Sunday, 10 April 2011

Go on have a clear out....

Since letting go of my old Nursery to concentrate on garden design I have had to really wrestle with my propagation compulsions.  But a recent water bill plus a bout of random and regular trips away has made care and watering of plants in pots a real issue - despite my many water butts and irrigation system.

So finally the clear out moment came prompted by our Gardening Girls meeting (To blog or not.) Not quite a displacement activity for God knows there is more than enough else to do at this time of the year, more of an act of desperation - to find a way to the potting box! But now I have a real incentive.......

One of the Gardening Girls, Paula on the left, has a new garden!  A complete blank canvas and she needs plants - lots!  As Paula was the 'Propagation Queen' at the Nursery it seemed only fitting that she should be the recipient of this clear out as she probably had her mitts on most of these plants at some stage in their life.  I swear to God that she only had to gaze at a packet of seeds for them to germinate in-situ! Remembering her blowing 'Golden Virginia' roll-up smoke over some restio seeds from Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens makes me laugh still!

The sorting process became cathartic.  Not only was I having a clean sweep, getting to grips with my 'life laundry' - whatever that means - I was also reminiscing about the various stages in my plant growing life.  In just the same way that old photos trigger memories, I found that certain plants did exactly the same.

Restio tetraphyllus - the south african trip with the GGs.  Wildflower plugs left over from a wonderful pond planting for a client - note to self don't give up on your wildlife pond dream! Carex ' Yellow Tails' with a number RS. Don't forget to call in and visit Ray Brown  from Plant World seeds on next trip to West country.  I need to give him feed back about his Sakhalin Island seeds plus catch up on our mutual friend in Morocco.  I didn't even know where Sakhalin island was until I met Ray  - do you? 

And on and on. Ventnor Botanic Garden seed grown exotics - sparing a thought for that special place and it's looming change of order.  Many grasses - oh how we loved our grasses!  And oh so many hardy geraniums! One of the forlorn specimens had Geranium sylvaticum 'Beth Chatto' just about legible written on the faded label. That was worth a whole hours worth of musing...

But then, enough - time to get this mixed bag of goodies into the car and out of my life, clearing the horizon ....

Finally safely delivered into the loving hands of Paula, who does that happy clappy thing with her hands like Pingu when pleased.  I'm not sure who is happier?

So despite the season's demands I can recommend it - go on have a clear out!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Mum's the word

Saturday's Guardian ran a timely feature 'All about my mother' by Dominic Murphy where he talks to three high-profile gardeners and their mums about what they've learned from each other.  And what they've rejected....(2nd April,2011)
 This of course got me thinking about my Mum and her Mum ( my Grandmother Ivy) whilst I prepared the Mothering Sunday lunch.  Walking out into the garden to pick a small posie of primroses and grape hyacinths to put in a pretty little Lalique vase on the dinner table I contemplated the fact that by these very actions I may even have become my mother...
Then out again to pick the first of the mint  to garnish the potatoes and find some greens from the veg patch. Just these simple acts are learned from her.  It has become a pattern, a learned behaviour to interact in this way with my garden and I acquired it, my mother's side.

Seasonal flowers in vases around the house, fresh veg from the garden, walks in the countryside peering over hedges at neighbour's plots was just the beginning really. Learning the names of wild flowers and pouring over the  'flower fairie' stories where each delectable fairy resembled its flowering namesake!

Later came trips to Ventnor Botanic Garden.  First lessons in propagation there in how to keep a nicked cutting fresh in some damp tissue and a plastic bag for the duration of a bus ride home.  Lemons grown from pips, sweet smelling lily of the valley in wild drifts around the conservatory, gaudy begonias in hanging baskets and a gardening friend call 'Miss Webb' who wore a long brown overall like Ronnie Barker in 'Open all Hours' who looked like a man and who actually earned a living as a jobbing gardener. These were all part of a childhood spent around my gardening mother and grandmother.

But my absolute favourite memory was the making of miniature gardens on a tray using a handbag mirror as the pond and other bits of plant material to create magical garden scenes.  My Gran had some tiny chinese porcelain figures, treasures from her past which she generously let me use in my garden once.  So my favourite creation became an oriental scene with bridge, pagoda and even a tiny fisherman with a dangling fish on a rod!

Little wonder then that I have been literally hooked on all things gardening since and why I would like to dedicate this blog to all gardening mothers and grandmothers everywhere. Thank you!

Friday, 1 April 2011

To Blog or Not?

Met up with 'The Gardening Girls'* for a pub supper last night.  Amongst our various affectionate catch-ups - holidays taken, deaths in the garden, deaths out of the garden etc., we somehow got on to the subject of Blogging and then inevitably,Facebook.

So there we were, united in our love of all things gardening, but clearly divided in our feelings for 'internet' related matters.  So our conversation ranged, back and forth with all the pros and cons resulting in an exchange of friendship on facebook for four of us, with the hard-core 'two' remaining resolutely sans friends,  facebook or otherwise.

My feeble attempts to explain my recent baptism into blogging were met with a range of responses: incredulous, concerned,interested, admiring, speechless, worried etc.,  I may have persuaded one of the hard-core disbelievers that her considerable photographic skills could find an outlet via this medium but will probably have to work on that. I sensed a softening when I described 'Wordless Wednesday' to her.....

After a pretty full-on week have just sat down to check some of my favourite blogs and notice that there is a considerable slacking off of literary content at the moment with certain exceptions.   Harriet in Bere Island - do you ever sleep?  Diane from 'Elephant's Eye' I know you are in the southern hemisphere and have sun but......

This absence of new material could in fact bear out what my critical gardening friends suspect, that only the sad and lonely have time for such matters!  Personally I suspect that like me, they are rushed off their feet in a frenzy of spring activity making the sensible decision now the clocks have 'sprung forward' to avail themselves of more time in the garden. They can't all be preparing for Gardening Shows, famous or otherwise can they?

Views please?  That is, if you have time or inclination......

* A group of keen women gardeners, volunteers at my first garden and Apple Day Festivals whose friendship was cemented during a truly surprising gardening tour of South Africa.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Courtyard Musings 3 - 'Firing the Imagination'

Have spent this glorious weekend 'pimping' my courtyard fired up after my recent trip to Morocco. If you want to learn about Courtyard Gardens then Morocco  is definitely the place to go.

I was blown away by it and returned senses on fire, keen to take up where I began with my own humble courtyard rennovation even at the expense of all the other chores that need doing at this time of year.

 Apart from being thoroughly exciting, stimulating and at times a little bit mad this recent trip has helped me to refine my thinking by learning from the lessons of  the relaxed beach style at Surf Maroc.

Hot reds and pinks with low carved tables, natural stools and table lanterns

Surf Maroc is fun, colourful and relaxed.  A chill-out zone after a hard days surfing.  I am now considering low couchette seats rather than high dining style.  It will suit my large, noisy surfy family and inject a sense of fun whilst also reflecting our bohemian recycling tendencies!  However, because of our damp climate we will create blanket box style seats so that throws and cushions can be stored at night and in wet weather. 

Deep blue is one of the signature colours of Morocco

I have already amassed a colourful collection of rugs, blankets, throws, cushions from other wanderings.  Now I feel emboldened again to use fabric to inject colour and texture into what will be 'an outdoor room' in the true sense. Brick red, orange, rust, ochre will be my colours of choice as the warm end of the colour spectrum will suit the duller, greyer skies of our northern hemisphere climate.

Riad Dar Krystal was the exact contrast of Surf Maroc.  A truly calm interior, a sanctuary away from the bustling streets of the ancient Marrakech Medina.  All was exquisite good taste; carefully positioned plants, lamps, tables, low seating areas with the all important water feature invitingly tucked into a private corner.

What most impressed me though was the use of lighting.

To gaze from your room on the first floor down into the twinkling lamps of the courtyard below was very reassuring.  Subtly positioned uplighters illuminated the beautiful palms and olives and created intricate patterns on both the floors and walls. Beautifully ornate lamps stood sentinel with just a tee light within. Eau de Nil paintwork, railings and window guards throughout helped to create that cool, shadey ambience, much needed in a city that can reach 40 O c in high summer.

My courtyard will also be viewed from the sitting room so re-positioning our external lighting arrangements needs to be done post haste.  I would like to re-create that magical scene. Fortunately, I already have two Moroccan wall lamps and will re-arrange the plants with up-lighters.  These can also mark the way to the rear entrance without that awful 'security light colditz' feel that is my present arrangement.

Plants and planting are normally my first priority when beginning a new project but I think I have finally learnt the meaning of the term 'restraint' from this trip.  All  the courtyards I visited had a restrained but well chosen number of exquisite specimen plants that were carefully placed.  Choice plant specimens would often be symbolic like the Olive, Palm or Citrus grown in classic Maroc pots.

On the coast, succulents, cactus and sedums were used as these are much better able to withstand the bright sunshine and coastal conditions .

 Fragrance is an essential ingredient and will come from Rosa Mme Alfred Carriere which will twine around the newly installed wall fountain. Evergreen Trachelospermum jasminoides plus my own sowings of Nicotiana sylvestris, Lilium regale and Gladiolus acidanthera will inject further fragrance by day and night. Their white flowers will work superbly in the shadey corners.

With new carefully placed embellishments and invigorated planting I hope to transform my old tired courtyard into a truly inspirational magical space influenced by my travels but also mindful of my own character and location.

Fortunately  I have to plan a courtyard design for a new client soon so will have even more opportunities there.......

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Just one of those rainy days....

Early start.  Meeting a big plant delivery from mainland at Clients Walled Garden.  New nervous driver first time to Isle of Wight.  Misty murking morning, first rain in ages.  He is late! So squidged round the garden in the damp with client planning 'the next stage'. Also discussed forthcoming newspaper article.

Delightful new driver eventually arrives.  Usual jokes about no passport, sea-sick pills etc., Finally stowed plants safely, retrieved the dozen or so new additions for next garden, plus my own new' Rosa Mme Alfred Carriere'  for the Courtyard. Hastily stuff them in the back of the car.

Rain worsening, puddles now in road with soil-filled run-off from fields. Muttering under breath about farmers and contour ploughing as I swing into the drive to see a gloomy Mr. S. , the reluctant under-gardener sheltering in the porch.  No  cheery Mrs. S. ? Some problem with a grandchild apparently!  Haven't visited since the worse of the season's weather so am anxious....

The young, newly planted Winter garden has taken a bashing - from the winter weather funnily enough!  Ouch!  Had to reassure then run..."It will revive, " I shout out of the window whilst nearly reversing into one of those giant tractors out on the lane.  All windows now misted up.

Then on into town.  Traffic horrendous by island standards.  Miraculously find a parking spot and sprint into fave coffee shop for loo and caffeine. Running late, but just a  quick pop in to Red Cross Shop next door, looking for lamps for moroccan courtyard still.  Nothing, but there was a rather nice tourquoise scarf...

Deposited parcel of moroccan goodies to go to son in Plymouth with his gorgeous girlfriend who works in a tempting Interior Design shop round the corner.  She gleefully points out .....their new Moroccan lamps!  Frustratingly, no time left on parking ticket so defer for another day....

Pistolling down now so find phone to cancel 3rd appointment.  Client thrilled - way too wet we agree. Clean rain off  misted-up glasses with new tourquoise scarf as I text newspaper re article. Then set off back to the office.

As I turn the final bend, there is a loud clump from the rear of the car.  Realise it is my new rose rolling around loose.  Once home, discover soil all over the car from my obviously very newly potted rose.  Duck when husband appears as he hates the mess I make in the car and hurriedly shut the boot, concealing all as I sprint into the office. 

Turn on computer.  Amongst the usual dross I spot a long-awaited reply from Amanda, at Bab Ourika in Morocco.  She has news of snow, and seedlings and all sorts of interesting stuff but I drag myself away from a lengthy reply to focus on business stuff. The pictures for the newspaper article!

Some time later, all mail sent I head off to Village to stock up on provisions for family as I'm away for the weekend.  As I open the boot to throw in the shopping bags I see soil everywhere still and abandoned rose.  Snatch rose out, then shut boot again and throw bags onto the back seat instead.

Rain appears to be easing as I pull into the Co-op Car park.  Amazingly everything on list in stock and there is even a bottle of my favourite dry white in the chiller cabinet.  Things are looking up!  Head home again as the sun begins to appear.  Looks like the weekend weather forecast is proving correct.  Feel that familiar pang of frustration mounting at the thought of a whole weekend spring gardening to be missed.  Ah well at least the gardens have had a drenching.

Unload the shopping then drag myself back to the car to clean up the bloody soil and re-pot the rose...

Much later after a  friendly spat with spouse over our choice of Friday night TV viewing, "What?  You want to watch Red Nose Day and Gardeners World?" I subside into 2nd glass of dry white feebly explaining the need to check out how the 'Lord of the Cord' is doing back on the box again.Tear myself away from the strangely compelling red nose viewing to hastily pack for the weekend .

Return from bedroom to shut computer down to see a new email.  Hesitate, but then open it to find a delightful message from a Harriet in Bere Island,  Cork in Ireland. Open her St Patricks Day message:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And rains fall soft upon your fields.

and for some reason come over all misty eyed.....