The muddy meanderings of a Birmingham based landscaper and plantsman. For rants, tips, advice and bags of enthusiasm check out my blog - I'm always writing something seasonal or topical :-)
As one of my New Year challenges, I have enrolled in a short taster course at Birmingham Buddhist Centre (Park Road, Moseley) to learn about meditation. I have learned about the concept of ‘mindfulness’ which is somewhat of a ‘buzz word’ in secular self-development as well as a core element in Buddhist teachings. Essentially it is being more conscious and ‘present’ to all your daily activities however simple or menial. The benefits to mental health and wellbeing of such behaviour are well documented now.
Gardening, like almost all daily activities, can be approached in a ‘mindful’ way and yet so many of us tend to participate with our eyes shut. For instance, It struck me that as a gardening professional, I can tend to get on to site and immediately focus on individual tasks, blinkered to the big picture, driven by the goal of getting the job done to keep my client happy, and in a most cost effective way. The trouble is that the very nature of focus can block out the peripheral vision. Becoming aware and conscious when in our garden is a joy. It connects us more directly to the earth we aim to interact with in an almost primeval way. Our gardens are a vibrant living environment, we step out there and become part of that environment, but we are guests. When we leave there the garden continues to morph, to grow and to ‘be’. I do understand the argument that time is money and being mindful doesn’t get the task done any quicker, but here lies the crux of the discussion. Are our tasks in the garden, or when we walk the dog, go shopping, put out our shiny new wheelie bins on rubbish day, are they indeed chores or a human experience to enjoy in whatever way we can and then become a potential source for pleasure? It is all in the mind isn’t it? It is all down to perception right? Being mindful can be a pleasure; it opens our hearts to a wider and more visceral human experience. Kids have a natural instinct to be mindful, something we can grow out of as adults as the pressure of life bears down on us. Try to revert back to the enthusiastic child, open your ears and eyes because it’s good for the soul. Stop for moment to watch and engage Mr Robin as he hops around the recently turned soil sometimes as close as a spade away or turning a rockery stone to see hibernating frogs and woodlice. When you find those little red brandling worms in you compost, they relentlessly turn leaves and clippings into usable garden compost for us. That compost that is feels soft and sensual and smells good enough to eat. Raking the leaves away to discover a small clump of Snowdrops days from flowering, or noticing the roses you cut down in autumn have developed juicy plump buds waiting to burst forth in May and June.
Gardening is a meditation in itself, anything that one enjoys as a process that can take your mind away from day to day worries and strains. Undertaken ‘mindfully’, it can awaken the senses to the world around you. So next time you are out in the garden cutting the lawn, weeding or planting up your borders do start to look and listen more. Look up at trees, look and marvel at these giant organisms that in some cases have been growing 100 years or more, listen to bird in song.
In short, wake up and smell the freshly mown grass, it smells good!
I want to turn readers attention to planting some real glamour into their gardens this summer in the form of ‘Glamourglads’ a relatively new range of Gladioli. March has always been the traditional time to start planting gladioli corms and setting them in their flowering positions is best done sequentially through April too to provide a long season of interest. In the past I have planted the corms all at one time resulting in two to three weeks of fabulous colour but you can get colour from the end of June through to September if they are planted a week apart during the spring and early summer.
They haven’t quite become ‘de regueur’ in British gardens quite yet, but it won’t be long. In my opinion Gladioli are very much the ‘Tulip of the summer’. They are cheap to buy and available in a wide variety of colours and sizes. Traditionally gardeners would lift dry and store the corms in winter but even through the recent cold winters of 20112/13 I have been leaving clumps out in the ground over winter. It seems and as long as they have been planted at a good depth and deeply mulched in winter they have flowered reliably each summer since. Certainly this seems true where gardens are lucky enough to have good drainage and lighter soil. Apart from a few pockets of clay this is true for most of us in Moseley.
The corms themselves are on sale in nurseries now although for the best choice of colours especially the new Glamour Glads go to online suppliers such as www.dutchbulbs.co.uk. These new Glamourous Gladioli are smaller than traditional hybrids and are less likely to fall over. The variety of colours available is even more extensive and can satisfy the most subtle or garish of tastes. If you are unsure where to plant them I set several batches in pots to grow on and then plant in the bed spaces that naturally appear after the first flush of summer flowering plants comes and goes.
Plant in groups of 3 or 5 rather than in random singularities. Plant them deep in the soil 10 –15 cm at least, which seems to stop the heavy flower spike falling over and amongst other herbaceous plants and shrubs The memory of single or lines of tall Galdioli, usually in mixed and highly uncomplimentary colour combinations fighting against the bamboo canes used by desperate gardeners to prop them up still horrifies me. These easily grown and stunning bulbs are a gift to us gardeners that often struggle to provide flowers all the way through the summer.
A smaller selection is available at Notcutts in Solihull, Bournville Garden Centre and Webbs of Wychbold.
After some help from my good friend Kyra Epstein I am back online with access to my blog so keep and eye..there is more to come..spring is only just around the corner..
Its scarey when you look at it, from the end of Oct each year right up to Mid April, our beloved deciduous Trees, be they Oak, Ash,Lime or Chestnuts , bare no leaves at all. I think as I have got older I have notice it more, but it is slightly depressing. Christmas comes in after the first 6 weeks to destract us, but when we finish with New Year and the kids are back at school, we have another 14 — 16 weeks where we see no tree growth, little grass growth and that is not ood for the soul.
As I write, we are in the grip of Winter still, with an unseasonal Artic blast, but it won’t last…warmer days are coming. First will be the Cherry blossom, then the Chestnuts unleashing their huge foliage and flowers almost overnight. Then we will be happier right?
I have a couple of jobs that require planting up, even though we are in the middle of a hot dry spell of weather. I have been using water retaining gel in my planting mixture underneath and around the new root ball as they come out of the pot the roots will find a welcome reservoir of moisture when they most need it.
always always water in thoroughly and then muclh with a compost or other soil conditioner to seal in the moisture.
Then water daily until the dry spell abeits.
With this blessed damp period, it is ideal time to plant perennials. The only question is which ones. having planted up many gardens in the last 12 years of running this business, I have like any gardener, developed a group of signature perennials, which for me are best value for long season of flowering, ease of cultivation, ease of division or self seeding and actually combone beautifully together.
Aster Frikartii Monch
Hellenium satins early
Anthemis tinctora EBuxton
rudbekia Fulgida goldstrum
others in contention
Sedum Spectablile autumn joy
Salvia Nemorosa May night
geranium Johnsons blue
And last and not least…a filler annual guarenteed to provide wow factor from its pure white blooms which if you deadhead regularly will flower from June to Sept the stunning Cosmos Bipinnatus sonata mix white…only 2′ but reliable and a worth planting en mass flowing throught the others.
also buy at least three of each of the top 5 buying 5 works better, they will bed down flower well this year and apart from the verbena which will self seed if left, all will gain mass and be dividable after only one or two years.if you want to see them in action have a look at somoe of my photographs from Chantry Road and Russell road jobs on the website..
Let me know how you get on. I love recieving feedback!
With the combination of fine sunshine followed by generous amounts of rainfall over the last week or two, the garden is now beginning to come alive, what I do notice on my travels is the lack of herbacious perennials flowering in many back gardens. Bulbs such as the Daffoldils, Muscari, Primroses and Bluebelles seem to be prominent in most gardens right now but I would like you to consider adding a few others to your borders to fill the gap between now and the bedding season, which coincides with the beginning of the dramatic herbaceous season June-sept.
Here is a list of my top 10
in no particular order;
Doronicum orientale, Camassia Leichtinii, Dicentra Spectablilis, Primula Dendriculata, Matteuccia struthiopteris (Ostrich Heather fern), Pulmoniaria Blue Ensign, Primula Veris (Cowslip) and Pulsitilla Vulgaris (Rubra ), Iberis Sempervivens (Perennial Candytuft) and Aubretia (Purple cascade).
They are good to buy and plant now.
So go to it!
I have to share what has become a revelation for me this week. After refencing an area in a clients garden, and building a rather neat and tidy pregola and trellis fence, she asked me to paint all the timber in Rondeals Fencelife paint in Black Oak! A Black Pergola whatever next. But I have to say I take it all back..it looks very striking and gives the garden a contemporary feel. Once it is fully planted the black timber will really act as a spoil to the plants. Particularly the climbing roses we want to grow up the Pergola posts. Matt below loves painting!!