Wednesday 29 February 2012

NGS: the book, the planning the worrying and gardeners who should know better!

Well the new Yellow Book has finally arrived...for people not up on their coloured books or new to the blog this is my ticket to open again for the National Gardens Scheme (NGS). This is year 2, and I must say that emotionally I’m probably on the same level as I was last year in terms of a winding stress and worry about getting everything is not getting much easier! With a new plant catalogue through my door almost every week I’m seeing images of perfect gardens and very aware how time is ticking quickly and my window of opportunity is narrowing
Gardening is also a funny creative business and although you can tinker through the year or have radical makeovers (if you have the budget), the main time to do stuff is now until about April/May by which time everything needs to be planted out. Time is therefore running out!
I think gardeners are notoriously critical of their own creations as when someone says, ooh that looks nice, you think yes...but that needs deadheading and that X is clearly in the wrong place. Some of this is the planning as I think you are always thinking about what needs to change and what needs to be moved so a current garden is just a transition point to the perfect garden.
I have been having an eek moment of gosh there is a lot to do and will it be good enough, and it was good fate that at the same time I’ve just been having emails with Wayne who has similar jitters about the first time opening of his garden in Clapham. I have realised that I should heed my own advice that it is only for half a day a year, and if its good enough for the NGS inspectors then its good enough for the public! Other people can also see things that you can’t , and after seeing pictures of Wayne’s garden he has nothing to worry about as it is fabulous tropical fiesta. I’m sure the same is true of my own garden where I do of course only see the faults/problem areas...however if Carol can say nice things then perhaps I should listen to them.
Waynes 'Clapham meets Jamaica' garden. Dont you think it looks fabulous?
I’ve also realised how I’m not quite as organised in the garden as I am at work where I’m very good at diarising and to do lists which I find a very good tool for calmness and planning, so to catch up I thought I would share:
So my big to do, and also figure out what I’m doing list at the moment is:
Shed/Summerhouse: We need some type of formal base to sit and ponder life from, we know what shed we want and have pondered the merits of concrete bases vs breeze blocks and sleepers for its base so now just need to do the base and get it assembled. I also think getting it in will be key as something like this radically changes the outlook of your space and denotes new views and vistas and as such the creative process will flow more once it is in.
The overlooked problem: the site is so overlooked, and the current construction of a new 3 floor house 2 doors down will only make it worse, as will the planned house at the bottom of the new land. I hate being overlooked and it really feels like you are on display at the moment wherever you are in the garden. I know this is compounded by the lack of leaves but I need to create lots of private areas and close vistas.....shed will help with this, as will lots of trellis and my slow growing bamboos but they need to grow quicker! Last year I found wigwams were helpful, and this year there will be lots along with some metal reinforcing things and wire mesh...
Digging and clearing: I am on the home stretch with this as only about 8-12 square metres of key 2012 garden space remains to be dug (along with a wooded bit where I have a digitalis dream) so I should relax about it! the problem of not really knowing what I will put there is a different issue!
Seeds and starting stuff off: I have planted the amazing total of 0 seeds so far, and in fact only dried off and stored the Kangaroo apple seeds last week. This is my priority over the next couple of weeks along with starting off the Eddoes and Coco Yams which took forever last year to get going (I don’t have the wonders of reptile mats or heated propagators that more professional folk have)
Bees: the bees have an amazing platform to live on, but in order to fulfil my honey drenched dreams I should really buy the 2 hives and some bees!
Mastering the concreting fear: I’m not great with concreting stuff as this involves buying the concrete and then doing permanent stuff. The shed base will need some concrete as will my artificial mound.
What plants where? The big dilemma, especially as I’m growing a good amount of stuff this year that I haven’t grown before, but hey that’s the joy of gardening! I also find it far easier to physically arrange stuff when planting. Last year it also all went ok the only mistakes being red zinnias (they weren’t big and wild enough) and orange cosmos sulphurous (bit small and weedy, also a bit suburban front garden. I need faith!
Anyway, things are happening and doing this list was cathartic in it’s self! I have a gardening day planned for the 10th and 3rd and have big piles of soil, bulbs , plants, pond liners and bee hives on order which will make me feel better about progress. As spring is approaching I also feel more and more positive every time a daffodil opens or new sycamore seed starts to grow!


  1. I know what you mean about gardeners being critical of their own place. I really try now to accept compliments gracefully and not point out all the shortcomings (in my mind).
    We put a large planting of bamboo round our table and put sails up over it to get a bit of privacy.It certainly worked and the bamboo has grown into a jungle!
    I was so impressed with you garden on TV Clive. I'm sure you're have another great opening for NGS

  2. Wayne sounds like my kind of gardener! I must go round...
    Clive, your garden will look terrific. There is just so much to look at, and so many amazing plants - and you have that idyllic area beneath the canopy in which to have tea and cake. BTW, I would have the canopy even if it isn't threatening to rain - it's quite nice to have somewhere shady to sit if you've been wandering round in the sunshine.
    Even talking about what you plan for the future is interesting to most gardeners, I find.

  3. Wayne's garden looks lovely!!

    I know it's easier said than done but take it easy and don't stress too much about your opening day. I'm sure everything will be fine and things will go smoothly :)

    What about a series of Paulownias to act as screening in your overlooked areas? It's is fast growing and will give you a leafy canopy that will give you some privacy. The only drawback is it is deciduous. Some bamboos can take a long time to gain height, but rather spread out first before it goes vertical.

    Looking forward to seeing your garden progress and updates! And give mixing concrete a try too, you might enjoy it ;)

  4. Thank you all for being super! My mantra at the moment is it will all be fine! I think its just when you have so many little things to do that they all feel like a bit too much....I also like order (I can get a bit stressy if I have more than 35 emails in my inbox). however I sneaked home for a couple of hours last night and will be ploughing away all tomorrow so it feels a lot more on track!

    Good Paulownia tips, I also have a nice friend who wants to split his bamboo and am thinking I will have lots of clumps of Jerusalem artichokes!