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 prepared for us. We also scattered a pack of bee-friendly wild flower seeds. After warning my troops for the day that it was likely to be a mess, actually the whole strip is 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 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, sweethearts]! 

It is supposed to rain this afternoon. Yes please.

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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