Sunday 27 March 2011

Silver trowels and new growth

Things seem to be gearing up as there are now loads of things to do, and not just digging. I have been getting a little tired of doing the same things, and greatly admire Stevens’s commitment to digging and now sifting the same stretch for many months! His collection of found objects grows, and last week he found a plastic lion which has joined Ganesha as a guardian of the site. Yesterday he found a skirt, those man made fibres keeping it all fresh and ready to do something with.
You can ring my bell....well you can if you do a bit of digging...
Launches: I was very excited to go to the NGS London garden book launch this week, where the great and the good assembled in a 160 yr old nursery in Little Venice.  I didn’t quite know what to expect as I waited at the tube watching little old ladies emerge from underground clutching their invites and streaming towards the entrance, however I was expecting to feel quite young!. It was a good evening; where we played guess the cost of the overpriced plants a lot did a lot of people watching. There were also prizes (rumour was that these were the coveted silver trowels) for people who had opened their gardens for 10, 20 and 30 years. I was particularly impressed with a guy getting a 20 year prize as he looked younger than me, I wasn’t fussed asking him about his garden, but more wanting to find out what moisturiser he used but sadly couldn’t find him afterwards. 30 year winners were very impressive, as was seeing the dedication that NGS volunteers was also incredible how much money has now been raised through the scheme which was far bigger than a bankers bonus.

Whole garden view....from this height you dont see the weeds

I am beginning to get a little overwhelmed by the amount of plants I have bought and need to go in, this is hastened by the huge amount of seeds I’m sowing (I think I bought about 40 packets).  Stresses at work have also led to a new plant buying compulsion with an order from Long Acre Plants (after a staffing issue 2 weeks ago) and then extra seeds from Chiltern this week (given 3 months notice to move office). Well at least this compulsion is better than binge eating or drinking!
It looks like a proper garden! Rocket and lettuce seeds emerging, raspberries in leaf (thank you Christopher)
I have a rather Darwin approach to plants in that I like to go for lots of walks around the garden thinking about where things should go, what needs to change and happen (he had a long path round his garden where he did lots of thinking). This is great for de-stressing, although I do wonder if my non garden using neighbours think this a little odd. However there is still a lot of thinking to do as the whole garden vies for attention and I seem to be doing more moving of plants than putting in new ones.
Salvia in the greenhouse flowering away....dont have the heart to cut it back yet

Nasturshum bracy something....bought it a plant show expecting it to be a summer thing, but it flowers now then dies by spring!
Brambles are also giving me slightly sleepless moments as although the new territories are now looking like a garden I wonder how many bits of roots are left and will spring up soon...All a bit ironic as I took big root cuttings from Paulownia and Tetrapanax which Im sure will have trouble taking, where as a 1cm bit of convolvulus or bramble will be out to get me.
So, lots to do. But a great thing has been how many people said they enjoyed my gardening day of action the other week, so I will put on a new one ASAP!
Clematis armandii....good leaves, but flowers fab at mo and scent is heavenly

New life! salvia in pot beginning to grow where others have been cut back to the ground. Ive also noticed than bananas have survived and are beginning to come into leaf! hurrah for spring 

Persicaria red dragon emerging from the depths...

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.