Posts

Showing posts from 2014

Grand plans and cutting gardens

Image
Winter is the time for gardeners to plan and dream. Somehow, the backbreaking chores and the never-ending weeding don't seem so dispiriting when you're sitting in front of a log fire with a gardening book and a cup of tea. You can conveniently forget that you haven't yet planted all your bulbs and start thinking about next summer's display.
My grand plan for next summer is to start a cutting garden. I still have two enormous borders to clear and plant (three if you count the one I am halfway through), so I shouldn't really be thinking about a new project. However, the border clearance has in part inspired the idea of the cutting garden.
Wouldn't it be nice (I thought to myself) if, instead of heaving out huge chunks of weeds and tracking down the root runs of nettles for days on end, I could just put a couple of raised beds straight down onto a bit of spare lawn (of which I have plenty), fill them up with topsoil, sow some seeds and reap beautiful bouquets for …

Taking the lawn view

Image
We had the first frost of the winter on Thursday morning. It was the cue for me to rush outside to take photographs, and to see if the wasps in the nest above my daughter's bedroom window had been zapped by the cold. There was no sign of the little blighters, so I hope they have succumbed.


The tabloid papers in the UK have been running lurid stories predicting "the worst winter for 100 years", but on a crisp frosty morning, when the clumps of santolina look like an edging of grey fur,  it is difficult to take a negative view of the impending winter.


On the other hand, it is all too easy to take a negative view of the lawns. There is way too much lawn in my garden, and although I have spent quite a lot of the past two years creating new borders, they are still too narrow to be in proportion.
Cutting out borders is back-breaking work, involving a half-moon edger to cut through the turf or the weeds, a spade and a lot of huffing and puffing. There are so many thuggish pere…

Suddenly, there was a pond: Part 3

Image
I was running 10 days late on the b**k by the time Pete was ready to start planting the pond, so when he asked me if I wanted to go to the wholesale nursery with him to choose plants, I was in a bit of a dilemma.
On the one hand, I should have been working; and having been in and out of London every day for most of September, the last thing I wanted to do was to spend four hours on the motorway (two hours there, two hours back) AGAIN. On the other hand, several herds of wild horses would have been necessary to prevent me from going.


The nursery Pete uses is called North Hill Nurseries, in Chobham, Surrey. It's strictly trade only, but I was very impressed by the range and the quality of the plants. Considering this was the beginning of October, they had a fantastic selection - most of the retail nurseries have either sold out of everything by now, or the plants look pretty sorry for themselves. These Actaea matsumurae 'White Pearl' caught my eye immediately.


I knew I want…

Suddenly, there was a pond: Part 2

Image
So, the pond was dug, the concrete rendering was done, the underlay and the butyl rubber liner had gone down, and it was time to start putting the stone into place.
I have to stress that this is an expensive way to build a pond. It's perfectly possible to dig a hole, line it with butyl rubber (use sand and underlay beneath it), put a bit of stone round the edge to make it look pretty, fill it up with water and away you go.
However, I wanted a natural pond, and the problem with putting stone only around the edge is that in order to hide every bit of liner, the stone has to overhang. (Otherwise, in summer when the water tends to evaporate slightly, you can see black liner.) This means it's more difficult for creatures such as frogs to get in and out.
To get around this problem, you can have a gently sloping "beach" area, but because my garden gently slopes both north to south and east to west, it would have been difficult to make this look level while at the same time …

And suddenly, there was a pond in my garden

Image
I haven't blogged for ages because I've been busy writing a book. More on that another time, because I don't want to hear the word "book" again for a while.
Anyway, the day before my deadline, the guys who were going to build my pond turned up. (Isn't that always the way?) Suddenly, there was a digger, a skip, a tip-up truck, four men and a large hole in my garden. It was so exciting!
I'd always intended to have a pond in the garden, but finding someone to build proved unexpectedly difficult. A couple of pond specialists who lived to the west of me turned me down, because my garden was more than half an hour's drive away.
In the end, I found Pete Sims and his team on the internet. They were based in Reading, but work all over the Home Counties, so although they were an hour away, this didn't seem a problem. (I've often found this - if people are used to going into London or the South-east to work, the idea of commuting doesn't bother them …

Home thoughts from abroad

Image
So, here's the thing: every time I attend a garden bloggers' fling in the United States, there is a heatwave. Before I go, I tell friends I'm going to Seattle, or San Francisco, or (in this case) Portland, Oregon. They snigger and say things like: "Remember to take a raincoat, huhr, huhr." The north-west coast of America, like the north-west coast of the UK, is notoriously damp and chilly.
When I arrive at the destination, the sky is blue, the temperature is about 38C (100.4F) and everyone is sweltering. I will already know this of course, because I will have been tracking the weather on the BBC's site, which is usually pretty foolproof.
Even better, when I get home from the fling, the heatwave has migrated to the UK, and southern England is basking in temperatures more usually found on the Riviera.
The "Fling" was first flung in 2008, in Austin, Texas, where a group of garden bloggers decided that it would be fun to have a national event and invit…

Wisley revisited

Image
There are very few things I miss about living in London. One of them, however, is the Royal Horticultural Society's garden at Wisley, in Surrey. I used to live about 30 minutes' drive from Wisley, and could nip down there whenever I fancied, either to wander round the gardens looking for inspiration, or to buy stuff at the plant centre or the bookshop, both of which are superb.
In the 20 years that I've been visiting, the gardens - and the facilities - have got better and better. There is much more emphasis today on landscape design - Tom Stuart Smith, Robert Myers, Piet Oudolf and Penelope Hobhouse are just a few of the names who have contributed - which means that although Wisley is still very much a show garden designed to cope with thousands of visitors,  it has much more of a sense of place and less of the feeling of being a public park full of plant "exhibits".
So when my friend Helen said she wanted to go garden visiting and did I fancy Wisley, I said yes,…