I stocked up on bedding plants this Summer, helping out our local Scout group at the same time. The Cottage Garden Border would look fairly bare without some flowers to brighten it up and the begonias do a good job.
A while back I posted a blog titled Everything Is Broken. My large alpine bed was looking a tad sorry for itself and I was feeling fed up about it. I’m pleased to say, the new alpines I added have thrived and there is so much now that is pleasing to the eye. The original plants which had survived are also flowering (see below). I love the dramatic shapes and quirkiness of alpines.
Although not native to the Netherlands, historically, tulips became fashionable there among the rich during a period known as The Dutch Golden Age. The cost of bulbs reached extrodinary prices before collapsing. Today, the Netherlands is still the world’s main producer of commercially sold tulips.
In my cottage garden border, the tulips put on a brilliant Spring show. They definitely took centre stage, nudging out the other more demure flowers. But their petals have faded and their time is definitely over, making way for the Summer blooms.
Under the name The Gingerbread Tree, my brother Philip Davenport and I have collaborated over the years on art and music. Recently, we’ve been delving into our back catalogue, making choices about what to do with all that we’ve amassed.
One project is collages which Phil and I have been working on for at least twenty-five years. Inside our book The Practical Senior Educator, collages are layered from a variety of materials: medical notes, letters from friends and record companies, adverts ripped out of glossy 80’s magazines, wedding invitations; all assembled then dismantled by Philip and myself. It’s not just art, it’s a pasted testament to the microscopic fragments of our lives. It’s a comment on history with torn-up photos dripped in candle wax, pictures of rock stars and half-burnt promotions from yesteryear cramming the pages. It’s a project that never stops. We’re still altering its content now, we probably always will.
The Practical Senior Educator will be in an exhibition this month called Understanding The Ritual at The Storey in Lancaster. Curated by innovative artist Pete Flowers, The Gingerbread Tree will appear alongside the iconic Gaye Black (formally Gaye Advert of punk band The Adverts) and, renowned poet Jerry Rothenberg. Other select artists include: Adam Gregory & Gillian Jane Lees, Darren Andrews, Geoff Parr, Kate Eggleston-Wirtz, Sally Slade Payne, Sue Flowers and Sumit Sarkar.
For Phil and I, finding ways and places to show the content of this unique book is the start of another journey.
Collages: “Girl Column” (circa 1990), “Bad Flowers for Baudelaire” (right) (circa 1989), “The Pond in April” (2000)
THE PRACTICAL SENIOR EDUCATOR, by The Gingerbread Tree (circa 1990)
Every day there is something new to see in the garden; more flowers opening, the trees bushing up, heavy with blossom. I am not familiar with the names of everything, particularly the flowers and shrubs I didn’t plant myself. There is no end to learning when it comes to gardening. I make mistakes all the time; the clematis I didn’t think would make it through Winter is now dripping in blooms. The three spiky Cordyline australis I planted in the patio beds, looked straggly following the colder months. Maybe I should have protected them from the frost after all. But now I’ve shifted them into the cottage garden border and they give a definition that was lacking here before. That’s the great thing with gardening, its like working on a piece of art that is never finished, that can always be improved upon.
When I planted up the larger alpine bed last Summer, I optimistically anticipated the majority of plants would spread. That has not been the case and, quite a number did not last the Winter; as you can see from the picture, the bed was disappointingly sparse once I’d weeded, with Sedum makinoi and Sempervivum being two of the few alpines that are thriving, along with the silver-blue grass Festuca glauca. Some plants I added too late in the year; perhaps they were more vulnerable to the change and, then to frost. At least the Mares Tails (Equisetum arvense) are not as prolific as they once were which, I am delighted about. Removing them was a back-breaking and time-consuming task. With the bed tidied, I headed to the garden centre to buy more alpines (right photo). I am hopeful these ones do better as I selected only those marked as hardy. At the moment they look very pretty, contrasting against gold-coloured gravel.
Dan mentioned he’d been chucking the dregs from his early morning cafettiere onto the garden. Noting my look of displeasure, he insisted that, ”It’ll do the plants good.” Hmmmm…But with Google at my disposal, I’ve discovered he is, in fact, at least partly correct. According to various forums on the subject, coffee adds acidity to the soil which, the majority of garden plants prefer.
Further in my research, I find out it is less certain whether putting coffee grounds straight into the soil is beneficial; the over-riding opinion seems to be it’s better to install a compost heap/bin and add the coffee to that where it will be properly broken down. (However, at least one poster claims that mulching roses directly with coffee grounds increases the blooms.) We have been considering getting a compost bin for a while; in fact, I can’t believe we haven’t sorted one out yet. I shall add that to my never-ending To Do list.