Saturday, 29 July 2017

new cuttings containment device

IKEA think that this is a spice rack. They're clearly mistaken though, it's for starting softwood cuttings. It's called a RIMFORSA and also comes in supersized, which would work well for things that need a bitt more leaf space.

the cutting tubes

The problem cactus is trying to escape again. I gave it a bigger pot and still it runs away from it, sprouting a new segment, complete with rootlet. Where will it end?

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

a garden where there is no garden

Some of the best gardens, the very best gardens are ephemeral intrusions into places where there was no garden before.  Theses things are not "the right plant in the right place". They are not built with a mind to legacy or how the garden will become. They are all out invasions, the march of the green into a place it neither belongs nor is welcome.

Here is one made of sound and containers of greenery. from this emerges the first rule; the green must drown the space. A few pots are not enough. There must be a forest.

Garden State - Venice Biennale from kling klang klong on Vimeo.

This one below is Marmaza, an anarchic collection of privately owned plants that have been liberated from their owners and brought together as is for a warehouse rave for plants. For this one, the plants could be moved by the visitors, as if they were dancers in the space. The large one must have presented some challenges, mind. Maybe they laid on some hoists, sack trucks and a block and tackle. From this one comes the second rule; the green must do something other than just stand there and be pretty, the garden must have urgent, ungovernable and exotic purpose.

Our very favourite green invasion space, the Southbank Concrete Garden, is closed for renovation. All across the walks around it at the moment, posters are fixed to trees decrying the horrible, unpopular, aggravating and endlessly reflung plan to overclose, enclose and de-public the space, lock the people's concrete palace under hi-tech private glasshouses. Sod that for a game of soldiers.

wheelbarrow deckchair Happy anniversary

From this emerges principles third. fourth and final.

Third: The space must live and change. It is not a permanent installation, though it may be (as Southbank is) always a garden.

Fourth: It must invite exploration, experience and interaction. You must be able to dwell in it, bear in the wood or adam and eve, a mole in a hole or a rat in a can. Whatever is is you must be able to crawl into it and sit, relax, enjoy.

Final: The space must be accessible.  

Saturday, 22 July 2017

the wall in the garden at twilight

Oxford University History Faculty Gardens aren't even mentioned on their website, even though you must be able to hire them, as I've seen various shows and art events there. Most recently I went to see a rather rambunctious Much Ado About Nothing (even by the standards of that play - I ended up pressed into service as one of the watch) and for once was there before sundown and could snap a few dim photographs.

the raised garden

This is a bastion of Oxford's old city wall, a medieval (albeit somewhat repaired and improved over the ages) structure. The inside has been left full of soil, and the top grows wild, under the watching windows of St Peter's College next door, built at a rather higher level than this garden, which feels curiously and delightfully secret and sunken. Toadflax and other wall pioneers festoon the old stone, and a blocked window stares blindly out onto the lawn.

wall flowers History Faculty Garden
a dark doorway View up to another level

The step up into St Peter's modern buildings is a sharp one, as you can see from the planting here. The city wall was excavated when foundations were being built for the Wesley Memorial Church in the late 1800s and the garden retains that sense of secrets uncovered, of finding something exciting and just keeping on digging.

The mysterious black gate leads out into Bulwarks Lane, a  narrow cobbled alleyway. The other side of the gate is daubed as usual with graffiti. I power down that alleyway a lot as it's a good cut-through from my office to one of my favourite cafes, but it's not one to linger in, for all the secret spaces of green just behind its walls.

lights strung in the trees

For the performance, lights had been strung in the young lime tree in the garden, echoing the green fruits ripening in its branches. It's been a year for trees flowering and fruiting very heavily; either an indication of plenty or panic. As ever, with plants, their responses are hard to parse.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

an unlikely resurrection

I was a bit sad when I discovered my Lantana is an obscure corner last November, dead from a frost. Normally I hoik it into the greenhouse. But they're a cheap buy, as they grow easily anywhere warm enough (I remember a friend laughing and telling me they grow by the road, and are just a weed) and so I wasn't so sad, and just filed the pot in a corner until I found its next occupant.

It lives!

The warm and humid summer has worked its magic, and the plant has resprouted from its base. It's a bit of a tentative shoot, but let's see what a bit of sun and water will do for it. 

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.