Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Southwark 1 Lewisham 0

Gardened today with visiting celebrity Tofiq Pasha and Naheed his partner - and given a. the uncertain status of plants in the NX pits and b. that I haven't been back to Dog Kennel Hill for over a year, I decided on the latter as our locale. 

We planted at least 5 Verbena Bonariensis, 2 geum, 1 primrose, 1 strawberry, 1 hardy geranium, 1 Agave (and its offshoots) and 1 Alchemilla in a section almost as if it was prepared for us - albeit with some rock hard ground (suppliers: my garden and my parents' garden). It was really interesting to hear Pasha's stories about other compost conditions and his concern at my weeding and clearing! We also scattered a pack of bee-friendly wild flower seeds (thank you Liz!). After warning these troops for the day that it was likely to be a mess, actually the whole strip was really not bad! The star plants are currently: Iris, Rosemary, Acanthus, Artichoke [thank you Giovanni], Euphorbia, Fennel, Leucanthemum, Echinops, Vinca - and eventually after some strategic weeding around Hollyhock seedlings I found 3 surviving Red Hot Pokers.  I'm not sure what the weeds are [tall dandeliony things, tall probably pink flowering things]: they are ok - good for pollinators, not matting and easy to pull out where they are swamping more desirable plants. But the bad ones pretty much were not there [infernal grass, huge thistles, sticky sweethearts]! 

It is supposed to rain this afternoon. Yes please.

All of that was written then. Here, belatedly, are some of Pasha and Naheed's photos of our guerilla determination to plant. You can't really tell but it was hot and muggy.I've been past a few times and the Agaves are doing well. In the future people will make Tequila on Dog Kennel Hill.

View from the crossing: not exactly Gertrude Jekyll, but it is green.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Lament of the Guerrilla Gardener

Checked in at the New Cross pits today, worrying that someone might have pulled up the lovely extra Rudbeckia I put in last week. Luckily its doing fine. The same cannot be said for the pits in general. There has been a disaster, probably from the hands of Lewisham Council.

Essentially for the first time in ages - at least a year, more than that probably, someone has come and 'tidied up'. This person or persons has temporarily cleared the pits of litter - not much there since I've done them twice in the last 2 weeks. All well and fine (for about a week). They have also sheared back the larger shrubs. Not hugely sympathetic, but ok. What is really tragic and upsetting is that they have pulled up a lot of plants, clearly thinking that they were 'weeds'. 

The missing plants include, at least: 2 x strawberries, 2 x Verbena Bonariensis, all the teasels, 1 Acanthus, 1 geum, 1 large hardy geranium, 1 x fennel, Crocosmia, self-seeded wild carrots, leucanthemum daisies. These are all bee-friendly (Obviously).

They have left large bare spaces around the 'weeded' remaining plants. This means that the soil will dry out much more quickly, and more importantly that the folk who drop litter here will just fill it all up with rubbish (yes, bitter voice of experience here I know). With a range of flowering plants there is a chance that people might just think 'oh, that's looks nice'. 

The big shrubs in the central beds have been wildly cut back. Ok. And the Bay and Fig are still there. But now they have no protection and are vulnerable to the plant vandalism and general fighting/rolling around on the plants that can happen in this neck of the woods. 

Is it worth it, Lewisham, or were you planning on actually planting something nectar and pollen-rich? Frankly I'd like to see you donate some decent plants, as well as better instruct your team. 

Friday, 28 July 2017

Cross Talk

Went back to the pits today and planted a blooming Rudbeckia (from R who also supplied the other boisterous patches of it) another Verbena and another teasel, all in the pit near Mughead coffee. Also, of course, did a massive tidy up - this time all the way around every pit. Reyna is becoming Nene and seems to have slightly expanded the frontage. So maybe they care? Neither on twitter yet.

Anyway the best part was a long conversation with a local woman who told me that she and local school children planted all the roadside Plane Trees from Queen's Road to Deptford in 1964 to combat smog! We also had a chat about the infernal littering. She said that in her day the street cleaner would say 'I know your mother' to offenders and it would be an effective deterrent, but these days it would be insulting at best.

pics to follow.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Cloudy, rain expected

Finally it has rained. Quite a bit now, with more expected. I've wanted to plant again for months but yet again months without rain makes it pointless. However the pits aren't doing too badly. W and I bagged up the usual sodden fetid rubbish - to the amazement of the street cleaner who luckily came at just the right moment to empty the bins. Then we planted 2 x day lillies, a strawberry, a fennel and a thing that might be a geum. I pulled up a vast amount of an unknown weed - the kind that is technically good for pollinators as it does flower but is ferociously matt-forming and so will destroy any perennials or annuals in its path. It was a strangely uneventful gardening event, given previous experience in NX.These photos were taken the following week, hence rubbish still being visible. In the background you can see the lovely new coffee shop - Mughead. I took my Mum to see the pits and we contemplated sticking up posters at the bus stop - something like 'Dont be a lazy ass. Use the bins that are right next to you.'
Glad to see somethings have survived from the last planting, including a day lily and a strawberry, a Verbena and the transplanted hardy geranium. The - self-seeded? - Elder is thriving and currently in berry. The lovely Russian Sage really needs a hard prune next year.

The Fig is surviving. I'm willing it to burst through the top of these shrubs and claim the space. I gave the shrub around it a bit of a trim, the Bay tree is getting away and again that Holly looks too brown to come back.

A thicket of Rudbeckia and red hot poker. Again I gave the shrub a bit of a trim but really these guys could do with thinning out in the autumn. 

This is the troubling end pit with the sudden death shrubs. On the upside, the ivy and vinca are now colonising it and the Rudbeckia is indefatigable.I'm thinking of coming back with a big bag just to do pruning and shaping - but what to do with it? Lewisham isn't so great on collecting green waste (unlike Southwark) unless constituents pay for a bin...

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Cross Fire

Ok, no shots were fired in this guerrilla exercise. However my partner in grime, W, did say 'If I tackle you suddenly its because I've just seen something you haven't.' There was a hairy moment when some young teenage boys were running around the pits - and therefore us - attacking each other with a block of wood and a belt. Luckily an adult man efficiently intervened and we managed to continue. Not without interruption. A couple of women stood strangely close to me as I was weeding out the stinging nettles and asked me for groundsel for their rabbit. I pulled some up and turned back to the pit. Eventually they stopped staring and went on their way.
We added some mixed pots of crocosmia, iris foetidissima, california poppies and probably some random ok weeds. I also dug up the now quite large but suffering hardy geranium from underneath the mighty Acanthus and transplanted it in bits to the other side of the pit. Technically a tough plant, easy to transplant and propagate but NX is a random environment... Luckily it has been raining so they should make it...

We also put in 3 pots of wild strawberries - swiftly spotted by a wandering forager who proceeded to extol the virtues of pan-fried Hogweed. 
I did think the beds were relatively tidy - the russian sage looked like someone had roughly chopped it back and there is now an Elder sprouting from behind it.Is there another gardener in the 'hood?

Friend of Borage doing well
The Fig is hanging on
Bay tree doing fine, Holly apparently not.

At last another Acanthus resists being pulled up
In the pit at the other end the mystery continues. The Vinca takes advantage and is growing away as is a Hollyhock, but all the shrubs are dead. I'm really not sure what to do about this - this was a nice habitat for sparrows. At first it seemed like poison, but why are only the shrubs affected? Tell the council and risk total annihilation? 
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Monday, 4 July 2016

Cross Country

Finally I've been back to the pits of New Cross - aided and abetted by Rosie, guerrilla gardener of the highest order. Actually we started at 'her' patch  - the triangle of scrub land near the Sainsburys carpark now covered in wild flowers, chicory, lavender and hardy geraniums (pics to follow). I had pooh-poohed that patch as a lost cause of desolation a couple of years ago, but she has persisted, combatting Sainsburys' habit of mowing over the 'weeds' and got them to stop that nonsense. Apparently they even conceded to plant a tree in the middle of it, which is ok. Anyway she cleared away some of the poppies that had gone over and I brought down some more iris foetidissima and a pink hardy geranium. 

Next up - arms weighed down with the plants I've set by (planted up in heavy London clay), we set off for the pits near the bus stops and shops. This time we concentrated only on the first and largest pit - also the most filthy. Rosie spent over an hour digging out some very tenacious matting type of weed (thus giving the self-seeded sunflowers there some room to grow). 

I did the litter clear up as well as some rough and ready pruning back - of tatty Acanthus leaves, and of the unknown shrubs that were crowding 'my' Fig, Holly and Bay (all of which are otherwise happily growing). R planted a red hot poker, 2 batches of crocosmia, and a penstemon as well as some roots of chicory and rudbeckia. A very nice young man from the Yip Oriental Store gave us water for them. Really hoping no-one a. yanks them up, or b. has a fight on them. Despite the amount of time we spent - and great work was done - there's a lot more weeding and pruning to be done. In fact I went back a couple of days later and put in another day lily, another verbena, and did another whole sack of weeding and pruning. That said the middle 2 pits are doing quite well - they are overcrowded with self-sown flowers and tenacious matting weeds (still) but mostly good. 

Spot the Fig tree thriving in the middle here...

 The Holly and Bay are both doing great at the back of this pit.

The pit at the end nearest the London Particular gets a lot of vandalism (urination?) but the rudbeckia Rosie donated about 3 years ago is going strong.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Botanising the asphalt

New Year's Day 2016. Thought it was Time to revisit NX pits.  

Above: the biggest pit. The Acanthus has come into its own and is now swamping a hardy geranium which really should be moved. As a temporary measure I cut back a few leaves on the Acanthus. The Jack Daniels was underneath it, along with a load of other trash. Several blokes eyed that bottle and didnt dare pick it up. Yet. On the other side I just pulled out a few dead sunflowers and transplanted some of the zillion teasels. 

Below, in one of the middle beds, the Fig tree is making it! Obviously there should not be any leaves on it, but 2015 was the hottest year on record and December stupidly warm. This is the bed with the zillion teasels. I spread them around a bit, but there are still way too many. You can't quite see but the blue thistle - echinops - I planted maybe 2 years ago just beyond the irises is also bedding in well. They seem to be fussy at first and then invincible. Forgot to take a pic of the other side - I added in a pink japanese anemone and more transplanted teasels.

In the next pit along, below, you can see the leucanthemum doing nicely and also flowering 4 months later than normal. Just behind it is a small Holly tree I put in during the summer (its a great plant - but as it turns out is viciously prickly and we already have at least two in our new Telegraph Hill garden). On the right is the summer burnt but now recovering bay tree and in the middle a small hydrangea I rescued from a neighbour's bin [!].  

There's Rosie's red hot pokers growing away. Again these should be dug up and replanted really as it has rudbeckia all mixed up in it but its kind of weird enough doing basic public gardening here (with no-one speaking to me except to say 'where is the station?' - not one 'Happy New Year' or indeed much eye contact). Also, I'm not used to 7 degrees when it has been 13 or so for December, so my hands were actually getting cold. I added in the primrose from our garden today and noted the wild carrot seedlings.

Yeah. Rubbish. Two full binloads of bottles, cans, paper, pens, takeaways, and umbrella and a rank pair of shoes. The least fun bit of planting in NX. Euw.