Sunday, 12 November 2017

what's in my shed?

The shed is reaching crisis point. For some years now, our shed (a lean-to off the house side made of fence panels and roofed roughly with polycarbonate, which according to our survey "adds nothing to the value of the house and should be demolished") has been in the business of steady accumulation. Everything that has become too dusty, too faded or too icky, yet has retained its aura of specialness (its joy-spark, in the modern interiors vocabulary) has drifted out into this realm of mice and spiders.

what's in my shed 2017 in the shed

Hell-o Kitty there, the bobble-head photo frame, for example. For years she lived on my front windowsills as a protective spirit. The intention of the item is that you place a picture of your child into the frame, so it looks like she's wearing a Hello Kitty costume. Or alternatively like the child is trying to escape from Hello Kitty's jaws. In the absence of children I filled in a classic horror-mouth of fangs and slaver, now faded to a the uniform yellow of old copier paper. The pretty pottery tool-holder broken by our first set of cowboy builders. The Scare Owl, with genuine flapping wings, was given to me by my father when I was a teenager. It's intended to scare birds from your garden; you rig it up to flap periodically. Or not, if you like birds (which I do). I'm fond of it, but the texture renders it utterly undustable. Servelan was a gift from my older sister, a professional performer who is very fond of feathers and sequins. The feathers went to the dark side, but well. Supreeeeme commander.

in the shed in the shed

The piano telephone probably doesn't work. This is one of my partner's sparks, much loved, now retired. I like having a disconnected telephone around the place, for rehearsing and/or disposing of conversations that aren't really going to go anywhere. The putty commemorates an attempt to improve the windows in the verandah, which was partially successful. With the bulb glasses, I'm still puzzling about why I can't make them work. I remember growing lots of bulbs in bottles as a child. But as an adult, the knack seems absent, oddly.

in the shed in the shed

The door to the back garden has a cage door which can close over the shed door. The previous owner bred dogs, and presumably this was for puppy enclosement purposes. I've been known to use it to keep toddlers out of the shed, too, though nowadays the cage often has tender plants growing up it or hanging off it. Arnie was previously in the kitchen, but the kitchen is too clean for Arnie and his ilk now. The charms (and the horticultural fabric) dangle from an unused hanging basket I was trying to use to keep the cats off a catmint plant for long enough to establish. No use; my cats are fond enough of the nip to get through anything. Horticultural fabric is something I have a quantity of, but find a bit of a pain. Designed to slow down evaporation and reduce watering, you can line hanging baskets with it (where it will promptly wick out all the moisture and leave the basket bone dry), you can put it under seedling pots (where it will hold accessible water for the plants but also get welded to their roots as a result) or use it to hold water to increase humidity around cuttings or in greenhouses (and grow algae, and harbour slugs). I suspect it's one of those things that works best with a daily gardener maintaining moistness and checking for roots. Staff, then, ha ha.

overmatured planters overmatured planters

The shed is also something of a graveyard for discarded furniture; there's a coffee table out there, an old stool, the old TV bench, and our first drinks cabinet against the back wall (above). The glass shelves never really worked as a grow-house (the corner is too dark) but the planters on top have given pleasure over the years. The fancy Christmas orange box which was planted with houseleeks etc. has now matured to algal mush, however; and the two Halloween cauldrons previously used to intimidate trick-or-treaters (one contained tricks, the other treats, and all trick or treaters got one of each) but now growing bog plants, have matured through their glorious years of wasp-catching pitcher plants and squirming sundew, past the fancy bog plants in glorious flower, and are now growing (self seeded) that stubborn, shrubby little bog tree I see growing along the river and in the marshes all around here, which isn't any tree I recognise, and really won't fit in the container, and how on earth does it self seed when I've never seen the plant have a fruit or a flower?

This and other mysteries suggest we will have to tackle the shed. That's a good winter job, right?

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

the irrepressible daisy


Like everyone else in Oxford, I'm a bit excited by the New Westgate. But so far, it's not very green. Two of the Plane trees have returned of six that were removed, and these are of course young plants, not the massive mature behemoths we lost. There is sort of a roof garden, but the turf is astroturf.

This daisy is on one of the diversion routes, not far from the shopping centre. The green will return whether they will or no. But it could have been a roof garden. Now it'll just be whatever seeds there.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Happy Halloween!


The best Halloween garden I spotted on the way into work. This was at the White House pub on Abingdon Road.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Alexandra Palace Lily Pond

It was my first time at Ally Pally. Tim remembered it from gigs from when he used to live in London. I was boggling at the high Victoriana, the ironwork, the trees. Then I found the little formal garden with the lily pond, still showing lillies, even in September.

Lilies and Goldfish 1
Lilies and Goldfish 2

We were seeing LCD Soundsystem. I didn't have any time to take photos inside, even though there's a winter garden and a food hall and all sorts. Being inside your palace seeing the best of bands is kind of all-consuming.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

considering a series of unwise purchases

While I'm waiting for my replacement Garden Club Card to turn up I've held off heading down the road to the garden centre. That hasn't stopped me considering (though not yet giving into) some unwise purchases:

A Stepover Greengage Tree. This purchase, so unwise it is bordering on the absurd, would further dessicate the deep bed and probably produce a sad and sickly tree. I do like greengages, though. They are my favourite of all stone fruits. A pollenator partner is indicated, too, so I can't get just one. Who could resist an Opal? Hmf. Maybe after I've had the overhang cut back.

More Tulip Bulbs. The Crocus Sale is on. Don't they look fabulous? I do have a great many tulips already. Not everything is perennial, of course, but mostly I have enough in there to come up year on year. Tulips. Tulips. The first frost has come, but the air is still warm. It's the perfect time to plant.

Ever since I saw that mainstay of my childhood playgrounds, decorative glass chippings, at Gardener's World Live, I can't get them out of my head. I could use them to top a pot, couldn't I? They wouldn't stay lovely for long, but it would make a significant change from my regular stone-mulch of pebbles and gravel, and nice inactive glass won't bring the problems like my granite and limestone chips do (must just get rid of those). Oooh those decorative aggregates. So many colours!

A Chinese Money Plant is currently buzzing around my head as the latest indoor plant purchase. It is true, now, that I need some trailing greenery around a newly excavated indoor window, but I already have a lot of plants. There's a Mandevilla in waiting. If the Rickrack Cactus takes (I currently have a sulking, but not dead, cutting) there's that too. But now that I've seen one in real life (at Modern Art Oxford cafe no less) I want one even more.

Time to step back and consider awhile. And maybe actually do the big things (the cutback, the fern wall) first?

Sunday, 22 October 2017

chaos enough gardening

When I was growing up, my favourite garden was attached to an abandoned cottage. In the way of the country, most of the cottage had been recycled; the stones had gone to reinforce gateways or build outhouses at the local farms, the timbers had gone to firewood, and anything reusable had been reused. All that remained of the house were the lumps, dips and levels; chunks of stone too heavy to move, now grassed and mossed over, flats and spaces marking hearth, floor, pantry.

The garden, however, was still an active force. The hedge had grown up and out, nibbled by sheep and hedgetrimmers into open, perforated lines of bushes, easy enough for a child to slip between. Inside the sheltered hedgebound space, the wind dropped and the sun intensified. In the warm space within the remnants of old garden flowers tangled with the wild; Goldenrod, Perennial Sunflower and Michaelmas Daisies held their own against the Stitchwort and Campions; wild roses and tame arced through the high hedges. A star of clematis, a spark of Jasmine.

The grass was meadow-thick, a deep and forgiving coverlet that hung slightly above the ground below, and gave as you stood on it, just a little bit. Each spring, a sprinkling of bulbs would stipple the banks; snowdrop, daffodil, grape hyacinth. You had to watch your step, as under the grass would be shattered, slippery wall stones, unexpected and bruising.

There was a quietness in the space; nothing spooky, but the usual noises of the downs (the cows, the wind, the farmnoise, the ocassional passing car) would shrink, and the birdsong would become more audible although no louder. Nothing spooky, just a dying fall, a slow diminuendo as the tame sank back into the wild.

The tumble-down garden returning to the wild; the bright flashes of resilience against the returning natives; that perfect moment in the entropic slide back to the Darwinian tangled bank when your garden is just chaos enough; that is what I am aiming for.