Saturday, April 23, 2011

London Garden Update, Spring 2011

The great advantage of growing most things in pots on a flagstone surface is that it is possible to create a much re-shaped garden each year. And a quantity of bricks and building blocks enables you to raise or lower tubs of flowers and vegetable crops.

A not-too-successful feature last year was a focal-point pot, designed with side apertures for growing strawberries. For strawberries it was somewhat of a failure. For trailing geraniums it was a modest success. Now, for real geraniums (actually pelargoniums) I have higher hopes. Before, I have planted flowers in its open top. This is now capped with a rustic pottery birdbath – one that used to lie on the ground.

When this bath was on the flagstones, and partly shielded by pots of rocket, herbs and busy lizzies, the bathing birds were vulnerable to surprise cat attack. Now, at the cost of privacy, they can have an all-round view when bathing, to see if predators lurk to pounce.

Another good reason for positioning the bath high up on its brick-based strawberry pot as the centre point, is that the more vigorous bathers, like blackbirds, spray the water down on to growing plants around it, instead of the useless watering of flagstones.

The pelargoniums, bought as small plants, are now growing in the place of strawberries, though very young, look happy already. I will rotate the pot during the summer, to give all plants in its circumference a measure of sunshine (our garden only getting morning sun).

The other major change this year is that we are growing more runner beans, having discovered that when harvested at under 6” long they are the tastiest and tenderest of beans.

For them this year I have constructed a bamboo arbour. The beans will grow up 9 bamboos on a wall, then move south over the top of the bamboo arbour, which, because of its asymmetry, looks not unlike the strings of a grand piano. The beans will then be harvested from below.

The “piano” is supported on one side by the 9 wall bamboos, and on the other by 6 vertical bamboos (making it asymmetrical) that rise from sacks of soil in which tomatoes will be grown. These are still in pots, having been grown indoors from seed since March.

The pieris (always our ever-changing and spectacular plant) had become a bit straggly over the years. It has been pruned right back, leaving a few branches of yellow/green leaves in the hope that new bushy growth will spring from low down.

The same treatment has been meted out to the mahonia – for the same reason – hoping for new bushy growth to appear.

It has been somewhat of a winter of violence, as major grapevine rods have been dispensed with, and the apple and pear trees (both in pots) have been cut back severely.

So this season will be one of re-growth for several specimens. Tulips are no longer grown. There are more carrots. And there is one bucket-experiment of main crop potatoes (pink fir apple), besides the successful two of past years for new potatoes (charlotte).

My large wooden sculpture in the garden of lovers was found to be standing on hardwood slats that had rotted. These supports have been replaced by angle aluminium (sprayed brown).

Inspection beneath the sculpture revealed much hidden rot. A lot of this has been extracted, and the wood hardened and treated. It was mainly the heartwood that had rotted. I took out as much of this crumbling rotted wood as I could, sticking my arm up, roughly in the way that we see vets on television doing at the nether regions of cows.