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. 

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.