Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Cat Woman

I'd just hunkered down in bed with a good book last night when our peace was disturbed by an intermittent, high-pitched yowling. Being the guilt-ridden softie that I am I had to go and investigate, so off I trotted in my bed-wear and burkies to discover what all the fuss was about and hoping it was nothing gory. Bear in mind that it was about 11:30pm on the dark streets of Newham so I was half expecting to be arrested at any moment.
Anyway, the culprit turned out to be a kitten that had climbed up the net curtain and out of the glass louvers at the top of the window a couple of doors away (right) only to plop down onto the ledge with no way back - hence the plaintive catawalling (ooh, do you think that's where that phrase actually came from?). Meanwhile kitten number 2 is on the correct side of the window trying to attack the outsider through the glass with a fluffy paw.
So, to the rescue comes I. I clamber onto the window ledge - narrowly avoiding treading on said outsider as it launches itself desperately towards me - scoop the furry bundle up with one hand and pop it back through the top of the window where it looks at me questioningly. I'm hanging on to the ledge for dear life as I don't want to end up in a flower bed in the middle of the night and am in no mood for nonsense so I nudge it further into the window and watch it half fall, half clamber back down the inside of the curtain to join it's fighting friend. Mission accomplished and no baseball bat wielding homeowner intent on killing me. Yay!
I do hope this flat did in fact contain 2 cats and the owner didn't come home and wonder how they'd mysteriously gained an extra one. Hmmm. . .

NOTE: no cats were harmed during the writing of this blog. The true identity of the kitten in question has been witheld in case of legal proceeding.


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Flower Power

I'm not sure if I've already told you but this year we decided to try out the Riverford cut flower collection - plug plants and seeds for growing at home to provide fresh cut flowers all summer. I must admit I was a bit dubious about the quantity of flowers we'd get but have been pleasantly surprised, especially in view of the fact that we don't tend to be overly generous with the watering can.
We've had cut flowers on a weekly basis for the past 2 months and as you can see from the picture the pack contains is a lovely selection of flowers including cosmos, statis and sunflowers and although the varieties remain the same the quantities of each differ from week to week so no bunch ever looks the same.
I think we paid about £18 for 10 different varieties but when you think that a bunch of supermarket flowers will set you back at least £5 I think we're really getting our monies worth. Plus, we know these are home-grown, organic, British species and it doesn't get much better than that! The only downside was the sweet peas, we just didn't water them enough and they are very sparse and sad looking. Will definitely do the same next year.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Ooh, New Toy!

I think there are a lot of gardening gadgets out there that are either a) completely useless or b) for the criminally lazy but I remember my dad always saying that you should use the right tool for the right job. With this in mind and a continually blunt pair of hedge sheers in hand I trotted off to buy myself some grass shears. Boy oh boy is life easier with these babies in hand! I have a pair of long handled edgers (definitely not the technical term but at least they have a name - usually I just mime the tool ) which are great for controlling stray grass overhanging flowerbeds and a strimmer which is good for a particularly long straggly edge, but for precision cutting these are fab.
These are made by Spear & Jackson and were purchased on Amazon for a bargain £11.99. The blades can be rotated so that they cut on either a horizontal plane (pictured) or vertical plane like a normal pair of scissors and now that I can actually get them open I wonder how I ever did without them. Yay for a gadget that really works!
FYI you can also pick up a pair in Wilkinsons for about a fiver if you're on a budget. We're gonna use those ones down on the allotment.

Friday, 5 August 2011

A New Project

Today I got myself a new project slightly different from my usual weeding and mowing jobs. The owner of this property wants a totally contemporary space (most of my regular clients have more traditional gardens) and I've been asked to come up with some planting ideas for the back section of the garden.
The side beds will be occupied by large stainless steel planters and the client wants some stunning architectural plants for the back bed. The existing trees are being kept so any planting will have to fit around and under them so shrubs are the obvious solution. I've also suggested a statue or large stainless steel structure be placed at the top of the central steps to fit in with the side planters (shame to remove the bag of bark chips but needs must). As the bed slopes forward there is the issue of soil migrating onto the astroturf (yep that grass is fake. . . !) so the client has agreed to raise the small front retaining wall by a few centimetres to contain the new topsoil and compost that we'll add before planting in the autumn. The only real problem will be getting through the existing tree roots deep enough to plant.
As for the planting I'm going to have to give that some thought over the next couple of weeks and make some recommendations, so any suggestions would be welcome. Evergreen, architecturally interesting & no thorns - flowers, colour and visual impact a must. Hmmmmm. . . Will let you know what I come up with.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

De Ja Vu?

I visited this garden last year to clear it, which took me a whole day. This week it took me half a day. Whether this is because I'm faster or because it was less overgrown I'm not sure! Actually that's a bit unfair as the tenants have a small child and are awaiting the birth of their second, so weeding isn't exactly a priority and they did keep on top of it for a while. Most of the folks I work for are out there in the garden doing the best they can and if everyone was a fanatical gardener I'd be out of a job, so I shouldn't complain really but it does break my heart to see good gardens going to pot.
If I'm honest his week has been sweaty and exhausting and I've spent most of it re-visiting neglected gardens. Below is another one that receives only part-time love from it's busy owner. The 'before' photo was taken after the grass had been strimmed down to a manageable height for the mower and the temperature was around 25 degrees - hot, hot, hot!
These jobs may be frustrating but they're also challenging - keeping up the enthusiasm and encouraging owners to get involved is part of the deal. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't - c'est la vie. I think people who invest in creating gardens in the initial stages get a bit lost once the growing starts. It may be lack of knowledge, a busy schedule or just plain laziness, but whatever it is I'll keep egging them on to get involved and hope that I eventually do myself out of business.