End of Month View July 2017: a wobble, some growth

Only a few days ago, I have to say I had a bit of a wobble both on social media and off. I’d been sowing lunaria seed, without a potting shed to sow them in, so they’d been blown around my windtunnel of a garden. Then, when all the pots were ready, I put them on my growframe, which promptly collapsed:

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Around an hour or so of work, fetching back and forth, getting tools, forgetting tools, squeezing past pots and garden furniture: and that’s not including time invested in the pots it collapsed onto!

There followed a good few minutes of me ranting to the Welsh rose: when was it going to end? When would I have a garden, and a shed, and all the really boring things I was hoping (nearly two years after moving) to take for granted? This month’s EOMV is really in the shadow of all of those questions, I suppose. Let’s try not to think of the foundations of walls, still unlaid:

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And instead try to focus on all the things that are currently going right with my garden and my plants.

Outdoors

For a start, the ornamentals on the decking are doing wonderfully:

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The zonal pelargoniums just keep on giving; the cosmos has bounced back from the Bord na Mona compost; and the “Fat Head” lavender, although it’s gone over, is still looking and smelling great. Somehow I’ve made a salvia collapse again, just dry up then rot. Who knows? At least I haven’t killed any of the lavenders. Yet.

Acer “Anne Irene” is still looking lovely:

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As is the new shady perennial bed, a selection of pots where the Hebe once lolled and flopped:

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Vegetables are also generally going pretty well:

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We’re getting two or three tomatoes ripening, every few days. I’ve been cutting the existing trusses back, as most of the plants now have blight, so it’s a race against time! I can pick lettuce almost any day and—if we could just stop getting it in the veg box—the same goes for kale.

Along with delphiniums and eryngiums, the courgette “Nero di Milano” has been chewed to a stump by pests, but it yet might recover; meanwhile, the other courgette “White Volunteer” is thriving, as are my buddleia cuttings, and of course The Buddleia They Couldn’t Kill:

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Long-term readers will know I have a history of killing off buddleia cuttings, but these seem to have taken: there’s new growth in those pictures. And my zonal pelargonium cuttings are so happy, they’re trying to flower!

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(I’ve since pinched out the flowers, to try to get the energy back into the leaves.)

The lavender cuttings damped off, unfortunately, even though they weren’t bagged or anything. I think they just needed a degree drier: probably even just dampened grit at first.

Indoors

Speaking of thriving, though, Gwenfar mentioned that I seem to have had a lot of success with house plants, so let’s briefly tour those. The Ficus “Tineke” I bought as a small pot plant is now over a metre tall:

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You can also see some of the Billbergia x windii pups, now fully fledged plants, behind it. Elsewhere, these pups are so happy in only their first season that one is flowering:

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I thought they were meant to be monocarpic, but the mother plant is still in that pot on the left, despite it having flowered last year just after I bought it. The obligatory spider plant in between is doing all right, I guess: but then I’ve never seen them thrive, except when they really take off and become a nuisance.

My streptocarpus collection, all (without meaning it) from Dibley’s, are also thriving. “Caitlyn” is coming to its end, while “Crystal Ice” is meant to flower practically all year long:

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Neither of them, I think, can beat my first ever strep “Katie”, which flowers for around seven or eight months and produces deliciously indigo flowers, soft and paddy to the touch like a cat’s paw:

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A random lump of Christmas cactus is putting on new bunny ears of growth, suggesting that it’s rooted:

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Its parent plant is once again confusedly flowering, alongside a peace lily that’s all leaf and an M&S pot rose that’s all twig:

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Beyond them, into the front garden, you can see the bronze fennel and echinacea, next to a stump of delphinium, amidst a sea of recently raked-in Phacelia tanacetifolia seed, covered with pellets!

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Even my Ceropegia woodii cuttings rooted, although layering in a separate pot didn’t work out:

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Finally, I sowed some more coriander—hopefully less likely to run to seed, this side of the solstice—and pampered my “Bush” basil and “Basil” mint (confusing, no?) a little by topping up their soil with compost:

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Maybe there are some successes to be had, amongst the difficulties that the garden currently presents. And the Lunaria seed? Well, I had just enough left in the packet to re-sow:

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Hope triumphs over adversity. Although you’ll note the cable ties, bottom left and right: trust in Allah, but tie up your shelving all the same.

Foundations mostly in place, so now a decision

In implementing the terraces in the grand design, I’ve been almost entirely personally handling the heavy-duty landscaping, like an idiot. So far, anyway.

First there were the trenches, one and two:

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Then there were concrete footings, which I got people in to help with:

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Now, the breezeblock foundations are finished for the longer trench, and laid out without cement for the shorter:

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And it’s probably long past time when I should’ve taken stock of how much work is remaining. Because…

… this past week…

I’ve ended up unable to move with a bad back.

Nothing to do with the walls, but it’s left me even further behind schedule, and made me wonder what it would be worth to have the rest of the work completed by someone else.

The problem is, really, that the next bits could be quite fiddly. I’ve got ideas for the steps and I’m always worried if they don’t get communicated, then it’s going to be costly to redo. Following that bit, though, is the even more backbreaking work of ferrying topsoil up to backfill behind the walls. But at least that’s easy to do, and less hard on the back (no crouching, no lifting while turning, no tensing.)

So I just don’t know. I think maybe I find letting go hard! Especially given that the footing laying—the only bit I’ve outsourced so far—was OK, but went slightly awry when the van was too big to get up the drive. Things like that, you can throw more work hours at, but what else might go wrong?

Yep. I do find letting go hard.

The spirepose or “sprout bag”

I’m always happy to receive odd gardening innovations as presents, as I wouldn’t buy them for myself: the ecopotagator is in its second year, only suffering from the rather poor compost that I used for some planting.

This year, for my birthday, I got a “spirepose”, or sprout bag. From what I can find online, this is some kind of traditional Scandinavian method of growing small sprout seeds. The company Flying Tiger produce these foil-lined bags, which I think is what I’ve got:

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How was mine, then, at growing oregano? In a word, hopeless:

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This one tiny sprout died shortly afterwards. I think I followed the instructions properly:

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But the soil level in the bag I found was much lower than those diaagrams imply.

To be honest, I’m not convinced these would ever work. The foil-lined bag is too likely to either waterlog or dry out; the growing medium (which appears to be moss, groan, with perlite) doesn’t seem particularly forthcoming with nutrients, and the bag too deep to let light in. I did later on trim the sprout bag down somewhat more, to try to get more light to the seeds, but perhaps the depth is the point, to encourage sprouting.

Either way, I’m not convinced the spirepose is for me. A bit too wasteful, even if it had worked. Nice to try it out, though!

End of Month View June 2017: still building

As much of the first crop of flowers of 2017 have started to fade, the garden seems to take a month-long breath at midsummer, during which I’ve been building the foundations for the first retaining wall. More of that later, though.

Right now, the House Acer is still doing wonderfully:

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It keeps wanting to bud lower down. Right now I’m starting to let it do that – maybe in preparation for hacking it back over winter and moving it….

If it doesn’t survive the move, Acer “Anne Irene” may still be small, but it seems to be settling in:

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The Rose They Couldn’t Kill and the Buddleia They Also Couldn’t Kill are doing well:

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The antirrhinum is still weaving itself amongst the buddleia spikes.

The row of tomatoes, White Lisbon onions, broad beans and bronze fennel is doing well:

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The tomatoes especially are suckering like wildfire, and I’m having to rub or pinch off axil shoots every day or two.

As are the kales, lettuces and backup onions:

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Both look great with the newly repainted furniture, although I would call it a mint-blue rather than “gentle sage.”

The hebe is cuddling up to the geranium, tiarella and the mints:

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It’s another remarkable plant, always covered in bees and even at one point hosting a cinnabar moth.

The philadelphus has lost its single bloom, and now looks merely like some kind of ghoul trying to envelop the euonymous:

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I’m undecided as to what to do with it next year. This is the first that it’s flowered (I think everything is glad of the removal of the privet) but I’ve also been told it responds well to being cut right back, so who knows? If I do cut it back, the euonymous—tangled up as it is—will have to be sacrificed.

The Zaluzianskya phlox and Anthemis tinctoria by the back door have had a second flush of flowers, the latter thanks to some judicious deadheading:

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The annuals and perennials opposite them look happy:

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The lavenders are still out; the pelargoniums will carry on for months; the Geranium sanguineum var striatum, and Lamium Red Nancy are both filling out since RHS Chatsworth (the former responding well to pruning); and the cosmos that Gwenfar kindly looked after when the Bord na Mona compost nearly did for it are bouncing back (along with their cousins, bought as larger plants and already flowering):

Rather worryingly, though, our new compost bins show evidence of something landing on them considerably more heavily than a cat:

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I guess it could be the fox I’ve heard about, but I do wonder if someone tried to use all the back gardens as a passageway. How could they do that? Especially when everyone surely knows it’s a building site instead!

(Thanks to Helen Johnstone for hosting the EOMV meme. Helen’s taking a break from blogging, but the meme lives on!)

Bumper harvest of garlic: but why?

Back in mid-November I planted this year’s garlic: 27 bulbs of the Solent Wight variety, spread over five pots, left alone back in the baking north-east corner of the garden.

Just after midsummer, I’ve dug them up. Garlic bulb growth slows substantially after the solstice, so although I could’ve left them in a few more weeks to put on slightly more mass, I needed the pots!

Over seven and a bit months, the garlic grew from five unprepossessing pots, topped with twigs to prevent foxes and cats digging in them:

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To a burgeoning set of scapeless spears:

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And finally to our harvest, a remarkable 30+ bulbs (some of them had split!) almost all of “supermarket-size” or greater:

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This is in noticeable contrast to the previous year’s crop, which was reasonable but small-bulbed. The only smaller bulbs are from the big pot containing the pak choi; here they are, alongside those from the other big pot, for contrast:

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Gwenfar did warn me this might happen, but in a scientific spirit (and being aware of the fact that there was only a few weeks of growing left) I thought it worth trying out.

What has made this crop larger than last year’s? I’m not completely sure, but some of the differences were:

  • Fewer, but bigger, pots: these were the biggest pots in the garden; the three smaller ones were as big as last year’s biggest. This is in line with Gwenfar’s own experiments.
  • More heat: last year, the pots were near the decking, in the partial shade of the house; this year, they were in almost entirely full sun.
  • Re-mulching: I left plenty of space to re-mulch, and always watered before I did so (and used our own compost to do it, which has been great.

So nothing conclusive, but clear indications of some of the conditions garlic likes. Those, plus avoiding competition from catch crops, will hopefully guide my next season (when, I hope, I might have raised beds to plant them in.)

Until then, I’ve got more garlic—of an amazing and distinctive taste, utterly different from any you can buy—than I can eat. But I’ll do my best!

RHS Chatsworth: a review of the reviews and the views of my views

My friends from Gwenfar’s Garden very kindly bought me entrance into the first ever RHS Chatsworth flower show last week, as a birthday present. We went on the Saturday, which was rainy and boggy, but in between the mudpits there were still some amazing things to see.

Better bloggers than I have already reviewed the show:

  • Alison Levey at the Blackberry Garden made it on press day (curtailed by the rain) but went back the next day to especially have a look around the show gardens and art gardens.
  • Rambling in the Garden mentions the traffic and crowd problems, and how much harder it is to appreciate gardens when their view is restricted by crowds and limited access, when you can instead sit at home and watch every detail on TV.
  • Sarah Shoesmith at The Gardening Shoe focuses on colour trends and plants, and also the more experimental art gardens.

What is there to add to these great blogposts, especially at so late a date? What could possibly attract the attention of a readership, already sate from the courses above and scarcely hungry for more?

How about… some praise, some pictures, and some complaining? Wait! Come back!

What was good

Floral marquees

The two marquees were both amazing, with an incredibly high standard of exhibitor/seller. These Lavender stoechas “Strawberry Ruffles” and L. angustifolium “Hidcote” were both part of some amazing displays right by the entrance, including topiary:

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This Iris germanica “Darley Dale” from the English Iris Company made me lick my lips:

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Without a map (see much later) I can’t tell you which stall these remarkable alliums were on:

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Nor this remarkable floral display:

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This Acer palmatum “Deshojo” was part of “the bonsai stall” and its amazing, calming display:

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Among other purchases, we bought: Lamium “Red Nancy”, I thought from Hare Spring Cottage:

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But I don’t see it in their plant lists!

We got an Acer from Hippopottering; not this A. palmatum “Summer Gold” on their rich, verdant display:

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But an “Anne Irene” which is now resting in a corner of the garden.

From Dibley’s we bought two (more) Streptocarpus; “Caitlin”:

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but at the last minute, decided against “Harlequin Lace”:

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in favour of a “Crystal Ice”, that’s resting in today’s heat.

We also bought a Geranium sanguineum var striatum; and some bronze fennels, garlic chives and Lavender “Hidcote” plants. (I mention this only so that, in future, I can search my blog and figure out where I got them. Let’s move swiftly on!)

Show gardens

There were a number of outstanding show gardens. You could walk all the way round each garden, which was doubtless challenging, and a testament, to the garden designers. I’m not sure how well it worked in gardens that depended on the borrowed landscape, though.

“A Time for Everything” was a triumph, representing journeys through terminal illnesses for both the sufferer and the bereaved:

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Quarries are hot right now, and although Paul Hervey-Brookes’ Quarry Garden wasn’t as startling as James Basson’s at RHS Chelsea, it felt like it had more balance and poise:

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Being at a quiet end of the show, this one especially benefited from its landscape. Whereas the false perspective of the Peak District & Derbyshire Garden was somewhat spoiled by the crowds at the back making it feel like an Ames room.

This pigeon agrees:

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(I swear there was at least one pigeon doing a shift there, all day.)

Its Wedgewood-stamped cows were excellent, though:

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Jackie Knight’s “Just Add Water” was an exciting and inviting garden, again borrowing landscape:

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I would say, though, in places it felt a bit “gardenesque”, with rockery plants tending not to repeat, like treasured specimen purchases made by whoever’s garden this was meant to be, rather than like something naturalized. I still loved it, though, and would certainly give it house room.

Two other gardens I would’ve gladly taken home; the Belmond Enchanted Garden, with its staircase to nowhere and beech trees looking like they’d been there forever:

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and Tanya Batkin’s amazing Moveable Feast, with its planters on castors including an espaliered apple:

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I’m sure I’ve seen a similar idea in a therapeutic garden—at a hospital or hospice?—on Gardener’s World; either way, I love it. If people can’t garden directly into the earth, big planters wheeled around is a great way to make a virtue out of the vice of paving’s imperviousness. And it turned the garden into a kind of living, transpiring Mondrian.

Art gardens

Chatsworth’s vision (which we didn’t realise until quite late, not having a map or guide: see below) is to be avant-garde, which mostly means weird artworks that were very welcome. Check out the other bloggers for some photos; there was also a massive bee:

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(The bee is the one on the right. Kevin is not a bee.)

For scale, here is another bee:

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The (appallingly named but) amazing conceptual garden “The Antithesis of Sarcophagi” had time-travelled from RHS Chelsea 2016, to land on the corner of one lawn like some kind of floral TARDIS:

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It was both as ludicrous and as enjoyable as I’d expected, and I’d love to see it pop up somewhere else in the future.

This nod to the local Derbyshire practice of “well dressing” was nicely executed and understated:

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On the other side of the river, the “Make a Wish” sculpture by Fantasywire swayed impressively in the day’s windy weather:

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Meanwhile, these foxes were up to no good in “Pic ‘n’ Mix”:

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Other gardens

Jonathan Moseley’s Palladian Bridge, a covered walkway festooned with swags—there are no other words—of cut flowers was a joy:

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There was an inflatable reconstruction of Paxton’s “Great Stove”, the long-demolished metal-framed greenhouse at Chatsworth. At the heart of it was this sculpture of moss and epiphytic plants, misted from within by jet sprays:

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It rotated slowly, as the glitterball at its heart rotated quickly; alongside some weird pulsing electronic music, the whole effect very nearly hypnotized the Welsh Rose! There were other beds in the Great Stove of succulent and tropical plants, including an exhibition on the Cavendish banana, the clone that all of our bananas inherit from:

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There was a garden about “future” adaptations to climate change, that was fairly interesting:

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Although I often find such commodificational takes on climate change leave me cold. Apart from anything else, climate change is not a “future” thing, but is happening already: just, it’s only currently affecting poor people.

Maybe this kind of garden would’ve felt innovative ten years ago: now, it just makes me wonder “why aren’t we already doing all of this? And why is the onus on the individual gardener? Where are the schemes, the state support, the calls and lobbying for widespread, systemic change?” Which is, I think, a discussion that individualized initiatives like Greening Grey Britain are trying to avoid.

What was bad

There’s no doubt that the overall organization was a bit scrappy. You could argue that this was the first show at Chatsworth, but sometimes it felt like it was the first show the RHS had organized anywhere. Crowd control was poor; the (very rickety) pontoon bridges were pinch points that were worryingly difficult to get off (especially near the show gardens.) Maps—which, scandalously, you had to spend £5 for, as if it weren’t in the RHS’s and the exhibitors’ best interests to move people to where they wanted to go and possibly buy things—were like hen’s teeth, and after we missed one young scallywag selling them by the entrance, that was pretty much it until we demanded staff show us where on earth we could find them. We never even found the Brewin Dolphin garden, and I’m sure we missed others: their signage was poor, usually consisting of a single pillar, frequently obscured by crowds.

Accessibility was also poor: we had to push a mobility scooter out of the mud more than once, and a stallholder told us that the RHS (unaware what a rainy British riverside in June might turn into) had run out of proper bark to put down, and was instead turning the place into a mudpit with ornamental stuff. And there were far, far, far, far too few seating or rest areas: having seen the same situation at RHS Malvern last year too, I’m beginning to think it’s deliberate parsimony—keep people moving on—rather than merely bad planning. Food and rest were generally in very short supply, with many people hovering as others sat and ate their meals, and riotously long queues for the coffee stalls shortly after opening (I think only certain stalls could sell coffee, which might have been some concession limitation: again, that doesn’t help the visitor.) All of this impacts on accessibility too, as people with mobility problems need more rest and recuperation.

The transport situation has been mentioned by other bloggers, so let me make it clear that we didn’t have the transport problems others had, arriving as we did both super-early and on back roads over from Sheffield. However, it’s arguable that the RHS simply do not get (sustainable) transport. I’d love to know what contact they had e.g. with local councils, to ensure that extra bus services were put on; I’d also love to know why they decided that nine miles to the nearest train station would make for anything other than a transport mess. After all, if you’re prioritizing over-generous, under-greened space for a car:

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In a garden that’s meant to be about “future” adaptations to climate change, then that speaks volumes about how you view the present and future priorities of transport.

Next year?

I dare say RHS Chatsworth 2018 will learn from some of its mistakes this year. Crowd control will hopefully be better, especially around the bridges. They’ll hopefully have a bigger stock of heavy-duty bark chips (or maybe put proper flooring down in the floral marquees and on high-traffic areas, not just designated paths.)

Whether they’ll improve their signage, their seating availability, or their non-private transport options remains to be seen: I’ve queued as part of the traffic problem for an RHS Wisley free-entry day; I’ve queued as part of the traffic problem for an RHS Malvern spring show; those who queued as part of the traffic problem for RHS Chatsworth would probably consider it unlikely the RHS are going to suddenly have an epiphany about the proactive part they themselves could play in ameliorating future traffic problems.

Personally, I’m really glad I went this one time, and I would’ve regretted it if I hadn’t gone, so I’m especially grateful to Kevin & Julieanne for my birthday present! But I think in future I’m going to prioritize garden visits over shows like RHS Chatsworth. Shows are starting to feel too much like hard work, whereas a garden visit could combine with a rare plant fair, and get the best of both worlds.

End of Month View May 2017: my garden right now, from building site to blank canvas

Since last month’s EOMV one big thing has happened, followed by a lot of little ones: the trench footings went in; and the log store and water butts were reconstructed. This turned the garden into—if not a completely blank canvas, then certainly something with more potential for redrawing:

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But that photo is a good couple of weeks old already; what about now?

Edibles

The veg is starting to look great; so far, nothing has nibbled the kale:

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I’m hoping that it won’t have to go under cover before we eat it; I’ve noticed cabbage whites tend to avoid kale. They don’t know what they’re missing!

The garlics are doing well, even the ones that have permitted a pak-choi underplanting:

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That certainly lasted longer than the lettuces, which were stripped to ribs.

The Axis Of Tomato/Borlotti/Pea-Latvian is also thriving, just as the overwintered peas have probably podded their first and last:

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Ornamentals

The acer is basking in the sun:

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And someone is basking on the acer:

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The Rose They Couldn’t Kill is also full of itself:

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And the Buddleia They Couldn’t Kill has been joined by antirrhinums, dug up from the trench soil, I suppose:

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These have taken over from the myosotis, which has now relaxed back, its flowering done.

The shady pots are thriving:

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The queer, opposite-leaved shrub that keeps growing up through the euonymous is glad of the loss of the privet:

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So much so that it appears to be about to flower:

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Which means I might finally work out what it is!

The Lavendula stoechas “Fathead” is going ballistic:

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And the Lavendula angustifolia “Hidcote” isn’t far behind:

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Cirsium rivulare “Atropurpureum” has avoided being eaten this year, and fended off cuckoo spit, both in part helped by me dousing it with water as puddle and spray respectively:

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And the cheap pelargoniums we moved with from Cogges are into—what?—their fourth year maybe:

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I might try cuttings again this year, although they’ll probably damp off.

Landscaping

Last, but not least, I’ve built another compost bay alongside the first:

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This should really help with my use of my own compost, because one bay can be left to properly compost down, while I start on the other (especially when I add the pine cat litter, which tends to lock up nitrogen as it rots.) After a few weeks of turning the old compost, it’s ready; meanwhile, the new one can just keep receiving new material until I’m done.

Given the escape of compost from the existing bay through gaps in the pallets, I dismantled an entire pallet with wrecking bars:

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And threaded the pieces through the pallet walls, blocking gaps. This meant I could transfer the existing compost into the new bay:

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Leaving the old bay empty, and I was able to line it with the remaining sawdust from the log-store cutting, plus some rooster poo pellets as an accelerator:

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Amazingly, I must have around half a cubic metre of compost, or 400–500 litres. That should get my growing off to a good start: once I’ve built those darn walls!

(Thanks to Helen Johnstone for hosting the EOMV meme. Helen’s taking a break from blogging, but I find these posts very useful myself, so I’m going to carry on anyway. Sometimes the point of a meme is it has its own momentum…!

This month, though, the Chelsea Fringe is also promoting the #mygardenrightnow hashtag on Twitter, and I’m hoping I can release this post in time for that. Thanks to Michelle Chapman for her efforts there!)

Chainsawing logs and fixing up the new store and old water butt

Now that we’ve had the concrete footings laid (and they couldn’t get the damn mixer up the drive anyway) it was time for me to return both the log store and the water butt to their rightful locations on the drive.

Water butt

Our house’s previous owners (who we always call The Chumps) had a water butt for years that had neither an overflow nor a properly fitted downpipe above it: as such, in heavy rain the butt would pour water down the driveway; and in high winds the section of drainpipe immediately above it would fall off.

Fitting an overflow turned out to be fairly straightforward; as far as the drainpipe went, though… I’d previously tried to tie things in place but, with the water butt in position, I couldn’t safely get a ladder close enough to accomplish anything more permanent.

However, now that the driveway was clear, I had my chance; and I took it:

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Above the water butt, you can see on the left a narrow drainpipe, and to its right the wider soil pipe from the bathroom, leading straight into the ground. Half-way up the drainpipe you should be able to see the support I drilled in place.

It was all very sturdy when I was finished, but when replacing the butt I realised that, with the pipe forced to be closer to the wall, its spout no longer made it all the way to the butt. Hence one fix has simply led to the next bit of jury-rigging:

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Maybe we’re just as bad as the Chumps! Only, this now works perfectly well, and I’ve got it on my list to get some more piping or guttering. If nothing else, we’re making small, incremental improvements.

Speaking of which, you can see just at the bottom-left of that earlier photo a newly elevated storage platform, which leads me neatly on to the….

Log store

Here’s a reminder of how much space the apple wood took up; back in November, before we moved it:

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Back then, it didn’t even sit on an elevated wooden platform: just the two concrete pillars. And it still took up a lot of vertical space!

And most recently, in its temporary home beside the decking and euonymous:

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But before moving the logs, I really wanted to chop them up. Our neighbour lent me a cheap Titan chainsaw with a blunted chain, and after literally scorching a few of the cuts I tried to make (this is a common symptom of a blunt chain, I’ve since learned) I swapped in a new chain and got to work.

A few logs in, the stage is set:

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You can see I’m using the eventual platform for the log store, to cut logs on without doing too much damage to the decking. I’m also wearing the quite thick gloves you see there (and safety glasses that you can’t), but really the most important safety is the chain brake inside the saw.

Half way through, I already had a lot of both logs and a lot of sawdust and wood shavings:

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As I made many of the cuts while sat down on the decking steps, and as I was wearing shorts, I can confirm that wood shavings get everywhere.

Eventually, almost all of the wood was cut up, except for the old rootball: the soil on this almost immediately blunted the new chain, and the wood began to merely char again!

So I gave up on cutting, and instead all of the logs to the platform on the drive, using the hewn-but-unsawed rootball to prop up the old store roof and almost entirely cover the logs:

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Comparing this with the November photo of the log store, way above, you can see that the sawn logs take up about half of the vertical height, and now almost none of them spill out from the structure! This last photo was taken after the rain overnight, so you can see that most of the wood remains pretty much dry.

Perfect timing, on all fronts: the water butt is now filling up nicely in its new location, and the wood is all kept out of the rain, and ready for the wood-burning stove that as yet is only a would-like on our long-term, lottery-win shopping list. But small, incremental improvements seem to be the way to go. If nothing else, I’ll get a chiminea!

Potting up kale, borlotti and the tomatoes I got in the post

While Gwenfar looks after my sickly cosmos and broad beans—here’s a heartrending picture of the last five cosmos that didn’t die in my B-rd n- M-n- compost:

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Some things have thrived better than others in the compost: basil has largely died off, looking weak and yellow if not given seaweed solution; purchased coriander seed has done OK, but self-harvested has mostly gone; parsley went all right, until I started to pot it up further. And the remaining broad beans that Gwenfar isn’t babysitting are OK, but corkscrewy:

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Anyway, with all of these ailing plants in mind, I decided to plant up as much of my remaining veg as I could.

I’ve been growing some kale in the vague hope that maybe this year I won’t get cabbage white on brassicas (I’ve noticed kale is the least palatable to them) and am still risking them unfleeced right now. In addition, the Welsh rose’s mother gave me some borlotti beans that I didn’t have the heart to throw away (the pak choi went up in among the garlics; the mustard she also gave me blew almost immediately to seed and was composted!)

But the star of the show are the five Gardener’s Delight tomatoes that I ordered from The Organic Gardening Catalogue as plantlets, and eventually arrived from Rocket Gardens, wrapped rather nicely in straw, but a little bit unpromising all the same.

I’d potted them up and plunged them into water almost immediately:

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And they recovered so fast, despite the poor compost, that I was fearful of them becoming too leggy by the time I was able to pot them up:

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So I set to work, and used the biggest pots I could find:

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I put stakes in them, and assembled them on trays, giving this ensemble picture:

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Meet the band; anti-clockwise from bottom-left:

  1. Three lots of borlotti: two pots of three, staked; one pot of six, awaiting some more empty pots to transfer them to.
  2. Three tomatoes in a growbag tray, with two more tomatoes behind them in their own saucers.
  3. A partly hidden, flopped Delphinium.
  4. Those corkscrewing broad beans in the top right.
  5. An orangey Geum “Prinses Juliana”, and some herbs: salvia, rosemary etc.
  6. Three pots of kale, just at the top.
  7. A long grey planter of Pea “Latvian” and parsley as a catch crop.

Most pleasingly, I was able to use our own compost for all these pottings: the pine from the cat’s litter tray wasn’t entirely rotted down, but I also watered with a seaweed solution that should hopefully buffer against the locked-up nutrients. And I’ve also received a phone call about pallets, which means I can build a second composting bay soon enough, and then hopefully alternate, and always use well-rotted material.

This leaves a number of parsleys, plus some spring onion “White Lisbon”. I’m hoping I’ll find a more permanent home for them once I’ve done the levelling-off, but when that’s going to happen is anyone’s guess!

The trench footings are in

Twenty-one days ago, I was confident that the garden’s days as a building site were numbered. Well, it turns out they were: it’s just that I underestimated their number a bit.

But! Last Wednesday, the next phase was completed:

  1. Three cubic metres of concrete arrived…
  2. … And even though the van they’d specified was still too big for our driveway…
  3. Two hard-working landscapers capably ferried it all the way up and into the trenches for footings.

Here’s the lower, longer, deeper trench; before:

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After:

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And here’s the higher, shorter, shallower trench; before:

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After:

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Here’s Trench Inspector Indie, checking things out a couple of days later:

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(When it had finally stopped raining, and I had finally been able to take some photographs.)

And here, finally, is more of a bird’s-eye view of the garden as a whole, so you might be able to see the future shape of the terraces and walls better:

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It’s this last photo that gives me hope, to be honest. The garden still looks like a mess. But now it looks like a mess with structure: the structure will evolve; the mess will become backfill. Perhaps, just perhaps, we have passed through the nadir, and are climbing back out of it: muddy, but unbowed!