Saturday, 15 July 2017

kling klang gartenarbeiten

Ever since Ralf Hütter told the Guardian he called his studio his "electronic garden" (Elektronischer Garten?) I've been attempting to track down further evidence that Kraftwerk garden.

Contemporary images of their original studios show a courtyard cheered up by palms and geraniums, but other evidence suggests that this is just festival dress. Normally it is only a courtyard, "just some steps, and an entrance" as Ralf puts it here:


This film contains a little footage from the time, where it looks very much like the electronic garden is a garden made of electronics; there is no greenery, only bricks, posters, machines:


The cheerful containers have begun to brown in this film; the green returning to the city grey. I conclude that probably the BBC had tidied up the courtyard for their documentary, removing tattered pot-plants and untidy garden furniture. Elsewhere I find an elaboration, which makes it clear that the electronic garden elements grow through and around the music-arbeiter:



I can't find out if the new KlingKlang has a garden. The satellite image of the commercial location appears to be of a building with an ordinary-looking back garden, but this is surely a red herring. Notoriously private, Kraftwerk's electronic garden is likely to be concealed behind high misdirectional hedges. Certainly every description of the new studio uses so very much the exact same phrase that one suspects that this wording is provided, promptly, by a lawyer, to anyone who says anything less discreet.

"It's an electronic garden. We like to perform electronic gardening." Hütter, again. This layered acoustic version of an early Kraftwerk track, Morgenspaziergang (that's Kraftwerk's version for comparison)  features real bird song, and a hurdy gurdy and its author (Daniel Mantey) describes a similarly organic approach to the music, trialling, layering, accepting the natural intervention by a songbird:




What sparked this wander through the secret gardens of Kraftwerk's Kling Klang tangled elctrobanks? It was Hütter's response to a question about whether he had marvelled at the speed of technology during his lifetime.

“No. Sometimes it has gone slow. But there’s always a next step or development. It’s a continuous process, more like gardening. There are certain plants that you work on, and others that grow [themselves]. It’s seasonal. That’s how it feels. It’s why I call Kling Klang my electronic garden.”

And wile we are on electronica pioneers, I am reminded of this; Delia Derbyshire's Electric Playground.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

my service bush got bored

Bit of a disaster in zig-zag Habitat pot #1. I started noticing this in the pot. At first I thought it had something to do with ants, but the ants were ignoring this stuff. Then I thought maybe spiders, but it kept piling up, and I never saw anything hatch.

borer beetle in a service bush

Then I noticed that there was an odd depression a little way up the trunk, and that sometimes these things were stuck to it. Hmm. I set off to my favourite gardening forum and google at the same time and discovered that sometimes, just sometimes, a stressed or droughted Amelanchier....

borer beetle in a service bush

can get borer beetle. And sure enough, further up, I found a flight hole, and more frass (it's woodborer frass - essentially excreted sawdust). So I don't know if I have two beetle grubs or one big one with a long track or if there's loads in there, but in summary, bum.

borer beetle in a service bush

I really like my Service Bush. Can it survive? You can't treat this; you can cut out the infested wood but in this case that would be the main stem of the plant; the bush still has leaves and the leaves are still green bar one branch with a bit of die-back. They're noted for their astonishing toughness and tolerance.

It's a watch and wait and mulch and feed and hope kind of situation..

Saturday, 8 July 2017

midsummer in the garden

I would normally light a bonfire for Solstice, but some years it's so hot that anything that might create a spark feels irresponsible. The same nervousness has crept across the city; normally a fug of BBQ would hang in the air every weekend, but this year everyone is reluctant to add heat to heat.

After ten, when it was cool enough, I headed out and made a tiny symbolic bonfire from fallen rhododendron flowers, dropped willow leaves and dried oats:

Solstice bonfire

The cats came out to investigate, tempted by the coolness. Midsummer is also Cat 1's nominal birthday though of course we'll never know for sure (she's the black and white one).

It was too hot for a real bonfire harley and the solstice bonfire

The weekend after I got a proper Solstice celebration in a garden in Cambridge, surrounded by high hedges, with frogs and hedgehogs rustling in the cool deep under them. Every year I go back and the garden has become a little prettier. This year a hydrangea and some heuchera had snuck into a corner, and the front lawn was mostly left as meadow, full of wildflowers

new planting

Two ancient apple trees shade the lawn, and the high hedges enclose the space entirely; but it's under the flight path of small aircraft coming into a local airport, borrowed landscape in the Ballardian style.

High laurel hedges apple tree

Fire in the firebowl and lights in the trees. Happy midsummer!

hands and the fire the confusion of fairylights






Thursday, 6 July 2017

Ten Takeaway Trends from OMGW Live!!!!

There's an official narrative of Gardener's World Live. If you want that you can get that here or over on the i-player. This is not that story, this is just me, visiting OMGW Live, and looking at some stuff, flowers mostly.

White flowers on handkerchief trees fluttered over half the show gardens. but they don't photograph well, especially when you're hanging over a barrier snaking your camera around a dozen other gawkers. So here is Diamond Frost Euphorbia (aka Wolf's Milk!) and a pretty white shredded campanula instead. Icy white petals; a touch of coolness in June. Takeaway one: frosted, shredded, fluttering whites.

euphorbia diamond ice campanula white octopus

Sticking with the cool colours, meet the absolute belle of the floral tent. It was no-where to be seen in the show-gardens, but you can tell when you've got the plant because people keep stopping you to ask what it is/where you got it/congratulate you on getting it before it sold out (this happened within the space of a half-hour wander). Here the delicate ice-blue flowers of Hydrangea Quercifolia Snowflake (NOTE: a) you'll have to tweak your PH and b) this particular var., Fireworks Blue, may be distinct to the nursery) are set off to perfection by a slightly bronzed var. of Astilbe Drum and Bass. Takeaway two: floof and sparkles in dense pastel colours.

the best hydrangea drum and bass astilbe

Sticking with Hydrangeas, see below for Curly Sparkle Hot Pink, which appears to be channelling savoy cabbage. Hydrangeas are sometimes called cabbages as an insult, but here I mean it politely; this looks like the sort of cabbage you'd find in an award winning gastropub next to as tasting rack of artisanal gins. Alongside it, Plantago Purple Perversion,  a showstopping version of the driveway weed. Apparently it both comes true from seed and seeds as freely as its wild cousin,so if you want it, you'll be able to get it. Takeaway three: colourful kinks, rahs and ruffles.

hubba hubba hydrangea perverse plantago

Cooling things down a bit, there were a lot of deliciously variegated shady ladies on show (inside, outside they would have cooked). There's a lot of excitement about the copper, pink and orange heucheras at the moment, but I was drawn to the cool greens of Diamond Splash (below) which I think is a var. of Dewdrops with bigger leaves and pinker flowers. Podophyllum Spotty Dotty was on a few stands and displays, looking stunning. Takeaway four: cool green variegated sparkles and dapples.

diamond splash heuchera spotty dotty spotted again

Show gardens at GWL are a lot smaller than other shows, partly to put them in the achievable zone for us urban gardeners of limited means, but also to show the potentials of small spaces. Here we have a narrow rill made of copper so fresh it looks like rose gold and a decorative cat-sized "path" made of that 70s playground favourite, chipped glass. One's been softened with a naturalistic tumble of wildish planting, the other pimped up with a  classic one-colour border, and both look fabulous. The necessary items may be freely obtained from your favourite online reseller, installed with the help of three Pinterest tutorials, and straight onto your Instagram, boom. They won't last, but that means you can sweep it all up in Autumn and put in something new. Takeaway four: pimped up paths and rills in crazy colours.

believe in tomorrow show garden pink

Keeping it hot and bright, there were some wonderful tropical brights on display. Clivia is your signature plant here, and its hot oranges and popping greens kept on flashing up in the corners of the stands.  Houseplants that go outdoors; brief tropical flashes in our newly hot summers. Green flowers, black flowers, Cannas, Lillies, underplanted with frills of orange geum, yellow epimedium. Hoyland have sold out of Clivias (I helped with that, see bottom right for a loot shot) but the look is cheap and easy; acid brights are often available from your local supermarket. Takeaway five: the conservatory has invaded the garden.

LILY it's a geum.
exotic foliage Clivia and peruvian lily

Time to cool down with some delicate danglies, earring-like, jewellery plants, small and pretty in semi-precious pale shades. Down below we have Corydalis China Blue, Phygelius Moonraker, Foxglove Lutea and pretty little Dicentra Formosa Aurora. These will all mound monstrously, creating huge brushstrokes of barely-there colour, and were well represented in the border displays. Takeaway six: drop-pearl perennials in hint-of-a-tint shades.

beautiful blue I choose you!!!
Digitalis lutea dicentra formosa aurora

Gemma (the Pelargonium, below) was sold out. The other thing was nameless, in a show garden, and I didn't get a list. But that's the point of bedding. You don't go looking for it thinking, hmmm, I think I'll get some variegated dwarf daisies in burgundy and white today! It's see what looks good and take it home, schemeless gardening. I love the the sport varieties, the allsorts; the mutants and the accidents. Takeaway seven: mutaciously flakey bedding with bright sport colors.

pretty gemma dazzling dahlias

Although you don't have to get varietal to get the colour popping. Psychedelic colour-pops also come in species varieties, bee-friendly and eye-wateringly bright. You don't even have to use many plants, although that was certainly the case for the 50 Years of Colour Border (top right); but the brightest, boldest combination I saw all day was in the plant village where someone had stacked Ladybird Poppies over Sea Holly. You can even do it on a single plant (see bottom right, and provide me with an identification if you can). Takeaway Eight: is a marvellous magical multicoloured mind-blowing bee buffet.

psychedelic border marigold mayhem
ladybird poppies phacelia and bee

We loved this garden. Everyone loved this garden. But I'm stepping over the fancy walls and lovely, insect-friendly features and delicate, frothy planting to make a beeline for the moss paintings. We've all drooled over green walls and sadly concluded that outside of the contemporary hi-tech millionaire residence, it's not going to happen. But a lift-on, lift-off living garden picture? Now you're talking. Expect them in IKEA next year, with a clever pour-in watering system, safe plastic backing, and a selection of plants in the frame, because moss is lovely, yes, but vulnerable to browning. Maybe a nice tough begonia with a flashy leaf like Rocheart (below right). Takeaway nine: living paintings in a self-watering frame.

moss pictures rocheart

How to choose for the final takeaway? We spent a quantity of time questing for ferns, marvelling over Maples (so many maples!), I bought a run of unusual seeds from Pennards (this time fancy Broad Beans, as they grow happily in my garden) and discovered Encliandra Fuchsias, which have incredibly tiny flowers and absurdly adorable names. But for the final takeaway, I'm going to go 100% unapologetic hipster. It's surely another 80s revival item; don't I remember a ?dead airplant in a seashell filed next to my pet rock, pet log and gonk? Anyway, the return of the airplant (these are from Craftyplants) has been triumphant. You can keep an airplant anywhere, college room to coffin flat. It doesn't need space and if it gets knocked around by the cat a bit, neither plant not cat will suffer. You can primp and fuss them, and they might flower for you, but equally you can just pop it in a mug of water every now and then, and it'll still look good. The 21st Century airplant comes in a variety of exotic spikey and tentacular shapes, and accessorises well with a fancy concrete geometric planter, but that one on the bottom right, I went old-skool and popped it in a seashell. Still looked good! Takeaway ten: airplants, not just for when pot plants are too much effort and your lifestyle precludes gardening, but certainly helpful under those circumstances.

yes air plants

A few more photos from the day here.

Friday, 30 June 2017

the buildings are becoming a shrubbery

In the centre of town, the buildings are sprouting. In the rich moist pollution-fertillised muck that gathers in every crack and crease, in the turds of pigeon and jackdaw, the seeds and scraps that have blown in on the wind from the untended banks and sidings, from the municipal planting and formal gardens, from the private spaces and public places, have put out happy roots and exploded into unruly life.

Lloyds green frontage

This ridiculously blousy building, veiled in anti-pigeon nets, and covered in fancy carvings, is doing particularly well, with a smart, glossy-leaved shrub sprouting from a high balcony, and the usual buddleia sprouting from a drainpipe. All along every ridge and wiggle, weeds are sprouting; happy sow thistles and dandelions. The anti-pigeon spikes create a punkish echo of the plants; nature is unwelcome here, but nevertheless invading; uprising; over-taking.

Lloyds green frontage

This time of the year, you turn your back on a plant, it grows. Everything disappears under wild green tumbles, precious plantlets smothered under wild swathes of geraniums and raspberries and passion flowers and hollyhocks and ivy and vines.

Or, at any rate, that's whatt's going on out back here, right now.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

the windowsills have gone a bit Pinterest

Among the various purchase opportunities at GW Live were some people selling air plants. They had some beauties, on a three for one deal, and although admittedly I have no more space on my windowsills (see below) I somehow came home with three.

pinterest windowsill

This is the windowsill before the new arrivals. As you can see, one of these pots is not like the others. But the ramekin will hold it until I find it a little concrete cylinder.

pinterest windowsill fail

I already had airplants. I had three, because they seem to attract 3-for-a-deals. Now I have six, including some Spanish moss. I should really look up how to care for that. Everything else gets a fortnightly dunk, usually for twenty minutes but once I forgot, and they soaked for more like five hours.

Nothing died. That's airplants for you.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

let your privet hedge flower

I found some privet, self-planted in a semi-hedge by the tow-path. Some of its leaves had a spatter variegation, virus, mutation or reaction to stress? It's hard to tell. A softwood cutting from the variegated branch might yield good results. Or it might blight my existing hedge.

let your privet flower

When I moved into my current house and found a privet hedge out front, I couldn't believe my luck. I saw topiary, year round green, and a corner of my mind whispered stick insect food though to be honest, with cats and cacti I hardly need the responsibility of live insects too, no matter how exciting.

What I didn't see was curds of fluffy white flowers dripping pollen and oozing nectar, fat bees crawling over them and pollen beetle speckles like a sprinkling of black sesame seeds. I didn't even know that Privet bloomed; I had it as some kind of municipal hedge, competently sterile; a living barrier of the tidiest kind, a bare one-up from camouflage nets and astroturf.

let your privet flower

But left to its own devices, Privet will do this, So now, every year, I leave the top of Spriggy Stardust, my topiary chameleon, fluffy and floriferous. The scent of the flowers is a little bit generic, like a hay-meadow crossed with a fancy air-freshener, but it pulls in the bees and the hoverflies and the butterflies and the beetles.


Spriggy in flower
Flowers in my topiary. Happy June.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

spare a thought for the disappeared of gardener's world

I went to Gardener's World Live last weekend (on which more later) for the Saturday show, when mostly the party is over and the celebs have been tidied away (so much for my hopes of seeing Flo Headlam!). I'm assured that I saw both Joe Swift and Carol Klein although I was so excited by the presence of an affordable Clivia I barely noticed (sadly it was the old dude on the stall, not the dewy darcy-esque nurseryman in the clip, but DAMN what a flower).

I did manage to remember it was the 50th anniversary of Gardener's World on the day (there were a few colossal hints about the place so no great boast there) but it didn't really hit home until I watched the show on Sunday (I'd saved it both to avoid show spoilers and because there's nothing more satisfying than being given jobs for the weekend way too late to do anything about it) and they got together all the people who'd presented Gardener's World in the through-the-decades show garden to wave champagne around and smile nervously at the camera.

Except that no whoah hey, they really hadn't. A whole bunch of really quite significant players were conspicuously absent from the party, while a set of vaguely familiar pale males in variable states of beard had been added in, irrelevantly. So, let's briefly celebrate the missing, the absent, and list the crimes for which they were forever absented from the sphere of the "Nation's Head Gardener" as apparently we must now call Monty.

Chris Beardshaw

Monty came from a non-horticultural background, and originally experienced gardener and promising young presenter Chris Beardshaw was brought in to add some expert chops and blue-jean charm to the show. They made for a memorable two-header (you can see some clips here -- How to build a raised bed really captures the spirit of those shows) carving up DIY jobs between them with very realistic tension and occasional biting sarcasm. An episode where they built a rustic pergola together was something of a turning point and later Chris was sacked - officially for breaking the terms of his contract with the BBC by appearing on a C4 reality show whose subject matter was a bit too garden.

Sarah Raven

The Raven came in during Monty's outreaching years as a foil to Carol Klein.  Where Klein was the great plant-pincher, propagating obsessively, pricking and taking cuttings and dividing, the Raven grew flowers straight and tall and chopped them down again; the wire mother to Carol's earth mother. Her straight lines, stern approach and floral obsessions recalled the old guys, the Percys of this world. But the mistress of the cutting garden's days were  numbered. In the aftermath of Monty's stroke, the women took over the show for a memorable, marvellous and sadly brief run. When it was rebooted with the Hobbit in charge (Toby Buckland, who was disappeared in person but mentioned and shown in a black-and-white photograph, as if he were sadly deceased) the Raven was booted orf. Her burgeoning commercial empire of floral delights was cited as the official reason, but looking too professional next to Buckland may also have been a contributory factor.

Alys Fowler

Possibly the most comprehensively disappeared of all the co-presenters, you would struggle to find out that Alys Fowler had ever appeared on Gardener's World at all, were it not for the sad peeps from the forum ghosts that miss her chaotic hair and enthusiastic approach; at once intellectual and possessed of a hands-on vigour that defied her slender frame. She was also young (a fabulous rarity among presenters in general) which gave her a nervous edge familiar to anyone who has taken on a new allotment and has been surrounded by the leonine eyes of leathery veg-veterans staring, waiting for the perfect moment to skewer your first-season efforts with a devastating barrage of monosyllabic so-called "advice". Her crime was at once the most simple and the most profound; she was the man behind the curtain, the head gardener's actual head gardener - pardon me, botanical researcher - and the living embodiment of the old adage, a woman's work is invariably claimed by a man. Hoiked out in front of the camera by Monty, she was hoiked off again as Monty returned post-recovery, presumably to the dulcet tones of The Human League: don't forget, it's me who put you where you are now, and I can put you back down too-oo-oo-oo.

The irritating Telegraph term for the anchor of Gardener's World, the Nation's Head Gardener, was repeated with SEO-optimised monotony throughout this slot in the programme. There is a patrician obnoxiousness about the title, placing your viewers as your undergardeners, and displacing the person who actually does that job, who won't call themselves the head gardener, because this particular moneybags wants to be able to boast to the other moneybags, we decided not to get in a head gardener, and did it all ourselves.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Morton's Courtyard Garden Oxford

Oxford is of course an intensely green city. Parks, rivers and canals edge a green tideline up to the city centre edge, but inside this space colleges, quads and fellows gardens predominate, and these are private or limited access. But here are there are little patches of green, plants and sky open to the public; pub back gardens, churchyards, and little scraps of land behind (or sometimes above!) cafés.

This is Mortons Courtyard off Broad Street, just visible down a tiny passageway from the Street.

morton's courtyard

The planting is quite simple; a vigorous vine to green and shade, clumps of easy-growers mixing it up with weeds in stony corner beds, ferns on the walls. From time to time they put in a few more things, or hack back the vines a bit, but otherwise it's pretty much left to its own devices.

morton's courtyard morton's courtyard

The gravel is somewhat invaded, and the remnants of bedding popped in to brighten things in early spring stick around, softening the space and making it feel lived in and relaxed.

morton's courtyard morton's courtyard

We're only visiting of course; the pigeons are resident, and they will come and tamely beg crumbs, bumbling around by your feet. Just visible above you can see another garden, a roof garden this time. This is private, college or otherwise inaccessible, sadly; it looks interesting.