Friday, 30 September 2016

give me candy

pavement collage

The pavement by Quaking Bridge, in Oxford, just behind the Castle complex, whether by deliberate public art or unauthorised intervention, breaks up its moss garden with patterns and candy.

pavement collage

Thursday, 29 September 2016

utopian garden dreams

My utopia is a garden. Green in the house, green outside. Trees interlacing the houses, moss underfoot. Wecome to Utopia by Design, London Bienniale 2016.

Please, sit on the art.

social space/fun mirror self reflection and solidarity

Please, marvel at our irrigation techniques. And also, sit on the art.

irrigation models tim spinning

Please, take our precious water, sit by our electronic campfire.

water machine malfunction digital campfire

Please, enter our woodlands. You can choose whether or not to fear the sky.

Taiwanese eatopia am i?

Do enjoy our garden furniture. You cannot take it home with you.

Parawifi cube looking for the price tag

Admire our ladder. You cannot climb it, for it is out of reach.

out of reach ladders Shenzhen New Peak

Like your astonishing future.

Saturday, 24 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.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

scaffolding modesty forest

The works are in at St James Park, but they've drawn a veil across proceedings, tidily printed with a backdrop of leafy trees:

A veil of trees

A veil of trees

Wait, that's not just a backdrop, is it? It's the backdrop; St James Park printed onto its own scaffolding-cosy.

That's fancy.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

cancer year

One's dead, one's dying, and one has just been diagnosed. 2016 is my cancer year, and I can't keep pretending it isn't happening. So I went to see a fresh-from-the-fringe black comedy show about cancer diagnosis and recovery, hauled out my black clothes, and left the grapes to rot on the vine, and the willow leaves to build up in a thick mulch on the patio.

Cancer Gardens, full of lilies and roses, and pretty froths of baby's breath, are a feature of garden shows. Sponsored by Macmillan, or insurance companies; I walked through one once, where you passed through a dark narrow space as if stepping through a crematorium, to emerge into a frothy white and pink paradise on the far side. I didn't like that garden. I'm still young enough, or restless enough, or angry enough to find the fictions of in a better place, or at rest now horrible, dishonest and cruel.

That black mulch, the rot, that is the real stuff of death and the most honest kind of rebirth. When a much-loved friend unexpectedly became the first in my social group to die of cancer, a few years back, I took the day off work, unable to cope with the awkwardness of crying at my desk (I'm less bothered by that now).

At home, alone, at a loose end, I looked out into the garden and thought about digging or cutting something - hard, physical work-through-it work. But then realised I  hadn't attended to the compost bin in a while, and spent the rest of the day up to my knees in worms and filth, crumbling old eggshells and fishing out those premium tea-bags that never compost properly. 

Now that's what I call taking consolation in your garden.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

very late tomatoes

I'm just starting get some tomatoes now. Not really sure what went wrong, except there was that dull weather in June, and the greenhouse is now much more shaded between the willow tree (now massive) and the raspberry patch (now also massive). The flavour is also bad, dull compared to previous years. Part of this might be that the varieties I planted this year were harvested mostly from seeds I took from particularly good tomatoes the year before ( a small heritage yellow with potato-style leaves, good for my low light situation) and a packet of Krims I got free from a garden show, and some Pennard seeds which I've had about the place for rather too long.

But I'm also wondering about my approach. I've been growing in tomatoes in old recycling boxes, on the grounds that I had some around the place, and I've noticed that there has been more leaf, fewer fruits, and a huge tangle of overgrowth  that excludes pests and pollinators alike. I think I'll dump them next year and revert to grow-bags and see if things improve.


I've also done less pinching I suspect than I should. There's this thing they say about pinching which makes no sense whatsoever where you are told to pinch out the side shoots so all of the plant's energy goes into the fruit. What? Leaves make energy for a plant, surely the fewer of them you have (as a result of pinching out) the less energy a plant has?

But I think I can see an alternative explanation. You pinch out the shoots, so the plants water swells the fruit preferentially in order to fruit well, rather than scaffolding up more leaves in anticipation of a perennial life that will never come. You reduce the foliage to allow pollinators to get in to set the fruit and sun to get in to ripen it.

This makes perfect sense, and I rather wish people provided that explanation than the "energy" one. I'm looking at you, Monty Don.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Oxford City centre gardens to Woodstock Road the green way

I took the long way up to Woodstock Road, because it was a nice day, and hey, Pokémon, which involves going up the canal, across the footbridge into Jericho, an area which used to be canal slums, then a boho area where lots of my friends lived in dilapidated, chaotic house-shares, but which is now a fantastically expensive area full of cleverly renovated miniature terraced back-to-backs and overpriced new-build flats which vibrate to the sound of the passing trains, then take the university (Blavatnik School of Government)  architectural (Radcliffe Observatory) fireworks (Andrew Wiles Building) cut-through, before finally emerging at the bottom of Woodstock Road opposite the Royal Oak.

This takes you past some very different garden approaches. At the start, you're walking past the oldest permanent narrowboat moorings in Oxford. The moorings are fully serviced and the boats have gardens, hedges, terraces, and a happy population of friendly, well-fed cats (as above). There are always good plants growing. Then you move through the warm streets of Jericho, where houses open directly onto the roads and many houses have no gardens; a world of small municipal trees and bare-rock invaders like Valerian, Stonecrop, and Buddleia, which sprouts from every unattended crevice, blown over from the railways. Then the emerging architectural innovation display area which is the ROQ - the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter -  where empty spaces are steadily being appropriated for astonishing buildings and green spaces punctuated with learning-appropriate artpieces, like the shiny silver tree in a freshly-planted Silver Birch grove shown above.

I wonder if the gardeners will wash the Silver Birches to match to art?

Thursday, 8 September 2016

season of sadness and street fairs

September in Oxford is an intake of breath. The crackle of the academic year starting up is just beginning, and there is an air of excitement over the city, even as the first colour begins to seep into the trees and the flowers begin to blow over. There is a sense of the work of the next year lining up, ready to take you.

We mark it with a fantastically disruptive street fair, right in the middle of town, on the first two working days of September, under the yellowing plane trees and among the fading hanging baskets.

No loading

I tend to visit in my lunch hour and usually I play the Supa Froggit Game, but over the years the endless malleting of the rubber frogs have degraded them first to leglessness, then unrecognisability, and this year I guess they had gone beyond the pale. So I played Poo in the loo (above) instead. I won an emoji poo, which felt very 2016. The kitten loves it.

As is often the case, the work of the year has come tumbling in with a crash. Summer is over, and real life begins, with all the tragedy and difficulty that entails. Farewell summer, sing it out, the Colourfield.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

bars on the pavement, one-two-three

shadow ladder

This fancy ironwork is outside an old school just down the road from where I work. A proper fence should throw a shadow that feels like a barrier when you walk through it, the bars striping your legs.

railings/nonslip paving shadows, steps

It should create a net of shadows or vivid brushstrokes of dark and light:

frost on the bridge ironwork shadows

It should define the space it divides.

net of shadows

Thursday, 1 September 2016

so I got some new garden kit at the weekend

Just looking at this photo, the under-blanket's the wrong way up! I righted it before I started.