Sunday, 13 August 2017

cracked apples

My tiny potted apple tree was being a bit tardy about the June drop this year, so I decided to snip off the bulk of the fruit anyway. It's been dry, and the pot has suffered. A few fewer apples, I reasoned, would rescue the plant from killing itself fruiting.

The night after I'd got snippy it rained. It rained a lot. The following morning, the tree had visibly perked up, but some of the fruit was showing cracks, like unevenly watered tomatoes. I'd never even heard of this happening to an apple tree, though apparently it is a thing.

The cracks began to darken and widen and spread across the whole fruit tree. Now pretty much the entire crop is showing damage.

Had the tree been expecting twice as much fruit to pump the water into? Either way the results are brutal. I'm steadily thinning the fruit as they rot off, while the remaining few unblemished fruits seem to be dropping anyway; maybe the tree had already decided to stop supplying them. The slugs and snails are stepping in to finish the carnage.

cracked apples cracked apples
cracked apples cracked apples

Uneven watering is of course the culprit. We've had challenging dry spells this year, and there's only so much you can do with a hose. The compost bakes and the flow-through damages the soil. Plants settle into panic mode, and react unpredictably to water, sometimes refusing it, sometimes overtranspiring.

Of course, growing an apple tree in a flowerpot is a ridiculous idea.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

the strawberry problem

I have, as Harlequin cat is so urgently attempting to communicate here, a strawberry problem. You can see my strawberry pots in the background there. My yields last year had been pretty much negligible, so I did a semi-refresh this year; new plants, half and half new compost and old.

That was when I started seeing the vine weevils. There followed the usual process of sifting and murder, but insects being what they are, I think it's safe to say now that my containers are now, well, weevilly. Strawbs are vulnerable to the weevil, and sure enough, this year again (they nibble the roots) despite my best efforts, the harvest was negligible.

I also had to fight the slugs for every berry, but I digress.

judgey cat

So now, apparently I could try garden soil in my pots or wash the roots and chuck out all the compost, but one of the reasons I have so many containers full of compost is that I have very little soil in my garden, and washing my strawbs feels a bit bonkers. Alternatively I could try and get them devoured from within by nematodes, but  both ugh, really? and I also have waterplanters and apparently if nematodes get into those the results can be a bit um yeah.

There are chemicals, but we're using none of that because I have beautiful beetles of many kinds in my garden. There's a suggestion that heavy watering might help.

I'm back to washing the strawberries, aren't I?

Sunday, 6 August 2017

the interface between you and the wild

I was falling asleep to Gardener's World this Friday (the hour-long format does make it something of a marathon, although I do like the new segments, they leaven the Longmeadow nicely) when Monty abruptly shared that when they had moved in, it had just been a field. Possibly he meant it metaphorically, or relatively; there are certainly some trees there which radiate significant age and authority, and some of the walls are very old indeed. But nevertheless I felt the emotional truth in what he was saying; it was a wilderness, a bleak space, and I enclosed it, wrapped it around. I made it a garden.

Suddenly the endlessly spawning little jewelboxes of prettyness that make up Longmeadow began to make sense. They are baffles between the gardener and the wind and the wild and the rabbits that come and munch on your precious cabbages; a little labyrinth to bewilder the approach, block prying eyes and dissipate attack. The garden is battlements against what waits outside, beyond the pale.

Therefore the garden has a graduated tone; from extreme, colourful control and tidiness in the inner reaches, alongside the house, the greenhouse, the potting shed, out to the symbolic and sympathetically prettified wildernesses of the outer edges. For a house placed in a landscape (as I imagine this one is, although it could be in the suburbs somewhere for all I know) that shading out softens the edges between the garden and the wild. There is no beginning as such, just a regular march of order/interference, spreading outward around the human habitation.

That graduation of wildness is even visible in a tiny space like mine, where the fuchsias and blue poppies and kniphofia gather nervously and centrally in pots and planters, while around the edges the wilder planting shades into a wilder state (the ivy, the passion vine, the grape vine, the miniature native hedge) creating a cut-off from the neighbours. Here the dip into wilderness is very shallow; an interstitial gap between properties choked with brambles, the deep shade under a Douglas hedge, a place where you don't pull the bindweed, or can't quite get the sucker ash up from under the fence.

But still it remains, that symbolic dip into wilderness between people, preserving peace, diffusing the crowding, separating safely.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

happy anniversary garden


It's my wedding anniversary today. I remember the early conversations with providers of flowers, and the months of looking at flowers at other people's weddings (everyone seemed to be getting married that year) which were always very nice yes, quite fussy and decorated (so many pins and ribbons) and my steady realisation that, a bit like going to a hairdresser, including someone else in the equation would involve painful compromise and a retreat to something more conservative, more generally pleasing.

So I went round the ring road and the local supermarkets and the local garden centre. I picked up three special items from the fancy florist in the middle of town (two matching orchids, a proto-bouquet, the fancy roses). I dug out the pots and vases on sale at IKEA and Robery Dyas that I'd been hoarding and assembled it all on the floor of my kitchen while everyone else panicked about random shit at the venue.

My flowers were awesome. And I also still have some in the garden, flowering, right now. That's my Kniphofia Timothy, from the planters in front of the high table at the reception, after a hard summer when it got congested and nearly died. It's doing fine, and in flower right now. The Lime border Datura is an annual, of course, but seeds so magnificently it's a regular returner.

pale green datura divide and hope
Decorated dinosaur Bouquet

Some things were disposable of course, though a few of the (cough choke) faux botanicals may still be knocking around. The dinosaur and seeds are a wedding favour. I dropped plenty of those (easy seeders all) into my own garden, and the fennel and nigella are still going strong. 

Saturday, 29 July 2017

new cuttings containment device

IKEA think that this is a spice rack. They're clearly mistaken though, it's for starting softwood cuttings. It's called a RIMFORSA and also comes in supersized, which would work well for things that need a bitt more leaf space.

the cutting tubes

The problem cactus is trying to escape again. I gave it a bigger pot and still it runs away from it, sprouting a new segment, complete with rootlet. Where will it end?

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

a garden where there is no garden

Some of the best gardens, the very best gardens are ephemeral intrusions into places where there was no garden before.  Theses things are not "the right plant in the right place". They are not built with a mind to legacy or how the garden will become. They are all out invasions, the march of the green into a place it neither belongs nor is welcome.

Here is one made of sound and containers of greenery. from this emerges the first rule; the green must drown the space. A few pots are not enough. There must be a forest.

Garden State - Venice Biennale from kling klang klong on Vimeo.

This one below is Marmaza, an anarchic collection of privately owned plants that have been liberated from their owners and brought together as is for a warehouse rave for plants. For this one, the plants could be moved by the visitors, as if they were dancers in the space. The large one must have presented some challenges, mind. Maybe they laid on some hoists, sack trucks and a block and tackle. From this one comes the second rule; the green must do something other than just stand there and be pretty, the garden must have urgent, ungovernable and exotic purpose.


Our very favourite green invasion space, the Southbank Concrete Garden, is closed for renovation. All across the walks around it at the moment, posters are fixed to trees decrying the horrible, unpopular, aggravating and endlessly reflung plan to overclose, enclose and de-public the space, lock the people's concrete palace under hi-tech private glasshouses. Sod that for a game of soldiers.

wheelbarrow deckchair Happy anniversary

From this emerges principles third. fourth and final.

Third: The space must live and change. It is not a permanent installation, though it may be (as Southbank is) always a garden.

Fourth: It must invite exploration, experience and interaction. You must be able to dwell in it, bear in the wood or adam and eve, a mole in a hole or a rat in a can. Whatever is is you must be able to crawl into it and sit, relax, enjoy.

Final: The space must be accessible.