Thursday, 26 July 2012

Something compelled me to come on here after yesterday's post just to point out that there is irony in this blog.  I am worried about international readers and would like to explain that this is British humour and it is not harmful.

I would also like to say for the benefit of Garden's Illustrated and their team of lawyers that the magazine will not be visiting my garden.  I'm sure Garden's Illustrated visit many gardens in Clapton but mine won't be one of them.  I promise to keep buying the magazine, as I have done faithfully for the last year and keep drooling over beds of rare herbaceous perennials framed by the walls of Cotswold manor houses, an outdoor Utopia I can only dream of.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Garden's Illustrated are coming

Hours spent gardening this week: 0.  Way too hot in England for gardening anymore.
Hours spent watering: 1 hour daily.  Recklessly watering pots in the evening, a sure fire way to attract slugs.
Slugs crisping gently on the terrace in the heat: 5.

July is a pretty good time for the garden, probably at it's best with all this hot weather that came overnight, so I’m expecting Garden’s Illustrated round at any moment.  In preparation for this, I’ve decided to help the journalist along by writing the opening paragraph for them.  It goes something like this:

“An urban paradise, designed and managed by its owner, Claire, who fled the leafy lanes of London’s Stoke Newington in search of the harder landscaping of Upper Clapton where dub ‘n’ bass throb from every neighbour’s window.  Filled with common plants found in most garden centres, splashes of red from poppies and pelargoniums mirror blood spills from the gang warfare outside on London’s notorious ‘murder mile’. From a bare alley favoured by slugs, the eye is lead effortlessly beyond to a patio and then a raised gravelled area and finally a compost heap.  Here and there a skilfully placed object catches the eye: some random bottles, an old trowel, a handful of bamboo canes discarded by the owner.   

“The place was converted from an old hostel for the homeless,” Claire says, ‘and when we saw it’s potential, we knew we had to have it.”  Claire has preserved the spirit of the hostel by keeping the original larch fencing which she has hand tinted her own mix of copper beech and burnt oak wood preserve.  The final result is brilliant orange; a colour the camera picks out perfectly in the twilight, a perfect vista for lying back and watching police helicopters overhead.”

Carefully placed objects d'art.

A scented arbour.  Note the orange fence.

Embracing shade.

The vegetable patch.  A horticultural emergency.

Le Photographe wishes to rescue this blog from it's sorry state of sarcasm with this cornflower.

Saturday, 14 July 2012


It was not until twilight that there was a gap in the rain.  The lavender fronds lay battered against the stones.   A pool of slugs congealed in the wet mingling with fallen petals from the rose, the air thick with the smell of moss.  Deadheading the few plants that had dared to flower in this monsoon of a summer, I saw the advance of weeds, the agapanthus that fail to bloom.  Above my head, a robin ventured out, singing from the top of the sycamore until the clouds gathered over again...

Hours spent gardening: 0.2
Slugs killed: 10.  Tiny newly hatched ones like little bits of black bootlace
Visits to garden centre: 0 
Rain is killing the will to garden.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Rained off play

It's bucketing down here as part of the meteorological schizophrenia we are experiencing here in the UK.  Already July and I have to suffer the shame of not having my Pelargoniums in flower.  I cannot look the neighbours in the eye.

Here are the scores on the board for the weekend so far:

Hours spent gardening: 3 between rain spells
Trips to garden centre: 1
Purchases: 1 terracotta pot to repot lavender.  Walked away from Lavandula 'Silver Anouk.'
Time spent procrastinating over Lavandula Anouk: 20 minutes circling it, smelling it, texting Le Photographe etc
Slugs and snails killed: huge daily cull.  New method and satisfying method: snip slug in half with secateurs.

A slug paradise.  Note the copper tape defence lines.  Slugs vs gardener: deuce.

Earlier in the week I spotted this slug crawling into a glass of wine.  Beer traps used to be the thing but now slugs are moving upwards in their tastes.  Our road is supposed to be undergoing gentrification so presumably the slugs are catching the fever for social mobility in our borough.

I can finally update on the wine box planter.  Results are below but it's been reasonably successful if you like bright blue.

One of my own photos.  Le Photographe made me write this.
I achieved the effect by sanding the box back and then using a cloth to apply two coats of paint mixed with white spirit.   I then sanded again between each coat before applying varnish.  Another round of sanding ensued after Le Photographe insisted it was not distressed enough for his liking.

The total cost of the project was free as I already had everything at home.  As I type this, I am now sorry for sharing this as it occurs to me how difficult it will be for most people to get hold of the wine box.  One way would be to buy a case of good wine but unless you had already planned to buy 12 bottles of St Emilion Grand Cru 1996 or 1998 (good years according to Le Photographe) then I guess it won't be a saving.

The seedlings in the box are Cosmos, diligently spaced out according to the instructions on the packet.  The pink scabious originally earmarked for the planter have been transferred to the beds.  Le Photographe took great pains to point out the beds at Hampton Court this week where Cosmos are packed close together like sardines, the implication here being that I don't know what I'm doing.  Any advice on how close to plant Cosmos would be greatfully and gracefully received.

Let me leave you with one of the few flowers that have thrived in this season of sunless and permanent damp: Geranium Phaeum.  It also seems to be a matter of disinterest for the local mollusc population.

It's a good afternoon for tennis and for watching slugs coasting across the patio in the wet.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

My name is Claire and I am a plantaholic.

Visits to gardening shows this week: 1 (Hampton Court)
Plants purchased: 8
Slugs and snails killed: averaging about 10 a day
Private garden visits: 6 (local gardening club)
Gardening magazines purchased: 1 (The English Garden)

Garden-wise, it's been manic.  Hampton Court was wonderful.  I could not help myself buy plants in the Floral Marquee.  It was the opening night and the 'plant creche' wasn't open so like a complete show novice I ended up carting around a couple of Melica Nutans grasses and a clematis all evening.  Anyone that has ever travelled with a clematis will know that they don't take well to being dragged around a show ground all evening while it's new owner keeps apologizing to everyone that gets caught up in it's tendrils or else tutting at people that knocked it.  I'm happy to report that it survived with just one strand  bruised beyond repair.  I'm sure an expert will be along to tell me that a clematis doesn't have a strand but they are branches or have a special Latin name but you know what I mean.  I lost a few seedheads from the Melica Nutans as well.  It was all a very delicate operation.

Le Photographe struggled with the artificial lighting in the Floral Marquee but here's the species of clematis on the left that I bought thanks to Floyds Climbers.  The man on the stand (presumably Floyd but I didn't ask him) had some helpful advice about clematis care: they don't like wet feet so let them dry out and give them a liquid tomato feed every other week.  This is the diametric opposite to what I have been doing (a zealous over-waterer if ever there was one). I am now on a strict programme of reform.  One good thing about Monday evening was that there was more opportunity than usual to interact with the plant growers as well as the plants.  Thanks Floyd, for your many clematis (or clematii??) and your wisdom.

Here's another one from Floyd.  Please don't comment on the shadow at the bottom as  you will upset the photographer.

It rained a lot so we all had to be resilient to enjoy our picnics.

I also had a very exciting encounter with Michael from Slug Bell.  Michael invented the slug bell after he found himself crunching a slug pellet along with his home grown salad.  The slug bell consists of a tiny mesh on a poll which hold the slug pellets.  This is semi covered by a decorative bell which concentrates the odour of the pellets in order to attract more slugs.  The bell gives a double advantage in that it prevents birds and other wildlife from eating the poisonous pellets.  I didn't buy one to test out as I already had my hands full but I will definitely be looking into it. 

Who can blame Michael for embarking on this venture?  Surely eating a slug pellet must be a low point in a gardener's life.  Needless to say, Michael and I quickly struck up a rapport.

Back home in the garden, it's becoming crammed with all these plants, a kind of horticultural traffic jam.  The high hopes I had in the style stakes for Dianthus Alpine have been dashed.  What I thought was a chic little brown and white Chanel of a plant has turned a sort of diluted pink reminiscent of Carnation Milk mixed in with bits of strawberry jerry.  If anyone is reading this who lives in Hackney and would like it, you are welcome to it as I have plants jostling to take it's place.