7 Jan 2014

A backward glance

First turn of the screw, all debts paid. I feel that sailor's saying would make a apt quote for the gardening new year. Last year's lessons learned, mistakes swept away, new seeds to buy, tools to sharpen and planting plans to consider. Wouldn't that be nice.

However. Rather than relaxing over the winter break, I've been busily been playing catch up in garden and home. Tulips have been planted in my parent's garden over christmas so my mum will have some spring colour to look forward to. She can't garden at all now but still takes an interest so I've been popping perennials and bulbs in when I visit.

Over a hundred tulips have also gone into the gardens here at York Rise. Our newly appointed Housing Officer likes everything in the garden to be neat and orderly. On her first visit, she had to be dissuaded from having the veg patch fruit trees chopped back into a nice neat shapes but our powers of persuasion didn't extend to the London Planes outside my window which are now birdless, ugly stumps and another mature, ivy clad tree (home to many little birds) has been felled because it leaned. For some reason she reminds me of Dolores Umbrage in the Harry Potter books.  Having safeguarded my fruit trees, I still feel the need to divert her attention and have started a plan of floral distraction with tulips, polyanthus, violas and bellis perennis. And, in due course, I'll also be planting my lettuces out in neat, but colourful, rows!

I don't have a 'garden shed' here so, falling in with the new regime, I've spent a few days moving piles of spare pots, cloches, netting, chicken manure, trug tubs and bags of compost up to the caretaker's hut at the opposite end of the flats … not exactly handy having to walk 150 metres to get a pot but, strangely, I'm rather enjoying the enforced tidiness.

College work continues apace - 5 garden elevations done before the break and another 2 garden designs to complete within the next few weeks … and an exam on garden history sometime in the coming weeks.

The seed box will be next - I'm watching Alys Fowler's 'Edible Garden' on YouTube and reading Charles Dowding's 'A Salad for all Seasons' to set the mood. Last year I didn't grow as much as I wanted to but a quick peek backwards reminds me that there were more than a few good bits of the good gardening life to gladden the heart and eyes:

In January we had a new apple tree, gifted from the London Orchard Project. This made our 9th fruit tree! The 'Core Blimey' apple has been specially bred to thrive in urban conditions and seems to have done well, despite the stakes and ties being removed by pranksters. (They'll have to be replaced as trees should be staked for the first 3 years.) It was planted into a long stretch of grass where several mature trees had previously stood - just before the snow descended.


February gave me the new experience of visting the London RHS shows where I met suppliers and brought home a tiny and very beautiful Chilean Guava which, sadly, did not make it through the year.


March, my birth month, shines out in my memory for the fabulous day out to Dixter where I met a few of my fellow garden bloggers. A deeply rewarding day on account of both the gardens and the people - bloggers and Dixter staff alike. We were lucky with the weather too, as snow and ice were lingering just 3 days beforehand but it was bright and clear for the trip. Earlier in the month, I'd been to Potato Day at the Garden Museum in Lambeth - another first that I'll be revisiting this year.


By the end of April, blossom had started to appear on the fruit trees, potatoes were planted and the first of my windowsill salad leaves were ready to be harvested. There was a quiet optimism that the endless weeks of winter might finally be over.


May! To me, this is always the month when the garden properly gets going - seeds sprout, corn and beans are planted out. This year, the fruit trees were smothered in blossom and, of course, there was the Centenary of the Chelsea Flower Show. Probably my favourite month of last year.


June was the 'almost ready' month. Everything was on the brink of ripening: raspberries, cherries, strawberries, redcurrants - even the pears and lemons looked like setting fruit (but didn't) and tiny apples and broad bean flowers were looking very promising. I did have an abundance of orach leaves and herbs to make up for it though!


By July, the garden was filling with flowers, fruit and veg… and so many strawberries, I had to make jam. This is the moment when I always want more and regret not being more organised around sowing and planting earlier in the year … now, there's a lesson to be learned.


August and September, although starting the slow decline into Autumn, brought me ripe tomatoes, tall and small sunflowers, corn, raspberries to the point of overkill, crisp Braeburn apples; there were Cape Gooseberries (physalis) until the plant got trampled by persons unknown.  I also returned to college to continue with the second year of the garden design course, this year concentrating on plants.  Bliss!


October was the month a wallaby appeared in our playground, causing huge excitement and media interest.  In the garden, the tomato fest finally drew to a close and the garden succumbed to an onslaught of nasturtium triffids and huge herbs. I also found the time to visit the RHS Harvest Festival in Westminster where I marvelled at the perfection of giant show veg and plates of perfect fruit (something to aspire to!)  and an end of season trip back to Great Dixter as an optional trip for my college studies. Inevitable comparisons were made with the gardens in spring; next year I must try and visit in the middle of the season as well!


Mild weather continued into November encouraging borage and cerinthe seeds to grow alongside the nasturtiums. A globe artichoke, nurtured from a seed, had grown too so I'm expecting great things from that plant next year and, after clearing the tomato plants, I rediscovered the perpetual rhubarb, grown from seed in early 2012 and took a few stems to try - delicious!  I also foraged for Japanese quince and learnt to make quince jelly and membrillo from the fruits.



And finally, into December, when a ground frost in the second week finally did for most of the nasturtiums and the big clear up and chop back began, tulips were planted, strawberry plants moved to another bed, tender herbs snuggled up for winter. And, after watching an Into Gardens video of Dawn Isaac from Little Green Fingers potting up her bulbs, I hastily ordered some paperwhite narcissus having discovered how easy they are to grow - something to look forward to in a few weeks!



And so, here we are. 2014. Somehow, despite omissions, 2013 was still a good year but, this year, I'm definitely putting squash, courgettes, calendula and carrots back into the veg beds. At least, that's the plan, but I've a feeling that a new batch of seed catalogues may tempt me into pastures new …


My apologies for the late posting of this look back over the year - it's taken an unbelievably long time to go through all my photos - the upshot of that, though, is that I've finally got round to updating the images in my blog banner - new for 2014!


22 comments:

  1. I'm always apprehensive of people like your Housing Officer who never seem to be in tune with nature.
    This post is a most enjoyable look back at last year. Let's hope that for all of us it's an even better one. Flighty xx

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    1. Glad you appreciate the problem, Flighty! I despair at people who have no enjoyment of nature and all that it bestows. However, with the current staff turnover rate at our housing association offices, I don't think she'll be in the post for long! And yes, I'm hoping for another good gardening year for us all! C xx

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  2. A lovely new blog banner Caro. Your Housing Officer sounds dreadful, I do hope she goes soon, before anything else is hacked about! I like your tip about watching Alys Fowler on YouTube. I was just thinking about that programme the other day and wishing I could watch it again - I found it so inspirational. So I shall have a look when I have a moment. I loved seeing your pictures from the year, they're a beautiful reminder of how the garden changes. And I'd forgotten about the wallaby! I do hope 2014 is a really good year for you. CJ xx

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    1. Thank you for all these lovely comments, CJ! Glad to have reminded you about Alys Fowler's Edible Garden series. Just realised I didn't put a link into my post, now amended! She inspires me so much as her garden is both beautiful and functional. Hoping that 2014 is a wonderful year for you and your family too! C xx

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  3. It was a good year wasn't it. Glad to have found your blog and wishing you all the very best for 2014.

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    1. Yes, I agree! Despite complaints at the time, nature produced the best fruit and plants this year but there's room for improvement here - more salad needed this year!! So pleased to have found you too, Rusty! Wishing you the very best for the coming year! Cxx

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  4. I really enjoyed looking back at 2013 with you, you have achieved so much in 12 months. Strange how some people feel that nature has to be neat and tidy and trees must be perpendicular! So glad you managed to save your fruit trees! Hope you have another good year in 2014.

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    1. Aww, thanks Pauline. I shall be keeping a very close eye on the Housing Officer - they all seem to want to make 'improvements' without getting to know the community first! Not helpful! I really miss the trees outside my window. The planes will grow back but I feel the need to plant more trees, maybe some fruit, in the gaps! The worst is not hearing the birdsong.

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  5. When you look at a review of your gardening year as a whole, it's been action packed. Let's hope that 2014 brings with it great things in the garden for us all. I hope your new Housing Officer doesn't cause too much grief.

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    1. Rather too action packed at times, Jo! I'd like 2014 to be the year of paced gardening so that I have time to enjoy rather than running to catch up! We all hope that the Housing Officer will be more hands off, especially where gardens are concerned!

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  6. I have been learning on gardening case that I found last year. I learn more from my failures. I'm glad that I have a lot of friends from all over the world, and they share me their gardening experience through their blogs (of course you be one of them!). I have no experience on growing so many sub tropics plants. So, I really love to learn it, more and more. Thanks Caro.

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    1. Endah, you are a true gardener - learning from mistakes is where we all get our most valuable lessons from! Thank you so much for counting me amongst your blog friends, we are a friendly bunch! Have a wonderful 2014, I look forward to reading more from you!

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  7. A lovely look back on your year. You can send the housing officer to my garden, I don't do neat & orderly, it will probably finish her off.

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    1. Haha! Love that last comment! In fairness, the veg patch garden was beginning to look like a personal allotment so was probably overdue for a small tidy up. She'll probably spontaneously combust when the weeds start growing back in spring!!

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  8. Very interesting post, Caro - worth the wait! :) I actually wish your Housing officer were in charge here in Fleet. I applied to remove the Crab Apple tree from outside my front door, because it blocks out my light, drops huge quantities of squashy fruit on my drive (and my neighbours'), is diseased and rather unlovely all round, but the Council wouldn't let me because it "adds amenity to the local are"! Best Wishes for 2014.

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    1. ooh - cheeky! I blame the photos! It took ages rummaging through as I always take too many and tried to find ones not seen before! :) I think you need to reframe your plight to the council, quoting health and safety - all those slippery crab apples!! Litigate! Such a shame as crab apple trees can be lovely but need pruning. The tree could easily be replaced with something less messy. Camden council have recently put a row of Amelanchier lamarckii in a nearby mews - should look glorious! They also threatened to chop a pear tree as the fruit could fall on someone's head and cause injury! Keep trying!

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  9. How lovely to see what you've been up to last year, and I have really enjoyed listening to how you are beginning to prepare for the coming year....maybe another blogmeet this year?
    Oh what an annoying woman....doesn't she understand that nature is not neat and tidy and there is no such thing as a straight line.....sighs....sorry anout the poor little tree. Enjoy your preparations and good luck with the exam.xxx

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    1. Ah thanks Snowbird. I love the start of a new year, so full of promise before the hard work begins! Another blog meet is on the cards for this summer, such fun - I really hope it comes off. I'm especially saddened at the loss of the leaning tree (the planes will regrow in one season) as that was where the bird feeders hung so I saw little tits and sparrows all day long. Thanks for exam good wishes!

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  10. Oh let's hope that Dolores is soon magicked off to another post Caro. You certainly had an eventful year with many pleasant memories to look back on. I hope that 2014 treats you, your loved ones and all the crops in York Rise kindly xxx

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    1. The staff turnover at the housing association is fairly rapid as the HOs are all overloaded with work so I suspect another few months should put things right. Although her zeal for tidiness does have a good effect elsewhere! It was lovely to look back over the year - there were some lovely memories and lovely friends made! Thank you for good wishes, Anna - I hope you know they're reciprocated! All the very best to you and yours! C xx

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  11. Oh dear - I sense a battle with a non-nature-centric official. Why do they give such jobs to people with no feel for it.? I'm glad that your fruit trees were spared.

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    1. I prefer a quiet life to a head on battle, Sue - hence the removal of all the compost and a good tidy up! Unfortunately housing officials seem to be employed on their willingness to get the job done rather than their empathy for the tenants and, I have to say, we've had worse! (Unbelievably.) If she touched my fruit trees, I'd really have to throw myself into the fray!

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Caro x

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