Friday, 28 May 2010

The Not-So-Wild West

In fact, the rather sedate SW7 for my monthly visit to buxus land, this time to re-programme the watering system and to have a general tidy round prior to putting in the sumer planting. It's Sod's law that it'll rain constantly now that the client's requested more frequent watering and I think I'll recommend buying a rain detector so that the system automatically cuts out in wet weather.
Also cut back a couple of out of control convovulus cneorum (silverbush), which is the same family as bindweed. This Mediterranean plant does really well in this sun-trap of a roof terrace. Unfortunately one of them had been chopped about quite badly and was so woody it needed to be removed, which left a nasty gap in the planting. Hopefully the client will decide she wants it replaced, but in the meantime I might pop in a couple of pelargoniums. The walls of the terrace are a beautiful terracotta colour and the client prefers white flowers, so this much underrated and slightly out of fashion little plant will be going into all of the pots and planters this summer. In time I might try and introduce some lovely blues, which will look great against the orange walls. Right, am away this weekend so will be scouring the nurseries of Wiltshire for pelargoniums. You have been warned!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Wild Flowers Not Weeds

I've just come back from a couple of days gardening in Norfolk. Not exactly local, but as it was a family job, I got free food and lodging.
I've spent this visit working primarily on the front flower bed with it's mixture of azalea, heather, conifers, anenomies and foxgloves making sure that everything has some breathing space and taking out the grass that's seeded itself amongst the flowers. In the process I discovered a hypericum hiding under a conifer and lots of wild strawberry plants which have made themselves at home. The irony with a semi-wild garden like this is that although I've filled two humungus bags with debris, it doesn't look as though it's been touched!
My father-in-law's garden is very different from most as he likes to encourage all kinds of wildlife including birds, beetles, bees, flies, moths, butterflies and all manner of other insects having a keen interest in all things natural, which means his view on planting (or what makes itself at home) is quite liberal. The garden was established about 15yrs ago and incorporates a small pond, a rockery and some great borders, but is mostly left to it's own devices. Consequently it's a lovely mixture of perennial planting and self-seeded wildflowers all happily jostling in together - a massive patch of honesty (lunaria annua) with it's pretty little purple blooms has sprung up since my last visit and I've only seen the dried silicula seed cases before. I'm usually let loose on it once a year or so to keep it under some semblance of control and it's a real joy to work on as you never know what new plants you're going to discover.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Lottery Win!!!

OK, not the euromillions, but the allotment lottery. We've been on our local list for just under a year and were languishing at no 78, but to our joy we got a call at the weekend not only informing us that we were now no 11 on the list, but that a plot had become available and no's 1-10 hadn't responded. Anyway after much to-ing and fro-ing we are now the proud owners of a half plot at the Bridle Path Allotments in Newham, sandwiched between the City of London Cemetery and the Ilford Golf Course (nice).
The plot hasn't been worked for some time so there's a lot of preparation work to be done over the summer ready for planting next year. The previous tenant is leaving quite a bit of stuff such as a water butt and a decrepit nissan hut, so we'll have to go down and see what there is in the way of kit before we start. All very exciting and I'm planning already!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Another Garden, Another Lawn, Where Am I Going To. . . ?

OK, it's not exactly Elaine Paige or Barbara Dixon, but then I'm no singer as anyone who's heard me or been stuck in traffic next to me will testify hand on heart!
In April I de-weeded and seeded a lawn for Mr 122 and also bought the above plants (erysimum, marguerite & french lavender) for his back garden. I wasn't sure he'd take them as he doesn't like anything "fussy", but he loves the lavender and is very protective over it. Anyway, I went back to cut his lawns today and saw that the plants were doing really well - all flowering with the lavender full of bees. Unfortunately I can't say the same for his lawn.
The dandelions and green alkanet haven't returned in such profusion, which is good as I did spend a lot of time on my knees with a hand spade and weed knife (grrrrrr!) and the grass seed has started to take in most places. The only problem was that the rest of the grass was 6" high. Again, this meant a hand cut before mowing. Actually, if I'm completely honest I like getting the shears out and having a good splice at the grass - it tempers any destructive impulses just like pruning.
Mr 122 has promised me a once fortnightly mowing visit plus any weeding, sweeping etc., so hopefully I can keep on top of it and give him the lawn he really wants and a nice place for his baby daughter to play. He has three daughters and a lovely wife who all make me feel really welcome, which is really cool and Mr 122 makes me afternoon tea - bless.

Sicka Sycamore

Ooh, I am indeed. The sycamore is a lovely tree but it seeds like billy-o and you have saplings sprouting everywhere if you don't keep on top of them. Sycamore produce dry indehiscent seeds shaped like helicopter blades, designed to catch the wind and therefore travel goodly distances.
The 'wings' and outside seed case rot away leaving little conker coloured balls all over the shop. A single tree produces thousands of seeds, which all seem to have taken root in the gardens in my street.
Seriously, I've been uprooting these little buggers for months and I'm still finding them. They're growing in neighbours' lawns and flower beds up and down the street and even sprouting out of my bags of leaf mulch! Luckily the seedlings and saplings are easy to dispose of and obligingly yield to gentle force, roots and all.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Kenilworth Dug In

Another BBC Dig In event at Kenilworth Park today, the first in sunshine. Took the train up to Coventry at 08:50 this morning and spent the day potting seeds with the kids and handing out free seed packs to all-and-sundry - all good stuff. It was great fun as always, but quite tiring - it;s really hard to talk non-stop for a whole day (yeah right I hear you cry, but true nonetheless). I don't know how Ceri, Sarah and the rest of the Beeb team keep up that level of enthusiasm when they're up at 06:00 setting up. Well done luvs!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Aaw Bless His Cottons!

The Maxwell House lawn was as expected - long. It had to be hand cut first, then mowed with the push-me-pull-me. I cut it at 25mm, then went over it again at 14mm so it was really neat and tidy. It was well worth the effort though as it looked great when I'd finished. I do think well kept grass makes the whole garden sooo much better.
The ever-so-polite and proper Maxwell wrote the attached note, which is really sweet. It's nice to know that it was appreciated as long grass is a bit of a mare to work with. Anyway, I've told him he needs to get the grass cut at least once a fortnight and he said he'd take it under advisement, so we'll see what happens.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

B's First Harvest!

B's veg patch has yielded it's first crop of radishes - yay! The asparagus pees are well on their way and the turnips are also doing their thing. B's also planted up some mixed salad leaves and carrots from her Dig In seed pack and they've just started to sprout - I can't wait to cut the first leaves (sorry, for B to cut the first leaves). We also have far too many tomato plants, 4 different varieties, 2 bush and 2 ordinary. We've been giving the extras to passing neighbours as we just don't have the space for them all.
I'm not involved in veggie production and I find it really difficult to keep my nose out. I'm allowed to do the odd bit of weeding and watering and am desperately trying not to give my opinion. I'm sticking to the flowers, but it's soooo hard not to interfere! Are all gardeners control freaks or is it just me?
I've taken down the cold frame as everything has been nicely hardened off and the weather should be getting better soon (fingers crossed) and the squirrels are finding the tomato and courgette seedlings very interesting and every morning we awake to find that they've been removed from the pots and scattered all over the front terrace - what joy!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Oh, If I Were a Rich Man. . . da, da, da, da, da, da da

Come on, shimmy those shoulders! Sorry, obviously I don't want to be a man, I just had a bit of a Toppol moment as we've been buying old musicals on DVD ever since seeing Julie Andrews at the O2 on Saturday. Bless Julie, she's a star and I got all weepy when I heard The Hills Are Alive - lovely! . . . all day long I'd . . . No Toppol, get off that roof and out of my head, now!
Went to see my financial advisor, John, last week and apparently money doesn't grow on trees which was a bit of a shocker actually. Anyway, it was a really good meeting and I came away feeling really positive. He confirmed what I'd been thinking and gave me some sound advice on how I should approach my business and where I place myself in the market. Lots to mull over once I finish typing up my current assignment for my RHS course. Just the editing to go thankfully.
On a gardening note I'm going back to the Maxwell House this week to cut the grass (and the asparagus he has growing in it!). It'll be the first outing for the push-me-pull-me mower so that's exciting. Only 3 weeks since I did the weeding so should be interesting to see if the garden's gone feral on me already.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Diggin' In Again

Another day with the Beeb's Dig In team, this time in chilly Kingston. The picture shows the main tent where Chris Collins (Blue Peter) and a guy from Gardeners Question Time were holding hourly demos/Q&A sessions on how to plant up and grow veggies. The whole point of these days it to get people to give growing a go, no matter what space limitations they have - carrots will grow just as well on a windowsill. B got lots of tips for her veg patch so it wasn't a complete waste of her day coming to keep me company on the train and to do a bit of shopping.
I spent the morning on the potting tables again, which was great fun until I realised that I hadn't felt my feet for some time and tried to get up off my knees. My feet still have a tendency to bend backwards even now. The afternoon was spent putting my big mouth to good use for a change giving away free packs of seeds to anyone who would take them. It was a busy day as Kingston was holding its May Merrie, so there were lots of other great activities which got people out and about despite the showers. My claim to fame for the day? I gave a pack of seeds to Erin Boag from Strictly Come Dancing - yay, love that show!