Friday 28 January 2011

Courtyard Schemings 2

A crowbar is not your obvious gardening tool but it became a recent essential ally.  Removing ivy from my garage wall had turned into a nightmarish wrestling match of huge proportions.

One week, one ton builders bag full of debris, several broken tools, every muscle aching and six blisters later the job was done.  Blisters, I ask you!  Any lingering guilt I felt about removing this thicket of wildlife habitat, this nectar bar to our endangered bees vanished in the battle to remove the beast. ( Before you send letters don't please, there is plenty more elsewhere...)

Respect though at its colonising power, especially when I had to clamber and crawl into the tiny loft cavity to remove the final adventitious roots from the internal rafters. Why you may be asking? Why so aggressive a gardening task? Well, to make room for a bloody wall fountain, that's why...( see Courtyard Schemings 1)

If that takes as long and proves as complicated my courtyard refurbishment project is going to be a testing time.  I've still got the roots to get out and to lever up three paving slabs to create a deeper planting hole for my new fragrant climbing rose.

Pick axe next up?  Now where is it.......?

Only two weeks until the Maroc trip. La Majorelle gardens donated by Yves Saint Laurent to the people of Marrakech is first on my list .

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Courtyard Schemings 1

Whilst I am suitably proud of my front garden I have to acknowledge that it is to my rear door, through an enclosed entrance courtyard that most visitors approach my house. Whilst not quite being for 'Tradesmen only' it has a workaday appeal to it, wellies at door, old watering cans, surfboards, the washing line, compost collector etc.

2011 is the year to tackle this space as it has such great potential. Enclosed on three sides, the fourth side with a now-rotten fence, borrowed views to the fields beyond, fabulous sunsets in the summer, close to the dining area, adjacent to another smaller pretty  private enclosed mediterranean style garden created for our holiday let

So, in one of my midnight musings I made the inevitable list:

  •  Make an effort to improve - utility has won over beauty
  •  Reduce ivy on garage wall, feel guilty about bees......
  • Introduce more fragrance e.g Roses - use cuttings taken from favourite Rosa Alberic Barbiere
  • Water feature - think a wall fountain would be easiest
  • Large Pots - reduce collections of medium/small size pots to make an impact
  • Consider training the existing vine over towards the house to create a shadey arbour feel
  • Source Citrus, Brugmansia, pot up more lilies
  • Sow seeds of Nicotiana sylvestris again for evening fragrance
  • Arrange for Paul the Carpenter to come and build the fitted seating area and the new contemporary look trellis aka
  • Buy cream metal bench to position under Studio Apartment window
  •  Research a design for a pizza style bread oven, Jamie Oliver style

.........and finally....

..........go to Morrocco to check out the Riad gardens to inspire and focus thoughts!!

Monday 10 January 2011

Alien Escapees

Funny how a simple cliff top walk can trigger thoughts of far off places.  Plants do that to me....whilst my companions are gazing sky or seawards there I am eyes cast to the ground, observing this or that plant. I  just can't help myself, observing natures patterns everywhere.  This time, a wall of Hottentot Fig, cascading over the large granite boulders was the culprit.

Last winter I escaped to the southern hemisphere and the sight of the fat succulent stems of this invasive plant reminded me of my musings about foreign plants and their effects upon native flora.
When I got home I checked out my Travel Journal : 

"Have just returned from a walk to the headland at Lennox, testing out my new light weight Merrel sandals. Heavy tropical rain last night invited a host of stealth mozzies so we marched rather than strolled.  Whenever we stopped they were on us...despite the mozzy spray before we left!

However we did get to the Headland and we saw a pair of dolphins for our efforts.  Plus, a pair of bedraggled crows, disneyesque almost, sat on a fence close to us and performed my favourite 'warbling' sound.  I felt honoured - but then I have always had an affinity for big ugly rook-like birds.

Noticed the wild flowers on the walk to the headland. Hibiscus tritonia, Lobelia vallida, Verbena rigida, a beautiful black creeping pea and the ubiquitous purple morning glory, plus lots of ferns. Half hardy plants often grown as summer bedding back home.  I particularly love the irridescent blue of the Lobelia but it has never lasted for me.  But the Verbena rigida has been a real trouper, giving me a low wall of purple most of the summer.  Bees and butterflies adore it, like its taller counterpart Verbena bonariensis.

Also on the headland there was the brutal evidence of heavy glyphosphate use.  Once I would have been aghast at this practise but now I understood that the removal of undesirable ground covering aliens is absolutely necessary to preserve local flora.

'Envite', delivers ecological restoration services in this region.  A big project along the banks of the Wilson River is threatened by three major weed species: asparagus fern, madeira vine and small-leaved privet.

The plant threatening Lennox Head is called Bitou Bush. This is a 'noxious' weed in NSW of 'national significance'. It was introduced into Australia approximately 100 years ago near  Newcastle.  For decades it was deliberately planted along the NSW coastline. It's ability to rapidly spread and form monocultures makes it a key threat to the survial of many native species and vegetation communities.

I also noticed Hottentot Fig ( Carpobrotus edulis)  on a slope of a private garden close to the headland and am reminded of what this plant had done to Fistral and other key places in Cornwall, like Prussia Cove."

 Ironic the natural world - that a plant in the right place can be so beneficial but out of its environs can be so damaging. I recall my feelings when as a young trainee horticulturalist I first learnt that the vast swathes of Rhodendron ponticum that I so admired in Dorset, were in fact a terrible invasive alien.  What that pretty mauve bush, covering the hillside?  Yep, indeedy - that pretty mauve bush kills all the remaining vegetation underneath it, renders the soil a desert and is a barren wasteland for all native insects and birdlife. It was and still is a shocking revelation.

So, each bucketload of garden waste chucked over the wall to fall innocently enough on that patch of wasteland or cliff path almost certainly was the cause of many of our problems in this country.

But before I go all preachery whilst remaining concerned about the problem of alien escapees I can honestly say right now that I would give anything to swop this wet rainy January day to be exploring the plant life, native and non-native at Lennox Head again.