The “big picture” this month may be colourful but I’ll be talking about the opposite!
At the Allotment
Having decided to go over to the no-dig system last year with a couple of beds would now like to extend this to the whole plot. Now at the end of the first season the transformation is not yet complete. I had to “mine” internet articles a bit to get information that suited my situation. Finally I found it in the really useful article linked below at the foot of this section.
Many no-dig writers may have started with far better soil than mine. The number of stones I have, the presence of Alder trees (happy to grow with wet feet) and the proximity of a shallow river suggest my plot was once part of a river bed. The soil is heavy clay, difficult to work but a very good one to have if you regularly add organic matter. Actually it is quite difficult to get organic matter in sufficient quantities and my soil is a bit depleted in parts.
To take a look at my plot it did not look at all like a complete transformation to no-dig. (Followers of this blog will know that I am using a combination of no-dig and lasagne gardening – which means I use sheets of cardboard to use as a cover before adding mulch.) The link below was very helpful in suggesting that some people, especially those with intractable soils, may need three years to convert and I think that covers my situation, especially as I have been doing it section by section.
So now I have the key to my autumn/winter work on the plot – repetition. Except that it has rained almost every day in October so am very behind with any work at all.
Once I have converted the plot, and I understand there will be a lot of weed suppression taking place, then the major concern will be amassing sufficient quantities of organic matter.
There were some fleeting compensations in the waterlogged October that beset us for virtually the entire month in this south eastern corner of the UK.
Not long after I started this blog I decided to start learning about photography in a quest to produce better pictures. The course I am currently doing requires getting plenty of practise and going out and about to take pictures. So have been trying to fit this in every time the rain stopped which wasn’t often. Obviously, cameras and rain don’t mix!
I always thought black and white photography would probably be uninteresting and was surprised to find how much I liked it, but I do think you have to choose your subjects carefully. I like it because black and white photography reveals tones and textures never really noticed before.
What has Black & White photography to do with gardening?
More than you might think. Clearly, we don’t live in a monochrome world but, living as we do in the Northern hemisphere, neither do we exist in a 12-month-long blaze of colour. My ideal garden is one full of all-year-round interest. One way of achieving this during periods when colour is limited to dullish green and brown is by focusing on tones and textures – after all human beings find it almost irresistible not to touch things they like the look of – ever had itchy fingers in a museum when you see a Do Not Touch sign?
Think of decorative stone planters like the one in the above picture, surrounded by brick laid in a pattern and with an edging of small stones – the textural abundance sets off the arresting form of the Yucca with its sharply pointed swords – plenty to catch your interest there.
I enjoyed the article linked below which describes the theory of tone and texture in the garden in detail and tells how to avoid a wrong look by carefully weighing the effect on plants of distance of viewing. Dividing the textures into coarse (large leaves like my favourite fig tree leaf)
and the magnificent leaves of Acanthus mollis and Acanthus spinosa (also known as Bear’s Breeches) medium – which makes up the majority of plants and fine – my favourites in that section are bronze fennel, the smaller ferns and the brilliant Erigeron karvinskianus that offers a massed halo of tiny daisies the entire summer long.
Plants offer a huge range of leaf type and by grouping these by design you can add more drama to the garden.
Plant details –
Fig trees are deciduous plants that have been cultivated in warm climates for thousands of years in an area extending from Asiatic Turkey to northern India, but natural seedlings grow in most Mediterranean countries. It certainly can be grown, in a sheltered spot e.g. next to a south facing wall, in the south of England or alternatively in a container that can be brought indoors after leaf fall.
Acanthus spinosa and Acanthus mollis are native from Italy to western Turkey but are sufficiently robust to grow happily in England. In the summer they produce 1 metre long spikes of white and mauve flowers.
Jasminum Officinale Fiona Sunrise is a deciduous climbing hardy shrub. This is an exceptionally attractive Chinese variety of this scrambler with intense golden foliage and in summer very fragrant white flowers. It grows happily in England.
Erigeron karvinskianus is a perennial that forms wide mounds ca. 20cm in height. The daisy flowers open white and quickly turn pinkish-purple. Grows happily in containers and is very hardy.
So as we go into the season of minimal colour give some thought to the tones and textures in your garden. You will probably have to wait until warmer weather to make changes but now is the time of year you can be reading up about the topic and planning ahead.
This time last year
As well as having discovered Gardening Which’s recommendation to grow onions from seed rather than sets which this year resulted in me having the most successful onion crop ever (thank you Gardening Which), I was also talking about the wild woodland or Musk strawberry, Fragaria moschata, that I had first noticed used as a very effective and good-looking ground cover under trees in Copenhagen Botanic Garden (above). These were two major successes when I used them.
I had a client at the time with a medium sized Cornus florida ‘Cherokee Chief’ tree. One of the family members was from America and she had loved this tree in her childhood at home and was not thrilled to find that here it suffered from mildew every summer. I started a regime of spot watering this tree weekly every summer and added the strawberry ground cover to seal in moisture. The plants rapidly covered the soil surrounding the tree and the mildew did not reoccur.
Fragaria moschata is a native European strawberry species, the plants are hardy and can survive in most weather conditions and are cultivated commercially on a small scale. It doesn’t seem to do much in the way of fruit production.
Some more tones and textures –
Thanks for reading – do get in touch with any questions, comments or suggestions. Cheerio from Rosanna.
Interested in design in the garden? Take a look at these posts too –