Saturday, 27 May 2017

ever the optimist

Today I spent mostly pottering about in the greenhouse.  Originally it was just going to be for a couple of hours, before I went and planted yesterday's abandoned wheelbarrow of plants in the back garden, but then I kept going, apart from the interlude after I ran inside when it began to rain very hard and I remembered that I had left the bedroom window open and thought the rain would splash in and mark the top of the Shaker boxes that live on the chest of drawers under the window. Then instead of running back out again in the rain I ended up writing a reply to an email from my Japanese gardening friend.  This is how the hours vanish.  One minute you are potting on Papaver orientale seedlings, the next emailing Japan.

I am not sure why I had a tray of Papaver orientale 'Royal Wedding' seedlings.  Oriental poppies do well here, putting up happily with the light soil, and I see on the internet that 'Royal Wedding' is very attractive, white with a black central splotch, but why did I order a white one?  I ended up putting in three seed orders, one from Derry Watkins because she does such interesting plants, and one with Chiltern Seeds because they had some things that I wanted, and then a third with a friend's gardening club because I could get a discount, and she was keen to sign up as many takers as possible to make sure the club qualified for the full fifty per cent off (we did).  Perhaps at some point 'Royal Wedding' sounded appealing, or maybe the packet came free with a magazine.

Acinos alpinus was definitely bought on purpose.  A member of the same family as mint and oregano, it is a low grower with small leaves that look rather like thyme, and should have little purple flowers, attractive to insects.  After pricking out I had one and a third trays of seedlings, which had grown on into chunky plantlets with roots filling their modules.  I moved them on into seven centimetre pots with the intention of planting them out into the gravel of the railway garden once they have fully rooted into their new pots.  I don't want them sitting around in a cold frame until next year.  I don't have the space, and they look like the sort of thing that would quietly rot and die.  Sharp drainage, sunshine and fresh air is what I think they need.

Marrubium supinum, with the delightful common name of Scallop Shell Horehound, is another drought tolerant labiate.  If you have never heard of it under either guise I wouldn't be surprised.  I certainly hadn't, and if you Google it the first entries to come up are all from American nurseries. Alas, in north Essex it will not be graced by hummingbirds, but I look forward to it being cold, heat and drought tolerant and needing NO SUMMER WATER.  As the seedlings grew the leaves were bigger than I'd visualised, though attractive in a wavy, furry, felty way, but out of scale for the railway planting.  I potted on the seedlings anyway while wondering quite what to do with them, before inspiration struck and I thought they would do very well for ground cover by the entrance to the garden, where the soil was bad to begin with and worse after the remains of a bulk bag of builders' sand got dumped there, and they would be highly unlikely to receive any SUMMER WATER beyond what fell from the heavens.

At the moment the site is a muddle with two dead sea buckthorn, cause of death unknown, several odd fence posts from now defunct fencing schemes, a wooden anti rabbit gate long out of use and that you couldn't shut if you wanted to because brambles have grown through it, a lot of weedy grass growing back where I weeded it previously, and the dustbins.  Just as soon as I have a spare couple of days it will be transformed with a Buddleia alternifolia (so long as my investigations don't suggest the sea buckthorn died of honey fungus, but I'm working on the assumption it was lousy soil plus wind rock), ground cover (the Marrubium.  There is not going to be enough but with any luck it will seed itself), an art installation based on a quotation from Samuel Beckett, and maybe even a reed screen to hide the brambles and a box for the dustbins.  I will need the Systems Administrator's input for the latter, and indeed to install the installation, and to take the chainsaw to the dead buckthorn to save me having to do it by hand with the bow saw.  I have a roll of reed screen left over from something else, but we do not have anything to make a dustbin compound out of, unless the SA has got something stashed away, like the recycled pews that in the end yielded a set of steps and an auricula stand.  Actually, I know there are some oak planks down in the garage that were surplus to requirements when reflooring the study, but I suspect the SA would be resistant to the idea of using them for the dustbins.

You can see why the morning's potting took all day.  The task of sorting out the entrance that I blithely described as needing a couple of spare days is more like a week's project, when you go through all the things that need to be done.  There's about three square metres of cobble mulch that would need moving as well.  That's no light task.

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