Shovelling sh*t while the plants still go at it!

October is almost over, so here’s a diary of what’s been going on in Littlebury gardens to refer back to next year.

The month started fairly mild, but has been wet and the weather has now finally gone cold (reaching -8 degrees at night by the 21st). Which is fantastic news because the Vine Weevil menace should now withdraw until next year! The neighbours will think me less mad as I won’t be going out at night with a torch. For now.

Our friend Ian helped us shift a load of soil and rubble to the tip at the weekend, which meant we could bring in a load of muck to improve the soil and mulch around some plants. I’ve been weirdly excited about improving the soil. Job done.

Clapham Common - sunny but cold morning, leaves dropping off all trees now
Clapham Common – sunny but cold morning, leaves dropping off all trees now
Wandsworth Town community garden still looks amazing
Wandsworth Town community garden still looks amazing
Our Garden on the 22nd Oct
Our Garden on the 22nd Oct
A load of old shit, literally. Manure for a mulch!
A load of old shit, literally. Manure for a mulch!
Salvia 'Raspberry Royale'
Salvia ‘Raspberry Royale’
Salvia ‘Maraschino’ – these both look so neon, they’ll be perfect next year as they are clearly strong flowerers
One of the ferns looking good - this one appears to deter slugs
One of the ferns looking good – this one appears to deter slugs
Spring crocus' flowering already because the weather was so mild
Spring crocus’ flowering already because the weather was so mild
Berries on next door's trees
Berries on next door’s trees
Winter and spring pots at the ready
Winter and spring pots at the ready
The Lavender and Rosemary did better than I thought they would. The Cornus kousa var 'Chinensis' is starting to drop its leaves. Brunnera macrophylla 'Mr Morse' is doing better out of its pot.
The Lavender and Rosemary did better than I thought they would. The Cornus kousa var ‘Chinensis’ is starting to drop its leaves. Brunnera macrophylla ‘Mr Morse’ is doing better out of its pot.
Hart's tongue fern and the Dryopteris look OK - must catch the slugs before they do the damage next year
Hart’s tongue fern and the Dryopteris look OK – must catch the slugs before they do the damage next year
If the Salvias can do this from a cutting in just one month in autumn, in summer next year they will be incredible
If the Salvias can do this from a cutting in just one month in autumn, in summer next year they will be incredible
I didn't expect to grow anything down here! But it's done really well
I didn’t expect to grow anything down here! But it’s done really well
For some reason, everything does really well in this small shady bed. The fern is a bit cat trodden on and slug eaten, but otherwise, the Hellebore from a Clapham fete is doing really well, so is the other division of a Brunnera 'Mr Morse' - bring on the spring white / fresh garden!
For some reason, everything does really well in this small shady bed. The fern is a bit cat trodden on and slug eaten, but otherwise, the Hellebore from a Clapham fete is doing really well, so is the other division of a Brunnera ‘Mr Morse’ – bring on the spring white / fresh garden!
This shady pot area is doing alright. The Fuchsia 'Hawksheads' have come on well despite looking a bit dodgy mid summer, and the ferns are, unbelievably, doing really well in that scrap of soil. Some bright orange and red violas just for fun this year.
This shady pot area is doing alright. The Fuchsia ‘Hawksheads’ have come on well despite looking a bit dodgy mid summer, and the ferns are, unbelievably, doing really well in that scrap of soil. Some bright orange and red violas just for fun this year.
The Cordylines seem to be much happier now it's cooler and wetter. The Astilbes have looked a bit dodgy all summer - perhaps our garden is too dry. Otherwise, the Brunnera is doing well here too, as is the other Hellebore, fern. While the Echineceas are shutting down.
The Cordylines seem to be much happier now it’s cooler and wetter. The Astilbes have looked a bit dodgy all summer – perhaps our garden is too dry. Otherwise, the Brunnera is doing well here too, as is the other Hellebore, fern. While the Echineceas are shutting down.
Who knew that a mulch could make everything look so much tidier! That Hebe (while I love it) is going next year, its flowers are too pastel. If you want it, let me know, it is quite stunning.
Who knew that a mulch could make everything look so much tidier! That Hebe (while I love it) is going next year, its flowers are too pastel. If you want it, let me know, it is quite stunning.
The Monarda 'Cambridge scarlet' managed a couple of flowers this year but otherwise seemed to be doing badly. However, in the last two months it has sprouted loads of off shoots. I'll have to keep a check on its spread but hopefully this is a sign of a better display in 2015.
The Monarda ‘Cambridge scarlet’ managed a couple of flowers this year but otherwise seemed to be doing badly. However, in the last two months it has sprouted loads of off shoots. I’ll have to keep a check on its spread but hopefully this is a sign of a better display in 2015.
The Kniphofia, like the Monarda, managed one flower and did little else until now where it seems to be growing more strongly. Perhaps more water in summer.
The Kniphofia, like the Monarda, managed one flower and did little else until now where it seems to be growing more strongly. Perhaps more water in summer.
No flowers from the Acanthus spinosus this year but it's grown loads (I did plant it quite late in early summer). Expect a good display in 2015.
No flowers from the Acanthus spinosus this year but it’s grown loads (I did plant it quite late in early summer). Expect a good display in 2015.
Fatsia japonica is coming into flower now - it's quite overgrown and a sun hogger, so will probably cut right back to ground level next year to make more manageable (and protect more from snails!)
Fatsia japonica is coming into flower now – it’s quite overgrown and a sun hogger, so will probably cut right back to ground level next year to make more manageable (and protect more from snails!)
Sambucus niger has grown well this year. Will cut right back in spring to help it bush out more.
Sambucus niger has grown well this year. Will cut right back in spring to help it bush out more.
The cyclamen look great but I think have become too waterlogged as they appear to be dying back in bits. Either that, or the Vine Weevils laid their evil eggs and the larvae are munching the roots.
The cyclamen look great but I think have become too waterlogged as they appear to be dying back in bits. Either that, or the Vine Weevils laid their evil eggs and the larvae are munching the roots.
Inside, the Schlumberga is budding up after good growth in the summer. This'll be it's third flowery Christmas!
Inside, the Schlumberga is budding up after good growth in the summer. This’ll be it’s third flowery Christmas!

Chelsea Physic Garden in Autumn

Today I made the most of my new Royal Horticultural Society membership and visited the Chelsea Physic Garden next to the Thames. It’s a living, breathing museum and really does feel like that – it’s the most outdoors museum I’ve been to, complete with labels and educational messaging next to every ‘exhibit’. If you want to know where aspirin comes from, you can actually see and touch the plant right here. Continue reading Chelsea Physic Garden in Autumn

It’s October and it’s still warm! Bulb planting and drain pipe trellis time

What’s going on with the weather? Although it’s dark by about 6.30pm now, it’s still sunny and very hot in the day time. Not that I’m really complaining, but I wouldn’t mind a frost to start killing off the pests and diseases.

Echinacea purpurea 'Fatal attraction'
Echinacea purpurea ‘Fatal attraction’

Continue reading It’s October and it’s still warm! Bulb planting and drain pipe trellis time

Clapham garden: Autumn is on the way

Summer is almost over and Autumn is on the way. Many of our new plants are simply too young and small to have the impact I was hoping for, which, if they survive the Winter, will be a totally different story next year. But finally the beds are starting to look lived in.

Clapham garden September

I’ve learnt a lot this year. Where the sun falls throughout the day and at what time, that slugs and snails are a huge unstoppable menace, and that our soil is very poor, full of rubble. So I’ll be removing a lot of soil in spring and adding a tonne (possibly literally!) of manure and compost and moving plants around. There were other problems too, with the two new Echineceas (tomato soup and fatal attraction) both losing the colour of their flowers – I think through lack of sun. Continue reading Clapham garden: Autumn is on the way

RHS Wisley Flower Show 2014

Yesterday I went to RHS Wisley for the flower show, in particular the National Dahlia Society’s annual show and I hadn’t prepared myself for the garden itself, stupid fool that I am. But that added to a magical experience, it was like discovering Kew all over again, a secret garden of Eden, its existence I knew nothing about. Immediately it is one of my favourite places in the world. Continue reading RHS Wisley Flower Show 2014

Camley Street Natural Park, King’s Cross, London

This weekend I was in central London on a trip as a treat for our work’s volunteers. During one of the activities I stumbled across Camley Street Natural Park, about 5 mins walk north of King’s Cross Station. It looked like the gates to Jurassic Park… Except for bugs and birds. It’s two acres of wildlife heaven in the middle of a modern concrete jungle and I highly recommend popping there for a short stroll through it. Lovely mini woodland walks, activities for children and adults. Plus it’s near lots of other beautiful London spots. Continue reading Camley Street Natural Park, King’s Cross, London

Parrot Flower Power – iPhone app and Bluetooth sensor gizmo

For Christmas, Chris bought me a Parrot Flower Power – what is it? It’s a battery powered sensor shaped like a plastic twig that you stick into the soil next to a plant and it will tell you the plant’s general health. Continue reading Parrot Flower Power – iPhone app and Bluetooth sensor gizmo

Brachyscome iberidifolia (blue) window box pruning

Brachyscombe iberidifoliaBack at the start of the year we spent ages trying to decide the type of window boxes to get for our bay window and what flowers to go in them. In the end, opting for slate blue/grey resin for a contemporary but weathered look, which is light to carry and frost resistant.

For flowers, this year I wanted something simple, to create a single line of colour with a single type of plant. It worked well for our previous neighbour and I’d seen how striking keeping it simple can be. I also wanted the flower to be blue and to last throughout the whole summer. I stumbled upon Brachyscombe Blue, an Australian daisy like plant. Perfect as daisies type flowers against green foliage looks quite modern.

The first day on 1st April looked like this…

Brachyscombe window box

I was immediately pleased with the look as it was quite sleek and modern. Brachyscombe is apparently not particularly hardy in the UK, so treated like an annual. We’ll see come winter.

Immediately after planting the flowers all vanished but after a month or so, they were back and it’s flowered constantly ever since.

Here are the window boxes after a month or so, which looked great from the street:

Brachyscome blue window boxes

Deadheading and cutting back

I’m not sure if Brachyscombe definitely need dead heading, it’s hard to find the advice online. However I did notice that if I didn’t deadhead, the number of flowers seemed to slow down. After a month or so of deadheading individual flowers, I soon found this to take far too long. Also, the clumps were becoming a little straggly, flopping over the side and pulling unsightly gaps into the plants. So I followed some advice from online, which recommended cutting annuals back hard.

Brachyscombe blue pruning and dead heading

Just a tad brutal…! I actually quite liked these little tufty grass-like mounds. Anyway, two weeks later they bounced back with more flowers than ever and currently look like this:

Brachyscome August cut back hard

As you can see, they came back better than ever!

All in all, I’d recommend Brachyscombe iberidifolia blue for containers and window boxes. Their flower power is strong and they keep on going all through summer with a little liquid feed each month, I guess until the first frosts.

There are some downside though which mean I’ll try something different next year: the type I have aren’t exactly the sky blue they were originally, more a light mauve (although bluer than the photos show); they close up in the evening, so you only see the full display in the day time at weekends really. That’s it.

Biddulph Grange

In the summer of 2014 we had a staycation in the UK, roadtripping it to Yorkshire, Northumberland, Scotland, the Lake District through to Buckinghamshire. We’d recently joined the National Trust and we massively made use of our membership on this road trip, visiting more than a handful of manors and estates in the week. But one that stood above most, inspiring me greatly was Biddulph Grange. Continue reading Biddulph Grange

Cacti mini garden

Three barrel cacti, including one from Chelsea Flower Show 2014. The flowering one is obviously the healthy new one from Chelsea 🙂 The other two, I’ve had for a couple of years and they’ve pretty much done nothing. I’m putting this down to using some fairly poor “cactus compost” in a packet, which I thing is probably too dry and sandy for the cacti with no nutrients. So, I potted all three into this one pot with a mix of the cacti compost but with about 50-60% normal potting compost with John Innes. Since doing so, at least the spikiest one has now started growing.

Cacti

Clapham Manor Street front garden

At the Chelsea Flower Show 2014, one of the gardens I loved the most was the London Square garden, inspired by the many London squares around the city. And the plant of the year for me was Cornus Kousa variety I believe is a chinensis, within that garden. So it caught my eye that this small front garden on Clapham Manor Street had a very similar look. I loved walking past it each day coming back from work. Continue reading Clapham Manor Street front garden

Clapham Garden (Part 3): pots happening in May?

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Spring started early this year, with a warm March and April, during which I planted out most things in the garden. The garden still looks quite bare because most of the plants are tiny – I wanted to go in small and grow things rather than plant out fully grown stuff. Where’s the fun and challenge in that?  Continue reading Clapham Garden (Part 3): pots happening in May?

Kew Gardens in spring: a sea of blue bells and dazzling Azaleas

I’ve visited Kew gardens at least once a year since I was a child (probably about 9 years old) and since moving to London in 1999 I’ve visited multiple times a year. One of my favourite times to visit is in spring, I always take a day off to plod around on my own taking it all in. Continue reading Kew Gardens in spring: a sea of blue bells and dazzling Azaleas

Holy Trinity Hospice, Clapham, Open Garden

The Holy Trinity Hospice in Clapham has an award winning garden split into a number of key areas. They including a terrace, informal planting area and lawn, a shaded wet area with pond and wind sculpture, plus another formal planting area and lawn. They also have the most immaculate yew hedge you are likely to ever see. Continue reading Holy Trinity Hospice, Clapham, Open Garden

Clapham Garden (Part 2: Moving A Cordyline Australis)

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Two very Clapham features of our Clapham garden are two Cordyline australis trees (originating from New Zealand). The green one was smack bang in the middle of the main bed and starting to lean out across the patio. In Feb while it was still cold but after frosts I moved it over to the back right corner to sit next to the dark red tree. Personally I think this helps add structure to one corner of the bed and contrasts nicely with the other tree. Continue reading Clapham Garden (Part 2: Moving A Cordyline Australis)

landscape and garden design in Clapham, London