Di, Flowers, Gardening, Guest Posts

The Summertime Blues

It’s raining again here in Cheshire (will it ever stop?), and I’m gazing through the window at my sodden garden, watching the slugs and snails slithering out from their hiding places (do they really think I can’t spot them?) and willing the sun to come out instead! But when I’m feeling blue, then all I need to do is take a look at my favourite summer flowers (or at least, photos of them) and, you’ve guessed it, they’re blue too!

I thought it might be fun (and it sure beats doing the ironing) to compile a “Top Ten” of summer flowering blues. It’s a tough choice deciding which flowers to include, but here we go, in reverse order:
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Decoration, Guest Posts, Lou C

Nosy Neighbours

Now maybe it’s just me, but I do like a certain amount of privacy in the garden. Having established that we are somewhat of a novelty in the locality (after all, we love to garden), we know that many of our antics create a certain amount of curtain twitching and more than a few passing comments — not least the regular return trips from the garden centre with the car packed to the rafters with yet more plants.

There have also been certain garden mishaps I’d rather forget, like the time I tumbled down our (then grassy) slope after losing my balance whilst trying to insert a solar light spike in our rock-hard clay soil or when I suffered from pins and needles in both feet after too much crouching down as I weeded. Let’s just say that John Cleese and his Ministry of Silly Walks had nothing on me for nearly five minutes.
The newly painted fence in the garden
As part of a new build development, we are overlooked on all sides, and all sides are not more than a good stone’s throw from us (not that I’ve ever checked in practice of course!). It doesn’t help that our garden is on an incline and our patio (well, that’s what we like to call it, although I think that I might find a photo of it under the dictionary definition of a handkerchief) sits at the top, for all to see.

Maybe I’m just kidding myself – after all, are neighbours really that nosy and am I really that interesting (silly walks and roly polys aside of course)? I’m sure neither is the case but this does nothing to dampen my desire for a little more privacy, particularly when my next door neighbour (unassuming, friendly and not allergic to a few plants herself) combats her slope by having her garden landscaped into levels. This means that when she stands on her patio, she is now waist height with the top of our fence, in manner of the Jolly Green Giant and it now feels like Lilliput on this side of the fence.  In fairness, she does try and announce her presence with a well placed “ahem” or “knock, knock”, should she want our attention, which is usually quite rare. However, it can be a little disconcerting to know that the view from her conservatory window and garden leads straight over the fence into our patio and garden room!
Pergola with hanging baskets in the garden
Building a pergola attached to the house has helped a little and has created a little more privacy overhead, but this still doesn’t solve the whole problem. After a lot of negotiating (read: begging), my husband agreed to a trellis screen carefully placed at the top of the rockery which solved the problem of the neighbours to the back of us having a direct view of the patio. However, this still leaves the issue of my next door neighbour’s view.
A garden trellis
Not one to be deterred, I have taken the opportunity to purchase several more well placed clematis and once they are settled (and not slug food) they may hopefully blur the boundaries a little. However, they will not reach the dizzy heights needed to screen my neighbour’s view without something to attach themselves to and it seems a little extreme to use even more trellis screening, even if it is attached to the fence. We have for now decided that we are on good enough terms with our neighbour to leave things as they are.
Neighbour's red setter dog
Unfortunately the red-headed lodger who has recently moved in has none of the tact and diplomacy of her landlady. In fact, she loves nothing better than spending the greater part of a day peering over the fence into our garden and she’s not discreet about it! Even catching her on camera didn’t seem to deter her enthusiasm although it soon became clear that she was particularly enamoured with our furry five.
Red setter dog looking over fence
It does at first feel quite disconcerting, knowing we are being watched but it is quite a novelty knowing that it is by a rather large red setter and it certainly adds to the Lilliputian effect! I just hope the fence holds because I’ve seen the devastation she has wreaked on her side of the fence and there’s a lot more to play with here.

The whole business has left me wondering though, how do other people deal with privacy in an overlooked garden, and how much does it matter?

Lou C

Allotment, Craig, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Guest Posts

Creative Watering on the Allotment

As I mentioned before, we share our allotment with some good friends who also happen to be our neighbours. Our plot is no more than 150 yards from where we all live and this allows us to visit daily without any great inconvenience. We find that we are able to each do our bit and there are no cross words as to who does the most. If nothing else we work as a team and are all looking forward to seeing a good crop this year having started most things from seed way back in the depths of a cold March.

Those puny looking threads of green we saw poking their heads tentatively out of the dark earth are now starting to stand tall. We are inundated with tomato plants, many varieties from Cherry to Beefsteak and I am looking forward to a good summer harvest. We should be taking our first ones off within the next four weeks — exciting times ahead.

One of the many challenges we, like many gardeners face, is getting the balance right when watering our crops. During the recent hot spell, we had to water the greenhouse plants twice daily; they were crying out for as much refreshment as we could give them – not unlike ourselves, having spent any time under the hot glass panes! However, where our thirst could be quenched with one or two well earned cold beers – our little friends need more than that.
Craig's Water Butts
So, as they say – desperate times call for ingenious solutions. Or something like that. As I often say, the keen allotment keeper is akin to a scrap man – always on the lookout for items that would be of some use. Our greenhouse is home to a selection of water butts and piping that has been gathered over the last few months. During the months of rain they filled nicely and we are now seeing the advantage of harvesting rainwater – we are able to freely fill our watering cans and keep of plants replenished.
Recycled pipe trellis to grow beans
One of the best uses we found for some old hollow pipework was to create triangular frames for our selection of broad, dwarf and runner beans. It is an age-old trick to create frames for climbing plants, so I am not professing any new revolutionary gardening technique. However, and here comes the clever part, we did find that the hollow pipe served a secondary purpose. We found that they held a good amount of water and by filling them up to the top they would slowly seep the water under the ground and directly into the bundles of roots that are beginning to take hold under the soil.

This in itself gave us another solution to the problem of how to avoid damage to plants when watering in full sun. Directly watering into the roots prevents any sun damage or burns occurring on the leaves and stems.
Watering through a pipe trellis
The next step could well be a remotely controlled or timed watering system and there are many of these available. We have certainly got the space to warrant that investment and we have the water storage solution so maybe…
Until we have decided, however, we will keep on using our initiative and turning one man’s rubbish into another man’s watering solution.

Craig

Charlotte, Gardening, Guest Posts

Stormy Weather

After weeks of glorious sunshine, my garden was blooming and the vegetables I had started from seed were all progressing better than anticipated. So much so that I had bravely put many of them outside to harden off before being transplanted. What a mistake! One night last week the weather took a turn for the worse and my once beautiful garden has suffered dearly.

Charlotte Working on the TrellisHeavy rain and gusting winds rattled the windows as I tried to sleep. ‘Tried’ being the operative word since little sleep was achieved as I imagined the havoc being created outside. I awoke early and ventured outdoors to assess the damage. Roses had been ripped from their trellises, colourful borders flattened and the stunning hollyhocks which had formerly towered over me, now stood limply at right angles.

Charlotte's husband helping with the branches I hastily got to work tidying up and repairing what I could. I carefully teased the roses back onto their trellis; trying not to damage the plentiful flowers and buds. Supports were provided for the hollyhocks and stakes added to the young fruit trees which looked at risk of snapping. I enlisted the help of my husband for this task. Being almost a foot taller than me he comes in rather useful for such vertically challenging chores.

Most upsetting was the destruction endured by my precious vegetable seedlings. Those placed in the open air to harden off, had been tossed around the garden by the unforgiving winds. Even those which I thought were protected inside a growing frame were not spared. The entire frame had been blown over, leaving young tomatoes, peppers and sweet peas upturned.

I re-potted what I could; scooping up the spilled compost and carefully replacing the young plants. It was then I noticed the sweetcorn. It’s the first time I’ve grown this and the quick and steady growth had impressed me. However they now stood sadly, many with broken leaves and stems. It felt as though the months of hard work and love I had poured into the garden had been destroyed overnight.
Charlotte's Plants
Having fixed what I could I retreated indoors for a cuppa whilst surveying my seed collection. Thankfully, I had reserved a few of each seed type when initially planting. Undeterred I spent the afternoon planting second batches as a backup for those which may have been lost. It’s rather late in the season to be starting many of them off. However, living in the south-east, I’m hoping the warmer and longer summer we (usually!) encounter will allow me to see a harvest from most crops. That is, if the rain and wind ever make way for more sun.

I haven’t given up on the sweetcorn though. The injured specimens have been brought indoors for some TLC. Perhaps they will find the strength to recover and produce new shoots. Any advice on how I can aid this would be gratefully received. I was so looking forward to serving my family delicious home grown corn on the cob, dripping with butter. I can almost taste it now… fingers crossed they pull through and make it to the table.

– Charlotte