it was time to come in. I feel rather guilty about the young man who leaped up to give me his seat the last time I used the London underground, especially as his ankle was in a cast. I don't suppose he imagined that I spend my spare time spreading barrow loads of gravel with a large shovel, as a change from digging up roots with a pick axe. It is important not to overdo these things, though. I was talking to somebody who turned out to have injured her shoulder so badly it needed surgery spreading a load of gravel on her drive after none of the rest of her family would help her. I am far more circumspect. Ten shovel loads make a barrowful. Spread them, then switch to weeding and picking up dead leaves until I have a bucket's worth before the next barrow of gravel.
Mr Cool thought that playing with gravel was a great game and that his part in in was to lie in the wheelbarrow. And I can't get rid of all the old clumps of grass because they are Mr Fidget's den. I could see a white nose and two bright green eyes peering out at me as I weeded.