Helen's Garden Renovation Project

Monday 30 April 2007

Water butts

Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 11:22 am

Today I have at last succeeded in drilling out the stubborn screw that was fixing the metal plate for my hosepipe reel to the wall. The other three screws came out easily but the fourth would not budge for anything, not even WD-40, so I bought a metal bit from B&Q, broke it while drilling into the screw, and then bought a fatter metal bit, and succeeded in drilling enough of the head off to get the metal plate off. It was necessary to do this because I want to install two water butts in front of that part of the wall. When I feel confident enough that we won’t have a hosepipe ban this summer, I will attach the metal plate for the hosepipe reel to the wall the other side of the tap, and remember to dip the screws in petroleum jelly before screwing them in.

I ordered two water butts last year, and like many people, had to wait several months for them. When the delivery finally arrived, I only got one, so I asked where the other one was, and then the company delivered two. I emailed them to ask them if they wanted the spare one back, and they emailed back to say they would collect it within fourteen days, but they never did. Technically, according to Consumer Advice, I either have to send loads of registered post letters, or wait six years for it to become my property (so that’s about five and a half years to wait) but I don’t think the company will want it back now, and if they do suddenly come to claim it, I’ll ask them to send me an invoice. So I now have four water butts, and I think I can use them. I am thinking about asking the man who cleans my gutters to install them for me. It is not very difficult to install a water butt, but you have to make the cuts in the right place and if you get it wrong you have to buy a new drainpipe, which would be inconvenient as it wouldn’t fit in my car.

The main thing I now need to get on with is specifying and ordering the tool stores. It will really help if I can get most of my gardening equipment out of the garage because then I will be able to find it all, and also will have space in the garage to store the greenhouse in between delivery and installation.


Friday 27 April 2007

Forest Flame

Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 3:43 pm

Just as the garden is gathering momentum, the demand for maths tuition does the same. Friday is the first day this week I have been able to do something in the garden. The tomato seedlings germinated on Wednesday, which was only four days after I sowed them. I think this is quicker than normal, so the propagator speeded the process up.

I sowed the grass seed on the dug-over patch of ground in the front garden. The packet tells you to divide the area into yard or metre squares and weigh out the amount to scatter in each square. I decided to just guess. Then I raked in the seed and stuck some canes around the edge and put a piece of light netting over the ground. I want to protect against cats, pigeons and footballs. I am not sure how effective the barrier will be against any of them, but I shall just have to hope.

I also dug up the dead wisteria in the front garden and replaced it with the new wisteria I bought from Notcutts. This is my third attempt to grow a wisteria. The first one lasted quite a few years before it suddenly died, but the second one only lasted one year. I think the problem is that I have not watered them enough. From now until October the new wisteria will get watered twice a week, along with the cherry tree. If that doesn’t keep it alive, then I think I will have to call it a day with wisteria and grow something else instead.

I have repotted my hedge (Thuja Plicata) into larger pots. It was certainly ready for it. I also divided my ajuga “Chocolate Chip” into four plants. Instead of my usual method of pulling it apart with my hands, I decided to slice it with my biggest spade. I think this was more effective. Mind you, the Waldsteinia, which I brutally divided last week, appears to be still alive.

Finally, I painted the kerria with poisonous red gel. I was pleased to see that the shoots I have already painted do not look well. It may take more than one season to eradicate the kerria, but I have to just keep going or it will take over the entire border again.

Now that my Pieris “Forest Flame” is sitting in a pot instead of hiding behind the buddleia, I can appreciate how beautiful it is. Remind me to plant it somewhere where I can see it next time.

Pieris Forest Flame with new red leaves


Sunday 22 April 2007

Moving the magnolia

Filed under: Front garden,Magnolia,Progress — Helen @ 10:47 am

This morning I dug up the magnolia soulangeana in the back garden and stuck it in a pot. I had to cut four or five roots with a diameter of one inch. I also pruned out one of its three stems in the hope that this will give it a better chance over the coming hot summer. I have no idea whether it will survive, but I will water it every two days and hope for the best. It left a big hole behind. I put some of the poor quality soil that came from the side passage when it was paved over into the bottom of the hole but I haven’t filled up the rest yet. I will have to check the plan to see exactly where the hole is in relation to the greenhouse base. If it will be underneath the greenhouse there is no point in putting good soil into it.

I have finished firming and raking the soil in the front garden. I added some 6X fertiliser to the top layer, and sieved the top inch or so of soil, so it looks lovely. The grass seed packet says I should wait four or five days after adding fertiliser before sowing the seed, so I think Friday will be a good day for doing that.

I also need to get on with my tool store. Taylor’s Garden Buildings haven’t given me a quote yet so I will have to send them a reminder. There is also another website I will investigate: Titan Garden Buildings, who are based in Guildford, not far from me.


Saturday 21 April 2007

This year’s food

Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 11:03 am

Usually I grow lots of vegetables in the garden, but this year I know I will be too busy with the renovation project, so I have decided that this year I will just grow tomatoes. I always grow “Sungold”, which is an orange-coloured cherry tomato. It tastes better than any other tomato I have ever tried. I wanted a long thin tray to put on the windowsill, and at B&Q they had a windowsill propagator containing 22 peat pockets, which are little discs that swell up to cylinders when given some water. I thought I would give that a try, although it is an expensive way of raising seedlings. I normally sow them on St George’s Day, 23rd April, but since I may be busy on that day, the Queen’s birthday will have to do instead.

While I was at B&Q I bought a pickaxe for £14.99. I will have a go at breaking up the path with it later on.


Friday 20 April 2007

Found the Waldsteinia!

Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 4:31 pm

This morning I went to Notcutts to pick up my waldsteinia. I thought it was quite expensive at £6.29 but I did get a lot of plant for my money. Here it is.

Waldsteinia in pot

It is supposed to do yellow flowers at about now, but I couldn’t see any signs of them. The first thing I did after photographing it was to dunk it in some water and then chop it up into six pieces. It was very pot bound, and I had a hard time dividing it. I hope at least some of its children will survive, otherwise I will have to go back to Notcutts and order another one. If I have to do that, I will not admit that I killed the last one in case they mark me down as a plant murderer. I will pretend that mine was so successful I decided to buy another one as a present for someone.

I also had a look under Elaeagnus, and the fragrant shrub is definitely Elaeagnus x ebbingei. They had some fine specimens there, but they cost £9.99. I will try taking cuttings first and see if they take. If they don’t, then I know where to get the plant now.


Monday 16 April 2007

Cherry trees I have known and loved

Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 8:28 pm

I took a picture of my cherry tree from an upstairs window on 5th April 2007, just as it was beginning to get going. I thought I would be able to take a better picture later on, when it was in full flower, but sadly, this was as good as it got.

My cherry tree

My neighbours’ cherry trees are much better. Here is a lovely pink one.

Pink Cherry Tree

And here is another lovely pink one, except I don’t think it’s a cherry. I think it’s a crab.

Possibly a crab tree

Here is a close up of the possible crab tree.

Possible crab tree close up

Even the cherry tree about twenty yards away, on the communal ground outside my house, has done better, and I think it is exactly the same make as mine.

If I hadn’t done all that digging at the front, I would not have the first idea why my cherry tree has been so feeble, but now I have seen how much rubble it was having to contend with, I don’t think it is feeble at all. It is a very brave and determined tree. I am hoping that now the rubble has gone, it will be able to be brave and determined about producing lots of flowers.


Sunday 15 April 2007

The hole is dug

Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 7:35 pm

At last I have finished digging! As I patiently poked away at the bricks and concrete under the cherry tree’s roots, I wondered whether the rubble really was mostly under the roots or whether I was noticing the rubble under the roots more because it was harder to remove than the rubble in between roots. I came to the conclusion that actually it would make sense for the tree to put its roots just above the rubble, because the soil is probably poorly drained there, and therefore the tree can get more water. So I don’t blame the tree at all, but it was jolly hard work. Yesterday morning I was chipping away with a hammer and chisel to break up a large lump into small enough pieces to be able to remove it, when one of my neighbours came by and said that what I needed was a huge great pole. He went away and came back with one, and thumped the rubble with it for me. I didn’t want to break up the rubble into dust in case it contaminated the soil, but the vibrations dislodged the lump enough for me to lever it out with my crowbar. The crowbar is also good as a chisel, being longer than my proper chisel.

This is the rubble that I dug out of the front garden – and this is not even all of it.

Rubble dug out of front garden

I have now started filling the hole back in again, adding some 6X fertiliser that has been sitting in my garage for nearly eleven years after it came free with something I ordered.

Hole finished and partly filled in


Thursday 12 April 2007

Fragrant plant identified

Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 7:21 pm

On my way to work I cycle past a shrub which is incredibly fragrant in late summer and autumn. The fragrance travels so far that it was difficult at first for me to work out which shrub it was. However, I managed that last autumn, and ever since then I have been wondering what it is. It is a large, evergreen, rather boring-looking shrub with dull leaves that turn inwards at the edges. I thought it might be Osmanthus, but that has smaller leaves.

Elaeagnus Overview

This morning I stopped to take another look at it, and I noticed that it had egg-shaped pink-speckled fruit, and the new leaves were a greyish-brown colour, almost metallic, rather than dark green like the older ones.

Elaeagnus fruits

At work I looked up one of my current suspects, Elaeagnus, using Google Images, and there were my rosy-red fruits. I think it is x ebbingei, which is a shame, as I have no idea how you pronounce it.

Now I know what it is, the next question is whether to try growing it in my garden. If I am right about the variety, it loves the shade, which is a big plus point. If I could grow it up the fence, and keep it trimmed back, it would be lovely to walk past it in the late summer and autumn. On the other hand, I think it looks quite vigorous, and so I might have to do quite a lot of pruning to keep it under control if I want to keep it in a small space. I think I will see if I can acquire a plant, either from a garden centre, or by taking some semi-ripe cuttings in a couple of months’ time if I think nobody will notice (the shrub is at the edge of an estate, not in someone’s garden), and see how it gets on.

Later note:
I also got the answer from a forum where I posted my question on a bulletin board run by the RHS at http://www.rhs.org.uk/ibb/posts.aspx?postID=11201&viewreplies=true. I thought I had set the options to email me if there were any replies, so I hadn’t checked back there at the time, but I later found that the majority opinion was that it was elaeagnus. These people are good detectives, as I hadn’t even given them a picture, and are obviously very knowledgeable. Worth knowing for future reference.

And finally, my camellia is flowering like there is no tomorrow. Just in case there isn’t, I took a picture. The honesty in the foreground is trying pretty hard too.

Camellia having a flowering frenzy


Monday 9 April 2007

Easter work over

Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 3:00 pm

I have spent all four days of the Easter holiday (Friday 6th April to Monday 9th April) digging over the patch of ground in the front garden that used to be planted with shrubs and on which I want to sow some grass seed. I really underestimated that job! One problem was that the amount of builders’ rubble was ridiculous. If they had used all those bricks on my house instead of throwing them on the ground I could have three storeys. The other problem was the roots of the cherry tree. The cherry tree has proved it is definitely alive by springing into white blossom, and I don’t want to kill it, so I have had to dig carefully round the roots, mainly using a trowel rather than a spade. The poor tree has had a hard job growing its roots over so much rubble, and it was sometimes difficult to remove the rubble under the roots – I had to get my hammer and chisel out to split a brick so I could get it out from in between the roots. I also needed my hammer and chisel for an enormous lump of aggregate I still haven’t managed to shift. Maybe I should invest in a pickaxe, which would also come in handy for removing the crazy-paved path.

Although I have damaged the roots slightly with my digging, I think the cherry tree should benefit in the long run because it will have some soft soil to sink its roots into in future. I had better make sure I water it this summer if we have any heatwaves, though.

I have spent about 2-3 hours on each of four days working on this job, and this is where I have got to:

Easter Digging

I have done the bits that are covered with a heap of soil and the hole (obviously) so that leaves me with the bits on the right of the picture. I am hoping they won’t be so bad because there shouldn’t be so much cherry tree root in them.

I would like to carry on and finish the job this evening but I know from experience that too much digging all at once is very dangerous. I am already aching a bit in my right shoulder and upper back and I do not wish to even things up by creating the same effect in my left side and lower back. So I will hope for good weather and do some tomorrow and some more at the weekend if I am lucky.

I’ve just been looking at some of my previous blog entries, and I’ve realised I had completely forgotten about leaving a gap in the paving at the side for the winter flowering jasmine! However, the only point of the winter flowering jasmine was to give me something to look out of the window in the sitting room at, instead of a fence. The neighbours kindly put a low fence panel and a trellis up in that position for that very reason. But often I don’t even bother to open the curtains in that window, since I get so much light from the patio doors, and not having the plant there makes it a lot easier to get things in and out of the side passage. And the winter jasmine never grew very well. I will put it against the fence on the other side of the house. There is plenty of room.


Thursday 5 April 2007

The side passage is done

Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 7:59 pm

The men from my landscaping company have suddenly paved over my side passage. The job they were working on finished early, so Richard asked me yesterday if he could do the job today, so I said all right. This morning I moved a few things out of the way, made them some coffee and went to work. When I came back, it was all over.

Paved side passage

The paving is Indian Sandstone from Kebur Concrete in Farnborough, in brown. The white marks on it will wash off after the first rainfall. It has a lovely variation in colour, and there are even fossils in some of the slabs. I love it.

Far right hand corner without posts

I made my most sensible project management decision this year by asking the landscaping company to remove the three posts from the old blackberry frame on the same day. This left holes which they were able to fill with the topsoil they removed from the side passage. You may be able to see in the photograph a small heap of topsoil near the back fence. They also put some in the front garden where I had left a hole after digging up the shrub last week. So I kept all my topsoil, which I shall certainly need later, and didn’t have to pay anything to have it carted off somewhere.

The weather is getting warmer, and I have started watering my pots now. The annual seeds I sowed have come up in nice straight-ish lines, just like the book says. I will have to water them over the Easter weekend because it is going to be very warm.

Seedlings in neat rows

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