Sunday 8 January 2012

Back to the grind: sheds, neighbours, botrytis and the schleffera question

Well Xmas is over, I’m fatter, less fit and don’t know if I can cope with work, as with going to Thailand and the break I haven’t worked a full week since November. This whole long break stuff can also be very disorientating in terms of what day is what, and I’m always so rubbish at thinking from one year to the next that I only got a diary sorted very late in the day and as such the social diary is a little sparse giving more time for gardening, and web rambling.

So it’s back to the slog, and I think in the last couple of weeks I have been out digging about 4-5 times realising how I’m now quite unfit. It’s good to get back into it and I’m planning on being quite regular, at least until the un-dug bits are done and I can breathe better in my trousers.
New borders and digging, muscels aching and 2 forks bent

Neighbours and the area are my gripe at the moment though as I really want to get some of the trees sorted out, but being in a conservation area I need to apply for planning consent if I reduce any tree more than 10% or cut anything thicker than my arm....very irritating! Especially as we are right on the edge of the area (my neighbour felled a large mature sycamore a few years ago without anyone batting an eyelid) and so many people don’t stick to it.

Things are a little wintry, but the lack of a hard frost means that a lot is still alive
I want to just manage a lot of the trees better, and we have about 3 young sycamores on the site which if we don’t prune will get massive and block the light and take too much water. There is also one in the middle I want to take out completely as it is the wrong place and there are nicer trees to have. My planning permission has gone in and been refused (too little info about the tree to be removed, what would replace it etc) but fingers crossed it can go in and be successful before birds start to nest.

The whole of the new site does suffer from being very overlooked, so I was interested to read a good blog on danger garden on  Landscaping for Privacy, Innovative Ways to Turn Your Outdoor Space into a Peaceful Retreat. There are some good hints on there and the book looks interesting. This is a major issue for me as I really don’t feel I can relax if I have a neighbour looking at me, and at the moment I have 6 peoples balconies, my own building and 2 others to cope with.

The things I have tried to do to solve this is to get all my structural plants such as bamboos and new trees in early to give some height, use big plants to create screens and create wig wams, trellis etc. I’m already planning for next year and trying to hunt for new giant plants such as Rubbeckia   herbestonne and will use lots of Jerusalem artichokes, posts, trellis screens and a new row of fruit frees to try and give a more permanent escape.

A new shed/summerhouse is also part of this and I have been pacing around to find somewhere that isn’t overlooked but is sunny (Steven is asking for decking for sun loungers). This is quite exciting to get going, but will be a project to Dad was today telling me all about how to make a rubble base to then give a concrete surfaces, and also how he concussed himself when assembling the summerhouse at our old house, mmmm. However getting it put in will be great as the rest of the gardens design will fall into place and getting it in soon will enable me to plant and design around it, and have a fabulous place to drink gin.

Another new project: the mound. Im creating a 3-4ft mound that I can climb to the top of and survey the land perhaps with a telescope? a great use of rubble
I’m also beginning to get slightly obsessive about plants again as I work out what I need to buy from the must haves on last years list. Using the RHS plant finder I came across Constantine garden nursery, a new one to me but they seem to have a fab, and huge list of plants..... I’m very fickle with plant nurseries that have bad websites, but this one is easy to get around although they do need to invest time in putting up the pictures. I was also finding the RHS plant finder very unreliable as the listings weren’t current.

I like Constantine as it has a wish list you can save, but I think I’m up to about 23 different types of plant, and with Beth Chattos ‘don’t be a hairpin gardener’ ratting in my head I will try and order a few of each which wont be good for my bank balance.

My Dahlia imperialis has just started to flower!
I have also been very mindful of New Year’s resolutions. Last years was being more new media savvy which is one of the reasons I started this blog (happy 1st birthday to me! I have done it for a year and been focused and regular, hurrah!) However Twitter has still been a mystery so this week I have broken my Twitter virginity. It has all been very exciting and I am seeing how I go, but so far I have been impressed as I found out about a thing at Kew gardens that I didn’t know about, and from Alternativeeden I was reminded at how the RHS London show is soon, and how Crug usually go and that I should think about what I want from them as they can often bring it down with them saving on P&P, which is great as they are fabulous, but aren’t cheap.

Fatsia polycarpa (from Crug) flowering away
I love Crug, but i need to see how much I want to spend, and if I need to put the Schleffera fetish to bed.  I have bought 3 Schlefferas from Cru:  taiwanna died a slow never looked happy, I moved it and think the soil was too clay’y and may have over fertilized. My macrophylla was in too exposed a position so got battered, and last spring after coming back to life suddenly died for no reason. Fair enough, things do die but the taiwanna was £60, and the macrophylla £100. Ouch! Do I want the pain again, should I buy more? Of course! But I think I will start them in pots until they are a good size and grow them in sheltered places. If you don’t know about schlefferas and are an exotic garden person look them up as they are truly amazing plants....beautiful, rare and very special.

Amazingly the Nicotiana tabacum are also looking as good as they have done all year!
Another odd thing was noticing how I had been mentioned on HTUK, a great forum for anyone with an exotic gardening fetish. Good to see how people had liked a picture of a fish pot from Jim Thompsons house, however a discussion on Musa sikkimensis brought up the Gardeners World stuff, and a guy had even posted up stills of me from the program questioning if my wrapping would work as he felt it a recipe for botrytis. Very odd to see this happen and be questioned as it did make me think.

Botrytis is a killer for anyone trying to over winter stuff in a greenhouse, I am uber careful to clean up any dead leaves and keep things dry as it can suddenly set in and I usually watch about 50% of my salvia cutting succumb from Jan to March. The Musa Sikkimensis I have of course started digging up as the very bad winters cut them to the ground, but I wrap them ‘a la Gardeners World’ and store them in a side passage (I will take you up my side passage another time). Although not closed to the elements as it is next to the house it is very sheltered and gets some of its warmth, it also has a great air flow to keep things dry, and worked last year, so fingers crossed it will again.

After HTUK I did get paranoid that I had created a wet botyritic monster so did go and check on them, but they have all already all dried out, including the leaves I tied to the top, so I hope they will be ok! It was actually too dry and an Echium pinnata I had in a pot was almost dead from drought so I had to water it!

Anyway, botrytis is a killer and one of my new year’s resolutions is to increase airflow, the others are all about spending lots of money on new plants, hurrah!

Do feel free to share your own plants new year’s resolutions as I think they everyone does need at least one....


  1. Ahh but I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions but I'm glad that my plant mojo has improved now that the festive season is over everything has returned to normal.

    It's not always easy going back to work after a long break but after a couple of days I can imagine you'll be fine again. Happy 1st blogaversary! Looking forward to your updates for the year and welcome to Twitter :)

    Give Scheffleras another go, even if just a Taiwaniana. And looking forward to seeing you at the RHS London Show, the first major plant show of the year and should give us all a plant fix for the winter.

    I can vouch for the selection at Constantine Nursery. We visit their nursery every time we're in Cornwall and their selection of herbaceous and woodland plants are superb. Perfect for that underplanting :)

  2. Thanks...I was thinking of Taiwanna as the one I do have which was in a pot first is doing so much better. I do cringe when I think of the corpses :(

    Lets liase over the RHS show, but ensure we dont fight over what plants we are all buying

    PS feed the mojo!

  3. Happy Blogaversary!

    Glad you enjoyed the book review, if it is available in your part of the world you really should check it out, it's a good one.

    We do not have as many Schefflera options here in the states that you all do (judging from the number of beauties in the garden of Mark and Gaz) but S. Taiwanna is available (in limited numbers). It seems to be making a pretty good go of it here. I watched a couple power through a fairly difficult winter last year (dropping to the mid teens (F) on several occasions). You should give it a try!