Thursday, 30 January 2014

Regreening the front garden...what to do about block paving. 1.

Somebody has stolen my front garden. Where once there would have been lawn, borders brimming with flowers, a functional but nonetheless charming path to the front door and a low wall with railings to the street, there is now an expanse of characterless block paving and a dropped kerb. And we’re not the only ones to have become victims to the front garden thieves  – there’s a rash of it breaking out along our road, and the word on the street is that it’s a phenomenon that could soon reach epidemic proportions across the nation.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The little things

Last Monday morning, a mad dash to Wisley where, in addition to charging up Battleston Hill for one final look at the Henry Moore sculpture before it departed, I was bound for the alpine area. An interest in alpines is something I’ve managed to avoid cultivating for many years but, with a creeping sense of inevitablity, it would appear to be taking hold. Is it age, I wonder? Surely not maturity – I do hope not. But perhaps there is some truth in the notion that while a person might be tempted into the garden by the big and the bright and the blousy, it takes time to develop even so much as an awareness of stuff you’d normally walk on, let alone to marvel at the tiny architectural perfection of these diminutive plants.

As with so much in horticulture, this is an area in which I’m almost entirely ignorant. Fortunately Wisley provides an ideal teaching resource so, macro lens at the ready and already anticipating a memory card full of wide-apertured, poorly focused shots, I set off to capture at least a few images that would be worthy of keeping; to examine, and prompt further research. Here they are.

Do please leave a comment below if you’ve any wisdom to offer on any of the plants in the pictures.

Saxifrage, I think. Possibly S. x petraschii

Um...I’m going for campanula

Look at this! Fab colour, well, beige I suppose! So tactile, I love it.


I’m a mug for an epimedium. I think I saw this at Chelsea in the pavillion last year.

I absolutely fell in love with this one...

...and here, a bit closer in. Look at that geometry! And the flowers...

At this point I was getting concerned that a saxifrage obsession could be in the offing

The Cretan Brake Fern, Pteris cretica 'Wimsettii'. Looks like bagged salad. I like it.

Look at those trumpets! PAAARRRPP!!

How perfect is this Oxalis palmifrons from South Africa?

Neat, tribble-like mounds of Acantholimon everywhere. Love the paper thin petals.


Monday, 13 January 2014

Too much of a good thing

Within gardening, as within many other areas in life, it is perfectly possible to have too much of a good thing. I was reminded of this truism as I stood in the woodland garden this morning, surveying the luxuriant layer of fallen oak leaves clothing the ground. Hitherto I have waxed lyrical about the wonders of leaf litter, the benefits of a humus rich soil and the various shenanigans entered into by the detritivores and decomposers who chose to make their home (not to mention their dinner) in these layers of our garden ecosystem, and nothing I’ve recently encountered gives me cause to gainsay such reasonable utterances. However, all things in moderation. It would seem that the autumn of 2013 was not only a bumper mast year (see this post here for an account), but also one in which every tree decided to complement its prodigious crop of fruit with leaves produced in such generous abundance it bordered upon hysteria. These, having at last been shed by the oak trees – which become untypically coy towards the end of the year, revealing their naked forms at the latest possible moment – are now lying several inches thick upon every horizontal surface in the woodland area. This is a part of the garden which, while making no claims to be a naturalistic setting, is nonetheless a very pleasant spot in which to walk a while and ponder; its dappled light, subtley different climate and unique soundscape offerring an intriguing change of pace from the rest of the garden. Of course, it also provides environment in which plants more at home in shadier, less exposed situations can thrive.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Passing over

The wind sounded like the sea this morning. That wide-throat white-noise roar of rollers beating themselves on the beach, somehow echoed miles inland by air raking through bare winter trees, singing the telephone wires, bursting out into wide gardens through the narrow alleyways between houses, and breaking in waves on the lawn.

It is oddly mild and, muffled against the gusty wind in the not quite light I can see that the ditches though full are not overflowing, and the fields are largely free of surface water. The ground is nonetheless saturated, every air pocket and worm worn burrow awash. The worms themselves, lacking lungs and unable to drown, can stand a week or two of being submerged and wait it out patiently, five hearts beating time away till the waters recede and the soil returns to a more pneumatic state.

The forecast for Kent suggests that we may be nearing the end of this chain of rotten weather systems. I’ll dare to hope that these winds blow the rain heavy clouds away as predicted and give us at least a few days of relative calm, before – who knows what? Maybe we’ll be next in line for the freezing conditions presently gripping the east coast of the US. Maybe we’ll just be in for traditional mild sogginess, but a chance for the ground to dry out would be just the thing.

In the meantime, I’m taking great comfort in the clouds passing over, happy to let the boisterous winds blow these last few weeks away.