Saturday, 8 November 2014

Garden rejuvenation

It's looking very bland outside now and I'm loving it. It may sound strange for a gardener to admit that but I love, love, love this time of year, not only do I get to prune, chop and tidy everything up ready for next year but I get a better idea of what is right and what is wrong with the garden.
Already I can see that I need more evergreen interest and structure in the garden so this is something I'm going to be getting ready for spring planting - so exciting!
The time has also arrived whereby I can begin to clear and plan the second half of my garden that I was supposed to do this year.
I'm not sure of the actual size of this part of the garden as I'm too lazy to measure it (so you can well imagine how good/reliable my plans are going to be), suffice to say it's pretty big.

Unfortunately I have to carry the theme on from the rest of the garden which is already pretty much finished. I say 'unfortunately' because I made the biggest mistake of designing what was easiest NOT what I wanted, I ended up with straight edges finished with sleepers whereas I love curvy beds where you cannot see what is coming next.

As it stands right now it may not look too daunting but the very far end and side is full of plants and weeds and it's going to take a whole heap of hard work for me to sort it, not least because I first have to remove a ton of gravel and polythene that was laid years ago to supposedly suppress weeds - who knew weeds germinate in gravel.

It's going to take wuite some time to work out what is salvageable in that lot and what isn't.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

DIY concrete planter

I seem to spend an awful lot of time scouring 'Pinterest' at the moment, there is something so very addictive about pinning images of things I want to create or of gardens I think are amazing and at the moment pinning images for Christmas.
I'm sure most people are aware of Pinterest and what it's all about and no matter how many times I go on I still get a thrill each time I see one of my own images pinned by another viewer. 99% of the time there is a backlink to the blog post that the pinner found my image on and I guess I should be more upset and pro active the times where the link  - or any mention of me - are absent but I just can't bring myself to follow it all through, I guess I'm happy to accept that as soon as I put an image out there in the netherspace that it pretty much becomes open to the cyberworld to be used as people will. I know we all have rights etc etc and many people protect and police their images  methodically and I guess I would too if my livelihood depended it, alas..........
Anyway I digress, I was supposed to be mentioning an image I found on Pinterest, and has been all over FB too, of someone who made garden pots out of old towels and cement/hypertufa.  Of course I kept promising myself that I would give it a go at some point but tbh I can be a lazy gardener so often have a list of 'things to make' that should actually read 'things I'm too lazy to make'. Anyway one day a few weeks ago I decided to take the plunge and give it a go, here's the image that captured my eye

and here's the link to website (because I'm polite like that) Thehypertufagardener

My main problem is that like I stated before I can be a lazy gardener and I'm likely to lose interest in something if I have to keep rumaging around looking for things - I get distracted very easily, so i had to make sure I had all the equipment on hand to do this job. As it turned out I didn't read it properly anyway and so didn't realise that I shouldn't be using just cement - but oh well!

First I have to state the obvious, this is one messy job! Yes, I kind of did realise it would be but from the Youtube videos I watched of a lady swooshing the cement around and everything being neatly in place I thought the mess would be minimal - not so!

I mixed the cement up in a wheelbarrow to the consistency stated on Youtube (pancake batter basically) and excitedly dumped that towel in the mix (donning the marigolds of course). This wasn't as easy as I thought it would be - the towel didn't 'soak' the mix up like I thought it would and actually it just kept sliding off when I picked the towel up, also despite having a barrow full of cement it was barely enough for this bath sheet of a towel I was using.
I thinned the mixture a little and finally got to the point where I could chuck the cement towel over an upturned bucket which in turn was sitting on a table.
This is where my lack of attention to detail showed again - I did put a plastic sheet on the bucket so that the towel wouldn't stick to the bucket when it dried but a) the plastic was way too small and b) the towel just stuck to the plastic instead. If I do this again I would position the towel over an upturned plastic plant pot that could then stay inside.
Once the towel was over the bucket it was simply a case of messing with the flaps and folds to make it look nice and layering on more cement mix - this took more time than you would think.

See the mess!
I left this to dry for days and days, basically because I realised I should have used hypertufa so figured the thing wouldn't be right anyway.
When I did venture back to look at it I realised it had actually set - yay! BUT, it had stuck to that blue bucket as well which wasn't covered in plastic so I heard alot of crunching and cracking as I broke it away.
The finished product looks pretty naff it has to be said and for several reasons 1) I used too big a towel.  2) I didn't use the right polythene.  3) I didn't use enough polythene.  4) I used cement rather than hypertufa.  5) I didn't cover the folds evenly with cement so it still has that towelling look in many places. 6) because it's cement on a towel it has a flexibility to it.

The finished look

Can't say that I am in a rush to give this a go again - I'm too impatient.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Successful Cornus cuttings - finally!

Last time I blogged I posted about a fabulous website called Mikes Backyard Nursery so I thought it was time to follow up with one of the methods Mike suggested for taking cuttings.
I usually take Cornus cuttings in the dormant season and to be honest my past attempts at them have been pretty pathetic - I've taken heaps but only ever had one cutting successfully root and survive (though i suspect this is through my own impatience than anything else), so when I saw Mikes article on taking cuttings and rooting them in sand I figured I'd give it a go.

Mike uses 'flats' that he builds himself from off cuts of wood but I used a plastic tub with drainage holes drilled in the bottom instead.
The idea is to half fill the tub with sand, add the cuttings and then saturate the sand with water. Mike suggests cramming as many cuttings in as you like and this is how he manages to make hundreds or thousands of cuttings each season.
Once the cuttings are in and the sand saturated you simply insert the whole thing into a white plastic bag, supported in all 4 corners with pencils in my case, and then leave it somewhere to do its thing - mine stayed in the PT out of direct sunlight.

To be honest I was sceptical about this method, I honestly did not think it would work so I was a tad unconcerned about keeping an eye on it and by the time I gave it a second thought I figured the cuttings would have wilted and died.
So I was totally surprised when I took a peek and saw this.

A few of the Weigela cuttings may have died off but the majority of the cuttings were happy, healthy and surprisingly well rooted - even the Cornus, that plant that I have had such trouble propagating all these years.
In total I had about an 80% success rate which for me is nothing short of amazing and I believe that if I'f been more attentive to the plants then the success rate would have increased more.
Once my back has recovered I will be taking loads more cuttings using this method and next year I will be taking even more of the things I don't usually bother with because I've failed so many times in the past.
Thank you Mike McGroarty of Mikes Backyard Nursery and