The first snow forecast of winter resulted in an early gardening start as I had to remove the small gauge netting from the roof of my vegetable cage to prevent the frame collapsing under the weight of the white stuff.
Dawn on a very frosty morning in Staffordshire found me unclipping the netting from the sides and then rolling it back. It is a very large cage and it took two of us almost an hour to remove the netting. I keep it in the greenhouse over winter and the winter sprouts and other greens are protected from the pigeons and pheasant by a two-inch square net roof.
I was glad to see a heavy frost as my leek crop is being damaged by the unseasonal warm weather and they are still growing and splitting. I hope the cold will help them recover.
One of my aims this week is to complete the planting of my almost complete collection of native British trees in my Staffordshire garden.
There are 32 native British trees of which I have 14 already growing in my garden. In 2017 I bought from Hillier 12 of the missing 18 and decided to pot them on to grow to a larger size and plant out now. The first three, the Goat Willow (Salix caprea). The Crack Willow (Salix fragilis) and the Bay Willow (Salix pentandra) have already been planted in a very damp area of the garden.
So, to mark National Tree Week, the other nine will be going in before Saturday. They are:
Bird Cherry (Prunus padus)
Rowan Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia)
Downy Birch (Betula pubescens)
Aspen (Populus tremula)
Wild or Gean Sherry (Prunus avium)
White Willow (Salix alba)
Field Maple (Acer campestre)
Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)
Hazel (Corylus avellane)
We have got enough space for them but the ground is still pretty dry and I don’t want to have to spend December watering them. So I shall be doing my own version of the rain dance!
The six missing trees are the Small Leaved Lime, Wych Elm, Sessile Oak, Ash, Black Poplar and the Midland Hawthorne. If anyone know where I can obtain any of these – do please let me know via email grahampaskett.paskett.co.uk . It is terribly important to grow native British trees because they are an important genetic link to our history and the natural hosts to all wildlife and insects.
The challenge I am facing is trying to find labels that will identify these trees – including the ones already growing. I really would like something with the Union Flag on it but, as yet, have failed to identify something that will last the life-time of the tree and be attractive. It will also be interesting to find out whether the willows already planted actually help to dry out the land in which they now live.
I moved house in February of this year. In typical Victorian terrace style, the house came with a cute little courtyard where I could see myself pottering around, planting up containers of sweet peas, foxgloves and fragrant beauties to create a little country-style oasis in suburban Nottingham – I have since managed to squeeze in a blackberry bush, a grape vine, two apple trees, a pear tree, a plum tree, and countless flowers and herbs.
Along one side of the garden is a tall fence, so tall that we cannot see over it. Along the other side was a simple three foot brick wall, over which we could see straight into our new neighbour’s garden. For this reason, as I was beginning to sort out our new garden – surprisingly time-consuming for such a little space – I got to know our new neighbour. We shared stories about what had brought us to the area, she told me all about where to find the best butcher and grocer, and once I even found her sharing a glass of wine with my parents over the garden wall as they had arrived a surprising two hours earlier than expected! It seemed as though I had managed to build a real friendship with my next-door neighbour, something that I had always hoped would happen.
After a few months, as the weather started to warm, we decided that we needed to put a taller fence up – two year old children and inquisitive cats to tend to necessitate these things as, toddlers in particular, just don’t seem to stay where you put them! I discussed with my neighbour, who totally understood the need for the fence, and we put it up the next weekend.
At first not much changed. The fence is bamboo, so it is still partially see-through, and I began to plant it up with honeysuckle, clematis and climbing roses. I was feeling really happy with my little outdoor sanctuary, and was actually enjoying the fact that there was now more privacy. I remembered what I had liked about previous gardens which had no overlooking neighbours – sometimes you just want to have a quiet, uninterrupted glass of wine in the garden.
But then I began to notice a change in my relationship with my neighbour. For the first few weeks we would still shout ‘hi!’ though the fence when we saw the silhouette of one another through the bamboo, but gradually this tailed off. Now, three months on, there are no greetings through the fence, no early evening discussions about how our days have been. It would seem that with the erection of the fence, came the dissolution of our neighbourly rapport. Is this, perhaps, the case up and down the country, and the reason why we feel so disconnected from our communities? Should we go back to the three foot Victorian walls separating our gardens, where we could talk to neighbours three doors down? Or are we simply more private in our lives now?
I won’t be taking the fence down anytime soon, but perhaps I’ll invite the neighbours over for a BBQ…