Wednesday, 31 May 2017

wildlife gardening (kind of)

Yesterday I found a bee jammed in the middle of one of my blue geranium flowers. I thought it was dead (in fact I'd grabbed my camera in the hope of recording slow consumption by crab spider) but actually it had been robbing the nectary and had got its proboscis stuck. Seriously, bee?

I freed it with a twig, but um I think it might have been stuck for a bit too long. I'm really not sure what bee it was. It was very small.

bee tragedy freed bee

Rather more excitement the day before. Yeah, that blur is a HUMMINGBIRD HAWK MOTH. I watched it go through the Red Valerian floret by floret. I'm not going to weed the drive now. The Red Valerian stays.

We didn't see any tadpoles in our tiny water planters this year. Still plenty of snails.The oxygenating plants have died and the Horsetail Reeds have outgrown their space. But then there was this guy, chilling in the afternoon sun.


Saturday, 27 May 2017

small public garden space in jericho

Spotted on my way through Oxford's Jericho neighbourhood yesterday; a space that used to be all weeds and brambles has been cleared, replanted and three log seats added. It's hard to say if it's official or not, but it's certainly a tiny community garden. It's here, and from the look of it, it's been gardened long enough for the Google Streetview car to have seen it. But it's new to me.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

may in the garden

fuchsia space shuttle petunia damson ripple Erigeron

floxglove florets late narcissi final tulip collapse

rock achillea pansy blue whiskers the overgrowth
The seasons are colliding in the garden with the last of spring (tulips, narcissi)  runing into summer stalwarts like fuchsia and foxglove, and the first flowers turning up on the summer bedding. I took these on a dim evening after a rainstorm, when everything was almost audibly growing.

And there is also this. MECANOPSIS!!!!

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Vert, near King's Cross

So, on my way to a meeting, I found this. It's here. You can actually have quite a good look at in on Google Maps (that's what the link is) but I've put some of the planting detail below.

Vert, King's Cross

Vert, King's Cross Vert, King's Cross

Definitely an apple tree in one of those battleship-grey dazzle angular wall planters. It's a green wall alright - and just as dependent on its irigation system, which was visible in the lower planters - but not a regular, commercial-district type green wall. This had more of an ostentatious municipal feel, the glory of dramatic urban planning sinking deep into the finer details.

Vert, King's Cross Vert, King's Cross

The artist, Neil Ayling,  does not seem to put plants in his sculptures very much. Mostly they are angular, gravity-defying collapses of cityscapes into eyebending flying structures; concrete and graffiti folded up like origami.

There must be other sculptures out there which would also make excellent planters.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

everything's growing

It doesn't take much, at this time of year, for a plant to start growing. A scrap of soil, a pinch of dirt, a seed, and then trees are growing on downpipes and Herb Robert is growing absolutely everywhere.

downpipe shrubbery pipework garden

The same is happening in my garden, and here and there a weed is growing so vigorously it's killing my favoured, loved, purchased plants, I try and take a philosophical view (after all, most weeds have flowers too, and the bees don't care) but it's actually infuriating to watch a border revert to an Alkanet monoculture, or Mediterranean herbs collapsing as their pots come under the demands of Marguerites and Willowherbs.

De-weeding a pot is a bit of a trial. I often end up knocking the plant out of the pot altogether and disentangling the roots, pinching out vine weevils as I go, replanting with freshened compost.

It's probably a terrible shock to their system.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

tiny hipster gardens

Gardens on a grand scale seem to be featuring quite a bit on my regular gardening programme at the moment. The glorious widescale plans of the rich and retired are of course the mainstay of any gardening programme's subject matter (and audience, for that matter) but right now I'm craving small gardening stories, fitted into the cracks of busy lives.

This lady's apartment is quite fun. I love the humidifier. Can you imagine that in a gloomy UK house? Black. Mould. Everywhere.

This gentleman's tiny rooftop patch is full of random crap he's dragged back from charity shops, which is obviously brilliant. His inspiration for creating a dreamy urban green space? The relentless stares of his neighbours.

This one screams new tech money. The automatic garden door, the clever decrypting of the internal space, the ladder to the secret succulent clubhouse. Also, I suspect the presence of a smugly giggling irrigation geek, though I'm not sure we get to meet them in the clip.

Finally, a balcony wrapped firmly in the relentless grey pollutant dust of reality. Solar powered fairy lights, tiny windowboxes, and the distinct impression of having been "given a lift" by a quick trip to the supermarket for a budget pack of mixed herbs and petunias. The comments section is full of discussion of the gentleman's sexuality, which I initially thought was missing the point, but a peek into somebody else's back garden is always a little intrusive, a little bit about seeing a bit of somebody's unguarded life.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

a bunch of super-posh fancypants frilly lilacs

In my local museum, there is a sort of posh top floor, full of fancy paintings by fancy painters. They're all very nice, and here and there are very nice bits of pottery and suchlike, fancy sculptures and dishes and spoons and tea-pots. It rotates a bit in content, and last time I was up there, I found this odd picture of a very nice doily-clad lady casting a contemptuous glance back at her host's collection of tropicana while delicately holding aloft that most British of flowers, a bunch of lilacs. Or maybe she's averting the streaming eyes of hayfever. It's hard to tell. The pose is awkward, the expression unreadable. Among the usually plodding and foregrounded symbolism of the pre-raphaelites, this one stands out like an awkward snapshot. You can almost hear the photographer directing her -- drop your head a bit more, and the lilacs, a touch higher!

a bunch of lilacs

a bunch of lilacs     grumpy birds
arts and crafts lady     against the window

The painting is by Tissot, and so is the winter garden, although he may have exaggerated the size of the conservatory slightly. He was a fabulously fashionable painter at the time, and served iced champagne to his guests in his wildly renovated fashionable London house while scenesters flirted in the fancy garden. Some of his grander knick-knacks are visible behind our lady, sadly rendered nameless by the passage of the years, and I've included some of the more interesting ones on view in the gallery, along with the caption from the painting.

Her awkward pose and pastel colours make her look like a Dresden figurine caught in the jaws of the tropical house, static, chaste and ultimately unmeltable by the urgency of the tropical heat behind her. Or is she? Like many of Tissot's paintings, there is a suggestion of lewdness, here in the Lot's wife pose, the reflective floor and the expressions of the hands and face, almost as if at any moment frills and lilacs both might drop to the floor, and Eden reclaim the fine lady.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

In praise of Judas tree flowers

Today, going through London, I was struck  by the presence of so many trees bearing hot pink flowers clustered along their trunks. What tree is that? I thought, never having noticed it before. It's possible I never travelled through the right sort of place at the right time of year, but equally possible that the trees have not flowered so enthusiastically in some years. The weather has been strange. Some years just suit a plant.

So, allow me to introduce Cercis siliquastrum, the fabulous Judas Tree, a useful smaller tree popular with pollinators. There are the usual run of explanations from the name, but my favourite is the explaination that fruit and flowers hang directly from the trunk, like tiny suicides.

Judas tree flowers

canopy with petals     fallen petals

We found one in a sunny square in London, and I took enough photographs for confident identification. The tree was humming with bees, and so were the fallen blooms on the ground. Presumably the flowers stay sweet enough long enough to make that worthwhile.

Spot the bee! Clue - it's dead centre.

bee and fallen petals

Sadly I don't have space for one of these at home (I have a Service Bush in my useful graceful smaller tree space) but if you do, it's a good one. In the autumn there's bright colour and dangling seed pods; and the branches are elegant in shape.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

I can grow ANYWHERE!!!!!

crack mimulus

A tiny Mimulus, dwarfed by the crack its seed has grown in, has produced this gorgeous full-sized flower. Not my garden; outside one of the many unnerving B&Bs that haunt our area. Looks like Mimulus Mystic Cream, wouldn't you say?

Too bad it won't last, but then again in the world of seasonal bedding plants, nothing does.