Life in London, Plants and garden
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Primary Productivity

Also known as ‘English Country Garden’.

Part I.

If I’m completely honest, I had some pretty grand ideas for this blog post, most of which involved my step-cat (my housemate’s cat who views me as a step-mother that she has to, at best, tolerate, and at worst, fear).

Unfortunately, the cat did not want to participate, so you’re mostly going to get flowers and bugs.

It’s not that Ella the Cat doesn’t like the garden. In fact, if I was the type of person who liked to list my cat’s hobbies (hey, there’s still a good few months of quarantine still ahead of me), I would argue that ‘gardening’ is one of Ella’s.

Before you judge me too harshly, here is some photographic evidence.

I’m not weird, you’re weird.

The problem with the whole ‘Ella in the Garden’ photography plan, is that Ella’s other hobby, undoubtably, is ‘being anxious’.

The garden itself is always slightly threatening, especially when the space is populated by other cats, squirrels, or, even worse- Moths!

But on a normal day Ella is willing to gather her courage and venture outside to spend a few minutes eating grass and hiding from her enemies.

However,  people being in the garden with her makes her very nervous. 

This photo is taken from the kitchen doorway. Can you see the pure terror in her eyes?

The only explanations we can come up with for this behaviour is that

  1. she thinks we are going to go inside and lock her out
  2. she doesn’t want the other cats seeing her with her uncool neighbours.

Anyway. Less about the cat and my mental state. More about the garden.

The garden was in a bit of a chaotic state when I arrived, and mostly owned by blackberries and nettles. My housemate (and her boyfriend) and I have since spent some time fixing it up a bit, although it’s still not perfect.

Here’s a before photos… although in the garden’s defence, it was also taken in English Winter, which is always going to be depressing.

Note Ella once again ‘boldly going’.

We mostly worked on pulling up blackberries, redefining the side areas as ‘garden beds’, adding some much needed top soil, and bringing in pots (that my mum rescued from a skip!), and adding a bit of furniture.

I guess I might do a more detailed view of the whole thing at some point, but right now I mostly just feel like showing some flowers.

First up is the anemones and ranunculi.

Note the vine trying to strangle the little guy, and the fly that was intent on being in shot (I kept shooing it away, it kept on coming back).

As you can see, things are only just beginning. I bought a tonne of bulbs, both in store and later online. Unfortunately, the first batch were pretty much completely destroyed by squirrels, who- apart from digging and destroying generally- also went so far as to actually decapitate my irises.

We ended up switching to the ‘inside first’ method, where Ella guards the developing plants in the safety of her living room, and we only release them into the wild once they look large enough to survive general squirrel trampling.

I also tried a few different deterrent methods, including putting pine tarsol (a smelly liquid) on the soil, and building tiny stick fences and cages to protect the plants.

If anyone has tried and tested methods, please let me know for next year.

Anyway, the two photos above are taken only one day apart, so I’m pretty convinced that something good is going to happen.

Anyway, while we’re in the Ranunculaceae family, let’s check out a lovely clematis.

This guy sprang happily from the ground once the weather got warm, so I can only assume that our landlord (who used to live here) planted it deliberately many years back.

I encouraged it to climb a kind of trellis, and it’s now making it’s way over out neighbour’s fence- a kind of unfair exchange given that they seem intent on constantly throwing cigarette butts (ew) and wet wipes (ew ew!) over the fence to us.

Also… Dahlias:

 

I guess I bought this lot as a pack of mixed bulbs when I first arrived, because I’m not as excited about dahlias as a flower.

Still, I’m pretty excited by whatever is going on here:

Black. Dahlia. (*)

I also planted a tone of sunflowers, including some that should have deep red flowers…

As it turns out, sunflowers seem to be both hated by squirrels (they snapped them at the stem), and loved by snails:

But we finally have a few that look like they might make it to flower…

I have no idea what these are called, but they were also a deliberate plant by my landlord.  Also currently one of the few things in the ‘bottom garden’ that doesn’t look like absolute chaos.

For the last few months, and throughout the cleaning process, I’ve been pointing at a dead-looking bush on the edge of the garden section and saying ‘don’t remove that one, that’s my favourite, good things are coming!’.

I’m not sure my housemate really believed, me, and anyway, it seems that the bush in question grows like a weed in our area. But she let it be, and now it’s flowered.

Butterfly bushes (buddleia) are one of my favourite plants in the world. I quite like the look of the flowers, although honestly, I find the normal pale purple and white varieties a bit bland (deep purple for the win).

But what I really love is the smell.    

If you get the chance, I strongly encourage you to go stick your nose in one of these.

Although probably check that someone else didn’t get there first:

I kind of enjoyed this bee, who was actually annoying the butterfly- constantly getting in its personal space and making it flick its wings around.

This guy was also ‘in the vicinity of’ the bush, but preferred to warm itself on the bricks.

Apart from the pretty pretty flowers, our garden aims were to get something edible.

Tomatoes:

(Which were probably too late to give us fruit..)

Zucchini…

 

… full of flowers. Which I know are technically edible, but as a giant lover of zucchini itself, I’m pretty happy to wait for the harvest:

… and my favourite, Kale:

 

I’m incredibly grateful to have a garden, especially in covid times. Apart from giving us a space to be outdoors but still away from people, it’s also given us a nice sense of productivity, and has allowed us to track the changing seasons in this weird ‘groundhog day’ world we currently live in.

 

 

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