End of Month View – March 2018

18_03_29_8568Another frosty morning but at last all the roses on the wall have all been pruned. It has been slow work with a week of snow on the ground and at least another week of rain. 18_03_29_8570There are a few roses that still need sorting out. A bit late but I am sure they will survive. 18_03_29_8571The weather certainly resulted in an early finish for the snowdrops which were looking great. In the last week the sun has come out and the temperature is more back to normal, around at 11c. With the extra temperature you could almost see the garden bursting into live. This bed should be full of tulips in a few weeks and it is great to see flower buds coming through as well as leaves.18_03_29_8572One big job that has been completed is the annual cut of the pleached lime hedge, Tila platyphyllos rubra. See Creating and maintaining a pleached lime hedge

18_03_22_8560The Indian limestone paving by the house was put down about twenty years ago and has started to move losing much of the grout.18_03_22_8558This is in the process of being lifted and re-bedded and re-grouted.


It should be finished in another week.


I am not a big fan of daffodils. They look great when they are out but the leaves do hang around for a long time after flowering. The solution I have used to good effect is to plant them around the boundary of the garden which is effectively the back of the beds. The leaves can then be left as other plants grow up in front of them.


Iris Histrioides Katherine Hodgkin has been a success elsewhere in the garden. At the end of last year I planted them through the Stone edged circle bed. I was concerned that the squirrels had been having dinner on the bulbs as last month there was no sign of them. However, they are now out and looking great. Over time I hope they will multiply and form a snake through the bed.18_03_25_8564This little gem flowered for the first time this year. This is Erythronium Snowflake and they were planted in 2015. A long wait but worth it so I may be tempted to buy some more!18_03_25_8562Another good doer is the corkscrew hazel, Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’, which always has a good display of catkins.

2018 Gardening Hours
Week beginning March 24th Total 2018 to-date Average per week
36 160 13

A busy week and the average is beginning to grow towards last years average of 20 hours a week.

Do have a look at Helen The Patient Gardener’s blog where you fill find links to other gardens at the end of March. Thank you to Helen for hosting this meme.


Ten day traveling up the River Mekong

the-laos-mekongThis was part of a holiday we had recently in Laos. The first ten days were travelling up the Mekong River from Vientiane, the capital of Laos to Chian Saen and the “Golden Triangle” where Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos come together.17_12_04_7537We were travelling on the RV Laos Pandaw one of specially-designed luxury small ships for exploring remote and often hard-to-navigate rivers. Each ship, hand-crafted in brass and teak, is an object of beauty in itself. The ships are small scale, and the atmosphere is informal, and very friendly. On our trip there were a total of 15 guests although there could have been up to 20. See here for more information on Pandaw.

Vientiane, Laos’ national capital, mixes French-colonial architecture with Buddhist temples such as the golden, 16th-century Pha That Luang, which is a national symbol. Along broad boulevards and tree-lined streets are many notable shrines including Wat Si Saket, which features thousands of Buddha images, and Wat Si Muang, built atop a Hindu shrine.

The distance we traveled up the river was 900 kilometers. For much of the journey there is a panorama of mountains with the jungle coming down to the river.

Parts of the river  is wide and relatively slow whereas other parts have

rapids which need to be negotiated with some care.

The boat stops a couple of times each day for us to go ashore. 17_12_04_7532Typically this would be to a small Laotian village or to an ethnic village. There are 49 officially recognized ethnic minorities in Laos representing four
ethno-linguistic families: Tai-Kadai, Mon-Khmer, Hmong-Mien and TibetoBurman.
These in turn all have many branches and sub-groups. Many of these ethnic groups are very poor living barely at a subsistence level.

The Laotian village called Ban Muangnuea

were each house has an area growing greens etc. This village was the most prosperous one we visited.


The next stop Ban Pak Lo a  Khamo tribal village

17_12_05_7597The children always come out to meet the boat whenever it stopped.

A very poor village. Their electricity is provided by the dynamo hung into the waterfall. Enough for a small light and to recharge a mobile phone.17_12_05_7598

The Mekong River is changing rapidly with Chinese  and Thai investments happening every where.

We passed through the Xayabori Hydroelectric Dam which is being constructed by the Thai government with 95% of the electricity going to Thailand.17_12_06_7642Ashore again to visit  the Khaung Si waterfalls and a butterfly garden.

We then arrived at Luang Prabang, the ancient capital of Luang Prabang Province in northern Laos, lies in a valley at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. Inhabited for thousands of years, it was the royal capital of the country until 1975. It’s known for its many Buddhist temples, including the gilded Wat Xieng Thong, dating to the 16th century, and Wat Mai, once the residence of the head of Laotian Buddhism. This is a beautiful town which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 and the centre of the town is endowed with a legacy old ancient red-roofed temples and french-Indochinese architecture.

Each morning at dawn there is a alms giving ceremony called Tak Bat when processions of saffron robed monks carry baskets into which locals (and some tourists) place sticky rice. There are strict guidelines on how to behave if you join this ceremony and the Pandaw team ensured we did it correctly.

The night market was disappointing as most of the stuff on sale had clearly been mass produced, probably in China. However, as often is the case in south east asia the food market was great.

Baci Ceremony is specific ceremony in Laos which has been practiced for hundreds of years. The purpose of this Laotian ceremony is to to call escaped spirits back to the body, an animist tradition that is very important for Lao people before major events such as weddings, births, travel or when welcoming friends, to bring good luck. The ceremony involves the tying of white cotton strings around person’s wrists and the prayer saying or well wishing for the person that the ceremony is intended for. This ceremony was followed by Lao traditional dance.

The facilities on the RV Laos Pandaw are first class. From morning coffee to the cocktail hour and dinner the service was impossible to fault.

Local people collecting sand from the river for construction.


The Pak Ou Caves, a Buddhist sanctuary and an elephant camp

Many of the villages we visited are very poor and we wanted to do our bit to help. Our excellent guide, called Bee, suggested that in a particular village they needed shoes for the children and blankets to keep warm at night. We made a collection and Bee and the Pandaw team sourced the shoes and blankets. The village was called Ban Pak Sith


The next stop was in Pak Beng, one of those places that only exists because it is half way between the Golden Triangle and Luang Prabang. As such when we where there in the middle of the day it was more or less deserted. The village is full of hostels etc for boats to overnight when the place gets full of people. We needed to stop in order to do some formalities for our boat. However, the most interesting thing were the vegetable gardens (see photographs below) which provided produce for the many hostels and restaurants.

Another stop, this time a Lao Lum village.

Finally we arrived at Huay Xai and the “Golden Triangle”

17_12_11_7999And said our good byes to the crew of the boat with many great memories of the Mekong River.17_12_09_7862