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. 

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Guerrilla Transplant

I've moved. No longer in walking distance of Dog Kennel Hill - but I'm still on a bus route and cant bear for it all to go to rack and ruin. Like the last 2 or 3 years we've had a plant-friendly lush spring followed by a month or more of no rain with hot sun. On the plus side the Acanthus is now established enough to flower - and the artichoke I planted last year also flowered. Once again, the tough plants have still fried on this very dry strip of land. So, I made use of a garden mag offer for 25 free lavender plants for the cost of postage and got zillions of little ones - gamely potted on by my mum. Hopefully they will bed in and do better with climate change. In July, aided and abetted by troops old and new, I went to assess the damage and we cut down the dead and dug up the grass (which is the main suffocating weed now - even drowning out the michaelmas daisies). We planted lavenders and a pink yarrow along with a couple more Agave. Sadly no pics but lots of thankyous from drivers passing by (including a friend from Kent who I had told about our endeavours and who randomly drove by just as we were all hard at work).

2 months later and I went back solo and dug up another 3 bags of grass/weeds, planted more lavender, yarrow and a couple of red hot pokers. 

pics to follow.

Friday, 3 April 2015

New Forest, New Cross

Since hearing that New Cross Road is one of the most polluted in the country I've become more determined to green it up. My enquiries suggest that getting the council to plant more trees is really hard work and in some of the sites that I think are desirable - in the emerging pavement cafe culture - impractical due to the traffic camera sight-lines and other bureaucratic stuff. So lobbying Boris on the evils of diesel in slow-moving city traffic is the longterm solution for the toxic air.

But in the short-term I have taken it into my own hands and risked planting a Fig tree and a Bay in the middle of the raised beds near the Launderette and Reyna Restaurant. They are bang in the middle of the beds so hopefully will be less obvious for the vandals who have yanked stuff out before. Actually my lovely fellow conspirator Wood put those two in, while I added another red hot poker, more mint, and did the usual litter clean up. We also put in two sarcococca (winter box) in the more shaded bed (where my friend Rosie has recently put in some more Hollyhocks). We got water for the trees from the fine folk at the LP Bar. Bay trees are slow but solid growing evergreens that can make a 7ft tree if left alone. Figs can get enormous but there will be some root restriction in that raised bed (which will be good for fruit production).

I need to go back with a decent camera to snap all the pits - lots of things are doing really well including Acanthus and a large day lily (I'm optimistic these will flower this summer). You can see the Leucanthemum daisies springing up in the top pic showing the Bay tree with one of the Acanthus in the far corner.
More anon.

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.