Saturday, 14 April 2012

Today's the day!

Just a quick post this morning. I'm full of excitement and anxiety today.  It's the official opening of the garden. Not my garden but the one we've been creating at the care home in St. Austell as part of the Creative Spaces project.  I haven't written about it here for some time because I've been able to blog about it on our website instead.  There is a link to the web page from this blog if you look down My Blog List on the right hand side.

After many months of hard landscaping, multiple shopping trips to various local nurseries and numerous planting sessions (not to mention the tears, sleepless nights, smiles, laughter, joy and pleasure along the way) the day has finally arrived!  I can't believe I slept so well last night; even so, I awoke this morning with a list of things to check going through my head.  Everyone will arrive this afternoon and we have the Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall opening it for us. It's not been easy getting the care home staff to take ownership of this garden, despite us getting them involved at every point along the way, including input into the design, but I think this will be the day that they do. I hope everyone has a great time despite the weather forecast of heavy showers (typical!) and I look forward to seeing lots more community events taking place in the new garden. I'll be posting about the event afterwards on our website if you're interested.

Care staff planting last September, under the watchful eye of
some residents

Monday, 9 April 2012

Bloomin' borders

Please don't think I've lost the plot, this is not going to become a habit - two posts in one day!  But I've been busy in the garden recently and I'm trying to keep up-to-date with my garden diary so today there's a lot to write about.  Plus, for reasons that will become quickly obvious, I didn't want to write about this alongside my fine penny-saving efforts in my earlier post (ahem!).

For some time now the flower borders around my lawn have been looking sad and sparse.  The west border has always been the least planted; it receives very little sunshine, is almost always damp and regularly needs to have the moss scraped off the soil, especially in the north-facing corner. I've struggled to think what to plant there in the past. But after getting some good ideas from my boss and great friend, Jane, I went to shop at the Bodmin Plant and Herb Nursery a couple of weeks ago looking for border plants; in particular those that like partial sun and moist soil.

I always do this thing, and stop me if it sounds familiar, when I go plant shopping; the logical and emotional sides of my brain take up arms against each other.   On this occasion, Logical Brain was saying"Ok, plants that like moist soil, that's our target - nothing else right! Watch those pennies! When we get there, stick to the plan" (are you beginning to understand why I didn't mention this trip in my 'Looking after the pennies' post?).  However, Emotional Irrational Brain (which had been asleep during the car journey to the nursery) leapt out of it's slumber, grabbed its credit card and several large shopping bags, rammed a finger in each ear to drown out LB and jumped around inside my head shouting "Oooh, look at that! What a gorgeous colour, wouldn't that just look amazing in the alpine bank?...... no, wait I've spotted the bargains...over here! Over here! Oooh, you need that plant, really you do!"

As a result the west border now hosts a Pulmonaria rubra 'Bowles Red', Tellima grandiflora 'Forest Frost', Lamium maculatum 'Anne Greenway' and a Mitella Breweri.  I also planted some Sweet William along the front of the border.  The other borders now also contain several grasses (including 3 Acorus grasses which I got at the Lostwithiel seed swapping event), 4 Bellis rose plants, 4 Aubretias, 3 Armeria 'Alba' and 2 Lupins.  Plus half a dozen heathers have been planted in the alpine bank; they're a mixture of autumn/winter and spring/summer flowering plants.

Bellis Rose; beautiful but watch out for slugs
Lamium; spreads as ground cover
Tellima; likes partial shade
Armeria 'alba'
Erica carnea 'ann sparkes'
Pulmonaria (lungwort) grows in clumps
Calluna vulgaris 'Theresa'
Hey, I did save some money though, I split one of my saxifraga plants and set the smaller plants in the north-facing corner to prevent the moss dominating that area.  Ok not the biggest of savings but a great shopping day and my garden borders and alpine bank will be bulging this summer. Sadly I can't say the same for my purse.

Looking after the pennies....

Wherever and whenever I can, I re-use garden materials. Not just out of a financial necessity but because I've been fortunate (yes, fortunate!) to take on an overgrown almost blank 'canvas' and it feels right to use what I can from the current overgrowth in creating the new garden. Cut wood, in particular, is proving very useful in the renovation challenge! Hazel provides me with crooks for hedgelaying, woven shapes for Christmas decorations, sticks to make a pea fence, plant supports and much more. But other trees are proving useful too.

The hedge between mine and my neighbours is an informal, overgrown hedge; mainly dogwood and box, with a small elder tree (useful for future wine-making). Well this hedge hasn't been managed for years and as a result the top part of my garden wasn't getting much sun.  So back in February my neighbour helped me take down about 8ft off the top of the highest section and now I've got a heap of cut dogwood lying around.  I was going to have a big bonfire to get rid of it but it occurred to me that I could use some of the larger branches as kindling for the winter fire.

That's what I've been doing for the last couple of weekends; snedding (removing smaller side shoots and branches from trees/woody shrubs) and cutting branches. The recent purchase of a 21" bow saw, a billhook and the gift of a good pruning saw from my 'sister' The Green Man, has made the job much easier. I ended up with 4 crates and two bags full of kindling and a large pile of 'twiggy' branches for the bonfire.  At least I won't have to buy so many bags of kindling next winter and I discovered, with the recent drop in temperature, that the dogwood burns much better and longer as kindling than the stuff I usually buy.

hedge (top right) 11 months ago

use of pruning saw on lower branches,
February this year

useful tools: lopper, billhook &

hedge (top right) trimmed; more sunlight & room
for the Elderberry to grow

The start of the winter collection

It's also a good time to be thinking about getting a load of unseasoned wood to store and season for the winter. I haven't yet managed to source much free wood but purchasing unseasoned wood is cheaper than buying it seasoned so helping to cut costs later in the year. I'll be contacting my log supplier soon to do just that.

They do say "Look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves", so on that note, if there are any gardeners or tree surgeons in the Cornwall/Plymouth area who want someone to take cut wood off their hands..............hello!