Category Archives: gardening

Noxious Weed; A Bad Poem

Montbretia-corms

image from weedsbluemountains.org

Some people call it Montbretia
Crocosmia’s it’s other name
It reproduces under the ground
From corms which have no shame

So when you pull up the visible plant
And throw it in the bin
The parent produces baby corms…
It’s a fight you’re unlikely to win.

Some say a strong dose of Glysophate
May possibly do the trick
But although I despise the atom bomb
I say the answer’s to nuke it.

This terrible poem was inspired by today’s gardening, and this useful and informative website: http://www.weedsbluemountains.org.au/wom_montbretia.php.

In the United States the Monbretia is recognised as a noxious weed. As such it may not be sold, propagated or knowingly distributed. How I wish it were so in this country. A few years ago somebody deliberately planted it all over the garden I am working on. This person was actually given an allowance of £100 a year, and she spent some of that money on Montbretia!

There is also mint at the back of the border. That will have to go into a pot before it tries to take the place of the montbretia. There’s wild garlic in the bit around the corner, and I wonder whether that was planted deliberately. Delicious though it is, an ornamental garden is not the right place for it. However, I may try potting that up too. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover a patch of Japanese Knotweed tucked away somewhere, – although, having said that, its not a particularly shy plant, and if there was any, it would be inviting itself into the neighbors’ living rooms  by now, and drinking their coffee while they sleep.

I have collected lots of plants to put into the garden. I’m now wondering whether it’s a good idea at the moment, as I doubt that all the montbretia corms are gone, and if not, they’ll just choke my sweet babies.

On a more positive note, I’ve been informed that, subject to the approval of some committee or other, I will also receive £100 a year to puchase plants. Well, I’m more likely to spend that on seeds and potting compost!. Even if I had a fondness for buying ready-grown plants, that money wouldn’t go far.

In addition, the supervisor of the care team says that if I plan to get special educational needs residents on board, she’ll organize fund-raising for additional tools.Now all I need is to get said SEN residents interested!

© Jane Paterson Basil

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Gardening. Day 2

An image of how I would like my border to look. So beautiful! But it will never resemble this garden, because it contains too many Azaleas. 

I spent several happy hours in my sister’s garden today, and by the time I left, her herbaceous border was weeded and thinned out, and I had loads of stock to plant in ‘my’ garden, so we were both happy. I’d offered to keep her garden tidy, and she’s now had a good first installment of that promise, but I’m not sure whether I’ll have the time to keep up with it, because my garden is quite large. It’s in two parts. At the moment I’m working on the strip in front of the building, but there’s another strip at the side of the block, and it carries on along the back. This area is also very public, so it’s important to try and get the whole of it in order. There’s also a private garden for the residents to sit in which probably needs work, but I haven’t even looked at that properly.

We have some younger residents with special educational needs, and I may try and encourage them to help me. People with educational difficulties are often undervalued, and because of that they sometimes believe they have no use. I volunteer in an Oxfam shop, and one of Oxfam’s policies is to encourage so called ‘disadvantaged’ people to help in their shops, where they can learn valuable skills and feel like valuable members of society, perhaps for the first time in their lives. I would like to offer the residents a similar opportunity. I’d also be genuinely glad of some help.

Maybe we could get a cold-frame at some point, and be allocated a space for seed sowing, who knows? Growing plants from seed brings a real sense of achievement and satisfaction. I have seen wonderful transformations in individuals as a result of working in community gardens. maybe this garden can make a positive difference in somebody’s life.

It would be nice to grow vegetables… 

But I mustn’t get ahead of myself. I’ll make more of an effort to spend time in the community room, and properly get to know people. An old friend of nearly 40 years standing has been living here for several years. She knows all of the residents and is close to a couple of the women with special educational needs. I may have a quiet word with her in the next week or two.

© Jane Paterson Basil

The Gardening Has Begun

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I have finally started tidying the public garden that runs around this block of flats. I promised before/after photographs, but I’ve let everyone down on that score. I felt self-conscious enough going out there with my hand-fork, let alone taking photographs to pull out later and use to prove what an amazing gardener I am. So instead I’m adding images which I have borrowed from Getty Images, such as this one which has no bearing whatsoever on this post.

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I’ve worked in gardens which are overlooked by the public before, but it never bothered me, because, whether the garden was my own, or one that I was employed to work on, I felt confident in the knowledge that I belonged there. However, this is a job for which I volunteered. Nobody knows anything about me. For all they know I could be completely ignorant about plants. 

The garden contains a lot of roses, and quite a few azaleas in various colours, which, although they’re not favorites of mine, look bright and cheerful at the moment.

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After a few hours out there I feel more self-assured, as the staff and residents lost no time in making it clear to me that they have complete faith in my abilities,

As anyone who has undertaken a job of this nature will know, the hardest part of the job is carrying on working – without appearing unfriendly – while everybody in the neighborhood stops to talk to you.

My first job is to clear the pesky montbretia (crocosmia x crocosmiaflora) which has claimed large swathes of the border, crushing out many less robust plants, and probably killing some off completely. While this is an attractive plant, my recommendation is to steer clear of it unless it’s the only plant in the whole world that you find attractive.

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I make exceptions with some of the cultivars, for example crocosmia Lucifer, a large, showy specimen that brings fire to a display. It doesn’t expand so fast, and is worth doing battle with occasionally, because of its exceptional beauty. Maybe I’ll try and find some.

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Although so many plants have been swallowed up by the crocosmia, some attractive perrennials such gladiolus communis, and a lovely royal-blue iris have survived.

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Because so many plants have been swallowed up by the crocosmia, I need to put in replacements. I’ll wander around the gardens of friends and family, and beg bits off them. One of my daughters has too much cranesbill, and another has a lovely penstemon which has grown too bushy.

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My sister’s garden is stuffed with plants which she wants to get rid of, so that she can grow more veg. I’m going to see her tomorrow to desecrate her garden take some unwanted plants off her hands. She has all sorts of lovely perrennials, most of which were originally put in by me.

The sun is shining and today I feel fully alive.

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© Jane Paterson Basil

The Flower Border

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There is a flower border around the block of flats that I have moved into. It is supposed to be maintained by the landlord, but although the residents pay for the upkeep of the garden, the landlord doesn’t keep it tidy.

It beckons me over, with its ill-pruned shrubs and overcrowded crocosmia, its badly positioned Cerinthe.

The garden was not created from love, but purely to give the residents something
reasonably attractive to look at.

Over the years efforts have been made to pull out the weeds and keep it tidy, but nobody has ever tried to make it the most beautiful flower border in this town.

It would be unfair to call it ugly. It contains some quality shrubs, and although they would not have been my choice, I’m sure I can work around them.

As I pull out my hand-fork and secateurs I think about the creeping buttercups, the unwanted wild garlic and the dock. I think about the gaps that they will leave, and what I could plant to replace them. My fingers itch.

The garden is in a promonent position. People walk past it all day long. They will watch me, talk to me and about me. They will ask me what I am doing. They may even try to give unwanted advice.

I will feel intimidated – embarrassed.

They will slow me down with their friendly talk.

After a while they will begin to see the difference. They will utter sounds of surprise and praise me.

I gave away my rake, spade and fork. I will need to replace them. I will need something to put the weeds into.

There are people with special educational needs who live in this block of flats. I could try to enlist their help and teach them as they work.

I will plant Echinacea, Veronica and Salvia, and lavender to attract butterflies and bees. I will put in self-seeding poppies and foxgloves. I’ll have blocks of Scabious, Cornflower, Snapdragons and Wallflowers – lots of old-fashioned planting to please the elderly residents.

I will reserve an area near the main entrance for rosemary, chives, sage, oregano and thyme. I’ll sink a bucket into the soil and plant mint. The residents will have fresh herbs for culinary use.

Tomorrow I will talk to the House Supervisor about the tools I will need.

Next week I will begin the work.

© Jane Paterson Basil