Friday, 20 July 2012

Name that bloom (#1)

It's Friday, the jet stream is heading north and summer is on its way. My boiler is fixed, my windows have been cleaned and I thought I should reflect my merry mood with a new challenge.

For the next few Fridays I'm going to post up a photo of a flower in the garden. I'll say now I have no bloody clue what these are, when I got them, or when I planted them. Most are gifts from my mum to which I probably said 'yeah ok', or are weeds.

Anyway, this one is definitely from my mum, I actually quite like it, but it tends to sit in its pot, flower, die, flower die. It's a bit of a temperamental things. I call it 'the teenager':

Britain's got talons

That worm is toast...

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Rhythm is a chancer

Woo hoo, the sun is out, I can mow the lawn!

Yes, that's right, I know how to party. Dazzling yellow hues bring out the mower in me and I was out there for a good couple of hours today doing what I can only describe as 'the chores'. I rid the lawn of a beastly ragwort that had reached the height of my chest, and which now leaves a gaping hole. But it allowed me to get the old strimmer out and cut down the madness that had enveloped my garden.

There is something satisfying about taming the wild. I can imagine that it's what gives landscape gardeners a thrill - to see a fresh challenge ahead of them, an overgrown garden ready to be wrestled. Once I'd done the lawn, it was time to weed the paving stones that run alongside.

I'm always amazed at how weeds not only take hold in a sliver of a gap, but then shoot up to flower quicker that any bulb you deliberately plant in acres of nutritious soil. Well, today it was time to end their fun. And following that it was time for The Broom of Death.

Ok, just a broom to sweep all the mess up. But you have to at least try and make it fun! And it was then I realised what I was up to. I'd gone all Mary Poppins and was brushing to a beat, making up little games just to try and get through the sheer monotony of garden clearance.

And just as I'd got into my rhythm, SNAP! What are the chances eh?

Oh well. Lets have a tune instead.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The butterfly defect

When did you last see a butterfly in your garden, indeed anywhere?

I think I saw one in Greece, but I've certainly not had any in my garden ever. In my hazy warm childhood memories you couldn't move for a suicidal Cabbage White or sun-drugged Red Admiral, hurtling towards you in that predictably unpredictable way only to duck and weave out of danger at the last second and head merrily on as if nothing was about to happen. 

What's going on?! Well, I've done some investigating and national treasure Sir David Attenborough, president of Butterfly Conservation has issued a call to gardeners arms. It seems our current nemesis RAIN is at the heart of the decline. It happened in teh deluges of 2007, with the winged population plummeting faster than you can say 'burnt moth'.

You can read more at the Butterfly Conservation website, which seems to have a photo of pretty much every butterfly out there. The photos reminded me just how striking they can be. I'm easily seduced by the absorbing colours on the wings, but of course it's all designed to distract you from...the face (sorry butterfly fans, that was very mean of me, I'm just jealous not to be called, or look like an Adonis Blue!). 

But my real reason for writing about them is this:

A photo of a caterpillar that I recovered from an old digital camera yesterday. I've not seen any caterpillars this year either and it got me wondering why. Most likely they realised there ain't no goodies to be had in my garden this year!

Even these little creatures have a beauty of their own, I'm sure you agree. So this little muncher is going straight into the rogues gallery! But before you go snapping your own ones, take note of this little link:

10 beautiful but dangerously poisonous caterpillars

If you have any photos of pests you'd like to submit for the gallery I'd love to hear from you? I haven't had a new rogue for a while so do get in touch if you have

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Puns and roses...

You know what's coming...I've not posted up a tune for a while to be fair.

But before we all rock out with our air guitars, a pause for thought. There is no doubt that all gardeners get attached to what they grow, be it flowers, fruit, vegetables or weeds. It brings out the nurturing side of us, and for those of us without children yet is far more socially acceptable than harbouring 35 once feral (and if you're honest still feral despite what you think) cats.

There are days of course when you feel like a bad plant parent. Perhaps you think to yourself, I'm just not doing enough to fulfil their potential, these wonderful living things who if only they had more soil/plant food/ SUNSHINE (hear me up there weather god?)/gardening tlc would produce more flowers, bigger berries, larger pods. 

Coming back from holiday, that's how I felt. I saw my wreck of a garden, realised just how little I had been able to provide for it, and I could see that nothing was really growing. A failed parent.

First of all, I thought I was alone, but your comments on 'Minging in the rain' showed I was not. We all feel the same this year. But if you do, take a closer look outside.

This evening I took advantage of a rare clear blue Bristol sky and spent a bit of time clearing up. Whilst doing so, I started to notice a few things. Firstly, one of my two blueberry plants still had healthy looking berries (lets not talk about the other one for now).

Suddenly, I discovered my first raspberry of the year, hidden under all the leaves. It's not there now of course. Yum!

And finally, I'm not sure how I missed these, sitting in a tray on the ground were some flowering sweet peas. I had planted them nonchalantly in February, rescued them from a fallen growhouse in March and forgotten about them. Yet to my surprise, and (whisper it) delight, they have come good despite remaining in a seed tray all this time.

The flowers are bright and the fragrance is wonderfully reassuring; and even as I feel the sense of neglect in my bones, they clearly had enough self belief and determination to come good. I couldn't be more proud.

And to celebrate?

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Minging in the rain

This post is about June and July 2012... 

It has not been my finest hour in the garden - and in truth that's about all the time I've spent there.  It has got to the point where I'm considering dropping the 'gardener' and leaving myself as plain old 'Hapless'.

For regular readers, I'd like to apologise for the lack of entertainment on here lately but I do hope that the following update gives you reassurance that yes there is someone so utterly inept that you're not such a bad gardener after all. And for the skilled gardeners, belief that there is always someone in need of help!

So why such little time gardening? Over the next few posts I hope to explain. Today though, let me start with the Great British Weather.

We Brits love a good old moan about it, but this year I think we've all finally lost our rag. It's been rain all the way, day after day after day.

And with that, the warmth has decided to bugger off too, leaving the energy companies rubbing their hands with glee just as much as we're rubbing ours to heat up.

What has that meant for the garden? A failure to clear up the remnants of last year's vine and buddliea demolition and a utter failure to cut the now totally wild grass:

It hasn't taken long for this fiend to take hold on the lawn. Anyone know what it is?

Now, they call it the breezy south west. Actually, they don't, I just made that up to reflect the combination of laid back Bristolians, Gloucestershire hippies, Devon ruralites and the Cornwallian surfers. In truth it's been howling a right gale down here since April. Meaning everytime I try and plant precious seeds in the grow houses, which are necessarily in locations I can't tether them down in, I get this:

I have lost pretty much all the beans I've planted this year, along with nearly all sweet peas and my precious chilli seeds I planted from last year's dried chilli. Seeing the toppled plastic towers filled me with despondency and hurt as much as annoyance.

So, the British weather has basically thrown a strop even McEnroe would be proud of and left my garden in tatters - overgrown and pretty much veg-less this summer.

And what has this meant for me?

Poolside in the Greek sunshine. Damn right.

I'd like to think that the hardier gardeners and allotmenteers out there have made some headway with their vegetables, and please do let me know if you have.

The Hapless Kitchen Gardener

My photo
I only feel hapless because some people make it look easy to grow 10 ft marrows or a banquet of greens whereas my courgettes got nabbed by killer slugs and I only got one raspberry. So tips and stories from people less hapless than I are more than welcome. As a disclaimer though, none of my comments should be taken as expert advice on which you can rely! © Unless stated otherwise, and with the exception of guest content where that guest retains copyright, all photos and posts are the copyright of Tom Carpen and may not be used without permission.