June view 2009

June view 2009
View of rose and herb garden, June 2009

Small Garden Story

Over some 15 + years, I have been photographing the evolution of my small (85 x 15 foot) garden and it seems a waste not to put these records into some sort of context. Beginning here in April 2010 this Blog is intended to both act as a diary and to share past and present successes (and some failures), pleasures and disappointments with fellow garden-lovers. In due course, I intend to fill in some of the background and early days but that will have to wait until the winter months!

Saturday, 30 July 2011


No, not Art, ART - the Agroforestry Research Trust.  The organisation is a registered charity in Devon run by the energetic and much-talented Martin Crawford based on the concept of Forest Gardening or Agroforestry., i.e. "the integration of trees/horticulture to create a more diverse growing system."  Find out much more at:   agroforestrey.co.uk

ART publishes a quarterly journal covering such topics as Truffle growing, Trees and shrubs yielding edible oils, The importance of bees in nature, Forest products from insects.   Some of them are fairly whacky ideas but equally fascinating and inspiring.

But I am mentioning it now because I have recently received their annual catalogue of Fruit trees, nut trees, plants, seeds, books and sundries and I strongly recommend any enthusiastic gardener to get it.   Not only does ART aim to offer the most comprehensive range of fruit and nut plants in Europe - everything from an extensive range of apple trees to mulberries to ginko and pecan nuts, grapes to goji berries, but it is also a fascinating read.   This is obviously where I discovered the origin of Mahonia aquifolium as an edible fruit plant but where else would you discover Aquiligia vulgaris (Columbine or Granny's bonnet!) listed under Vegetable and salad plants.   Three varieties of fuchsia are also sold for the fruits!   

ART runs courses and can also be visited - it is definitely on my list.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

My first apricot

Yesterday I dodged the showers in the garden (having got drenched going for a walk!) and picked my first ever, one and only, apricot.   It looked very unpromising with some deep brown scars from irregular watering but it was absolutely delicious.   I will definitely make the effort to protect the flowers from the frost next year.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Deceptively peaceful-looking evening view

Unfortunately, it's not as peaceful as it looks.   Hence view from inside...

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Blacks and whites

I was having my constitutional first cup of tea in the garden yesterday when I wondered what the crashing about by the house was and to my delight discovered that the blackbirds have not forsaken me and my mahonia bush.   There was one beautiful glossy black male doing his best to get a good tuck in - but not very quietly!

I picked a few handfuls of loganberries, the remaining red gooseberries - ouch! - and then the black currants - only a pound and a quarter but just enough to make a few pots of jam, my first ever black currant jam.   I was surprised to discover that you add water to the fruit - but it worked out OK, only OK.   I think I should perhaps have picked the fruit a little less ripe and made allowances for the small quantity in the pan as it cooked very fast and set so quickly I had to scrape - rater than pour - the last potful out of the pan.   Still, it was a start.

More picking flower buds off dahlias this week to encourage stronger growth and I remembered to give them a good feed with Growmore.   Elsewhere the different forms and textures of foliage are coming to the fore with a few exceptions such as bright red crocosmia Lucifer,  a prolific clematis "Minuet" hiding from the house behind the trellis (bad design move!) and the white perennial sweetpea providing about the most prolific flowers at present.

Normally white, this Iceberg rose has been discoloured by the rain

The odd, quaint, bloom sometimes provides the most satisfaction at this time of year.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Of burglars and berries

Mahonia berries
Ivy, rampant roses and clematis seem a brilliant idea when you plant them - but they are also very good at taking over, forcing their way between fence panels and shading out just about everything in a space-limited garden - unless you are prepared to put in the hours and collect the scratches.  I spent a very large part of a beautiful Saturday pruning and have just about succeeded in getting the jungle under control. Satisfying.  

Fierce spiny thorns on gooseberry
Next on the list is picking the gooseberries and black currants.   This week brought a revelation about gooseberries.   I have always thought you had to cook them with sugar to make them edible but a friend told me to just leave them on the bush until they are almost falling off - and he is right - they are divine.   No sugar necessary - at all!   But their picking is not a job I relish as their prickles are so fierce - more like spines.   In fact when there were some attempted burglaries in the area I was most distressed that someone had jumped over my (high) fence and demolished half of my precious pink gooseberry bush.   But maybe I had the last laugh - I bet in REALLY hurt!   That was the last straw before I decided to get a burglar alarm fitted (not that it will help the gooseberry bushes much!).

Another very spiny plant that produced the most beautiful berries is mahonia, also known as the Oregon grape as apparently the berries are edible, although I have not plucked up the courage to try them.   Usually I don't get chance as the blackbirds go crazy for them - developing all sorts of unblackbirdlike acrobatic tactics of hanging upside down, jumping and diving at them.   This year - for some strange reason - they are leaving them alone!

Mahonia berries showing very spiny leaves