Sunday, August 31, 2008

Do not go gentle...

...into the dark and cold nights of autumn. For indeed, the Met Office have decreed that September 1st is the start of autumn. Cue gardening magazines banging on about seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness.

But wait...looking into the garden, I see the flowers of mid-summer still flaunting their blooms. There are a couple of nods towards the changing season - the Schizostylis coccinea Major has just started flowering, and the crab apples are rosy ripe. But the later performers are still shuffling their feet in the wings, waiting to burst onto the stage. Whilst Aster x frikartii 'Monch' has been flowering for a month, the other asters (cultivars unknown - donated by a chap my father did some work for) are still tightly budded. Even the dahlias have yet to burst forth.

True, the robin is starting to sing his ode to the darkening nights, and the unmistakeable odour of the lush summer vegetation starting to rot assails the nostrils on a still morning. But still, until the first frost blackens the tender growth, I'll not acknowledge those mists or accept the mellow fruitfulness, but will celebrate the bean flowers, lilies, and all those other blousy summer blooms who don't listen to the Met Office. And I'll rage, rage against the dying of the light.
(with apologies to Dylan Thomas)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Digging for Victory

Let it be known that the wondrous day has come. SomeBeans has dug to the end of the allotment. He is now bereft; I am thinking of hiring him out to the newer people on the site.

I've not written about the allotment for a while. We will be giving up the half plot come renewal time in April. The only produce we currently have on it are strawberries (due to be transplanted onto the whole plot), some beans (ha ha! - actually, he spends most of his time on the whole plot) and carrots and parsnips. Oh, and couch grass, horsetails (see previous post), bindweed, etc.

On and off, the whole plot has been dug over for the past 12 months, a couple of rows at a time, painfully pulling out perennial weed roots. Sometimes too frozen to pull out the roots, often too wet to tread on, the soil has now been turned. Half of it is already planted up, but the second half is currently covered to try and reduce weed growth. Just for more fun, this plot also has ground elder, as well as the other weeds mentioned above. Ho hum. It's just as well I quite enjoy weeding; apparently, the rich used to employ lady weeders for sixpence a week to help maintain their gardens. So, if anyone would like to employ a slow but thorough digger and a lady weeder, please let me know.SomeBeans

Friday, August 22, 2008

Liquid blizzard

The first post I put on this blog was entitled 'liquid snow'. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Public Enemy Number One

After several nights of making slug soup (not for human consumption), SomeBeans has come up with a technological solution to our burgeoning slug problem.

He has suggested a remote control trebuchet system. Originally, the idea was to encourage the slugs to crawl onto the 'bucket' of the trebuchet, and then fire them over the fence. However, having spent a few happy days in Cornwall as an undergraduate, painting different coloured dots onto periwinkles, I pointed out that molluscs tend to have a bit of a homing instinct and would soon return, hungry from their exhertions. So, he has now suggested the salt trebuchet, capable of remotely delivering a lethal dose of salt to individual slugs, with pinpoint accuracy. We'll see.

Luckily we don't seem to have leopard slugs hanging from the trees 'doing their thing' in our garden.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

August Blooms

Two posts without pretty pictures, so I shall rectify that by getting around to Garden Bloggers Bloom Day only 24 hours late.

Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii 'Goldsturm'
The centre of the flower looks as rich as Christmas pudding.

Lonicera periclymenum 'Sweet Sue'

Ipomoea 'Grandpa Ott' (rear view)

Lilium speciosum Rubrum


Clematis 'Black Prince'

Californian Poppy


Rear view of Japanese anemone - furry!

Aster frikartii 'Monch'


Lavender and bees

Unknown pink rose, with buddleja and lavender

Verbena hastata 'Rosea'

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The bitterest pill

You can’t see them in the photo of the front garden (see a previous entry) but I have three small columnar apple trees hidden amongst the exuberant herbage. And because they are hidden amongst the herbage, I should cherish and nurture them, and feed them, and love them, to make sure that they don’t have too much competition and don’t get overwhelmed.

Unfortunately, real life got in the way of the desire to do good, and I didn’t quite get around to all the cherishing, nurturing, feeding and loving that I should have. And so, last night, when the Grenadier cooking apples told me very forthrightly that they were ripe (all on the tree when I went to work in the morning, all on the floor when I came home in the evening), I discovered that the fruit had bitter pit. Reading the RHS advice, perhaps extra feed wouldn’t have helped, but watering would have. This makes sense, as the tree in question is within the shadow of the house to a certain extent, so may be sheltered from the voluminous quantities of rain we’ve had this summer. A foliar feed of calcium will help, too.

Bitter pit sounds like something out of a Victorian romantic poem. Last night as I was turning the best of the fallen apples into puree, the phrase ‘O, thou bitter pit’ came into my head. And so, with deep apologies to William Morris, I have adapted a short piece from his Story of Orpheus and Eurydice (with apologies to the sensitivities of James Alexander-Sinclair, who has banned VP’s delightful poetry from his pages):

‘O, thou bitter pit,”
She cried, “and shall I feed, and shall you grow,
Is this then all the gift that thou wilt give,
Your fruit, ripe but marked?”

I will have to make it up to them with a good ‘wassail’ in the winter.

I’m sitting at work with the first of the ‘Scrumptious’ apples (their name, but also a good description – I hope…), which I picked on the way to the car this morning. It’s looking good on the outside, so hopefully it has escaped the disorder. I hardly dare eat it – it looks perfect. No frass, no wasp nibbles, no codling moth. Gorgeous. In fact, they’re looking so good, I might have to enter them into the Emsworth Village Show, a village show with a difference. This is being run from 15th to 30th August by Emma, with entries arriving thick and fast already. The show is being run in conjunction with VP's grand garden opening in aid of Water Aid, which runs from 15th (today) to 21st August. Go along, make a donation, and have a nose around VP’s beautiful garden!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

My prehistoric nemesis

Dear Diary,
Today, I weeded. Yesterday, I weeded.

If Lamarckian evolution were true, any offspring of mine would be born with a small groove in their index finger, to aid the pulling up of horsetails. I've developed one over the past few days. One of the old chaps down the allotments keeps telling me that if I keep pulling them up, it will drain the sap from them and they'll eventually give up. At least I presumed he was talking about the horsetails, but thinking about it, it's more likely he was talking about their effect on me. After all, they have been around since the end of the Devonian Period in some form or another, so they probably feel they have more right to the earth than I do.

You can't dig their roots out very well, as they go down too deep, but it is extremely satisfying when you pull up a longish bit. That only makes it angry though, as does hoeing. They then return with many heads, like a chlorophyllic Medusa.

Although only small fry compared to their Carboniferous ancestors, today's field horsetail (Equisetum arvense) still has a little of the prehistoric about it. Especially their spore producing bodies sent up in the spring, before the 'leafy' parts appear. Apparently, the plants can be used as scouring pads, as their epidermis contains silica. If you know anyone who needs half a hundredweight of pan scourers, please do let me know. It is also allegedly a herbal remedy.

You can buy pretty ones for the garden pond.

Here's a link to a very dull video on horsetails - don't blame me if you waste two minutes of your life you'll never get back.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Inelegant Garden

The blog is so-named for a very good reason. I'm not a very tidy gardener. And SomeBeans has claimed in the past that I have the poise and elegance of a troll. I'm not sure what the neighbours make of the front garden, as most of them have a rather more traditional lawn & bedding combo.
The front garden was overgrown with old and badly pruned shrubs when we arrived nearly four years ago, as well as the sort of gravel that looks like the stuff they put on Victorian graves. They went. The shrubby plants are still young. It must make the postman a bit damp as he brushes against the wet foliage - but I quite enjoy the feeling of being slapped in the face with wet Buddleia when entering and leaving the house, and I do prune it brutally.

Our next-door neighbour recently commented on the weeds coming up in her gravel. SomeBeans pointed out that those weeds (Verbena bonariensis) would cost her a fiver or more in a garden centre - she was a bit happier after being told that.