Hello again gardeners and welcome back – having wondered at the end of my last post what the weather had in store for us we now know – a pick and mix of sun and extreme heat, deluged by rain, occasional evening chill and strong, blustery winds. No prizes for guessing where this month’s big picture comes from. In a week with a fine weather forecast I took the opportunity to spend a couple of half-days taking photographs in Crystal Palace Park. I really enjoyed both sessions and over my flat white from the very good café I had a go at analysing why the atmosphere in the park was so stimulating. This could be transferrable to gardens, I thought. I haven’t yet forgotten the search for inspiration when designing gardens. Would love to hear from you in the comments section with any questions you may have.
An entrance with impact is a good start – the one I used to get into Crystal Palace park – the Thicket Road entrance – had a colourful display of annuals in several green wooden planters outside the gate.
As I walked around with my camera I noticed a lot of the activity around me, young Mums and babies or toddlers heading across the park to the childrens’ playground or simply going for a walk – fathers with small children too, dog walkers; their animals meeting and greeting their own species, cyclists in some areas, runners and joggers (apparently there is a regular park run) and older people on brisk walks. The park was being purposefully used by all the generations.
There were, that now rare service, public toilets (albeit lower end of adequate) and a café with excellent coffee. I joined the several people sitting outside the café having breakfast in the early morning sun, some were clearly working from home with laptops. One chap, clearly combining two tasks, couldn’t get on with his work as people, including me, kept asking him questions about the gorgeous Labrador pup tied to his leg. Stopping for something to eat or drink and toilets are perhaps especially important to small children and older people – and me.
Most activity is concentrated around the entrance I used with the lake a few hundred metres to the left. But if it’s a quiet walk you’re after then turning right after the entrance brings you onto a number of lawns surrounded by mature trees that stretch all the way to the transmitter and for a while you can’t even hear the traffic.
So long ago that it seems like a previous incarnation I used to give conducted walks around this park, telling the history, for the Crystal Palace Foundation. They have input into the Crystal Palace Museum which is another interesting place for visitors to the park. See http://www.crystalpalacemuseum.org.uk for opening hours. It was about seven years since I had been around the park for anything other than the briefest of walks and I was pleasantly surprised to find it had not been allowed to get out of date. The old prefab café was now a pleasant new building and there were many new explanatory boards giving information about the dinosaurs which have probably always been the park’s major draw for children. These would be a good aid to answering childrens’ questions. One I read explained that some of the dinosaur models were not seen as accurate today; created in 1854 the biological understanding of such creatures has been changed since by more recent fossil finds.
How then does this translate into your own garden?
1. Impact at the entrance – signify to all your visitors the house ends here and a fabulous garden begins. Annual bedding plants in jewel-like colours will do it but you may need to be very imaginative if the entrance is via a dark and narrow alleyway. Something to think about and plan over the winter.
2. My starter question to garden design clients was always who are the garden users and, surprisingly, this aspect escapes many people. Watching so many people whose needs were clearly accommodated in Crystal Palace Park reminded me of it. In your garden you may have to consider the needs of children (safety for example), animals, elderly visitors or residents (safety again) as well as the garden’s appearance and all the plants you love. As a child I lived in a large house with parents and a grandparent and there were often disagreements about garden use. Almost everyone also has to consider the necessities of washing lines, dustbins and compost bins. With some planning these can be made to disappear behind vigorous climbers or shrubs. Always best to iron out the various users’ needs at the outset.
3. Also consider the comfort of the generations. Is there somewhere to sit for older people who often don’t like baking in the sunshine. Do you need more than one seating area to maintain shade at different times of day? Is it possible to create zones in the garden so the adults don’t get whacked by balls? Zoning is a good plan in a multi use garden and the ways of separating zones are many; it can also help with hiding the things you don’t want on show.
Finally is your garden up to date? Fashions change in gardens as in anything else. If you are a regular garden visitor you are probably already on top of this and, if not, a good gardening magazine will help.
My plant of the month
Now is the time of year when there are plenty of plants still giving a good display but there isn’t much that is just coming out. Let me introduce you to Liriope, if you don’t already know it, because it starts to flower through August and September. You couldn’t ask for a more trouble-free performer, a vigorous grower (in some areas considered invasive)
This evergreen perennial looks much like a wide-leaved grass until it sends up dense lavender coloured spikes (to about 30cm) followed by black berries. Happy in sun or partial shade it makes an excellent border edging (plant 30cm apart). My own favourite use for it is in a planter by the front door. It has been in the planter for about 18 months and I shall thin it out at around 3 years. Grows in sandy or clay soil but soil must be well drained. The leaves can be sheared to the ground in late winter/early spring to keep the plant neat and it will sprout again from the crown.
Even more attractive is the variegated version with wide leaves with a light green centre and whitish edge.
Garlic spray revisited
Garlic spray is a an environmentally acceptable way to deal with a number of garden pests now that so many products are being removed from the market. Lois Kirby, who like me makes her own garlic spray, left a comment at the end of my August post and we started an exchange of emails that led me to do some research. She was worried that adding oil to the mixture would affect the plant’s ability to transpire and I remembered hearing that commercial garlic spray was oil based.
A tablespoon of oil in a large amount of water will not affect the plant. Many oils, like Neem oil, are used horticulturally. I found a years-old experiment where all the leaves of a plant were coated with Vaseline. Transpiration was certainly affected by this extreme example and the plant quickly sickened.
It seems that while home-made garlic spray is made from garlic and water, commercial garlic spray appears to be pressed, like olive oil, and the resulting oil diluted. It is also very expensive. As Lois had guessed it is the dilution that is key.
Some people are confused by the various names given to the parts of garlic. For me the item on the left is a head or bulb of garlic the item on the right is a clove. I worked with a woman who always used a whole bulb in her cooking as she thought that was a clove. Tasty food!
Goodbye until next time, don’t forget if you have a question or a comment I’d love to hear from you so do get in touch via the comments section at the end of posts. Happy gardening.