The experiment continues. So far the mixed sowing in the left-hand half-seed-tray is mostly still just beetroot but I can see some herbs coming through. We’ll see how this does but it might be more sensible next time for me to sow them separately.
The main raised bed in the greenhouse had a weird steep incline thing happening. The soil level at the back was up to the bottom of the window (the white strip at the top of the photo) and ran down to the wooden edge. This meant water ran straight off onto your feet before it had a chance to sink in – madness! We used this extra spent soil to bulk out the raised planters in the new courtyard before digging in some well-rotted horse manure to enliven the beds.
Here they are all planted out in the beds.
I started off some more tomato and cucumber seedlings to take with me to my greenhouse when we move back in (which should be in the next few weeks). There’s plenty left over from mum’s plantings so I’m going to be fighting for space.
These peas sulked after being planted out and pinched out (the change of weather to chilly surely didn’t help). However, this week I can see signs of growth again so I think we’re okay.
After a few changes of direction and some very heavy lifting, the bulk of the work is done
It’s been a busy week working on the courtyard garden. At this stage, the majority of the planting is in place. Nearly two days of negotiation was needed to make sure everything is in the correct place. We’ve veered away from some of the original plans as more inspiration was given by a local nursery stocking some zinc planters. The raised beds were researched, and researched, and eventually discarded. Not until we’d gone through sleepers, breeze block and mortar, and dry stone walling did we throw it aside for what you see now.
Apple Tree* – Likely a Bramley but we’re unsure as it was here when the house was bought.
Griselinia littoralis variegata
Grain Hopper Planter
Hydrangea seemanii – climbing hydrangea
Prunus avium Plena
Hosta ‘Paul Revere’
Dicksonia antarctica – Purchased nearly 20 years ago from Trebah Garden in Cornwall. This poor specimen has been dragged from house to house and we’re hoping it’ll pick up in this new home. It’s been thoroughly watered.
Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Variegatus’
Polygonatum x hybridum ‘Solomon’s seal’*
Holboellia coriacea – likely to be too brutish for the main courtyard garden but it can be seen below on the railings that go around the main terrace.
It’s been a fun week looking after the Runner Beans. The days have been really warm and dry here so the beans are sprinting away. However, the nights have been exceptionally chilly and so it’s become a routine to wrap the tender tendrils before bed. Apparently next week we’re in for even colder conditions so there’s no end in sight for the wrapping up. There’s some outside in an old cold frame converted to a contained bed and some more within the greenhouse. I wonder how much difference there will be between the first crops on each.
The tomato and one of the cucumber seeds sown last week are already up so they’ve come out of the propagator (this way they won’t get too leggy and it frees up space in the propagator for some mint cuttings.
For some reason, I’ve never really grown beetroot. Which is stupid because I love it on the plate. A roasted beetroot, goats cheese, rocket and walnut salad with balsamic dressing is in my top 10 most amazing meals ever. It might be that I’ve never had a huge veg plot and the greenhouse was my main growing space so tender tomatoes, chillies, and peppers have taken priority.
Having seen others making great posts and shares on their blogs and twitter feeds on this wonderful vegetable I’ve been inspired into action.
Since the packet of beetroot seeds I found in my old Seed Tin (stashed there by my mum whilst she held the responsibility for looking after it whilst I was out of the country) had germinated well for my microgreens I’m pretty sure they’ll be fine for a good crop. I’ve sown a line of Beetroot in front of the inside greenhouse Runner Beans that are storming away, and between the rows of the outside beans. I’m hoping this will stagger the growth and prevent a glut. There’s enough left in the packet for some later sowing for autumn.
So far this week we’ve been to two builder and timber merchants to look at the options for the raised beds and two nurseries for inspiration on the planting.
Jobs Completed: paint the wall
There’s not much we can do will the stark breezeblock wall at the moment other than paint it to hide the dull grey colour. Now it’s white and this will bounce light around the space. The long-term plan is that the evergreen climbers will make a home of the wire supports and will cover most of this boundary.
Jobs Complete: Destroy the cupboard
This unnecessary element of the original garden had to change. There is a huge shed in the garden so storage is not a priority. It will probably be made into a raised bed but it’s unclear if we’re leaving the low run of bricks to do this or whether I need to remove more.
Other options are a seat (rejected as that area gets almost no sun) and a pond. We’ll see. Already the space appears wider.
Jobs in progress: Plant Purchases
We have made a start on selecting some new planting for the raised beds for when they’re complete. We have a mixture of shade-loving and partial-shade-loving herbaceous perennials and shrubs. In the meantime, they’re being displayed in another part of the garden and they’re looking good.
We need to finalise the design of the raised beds before we can move forward. A change to the plan comes in the form of a tree seat for the corner and we’ll need that assembled to know how much space is left for the beds.
I’ve had a busy first week back in the UK with lots of friends and family to see (although there’s plenty of people still on our catch up list we haven’t gotten to yet). However, today has been quieter so I’ve had time to get round to some gardening.
This morning was spent measuring and negotiating with mum over the layout of the raised beds for her courtyard. We’ve settled on wooden sleepers (possibly) and have made some decisions on curves/square and how wide to make them.
This afternoon I went through my much-neglected seed tin and rehomed the contents. Since we’re getting our home back at the beginning of June I need to get a head start on some sowing (even though I’m behind but you know what I mean).
Some things are going to be used as Microgreens as I don’t have space for a full crop and I don’t think the seeds will last another year as a lot of them are already passed their best. I’m sowing some veg I can transplant into my greenhouse when we move but will be fine in pots in the meantime.
Seed sowing list 11/4/17
To take with us;
Chilli – Cayenne Red, Anaheim, Portugal, Fairy Lights (15x seeds each – Portugal and Fairy Lights were saved from my own plants that were part of my Chilli Challenge in 2014)
Sweet Pepper – Long Red Marconi x15
Cucumber – Tasty King (7 seeds) and Tasty Green (9 seeds)
Tomato – Marmande (15 seeds)
To eat over the next month or two;
Microgreens – beetroot, dill, parsley
Basil – Sweet Genovese
Lettuce – mixed
For mums courtyard
Astrantia ‘white’ – self-saved seeds from my white astrantia in my own courtyard garden ( I’m not sure if this is sterile so we’ll see how germination goes)
A year of change and time for a Courtyard Garden Redesign
She moved into her bungalow a year ago and now that we’ve seen a few changes of season it’s time to roll up the sleeves and start improving things.
At the moment the space has narrow borders next to some awfully dated crazy paving. The walls are exposed breeze blocks. There is a lovels mix of clematis and roses climbing valiantly to disguise the wall and a good cooking apple.
The first thing we had to assess was what does mum want from this space. It’s tucked around behind the house, not visible from the main living room, and could just become a bland walkway if we let it. She would like it to be a space to sit as it does get some evening light. She loves whites and greens so we’re taking that for our planting inspiration. A small waterfeature to link with the small pond that sits at the bottom of the stairs would be nice.
We’ve gathered together some images as source inspiration to help explain what the plan is. This was there’ll be no surprises for mum when I reveal the finished project.
Every garden and site have their own challenges and ours is no different.
Space: This is only a small corner of a modestly sized back garden and so we’re not going to be able to create rolling hills or expansive vistas. However, we can make the most of it. It’s currently the weakest part of the garden.
Shade: Not always a negative but it does impact on planting choices and we’re going to have to work hard that this space doesn’t feel too dark.
Levels: The garden already has too many levels and we’re hoping to rationalise some of these level changes.
Budget: The budget is small – luckily it’s only a small space and a lot of the plants have already been purchased.
Walkway: The first corner is the main route from the back door to the greenhouse and is only one of two ways to reach the lower level. There is also a small doorway in the top right corner that accesses the side of the house and the strawberry planters. This means that I have to be mindful of how people pass through the space.
The white box on the right is a useless and ugly storage cupboard. The black railings are new for safety.
Terrible crazy paving but some nice climbers.
Grey walls and floor sap the light making it a dark space.
This turn is the main route to the greenhouse seen in the top right. Notice the change of levels.
The planting on the lower level on the right is better with a wider bed.
During our recent road trip up the northern east coast of NSW, we came across lots of interesting wildflowers alongside the roadside and at the campsites. After getting some help identifying them by the internet and when that failed the really helpful community over on the GardenTags app stepped in like heroes.
Unfortunately, it seemed that all the interesting plants that caught my eye were introduced species and most of them are featured on the invasive species lists. Here’s a roundup.
I love Ricinus and have tried a few times to get it to grow in Devon. This variety doesn’t have the beautiful bronzed and ruby leaves but had grown into a 6 foot tree in the Hunter Valley.
This tree liked its position adjacent to the creek beside our campsite in Wooyung (just north of Byron Bay).
The heavy rain didn’t dampen our walk on the beach and the bright bracts on this Euphorbia shined out at Yamba.
We get lots of this Lily in the southern NSW coast growing alongside the road and near woodland.
All is not lost
This shrub seen alongside a creek at a campsite turns out to be native to Western Australia. It’s a relative of the Hibiscus and was looking great in the early morning light.
The botanic gardens in Toowoomba are a pleasant stop on a road trip
I’ve been traversing the East Coast of New South Wales, Australia, in a campervan with my wife and our dog. One of the many stops was to visit some relatives living in the West of Brisbane. We spent a day heading into the cooler hinterland where a higher altitude brings a relief from the humid conditions nearer sea-level. The higher, more inland, towns of Australia have a feel much more familiar to us Brits and show a wider range of street trees and historic buildings. Waiting for us there was the unexpected Toowoomba Botanic Garden.
Queens Park Gardens
To the East of the main town centre sits the Queens Park Gardens which contain the botanic gardens, playgrounds and cricket pitches.
The highlights were the mature trees and the fountains.
These space-ship fountains looked great in the sun. What’s clever is that they’re all different sizes but that’s not so easy to see from the photo. The largest fountain is closest and they get smaller the further away they get. This clever trick of perspective makes them look like they’re stretching away into the distance. Such a clever design trick I’ll have to remember.
The best thing about botanical gardens, apart from the free day out, is the opportunity to get close to some plants you wouldn’t have space for or may never have come across before.
The Wollombi Pine is an extremely interesting bit of botany of recent times. It was thought to be extinct and to only be found as fossilised samples but was rediscovered by chance in the 90s. Its natural location is a closely guarded secret to avoid people raiding the wild population for plants. More work is being done to understand the genetics at play to inform research and conservation efforts. You’ve got ancient history, botany, science, conservation all unfolding in our lifetime – what could be better?
The native grass trees are impressive with their soft fibre-optic-like foliage radiating out from the main stem. It can take 100 years to turn into the tree as it’s so slow growing. It adds an interesting addition to a mixed border.
This Chestnut was a strong impressive specimen just begging for a photo.
I always find it funny seeing such large blooms on a tree. A very elegant specimen.
This tree looks like a white rose has been on steroids. I had never seen it before.
Whatever your circumstances, if you have an interest in gardening and horticulture, there are many ways to find information and immerse yourself when your situation isn’t perfect. Lots of people have dreams of a rolling country estate with a perfect garden but most of us have to make do with what we’ve got. Whether our space is limited, if we are in a rental property where there is no access to proper soil, or if disability puts a limit to what can be achieved outside, here are some ways to join this wonderful community of gardeners.
Since moving to Australia 2 years ago I’ve come to rely on other sources of gardening entertainment when I haven’t been able to do much proper gardening as described here.
Top of this list is blogs. If you want to experience what it’s like to garden in the UK or further afield just find yourself a useful blog and live vicariously through others. Here are a couple of my favourites;
Real Men Sow – Jono takes you through the year by showing how much he has been able to grow in his allotment. He’s recently moved to a new garden so watch this space for new adventures.
The Patient Gardener – Helen gardens in Malvern and shares the changing seasons through her blog that I’ve followed for a couple of years.
Podcasts are a great way to infuse your day with some gardening when time or chores don’t allow proper hands in the dirt gardening. Here’s the list of my top 5 UK Podcasts.
I brought a whole bookcase of gardening books with me when I moved. I’m always on the lookout for new releases and I have an amazon wishlist building for good Christmas and Birthday present ideas.
Take gardening with you when you’re out of the garden
When you garden in the UK you have to accept that there will be some times when the weather makes it hard to spend as much time in the fresh air as you’d like. There’s a limit to what good wellies and a poncho can offer when it’s sub-zero and the wind wants you knocked off your feet! There’s also all the other demands on our time, be it commuting or house chores, so it’s not so easy to fully immerse yourself in gardening 24/7. This is where podcasts can come in handy.
I hate ironing. It’s one of the household chores that I actively avoid which explains why I’m often rifling through my wardrobe when it’s time to leave for work cursing my lack of forward planning when there’s nothing to wear. However, it’s a perfect task that can be completed whilst listening to the radio or, even better, a gardening podcast. Ironing is the perfect low-skill activity that uses the body without much supervision and can leave your mind open to taking in information. I have now expanded my podcast listening and incorporated it into my commute as well. Here are a few of my favourites.
This was the first podcast I ever listened to after catching the end of a program when driving from Surrey to Devon many years ago. It’s the perfect length for ironing as I manage to get through one load of washing per episode. It makes the chore go by so much faster.
It takes the form of a panel show with a rotating panel of experts answering questions from the audience. Each week comes from a new setting so there are varied conditions explored. They also have features when the panel go out to local landmarks/sites/gardens/nurseries and learn a little more. It’s good-natured and always guaranteed to raise a titter with inadvertent innuendo.
This erratically released podcast comes from one of my favourite magazines. They have exclusive interviews and talks, often from world-leading garden designers, and coverage from gardening shows. My highlights last year were the episodes talking with Sarah Raven and Anna Pavord.
Great for beginners, but often too simplistic for enthusiastic amateurs and above, this podcast has a variety of elements including listeners questions and interviews with key RHS employees. It’s a useful way of keeping up to date with the events and shows that the RHS put on. A new episode is made each fortnight.
I haven’t been a long-term listener to this one but I’m working on it. Seasonal episodes presented by Jane Perrone with Alys Fowler answering reader questions. They focus on clear topics, be it seasonal tasks or a particular plant, with good information classily delivered.
Another new podcast that’s won its place on my regular list. This guy Peter Donegan actually made me laugh out loud whilst walking the dog the first time I listened. That’s a 5* outcome in my book. It takes the form of guest interviews with an impressive list of previous guests. They show no snobbery in inviting people on to speak; I’ve heard world-class nursery-folk and garden designers back to back with bloggers and authors. Peter has a way of asking just the question you’d like asked with an awesome turn of phrase. I’m looking forward to a pint of Guinness with him one day.