Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Where On Earth Did August Go?

Ooh, blimey what happened to the rest of August? I just blinked and it was gone in a haze of cold and rain. Not that I begrudge the rain as it's given the garden a new lease of life, but the cold was definitely no friend to me - I had to don socks in bed, always a winner in the romance department!!!
Apologies for the absence of the weekly plant too. We've decided to get ourselves organised at home and finish the decorating and I've been wooed away from the blog by wallpaper, vintage sideboards and schmancy upholstered armchairs. This is a poor excuse, I know, but it's the only one I have. . .
Anyhooo, back to the blog - tomorrow.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Bird Boxes and Fence Posts

Today was my first day as a volunteer for the London Wildlife Trust working on the Greenway at the Olympic site in Stratford. As a resident of Newham and a regular user of the Greenway as a cycle route I wanted to do something to improve and upkeep all the good work that's going on in the lead up to 2012, so when a request for volunteers came through via my allotment association I decided to give it a go.
The Trust host corporate charity days as part of their volunteer programme and the morning was spent supervising the building of bird and bat boxes for putting up along the Greenway. Other activities included rubbish collection and graffiti removal, so I'm glad I got the bird box shift as that was much more fun. Ironically the corporate team were working for London 2012 and it was great fun watching people constructing their boxes - you really get an idea of people's personalities by the way they tackle the job.
The afternoon was spent at the View Tube site removing the protective fences around wild flower plantings and pruning back wild rape. I'd like to meet whoever put those fence posts in and give him a severe talking to - it took my colleague Steve and I some serious pushing, shoving, levering and dramatic grunting to shift the buggers, roll them up and hoist them into storage. I was totally knackered by the end of the day and mounted Marjorie the bicycle with seriously wobbly legs. Luckily Marjorie knows the way home (back along the now sparklingly clean Greenway) so minimal effort was needed on my part - ta Marjie luv!

Monday, 16 August 2010

There's A Garden In There Somewhere

Today I went to rescue a neglected back garden in Stratford. The flat was a rental and responsibility for the upkeep of the garden was with the tenants, a lovely couple with a cute 15 month old daughter, who obviously didn't have the time for weeding and pruning.
Unfortunately I didn't take my camera and it was only when the hubby of the family saw me trying to take a photo of the finished article on my phone that he kindly offered to take a some shots and email them through to me - how sweet was that?!
The garden was overrun with weeds, convovulus and some out of control shrubs to the point where the bindweed had suffocated the roses and anemones against the back wall and was growing merrily through the tops of the trees and bushes and across the gravel. All very messy and nasty! Anyway it took most of the day, but I managed to reclaim the gravel (re-discovering the stepping stones and water feature in the process) and reshape some of the shrubs into submission, so all-in-all a good days work. A lovely thank you note was attached to the email too, which is always welcome as are choccies or baked food stuffs - just so you know!

Friday, 13 August 2010

This Weeks Plant From The Garden - Anemone Elegens

Very posh name: A. x hybrida, or as you and I know it Japanese Anemone. I've always liked these anemones with their large green leaves and nodding pink flowers on furry stems and am particularly exited by ours as it's the first year they've flowered - this is their third year having been uprooted from my father-in-law's garden in Norfolk.
Family: Ranunclulaceae. (Go on I dare you to try and pronounce it!)
Position: Moist, fertile soil in sun or partial shade.
Flowers: Late summer/autumn. Ours have just flowered and there more buds being formed.
Dimensions: 150cm high and 50-60cm wide. Opinion seems to vary depending on what book you're reading, but they will be tall.
Habit: Erect branching perennial. They will spread and can become a bit of a nuisance if you don't keep on top of them.
Care: I leave them to their own devices until they become too invasive. They don't like their roots being disturbed so they may take some time to recover if you move them.
Pruning: Will die back to ground level each year, but leaves may die and become brown and dry, so these can be removed when necessary.
Propagation: From seed in autumn or early winter or division in spring.
Distribution: Garden origin.

Bold/italics = the official line
Everything else = my slanderous jabbering

Ah, Fame At Last!

Is it me or does everyone like seeing their name in print? Why ask? Well, because I was well chuffed when I saw myself mentioned in that well known intellectual publication, the Newham Magazine. The piece related to the winners of the local front garden competition (as part of the Forest Gate Festival on 10 July) and as I generally don't win stuff and am still embarrassingly pleased with myself I thought I'd find out if I'm a sad-case or a really sad-case. Mind you, if I'm totally honest the only child in me is an itsy bit sulky 'cos she didn't win and is currently having a 'to the death' pillow fight with the bit of me that tries not to be a spoilt brat! I'm not sure at this stage who I'd put my money on, but I'm leaning towards sulky ginger kid - my grown-up side seems to have a nosebleed and wants to lie down in a dark room somewhere until the screaming stops.
p.s. I don't remember wooing anyone. In fact, I'm not sure I know how to woo. Any suggestions?

Thursday, 12 August 2010

70th Anniversary Of The Battle Of Britain

In the summer of 1940, the German Luftwaffe attempted to win air superiority over southern Britain and the English Channel by destroying the Royal Air Force and the British aircraft industry. This attempt came to be known as the Battle of Britain, and victory over the RAF was seen by the Germans as absolutely essential if they were eventually to mount an invasion of the British Isles. Needless to say this didn't happen and I think that it's vital that we remember our history and was really excited that Cadogan Hall were presenting Hitz from the Blitz, a series of concerts to commemmorate the 70th anniversary, especially as the Puppini Sisters were playing last night.
I think the Puppini Sisters are a bit like Marmite, you either love them or hate them. The audience was of mixed age and the Sisters were on good form. We're playing the latest album (The Rise and Fall of Ruby Woo) in car all the time at the moment. My favourite track's Soho Nights - give it a listen if you get a mo'.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Baby Beds And A Nice Cup Of Tea

Yes, that was the order of the day on Sunday down on't 'lotment, that and a bourbon biscuit - utter bliss! We've managed to cobble together three small raised beds from some left over bits of Billy that were in the loft. There's no stopping me now as I scour the streets for suitably sized bits of timber and sign on to Freecycle in a desparate attempt to find more bookcases. My mate Luce and I even went out armed with torches last night in order to 'acquire' a rather hefty looking pallet from a nearby building site. Nearly killed ourselves laughing getting it home though, so not too sly about it. Here's a pic of B doing the poo thing and one of our flask - the two highlights of the day. Yay for recycling and double-yay for Dougie and Annabel at The Rather English Co for supplying our delicious brew. Now I'm sure I saw a skip around here somewhere. . .

Friday, 6 August 2010

A Dose Of Chelsea Physic

Went to the Chelsea Physic Garden today as I was in the area picking up my mate Luce from Victoria coach station. Neither B or I'd be en before so we had a picnic in the grounds and a good wander around. As it was Jamaican Independence Day today (congrats Jamaica) they had a trio playing traditional songs which was cool. The garden's been displaying produce and plants from the Caribbean for a while now so it all tied in nicely and it was really interesting to see what things such as plantain and millet look like before they're picked and processed. I also really liked the way the flower beds on the left of the entrance were laid out in families showing all the flowering dicotelydon varieties. It's not often you get to see so many varieties of a species in the same place. I also really liked the poisonous garden - especially the signs warning people not to eat the plants. Not sure about you but I usually use the restaurant if I'm hungry!
My only regret was that everything was a little past it's best, so will definitely be go
ing back again next spring/summer.

This Week's Plant From The Garden - Lithospermum

Lithospermum 'Star' (also known as Lithodora) is a lovely little plant that we picked up on one or our trips to my folks in Norfolk. We were looking for ground fillers and this fit the bill perfectly. It looks lovely in amongst the taller bedding plants.
Family: Boraginceae
Position: Full sun in lime free soil. Suitable for beds, banks walls, rock gardens, gravel beds and containers.
Flowers: Spring with continual flushes throughout summer. Ours hasn't flowered again this year as it's been too hot, dry and windy.
Dimensions: 20cm high by 40cm wide.
Habit: Mat forming perennial shrublet which should give years of colour. Hardy.
Care: leave it to it's own devices - trim back after flowering if you like.
Propagation: Cuttings in late summer.
Distribution: not sure about this one - can't find anything in my gardening encyclopedias. A plant of mystery!!!

Key: bold/italics = stuff I've nicked from books
Everything else = me

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Ooh, I Love My Bed!

After much planning, drawing and colouring-in to make a plan for the perfect allotment, everything went out the window this weekend when we/I had a 'mahoussive' change of mind and, in the spirit of recylcling and allotment growing everywhere, decided to use our old Ikea bookshelves to make raised beds instead of buying scaffold boards. Good old Billy - there he is on his back filled to the brim with horse poo - what a way to end your days!!
We started off by digging over a previously cultivated plot the width of two Billies separated by a 1m path to safely accommodate my bottom when crouching between beds (pic 1 - the plot not my bottom obviously). It was tough going as the soil is predominantly clay and resembles those pictures you see of wastelands, artistically cracked and hard as concrete. We then pulled out as many stones as we could without our trusty sieve, which I'd left in the loft and used them to in-fill the outside of the bed (pic 2) and finally, carrying a plastic bin between us, we skipped off to the manure heap to dig for victory - well actually for the really good rotty stuff at the bottom of the pile. This we spread merrily about by hand making sure that the poo was at least three inches deep and covered the entire surface, creating a mulch that will hopefully discourage the weeds. This should also break down slowly over the winter and make the soil all lovely for planting next spring. Anyway that's the plan but I say HA! to plans.