Please see my feed: @thepengegardener for daily updates on projects, seasonal planting and tasks, design ideas and other stuff that catches my eye.
As of July 2017 ‘thepengegardener’ is posting horticultural updates every working day. So see Instagram for inspirational planting schemes and ideas for your garden. My clients and neighbours are a wonderful resource!
Just a quick update to show how the garden extension is doing, and to show what is thriving in the heatwave – unsurprisingly nasturtiums, fuschias and pelargoniums. More surprisingly two lots of neglected roses have many buds and blooms, and the tiny white anemone I grew from a cutting is flowering for the first time.
Due to being on a water meter I have to keep lawn watering to a minimum, so it will have to stay patchy for the moment.
I had been considering extending onto the waste ground at the side of the house, and one Sunday when I found a couple of spare hours, I went for it.
So, as of 3 April, the old fence is down, ground cleared and levelled and fence going up tomorrow. Pond and aquatic plants purchased, plus I acquired a couple of small conifers and some bulrushes from a kind neighbour on PTB who was giving them away.
In the established part of the garden I have had narcissi and primroses, and tulips and Chaelonomes are currently in bloom.
My Clematis armandii is finally established, and should look even better next year.
Finally I am just sharing these black hyacinths because they are so stunning. Was never a fan of hyacinths but these are so dramatic (planted by me but chosen by a client) I will definitely plant some this autumn, probably mixed in with white double headed narcissi that I have noticed this year.
Although I am from an artistic family (my grandfather taught at Liverpool School of art, and my cousin Hugh Miller is an oil painter) I didn’t do art at school. Then, when doing my horticulture course, during the plants idents I would always draw the plants on display as a way to memorise their characteristics. This led to a couple of botanical illustration courses, and then a local life drawing class which I love. I also draw animals when I can. I like to think gardening is part of this same creative process – particularly when selecting plants for a bedding scheme for example, thinking about colour, foliage, texture and harmony as part of the overall design. I will be studying a drawing for garden design in the summer term, as I need to improve my garden plan sketches.
Finally, I have always enjoyed photography, and although I haven’t got round to taking any courses yet, I always try and think about the composition first, and generally try to avoid any editing or retouching – probably a slightly old fashioned approach. Hope you enjoy this selection of pictures.
This was my office this Saturday morning – my ‘naturalised’ narcissi are finally flowering in the gorgeous spring garden of clients who have become friends…But during the week I still work part-time in a hospital lab, and am hoping to reduce my hours there to two days a week. Update 12/10/16: At the moment I am available for gardening Saturday – Tuesdays. This will hopefully include Fridays in the new year, and all week from March 2017.
I gave this blog post a neutral title because I want readers to make up their own minds. However, I think it is a terrible shame that people continue to rip up their front gardens, not just for off-road parking, but because they appear to be uninterested in plants, gardening, or the environment. And by ‘environment’ I mean the immediate surroundings of their property and neighbourhood, and also in the wider ecological sense. I believe if people are lucky enough to have their own space outside the front door, they could at least do something to make that area look pleasant, and also provide environmental benefits, eg providing soil for rainwater absorption and therefore reducing the risk of local flooding.
I guess many people are put off by the perceived time, effort, knowledge and expense involved in establishhing and maintaining a garden, but a patch of lawn and a few hardy shrubs can pretty much look after themselves – and a decent local garden centre can advise you what to purchase and plant.
All the above photos were taken in the south London neighbourhood where I am based…
1. What a contrast. I guess the area in the foreground is owned by people who want to be able to park their car close to the front door. Next door’s garden contains a wonderful selection of mature palms, shrubs and grasses, which will only require periodical pruning, and perhaps a bit of compost in the autumn. This sort of planting also serves as a more attractive alternative to net curtains.
2. Why?? Another guess is these residents wanted something contemporary looking and low maintenance. Personally I think all that slate looks a bit grim, and the small olive tree an insufficient focal point. As the garden is not an attractive feature I wonder why they didn’t just create a partking area, like their neighbours. Actually it may be that this is the sort of job done by people who want a quick makeover so estate agents can describe the space as a front garden and therefore add a few £££ to the value of the property.
3. I just don’t understand this one. Perhaps the ‘P’ stands for parking. But the pathway entrance is too narrow for a car. It will remain a mystery.
4. Two things here: a) I have so many clients who say the previous owners/ my previous gardener put down this mesh to keep the weeds at bay. Well after a few months it tears and perishes, soil is blown over the top and weeds push through. b) A small selection of natural bark chips can serve a purpose – but an expanse of red ones? A lawn would be fine here, in this sunny corners, especially as it is not big enough to serve as a parking space.
As I write this on a bus on the A40 passing endless residential forecourts, my conclusion is even a small shrub bed, some roses in containers, or even a conifer or two – just a dash of green would make all the difference. And there are hardy low maintenance shrubs and flowers, very reasonably priced, all with care instructions attached, available at your local garden centre, Homebase or even Aldi now.
I just cannot stop photographing these amazing creatures. The news reports do appear to be accurate – there are huge numbers of enormous spiders around. I had the priviledge of watching Spider no. 2 adding another strand to its web which stretches right across the garden (at head height). The thread is so strong I haven’t broken it yet, despite walking into it several times a day.