Gardening – cure for the corona virus blues?

As we’re entering a period when our lives are about to become more restricted than most of us have ever known, getting out into the garden could be our salvation.

It’s a difficult time. Many of us will have to work from home (that’s if we’ve still got a job). There’ll be no more going out to pubs, cafes, restaurants. No more cinema or theatre. No organised sports, either to watch or take part in. The internet will probably be overwhelmed, but you can only take so much screen time anyway. We could spend all our spare time watching TV, if there’s still access to Netflix, etc., but that’s not exactly good for you (again; you can only take so much screen time). Boredom could reach dangerous levels as we all steadily go stir crazy.

The answer – the way to free ourselves from the tyranny of enforced seclusion – is to get out into the fresh air, under the big, open sky, and to get gardening. It’s the perfect time:

– The long dark corridor of winter is coming to an end and we’re going into spring, so the weather is right (we’ve had some lovely days already this year);
– It’s safe; there’s no danger of the virus being transmitted over the garden fence;
– There’s plenty to do in the garden at this time of year;
– Gardening is great physical exercise, and has been proved to have psychological benefits too (Think you’re more of a city person and you don’t like plants? Think again – your sub-conscious mind knows better!)

Don’t have a garden yourself? Do you have a neighbour who has, and would appreciate some help – maybe a neighbour who’s elderly, or disabled? There’s no need for contact – they can leave the side gate open, and chat to you at a distance, perhaps through a first floor window. They get their garden done, and some arms-length social contact, you get out, get some exercise and fresh air. Maybe you can grow produce in their garden, and share it with them? Why not do some community gardening; transform that piece of waste ground with your neighbours (organised via social media, and carried out one person at a time, in shifts)? Try your hand at guerilla gardening.

Want some ideas of what to do in the garden? Order some seeds (mail order – no physical contact);

Dig up some of the lawn to create more flower beds;

Or turn over the whole of your lawn to growing fruit and veg, ready for when the shops run out of food;

Plant hedges. Make them prickly – pyracantha, holly or berberis to keep the marauding hordes at bay (or at least, to hide your veg patch from envious neighbours). Or maybe we should be kind, and share our produce with the community);

Let what’s left of your lawn grow into a wildflower meadow – beautiful, very much ‘on-trend’ and we can’t afford to waste precious petrol or electricity cutting grass anymore.

So, don’t go mad – get gardening, and stay safe. And keep away from crows and magpies – you don’t want to get the Corvid virus

text & images © Graham Wright 2020

Up the Garden Path

This is the back garden as it was mid December last year, when we moved in, laid mostly to lawn, and dominated by a straight central path cutting the space in two.

We’ve got a working plan now. It isn’t quite finalised, but I’m confident it’s close enough that we can prepare the ground where the trees will go before it’s too late to get them in. Trees are generally much cheaper when bought bare rooted, but this can only be done in the dormant season, and they have to be planted within a few days of being lifted out of the ground. The path had to go. Here it is after I was half way through taking it out (taken 25th Feb):

The bed on the left is also going, so I’ve been taking the plants out and moving them to the nursery bed.

Work has been progressing smoothly, as and when I can fit it in. As you can see here, the chickens have wasted no time in annexing the bare earth as a dust bath:

This was the state of play as of 7th March, with all of the concrete and gravel removed, and the paving slabs left loose for the time being, so we have something to walk on:

I had hoped the slabs and gravel were laid on membrane over compacted soil, but I was to be disappointed. It’s been a long time since the old pick axe has seen that much action, and I’m left with a huge amount of rubble that will need to be removed at some point (I may be able to use some of it under paths and patios elsewhere).

You may just have noticed we’ve planted some trees in the grass. The design I came up with has a mini orchard, set with six fruit trees – 2 apples, 2 pears, a plum and a damson. I’m aiming to turn the grass into wild flower meadow, with a mown path curving through the trees to a patio at the end, under the large birch tree. In total so far we’ve planted 9 trees, and 100 hedging plants. And there will be more to come.

I’ll sign off, for now, with this month’s centrefold; the lovely Lola, sprawled on a bed. Calm yourselves…

Text & Images © Graham Wright 2020

Garden Visit – Rosemoor

A few weeks ago I visited Rosemoor, in Devon for the first time. I was expecting a lot – as one of the four RHS gardens you would expect it to be good – and I wasn’t disappointed.

The huge flowers of Allium Globemaster in the foreground, with roses, lupins, geraniums and phlomis in the dappled shade of a cluster of Himalayan Birch trees

The weather was cool, but there was plenty of sunshine, so it was quite a good temperature for walking around a garden.
Roses play a big part in the gardens (the clue’s in the name) and late June was a great time to visit.

One of the two formally laid out rose gardens; this is the Queen Mother’s Rose Garden.
Rosa ‘Malcolm Sargent’
A honey bee helping itself to the nectar of a Gallica shrub rose ‘Tuscany Superba’, which is an unusual, rich purple.
Rosa ‘Pax’
Pillars, obelisks and swags dripping with roses and clematis – the Rose Trail

Rosemoor is a large garden. There are formal areas, such as the rose gardens, hot, and cold gardens, a fruit and veg garden, and the long border; and there are informal areas, including two woodland walks. The gardens are dissected by a main road, with an underpass joining the two areas. There was some traffic noise, but it wasn’t too invasive. The café provides some good nosebag and an acceptable coffee, which was good, as we were there for a large part of the day.

The Hot Garden, quite green as yet, with reds and yellows just beginning to show. I love the two upright purple beech trees (Fagus sylvatica ‘Dawyck Purple’) standing sentinel either side of the rear entrance
A beautiful specimen of Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo d’Or’ in the hot garden.
Cornus koussa var. chinensis ‘Wisley Queen’ – spectacular in full flower (well, technically I suppose you should say in full bract, as the flowers are the tiny clusters at the centre of the white bracts)
The borders were looking good
The Cottage Garden

Perhaps influenced by the garden at Great Dixter, a lot of the open areas of grass at Rosemoor have been turned over to wildflower meadow. It’s much softer, more romantic, than formal mown grass, and of course it’s great for wildlife such as pollinating insects.

Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) parasitizes grass, reducing its vigour; so allowing the broad-leaved wildflower plants room to thrive.
Podophyllum ‘Kaleidoscope’ – one of many more unusual plants on in the gardens. A good talking point to grow in moist soil and dappled shade

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In the end I was defeated by fatigue – mental, as much as physical. Like a child in a toy shop the excitement was just too much, and the coffee was only going to keep me going for so long. It would be great to have the luxury of being able to make regular shorter visits, but alas, Rosemoor is just too far away to justify that. Still, I hope it isn’t too long before I can go back again.

Text & images © Graham Wright 2019