Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Action stations and a few obsessions

On Saturday I was very happy (and grateful) to have 12 enthusiastic friends come and help on the land. I had been a little nervous about how it would go, as at work we run ‘team challenges’ which are groups of 15+ people who do a one day practical volunteering event and I know how much hard work goes in to the planning, and the actual day its self is the easy bit!
Ganesh is now in pride of place...piece of cake to move a huge lump of carved stone
For about a week I was verbally listing things and disappearing off to the 99p store to buy more gloves, rubble bags etc. Then there was buying lots of forks, Steven bought one during his lunch and carried one back from Homebase in Chelsea (which must have looked very odd) and I carried two back from Peckham (not so odd, but awkwardly heavy). Mum then started to get involved a few days before as the logistics of catering set in and decisions about stew vs chilli were made (we ended up with 3 yummy things) there was also panic buying of gloves and cake.
This is what it was like at the beginning of the day (well almost)
So...when the day came we were ready and as people arrived they enthusiastically set to getting involved. Hannah had a blister on her hand after about 30 minutes, and Helen soon started to get cold as she began to sort the pond and save all the pond snails (the snail gods will be very happy). Sue was fabulous planting up a huge box of about 30-40 sets of roots and dahlia tubers. Nina, Lucy and Hannah have taken the double dug area that my neighbour has taken to as referring to as ‘the swimming pool’ and created a vegetable  garden that could be pictured in a book, I even have onion sets, lettuce and broad beans all planted. Richard and Sam were great at planting things to give structure like a large Schleffera and a few kiwi vines, and Tim and Hannah came to plant some bamboos. Rachel joined Steven in his clearing and now sieving quest.

A path with proper edging, things planted and a load of neatly labelled pots of
things ready to go, it looks like a garden!
Sieving: This has turned in to Stevens’s new obsession as I can’t stop him sieving! It manifested a few weeks ago when he mentioned he wanted a sieve. What I thought was a casual suggestion turned in to something which had been researched, and that he had already checked that they were available at B&Q...this turned in to disappointment with they ‘sold out today mate...more on Friday’ then success when he went off into zone 1. He has now been very patiently sieving away producing earth that was quickly re-used to plant things. When he was still indoors I had a go, and it is actually a lot harder than you think! And I have also been amazed at how much gravel is in the soil. Perhaps he needs to put it to one side to create a gravel garden.
Volunteers: I was sad to get a letter about how Gillian, my NGS organiser, had died. I had met Gillian a few times over cake at local open gardens and she was very friendly and encouraging especially about opening my own garden. I am a passionate believer in volunteering, and without the backbone of dedicated people who give a lot of their time to support NGS and other charities the world would be a rather bleak place.
Recent obsessions: I find it is so easy to get a little obsessed by plants and today’s obsession is Podophyllum, sparked by their mention by Mark and Gaz. I had forgotten what they were called after reading a great blog post by Will Giles, but now I remember I need to buy them now!   
Petasites japonicas is another obsession from this year....I came across them last year in an open garden round the corner where I was told he grew  Butterworts (carnivorous plant, and long lasting obsession) however what he thought were Butterworts weren’t and they were this nice leafy plant. I have seen them in other gardens but they were never labelled, but recently Ifound out their name, and their common name is butterbur. (more info and picture from hereI managed to get one, but haven’t quite got round to getting a proper home sorted (beyond a large pot) which leads me on to my final current obsession


Bog Gardens: I think I am well overdue one as my soil is very dry and plants I have bought that I thought would be ok like Astilboides tabularis really really really not like drying out. So I think the time has come, and with holes appearing in the new land where rubble used to be and levels sinking I think an easy answer is to just get a cheap pond liner and have a go. I am a little unsure of final layouts, but I can always change things round next year and I love the idea of having huge leafed things like Gunnera.

Having a bog garden will also give me the chance to invite people home to come and visit my giant American Skunk Cabbage.


  1. That sounded fun Clive, and look at the result! Many hands working together really do wonders :)

    There are other varieties of Petasites available, including variegated ones. Just be careful, they can be invasive but I found them easy enough to control/weed out. I'm propping a variegated form (Petasites frigidus var. palmatus) and can send you some if you want.

    I also re-use the plastic bag of compost to make pockets of boggy soil, much cheaper alternative to pond liner and just as effective :)

    Love that Ganesh btw!

  2. Thanks! Ganesh was very very heavy! I was very lucky to buy him as he was a random find at Lots Road auctions.

    Thanks for the Petasites tips! lots of people seem to say they wilt easily and to avoid sun, is this right? I was thinking of making a very swampy bog but it will be in bright sun...do you think I should just go for shade?! thanks!

  3. I think if its very swampy then they are more likely to withstand full sun and heat without wilting because of the generous supply (or storage capacity) of water. Gunnera, Skunk Cabbage, Darmerara should be alright as long as you keep the water topped up. Dappled shade is the best, deep shade they go leggy.

    Petasites does wilt easily, they droop midday but perk up with watering and in the evenings. Best in the shade this one :)

  4. The Ganesh looks fantastic. Wow on the food. What great planning. Looks like alot was accomplished in such short time. Keep up the wonderful job.