Tuesday, 7 August 2012


 I have 2 regular weekly slots on Monday morning and one open slot in the afternoon for what I call the irregular regulars, the one-offs or as is sometimes know, the early finish (rare but lovely).
Job 1 is the garden of Mr Tidy Up, the north facing back garden of a double-fronted Victorian property.  Each week is different and can be as simple as mowing the lawn (the best that I do as it's really well maintained and virtually weed free - a miracle!) to digging out spent shrubs and trees ready for replanting.  This garden really inspires me with its varied planting and constant renewal to the point where I'm now planning a mini re-vamp at home and am no longer scared to death of moving things if I make a mistake or it's just not a happy plant.
Mr Tidy Up produces the most amazing compost in 2 open bins off to one side of the garden and has given me some of his precious worms for our stubborn pile of leavings and I have to admit that they seems to be doing the job - the level of our bin's dropped at least 6" (15cm in new money) in the last 3 months and we may see some compost at long last!
Job 2 is the House of Raspberries, another north facing back garden belonging to a double-fronted Victorian house (there are lots of these around as I live and work in a conservation area).  I really like the House of Raspberries' garden and have learned an awful lot about plants from the owner as well as being the recipient of a huge rhubarb crown (divided many times and distributed at the allotment) and. . . yes, you guessed it, raspberry canes!  The majority of which were planted at home so unlike the ones at the allotment, have flourished and we've been eating fresh raspberries with our breakfast for the last couple of months.
I can't take any credit for the layout of this lovely garden with pond, only for some of the planting in the new herbaceous border (top left) and for attempting to keep it weed free.  I also work on the front garden too, but again it's really only maintenance, taking instruction and learning tons of stuff!
Job 3 - I did have a slot booked for this one (a new client whom I see every 3 weeks or so to help with the weeding and lawn) but unfortunately being the numpty that I am I forgot to take a photo - duh!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

What Is It You Do Again?

I'm very aware that I haven't actually been blogging about work much of late.  This is partly due to the weather (sorry I was determined not to mention it again) making life a bit miserable and partly because I 'm soooo easily distracted by absolutely everything.
So, in an effort to put things back on track, next week I'll be photographing and commenting on my working week - hopefully it won't bore you to death and will go some way to explain why my blogging's a bit sporadic depending on how busy my week is and how much energy I have left at the end of it!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

More Flowers Please

Green is good; tall lush green is better, but where oh where is the colour?!
We've put in a lot of effort (and plants) over the last couple of years and by now the garden should be full of colour and flowers, so in a way the fact that everything is so verdant  is small consolation.  Having said that though, the old stalwart the Perennial Wallflower (Bowles Mauve) bloomed copiously, the Lupins and roses have been fab as were the  Delphiniums, but the Lavender is still obstinately refusing to open its flowers and is, like most of its neighbours, sagging under the weight of water falling from the heavens on a monotonously regular basis.
The real worry though is that I haven't seen many bees and insects over the last few days and I worry that bee colonies won't be able to make enough honey to see them through the winter.
On the upside (yes, there always has to be one!) I've been chuffed with some of the flowers that have appeared in the garden this year. Seeds that I scattered and forgot about such as cornflowers and wild poppies have suddenly come to life after 3 years if waiting.  It never ceases to amaze me how clever plants are, from the fact that we still don't know exactly what chemical process turns the leaves red in autumn to the appearance of flowers from seeds that have laid dormant for years just waiting for a nice soggy summer.
So come rain or shine and despite disgruntled Lavender, floppy Poppies and horizontal Verbena I'll count my blessings.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

A Tale Of Two Raspberries

Today is the longest day and it's raining - again! Needless to say we've had a rum old time with the weather so far and nowhere is it more obvious than on the allotment.
As you know we have heavy clay soil which holds the water like it's going out of fashion and twice within the space of a few weeks we've been wading across our patch and have learned a few harsh lessons about dealing with claggy soil.
For example, we planted our raspberries in a trench to one side of the plot but didn't turn it into a raised be so the water has just pooled there and our older  plants (donated by my client at the House of Raspberries - left-hand pic) have died under the onslaught.  Our newer (and younger) plants however are surviving for now (as are the strawberries) and look quite green - although there's no sign of any fruit but as they're itty-bitty baby ones we've got our fingers crossed.
The plants at House of Raspberries on the other hand couldn't be more different (left photo).  Sat in a nice bed of warm, loamy soil they're flourishing and the first batch were harvested earlier this week.  Needless to say I have raspberry envy. Hummfff! Thankfully we had the foresight (or some such nonsense) to divide the plants - old and new - between the allotment and home and those at home are looking mighty fine.  However, they're due to ripen just as we leave for a our clamping jolly.  More Hummfff!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Tea On The Towpath

As always when blogging I'm trying to catch up on myself - this time I'm only a week behind so yay!
Last weekend B, who is a volunteer towpath ranger for the Canal & River Trust (still British Waterways until next month), held her first towpath event which involved distributing maps/info of all the towpaths and canal walks within the Trust as well as the Braithwaites van.
Braithwaites,  The English Cream Tea Co. is run by the lovely Paul whose great grandfather originally started the company.  Paul's put a new twist on the theme by making the service mobile and his cream teas (Cornish style with jam first), homemade jams and scrummy scones (made fresh by Paul every morning) are absolutely delicious.

 The weather was a bit hit and miss in the morning but was gloriously sunny come afternoon and it was really lovely to see so many people (pedestrians, cyclists, dog walkers) using the towpath as either an alternative to the streets or as a meeting and lazing spot.  It was also good to see B doing her thing as she's very committed.  It was also a pleasure to see that the home made bunting went down a treat too - I got a hug from a very nice young man who was so chuffed to see it and Paul's been inspired to make his own for the van so keep an eye on his website for it!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Jubilee Fancies

I have to admit that we didn't do much for the Jubilee this weekend unless you count watching the flotilla and gig on the telly. I did, however, attend a street party last weekend and had a little stall getting people to make paper pots and plant a seed to help advertise the Manor Park Community Garden, which was great fun in the sun.  I don't actually live in Manor Park but I work for a couple of people who do and so am involved with the garden in an advisory capacity.
I did one slightly patriotic thing this week though.  At B's request I made cakes with holes in! Well actually the holes weren't technically part of the original request and if I'm totally honest were completely unintentional, but anyone who knows my cooking style (a complete lack of respect when it comes to a recipe and having the right ingredients) will know that I kind of make it all up as I go along.  Sometimes it's good and other times you end up with holes.  The recipe required self-raising flour and half a teaspoon of baking powder but I decided (in my wisdom - please close your ears Mary Berry) to improvise with plain flour and three teaspoons of baking powder.  Et voila - holes - at the bottom of every cake caused presumably by an enormous air bubble from my hellish concoction and resulting in an empty fairy cake with a crunchy red, white and blue roof.
Oh well, you can't win them all. . .

Thursday, 10 May 2012

A Hard Days Night

I've just read an article in the RHS 'The Garden' mag discussing the relative merits of hardening off against putting seedlings straight out and dealing with the resulting pause in growth while the plants physiology adapts to the shock of a new and hostile environment. It would appear to be a matter of personal choice and I prefer not to harden off (unless there's a risk of frost) and sow outdoors. I've propagated seeds and nursed them vigilantly on my windowsill at home, hardened them off slowly and planted them out lovingly only to watch them sit and sulk for a while before settling down to growing, so I'm a little disillusioned with the whole process. I seem to have much more success with seeds sown direct - they're more robust from day one and take off much faster. This applies to seed I've collected from plants already in the garden as well as a multitude of re-packaged ones. I suppose it all depends how impatient you are and how pro-active you want want to be. Personally I'm a rather lazy gardener (unless you happen to be a weed or growing where I don't want you)and a great believer in following the natural order as in 'if it doesn't survive it wasn't supposed to'. Survival of the fittest. This year it's been particularly hard to wait it out for the good weather but my board beans haven't drowned in my claggy and waterlogged soil down at the allotment and the thousands of poppy seeds I merrily sprayed over one of my flower beds at home are fighting it out amongst themselves, so we're doing alright - maybe not as well as I could have if I'd propagated, but who knows?! LxXx

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Pond You Like It

This week seems to be all about ponds.
Monday morning saw me working in a lovely garden where the plants are allowed to naturalise and seed themselves where they like it best and, considering it has a north facing aspect, has a rather lovely lawn which I've scarified and aerated over the last few weeks. The overall feel of the garden is a relaxed and slightly haphazard one - just the way I like them! The garden is the product of a perfect partnership - the plantswoman and her husband who "tidies up".
The unusual creation in the photo is the work of Mr Tidy Up following a morning spent digging up and dividing a mature formium (over 1.5m high and 2m wide). The unwanted pieces were potted up to donate to a local charitable concern but before they went to their new home they were arranged to simulate a pond. There was method to this particular piece of madness as the owners are thinking about installing an 'proper' pond and the gentleman of the house wanted to show his wife how it might look. I think it looks great and I'm particularly taken by the fish - although it does look as though it's trying to escape!
Right now I'm off to apply a liberal layer of sunblock before I trot off for a marathon of weeding, finishing the day with my second pond of the week. This time re-planting a pond at Wendel's the cat's house (no fish involved much to Wendel's disappointment I'm sure).
Enjoy the sun.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Ooh, A Bit Of Summer Glamping - Lovely!

I am sooo excited as we've just booked our summer holiday - yay! We're fulfilling a little dream of mine and going glamping in the English countryside. Originally we were looking into another little ambition of mine, to visit the Scottish highlands but as we couldn't find anything that blew us away or that met both our criteria we really weren't making any headway.
However, when the Dandelion Hideaway came to my attention via the Dorset Cereals 'spin the bottle' competition I immediately fell in love with it. I love the vintage feel, the decor, the honesty shop, the concept and my especial favourite, the goats (I do love a nice goat). I also really like the fact that Obaston House Farm has been run by the Earp family for almost 100yrs. Luckily for me B 's also taken a shine to it so come June we'll be off to sunny Warwickshire to glamp our little hearts out.
Take a look for yourself - I dare you not to fall in love with it!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

From Snow To Sunblock

I feel a bit like the Karate Kid at the mo' - merino on, merino off, merino on. . . How naive I was to relax and get excited at the advent of an early spring! How foolish to think that all would be plain sailing from here on in! Ah well, such are the joys of gardening and of the British Weather having gone from surprisingly warm, to bugger me it's cold and back again. This week it's due to be a positively tropical 15 degrees. No wonder we Brits are obsessed with the weather as we literally never know what we'll get from one day to the next. Well at least the early spring bulbs haven't withered under the snow cover and the allotment did look lovely.
The snow came and went within days and this week I actually put factor 50 on my face for the first time - now this should have been purely wishful thinking on my part but
my Celtic skin refuses to be caught out and I was grateful for it for the 2hrs of sunshine on Monday, which felt almost like summer!
With the Met Office predicting sever drought in the south east this year (likening it to the summer of 1976 if you're old enough to remember that tarmac melting time) it looks as though we're in for a challenging year.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Tip -Toe Time!

As you've probably all heard Daffodils are blooming all over the shop at the moment due to the ridiculously mild winter, but it's not only the Dafs that've woken up - all the other spring bulbs are following suit too. I've got Snowdrops (planted 2 years ago as bulbs and only just showing!?), Muscari and Crocus popping their heads out to see what's what, which makes it incredibly difficult knowing where to put my feet at the mo'.
Weeding has become a bit of a ballet in walking boots - my hand trowel is now my new best friend, although my back may beg to differ! For example, I spent the morning yesterday standing on tip-toe in a flower bed full of unwanted Wild Garlic (bulb and leaf pics above) trying to remove the garlic and not the spring bulbs - tricky!
The Wild Garlic was originally introduced into the garden as a companion plant to deal with the black fly but it's an invasive little bugger that's spread throughout the back garden and is now happily entrenched in the front too. The only way to keep it under control is to dig out the bulbs and hope for the best. The owner of said gardens is rather fond of it provided it's kept under control and I really enjoy working surrounded by the subtle smell of garlic. It's one of those fragrances like Rosemary or Mint that have a nostalgic quality to them - well for me at least.
On the home front the allotment's looking rather bare but is all prepped for the coming growing season. Our garden has an air of anticipation - everything is ready and waiting. It should be a good year as I've spent a lot of time trying to improve the soil structure with home-made leaf mulch and compost and I'm armed and ready with a humungous bag of organic chicken manure for feeding. The water butts are full to overflowing, the soil nicely moist and during any dry period we'll be saving our shower water. All good in theory. . .

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Where Did The Rest of The Year Go?

Wow, Christmas and New Year are done already? Not sure how that happened! Anyhoo, I was very kindly reminded by my mate Dave last week (great B-day bash by the way matey) that I'd been very remiss as far as the old blogging was concerned and after protesting that I'd posted recently I realised that Dave (who, bless his heart still reads the blog regularly) is correct and I haven't posted since October. Apologies, but in my defence I've been extremely busy with the old gardening lark due to the return of the mild weather - my daffodils are starting to sprout which is a little extreme in December to say the least! Snow stopped play in November 2010 so I've had an extended working year this year and will be starting early in 2012 too if the weather holds!
On the home front we potted up a 'Rubinette' apple tree into a half barrel (the tree is grafted onto M27 root stock so is ideal for a pot in our front garden) and spent Boxing Day down on the allotment spreading steaming muck onto our beds ready for next years' planting - very satisfying despite some bugger having broken into our shed on Christmas Day!
It's been a bit of a strange end to the year - the gardening's been fab, but my dad was poorly and in hospital the week before Christmas (nothing life-threatening thankfully) so the run-up to Christmas was a bit stressful. On the upside I got another essay posted off for marking and we saw the year out healthy and happy. Today's plan is to go out for a lovely long walk across Wanstead Flats to work off the excess of chocolate and cake - excellent!
Hope you all have a healthy, wealthy and happy New Year!
Speak soon (I promise).