A series of unfortunate events

I think mother nature has it in for us here at the clay garden at the moment. Here's why:


Our potatoes aren't ready to pull, but they have black spots all over them and are looking very sorry for themselves. The only thing to do now is cut down all the foliage and burn it. We may salvage some spuds, we may not. I think that means growing tomatoes is out this year too as they'll get blight for sure. I should have sprayed the spuds with copper sulphate earlier this year but thought I could get away with it because of the dry weather. More fool me...

Cucumber Mosaic virus:

We have a cucumber mosaic virus conundrum. Our courgette leaves are turning bright yellow. Apparently this could be a sign of the dreaded cucumber mosaic virus. Or it might be just normal for yellow courgettes. At the moment we just can't tell. We've got several different species of courgettes. The yellow ones have the yellowest leaves, but even the green climbing courgettes are yellowing a little. If we do have the virus we should cut the plants down now and burn them. If we don't then we're due a bumper crop. A trawl of online forums gives mixed advice and I just don't know what to do. As the plants look healthy for the moment I've left them to see if they stay that way. If they start looking unhappy they're for the chop. I had such high hopes for the climbing courgettes as a good small garden space saver.

UPDATE: I have put out a call for help on Twitter - any advice appreciated as to what to do!!!


Of slugs. They are everywhere thanks to a very damp June, and have succeeded in totally massacring every climbing bean we put in, as well as the entire first sowing of peas. I'm going to nematode them this evening but deep down I know even biological warfare won't defeat them. Bah.

Oh, and I've been ill. So that proves it. Let's hope July is better. Any advice on the cucumber mosaic virus appreciated!


Gardening Aussie style

After a miserable wet weekend, I was searching for some sunshine, and I came across this Australian garden (and gardener) tonight. His garden looks amazing:

Mr Martin's got some strong and interesting views: appropriate but not-necessarily-native plants. Never mulch. Never water. Little maintainance.

Sounds good doesn't it. But it relies on using the toughest of plants.

I feel it's pretty useful reading considering the total lack of rain we've had this spring...

Thanks to James at View from Federal Twist whose excellent blog pointed me in that direction.

The poppy picture is totally irrelevant. It was a wild one growing out of the tarmac in the middle of our estate that I spotted on the way to work one morning.


Rain at last

Our poor baked garden is soaking up the pouring rain like a sponge.

There is a down side though...

The voracious London Snail - this is a tiddler. The big ones are the size of my arm.

Our garden is alive with hundreds of slugs and snails. The problem is I'm too soft. I can't crunch them up or drown them, so I just throw them over the fence onto the road. Most of them find their way back, but it's better than doing nothing. We have so many we don't even bother trying to grow soft lettuce - we grow the much tougher perpetual spinach and chard instead, and use the young leaves in our salads - it's just as nice. Well, that's what we tell ourselves anyway.

Wet Californian poppy sensibly closed up for the day


A Peaceful bit of Peckham

Some friends took us to see Choumert Square as part of the National Garden Scheme today. It's a little hidden gem tucked away in the heart of Peckham, South London.

The 'square' is actually a single private street lined with a patchwork of tiny front gardens. Each is very different, but every one is thoughtfully planted and beautiful.

Joan - who greeted pretty much every visitor and told them a bit about the 'square'.
We also had the great pleasure of meeting Joan - a spry 91-year-old who has lived on the street for 25 years. She told us that the 46 houses that make up the street were ex-workers homes, and originally none had running water - householders had to draw it from a well in what is now the communal garden. Today the communal garden held a small band playing jaunty 40's numbers despite the pouring rain. Brilliantly British.

By popular request...


The Greatest flower show on earth...

...well that's how the Chelsea Flower Show bills itself anyway. It certainly was an eyeopener. I wandered around in a bit of a daze, just staring at all the horticultural perfection on display. The highlight for me was the Great Pavilion. This is where the nation's best nurserymen and women, put their finest plants on display. Not only is this a total visual feast, but you get the chance to inspect the plants up close, and better still, chat to the people on the stand (I think I caught them early enough in the day that they weren't totally exhausted by questioning). More often than not they are the owners, and incredibly knowledgeable. I came away with a lot to think about: A green manure expert gave us two new ideas - clover as a companion plant for my veg (attracts bees, and adds nitrogen to the soil), and lupins as a green manure. And I got a stern talking to about the dry kitchen border from an expert in plants for shade - we really need to improve that soil before thinking about planting anything else. 

As for the show gardens - of course they were stunning. There was a definite fashion for naturalistic meadowy mixed-up planting schemes across many of the gardens. And it hammered home the fact that hard landscaping in a garden is key (something we need to sort out here). At the time I found the experience exhilerating, but now I've been back in my own garden, I can't help but feel a bit dispirited. The gardens at Chelsea are literally impossibly beautiful - there's no way any home garden can ever look that perfect. And even if you tried, it would look good for a few brief weeks while everything was in flower before looking tatty for the rest of the year. In a small garden like ours, every plant you grow has to pull its weight and provide some interest for as much of the year as possible. And that means the sort of rich luxuriant look where everything reaches its peak at once is never going to happen.

That said, the gardens are supposed to be inspirational, not models for what to do at home, and they have definitely provided food for thought. I did love the wilder, mixed planting look, and can feel an overhaul of our lacklustre perennial bed coming on. I also came away with some new plants that I absolutely loved:

Pimpernella major 'Rosea' - like a pink cow parsley, but perennial.
Astrantia 'Buckland' - again - pink flowers, but mostly green, and so pretty.
And Valeriana Officinalis - which I'd never thought to grow but is a magnificent umbellifer (although worryingly alluring to cats).

For what its worth, my favourite show garden was the Laurent Perrier effort (link here), closely followed by the Irish Sky Garden (link here). The latter almost more for the bold flower-less green planting than for the pink garden in the sky.

By the way - for a more professional appraisal of Chelsea I like Dan Pearson's article here, as well as the Guerrilla Gardener's piece in the telegraph here, and while I'm posting links, here's a good article about going peat-free. We have been peat free for a while here now, so I'm definitely on Alys's side.

The show gardens:

Bunny Guinness's kitchen garden - lovely, but a bit underwhelming.

RBC New Wild Garden - and check out the crowds!

British Heart Foundation garden - I liked this one, interesting understated planting.

Times Eureka Garden.

Times Eureka Garden with structure.

Detail of planting around structure.

The B&Q vertical garden - herbs on the wall, Mulberry trees beneath,
I so want a Mulberry tree!

The Irish sky garden, aloft when we were there. Though us ordinary
punters didn't get a ride.

One of the Urban gardens - Power of Nature - Worcester, Bosch group.

I'm afraid I don't even know what this is, but it's very pretty!

In the Great Pavilion:

The biggest, brashest orchid I've ever seen.

The Nong Nooch display. The amount of work here is just unbelievable. Apparently it took
60 people 3 months to do. It's mostly dry flowers stuck in flower arranging foam.

Sweet Peas. they look so perfect because they replace any flaggers every day.