Category Archives: Gardening

Surprises.

The not so surprising thing about surprises is that by their very nature they take you by surprise. Some are bad like the letter I got recently informing me I had been caught on camera in Watford on the 30th April at 0657 travelling at 41mph in a 30 zone. A few days later I had another nasty surprise when the Essex Constabulary informed me that on the 12th May at 1243 I had been caught on camera travelling at 58mph on the QE2 bridge which has a 50mph limit. WTF! Are speeding tickets buses now? Nothing for ages then two come along together! I have no recollection of speeding on either occasion.

I have completed my speed awareness course where we covered the laws of physics, watched videos, had discussions on a variety of speed and driving related subjects. All jolly interesting stuff. I think I only nodded off once. For the offence on the QE2 bridge I have paid the fine and had 3 points put on my driving licence. I have informed my insurers who will happily use the excuse to increase my premiums for the next few years. Bummer!

At times like this I like to take refuge in my garden and have a good old poke around, dig some holes, plant some plants, do a bit of pruning and mow the lawn. Even this can have nasty surprises usually in the form of half buried cat shit where you least expect it and, more often than not, precisely where you are using your hands to make a planting hole slightly bigger! Nothing quite like a handful of cat poo to brighten your day or to discover new ways to curse the blasted creatures! Then there are the surprises where things you planned to happen in the garden don’t materialise. A couple of years ago I wrote about how the foxgloves in my garden were doing particularly well and were giving a good show. I said how easy they are to grow and that I just let them seed where they want. I was a bit smug about it. Imagine my surprise when to my surprise (and disappointment) my smugness bit me on the arse last year and hardly any grew at all, just a few straggly specimens managed to make an appearance.

In an effort to escape from the terrible thoughts I was having about the things I would like to do to the inventor of the speed camera and the fecal land mines laid in my front garden by an assortment of neighbourhood felines, I decided to cut the grass in the back garden. Mowing the lawn isn’t my favourite pastime but it’s the kind of mindless exercise I can live with and the end result always looks nice. So I grabbed my iPod, inserted the earpieces and started to mow. The music, the hum of the lawn mower engine, the sound of the mower blades cutting through the grass, clover and daisies allied with the buzz of a stray stone being picked up and spat out at great speed and smashing the kitchen window soon relaxed me and I started having more pleasant thoughts such as what PIL looks like naked. Probably not a good thing for a bloke to be thinking if he has a pair of secateurs in his hand but it’s fine when mowing the lawn. Then, out of the corner of my eye  I saw something that gave me a very pleasant surprise. Along the fence at the side of the garden there is a line of 25 or 30 beech trees. They may be hornbeam but I can’t tell the difference. I cut them back at the beginning of last year so that they are only about 8 feet high and they are turning into quite a pleasant-looking hedge. Birds nest in amongst the branches and lots of creepy crawlies live there and call it home. Well, in amongst the branches, arching beautifully with the weight of flowers was a lovely fox glove.

All on its own.

It looked just simply beautiful. It had white flowers flushed pink.

It reminded me that no matter how hard we try, Nature will always go two or three better and produce something in the most surprising and unusual places. I was chuffed to bits to see that.

There are three things that most people find surprising about our garden although two of those will be changing. First, there aren’t any roses in the garden. None at all. There was one by the front door when we first moved in but that went a few years ago. I understand why people like roses. They often have beautiful flowers, they come in a huge array of colours and some have a wonderful scent. To me though they are just a mega pain in the bum. They are “gross feeders” so they take all the nutrients and minerals out of the soil meaning copious quantities of compost has to be added once or twice a year or you end up with dust. They attract pests, especially aphids and diseases that spread to other plants in the garden and to top it all they rip you to shreds if you so much as touch them. Not for me. I prefer to be able to sit back and admire my garden.

I also get why people like bedding plants or annuals. Instant colour that lasts for months if you dead head regularly. I just think “aching back” and “sore knees” from planting them in the Spring and digging the blighters up again in the Autumn. Not to mention the increase in getting a handful of cat poo while digging them in. That’s changing though. PIL (aka She Who Must Be Obeyed) wants hanging baskets and that means annuals although mixed up with things like strawberries and stuff. She tends to take care of the pots too and does a fine job with them. They’ll be annuals in the pots as well. I don’t mind. It’s our garden and my only objection to bedding plants is the effort involved. I look forward to seeing how that works out.

The other surprising thing about our garden is the absence of the colour orange. Or so I thought. I’m talking the fruit colour here. Goes with bugger all. Clashes with everything. In a gloomy corner of the front garden there is a big clump of what I think are Welsh Poppies. For work reasons, I tend to be away when they flower in May. They’re yellow. Or so I thought. This year they flowered a bit later and I saw them. They looked absolutely superb in that slightly gloomy corner and contrasted really well with the white flowers in the front. (I have no idea what the white flowers are. Planted ’em years ago and I can never remember plant names. Unlike my memory for the collective noun for wombats!!) Anyhow, they looked really good but they were orange! See. Nature did it again. Nothing to do with me. They are staying. Look at the photo and you’ll see what I mean. Smashing!

On that note I must go as it’s getting late. Have a nice day wherever you may be and whatever time it may be where you are.

More Dick soon.

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The Garden

Last summer, I decided to change our front garden. PIL was in full agreement. One side of the driveway had already been done and was established and looking good, even if I do say so myself! It had that packed, cottage garden look that both PIL and I like.20160709_130151

The other side was a tatty bit of lawn that really was a bit of pain with having to drag the mower around from the back garden and mow a bit of lawn covered in bald patches.

Part of the front garden before we went on holiday to Florida at the beginning of July

Part of the front garden before we went on holiday to Florida at the beginning of July 2015

So last year I started on it. Now considering that it was a relatively small area, it’s taken an age to get it sorted but that really came down to time and the fact that a lot needed doing to it. I began by removing the remaining grass.

Front garden two weeks after our return from holiday

Front garden two weeks after our return from holiday

Rather than using chemicals, I just took off the top layer. It would mean that grass would sprout up in a few places again but it would be easy enough to pull out and it would eventually disappear completely.

The front garden just before I went to Wales at the end of August.

The front garden just before I went to Wales at the end of August.

Then I turned the soil over and removed all the rubble that the builders had buried. I then dug in some pea gravel to improve the drainage. It’s London clay around here so it’s like concrete when dry and an absolute bog when wet. After levelling out again, I covered it in half of ton of well rotted horse muck that I got from my sister. I could of done with another ton but I made do with what I had.20150918_134248

Horse muck dug in and ready to plant. It's now mid September!

Horse muck dug in and ready to plant. It’s now mid September 2015!

Then I began the process of planting up. I put in bulbs, I put a couple of hebes in but the main planting was of hardy perennials. I like perennials. You put them in the ground and they grow and they spread so every 3 or 4 years you divide them up and hey presto, free plants! Brilliant.

Planting up begins. It's now October.

Planting up begins. It’s now October 2015

20151007_114408I had an idea in my head of what I was trying to achieve. I was after a cottage garden effect again and that meant lots of plants but I had to be careful as plants spread if they’re happy and I had to leave space for that to happen. For instance, Echinacea or Cone flowers start off with a couple of flowering stems but quickly establish into a clump nearly 2 feet across. I also wanted to attract wild life into the garden. Attract insects and birds follow. Plant open flowers like cone flowers, geraniums and Rudbeckia and bees, butterflies and hover flies arrive in masses.20160803_120828

Now I read somewhere that bees “see” ultra violet as well as other colours and they are drawn towards purples and mauves so a lot of the plants in my garden are purple or mauve along with plenty of red splashed around with blobs of blue and yellow dotted here and there with some white flowers in the mix too. It sounds awful and I must admit I thought it would look terrible. I’ll let you decide.20160803_120839

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There are mistakes that I am in the process of rectifying. When the Lupins and Astibles planted in the centre died back at the end of July, there was no height in that particular section of the garden. I have plants out there that I can divide and replant that flower later in the year and provide some height. Fingers crossed that it works. I need to move the asters which are in flower now but are being crowded out. The sedum is also in flower and both it and asters are an excellent source of late season nectar for bugs. The sedum needs dividing though. Never mind, I’ll get another plant or two out of this!20160802_111236

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The best time to divide plants or move them is either now when the soil is still warm and roots can start to establish or in the spring once the ground has warmed up a bit. Of course, you can plant stuff all during the summer too.20160802_111230

 

20160812_091813Here’s a little snippet of information that I read recently that is of particular interest if you have any apple trees. We don’t, although some years ago we had about an acre of old orchard. We never actually did anything with it and that’s something I regret. One day, I’ll grow an apple tree or two. My sister has a couple so this will be of interest. Listen up Boo. Apples often suffer from “scab”, it doesn’t make the fruit inedible but it doesn’t look very nice. (what scab does?). Planting bulbs under the tree helps to stop scab and if those bulbs happen to be wild garlic, it can completely stop the appearance of scab on apples. Only one problem. Wild garlic spreads like Billy Oh so be careful. Mind you, wild garlic is pretty cool anyway. Eating the leaves raw or cooked is apparently very good for you, tastes good, smells good if you walk on it AND it keeps vampires at bay to boot! A miracle plant if ever there was one. The woods around here are full of it and I love walking through it all in the springtime. Next Spring, I intend cutting some leaves and bringing it home for use in the kitchen. (Mainly to disguise the smell of burning).

One of the nice things about flower gardens and cottage gardens in particular, is the way that a seed will settle somewhere, think to itself, “I like it here” and up pops a plant in the most unexpected and usually brilliant place.20160622_091658

Once I have the front sorted, it will be time to go and sort out the somewhat neglected back garden. Having said that, I quite like the slightly dishevelled look of our lawn. It’s full of daisies and clover and that, in turn, brings lots of bees and bugs into the garden. There is a hedgehog house out there now and a bird box to put up. I’m looking forward to it. Not so sure my back is though!

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On that note, it is time to go. My son is due at the station soon and I need to go pick him up. PIL is busy watching The Great British Bake-Off. She’s discovering new ways to burn stuff I think.

I hope you have a truly fantastic evening. Until the next time peeps…..

More Dick soon.

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Slug repellent results

Last year, I thought I had found a way of stopping slugs from chomping their way through my plants. I had seen that slugs and snails didn’t eat stinging nettles so I decided to make up a liquid from lots of stinging nettles and water. Unfortunately, PIL, being unaware of my experiment, threw the resultant liquid away. She then absolutely forbade me from using hostas ( a particular favourite of slugs) as the target plants as she is very fond of them. Hostas that is, not slugs.

So this year I tried again without saying a word to PIL. I made up the liquor from fresh stinging nettles and then soaked a couple of hostas in the special, organic liquid. I did this just before we went away on holiday. We returned the other week and the results were immediately apparent.

 

 

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Bugger!

Boy, is PIL ticked off or what? I am definitely in the dog house now.

Back to the drawing board.

Have a bloody marvellous day.

I’ve just noticed. This is my 100th post! Congratulations to me then.

More Dick soon.auto

 

The Garden

The front garden, which has been my project for the last 12 months is coming along nicely. It needs more plants in it and I got another dozen to plant up on Sunday. Typically, since then the weather has been foul and I’ve not had a chance to actually put them in the soil. I’ve got Astilbes, Lupins, Freesias (my mums favourite if I remember correctly), Anemones and a couple more Geums. I also got several ferns for Eeyores place down one side of the house that is particularly gloomy. I think that once they’re in it will begin to look more cottage gardeny although I suspect more plants will be required to get the desired effect but I’m pleased with it so far. 20160531_113633

The tulips out there did very well on long, straight stems but didn’t last as long as I had hoped mainly due, I think, to the wet weather. The alliums are looking particularly good at the moment as do some other plants I put in last year but have no idea what they are now.

I have been disappointed with the foxgloves though. After writing about how easy they are to grow and how they self seed everywhere, this year, despite having loads growing previously and possibly a billion seeds falling to the soil, only half a dozen have started to grow. What a bummer!20150612_100703

I like foxgloves for their height, their attraction to bees, their beautiful flowers and how easy they are to grow (usually). I can’t help thinking that the extremely wet winter we had has caused the seeds to rot away or, knowing my luck, the seeds floated off and one of my neighbours has a beautiful display.20150612_100842

Having said that, apparently it’s one of the joys of gardening insofar as you never quite know what each year will bring. I’m inclined to go along with that although the sense of disappointment when something doesn’t quite work out how you planned is a pain in the neck or, in my case, a pain in the lower back. Still, very soon now the front garden will be looking splendid and it will be time to contemplate the back garden which is looking more than a tad neglected. We (by ‘We”, I mean PIL) have plans for the back garden. Just about any plants we put in the beds last less than a season due to being flattened by youngsters playing, in no particular order, cricket, football, basketball, tennis, trample dads plants and take off the flowers with a frisbee (the last two being particular favourites with our kids). Once the front is finished, all the plants in the back garden will be transferred to the front to fill in any spaces there and the ensuing space planted with shrubs.2004_OND-BELL-HEBEVI4

Shrubs tend to be more resilient to the kind of abuse my kids hand out plus they don’t seem to be so sensitive to being pissed on by the dog (and by me from time to time when I can’t be arsed to come in). The additional bonus of having shrubs there is that they quickly grow large enough to devour all kinds of balls, frisbees and water pistols. Either that or shrubs have some kind of portal to another dimension where stuff like that disappears for all time. A bit like washing machines and socks.

Now that I have made my sister Boo

Boo. My sister. She often looks like this

Boo. My sister. She often looks like this

happy by writing about gardens and my toiletry habits I am going to go and dig some holes to put our new plants in cos it’s stopped raining. I just hope there isn’t any cat crap out there.

Have an outstanding day. They are the best ones to have.

More Dick soon.auto

The Garden

I must admit to enjoying a bit of gardening. Unfortunately, I don’t spend as much time as I would like pottering around doing gardening stuff like dead heading, planting out new plants, taking cuttings and enjoying the physical effort involved. Some of this is down to work but more often it’s the rubbish English weather on my days off that stop me.gardener cartoon

I have been planning and plotting the other side of our front garden for some months now and progress has been slow.

Part of the front garden before we went on holiday to Florida at the beginning of July

Part of the front garden before we went on holiday to Florida at the beginning of July

Front garden two weeks after our return from holiday

Front garden two weeks after our return from holiday

The front garden just before I went to Wales at the end of August.

The front garden just before I went to Wales at the end of August.

The front garden shortly after my return from Wales with a load of well rotted horse muck ready to be dug in

The front garden shortly after my return from Wales with a load of well rotted horse muck ready to be dug in

Horse muck dug in and ready to plant. It's now mid September!

Horse muck dug in and ready to plant. It’s now mid September!

Planting up begins. It's now October.

Planting up begins. It’s now October.

The dark patches show me where I've planted bulbs.

The dark patches show me where I’ve planted bulbs.

What I want to achieve is a “cottage” garden, which is very relaxed and informal. I think that’s what a garden is all about – somewhere to be relaxed and informal, just like the garden. There is still lots to do. I have 30 odd allium bulbs to plant, daffodils, the big thing you can see in the background in the first few photos with white daisy like flowers is being moved to the centre, there are plants in the back garden I want to move and then once spring has sprung, I’ll fill in gaps and move plants around because it looks like shit with colour clashes all over the place. I want lots of scent so two or three honeysuckles will be added to festoon themselves over the walls. But I’ll enjoy doing it.

I love the informality

I love the informality

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This is what I would like to achieve. A combination of these three would be ideal

This is what I would like to achieve. A combination of these three would be ideal

Other people prefer a more formal and regulated garden. Good for them. If that’s what they like then I’m not going to criticise them. When it comes to gardens, I firmly believe in “Whatever turns you on.” Want gnomes? As many as you want mate. Nothing but roses? Good for you.

One of the things I also try and do is encourage wildlife into our garden, particularly insects and bees. While I have been known to use weed killer on those pernicious perennial weeds like dandelions, I don’t use pesticides. Pesticides don’t discriminate between good bugs and bad bugs. It’s a bug so it dies. Not a good idea. I try to achieve a natural balance in our garden. Doing so, particularly if you have used pesticides, can take a couple of years and you never actually get rid of every bad bug but you do get levels of infestation that are manageable.

A hoverfly

A hoverfly

Hoverfly larvae scoffing an aphid

Hoverfly larvae scoffing an aphid

Taking bees aside, I try to encourage hover flies and lady birds into the garden. If you have roses in your garden or grow vegetables and have a problem with aphids, I suggest you do the same.

Yep. A lady bird

Yep. A lady bird

A ladybird larvae. Do NOT kill

A ladybird larvae. Do NOT kill just because it’s an ugly bastard

Ladybirds and their larvae will scoff upwards of 4000 aphids during their life cycle. That’s right! 4000! Hoverfly larvae will each munch their way through several hundred aphids before eventually becoming nectar eating hoverflies. So they are worth encouraging. Both hoverflies and lady birds like to feed on nectar but they need to do so on plants with fairly open flowers. Plants like ox-eye daisies, coreopsis, marigolds and Rudbeckia are ideal. If you’re happy to suffer a few aphids chomping your roses or lettuce, you will notice the difference in the wildlife attracted into your garden. More insects, often means more and different types of birds, hedgehogs, frogs and toads in the garden and that, to my mind, is a good thing. I have had sparrow hawks chasing blackbirds in my garden and that is a sight to behold.

Gardening can also be dangerous. It’s not just the tools like shears, secateurs, strimmers and mowers involved. It’s bloody zombie gardeners!

Dude. Do you have a spade. I need to dig a big hole

Dude. Do you have a spade? I need to dig a big hole.

They’ll stop at nothing to nick all the good stuff in your garden and transfer to their own.

Gardening can be a dangerous occupation. I always keep a spade handy. Just in case.

Gardening can be a dangerous occupation. I always keep a spade handy. Just in case.

They’ve been known to bump off a gardener or two and they pop up out of nowhere.

I always keep a few tools handy just in case some of the zombies round here start to go into one and launch a surprise raid to try and nick my lobelias.in_case_of_zombies_gardening

So far I’ve been lucky and managed to beat any ZGRs (Zombie Garden Raiders) off with a sharp spade to the head.zombie gardener2

I must admit it’s a bit of a pain disposing of a zombie head but, like with slugs and snails, I usually lob them into next doors garden and they  have a moan and a groan:

“Oi Terry! Them bloody zombies have been fighting in our garden again. There’s fucking zombie heads all over the lawn.”zombie head

“I bloody told you Chardonnay, them bleedin’ hollyhocks you wanted planted up attract those buggers like flies to a dog dump.”

“Are you sayin’ it’s my bloody fault we always find zombie heads in our garden? How come that bloke next door never gets any?”

“Coz he ain’t got any fuckin’ ‘olly’ocks in his garden you silly cow!”

“Silly cow? You bastard. That’s it! I’m staying round me mums. You can sod off.”

“Oh that’s right. Leave it to me to clear up all the bloody gore and brains again, then take it down the council tip and hope they don’t notice. Thanks a bunch you selfish old moo.”

“Stick it up your bum Terry. I’ve had enough. Where are the car keys………”

All over a bloody stray zombie head. See what I mean? Zombie gardeners are bloody dangerous. Pinch your plants, bury a trowel in your head and cause matrimonial conflict. Bastards.

Finally, a quick message for SDG. I’m afraid the slug deterrent experiment will have to wait until next year now. By the time I got round to trying out the nettle juice and smuggling the hostas out of PILs sight, they had all started to die back and slugs wouldn’t have been interested. Looks like we’ll have to wait until 2016 to make our fortunes.

On that note, it is time for me to leave.

Have a great day.

More Dick soon.auto

So. Do You Feel Lucky Slug?

Before we all went on holiday, I had restarted making my experimental slug deterrent. Unfortunately, as I hadn’t said anything to PIL about it, she found what she believed to be a bucket of gooey rain water in the garden and poured it away. Back to the beginning again.hostas-being-terrorized-by-slugs

What with work, stuff to do around the house and a thousand other tasks that I hadn’t done to sort out before we went away, I didn’t get round to carrying out the experiment. We’re back now, the catch up at work and home has been caught so now it is time for my experiment. Or so I thought. My intention was to grow some plain green hostas as a kind of sacrificial goat. Slugs absolutely love eating hostas so it was an ideal plant to see if my slug deterrent worked. We have a number of hostas dotted around the garden that we grow in pots to avoid serious slug damage. They are one of PILs favourite plants.20150612_100411

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The three that I had grown on had come along nicely and looked like they would make an excellent meal for a slug or several. I planned to plant one in the garden uncoated with deterrent, another lightly sprayed and the final one soaked in deterrent. I would plant them about 18 inches apart.

I came home the other night ready to start my testing the following day to find my sacrificial hostas in one pot outside the front door.20150808_162320

“Er excuse me. Why are those hostas outside the front door?” I asked PIL.

“Don’t they look lovely there? Thanks ever so much for growing them for me.”

“But, but, but…….” I stammered.

“When did you develop a stutter. Good God man, you really are going to the dogs.”

“I was going to use them for my slug deterrent test.” I managed to say knowing that I was on a loosing wicket here.

“Well you can forget that sunshine. Find something else. I like them and they are staying put.”

Oh bollocks! Looks like SDG and I will have to wait a while longer before we make our fortunes. Sorry about that.

Have a smashing day.

More Dick soon.

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Just Looked, Sat, Thought and Did a Bit of Gardening.

When I took Dexter for a walk the other day I found myself looking around at all the wonderful countryside we have in England and thought to myself,

“This really is a green and pleasant land.”

I was astounded by the colours. Mostly it was green but so many different shades. There was dark green, not so dark green, mid green, light green, creamy green, bluey green, reddish green, golden green and silvery green. Perhaps it was the light on this particular day as it was very sunny and bright. In amongst all the greens were splashes of other colours. There was the blue from the last of the bluebells.20150506_173052

White from the flowers of wild garlic and ox eye daisies (a particular favourite of mine).20150522_125122

Mauves, pinks and purples from wild flowers I couldn’t identify. We reached the top of a gentle slope and I turned and looked around me. The view that I saw was just achingly beautiful. In a moment of eloquence that I’m not often capable of I said;

“Fuck me!”

 

I felt a sense of complete contentment, peace and well being. So much so that I had to sit a while and have a jolly good think. I thought a great many thoughts which you are prone to do when thinking. Mostly they were to do with my life and how it had turned out so far. I thought of the appalling bad times I’d had and still have from time to time. I thought about the fabulous days and times I’d had and how I still have lots of those. One day soon I may pluck up the courage and write about those thoughts I’d thought. However, one of the thoughts I did have at that time was how wonderfully well nature created such stunning combinations of plants and colours and shapes. I try to bring that into my garden. I recently read a post by Steve Morris over at blogbloggerbloggest about a dogwood he has in his garden. Earlier this year he had pruned it really hard and now it’s in full growth mode with many superb young red stems. In addition, Steve planted a number of his cuttings and now has a great many more dogwoods to plant (and prune haha). This is a man after my own heart. Free plants! Can’t beat them. I’ve done a similar thing with foxgloves.

Some of the foxgloves in my back garden

Some of the foxgloves in my back garden

I got a couple of purple foxgloves from our local garden centre two years ago and after they finished flowering I left them to set seed, which they do in huge quantities. Generally, I let them grow wherever they happen to grow, but if they really are in completely the wrong place or you want some in a different area  they don’t mind being dug up and replanted. I probably have 20+ foxgloves flowering in my back garden now plus a dozen or so more in the front garden. All from two plants! I love ’em. So do the bees. The best thing though is that you can never be absolutely sure what you get. A bit like Mrs Gumps box of chocolates. The foxgloves I planted a couple of years ago were all purple.

In my garden earlier today

In my garden earlier today

This year, I have purple foxgloves but I have also got WHITE foxgloves!

In my garden this morning. Beautiful flowers.

In my garden this morning. Beautiful flowers.

This isn’t an unusual colour but I never planted them. Some of the seeds that took just happened to have a white gene I guess but the combination really is tremendous.20150612_100349

Next year I hope I get many, many more growing. Most of them will be moved to the new beds I’m starting to prepare out in the front garden. I know what I want to do in my head and hopefully I’ll achieve it but suffice to say, scent will be an important part of the new beds. Roses however, will not feature. In the meantime, I am about to start my experiment with a sl*g deterrent.  Despite hating the slimy bastards for eating my plants, I don’t like to kill them just because they’re doing what they do and besides, who wants little piles of snot all over the place? Nah. I chuck them in next doors garden! I hope it works because then me and Mrs SD Gates are going into business selling our patented slug deterrent, get us a shed load of cash, retire and spend all our waking hours pottering around in our respective gardens and walking our respective dogs.1978841_686052051438740_1830563984_n

Plus getting new furniture of course.

Have a great day.

More Dick soonauto

Gardening

 

Me

Me

 

Perhaps the only thing that can be said about the lawn in our back garden is that it’s generally green! A small percentage of that greenness is caused by grass. The rest of the greenness is made up of moss (18%), clover (23%), buttercups (17%), daisies (16%), dandelions (12%), sundry other weeds etc (11%). I think when all the weeds are flowering it actually looks quite pretty and in my opinion having a garden that pleases your eye is really what it’s all about. The abuse the back lawn gets from the amount of football, basketball, cricket, hockey and rugby that the kids play on it makes maintaining it the way my dad maintained his lawn a bit of a waste of time. However, I have discovered method in my laziness. I have a cunning plan!

I have a cunning plan

I have a cunning plan

My dad used to expend huge amounts of energy, time and money on his lawn. Even when he was getting on a bit he would mow, weed and feed it constantly and it has to be said that 96.87% of his lawn was actually grass. Every year he would grab his lawn rake and spend the day furiously raking up every scrap of moss and dead grass. He would then spend the next week in hospital with a suspected coronary. Each spring he would scatter spring lawn feed over the lawn. Every autumn he would spread autumn lawn feed over his lawn. Every year he would aerate his lawn with his garden fork and chuck lawn sand everywhere. As far as I can make out “lawn sand” is ordinary sand in  bag marked “Lawn sand” enabling the retailer to sell it for three times the price. I could be wrong. My dad used so much weed killer and sundry other chemicals that his lawn would luminesce at night.

Personally, I try not to use chemicals and weed killers. I do use it on the paths where, typically, the grass grows quite happily. It’s the same with pests. I’m not allowed by law to use chemicals on the kids much as I may want to when they destroy my Choisya Ternata. I dislike slugs intensely but now as I grow older I try to think of them as little bunches of DNA sliming around doing what slugs naturally do.slug1-400x301

Which is EATING MY FUCKIN’ GARDEN YOU BASTARDS! DIE! DIE! DIE! KILL! YOU SNOT COVERED DOG TURDS, FUCK OFF AND DIE!hostas-being-terrorized-by-slugs

Ahem. Excuse the little rant. Sorry. Much as I try to remain calm the mere thought of slugs drives me potty. DIE YOU FUCKERS DIE! I wouldn’t mind so much but the fucker slug fucks DIE YOU SHITS DIE! in my garden all seem to look like and are the size of Jabba the Hutt with an appetite to match.review_jabba_1

I do apologise for my outburst. Anyway, generally speaking I’m quite fond of the little garden beasties, so if it’s not a s**g or a sn**l, I try to encourage them. Our back garden is effectively divided into two parts. Last week I gave the whole lawn its first cut of the year. Now I like bees. Hate wasps but like bees. Bees like clover. There’s clover in our lawn and clover when cut, takes about a week to start flowering again. So. Each week, weather permitting, I will mow one half of the lawn so that each half gets cut once every two weeks. That way it looks neat(ish), the bees have a constant supply of food and I get to put my feet up for an additional half hour having done my bit to save the planet! That’s what you call a cunning stunt. (unless you’re my sister Boo, the Queen of spoonerisms, in which case it’s something else entirely).

Boo. My sister. She looks nothing like this

Boo. My sister. She looks nothing like this

Speaking of beaver, Clit Eatswood is regularly ensconced in my beard. It seems to like it there and comes quite often.

I’ve wandered off again haven’t I?

I started gardening and enjoying it relatively late. To me it was something your dad did and therefore gardening was done by old people.gardener

When PIL and I first got together we lived in a nice house overlooking a little copse with a stream running through it. It had a garden. So in an effort to further impress her and to get her kit off as often as possible I started to garden. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing (still don’t). I built a little seat out of bricks and old fence posts at the bottom of the garden where we could sit and look out over the stream. As you would expect with something I built only three buttocks could fit on the seat but this was fine because it meant PIL sat on my lap. I started watching Gardeners World on the Beeb Beeb Ceeb and the presenter, the late Geoff Hamilton, became a bit of a hero to me.

The late Geoff Hamilton

The late Geoff Hamilton

I discovered I enjoyed gardening and even better, that I was quite good at it. I can never remember the name of plants but I can visualise what I want to do and get the plants that achieve my visualisation.

Part of our garden

Part of our garden

The best thing though is that if you cock it up and have a colour clash,  a plant in the wrong place or it doesn’t suit the scheme you’re trying to achieve all you do is dig the bugger up again and plant it somewhere else. Brilliant! It helps that both PIL and I prefer informal planting with lots of colour and form and that is easy to do. For instance, bees like foxgloves. We like foxgloves. Foxgloves self seed like nobodies business so you buy a few and let them seed and you end up with big swathes of purple foxgloves springing up in the most unexpected places.

Foxgloves

Foxgloves

If by chance they arrive where you don’t want them, just dig ’em up and plant them somewhere else.

I think most people know I like wild primroses.

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Dinky little plants with lovely yellow flowers in early spring. If you’re lucky you can get the pink form which is also lovely. You can’t just go and dig up wild flowers in England. Big fines if you’re caught. So I collect the seed which is legal. Not all of it, just enough for what I want. I pot the seeds up, they start to grow, plant them out and hey presto, loads of plants for nothing. Again, brilliant. Or you can take cuttings from your existing plants, pot them up and once again, a short time later, free plants! Herbaceous perennials are the best though. Buy one (or three), plant it immediately and enjoy the flowers. Then a year or two later, dig it up, divide it into two or three bits and replant. Then two or three years later dig each bit out again and divide it again. Bloody marvellous.

One year it wasn't there, the next it was! I did absolutely nothing.

One year it wasn’t there, the next it was! I did absolutely nothing.

The thing to never forget though is that no matter how much you enjoy the physical labour of gardening and the associated aches and pains, take time to actually look at your garden or (someone elses) and enjoy it.

A bit of our garden

A bit of our garden

Have a lovely day.

More Dick soon.auto

 

Emails to my sister 1

Boo. My sister. She looks nothing like his

Boo. My sister. She looks nothing like this

I thought I would post one of the many emails I have sent to my sister. It was these emails that gave her the idea to encourage me to start this blog. The email is dated 24th April 2014.

Funny innit. One part of the back garden hasn’t been touched since we moved in. It’s got shrubs in that corner and a cherry tree and I’ve not paid much attention to it. The shrubs are large now to say the least. One has blackbirds nesting in it every year and I watched a sparrow hawk crash-land into it as it chased one of the blackbirds (the black bird survived). I was standing about 10 feet away at the time and it was one of “those” moments. Not something you get to see every day and when you do, it makes you appreciate the wonders of what goes on outside our little bubbles every day. Anyway, because the dickie birds nest there I’ve just left it. Got a couple of straggly hebes, a heather or two, a purple prickly thing and some leggy old rhododendrons. It’s not just the birdies that like that patch but bees and flutterbys are always foraging there. So I’ve been content to leave it. I was wondering around the garden this morning looking at what was growing, wondering how many days it was going to take to pull out all the poxy weeds and waiting for Dexter to take a crap when I noticed that the rhododendrons were in flower and what magnificent flowers they are. They look fantastic. Naturally, I looked in my RHS Encyclopedia of plants and flowers and I think they might be R.’Beauty of Littleworth’. Then again, they may not. Now I’ve got to figure out how to take care of them and ensure they survive.   20140424_071419 Nice to have a little, pleasant surprise at ten past seven in the morning and I suppose that’s what it’s all about. What needs to happen now is for me to win the euro millions, stop work, potter about in the garden and see what other surprises lay in store although working or not it’s nice to know that surprises are there waiting to pop up and make your day. All you need to do is look. Have a lovely day. 20140424_071328