Saturday, 24 February 2018

Onwards to Horticultural Glory!*

Bags are packed & ready to go.

It's Saturday again, time to write about six things gardening related, however tenuously.  If you've a place where you garden - no matter how small, how new, how neglected - why not share six things from it that grabbed your attention this week?

As to The Writing Closet itself, we're moving house.

In terms of the actual grunt work, I've been relegated to a mostly supervisory post, which affords me time for our weekly SoS confab - to read, comment on & re-tweet Sixes go leor.

But first, let's check in on the moving team.

1.  Container plants.

Gardeners have pots, but because of our frequent moves, mine are occupied mostly by trees & shrubs.  I used to plant & lift my roses with every move until one of my favourites nearly died on me.

I promised, if it lived, it could stay put.  It lived & I kept my promise, resolving that in future, nothing goes into the ground unless I'm willing to leave it behind.

Of course, some pot dwellers languish.  If nothing perks them up, they get slapped into the ground & I do a You-Better-Feckin-Live dance around them.

Watch this space.  Workshops on dance gardening are coming to a venue near you.

Back in the present, we knew a night flit was in the offing, so this year's garlic crop joined my little potted forest in planter bags of their own.

In the van queue, w/Mlle DoodleFace checking the All Clear.

2.  Cuttings

In addition to sinking pot haters into the ground, I plant anything that populates on its own, then lift a few when I go.

Having said that, I always take cuttings.  Rarely if ever do they survive, but other Six-on-Saturday-ers such as Fred & Chicu have encouraged me to have another go.

Here I am, once again, attempting the Great Cuttings Challenge.

Ever the optimist.

Curry plants, purple sage, buddleia alternifolia, plus a late-contender weigela because there were pockets left in the tray.  All easy propagators, so surely some of those babies'll live.

3.  Don't forget us!

Of course, my gardening crew's coming, too.

Mr BigNose, Mlle DoodleFace & Mizzy BunnyButt

This shot was only possible because of the Dreamies on top of the hat box.  Bribery rates right up there with dance gardening, in my experience.

4.  The Crypt.

Until we reach our forever home, no pet gets left behind.  That includes the dearly departed, of which there are four.  The first 3 are in their burial urns (decorative planters), but our most recent loss, 15 year old Bast, didn't quite fit inside the one we got for her.  She's currently on a weight loss plan.

Weight loss chamber.

Her crypt is properly secured from fox, corvids &, dare I say it, the dogs.  A collection of star shaped aquilegia, a handful of bulbs, & we'll forget what's happening underground.

Bast, pushing up columbine & various bulbs.

5.  Beehive composter.

Feel free to scoff at this one.  We sacrificed utility on the altar of an outdoor painting frenzy.

No, Big Nose, we're not going to take it apart.

6.  And importantly, the shed innards that someone forgot to pack up.

Whose job was it to empty the shed?

Once the shed's empty, we're off.  Apparently the new landlord's been slicking up the place since last we saw it, so I'm ready to be impressed.

The great, late Bast in the hammock 3 gardens ago.

Impressed or not, Tim Hewitt advised I go onward to horticultural glory, & so I shall!

For more rooted SoSers, tarry over to the Propagaor for his Six on Saturday.  In addition to his week's efforts, there's always a coupla dozen links to other garden blogs in his comment section.


* Quoting Tim Hewitt's comment on my last week's blog.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Irreconcilable Differences

Spring in my last garden.

We live a somewhat nomadic lifestyle, mostly due to work.  Our houses've been chosen for us by other folk, all of them people who love beautiful homes but don't really garden.

Remarkably, I've been given some great spaces.

We've never stayed long enough for me to complete my grand vision of the moment.  But then, maybe gardeners never finish their vision.

In spite of these arranged marriages, in spite of whatever lessons & challenges the gardens themselves put in front of me, I loved them all.

Until now.

I first saw our current garden on the day we moved in.  Originally a double lot, its Edwardian designer had been uninspired.  In the 21st century, someone bisected the garden with a fence - house, garage, & surrounds on one side, uninspired beds & paths on the other.  At a later date, they got notions of building the Great Godawful, so put up another fence, with the house & surrounds taking up 2 thirds of the half & the garage part taking up a third.

Don't hurt your brain over my reckless use of fractions.  It'll make more sense in the photos. 

The neighbours defeated the planning permission, but the dissection of the garden remained.

Mlle DoodleFace as a puppy 2 gardens ago.

Needless to say, I was less than thrilled.

Hating my garden is as ill-fitting as hating my dog, a crime against nature.

But because we're moving, because this garden will soon not be mine, I can rend garments, gnash teeth & roar the myriad sins of this place.

Confined to a respectable 6, of course, for my present audience.

1.  A place divided.

Not long after we moved in, my family quietly went behind my back (lest I be disappointed) & asked if, since planning permission had been denied, could we have the whole garden.  The landlord said he'd only lift the fence that separated the house & surrounds from the garage, adding the caveat he could put it back with a month's notice.

Which meant leaving the concrete posts.  I put up an arch to insinuate the post line was intentional, artistic even, then wrapped the concrete in chicken wire to grow sweet peas & the errant self-seeded old man's beard.  

From the house toward the fence.

No amount of sweet pea can cover that much ugly.

From the fence toward the house.

2.  The Forgotten Trio - 2 apples & a cherry

These guys've featured here before - I'd hoped one of you would say this was a quirky British fruit tree technique.  Y'all disappointed me on that one.

In the photo above, you can see how closely they're planted to the post line.  Remember that for later.  

The Trio w/Mr Big Nose in the background.

I suspect these three were heeled in & forgotten.  I sometimes wonder who bought the trees, who heeled them in.  Were they an unwanted gift left to languish or a project abandoned by death or relocation? 

However the Forgotten Trio got here, the solution is obvious.  Fortuitously, as tenant, I'm exempt from killing trees. 

3.  Elder vs Acer

Long before the Trio arrived on scene, someone planted an absolutely gorgeous acer under the yew.  All was well until an elder seeded itself between them.  As the elder grew up, the acer grew horizontally until it joined hands with the Forgotten Trio of fruit trees.

I've been hacking at the elder in stages (CFS, remember), hoping to reduce it to the skinny vertical wands (also remember, hates to kill trees).  Once it wakes up for the summer . . . even if I'd managed to vanquish the elder, it'd take years for the acer to reclaim it's natural form, if indeed that were possible, considering the age of the thing.  The prognosis here is dismal.

Acer under the Elder burden.

4.  Walls do not a home . . .

So, remember how close the Trio is to the sweet pea post?  The marriage of acer & Trio give that part of the garden an 'interior wall'.  The rooms formed by the cement line & the 'interior wall' are each one twelfth the size of the original Edwardian space.  They contain trees & a short hedge.

So, not cosy pub snugs, but cells.

The house & surrounds side of the posts is basically paved pathways, brick outbuildings & small borders.  We have a garden, but not even the dogs want to hang out in it.

O, for the days when Big Nose & I hung out in the orchard 4 gardens ago.

5.  The Wisteria/Apple Tree battle.

Some people are less than fond of (hate) wisteria, but the vines I've lived with were always well behaved, so also well cherished.  And who doesn't love an apple tree?  So, is there a complaint here?

Moriarty & Holmes going over the waterfall.

When we moved in, the wisteria foliage not only smothered the apple tree, its growth whips formed a woven mat across the lawn, up the yew, even squiggling inside the garage windows.  (Those aren't dead limbs on the ground, but wisteria tendrils creeping, creeping, creeping toward me dreaming in my bed.)

I gave it a late pruning & hoped for the best.  Both tree & vine lived & bloomed.  The wisteria got its midsummer pruning, plus we had apples enough for everyone.  But as Fred, a French Gardener pointed out, either the tree or the vine will die first.  What happens to the survivor?

The wisteria got pruned on time this month, but realistically, this is a several year project which I know will not be continued because of the . . . 

6.  Mind boggling neglect.

This garden languishes because no one thought about it for years.  When that happens, this happens:

The Burgeoning Heap.

Taking over such a neglected space, I'd enough brambles et al without battling the Burgeoning Heap on the other side of the fence.  The only time it got my attention was when bits of it lept into my side to throttle my pots.  

In late summer, the Burgeoning Heap produced fruit.  Perhaps other eyes would've caught it sooner, but only then did I realise there was an apple tree inside the BH.

My son chases a much younger Mr BigNose thru 3 gardens ago.
Thus named, six things that defeated me.

This garden, given a blase design & left to flounder, needs things I can't offer it - time, energy, ruthlessness.  Let's hope a better gardener comes its way.

As for me, I blithely skip toward the next garden, shaking the dust of this misbegotten place from the hem of my waterproofs.  

As to you, scamper over to The Propagator where you'll find his more optimistic Six, plus many other blogger links in his comments section.

See you next garden!

Saturday, 10 February 2018

No More Snow, Please

Old man, Mr Big Nose loves the snow.
Most mornings, Big Nose & myself walk along the school route.  See that young fella there with his head down, the one whose expression says he'd rather be in bed?

He'd be yet another anonymous school lad if it weren't for snow mornings.  The merest of white dustings & suddenly, he's cheery, chatty, not able to stand still.

Before emigrating, I battled mountain snow for years, & fervantly hate all snow now.  No clue why this boy chooses to share his snow glee with me, of all the dog walkers he sees.

Snow.  Bane of my existence.

1.  Snow will be tolerated on the holly.

It does look nice w/that dark green foliage.

2.  But look at my poor foxglove.

Long-suffering foxglove.

3.  The bergenia managed a brave face.

O, the indignity of it all.

4.  And I suppose the fatsia seed heads are actually improved.

Looking more alien than usual.

5.  But the snow brought it's no-good friend.  


Confined to the glass top of the patio table.

The glass top has since been brought inside.

There'll be no sitting outside today.

Not exactly the hot seat.

6.  The witch hazel only lightly dusted.   

Snow witch.

Not that it worries about snow.  Actually, there's barely any snow on the witch hazel, but it's having such a great blossoming, it deserved to be featured here again.

Love at first sight.

So there are my Six.  Rather than end on a snow note, I leave you with something I love.  You may remember a few weeks back, I told the story of my crooked cherry tree.  The sight of it in full bloom, growing through a shrub, well how could you not give your heart to something like that.

As always, I remind you to visit  The Propagator who'll have his own Six, plus hosts links to a vast array of Sixes in his comment section.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Six Reasons to Six on Saturday

Let there be bulbs & buds.

There've been a few Sixers lamenting that they've nothing but buds, bulbs & more buds to post in their SoS blogs.

Personally, I can't get enough bud & bulb photos.  But then, I also enjoy folks' holiday snaps, so my opinion is suspect.

Last week, CFS had me on house arrest with orders there'd be no writing.  Not a bad sentence, since it was lashing outside.  Plenty of time to contemplate the boon that is our SoS community.

We all have different skill levels, obsessions, time & energy, so SoS works differently for each of us.  The fact we keep coming back - & in some cases, only to read, not to blog - means it does work.

And that's my offering for this week.  A half dozen reasons why I SoS.

1.  It's global.

Globe trotting in slippers & pjs.

Regardless the weather or my health, I visit gardens from 4 continents - FOUR - every week.  That means seeing in their natural environment, trees & plants that could never grow in my climate.  Learning far away methods for growing things that will survive in my garden.  Being reminded of places I used to live.  Seeing that the joys & woes of gardening are fairly universal.

2.  Getting out of the rut.

We once lived in a village where most of my neighbours grew the same flowers - valerians, roses, dahlias, the occasional maverick pansy.

Poor little rejects.

I'm a little slow off the mark, so for my first village fair there, I donated a couple of trays of gazanias to the plant table.  At the end of the day, not a single gazania had been sold.

Conversely, after 3 months of SoS-ing, I've 11 pages of plants I'd like to grow.

While there's no way all those ideas will make it into my garden, that many options stoke the creativity - which in itself, is benefit enough.

3.  Coaxed off the turnip truck.

Long way from home.

I emigrated about 2 decades ago, but've not completely switched gears to this climate, its diseases, pests, plants & wildlife.

Growing carrots, spuds & maters in containers just seems wrong.

But SoS as a virtual garden club has my back.  I want fresh cherry tomatoes?  Revel in my containers.

4.  Seasonal reminders.

Tools of the trade.

Following along from that, my seasonal rhythms are still in Appalachia - all my February gardening chores there started & ended with snow.

While SoS gently nudges me into GMT, even natives of hardiness zones 7 - 9 can appreciate the call to prune, plant, or harvest in the appropriate season.

5.  Erudition.

My gardening ethos is decidedly up-the-holler => plants are beautiful, useful, spiritual.  In my previous life, I could rattle off the medicinal qualities of a plant, its various common names, plus any & all folklore attached to them.  Just try mentioning a recipe in your Six, & I'm all over it.

Not sure how you pronounce that one.

Having said that, I've resisted calling out plants in the dead language, even though I'm old enough to remember Mass being said in Latin.

Not so, our other intrepid SoS-ers.

As a result (& without study on my part), I now recognise the Latin names for grasses, poppies, honeysuckle & witch hazel.

So if anyone knows of something more efficient than the Google method of learning Latin names (i.e. an actual book), please do let me know.

6.  Respite for my poor, non-gardening family members.

I swear I'm listening.

Me: (looking at my Twitter feed) Wow, that's some hellebore.

Son:  I take it that's a flower.

Me:  (turns laptop for him to see)

Son:  Oh.  That's . . . pretty.

Rinse.  Repeat.

Respite from hearing garden talk.

Except when I'm talking about Six on Saturday.

So that's my no-bud, no-bulb contribution for this week.  I'd love to know why you Six on Saturday.

Do take yourself over to The Propagator who has his own Six, plus hosts scads of other SoSers in his comment section.  Go on, don't you forget now.

Thanks for stopping by!

Pickled shallot recipe.