Yellow, Purple and White
Before moving here I lived in a suburban ground floor flat. It only had 3 rooms, that flat: one bedroom, a spacious living room with kitchen and a barely enough bathroom but the good thing of it was a 250 squared meters of garden along 3 sides of the building. The garden was the real reason why I choose that place. Soon I got rid of all the lawn and turned it in a gravel garden, placed a wooden deck in the middle, a dining set and a beach umbrella. It felt very cosy and sometimes I still miss that garden, I had more time to enjoy it because it needed less care than this new much bigger one (which is making me dream, though!).
The place was packed with plants of every sort, one each obviously, because I used to be a collector kind of gardener! And I was obsessed with colours: reds and oranges were strictly forbidden, pinks too close to yellows gave me some kind of itching on hands and so on…
Later I changed my mind, with a wider garden full of grasses that somehow dilute strong colours, I started allowing some hot colours in, like the beautiful red and orange heleniums that I now couldn’t give up, and above all I started to play with colours in a more relaxed way. Actually my garden is full of yellow, purple and white, in all their shades and this doesn’t bother me at all.
I also changed my impulses when I go to a nursery and buy stuff: I am more focused, I know what I want and I know I can’t buy only one plant per type because I often need at least 3. This habit, keeping in mind the budget does not change, drops considerably the number of species I bring home and helps me focus on the original design I had in mind, rather than having me wandering around the garden with a pot in hand. The only exception allowed is maybe in slightly different cultivars of a same species (this is something I’ve learned studying Oudolf’s blueprints): for example you want a small drift of echinaceas? Let’s consider you need at least 8 plants: first of all buy 7 or 9, because odd numbers works better than pairs, then buy maybe 3 shorter, or pinker, or larger, or whatever plants and 5 of another variety. That will give a more natural feeling to the planting, creates movement and shades of colours and will be more relaxing yet interesting for the eyes.
Another simple yet very important thing that I really learned is to keep space between plants. Yeah, a stupid rule, a very very simple one, that every gardener breaks uncountable times! Considering the adult size of a plant is essential when you place it, this allows the plant to really bulk up quickly and maybe even to selfseed around. And don’t cheat! Don’t use fillers because the ‘that gap is awful and meanwhile I have this annual in hand I don’t know where to put it and ok it could stay here for now’ excuse doesn’t work, the perennial will know you are cheating and will stop growing!
Last but not least, another simple thing, very useful if you work with heavy clay like I do: root washing. Nurseries always use very light and inconsistent soil, they don’t care if it dries out in a matter of seconds: they have irrigation. Nurserymen need to keep their pots light, so they can move stuff easily and they can drop transport costs when they sell plants via mail. They don’t care if the plant survive when you go home. So you take a bucket, you fill it with water, discard the pot and make… an instant ‘coffee’. That will untangle the roots and wash away the ash that nurserymen call soil, wet roots will then mix better with dry garden soil and will recover quicker from the transplant.
These are all the things I have learned lately, not a big deal apparently but I’m seeing big changes in how plants thrive and I am more pleased of my job in the garden.
Here is next lesson for me to learn: the vegetable garden. First of all I’m giving you real and tangible proof of the existence of our veggie garden, I’m not asking you to squint your eyes or use your fantasy today, I’m offering pictures of tomato plants, eggplants and salads. And believe it or not there also are zucchini plants and cucumbers with already baby zucchini and micro cucumbers, artichokes bulking up and chili peppers doing… well… pretty much nothing but they need more time. Indeed! There was a baby chili attached but some slug ate it… – dear slug, I hope your sticky mouth burn as hell, bitch! –
You can also see the pathways that Ale made from discarded materials (old bricks and plaster pillars, ghosts of the vineyard there used to be here), I love those paths, we don’t have raised beds but we have raised paths instead! 🙂
I also found a very clever way of having free bamboo sticks! Growing it? Oh, no, I don’t grow bamboos, I don’t trust bamboos. The better way to have bamboo sticks for free is to compel a relative or a friend (the only important thing is that they must live far away from you) that growing bamboo is actually the best thing they can do in that spare corner of their sad and ugly garden. Sometimes you pay them a visit and help them getting rid of all those bamboo canes that are growing everywhere – Hell, dad! I told you you should NOT water bamboo! – you might also get a free dinner in change of your help, as well as a load of bamboo canes. Easy, ain’t it?
Above you can also see a picture of some (well a lot actually…) sedum leaf cuttings I made, like Christina did a while ago and she already has her cuttings rooted! The other trays contain some echinaceas self sown around the garden, I want drifts of it, oceans of echinacea, so I’m trying to have them growing faster in a controlled blister with constant water and care.