Sunday, 18 February 2018

pooped of poopington

It was quite a nice springy sort of weekend, so I may have overdone it a bit. This weekend featured:

  • Consultation with a Tree Surgeon he reckons they can sort the overhang with pole loppers and ladders, so great.
  • Moving the hedgehog house careful investigation revealed a) no hedgehog and b) a small animal run along the back fence. Yay! Hodge made it through the winter. So I moved the hedgehog box back a bit, into a more sheltered position.
  • Raspberry cane, Grape Vine and Passion Vine reductions this is going to be a bit ongoing as it's too much to do all at once
  • Clippings to the tip as part of grand tip run involving much cardboard and a dead rolly futon. 
  • Starting the propagator mostly chilli plants (Trinidad Perfume, Vampire, Kashmiri, Hungarian Wax and a couple of others whose names escape me) but a bit of Beefsteak tomato. Shockingly I have no Krim seed! I seem to have Russian purple sweethearts, oxhearts and cherries instead. That doubtless seemed like a great idea at the time, but it's too early to plant any of those so I'll see if I can pick some up some Krim tomorrow. 
  • Starting the growhouse  The IKEA Growhouse is lovely but the lack of bottom heats makes it a risky proposition, so I always load this up with no-hoper or overcollected seed. Basil, chilli, parsley this time. We'll see if it does anything but go mouldy!
  • Clearing the shed This happened organically when I discovered I'd mislaid the greenhouse tops of two of my Garland Seven seed trays. One cleared shed later, they turned up nestling between the toolbox and a solid bag of patch plaster. I also found weedkiller, slug pellets and pesticide (when and why would I have bought that?) all of which I'll need to get rid of, somehow...
  • Sorting the plant pots I store them in a broken old tallboy that has lost most of its drawer fronts, but winter and lassitude had lefts them scattered every which way across the shed. All size-graded and back in their drawers!
  • Putting down the first seed trays I didn't do too well on trying to grow interesting Aquilegia last year, so I'm trying again, and this time starting early. We've got Yellow Queen and Crimson Star (who sound like a pair of Superheroines of a certain age!). I also found an old pot of harvested sweet pea seeds  of uncertain vintage in a shed drawer, so planted them, too, four to a cell. Knowing my luck, I'll get a germination rate of none, none, none, ALL, none, none etc.
  • Composting the grape harvest I had sort of half-forgotten the grapes, harvested hopelessly late and left in a trug. Anyway, they're in the compost now, ugh.
  • Feeding the ericacious plants I didn't make any plant-related resolutions this year, but if I had, feeding everything would have been on the list. It's the one thing I get reliably scolded about when I go to the garden shows and it's important for pots and an easy fix. So this year, plants, you're gonna get fed.
Now? Knackered.  

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

the copenhagen green roof ruling

I have a longstanding interest in green roofing. Partly this is because of the time we went up to see what was happening on the roof of the Southbank Centre and an elf left over from a Christmas event regaled us with such tales of how there was a boat you could stay in that we ended up yeah, doing that, and visiting their roofgarden as often as possible, too. Partly it's becuase every year we get a wellbeing suvey asking what one thing would improve our qualty of life at work. And every year I think really hard, and reply "a roof garden". So when I read about Copenhagan's mandatory green roof policy I was excited. Especially the bit about retrofitting all historical roofs with a less than 30 degree pitch.

Turns out the source for this news story has long since deleted it, leaving nothing but a halo of excited blog-echoes lingering in the eco, urbanity and design blogs. The news source is quite interesting, though (and not just because it's running similar news stories this year about mandatory green roofs in Bogota, France, Prague, etc.)

a biosolar roof future for London

The website is from a company with its eyes set on approximately 10 Million m2 of existing roof space in London that could be greened. It has a vision. That vision is a biosolar roof future for London, every horizonal tarred felted sealed surface turned around, evolved, integrated and coopted to serve a future of reduced urban heat island effect, improved air quality and improved health and wellbeing. Each story about a prestige city mandating green roofs supports their pitch (pun intended); London should have more green roofs, commission them (from us) (especially the ones which are green roof/solar panel combos).

I don't disagree. In fact, I'd go further. Let's have a biosolar roof future for the nation. For the world. Let's identify those flat roofs and sort what we need to do to spread the green across them, make them safe and open them up to increase the urban garden availability to all. Let's shelter and ring these spaces with solar panels, trickling warmth and light over the plants in their impoverished environment, bitter with particulates and pollutants. Let's let them sponge up the rains, slow the run-off, shelter the butterflies and trickle green down the sides of the buildings. Let's remember that green roofs can grow on any pitch, including vertical, and stop wasting that space that could be flowers, could be butterflies (or hornets and ants, of course).

And above all, let's see how little we can do to achieve this. Wildflowers, sure, but what about Sow Thistles? Chickweed, Red Valerian,  and Ragwort will all grow in a rime of grime or a layer of grit. How green could a roof get just from letting it be?

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Lumiere take-homes for the garden

Going to Lumiere London was a bit of a last minute thing. We had other things on in the morning and piled into London late, the light already fading, squeaking it for the other thing we'd planned to do, which was visit the Rachel Whiteread show at the Tate Britain.

Bits of the London Lumiere are kind of gardeny - like anything that happens in squares and interstitial urban spaces, it feel inflorescent, like an emanation; classy planting here, and there colourful weeds.

At this time of year, my garden gets barely an hour of sun a day, smuggled uncertainly around the roofs and through the trees. I'm desperate for light in the garden. Can the Lumiere help me find some ways to bring down the sun into the gloom of a winter British garden?

1. Colourful chunks of light-capturing material

Rachel's chair spaces

I love the luminous resinous chunkiness of these underchair spaces by Rachel Whiteread. The material on these probably isn't weatherproof, but perhaps something could be found that was? They'd sit well among greenery as a garden stool, cat chess posing stand or just as something to capture the sun and draw it down into the garden.

2. Line your windows with colour; let them shine across the water

Lights along the South Bank Lights along the South Bank

In domestic spaces, the main source of light for any garden will be the house. But windows don't have to be neutral electric rectangles. You don't have to go to the Lumiere to see this view; it's available every night of the year. London's glassy waterfront properties line and space their windows with neon streaks and splices and then use the Thames to paint luminous rippled neon-bright pathways to their doorways. You can do the same with fairy lights around a window, or a neon floor lamp inside a glass door, in a window box; and use some water in the garden to pull down the sky and the light, or beat a pathway to your neon-lit window.

3. Extend your lights with diffusing additions

plastic bottle jellyfish

This one looked easy enough to make I wondered if it was a local school project. It's more of a party lights item than something to have up every day of the year. The jellyfish trails are made of sliced up plastic bottles, but anything transparent can be used to trail light away from its source. Imagine this threaded through a vine; the glow of green, the snakey hint of something oozing through the undergrowth.

4. Light string your pergola

through the south bank wave through the south bank wave

This one - wave - was incredibly compelling. You just had to walk through it. This was pretty complicated stuff - motion sensors at ankle height triggered colour changes and flashes in banks of multi-coloured LEDs. That might be a bit much for a weekend make for a summer party, but you can buy luminescent string very easily nowadays, and that could be strung along the struts of a greenhouse, or - yes - along your pergola. The string itself is waterproof, and very low-power, you just need an AA battery pack (and a baggie for it in case it rains). Not got a pergola? Read on:

5. Light string your shrubs and perennials

Light strings garden

Look at this! The severe silhouettes of mature London Plane trees are strung with fluorescent string lit by blacklight searchlights, as if a 70s string painting found its ultimate 21st Century apotheosis. I'm not oversupplied with mature trees or generators to run massive searchlights out back, but you could string shrubs or tall, tough perrenials (think Hollyhocks or Raspberry canes) up with more light string, and skip the searchlights. Although waterproof blacklight strips are a thing, of course (for night fishing) and once you're getting them, you might as well throw in a few glow-critters too.

6. Light-up woodland animals

Leicester Square Leicester Square

These are light-up willow sculptures, and primary school kids learn to make them every year for winter lights festivals. These are very pretty and professional examples of the genre; most look more like these (instructions are also through that link - but briefly, soak some willow twigs, weave them into shapes, cover with tissue paper soaked in PVA, then paint) but I think a simple hedgehog, rabbit or crow should be doable in the back-garden. LED tea lights traditionally provide the lighting but it's easier to go brighter with a cupboard light. The ones I just linked to have motion sensors, which could add even more excitement to your light-up wildlife.

Leicester Square Leicester Square

7. Giant solar powered flowers

Leicester Square

Solar powered flowers have come on a bit in the past few years, but there's no denying that even the best examples have a certain knee-high garden gnomish aesthetic which may not agree with you. These ones from Leicester Square have sensibly dropped the solar-powered aspect of the flower. and instead put a conventionally powered super-bright LED light in the middle and attached translucent/reflective petals. At this size they take on a threatening, dominant air. You too could intimidate your guests - with the help of some of that PVA tissue paper, a garden cane, a cupboard light and some light string, for the leaves.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

a few soft shoots

It always feels like a victory when the first seedlings of spring start to show their heads. I bought root-trainers for myself in the end, sick of waiting for them to bubble to the top of my wish list. This year I'll see how they work out, on some absurdly pink and blousy sweet peas that on a dark, grim January day seemed like the exact best thing  in the world.

Next up, it's chilli planting time.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

forests in the sky

The design blogs go on about deco featuring combined with stunning modernity, but bluntly, to me,  this crazy high-rise New York building looks a bit Elven:

And elves, of course, build with trees. Trees up high, trees down low, trees inside, trees all around. This one isn't quite achieving that, but it feels like a step in the right direction:

I particularly like this penthouse terrace. Note the loose paving over a gravelled base, with greenery growing between. Practical as well as as beautiful; surface water is wicked away into the plants, and can be reservoired in the gravel layer.

That ethereal Elven sheen about the pictures arises because these are architectural renderings, not the real thing.  Though the sales office for the units (note the bonsai in the ecstatically designer occasional table - they clearly have the idea that the trees are a selling point) has a similarly otherworldly aspect, so either a) they're using renderings throughout for consistency or b) you can tell your photographer to imitate the look of an architectural rendering. Either is plausible.

Right now, the building looks rather more like this, and any planting is yet to come.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

ideas for 2018 - I want plinths

I went out into the garden today. There were some flowers, but there were also many, many problems. My lovely Moroccan occasional table, for example. It's suffered this winter, and I'm not sure it's repairable. No idea what I should get next. Something like this, maybe?

These things (Primitives by Moncada/Rangel) are supposed to be plinths. You put display items on top. I think they'd work well for plants, too. Something trailing for the red three-limbed stand, a big Giant Heather column erupting up from that green bowl. On that green three-part base? (It's actually the best match for the existing table) (I could make one of those, surely) A huge and blousy tiger-bright wallflower.