Category Archives: gardening

Inspiration for my garden room…

Charles Darwin’s greenhouse at Down House.

I am certain I could cobble together something similar with a bit of corrugated plastic and a few sticks. Oh, and a banana plant. It would be nice place to sit and think.

The Olympic Park

I have been really busy over the past few days with work and the Paralympics. I have absolutely loads to write about the latter, but, as I am off out again today it will have to wait, for now. In the meantime I am sharing this picture because it makes me happy. I had forgotten my camera yesterday and thought that I had only the useless Blackberry. I was delighted when I found my work phone in my rucksack after a rummage around looking for something else.

For a park that has had literally millions of visitors, the Olympic Park has kept ‘its head whilst all around are losing theirs’ (to quote Kipling) and I was really pleased with this photograph I grabbed through the crowds yesterday lunchtime.

What I particularly like about it, is the way the people’s heads bobbing around in the middle of the shot are almost indistinguishable from the flowers themselves. The park lies on a site that was, not so long ago, a polluted industrial site. All the plants have to be shallow rooted because below the 30 cm of new top soil, the earth remains toxic.

Big props to the man behind the planting, Dutch horticulturist, Piet Oudolf. Its’s a beauty.

The Stadium in its meadow setting

Frog Photogs

This frog was sunbathing in the back garden yesterday. I haven’t see one this big before; its size seemed to make it bold. We got a real close look at it – lots of alliterative words come to mind to describe it because however hard I tried to get a good frog photog it once again defied my camera or my ability! Frogablob, flobalob sort of covers it anyway…

I think the trouble was partly to do with it being in full sun, and covered in a slightly *slimy film which bounced the light around a bit. I really wanted to get the full effect of its two-tone golden eyes. I failed, but I had some fun trying.

10 yo daughter’s hand for purposes of scale

When the frog jumped, so did I!

*10 year old daughter just informed me that the wet stuff is mucus… Nice.

Down the allotment

I was very kindly offered a bit of a patch on Re:forms allotment last year. I duly went down and looked and hadnt been back since. At last it has stopped raining and freezing, so we went down for a bit yesterday and managed to get in two rows of spring onions and some rehomed strawberry plants, in between standing about in some degree of shock and awe. Some plots are so… tidy. Some plots are not. The best are the Edgelands sort anyway.

The magic of the allotment has inspired me: I am going to plant a field of dreams once I have started the seeds for the corn in the kitchen.

Watch this space.

More from the Anti-Photography exhibition (with a Blackberry)

The new space has a window and out of the window you can see this apple tree.

I like that tree but I have never seen it hanging onto its apples with such grim determination before…

The World of Rhubarb

I have been lucky enough to be offered a patch on an allotment which I am a bit excited about. I went for a look see today and do you know what I was a little overwhelmed. Within ten minutes I was feeling like I was at one with the earth, and half an hour and a spot of light weeding later I wanted a roll up fag and a real ale. And I am NOT joking. Nor do I smoke.

The patch is hiding under some plastic sheeting with a pallet type thing on top and some more dirt and weeds, but underneath it looks jolly promising. Obviously I need to plan my crop so I have been learning about hard to grow carrots, which might be more correctly described as too feeble to be bothered to grow carrots, and I have marvelled at the great sprouting runners on the soon to be rampant strawberry patch. I have gloried at the mini caulis and the soon to be bulbous artichoke. There’s so much to look at you’d really just need to go up and sit down and take it all in.

Time flew by. I think that might be part of the point on an allotment. For my vague gardening efforts I was rewarded with a true taste explosion masquerading as an ordinary tomato and I have come home with a bundle of good-looking rhubarb. It travelled home with me, muddy and all, on the passenger seat and I can truthfully say the smell was heavenly. I am going to make a rhubarb crumble. Thank goodness I’ve got out of the fish pie.

The Tyranny of Grass

I spent a peaceful hour in a shady library garden yesterday, primarily waiting for a face to be painted (not mine) and had a browse of one of those books that it is interesting to read, but not so interesting that you might buy it. Except maybe second-hand on Amazon for a few pence if you ever remembered to. These are a few things I jotted down, the “lawn” being one of my permanent preoccupations.

A grass blade’s no easier to make than an oak.
James Russell Lowell (1819-1891)

Nothing is more pleasant to the eye than green grass kept finely shorn.
Francis Bacon (Of Gardens 1625)

Forests decay, harvests perish, flowers vanish, but grass is immortal.
John Ingalls (Speech in the US Senate 1874)

A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule.
Michael Pollan (Second Nature 1991)

One of the side-effects of drinking all that ale with the Devon Home Cook was that I was prevailed upon to mow my rather clumpy and long, but lush grass that I knew was hiding a multitude of sins – rather like a bald bloke’s combover.

This was the result.

As woeful as Argentina

One very good reason to stay indoors this afternoon

and look at Wimbledon’s lawn

in the absence of any live televised South African turf.

 And not forgetting I could watch the green grass of

Chantilly where Dick Turpin will attempt

to overcome the very impressive Lope de Vega

 at the awkward French time of 2.42 p.m.

Alternatively I could go outside and pave over the lot,

                                                                                         but there is something about a patch of green,

                                                                                    however small and pathetic,

                                                                                   that speaks to me.

Look what I got

Someone very kindly bought me back a vuvuzela directly from South Africa. It was an unexpected gift and it lifted an otherwise tiresome day.  

I go to a writers’ group at the Palace Theatre at the moment. It is a new project and I like it because we are a mix of ages. The youthful vuvuzela bearer brought back two: one for me and one for a retired teacher I’ll call Mr Morrell. The age gap must be about fifty years between those two and I sit somewhere in the middle of the range.  

He also brought some small stone elephants for another member of the group, wrapped in South African newspaper. I really wanted the newspaper fragments, but they were still needed for the elephants. So I contented myself with looking at a furniture store advert to see what manner of sofa you can get in Cape Town.  

Souvenir hunting can seem a bit Abigail’s Party in the wrong hands, but this young man pulled it off with grace and charm. He said after the England v Algeria match he needed to hit the shops for therapeutic purposes. He also said he thought JT had a lot to answer for…  

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Snail Foam

I know it sounds like an amuse-bouche you might get served up at a Heston Blumenthal restaurant (the Devon Home Cook would never offer such a filthsome outrage in a porcelain espresso cup), but it is actually something snails do.

I didn’t know that snails could do such a thing until yesterday, when I found one busily foaming away when I was out in the garden. Note: I do not say I was garden-ing, merely that I was garden-in.

I thought it was dying what with all the apparent dissolving that seemed to be going on, and I had a guilty conscience having already accidentally squashed one with my thumb underneath the rim of my black bucket – henceforth known as the bucket of death. Further research reveals that the foamed snail was probably just deterring predators or an acid attack… Well good luck to it.

Sadly, I did definitely squish the other’s snail shell so I am hoping it just slimed off to carry on life as slug. Don’t tell me any different thanks. I couldn’t live with the guilt.

The snail foams

Another snail

A Bumper Crop

I was thinking of drafting a question to Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time.

Dear Team

I have sorely neglected my plot this year and, apart from a few tufts of grass, when I went out there today (in hope more than expectation) all I could find was this solitary excuse for a carrot in my microcosmic black bucket.

Should I be trying to grow them in some other container?

I have a family to feed – please help.

Yours sincerely


P.S. The carrot measures no more than an inch long and not, I’ll have you P.P.S., in a bijou, eat the skin baby Chantenay kinda way.