Friday, 31 July 2015

other people's gardens : the tiny green car-park yard

This little double-gated car-park garden (I've slipped the camera through one gate to look at the other) is occasionally lit up (as it is here) by a ray of sunlight, but I can't imagine that it sees much sun. Sandwiched between college utility rooms and a day-care centre for children and young adults with severe learning difficulties, this car-park is always firmly barred, and presumably belongs to the upstairs flats. But whose is the tiny garden? Is there a concierge tucked into a buildings office, cycling to work, fixing problems in the flats and nipping out each lunch-time to water the plants? The ladder hints at some practical role lurking back there.

tiny yard in a carpark

I've never seen anyone (bar once, a window cleaner's van) exiting or entering this car-park, so for now, a mystery garden.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Tropical July

The garden has taken on a tropical aspect. Some of that's down to genuine tropicals like the Lantana and Calla Lily (top right) bought from a pound shop and come up a truly eyebrow-raising colour). Other things, like the Tweedia (centre right) and Myrtle (centre left) are vintage garden plants, rendered exotic by their unfamiliarity.

The Passion Vine, in its sixth glorious year and taking over the back corner of the garden, needs no introduction, and compact water lily rubra is continuing to flower its socks off in a tiny water planter.

Chrysanthymum lantana Calla lily
Myrtle Passion flowers tweediaia
Petunia water lily bidens

There are also some classic British bedding plants here; a sunset orange petunia and flame-on Bidens. They're here because I was struggling to keep anything alive in hanging pots or baskets, and then I remembered that there's a classic plant that can handle that sort of brutal environment.

Cue the Petunias.


Friday, 24 July 2015

Scraps from the Savage Garden

I went to see Alexander McQueen's Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A for my birthday. It was insane. The Exhibition Road Tunnel was first a festival-crowd shuffle, and then closed. Queues at the entrance went round the block. We waited with poor patience for the three people arguing with the guards, flapping our pre-paid e-tickets, until they let. us. in.

I'd taken out my sketchpad in the 3pm queue, to draw the crowd, but on the way in, the No Sketching signs appeared, so the pad had to go back in the bag. No notes. Which is a shame, because halfway round the exhibition I realised something. The exhibition reminded me of a garden. A really specific garden, in fact; grandiose, arty, over-the-top, spectacular, colourful Stourhead Gardens, aka my Mum's favourite day out - with just a hint of Waddeston Manor.

We opened with a huge formal bed of punkish tatters, like a late summer long border which has been deliberately allowed its fall to wither, seed and ruin; that sobering touch of vegetal mortality. Then a formal, understated area of bordered with tailoring; almost practical, but with the hint of exoticism, a kitchen garden studded with plants impractical, poisonous, wrong for our climate. Then the grand rose garden and aviary, with roses and birds vying for attention, all damasks and golds and velvety richness. The the grotto, sinister and ludicrous, dim and cool and shockingly over-decorated, full of bizarre statues looming from the gloom. Then a bright avenue walk through a gallery of floral spectaculars and grand statuary. Then into the stately home, for the gentleman's cabinet of curiosities, the ghostly lady lingering in the hallway, and the glass cases full of dusty treasures from a bygone era. Then the long way out through the tiring rooms and vanities, the past the educational/entertaining dioramas of long dead and semi-theoretical inhabitants of this half fantasy space, and the final walk through the lush and elaborate water gardens.

And then, the gift shop.

I found myself doubly regretting the lack of the sketchpad. Not just because there was far too much to absorb, but because there were gardening ideas here. Lots of ideas. How fortunate, then, that Alexander McQueen, with his predilections for celebrity, spectacle, controversy, offence is (of course) all over the internet. So I've grabbed my scrapbook and started collecting garden ideas from Alexander McQueen.

Follow Jeremy's board Alexander McQueen's Savage Garden on Pinterest.

It's full of ideas for my own garden. Though I will have to work at a rather smaller scale.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Friday, 17 July 2015

next year's tulips

July is here and I am looking out for my Crocosmia and Tiger Lillies (I already have a Calla Lily - the first I've brought successfully above ground, bought on a punt from a pound shop as a single, unpromising-looking bulb, now occupying a pot that's been useless for anything else) but my favourite bulb pusher has already sent me one of her deliciously decadent catalogues showing off the 2016 crop of tulips. Not to be left out, two other catalogues from the usual suspects have joined the pile. And there are some surprises in the pile.

Tulip Absalom, the one that looks like the picture off the front of the front of Tulipomania is priced at a level calculated to recall those heady times. It is beautiful, though. But Tulipa Acuminata (Spider Tulip, Flame Tulip, previously only available from specialists) has also entered the regular market! It's still very expensive and reputedly quite fussy, though - and Tulip Fire Wings might be do similar things, more visibly, and for less money. I'm already too late for my other crazy crave which is Pop Up Yellow, but just as well as this is the most expensive tulip (and also from the looks of it lousy for pollinators).

There are some pretty parrots - I'm especially taken by Diamond Parrot, and after the success of Flaming Parrot, I'm very tempted to try its sunny cousin, Carribean Parrot. On the weird front, the Raven provides with Tulip Purple Tower, which is fringed and green, Big Sun with its sprawled open petals (the bees will love that one) and oh, the velvet purple multi-heads of Night Club are very tempting.

There are also some great colour choices; Blueberry Ripple, the pure white of Tulip Snowstar, blazed blood orange of Tulip Arjuna, pink and yellow Boston,  and the delicate sunset glow of Jenny.

Maybe I already have enough tulips. Or maybe just one collection? Frilly Fiesta Mixed looks good.




Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Leaf by leaf, the Planes return

The savage cutting off of the trees outside our office windows has not improved our working environment. Carefully-placed flip-chart sheets now shade the worst of the sun, instead of green leaves. The window-height birds and squirrels have gone, hopefully to new homes where the trees are as yet unmenaced. But five of the trees were left as trunks, not very tall (they're chopped off a few feet higher than the busstops) and last week this was visible:

hope returns

It's not many leaves, for high summer, but it's definitely leaves. We might even have the first of the next crop of branches showing there, suggesting a rather better shape than the ridiculous fluffy lollipop look (more often seen on municipal limes) I thought might happen.

It'll be a while before they get tall enough to shade the third floor though; if that ever happens again.

Friday, 10 July 2015

other people's gardens - the green in the van

I always been a bit peevish about bud vases in cars. They're a bit flappy; and the flowers are usually fabric, at best. But this bit of in-car greenery is just wonderful:

van garden

It's only a punky little spider plant, but it's well planted, happy in its pot, and the watering tray is keeping it fresh. The green is in the car.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

considering tape and plastic pavilions

We were walking through London to a busstop early in the day and swung by the Serpentine Pavilion 2015. It was so early, we had to wait for the morning film crew to be swept out and replaced by cafe seating. It was already drawing a crowd, some fabulously dressed (top left) others stopping off while walking dogs or children. While some foot-tapped outside the entrance, we sat on the stern stone benches against the yews (top right) and watched the staff wrangle tables and ice-buckets through the translucent walls.

awaiting pavilion awaiting pavilion
circle border tree the glow hangs above
Inside, the struts and the plastic seemed firm enough, but pieces of tape were already stretching and slipping. I watched a very cheerful dog slip straight through a tape wall, and several toddlers deftly prevented from doing the same. Probably best to go see it soon.

My neighbours, next door have done something similar. They've got hold of a vast metal gazebo frame and put it over the patio table, with its umbrella. When they want more shelter, or space for more visitors, on goes the outer layer. It's not as shiny, but the principle's the same.

Which leads me to wondering about next weekend, and my garden party. I'm sure I've seen something similar (albeit on a smaller scale) at Glastonbury built from bent willow and survival blankets. Could it be done?

Friday, 3 July 2015

in praise of municipal dahlias

This the very best time of year for my lovely local park. It's open till 9pm, so if I'm working at the right end of town, I can cut across it on the way home. It's full of people on lazy evening walks, playing in the playgrounds, hanging out by the bandstand or on the grass or the benches under the grand old poplars and copper beeches.

In common with many parks nowadays, the planting is not as dense and intense as it once was. Some of the beds are left unplanted, others have been declared wildflower meadow, and grow chaotic discs of Ragged Robin, Oxeye Daisy and Cornflower.

But right by the old grand entrance, long curvy formal beds persist, punctuated by tidily clipped yew and box; and that's where the fireworks happen.

pink white tipped orange ruffled magnificently fruffled
sun and sunset bright mini dahlia frills and tips
pink, white yellow screaming bright petals on your petals

These miniature dahlias in dashing sorbet colours were buzzing with late bees and hoverflies in the dim of the evening. I struggle to grown dahlias in my garden (slugs strip them right down in about two weeks) so it's good to have some I can go and visit.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

They come to you in barrels if you order them by post

One of my failed missions for Gardener's World Live was to find and purchase ladybirds (in some format or other). Alas, I could buy a hot-tub (and possibly a car?) at Gardener's World Live - but no ladybirds were to be found. To the internets!

Green Gardener will do you all manner of ladybird bundles (and your very own Bumblebee Nest, but I digress) but I opted for the cheapest, as this was strictly in an experimental vein. This turned out to be a great idea! The pack is slim enough to slip through a letterbox:

Ladybirds by post Ladybirds by post

If you're looking at that and thinking, aie, they're a bit tiny, you're right. These are very young ladybird larvae - not the groovy big aphid eating machines you get immediately before pupation. But from tiny larvae, great things may still result. As evening fell, I gently shook one or two onto my blackfly infested broad beans (they're so small, it's a difficult job) as per instructions before heading over to a particularly impressively aphid-infested rose. Here a gust of wind took that annoying, fiddly task straight out of my hands and all over the rose, the ground, and the neighbouring plants.

Oh well.

A week later, the broad beans are still labouring under their blackfly load, the ant-farmers having presumably made short work of the tiny larvae. The rose, although I cannot find any of my larvae, is suspiciously free of aphids.

Ladybirds by post. Approved. Hurrah for the endless appetites of insects!