Sunday, 14 January 2018

these plants are hardcore

While it's not exactly an earth stood hard as iron water like a stone winter (yet - we still have time) I'm still rather impressed by what's in flower out back:

january flowers january flowers january flowers
So far, so ordinary. A bit of Christmas Rose, a Snowdrop, and the Winter Jasmine (the clue's in the name). Pale, wintery colours. Delicate. Pretty.

january flowers january flowers january flowers

OK, it's not unusual to see Roses in winter. Quince is a notoriously early flowerer. And Chickweed will sprint to flower in a few days, of course, move along, nothing to see here..

january flowers january flowers january flowers

january flowers january flowers Broad beans Monica

Hebe, Marguerite, Confetti Bush, Sweet William popping out another flower to replace the ones it lost in the snow, my Lime green Chrysanthemum putting out another bud....

OK, spring enough. I'm going to plant some broad beans.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

wear your lawn on your shoulders

My lawn's days are numbered. A pile of pots in waiting on the terrace out back will shortly form its replacement, in hardy, low-gorwing shrubs. For who has time for a lawn any more?

Jacob Olmedo, that's who. 





It would be a mistake to view these garments as only friendly to the model physique. Remember to put your jeans on and you have a perfect punk/gardener jacket, though it's probably best not to lean back on Mum's sofa while wearing it.

The hydroponic textile appears to be an attractive egg-shell coloured version of that gardener's fiend, capillary matting. I have some of that, filligreed with tomato roots I lazily allowed to grow through it through lax potting-on.

A double layer of black bags under that, electricians tape over the seams to stop it leaking round the staple points, and you'd have the DIY version of that jacket. I might opt for tighter sleeves though; it would be good if you could garden in it.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

new year shopping binge

I haven't planted broad beans, or sweet peas. So I snapped up a cheap internet order from Seedaholic  (their hand-finished packaging takes me straight back to my small press days), ended up in Wilkos and bough £7 worth of seeds (masses) and today headed off to the cheap garden centre on the bypass looking for roottrainers which they absolutely had in stock, and seed compost of course (that stuff is so HEAVY). As I was leaving I saw the racks of orchids at post-Christmas sale prices.

This greenish beauty had checkerboard leaves and a ridiculously long flower-stem. Resistance is futile. She came home with me.


The pink thing next to her was bought on sale. I am the redeemer of reduced plants.This lady being attacked by birds, however, was sensibly left where I found her.


Wednesday, 3 January 2018

ten top trends for 2018

So, since the new year I've been mainlining the various catalogues I've been sent (you get a lot around Christmas) aiming to extricate trendlets; the emergent messages from what's available, what's good, what's interesting. Of course, it all gets mixed up with what I like and what I want, but nevertheless, trends have emerged. So here's what I reckon we'll be loving in 2018:


Saturday, 30 December 2017

Shanghai Sponge City Project

I am alerted to a new concept for urban greenery; sponge city planning. As someone who lives in a city that sits on a spongy mass of gravel and clay, that oozes water in season (we're on a relatively gentle flood alert today) I am naturally fascinated.

Lingang/Nanhui in Shanghai is the green infrastructure experiment generating the headlines. The principles?
  • Permeable pavements - cutting rainwater runoff and reducing pollution of surface water. This can be retrofitted through replacement of existing concrete impermeable paving.
  • Wetland areas - crossed by raised walkways, these are also public parks and nature reserves.
  • Rooftop plants - absorbing water but also enabling temperature control through slow evaporation
  • Rain gardens - in traditionally wasted space such as central reservations. 
  • Rain recovery tanks - to take rooftop run-off.
  • Restoration of natural waterways - a lot of small rivers get filled in during construction; identifying and re-establishing these supports traditional flow and soil stability.
  • Man made storage lakes - variable depths and expanse depending on water needs of the time.
The percentages are exciting and the goals are high (a sponge city should absorb 70% of rainwater!) Like lots of infrastructure experimentation in China, progress is bewitchingly fast; I have little doubt that new principles and cheaper materials will emerge. Hard-wearing and fully permeable surfaces are particularly needed, as our effective and low-maintenance green roofing solutions. Many of the rest are familiar already; the estate I live in is carved across by gullies which twitch away our floods into the Thames, doubtless cut through the same spaces as earlier ditches.

Of course, the challenges of the Chinese cities are on a whole nother scale, and the imagination of the solutions are stunning. Look at these beautiful images of a rain park before and after monsoon rains, more seductive than any mighty bridge, maybe. There are hints of more to come; permeable, water storing roads?

From this damp city that is (right now) building seasonal lakes and installing drainage-first roads, I feel theere is too much focus on getting the water away and not enough on keeping it in the cities to grow our trees and cool our walls. I'd like us to become more of a sponge city.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

starving amaryllis




Instead of an amaryllis kit this year, I bought a lonely bulb from the fancy flower shop in the market. I had hardly any clean indoor compost at home so planted it in a desperate minimum of exhausted compost, the bulb more than half exposed. The results have been spectacular. Folks, starve your amaryllis. It'll panic and bloom spectacularly.

It's also a superb vermillion, so I'll feed it up and cosy it with some fresh compost - but after it's flowered.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

the secret fern garden on the plain

Just outside a rather rowdy cocktail bar on the Plain Roundabout in Oxford (home of the Swedish Death Nettle, among other fine cocktails) there is one of those old hatches; part smoke outlet, part escape hatch, part light well, old safety glass and cast iron.

This one has a fine fern garden growing in it:

Access hatch garden Access hatch garden
Access hatch garden