Wednesday, 20 June 2018

volunteers and vagrants

I took one green recycling bag of couch grass roots to the tip (these belong to previous run of garden waste recycling and are no longer collected from kerbside, but I kept the bags because they are great for weeding, trimming etc.) and it was so heavy I nearly herniated the helpful man who saw me struggling and came over to help. It's all one plant, technically speaking, a root-spread clone.

In among the couch grass mat are the fragments of the last occupant, like exotic vagrants in a flock of starlings. Here's a yellow chard:

Allotment progress

Most striking of all are the sprouts of last year's potatoes. So far I've found ten or twelve plants. Apparently they're called volunteers, and I can eat them, if they make anything worthwhile.

Other treats and delights include many, many paving stones, masses of bricks and a big old tarp:

Allotment progress Allotment progress

Currently supressing weeds and spreading ants nests. I have a lot of ants. But to return to the couch grass, taking it all to the tip feels inappropriate, plus I lost a quantity of topsoil doing it. Time to activate one of the weird composting solutions. After all, I did inherit a suitable trug:

Allotment progress

Click through to Flickr for context notes and more photos.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Boring Flowers

Lured back by the thrill of the mundane, we went to Boring again this year. I took a moment in the afternoon to eat an ice lolly and check out the flowers in Red Lion Square, which last year had been very striking and included a fully in-flower Judas Tree.

This year, things were a little more, well, boring:

Yellow tulips Yellow tulips Yellow tulips
Yellow tulips Yellow tulips Yellow tulips
Yellow tulips Yellow tulips Yellow tulips

Plain yellow and red are the basic bitches of the tulip world, so initially I was unimpressed. But something about their irrepressibly sunny faces, battered as they were by this year's uneven weather, won me. The plain colour forces a Warhollian focus on outline and colour block. Perspective and depth collapses into pigment overload, like an award-winning YBA reinterpretation of the traditional portrait. Each billow and notch of the petal chops into negative space like Matisse cut-outs.

As for the plants, they had a slightly unstable air, as if they'd been brought in as reserve after the main flower set had failed; a hypothesis supported by the large tracts of bare earth and the occasional collapsed plant where they had not taken.

Yellow tulips

Thursday, 14 June 2018

first fruits from the allotment

Mostly, it all got eaten by slugs. But here and there, a hardy survivor. I ate this -- despite being rather underwatered and undersized, it was a proper peppery radish mouthful.


Implausibly, the strawberries had also made fruit - despite there being no earth to earth them, no watering visits and no straw to keep them cosy.  Alas, my dreams of these being less bothered by slugs were just that; dreams. The most-promising looking strawb was hollow when I turned it over. This one wasn't though; I had a small handful of strawberries.


The broad beans were short, but setting pods already (and collecting the usual little halos of blackfly). I have about seven parsnip plants. The potatoes are putting on growth, although the fact that one's flowering already is a bit of a cross-sign.

Clearing a bed for beans I found more potatoes, leftovers from last year, strangled among the couch grass. I freed them out but there was a weird amount of red ant activity, including some in some large, leftover potatoes. Gardeners world is very firm on this: ants do not eat potatoes. But there are hints elsewhere that this can happen.

I gave everything a good water and left it to it. I'll see if I can wiggle up some little potatoes next time I'm up there, and maybe I'll lift that onion, too.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

secret gardens and jewelled fantasies

This is an installation by Raqib Shaw, of a decadent gardenverse. As June strikes, this decadent effusion of flower-studded jewelled greenery crawls over everything, so I declare him the flowermaster of June.


Here he is in his own words: "there is a crisis if an orchid doesn't bloom on time". We've all been there. Painted in enamels, using a porcupine quill, this is an exotic, luxuriant, glossy garden indeed.


I found this from Vogue, which felt I might also like this: (Secret Garden : Versailles - use that link if the player below misbehaves or you fancy better-quality audio)


Why yes vogue, thankyou, I do. Enjoy the silence - and the gardens.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

goose island 2018

The old goose island was cleared this year, leaving a bare space that the geese turned their beaks up at. Probably as well, I never saw a brood raised successfully from it; it was always just too difficult to get the goslings off the nest at the end.

But while Goose Castle may be dead, long live Goose Green:

goose on nest

Neatly tucked into a non-public accessible chunk of Salters, this bizarre chunk of astroturf has scored a new occupant, although I find myself worrying once again; how well will the goslings get down from there?

goose on nest

Sunday, 3 June 2018

in the city, the forest


Look up in the city and you won't always see a specimen as magnificent as this one. But you will often see a tree. Our native state is woodland; scrub woodland on the moors, bog woodland by the rivers, and everywhere else, temperate woodland; mostly deciduous but with an evergreen scatter; just enough pine to keep that mixed forest ecosystem ticking over, a home for goldcrests and hibernating insects, like this one:

the old pine

These are not the same trees, though I appreciate the illusion! This continuation is the base of a London Plane, assimilating the pavement. There's been some sort or thought about containing this wood waterfall, but its come adrift. The tree is breaking its bounds, smashing its box, discriminating wildly against mobility buggies and pushchairs. The pavement's pretty wide at this point though, so all is probably fine.

escaping tree roots

Less so here. I've had some things in pots for nine years now, and they've started to turn to native scrub, sprouting Goat Willow, Sucker Ash, Hazel, Lime, Douglas Fir and Pine. But this Willow - Crack or Silver, not sure which - has sprouted in a tiny pocket of polluted street dirt halfway up a building, making it the boldest pioneer on the High Street at the moment..

the Lloyds tree

Turn your back for a few years and the trees return, with leaves that make soil and roots that make rubble, blurring and erasing with lines of messy green.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

stopped by the flowers

Turn your back for a moment at this time of year and this happens:


This one stopped me in my commute. I stood in the road to take it. No-one ran me over. It's spring in full flow and everything is invincible.


Stopped at the lights on the bypass, the verges were awash with wildflowers. Ox-eye Daisies dominate but the scatters of Stitchwort and sparkles of buttercups mingle in. I saw Orchids on the ring road verges this spring; Early Purples, while I was stopped in a traffic queue.


Yesterday I was going "really!?" at Google maps as it lead me along an unmetalled road and a couple of industrial lots into the back entrance of  Banbury Station (there were a couple of signs too, but it was definitely a shortcut that required three minutes of faith). Then this, growing on an abandoned parking attendant's sentrybox stopped me dead.  This smear of alert yellow against the battered blue box (and we have lots of these leggy yellow wildflowers so I don't know which it is) had shot up from the tiniest smear of carpark dirt, in the frantic spring incubator.