Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Herne Hill via Bali

I have been through a couple of very hectic gardening weeks and come out victorious (I hope).
As the end was almost in sight (one way or another) I have moved from just gardening at weekends to the odd weekday evening, and then the odd day off. No more do I have a greenhouse full of etiolated seedlings needing to be set free, no more do I have urgent patches of ground to clear, no more do I have a huge to do list.
Pond area all dug over and planted up, proper RHS textbook stuff!
This is a great relief as nearly all areas of the garden are now planted up with a lot of bedding type stuff..... I’ve put in a huge amount of Ricinus communis, Tithonia, Nicotiana, Dahlias, Zinnias, sunflowers and Mirabilis. Lots of tropical Salvias and stuff in the eating garden from brassicas to lettuces which we are now eating a lot of.  We even have a pumpkin terrace!

Pumpkin terrace...all a bit pre Cinderealla as it will look fab once they get going as they will spread everywhere
Lots of red and orange in the garden this year...I’m more of a big leaf jungly person than the twee cottage garden type, but last year we were a little lacking in colour. Colour in the tropical garden needs to be carefully managed as I do think less is more with flashes of vibrant colour, or odd flowers far better than a bank of nodding blooms. I do like vibrant colours but hope I’m not heading for a scarlet, pink and orange standoff....if so I can always say I am like Christopher Lloyd and ‘ignoring all the rules’

This week I have been completely obsessed with a book I stumbled accross, Tropical Garden Design by Made Wijaya. Such a good book and exactly my taste! I’m torn between trying to read and devour it all as fast as I possibly can, and drawing it out so it lasts longer.  In essence Made is a very successful and famous tropical garden designer but based, and probably most strongly influenced by Bali. In a way it’s a bit of a coffee table book as it has a lot of beautiful pictures and good ideas, including a lot of Bali style gardens but it is a lot more as it outlines design principles easily and simply. Go and order the book immediately!

Random Bali picture....i so need a holiday

Yesterday I ended the weekend by visiting three local NGS gardens in Herne Hill/Brixton: Half Moon Lane and Brixton Water Gardens.  All were very beautiful and interesting...not as intimidatingly hard core NGS as the previous Herne Hill one I had seen a few weeks ago, but all very worth visiting.
First one all very lush..cant quite decide if the hosta goes with the tree fern?
The first was a bit like gardening by numbers as the owners had the garden properly designed about 4 years ago and it was immaculate with the good design showing through. Although set in busy London it was like being in the countryside as it was green as far as you could see. Good lessons about having very thick borders as they completely hid the boundary fences.
I need a new pond which will look like this

This picture is especially for the inlaws to show how their garden could look if the back bordher was 10ft deep and not 2!
The second two were linked, with one focusing on tea and cake, which was a bit of a shame as it was also a nice garden but mostly hidden by the tea tent! These two were opening for the first time and you could feel the enthusiasm and joy about them. Great, well used gardens, and very ‘real’.

Giant snail shell...this was the last of the species, sacraficed to make a great bench and talking point

I thought this very sweet, Steven has banned me from doing the same so i need something else to hang in the trees, am wondering about cats or babys in those bouncer things...
I was particularly enamoured with the vast amounts of cake being served up by the kids in a large Indian tent. I assume it was their mother who was then very politely wandering around the gardening trying to collect and wash very lovely proper bone china tea cups...bliss!

Tea tent surrounded by very happy people full of cake! they are all so fat from cake that many people were unable to move for several hours

Thursday, 12 May 2011


Last week my lovely friend Sue, the queen of Bermondsey, gave me the gift of a gnome, as she felt it would go really well with the design of the garden.....

The said creature...small, defenceless, cute?

Gnomes are very helpful for lots of things, this gnome was great as hardcore for this new paving slab
Gnomes are odd things, originally from Germany, and embedded accross northern Europe folklore but brought out in the open in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I think garden gnomes are mainly an English eccentricity although they do get around. There is even a 'gnome reserve' you can visit in Devon!

However i do have one up on Sue as i already have 2 gnomes hidden away...these are a throw back to my first excursions into gardening as a child where we created a 'gnome garden' of about 50 of them. Not something I admit to now (therapy didnt help) now I just have 2 (or 3 now)  thanks Sue!

The originals..not quite in fitting with the tropical theme but every garden needs some gnomes! 

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Disturbances in the force

I’m having a disturbing week:
Firstly I have found a new hair growing on my back...
Then yesterday was the Eurovision Song contests first semi final and only 4 of my favourite countries got through...not Malta or my new favourite which was Armenia with ‘Boom Boom’ chukka chukka...I love chew... (it could have been a new classic!)
Then it is still so dry, worryingly so. When I took out the forget me nots the ground looked more like an Ethiopian drought zone than England’s green and pleasant land. The ground was literally bone hard and cracked...so I was very good (I am opening for the NGS don’t you know) and dug in a lot of compost and sweated lots
However the worst thing was I found my first re-sprouting bramble root....black and wiry but with at least 4 growing points. It feels a little like the beginnings of a horror movie where they are all incubating under the soil to rise up, fight and reclaim the ground.
On a more positive note I’m almost on top of my planting....this is the fun and creative part of gardening as it’s all about thinking ahead. I have planted loads of stuff...still tons of seedlings to go, most of which are becoming etiolated (what a great word) but I must have put out about 20 Ricinus, 20 Tithonia, 15 Dahlias, 12 Zinnias. Almost getting there, I can just begin to see the exotic poking through....it’s just the brambles are giving me a poke back!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Other people’s gardens, and what to do with a pile of old rubble?

I like Bank holidays....lots of time to do gardening and other things.  Land wise I’m quite confident at the moment as the tide has turned from potting up seedlings and tubers to planting, and when gardening I am being left at the end of the day surrounded by empty pots which is nice.  Still lots to do: this weekend will be Dahlia, Cosmos and Tithonia planting, weekend after that I will set the gourds free.
I also managed to get to see our first NGS gardens of the year which was exciting as I’m now uber analytical of all things NGS from oooh I wonder how many mugs they have, to when did they last cut their lawn? Steven and the parents are also in on this and are now hyper analysing the price of cake...much heated debate about this.
We saw two gardens, the first was on the Chase in Clapham.... strangely unexpected garden surrounding an amazing Victorian house...they are designers and it showed, and I loved how they had painted their window frames gold! The garden wasn’t that big but was cut in half by a fence, with a large field/plot full of tulips in front.  It then rose to a mound which had a large bull sculpture on top; it was all positively dripping with testosterone. Good lessons to learn about subdividing a space and it got me excited about creating a mound. I also loved the free glass of wine on entry (they open one evening then again on the Sunday). This seems a good ploy as it will be a mega pain of September is very rainy and no one comes, and at least if you open twice you limit the odds.
The second garden was a hard core NGS garden in Burbage Road, Herne Hill. Hard core as they had been there for 30 years and open to the NGS for 12. Gosh this was a manicured and perfect garden, and in a way the opposite of the Chase which was a bit more wild and natural. Beautiful...again lots of different spaces, one lawn separated from the other by a row of box clipped into mounds, and good use of trellis. Dense planting, and with automatic watering which would be a joy as I’m not liking watering the garden in April/May!
Lots of garden rooms with clipped box....lovely to contain the jungle, and could be very South East Asian

The fox isnt gong to eat that goose!
We ended the weekend at Clandon Park in Surrey, a National Trust property which is ‘one of the finest examples of Palladian architecture in the UK’ all very nice especially the Maori meeting house in the garden....it would make for a lovely shed!

Available in kit form from Ikea next year
The rubble question: still undecided about what to do and if to make something creative....I really like the idea of a mound, but wonder if this will jusrt look like a mound I have made to hide a pile of rubble. Like Mark/Gaz suggestion of a raised eating area. Also getting in to gabions which I need to investigate...these are big mesh boxes that you can fill with rocks. Seems a great way to make a retaining wall or benches. Mmm. answers on a postcard (or comments box!)
Current pile of rubble...probably up to 200 bags. picture makes it look smaller than it is....pile is probably the height of 10 double decker buses

Potential site for a mound.....this corner is still completely unplanned.

And now for some other random pictures....

Bergenia ciliata at Burbage Road....lovely and furry, on my wanted list
Lovely fern/geranium mix...Im a big fan of ferns
Hydrangea aspera....Im in love with its new leaves as they are so lush (well they were before the winds)

Paulownia....beginning to grow very fast even before I pump it with 6x!

New earthworks...Stevens corner. he is clearly should have been a JCB earth mover type person
Gladiolius byzantium...I was hoping these would flower late summer! I bought a bag of bulbs that was far too big so they are all over the place. Im hoping they spread and naturalise