Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Drainage issues

I was recently digging a hole to put in a plant and no sooner than I'd got to a spades depth, the water started seeping in from the sides.
I'd been putting it off, hoping that I'd get away with just incorporating organic matter and some coarse sand to the soil, but there was nothing else for it, drains had to be installed.
I'm running a couple of drains across the lawn and then two more which will loop around the back (under where the paths will be), the idea being that they will hopefully direct water away from the borders. 

It looks to be partly clay with a proportion of loam, so in some places it's not quite as bad as I'd thought, but then there are other sections that are much heavier and quite anaerobic.
Along the rear right hand side seems to be the worst, with a very high water table, as evidenced below: 
The bark path has been dug out, a perforated pipe installed and I'm infilling around it with the rubble from that wall/seating area that I recently knocked down. 
Speaking of that wall, I'm now down below ground level, attempting to remove as much of the concrete/block work foundations as possible. I tackled it last night but was beaten inside by failing light and a broken sledge hammer, however I will not be defeated. 
In other news, the succulents are filling in nicely, with little bare ground now in evidence between them.

As the majority of my succulent plantings are temporary summer residents in the garden I pack them in cheek by jowl, however if it was a permanent planting each would need to be given MUCH more space to allow for real growth.
I love the opportunity to use contrasting colours that comes from playing with succulents.
Fleshy and turgid purple flushed Aeonium simsii x 'Zwartkop, against spikey and muscular Agave 'Blue Flame'.
and then there's the softly fuzzy grey of Ballota, juxtaposed against the rubberised leaves of the Aeoniums. 

Taking many of the less hardy plants indoors for the winter means that each year, come late spring/early summer I then get to try something new when replanting again allowing me to play with the contrasts of texture, colour and form.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Unplanned progress

"Nope, I won't be removing the seating area at this stage" I stated late on Sunday afternoon.

Recent experiences of removing the shed and other structures in the garden are still fresh in my mind, dealing with the rubble that would result from its deconstruction was something I didn't feel ready for right now.

Yet, within half an hour there was I, sledgehammer in hand, knocking the first bricks from the corner.
I'd started, so I had to finish.
With help from my better half (a demon with a sledge) we took into knocking that sucker over.

I'd been looking at the thing since we moved in during December, in all its half finished wonky splendour. 

 It was unintended work, but felt cathartic in execution. Whack a section, see cracks appear, then grow with each strike to finally tumble in an ever growing heap of rubble and mortar.
The patio area now feels like it's part of the garden proper, rather than enclosed and sectioned off as it was before.
It feels more inviting already, even with the carnage that surrounds it.

We were ably assisted by Benson, he'd watch the progress, not being any help you understand but he felt that his presence certainly sped the process along.

Proud of his contribution, a day well spent.

Now, what to do with the tumbled bones of the structure? 
Remove from site?
Use as a base for a free draining succulent/xeric bed?
I wonder how some plants would cope with the alkalinity, not all would be impressed. I'd thought perhaps Proteas but then remembered that many in that family require acidic conditions....more thought required.
Progress continues elsewhere in the garden, the raised beds that were built earlier are filling out with succulent lushness.
Cannas and other moisture lovers will be planted farther along, where copious volumes of compost and manure have been incorporated.

Fleshy Sedums help fill the area among tender summer residents.

While Aloe 'Cosmo' throws a spike of richly coloured blooms.

It's fun at this stage, planning plotting and doing!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

State of change

Things have been somewhat quiet, blog wise for the past year.
However, beyond the virtual world it has been anything but.

My own patch has been cultivated by me for coming up on ten summers, over that time it has gone through a few changes in look but the exotic style was always the general theme.
We were never meant to be there as long as we were, it was to be a stopgap, but with one thing and another it ended up being a more long term (but very happy) home.

We'd outgrown what we had though, both with the house and garden and wanted desperately to have more scope, more space, and more light both inside and out.

Around September  2016 we managed to buy a new house, with a moderately larger garden. It's south facing (those are magic words to us plant geeks) and with little in the way of existing planting, pretty much a blank canvas.

Many of the pictures are, I'm afraid, not great. But most were taken quickly, mid work, as a visual documentation of what I was at, so aesthetics were a second thought.

So we went from this, enclosed sheltered garden:

To one that's much more open, very exposed in fact, with the cold continental winds of wibter blowing from the east are  able to rush over the low fence to the left and buffet anything  growing here.
There's four shaggy Leyland in marching down the edge, looking like a row of green Cousin Itt clones....They're taking up quite a bit of ground space.
These pervious owners liked building things with wood, sheds, three of them. Decks, two of them, one beside the other and a half finished seating area.
All must go.

Come late November we had our hands on the keys and so I was able to start the process of moving plants. 
You see, we didn't move far, literally around the corner from the old place. So I was able to, with help, dig up an entire garden and, using a trusty wheelbarrow, shift everything from one property to the other. 

Size was to be no object, so 25ft tall Borindas were dug.

Some were split, using that trusty garden tools, the saw.

What what little daylight hours there were at that dark time of year were consumed with digging and barrowing. 

At the same time I also had to start deconstruction of many structures in the new place. Those wooden decks were the first to fall foul of my clear out.

First one, then the other, I did mention that they liked decks didn't I??

One down, another to go. A sledge hammer, chainsaw and electric screwdriver all payed their part in removal.

Himself, always ready to lend a hand, surveys the ongoing work.

A few of the larger plants were heeled in to allow time. Time to look, to watch, to think where they should be placed.
Normally when starting a garden you get the design right then consider what plants you're going to use, but I was in a different position. Building a garden around loved plants that I'd had for many years, everything starts from that point and grows from there.

Leylandii were the first  plant casualties of the cull. Two came down and immediately the sense of increased light and air could be felt.

Those two wooden decks gone and some existing planting chopped, I then turned my attention to a large job that I had been avoiding, the shed. It was enormous and had been built on site. Everything was screwed to everything else. It was a tornado proof structure, apart from some rot setting in at the base.
Despite being a lengthy and involved process it felt cathartic when the roof finally came down.
After the clear up of debris, I could step back and really gain a sense of how much horizontal and vertical space had been lost by the presence of this wooden behemoth.

It was a good feeling.

The space behind a shed is apparently also useful place for hiding all manner of junk....Tyres, rusted broken office chairs, plastic, pieces of wood and metal....a seemingly endless list of treasures were uncovered.

The soil, that poor, poor soil was in a sad state. Compacted, airless, stale. It needed help. 
I imported as much horse manure as I could get my hands on and dug it in...but it wasn't enough. Then I discovered my local authority were giving away free compost. We have recycling bins that can take all forms of organic waste, both from the garden and also food waste. I collected as much as they were willing to give me, it was awesome stuff, dark and smelled earthy. This was also incorporated. The soil literally swallowed any organic matter thrown at it, seeming to almost dissappear, but anything dug in will help. The whole time I was working I didn't come across a single earthworm, the soil was so inhospitable, but now, it should be much more to their taste.
I'm looking forward to seeing them arrive and work their magic.

As I dug closer to the house the amount of archaeological items I found increased greatly, plastic, blocks and bricks, lumps of concrete, it was all hidden down there and made spade work a real pleasure. Not.

This lot was unearthed from about 1.5meters square.

As the soil appears to be quite heavy clay prone to wetness in winter I decided to create rated planting beds, the idea being that the improved conditions would encourage a healthy aerated root zone but with access to damper conditions underneath for those plants whose roots wish to delve into the depths.

Numerous trips to collect rocks were made (and continue) to pick stone of the right shape and varying sizes to build edging that would form the raised beds. 
In Ireland, as in many rocky parts of the world, stone walls built from rock collected from the fields feature strongly. They enclose fields and homesteads, containing or excluding livestock. Making use of what's available locally, using a waste item to create something useful. 
I wanted to reflect this tradition.

Building walls continues apace, I build a section, finding the correct sized and shaped piece of rock, turning, rotating and substituting one for another until a strong and well interconnected structure is formed.
It's necessary to stand back, assess what you've completed, view from different angles until you're happy with the overall look.
If chosen well, the rocks will lock together and form a stable wall.

I'm almost at the exciting stage where planting can begin in ernest, but I want to enjoy the whole process. I'm not rushing, it has to be right. 

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Awesome succulent garden visit

I'd recently arranged a plant swap with a local succulent grower Christine (another Facebook contact...yay for Facebook!!), and on Friday past I got the opportunity to drop off the plants with her.
From seeing the pictures that she had shared online I was really looking forward with great anticipation to seeing what she was growing.
Arriving at the front of he lovely red brick house I was greeted by this planter, so I knew things would be good. 
These Echeveria stay out all year, and from what I could see they are also growing in shade which was interesting.

Christine has already started planting out her succulents for the summer, which has meant a bit of covering and uncovering with horticultural fleece to protect from the occasional low temperatures that we can still experience.
It was an incredibly sunny day (quite warm and sheltered in her walled garden) which made taking pictures on my phone difficult.

 Many plants are in the ground, but at least as many if not more are displayed in containers.

I'm not even gonna attempt to name most of the succulents, I'm never going to remember what they're all called, but I'll attempt some of them.

An upcycled display created to show off some of her collection.

Aeonium 'Zwartzkop' is so common these days it's easy to almost overlook it, but it's such a good dooer and a great dark colour.

'scuse my shadow...

Loved this container of Echeveria 'Purle Von Nurnberg'/'Duchess of Nuremberg'

Graptoveria 'Fred Ives', a new favourite of mine! These are a hybrid cross between Graptopetalum and Echeveria, chop the names in half, and stick then them together and you get Graptoveria!

One of the curly leaved Echeverias, stunning.

Rhodiola, a hardy little succulent.


Echeveria 'Black Prince'??

The orange pot and steely blue leaved Echeveria provides an inspired colour combination.

Attached to the house is a covered growing area, in which Christine overwintere plants
including the Jade plant, Crassula, which is enormous, and I'm jealous!
Awesome choice of colour on the rear wall too!

I didn't leave empty handed of course, gardeners are such generous people.
So many young plants that I'm going to have great fun with this summer when thinking up uses and combinations.

I hope to be able to revisit again in late summer to see how the plants which Christine has planted in the ground have grown and flourished. 
I find that they relish getting their roots down into real soil and grow so much more luxuriantly than when confined to a pot.
I can't wait to get back!