My hanging baskets of begonias which I lovingly created are under attack. They are being subjected to an aerial bombardment. In the throes of passion, copulating pigeons keep falling off the pergola, smashing into the beautiful displays. Luckily, begonias are quite robust plants and seem to be coping well with the assault.
It reminded me of when my Dad waged war against these birds. He came up with a solution to scare the pigeons away when they were eating all the seed from the bird table, leaving none for his more delicate feathery friends. We called it Dad’s catapulting bird table. In brief, he added a piece of wood to both sides which was also attached to the edge of the bird table by a screw. It acted a bit like a see-saw. The smaller lighter birds could land without any trouble but the heavy ones, fell to the ground. Many a Sunday was spent watching those unsuspecting pigeons get the shock of their lives as the floor was removed from beneath them.
It all came to head, when a crow jumped from the roof of the bird table on to the platform just as a pigeon landed on the other side. It was catapulted up into the air, right over the hedge. At this point we realised that perhaps he had gone too far. We had visions of an unsuspecting dog walker, getting whacked round the head by a pigeon missile. Not to mention the poor bird. He was told by the females in his house to live and let live. A truce was drawn between my dad and the pigeons. I have decided to do the same and will just move my hanging baskets somewhere else. If anyone has any ideas on how to dissuade amorous pigeons please let me know, no catapults though ….
I love to have fresh flowers in the house, and one of the joys at this time of year is to cut them from the garden. It certainly saves money, and they are fresher and last much longer than the bunches you can buy at the supermarket! It also means I can still enjoy my flowers close up in the house, and not watch them suffer from wind and rain!
I’m not a “flower arranger”, but I like to experiment with different flower combinations, and containers.
All the flowers shown here have been recently picked from my garden.
The wine glass on my mantelpiece holds a lovely creamy rose, called “Royal Matrimony”, with white perennial sweet peas, and a sprig of gypsophila. These are all grown in my front garden.
In the kitchen I’ve used a glass carafe and filled it with a variety of herbs, a few annual sweet peas and an opium poppy. These all grow in the tiny “kitchen garden” outside my back door. It’s wonderfully scented with the combination of lavender, sage, oregano, chocolate mint, rosemary and fennel, and of course the fragrant sweet peas.
In the living room I’ve used a simple glass vase and a whole array of flowers for my coffee table. The lily is called “Mont Blanc”, the large white rose is “Silver Wedding”, and the small creamy coloured roses have no name because I lost the plant label! I’ve mixed in lots of “frothy” flowers such as the lemon coloured Alchemilla mollis, and white Astilbes, then added blue flowers as an accent colour. The blues include spires of Veronica, sprigs of Lavender multifida, Brodiaea, and the pom-pom flowers of the small blue allium caeruleum. Oh, and I included a couple of poppy seed heads for good measure!
Into the dining room next and a big jug of flowers on the dresser. The darker pink rose is the rambler “Dorothy Perkins” that grows in my front garden, and the paler dog rose is another of my many “lost label” plants. It’s a shame I can’t remember its name, but it has a beautiful scent, almost like sherbet lemons, and very thorny stems! More poppy heads, astilbes and gypsophila…
Back to the kitchen, and an old teapot makes the ideal container for a few hydrangea heads. Always be sure to plunge hydrangeas into a sink full of cold water head-first before you display them — you’ll be surprised how many creepy crawlies come out of them!
Then a jug of flowers for my desk: Rosa Bonica and Rosa Marjorie Fair from the back garden, with a stem of fuchsia (that broke off in the wind) and a few sprigs of honeysuckle for fragrance. Mmmm…better than an artificial air freshener any day!
Finally, I couldn’t resist picking this selection of red rose, “Scarlet Cluster”, blue Agapanthus, Echinops and hydrangeas. I added a few stems of eucalyptus from the tree in the front garden and yet more poppy seed heads.
Seeing the individual flowers close up makes me appreciate their intricacy, detail and beauty — things I often miss if I’m just looking at them in the garden.
I do hope you’ve enjoyed looking at my flowers. Have a look round your garden and see what you can pick. You’ll be surprised just how easy it is to fill a vase or two!
There are days when I could think of quite a few things to keep me in the house. There are times in the garden when the graftiest of graft can give pretty lean results. There are moments of quiet satisfaction even when its mundane jobs that have been tacked and done.
And there are days when the magic happens, the plan comes together, a changing landscape emerges and the thought that was in your head comes to fruition right in front of your eyes. And it’s so worth it!
You’ve seen glimpses of it, right at the back by the shed. This time last year it was knee-deep in overgrowth, out-of-control raspberries, ‘Rhu’ the rhubarb fighting for air with various rampant rogues as well as half the estates’ brambles. And now you get to see the transformation.
First I cleared it last summer, moving Rhu and raspberries to new homes and de-weeding in girly style with my trowel.
Then I got serious and unearthed years of broken glass and other debris and let it settle down over the winter covered in weed control fabric. With spring came break through weeds, and where the wind had blown or rips had appeared, out popped the crop of undesirables that you wish had a place at our menu as they grow so easily.
Then with steady thought, plenty of coffee, a new saw, a change of plan, a delivery of wood, came a frame. More weed control, a shake of gravel, some double checking with the spirit level, a bit of screwing and hey ho, I have my unique decking- Amazing!
I went for scaffolding boards in the end for ease and because if we need the wheelchair up that end I thought they would be nice and strong although I have no doubt decking would do the job just as well. I’m liking the effect- A lot. In fact, so much do I like the effect that it galvanised me into action last weekend and a couple of nights after work to clear the last really untackled bit in the back corner, even getting behind the fence and cutting back massive branches that have wanted to be tackled for years. Yes, it created a bit of a logistical problem, two scrawny arms and enough cuttings to bury the garden, but never mind, I’ll cut it up an bag it up over the next couple of weeks. The brambles are in the incinerator waiting for a dry evening. Some of the roots were huge but the whole back fence is clear of them and with the roots out I am hoping life will be scratch free from now on.
With sunshine on the way I’m looking forward to a gentle weekend of contemplation when I can admire progress so far (because there is always more isn’t there) and think about whether it’s a pond, a water feature, a geometric paved feature or a very yummy jammy, sticky cream cake that I need to be getting my teeth into next. I wonder what will win?!
Here’s hoping for a pavement-cracking Indian Summer, where the weather causes us to sleep in the garden around mountainous flowers of every colour and aroma. We need a good rest in the garden after that summer, and are we going to get one? Probably not! Besides, there is plenty to do in the garden in September, and plenty to admire too.
For a start, our lilies are finally going to explode into bloom. It seems they have held themselves back over the last few weeks, staying in bed I suppose, and who can blame them?
I always wait with bated breath for them to open, because they are so beautiful – even though I don’t like the smell. They are perfect in form, and I spend the whole summer protecting them from the rain and the lily beetle.
I find the best way to deal with the lily beetle, which nibbles its way through flowers and leaves and causes a mess, is by hand – looking out for them. But you have to be careful! One touch and the bright red beetles fall over on to their backs, leaving nothing but a jet black underside which is almost impossible to see.
When the flowers have finished it will be time to divide up the bulbs for next year. I grow my lilies in pots, and every third year I take them out and divide them up by simply pulling them apart. It’s an easy job – the new bulbs simply pull away from the old. You can either wrap them in newspaper and keep them in a frost-free place until spring, or pop them into new compost in new pots.
If you are growing them in pots, as with all plants really, you need to be sure they are not waterlogged in winter, and kept protected from frost. A pot is not so good an insulator as the rest of the garden, and a plant will not survive the same. I take mine into an unheated greenhouse, and maybe, if the temperature is minus 18 again as it was over the last two years, I might give them a little heat, just to keep the plants around 1 degree or so.
September is also a good time to attempt structural changes around the garden when the weather is still warm enough to get into the soil and there is not much chance of freezing to death out there. (That said, I bet we have snow! It was snowing on my birthday in 1957 at the end of September!)
I have finally sorted the huge holly bush that was taking away so much light, and threatening the roof of the house and the telephone line. If you are going to try to take large branches out of the garden, the thing to do is to tie them with stout rope to the next branch, or something sturdy. That way, when you have sawn through it, the branch will not fall onto something.
Never, ever saw at something whilst on a ladder, and if there is the tiniest amount of doubt you can do the job safely, get the professionals in to do it. The cost is well worth avoiding injury.
I now have a great space, vacated by the holly bush, in which I am going to plan an English cottage garden, but this takes time. So I will make up the beds – once I have cleared it of roots and stock it with winter bedding.
I am in a mind for delphiniums, agapanthus, flowering alliums and a few dahlias. Actually, it was a toss up between a cottage garden and an old fashioned dahlia garden, and I would love to hear from anyone who still grows dahlias in the traditional way. You can contact me via my Ask the Expert page.
September should be time for lawn maintenance, but this year, because of all the rain and therefore all the moss, I am hanging out a bit. If you scrape all the moss away in September, and this goes for this year only, you will only get more moss by the time spring comes along. So this year I am going to give the lawn a good cut (if it’s not too wet) and then a good spiking with a garden fork. Make holes half an inch in diameter and about six inches deep. This will improve air getting to choked up grass roots.
In the spring, give the lawn a good scrape with the grass rake, and over sow!
Paul Peacock studied botany at Leeds University, has been the editor of Home Farmer magazine, and now hosts the City Cottage online magazine. An experienced gardener himself, his expertise lies in the world of the edible garden. If it clucks, quacks or buzzes, Paul is keenly interested.
He is involved in an inner city program in Manchester which aims to encourage people to grow their own food whether they have a garden, an allotment, or even a balcony, as well as leading a co-operative initiative to train city dwellers to keep bees on allotments and gardens
He is perhaps best known as Mr Digwell, the cartoon gardener featured in The Daily Mirror since the 1950s. As Mr Digwell he has just published his book, A Year in The Garden.