Friday, January 2, 2015

Garden Meme : End Of Month View

 In the run-up to Christmas I spent a lot of time in the kitchen baking and watching older Gardener's World shows on my mini fruit-based device. There is nothing like watching someone else do a significant amount of digging and weeding, unless it's watching someone else doing a lot of planting or pruning. Meanwhile it's cold and rainy outside and I'm in the kitchen making mince pies: it's the best of both worlds.

Stumpery in December
Of all the online shows I watched this year I particularly liked the Great British Garden Revival series, because everyone had their own fascinating and cherished axe to grind.

Here is a stumpery I constructed last March after watching Chris Beardshaw wander through Prince Charles' stumpery. I probably shouldn't mention them both in the same breath because Charles' stumpery is significantly more impressive than mine, not to mention the fact that it has its own head gardener. Mine only has me. No salary (with Head Gardener perks). No Prince Charles. No stumps even.

My stumpery was constructed in the area I call The Shade Garden, using random bits of driftwood I picked up at the beach (I live on a large island in the Pacific Northwest). These bits of wood aren't terribly practical because they tend to rot, but my theory is this: by the time they DO rot (two years hence), I'll have tired of having a stumpery and want to do something else with the space. The rotted wood can go in the Long Term Compost. It's a win-win situation.

Around the wood I planted primroses, hellebores, fritillaries, and a few miniature daffodils. It is perfectly lovely in spring, invisible in summer, and - distressingly - rather lacking in Serious Gloom in winter. I'm thinking it's the lack of large stumps. The white tubing (slightly-above-ground watering system) doesn't help, but it's there so it doesn't crack during freezes.

 Here is a side view of the giant hedge that renders my stumpery invisible in summer. I'm not entirely sure what it's made of, but there are at least three types of shrub. When we first moved here it was horribly overgrown and I intended to do some thinning, but when I saw all the birds flitting around, not to mention how it greened up and created a massive privacy screen, I decided to concentrate on making it thicker and fuller. I used a technique recommended by various Hedge Pundits, which mostly involved breaking the longer branches and forcing them sideways so they sprout out and create a thick barrier. Irritatingly, the hawthorn that dominates this section accumulated so much ivy this year that our Highly Fecund Squirrel Resident (aka HFSR) moved her nest out of the carport and into this tree. While I admire HFSR's tenacity (she has about 12 babies a year and is very industrious) I don't admire how she (along with her babies) chews up my soaker hoses, digs up my garlic, rootles around in my plastic trays, and generally makes a mess of everything, so I went in and cut out most of the ivy. In doing so I discovered where all the fluff from our barbeque cover had disappeared to. Nice.

Here is one of the winter vegetables I like to grow: purple sprouting broccoli. At least, I think it's purple sprouting broccoli; it could be white sprouting broccoli for all I know because the plant tag has mysteriously disappeared. Along with my memory.

The greenhouse has some trays of sprouting lettuces. I intend to plant these into a cold frame adjacent to the greenhouse in another month. Our garden is a bit of a heat sink even in winter. The container on the far left has grass seed so the cat has some green to munch on. The kids saw someone do this online (far more decoratively than I have done) and demanded that we do this because Toffee desperately NEEDS a cute little container of grass. I didn't want to go to TOO much trouble in case Toffee decides he isn't into grass, so I used a plastic tub instead of an adorable kitty-shaped boot-like object (and saved myself at least $20). Toffee is a very fickle cat. I'm also hoping he doesn't eat it then find a handy corner of the house to puke in (I look further ahead than my children).

It's hard to see but at the base of that wooden planter is a catnip plant. This is an outdoor treat I leave for Toffee. Unfortunately he seems to have some kitty friends who also like catnip, so periodically I have to protect it with some shelving, because Toffee only goes out when it's absolutely necessary. As in: when it's ABSOLUTELY necessary (cue frantic meows at 4am). He'd really rather I get him a litter box but that is never going to happen. 
Here is where I've planted the garlic this year. Right up against the house, under a peach tree and two nectarine trees. It's prime garden real estate but after getting white rot two years ago in the old garlic bed I've been hard pressed to find a new (and equally convenient) spot. Oh, and that fencing? It serves a dual purpose: to keep Toffee from thinking this is a large litter box and to keep HFSR from burying her acorns under my garlic. If you look slightly to the left (at about the third dwarf kale plant) you will see a slight depression: courtesy of HFSR. Or Toffee. Not sure.
One of my most concerted efforts has been in the Winter Vegetable Gardening department. I read books by people like Eliot Coleman or Mark Diacono and think "I want winter salads!" but the reality is that you need to be organized to have winter veg (that and attend Seedy Saturday lectures where you'll learn that celeriac needs to overwinter to grow to any significant size). The other photo is one of the artichokes. It looks as though they are going to survive the winter. They aren't the most stalwart of plants, sometimes easily killed during a freeze or a particularly wet winter. You also need to divide them regularly because they are, as a perennial, on the Shorter Lived side. Artichokes are another plant that hogs the garden real estate but I love them (I tried to resist saying "and true love lasts a lifetime" but I couldn't help myself).

Another encouraging photo: a Pink Lemonade blueberry with what looks like a seriously good crop of Potential Blossom.
This is the only blueberry I've got in a pot and as it gets shunted around the garden throughout the summer I'm surprised it is doing at all well. I haven't found the right place for it. I've got several pots in this situation. I'm not keen on this state of affairs but that's the way of gardening, isn't it? Some things work the first time and others take forever to figure out. At least the Pink Lemonade is forgiving. 

A Calamondin orange, one of the greenhouse residents, thick with blossom (and fruit). I was never a big citrus person before we moved here, but now I love them. They bloom in winter, which gives the greenhouse the most fabulous scent, one to rival sweet box (which I have in the front yard).

The garden always looks slightly uninviting in winter, something I've been trying to work on. In warmer seasons this is a rose border: Crown Princess Margarita, Pink Peace, and a rose I dug up from a rental house we once lived in. I didn't even notice it the first year because it was so neglected, and when we left I had a premonition that it would be even more neglected with the next tenants that I decided to take it with us. It's tall, pink, and deliciously scented. They compete with the comfrey, which I grow for fertilizer and for the bees. So far the comfrey is ahead by a nose, so that's another one for the Problems To Work On this spring.

The oak barrel in the distance has a fig tree. I'm not thrilled with this fig but I can't bring myself to uproot it and toss it, so I'm doing the next best thing: ignoring it.

Another area I intend to work on: this willow used to be an upright specimen, as in straight up and down. Those pieces of wood on its trunk were steps for the kids so they could climb up it. Over a space of six years it's leaned further and further over, until we had to remove the swing, the rope ladder, and the float swing. Finally my husband decided to scalp it. My mum has a neighbour who did this to their willow and it looks quite beautiful now - like a small green fountain. I'm hoping that this one will rehabilitate similarly.

That blue painting is another one of my beach driftwood finds. That's a blue whale painted on the front.

When we moved here all the apple trees looked like this. Witches knots. I've been working on them, which has been quite slow because I had to learn all about pruning fruit trees at the same time. I started an espaliered fence, only to discover that I'd used two tip-bearing apple trees when I was supposed to use non-tip-bearing apple trees. Oh joy, I thought. I didn't even KNOW there were such things as non-tip-bearing apple trees.

Another view I'd like to work on this spring. I want the word ENTICE to come to mind when I look down this alley. Right now the word that comes to mind is SLANTED. Not the same thing, somehow.

And finally, a view to the west. The Garry oaks add a note of gravitas to the scene, don't they?

This has been a post to go along with Patient Gardener's End of Month View meme, which you can find at this link.