As we head towards winter I cannot return to blogging without mentioning the impact from last year’s very mild winter. We all saw the headlines “mildest winter since records began”. But what did this mean for the gardeners and gardens? Whilst I make no claim of being an expert I think we need a prolonged frost to kill bugs, which is why I think this year has been the worst year for slugs and snails. Yet the challenges and difficulties are all part of the joys of gardening.
The Garden Museum has asked me to be included in their walking tour of the gardens of Clapham. This scheme raises funds for the Garden Museum, which is a worthy cause that I’m happy to support. However, I’ve been told the people on the tour are normally consists of professional gardeners and garden designers. So I’m a bit apprehensive about what they will make of my garden as it’s the antithesis of a designed garden. In fact my garden design falls under the Christopher Lloyd school of thought that the love of strong colour that sometimes contrasts sometime not as what excites me.
Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul. Luther Burbank
Luther Burbank was born in 1869 and was a world-renowned botanist, horticulturist and pioneer in agricultural science. He developed more than 800 strains and varieties of plants over his 55-year career.
In my garden this means one thing: protecting plants. This normally starts with my red bananas that, over winter, I place under decking in complete darkness. My larger Japanese bananas get no protection and the smaller ones are warped in horticultural fleece. The tree ferns get no projection but if it snows I’m out there in flash brushing the snow off.
Three years ago I had a wonderful lighting system installed which has added so much joy to the garden. I can now enjoy my garden after dark. But on New Year Day a slug found its way into the junction box and fused the system which meant the year started with a huge bill. This has been the first major problem with the lighting system because I invested in a really good system as quality pays. I’ve had cheaper lights and they were more trouble than they’re worth. Besides, where water and electricity have to mix, we all want peace of mind. This year’s must haves are some very stylist rechargeable table lamps that I spotted in Italy.
Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself
The Gospel According To Zen
Like lots of city gardeners I persist with having a small lawn. Yet I often ask myself why because it’s the most troublesome thing that causes me the most anguish. Maybe it’s the memories of yesteryear and anticipation of new memories that lay ahead running, laying and walking on the blades of glory that makes me keep a lawn in a tiny London garden.
We kissed the lovely grass, Rupert Brooke
After months of panic the open garden has been and gone. Luckily the weather forecast of continuous heavy rain was wrong and the weather was perfect. The day started with light rain which gave the garden the look of summer freshness. My day started with putting up last minute posters. As the sun came out the stage was set and the garden looked superb.
My wonderfully generous army of helpers worked diligently with keeping everyone fed, watered and dealing with the mishaps. Without these wonderful people there would be no open garden. Somehow it doesn’t seem right that as they worked I basked in the glory.
The feedback has been tremendously kind as people have said such nice things about the garden and our hospitality. We had our best ever turnout. 210 people visited the garden and we raised £1,307.35 for the NGS charities, which for a tiny London garden is a fantastic figure. This year’s most FAQ was about the watering which as it’s been so dry wasn’t that surprising. This year’s most surprising question however, was the number of people who asked if I worked. Do I look like someone who should be retired?
To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul, Alfred Austin
Its official I am truly obsessed with gardening. The evidence is there to see. When I awake (which in the summer is 4.30 am) as soon as light permits I’m out inspecting the garden, observing looking at the sheer beauty of my tiny garden, looking for problems, making mental notes of things that need staking, chipping, weeding, feeding and/or watering or just pondering about jobs that need to be done and jobs that I can’t put off any longer. My friends despair at being forced to look at plants before they go over or at a single plant that has just flowered and which gives me so much joy that I want to share it with others.
As an addict I can’t understand why others don’t see what I do. The sense of contentment and tranquillity, that comes from observing a single flower or the beauty of a combination of plants. I am truly obsessed with gardening but I don’t care because the essence of why I garden is I love plants. Like many other people, my work is full of differing demands and working with range of personalities. So the sanctuary of my garden offers is a welcome contrast to my working life, which is the second reason I garden.
The joys of mid-summer are all around us as I worry and panic about the endless challenges that gardening raises that I call midsummer madness . This year for the first time the lilies have been hit by vine weevil which means I was unsure about the lilies flowering to their full glory. As they were meant to be the star of the show I was freighting about how to get around the dearth of gorgeous lilies. Its times like this that make me think, why oh, why, did I ever decide to open my garden to public security in midsummer.
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2.1.255-60)
“If sad and merry madness equal be”Twelfth Night
We finally had what I hope will be the first of many al fresco meals. Fine dining kicked off with al fresco meal of beans on toast with a glass of beer. I’ve got a funny feeling the Gourmet Society isn’t going to writing about this anytime soon.
The garden is no way ready for inspection by the general public but bursting out all over: is a visual fest that hints at the wonders to come. The white foxgloves are a pure joy, that are headlining on my garden steps, which this year are themed as a tribute to Sissinghurst’s white garden. Thus far friends tell me it’s looking more wedding cake then Sissinghurst so the steps are work in progress.
Below are some pictures of my favourite things basking in the glory of early summer