Posts filed under 'Accidental gardener'
Suddenly autumn has arrived on my windowsill and dumped a load of red leaves at the back door too. Hard to believe we once doubted the weedy little Virgian Creeper would rise further than the garden shed. Now it has not only reached our roof but it is working its way along the houses on either side of us. Luckily we have lovely neighbours. Or maybe they just get a kick out of watching Ray collect the leaf mould from their kitchen roof every year.
Let’s call this our vertical garden – it’s full of sparrows, spiders, blue tits, bats and (once) a cheeky grey squirrel, all finding refuge in the grey jungle. Garden walls are taking on a new significance for wildlife in places where people have developed an odd taste for plastering ground with tarmac so the car can sit still outside their house – so much space dedicated to cars going nowhere, hardly makes sense. Anyway (Sunday is too short for ranting) vertical gardens seem a great way of bringing softness and life back into the built environment. And not just outside.
At the Chelsea Garden Show last year there were some new ideas, inspired it seems by the rainforest, showing how planting on walls could create new habitats for disappearing birds and bees and bring quite a few benefits for humans at the same time – improving the quality of city air, regulating temperature and reducing the risk of flooding which has been greatly exacerbated by all those hard new surfaces for parked cars. Ooops, sorry, I said no ranting…but a little Googling instead brings up a fascinating London Mayor document ( published in 2004 when Ken was Mayor).
Building Green: a guide to using plants on roofs, walls and pavements doesn’t rant at all but offers inspiring examples of innovative green urban environments across Europe. I specially like this quote:
The skin of city – its roofs, walls, streets and other hard surfaces – can be transformed into a living landscape. Ecologically dead areas come alive again…
Perhaps it is not surprising that the authors draw heavily on examples from Berlin where (according to a Scottish architect, Howard Liddell of Gaia Architects, in the Econo report another source of imaginative ideas) the city operates a 50% rule, which means: “every square metre of built footprint has to have an equivalent amount of biodiverse rich landscape (soft surfaces and water).”
So lets hear it for green walls, roofs and pavements. Our creeper is making a good attempt to cover all three though at the moment, that’s not so much going green as flaming red.
Footnote: Building Green, by Jacklyn Jackson, an ecologist, and John Newton, an environmentalist was first published in 1993 by the London Ecology Unit, reprinted in 2004 by the General London Council.
October 18th, 2009
Maybe it’s a sign of my age, but I am getting quite a taste for purple.
I don’t really have time for blogging. There’s a scary deadline to meet and I must find thousands of words to put together before the end of the month. But, hell, I am going to treat myself to a few minutes of posting some purple pictures to mark the end of a very mixed year in the vegetable garden. I don’t like to tell you what the slugs did to an otherwise monster crop of potatoes in the new patch but I suspect slugs had a lot to do with the Irish potato famine. However the beans were fantastic: good to eat and beautiful to look at.
In a moment I will look up the Marshall’s catalogue to see what the variety is called. I picked them simply for their looks in the colour pictures and after a slowish start they have not been a disappointment. This is how they looked once they finally started to flower.
Meanwhile, the dwarf French beans were cropping heavily with the more common or garden green pods. By early September I was beginning to fear the purple flowers would not produce a bean. Wrong.
There were also some old fashioned runner beans called Celebration with pretty peach pink flowers but I didn’t manage to photograph them.
A quick look in next year’s Marshall’s catalogue shows that the purple bean is called Empress, ‘high yielding and stringless with excellent flavour’. And, though I was so discouraged by the subterranean slime thugs I sometimes thought of giving up vegetable growing altogether, just flicking the pages I am very tempted to try a few other gorgeous looking crops for next year.
Take a look at this new asparagus pea with scarlet flowers and the purple artichoke called Violet Globe. Oh, and there’s a new purple carrot called Purple Haze. Irresistible! Better get a bumper box of slug eating Nematodes too.
October 6th, 2009
It’s working. Two years ago with Susie’s help, I planted a B&Q buy-one-get-one-free special offer of miniature narcissus round the stone cairn built by Richard. Moss is doing a great job of covering the stone but the ground was a bit of a problem: too many weeds and it was difficult to mow the grass round the cairn. So we tacked a bit of plastic sheeting round the base, more like dressmaking than gardening, and planted the bulbs into it. And for once one of my planting schemes has actually done what I intended.
The most successful parts of my garden usually don’t have much to do with me at all. I lack the kind of mind that makes mathematical plans on paper – if a nice curve appears in the grass after Ray has driven the tractor over it that’s where the next border will be.
Last year I was excited to discover a beautifully artless approach to planting in Berlin. All the public parks and gardens looked so natural they seemed to be self-sown. I would love to achieve that look at Pond Cottage but I’m sure it is much harder than it looks.
I’ll come back to explore this subject a bit more when I have finished my week’s work on the new border(slightly to the left of this picture). My aim is to move as much self-sown stuff into cleared ground as I can – using gifts from Nature rather than spending loads of money in the garden centre. I have transplanted a crop of accidental foxgloves from the vegetable plot, I’ve got geraniums to split, and more periwinkle to dig up and I hope that last summer’s mulleins have seeded themselves under the trees, they looked great in autumn like ghostly grey figures lurking in the mist.
Admittedly I am topping up with an order of wild flowers from the excellent Alba trees nursery but I tried to pick only plants that would seed themselves around the place (geraniums, primulas, loosestrife) so that I don’t have to keep on planting.
I have to face it, I’m just the kind of gardener who likes to wander round the place, cup or glass in hand, congratulating the plants on looking after themselves. But I am quite chuffed that the gardener can take some credit when I wander as far as the stone cairn. And thanks to Susie too.
March 29th, 2008
This wasn’t intended but every autumn the Virginia Creeper makes beautiful outside curtains for our windows and every year it creeps a little higher. A few years ago this was the view from the kitchen, now it’s at the top of the house.
The birds like it too. All summer you can hear sparrows bickering among the leaves, showering the bench down below with grit – luckily nothing else has landed in my coffee yet. This is a kind of vertical garden, full of stuff that’s been erased from the horizontal by all those bloody parking plots for cars growing where plants used to be.
Vertical gardening: when the wind blows the ground is covered in a red carpet.
October 20th, 2007
Bees may be disappearing from hives across the world but they are crawling all over my herb patch. Good to know there’s something edible in the vegetable garden. The plot has never looked better since Ray made new paths and edged all the borders in wood during that spring heat wave. But it has never been so unproductive.
It’s a suicidal summer and the veg seem depressed by it too. Most of the seeds I ordered in March have disappeared without trace in the wet earth. For the first time ever my onion crop looks miserable, there are all of two pea plants struggling between the Jerusalem artichokes, broad beans are few and far between and the runner beans have hardly made it above ground. Only the herb patch is flourishing. But at least the bees are having a good time.
August 20th, 2007
So, there’s frilly lettuce, multi colour Swiss chard and some mini pumpkins in the basket. But no onions. Having finally got round to ordering my seeds for the growing season I find that Marshalls has sold out of my favourite Red Barron and Gold Fen onion sets. Serves me right for being so slow. But since spring seems at least a month early why am I two weeks later with my online ordering than I was last year? Is it because the seasons are all blurring into one?
Last year’s onions are still good enough to eat this spring. Pity I am too late with this year’s order…
Looking out the kitchen window, I can see the frogs are raring to go. But they have been popping their heads above water for months. In fact winter has never really arrived in the back garden. Snowdrops appeared about six weeks ago but geraniums have been blooming on the windowsill non stop since last summer and there are buds on the clematis, which means at any one time there are three seasons contradicting one another.
It doesn’t feel right. I obviously have a stronger puritan streak than I like to admit. Plus a romantic longing for the time when winter made frosty etchings on the bedroom window (inside!). My puritan says we don’t deserve to enjoy spring unless we have suffered some real winter. My romantic loved those few sharp days last week which made the stars sparkle and in February we even had one day of snow which kindly hid all the rubbish in really beautiful garden makeover. The hypocrite in me complains about the cold.
I do think that climate change is deeply confusing, not just because it fiddles with the mating timetable of birds and frogs but because it upsets our inbred responses to changing seasons.
However, today I am quelling my inner prophet of doom because the sun is shining through new pinky red leaves on the Cercidiphyllum, and my Marshall’s basket is full to the brim. This year I promised myself I would not buy more than I could possibly grow in the vegetable patch. But Beth curled up for a snooze on the pile of unsown seed packets from last year (so I couldn’t double check what I don’t need to order) and as always I gave way to the temptation of glossy colour pictures. I was going to get the courgette collection anyway (including the tasty pale green Lebanese variety ‘Clarita’) but I couldn’t stop myself clicking on Festival, which produces trailing stems for squashes the size of grapefruit (‘ideal roasted’) and carrots (carrots! I never manage to get them to grow bigger than AA batteries) because Sugarsnax 54 promise sweet roots ‘extra high in beta-carotene’).
Even so I have still managed to clock up a smaller bill than last year: the 2006 veg and flower seed total came to £46, this year it is £31.8. Not so good for Marshall’s – and I will have to get the onion sets from somewhere else.
March 23rd, 2007