Saturday, 25 October 2014

Southern Cross

With the tireless aid of Jan van Duppen (who also shot these photos), I went back to the New Cross pits to see what survived the heat, vandals, the sunflower domination and, again as it turns out, the over-enthusiasm of some of the sunflower volunteers, and also to plant some more perennials. I thought we were going to coincide with the sunflower team harvesting seeds for next year but they got there before us and stripped out the tatty dying annual planting. So, while Jan was fascinated with the degree of rubbish left in these pits (chicken bones, bottles, cans, plastic, pens...), I could tell they had actually been cleaned up and this was light traffic! 

So after several bags of rubbish removal, we tidied up the insanely congested iris rhizomes (I would still love to chop these up and redistribute them for an even vaster sea of iris...) and planted anew. Rosemary, Leucanthem (shasta daisy), Verbena Bonariensis and Japanese Anemone went in. I hope they stay... This was the spot where I planted wild carrots (which were doing great until the Sunflowers drowned them out) and an Aquilegia (hopefully that seeded before equally losing out to the yellow forest). The new plants are all tough, invasive and nectar rich - ideal for this location. They are also perennial - so year round greenery and less labour intensive in terms of care (in theory).

You can see in the corner of these two pits two of the Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker) that I planted with Rosie (out of about 8 that went in). Fingers crossed they make it too...

This pit is also the former scene of the Teasel that got yanked out and dropped by some idiot, twice. But the Hardy Geranium is surviving - there were also some Crocosmia here and Rudbeckia (which may have been 'weeded out' by team sunflower...).

Ending on a slightly more positive note, here are the survivors in the biggest pit:
an Acanthus, a Hollyhock, a Hardy Geranium (donated by @LewishamGardens) and some emerging shoots of an Arum Lily. The alchemilla and dogwood that @LewishamGardens also supplied did not survive the heat/sunflower domination, sigh. There were 2 other Acanthus planted that had re-emerged from previous over-zealous weeding but hopefully this one is sufficiently large not to be misrecognised.

Parting tips today:

when guerrilla gardening you can be more weed tolerant than in a private garden!

  • 'weeds' may be planted by someone else...
  • only the super-invasive matting weeds are a problem, mostly other plants are green and have flowers and thus nectar. In the case of nectar-filled dandelions they help break up the soil too...


Happened to be walking past the beds next to the former Job Centre on Camberwell Green and snapped the progress of these totally untended plants. I havent touched them for at least a year, nice to see several spikes of Hollyhocks and the skeletal frame of a Teasel (which means it will have seeded). Its still an extended rubbish dump but at least these guys made it through - transplanted from Dog Kennel Hill.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Hot bed

When I was a child growing up in Sussex we spent all 'summer' hoping that at some point the temperatures would hit 70 degrees, ideally coinciding with a weeks holiday in Cornwall. It rarely did (apart from in 1976).  This is the second year in a row my patch has fried due to No Rain. Yes, ironically I am writing this after the weather has broken and we have had quite a bit of rain for a day, off the back of Hurricane Bertha. But the point remains. No rain in June, hardly any in July. Deep fried guerrilla gardens... And so it was that like last summer I met up with a lovely young man for a GG interview, this time Jan van Duppen who is studying at the OU and in exchange - tho' he needed little encouragement - we went to Dog Kennel Hill and chopped down 3 bags of dried out Hollyhocks, Michaelmas daisies and most of it really.
pre-trim (all Jan Van Duppen's photos)

I did have 2 new shorter type Verbenas and 2 experimental Cleomes, a foxglove and a couple of Lychnis to go in, but to see any improvement we need more of the wet stuff. We left a few of the teasels standing for structure (and they may still have seeds in the flower heads, which birds like to eat). On the day we two blondes needed to be rescued by my partner armed with suncream and bottled water. It was filthy hot work. Jan seemed to attract a doubting Thomas who was apparently asking who we were, implying we had no authority to be doing such things, which was true. Sadly he didnt feel strongly enough to come closer to actually have a real conversation about it, which I would have enjoyed.

Here's the short Verbena.

and here's the fennel...

I returned yesterday and cleared up 2 bags more and added in 2 more foxgloves, 1 more Lychnis and 2 Alchemilla. 3 people thanked me from their cars which was nice. Lots of the Ox-eye daisies are growing back, and the bedded-in fennel and irises have all coped very well, but otherwise it is pretty barren. Like last year I know it will green over in a lovely lush way within about a month (assuming more rain - difficult to assume!). If not this spot will be getting some Agave Americana and be renamed California.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Cross Fire

Today I met a woman previously encountered only as @LewishamGardens who - I really dont quite understand this - is involved with the Chelsea Flower Show, or maybe a Fringe event and consequently has access to a load of plants afterwards to be re-distributed to Good Causes. She offered me plants. I said yes. It was also another chance to thin out the Agave jungle from my parents garden, so she got 4 Agaves for her thought. Chauffeured by J, we also picked up someone who is connected to Cafe Crema in New Cross getting plants for the little oasis that now flourishes in the cafe's back garden. After the torrential rain turned to drizzle we set out. Picking up K from CC and her 9 yr old son we arrived at St Mungo's, got thru the gates, got out of the car only to have A yell "Hide the Child!" Wow, I thought, she is worse than me. That is out there child-phobia... However it transpired that St Mungo's is a hostel for homeless people and they have regs barring children from the premises[!]. Securing T in the car, K and I then basically crammed in as many plants as we could... Should of hired a van...

After redelivering K, T and plants to their place, we went off to New Cross where my accomplice Wood met me trowel in hand and there we planted, hoping that no more drunks randomly pull stuff out, nor no more unknowing volunteers 'weed' out my plants in the interest of the wonderful yet one-season-only sunflower... Ahem. It was also yet another day in which we should have been secretly filming the response. This time a woman came up and demanded plant advice - going home AND returning with her floppy Calla Lily. I did tell her that while I was admittedly a great gardener I had killed 3 Callas previously as they are fussy buggers and not at all like Arum Lillies despite the resemblance. She would not go. We decided she had to repot and I gave her a pot from the St Mungo's hoard. We then had to dissuade her from taking soil from the raised beds for the purpose!

I might add to this a bit more, but for now some pics (terrible old Nokia - will try and reshoot with an actual camera...).

The Big Bed. Added in today: 1 x Cornus, 1 x Hardy Geranium, 2 x Alchemilla from St Mungo's, plus 1 x Arum Lily from my parents' bottomless pit of them. Previously I put in an Acanthus which is hanging on...

The other side of the big bed. Scene of the 'weeding' out of my 6 foxgloves, fennel and maybe the Acanthus - I hope it re-emerges.... Added in today 1 x dark leaved invasive violet thingy, 2 x Alchemilla and 1 Aquilegia. You can see Sunflowers that the Artmongers team planted there too - and loads of seedlings.

I dont know what I put in here today (second bed). Small grassy looking plants with little white flowers. Began the long task of tidying up the massively congested irises by chopping down the foliage (and thus putting all the energy into the exhausted rhizomes).

And the same pit here with the Aquilegia I planted a few weeks ago.

A quick visual of the other pits there (yes there are 5, its substantial). The most successful - so far with the pink foxgloves visible, also has 5 plants donated by my mum's neighbour that are some kind of wild carrot. The other one shows a very weak Acanthus above ground, but with a deep green shoot coming thru I think the roots are developing. There are loads of sunflower seedling here too.


This one has some Echinops thistles and a Verbena Bonariensis and foxgloves, struggling along. Oddly the echinops had a bit of an ant invasion. 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

poker face

planted  donated by Rosie in + some rudbeckia rhizomes... and an ... if no-one nicks it more to follow and pix to follow and updates on the GLORY that is Dog Kennel Hill to follow...

well a couple of weeks later and so far so good. So with the aid of converted colleagues Wood and Ayesha I added in 1 more Acanthus, 2 Aquilegia, 1 more Echinops and a Vinca. Next week Rosie and I are returning with the amazing California Poppy and Nasturtium seeds.