Friday, 23 September 2016

latebricole: Of an animal, esp. a spider: living concealed in a hole.

September has come to the garden. Mostly I am experiencing this by walking into spiderwebs. With pleasurable synchronicity, OED's Word of the Day has served me up latebricole.

hole in the wall

This hole is not from outside. It's in my veranda, a boxed-in porch that is not quite inside but a great deal more than outside. I sprout plants in their in the spring; in winter I overwinter chillis, even though it's too dark and the temperature swings are too wild.

spider spinning

The spider's webs I'm walking into outside do not belong to a latebricole spider, but to the European Garden Spider, which lives in or near its web, concealed in foliage.

The beast in my veranda is likely a lace-web spider.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

smashed flat by the rain

It's been a rainy June. Of course that's good considering the amount of watering I have to do some years, but of all things, my Amelenchier has been twatted by the rain. All upward-pointing branches are now dangling. At first I thought a pigeon (Amelenchier berries tasty, pigeons are not good at judging their own weight) but then I realised that the branches damaged were those that had been pointing up. I fiddled with a couple thinking about splints, then saw how many branches were damaged and moved onto tidying up.

Other things smashed flat by the rain this year:
  • Opium Poppies. Two flowers, then; smashed flat by the rain
  • Daffodils. Face down in the mud.
  • Tulips: Exotic Emperors, rolling in the dirt
  • Lychnis; Hot pink cut flowers now!
  • Grape Hyacinth: Flopping dismally in their pots
  • Rose Blue Moon: Into the bud vase with you.
Struggling to remember what an Amelenchier is? Meet my (fan) Service Bush:

raindrops in leaves Service Bush
Service bush Service bush

A useful plant, with year round interest. Berries edible rather than palatable.

there's a secret roofgarden outside my office

roof garden roof garden
roof garden roof garden
I can see Sow Thistle, with its usefully shallow roots; Willowherb, which will of course grow anywhere; Jack-in-the-hedge, one of nature's great spreaders, and other wayfaring weeds. Pigeons are sometimes up here, and dust blows in; that's enough to make soil.

I'm only here for a week or so.

Friday, 24 June 2016

June in the Garden

the garden in june the garden in june the garden in june
the garden in june the garden in june the garden in june
the garden in june the garden in june the garden in june

The most beautiful flowers are food for the slugs (actually they don't seem very keen on the foxgloves).

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

notes towards a green wall

My garden is steeply terraced, and the bottom retaining wall is an ugly concrete block affair. My guess is that it was always meant to be finished, but never quite got there. That long-term ambition to green that wall up (unlike household walls, moisture on this wall will be no problem) is curtailed by the lack of light in that tiny space. It'll need to be grotto planting; very tolerant of low light indeed.

notes towards a green wall notes towards a green wall
notes towards a green wall notes towards a green wall

This sunny bank out beside a Boathouse's floating wharf on the Thames has the look I like though - semi-wild, space for the stones between the plants. But I suspect I'll have to swap around species -- Asplenium for the Hart's Tongue, maybe. And should I be putting a loose stone face on the concrete for the plants to peek out of?

I think about it on the way home, past the distractions of June. The house on the corner of my street has old fashioned climbing roses threaded through mature apple trees. The roses are small and apple blossom pink and highly scented, so it raises your head to the flowers as you walk by.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Computer Assistance Cowley's flowershow

My local computer shop does do a lovely job on our computers.

computer assistance cowley

computer assistance cowley     computer assistance cowley
computer assistance cowley     computer assistance cowley

computer assistance cowley

The same care an attention is visible in their front-garden, which is all in troughs and planters, much of it bricked in, so it sits above the Oxford clay (or possibly on top of tarmac). Bright and sunny!

Friday, 10 June 2016

bringing the bonkers back from chelsea

The point of garden shows (if there is one beyond PLANTS=AWESOME) is new ideas, inspiration, discovery. A variety or plant type you were completely unaware of. Something you were aware of, but which turned out to be a lot more exciting in real life. New ways of growing, treating or presenting.Ways or arranging or dividing your outdoor space to make things better.

Inspiration is a wobbly thing. Showgardens are not real gardens. They're somewhere between set designs and giant floral arrangements. The plantsellers all have their own agendas and rules, none of which may have any relevance to your own garden. But nevertheless, the mad gleam. The idea. The spark. I will do and this is such a brilliant idea that nothing could possibly go wrong.

So, let's get the post inspiration job-list started. It's time to get those ideas initiated. I'm bringing back the bonkers from Chelsea:

  1. I will replace all of my boring Aquilegia with exciting ones. I've had a few mysterious and pretty Aquilegia over the years, but all have reverted to good old Vulgaris with its vigorous leaves that outcompete everything, its spreading and self-seeding and its purple and pink flowers. I've bought Blue Star and Nora Barlow seeds to get me started, but I'm after some yellows,oranges and reds too. This will involve weeding out all my current plants, starting a bunch of new ones in trays, weeding out the seedlings that come in the beds as they turn up and eventually replacing with my favoured flowers. Plus the intriguing possibility that they'll all come up pink and purple anyway, because hey, reversion. 
  2. I will torture my fig tree. I have a leggy little (well, it clearly has ambitions - from the size of the leaves it would happily cover the side of a house) fig tree in a smart square pot. But what if I got it out of that pot and into a shallow trough, and exposed some roots for decorative reasons? What if I began to train the branches to a tighter space, and began making carefully considered pruning? Could I get it to a small, tight plant? Would its leaves shrink to match the dimensions its allowed? Because I saw a great Bonsai made of a similarly common and vigorous plant, and if you can do it to a Pieris, I bet you can do it to a fig.
  3. I will make my fern corner into a fern palace. Currently I have a couple of dry ferns and a Tree Fern in poor repair huddled gloomily around the water butt in the shadiest corner of the garden. And a self-seeded hazel because hey, squirrels. But it could be so much better! More moss, better rocks, more carefully chosen plants (maybe some smaller ferns as opposed to the ones that keep outgrowing their pots?) and maybe something over that bare concrete block wall, maybe some sort of fern mosaic, in cool greens, isn't it time you put that mosaicing (sp?) course to use?
Yes, yes yes I know. Steady on now. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

looking at chelsea

It's the fanciest possible garden show, very crowded, and reputedly chock-full of celebrities. But what does it look like? Well, a bit like this:

driftwood fantasies the prettiest pansies
hummingbird ethnography/carnival/floristics
orchid tunnel Harrods English Eccentricity Garden

That bottom right shot is a celebrity; Diarmud Gavin, of the Rusty Shed controversy, pantomiming watering his "English Eccentrics" garden, which he did steadily, throughout the day, at 15 minute intervals. It's not hard to see a celebrity at Chelsea; you just have to wait. Sadly the deficiencies of my camera left him out of shot. and in any case, tripping over celebrities left right and centre quickly palls, as demonstrated by a couple in a one of the queues who had found their trip repeatedly interrupted by Carol Klein being interviewed in front of something they wanted to look at sort of amusing/annoying.

These photos all show the crowds, which are intense but not at Glastonbury levels - you can still see pretty much everything, even though the site is small, densely packed, intense. The orchid tunnel was a shuffle through in single file display, but this was the exception rather than the rule.

More photos, including a garden I really liked and some flowers that caught my attention, including this, the most beautiful plant (which I duly bought).

himalayan blue

Friday, 3 June 2016

spriggy gets his spring trim

It's a moment of slight sadness, Spriggy's spring trim. This year his hedge was gaudied about with Euphorbia, Valerian and Alkanet, and the first flowers were just beginning to break bud. I recorded the pretty flowers and set about with my shears.

pretty weed combo spriggy's spring trim
spriggy's spring trim spriggy's spring trim

This year, I'm growing Spriggy's back up, so in the end I was able to leave a lot of the creamy flowers to thrill the local bees. I'm also lifting the topiary up and away from the hedge ; you can see light under his tail and legs now. Things are looking a little spare and lumpy as a result, but the second cut (after the flowers are done) will smooth things out.

I found the head was looking a tad savage when I was done, so chopped out his long nose. He's now got a bit of a gappy, goofy mouth - and I couldn't resist giving him a tongue of some of the chopped-off Red Valerian.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

hot chelsea takeaways

I took the tube to Chelsea. Not the London tube, the Oxford Tube; the bus that likes to pretend we are just another suburb of Magis Londinium. We rolled off the Tube at Victoria and straight onto the Chelsea bus. a vintage double decker that instantly has you wondering if visitors have been being bussed to the flowers like this since it started (1913). Probably.

It's not huge, Chelsea. You don't need walking boots like you do for some of the other shows (Malvern, I'm looking at you). You're seldom more than five minutes walk from a bar. There are queues, and these are full of people complaining about the judges in chummy voices. But it took someone coming up to me and starting a conversation assuming I was an aspiring garden designer for me to realise just to what extent everyone knew everyone else.

I've been to lots of conventions in my time (comics and science fiction mainly)  and it was amusing to map across the types - the super-fans, the workshop leaders, the eager kids, the grand muffs and the great old ones, the despised and the darlings. There's even a type for us, of course; curious outsiders.

I did enjoy it, and if my partner-in-plants is keen, fully intend to attend next year. But I think I might set myself a task beforehand. With so many people there in the business, working, ligging or shmoozing, I felt a proper slacker for simply attending.

I'll be back with more detail and photographs, but for now, five things I learned at Chelsea:
Plus an insight into my personality; I find greenhouses more interesting than trains, and even if it is a glorious, mint-condition, antique 60-ft Pullman First Class Carriage and dining car stuffed full of marquetry, antiques and mosaics, I will still peevishly mutter that they could have put some plants in it....

Friday, 27 May 2016


Nothing today: I'm at Chelsea

the shoes

Normal service will resume when I am back to normality.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

chelsea coming

I split open the plastic on my Chelsea Guide today. It's quite intimidating. Hundreds of exhibitors, 30+ show gardens, shopping and eating options that run to pages. We're going by bus, and for the first time, and we're not in the target demographic. But still I'm fascinated, in the way that the Proms, or a Wembley Gig, or a classic opera with fireworks or any other huge cultural event is fascinating; people like this, there must be something here.

Of course, it always helps to have some specific aims in mind, too, and we are both taking our trolleys, which hopefully won't be too infra-dig for the Chelsea crowds (did I mention there are seven Champagne bars? there are seven champagne bars, and a caviar bar, which probably also sells champagne), so here are my objectives for the day:
  • Spot a sleb. It's the Gardener's World day, so the forecast should include a good chance of Carol, though I note that the Raven is also attending. If I fail to spot one, I'll declare somebody a celebrity anyway, as there are now far more famous people than I can keep up with and I am sure there will be lots of famous people I don't recognize.
  • Buy a Fuchsia. Fuchsia Jewel Lime, if I can find it, although the boat may have sailed for this year.
  • See all the show gardens. Last year the aesthetic was quite corporate tax avoider millionaire; this year there are hints of something stranger going on.
  • Walk through some floral arches. There's one for the queen, which is apparently based on some high victoriana bobbins, a tunnel of roses and an orchid bower which promises an "authentic rainforest experience" which I suspect means misters
  • Buy a bonsai planter for my miniature Acer - currently it's in a safe and functional black plastic pot (as advised by the Acer Society of ...somewhere? the Midlands I think? when I bought it) and I keep drawing a blank on suitable planters locally - so let's see if I can find any innovative pots.
Other than that I'll take it as it comes. I may Tweet, especially if I see any wildlife; and I suspect my Instagram may do a little scrapbooking on those things which are beautiful, but will never come home with you. Speaking of which, I sorted out my hair:

As a nice bonus, I now have green fingers. Chelsea ready!

Friday, 20 May 2016

blind camera bokeh

The screen on my camera went from unreliable to only working once in a blue moon very fast. This means that if I want to photograph something I need to line things up very carefully. Or just, you know, shove the camera right up against it:


Nigella   Primula

One dim rain-freckled evening this left me straying obliviously into the realm of bokeh, of narrow bands of focus surrounded by accidental but nevertheless pleasurable blur. The fluffy sprigs of Fennel shoots and Nigella buds seemed to take very naturally to this, though my Francisca Primula were too pretty not to join the party.

Service Bush

Pansy   Tulip

The Service Bush continues to gather its drops of water as the berries develop; the pansies are brave in the face of slug onslaught, and my Big Sunny tulips (I cannot recommend these enough, they are beautiful) are starting to look under the weather, but still, as is the way with tulips, are fabulous even while dying.


Dandelion   Tulip

Without the viewscreen, aiming returns to a matter of guesswork and rules of thumb. Subjects lurch up, down; to the side, and those broad expanses of blurred background, the hallmark of the bokeh style, are suddenly more visible, the background foregrounded. I often find (looking back at my photographs) that the hint of background is where the action really is. Look; I had Fuchsia and Petunia hardening off in the greenhouse that day; and I was wearing my brown tropical print shoes...