Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Getting organised?

I love looking through garden magazines, especially the ones with what I think are brilliant ideas.

Where would we be without these to tell us of new products or what's in and what's out?

I am not naturally a tidy person and one of my new year's resolutions was to try to be more organised, especially with my garden bits and pieces.

My main bugbear is usually easily accessible plant labels, something to write with which still writes, string and of course scissors that are still capable of cutting.  I've idly thought someone should come up with some sort of collection point or filing system for these and at last someone has. And in very stylish form too.

Sophie Conran for Burgon and Ball - Image from on line catalogue

I just love the finish and colour of these pots and am sure they will inspire me to be super efficient. At the very least I shall know where everything is and all is easily visible.

Ever the eternal optimist I shall be using them to store my small garden knick knacks. In spite of not having a propagator, greenhouse or cold frame I aim to set seed in the hope I shall have somewhere to pot them out. If not, the garden club will be having a windfall.

The other items I looked at were a small garden tools caddy and a new potting table. Since I need to organise somewhere to pot up first - like a shed -this latter item is not high on my list of priorities but just look at the caddy.

Burgon and Ball catalogue

I know it says string on the side but think that could be easily lost, if you have secateurs, trowel, dibber etc in there. I think for me the little pots will work better.

But what a joy to just pick it up with all those little tools in. Getting quite giddy just thinking about being organised.

For me, a lot of the joy of gardening is dreaming about what you could have
and planning for that fortuitous event.

So I shall order these and hope to have somewhere to keep them soon. 
And somewhere to use them.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Has Spring arrived?

Looking around there have been lots of clues that Spring has arrived in our neck of the woods, somewhat early this year. 
We have been fortunate in that our winter here has been very mild, with, so far, little frost and only one sprinkling of snow. And guess what? Our lovely little wild snowdrops are popping up everywhere.

Although traditionally thought of as a Spring flower, there are Snowdrop varieties which will flower from November through winter and into Spring.

Always a welcome sight and one that cheers the spirit is the little snowdrop with those wonderful delicate looking nodding heads. 
How beautiful they look against the rest of the drab floorscape and to me they always represent an annual treat and a triumph of nature. 
Just love them!

Especially when light levels are low they gleam in the gloom but look so vulnerable and delicate. You can see why some people become addicted to them.

A dear old friend of mine is a bit of a Galanthophile and although having only a tiny courtyard garden manages to grow oodles of snowdrops in pots. 
Pride of place this year has been given to her last extravagant purchase - Galanthus reginae-olga 

bought in memory of her mother, who sadly was not Queen of Greece but a lovely lady called Olga.

When she told me what each plant had cost her I was speechless. Seems there is a bit of a thing about snowdrops with keen collectors paying huge amounts to have the latest discovery which brings the exclusivity and value that only rarity can imbue.

I was appalled to hear about increasing numbers of snowdrop thefts throughout the country. 
Can you believe there are people who do that ? 
This is a very anti-social action - not only are all of us being deprived of the pleasure of seeing these beautiful flowers but it is an act of sheer vandalism and greed.
Can you imagine not being able to see sights like this?

I thought this kind of behaviour went out in the wake of Tulip mania in the mid 1600's when again collectors paid huge sums to acquire rare bulbs.

It will no doubt get to the stage when some snowdrop owners take drastic steps to either alarm their collections or no longer allow public access to them.
How sad that would be, and I for one would be all the poorer for not being able to see these harbingers of Spring.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

A green and pleasant land?

There has been much suffering and damage caused this year by flooding, both locally here in Yorkshire and elsewhere in the UK.

Going back many years, we lived in Sinnington, bordering the River Seven.

Idyllic, isn't it?

What was then the Yorkshire River Authority came every year and cleared the river course, coppicing willows and cutting back brash which had rooted over the previous year. When this body was swallowed by the Environment Agency that annual housekeeping ceased. 

Was it coincidence then that the village suffered the worst floods in its recent history after that? 

Although we were lucky enough not to be flooded our house was marooned by flood water which was fast flowing, turgid and unpleasant. The back flow into neighbours' homes was indescribable, with water oozing through walls and floors as the water inexorably found its way in. 

The problem of foul water in their homes took months to recover from, in terms of ruined fittings and furniture, re-wiring, re-flooring, re-plastering and last but not least getting rid of the noxious smell. 

Not so idyllic then.

Having seen at first hand the devastation caused to ordinary people's lives I have enormous sympathy for those who remain affected by flooding.

Whilst not suggesting the Environment Agency is totally responsible for the 2014 Somerset levels nightmare, I feel there are questions to be asked.

What was their process of monitoring river courses, ensuring these were free flowing, and able to carry the anticipated volume of water ?

Were houses built on flood plains, and if so, why and how was planning granted?

It's not just the big obvious issues which contribute to flooding.
Increased turbulent weather conditions behove all of us to alleviate flash flooding where we can. It's not someone else's problem, it's mine and it's yours.

In many towns, front gardens are concreted over to create parking. Repeated house after house and street after street, this amounts to idiocy on a massive scale.

This method of hard landscaping forces all rainwater immediately into the drainage system. When a heavy downpour occurs the system is overwhelmed. As a result, localised flooding occurs and the risk of urban flash floods is increased.

A more environmentally friendly way is to oblige householders to provide hard standing with a permeable base whereby water is allowed to soak slowly away into the drains. Equally up to the job and a sustainable way of disposing of runoff.

Alternative and inexpensive ideas to replace domestic concreted car parking areas are listed on

together with a list of recommendations we should all adopt.

This website promotes sustainable drainage systems 
(SuDS for short) and needs to shout its message from the rooftops.

These ideas, all practical, achievable and not necessarily expensive, are things everyone can do to slow down the runoff rushing into the drains. 

Anything which will hold back and delay water being absorbed into the system is of benefit and awareness needs to be raised of how every individual can help.

If these ideas are adopted wholesale the impact can be nothing short of incredible.

Part of the re-thinking about drainage is the promotion of green roofs.

Even a small garden shed roof can be both practical and a thing of beauty, especially if you want to encourage insect life.

I love Nigel Dunnett and his pioneering work on green walls and roofs in the UK and his profile makes fascinating reading

If you can buy, beg or borrow do read and draw inspiration from his book 

Planting Green Roofs and Living Walls 
co-written with Noel Kingsbury.

 Brilliant....... and made me want to go out and plant a green roof immediately.

Apart from being aesthetically pleasing green roofs can provide wildlife habitats and help mitigate extremes of our changing weather patterns.

I am seriously sold on the idea of greenery anywhere and everywhere - either on the roof or up the walls. I'll look later at living walls with the prime exponent of this art, Patrick Blanc, another of my heroes.

Just think, if we all adopted some of SuDS ideas, how much more green and pleasant would our green and pleasant land be?

Believe I've just added a shed to my garden wish list. With a nice roof.