Sunday, 30 May 2010

Phoenix Garden - reviving

On the edge of the Covent Garden area, the Phoenix Garden is a haven for workers. Both Centrepoint, a '60s landmark, and St. Giles', a fine but dilapidated Georgian church, are visible through trees.
For a small site, the garden has a wide range of quiet corners.  Intrigue and variation is created by paths and hardstandings for benches in a range of materials. 
There is clearly a design eye at work with plant texture, successional interest and exploitation of aspect considered (see Echium, left, with the back of Shaftesbury Avenue cinema behind).  Also, wildlife is encouraged with this Belfast sink pond and this gabion planter - crevices for invertebrates - and insect friendly planting.  Pigeons aren't the only birds; I saw finches and heard lots of tweeting in between the beep beeps of dustbin lorries reversing. This is a space that delights and calms with subtle art in the centre of the city.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Nematode nemesis of slugs

Uh-oh.  It had to happen.  After the rain broke the recent dry spell last week, out came the slugs. My quick growing early pak choi has been ravaged.  An allotment neighbour and I have been using anti-slug nematodes for a couple of years and it really makes the difference between getting in the crops and despair.  

Generally you buy the nematodes in packets sufficient for an area 40 or 100 metres' square.  It's worth shopping around on the internet and always check the postage costs.  Put the package in the fridge when it arrives 'til you are ready.  Ensure it will be sent in a padded envelope that will fit through your letter box.  One supplier once sent it in an oversized box so it went to the post office and I couldn't get there for a few days. Check the use-by date.

The nematodes come as a springy powder.  You need to use the contents of the packet all in one go.  I divide it into eighths, as this corresponds to the square metrage of my raised beds. First I clear the beds of weeds and longer grass growing round the edges of the bed where slugs love to hide. You need to use the product on damp soil.  Although it was quite damp on this occasion, I watered over the top of it as the surface was dry in the wind.  I put an eighth of the nematodes in a watering can with a rose and make sure the coverage of the bed and edges is even.  I try to make sure I water under the 'canopy' of plants.

The producers recommend topping up the soil with nematodes every six weeks.  The slugs seem to die underground so you don't see lots of dead bodies. The nematodes breed in the body, so the more dead slugs the more nematodes.  I tend to keep an eye on whether the slugs are back and then order the next packet.  In the meantime I use a two or three organic slug pellets around each plant.  The nematodes don't kill snails but I can keep an easier eye on them. That's one pest down - anyone know a way of getting rid of flea beetle?

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Designing on a Grid

A garden design relates to the house by using the house's proportions.  Designers (usually) play with a grid based on the proportions. This contributes to unity, which is key to the feeling of ease you want in a garden.

This private garden in Herne Hill, south London, shows the principle. Here the brick frame in the paving is offset from the house, and you can see the edge of the pond is offset from the back door.

Brick edge sets out other areas in the garden.  Planting softens the edges and provides a range of textures. The square terracotta tiles are used in a grid pattern elsewhere, but in the sun lounger area they are placed to give a false perspective, so it seems longer.  
Using brick provides unity of detail, as it is the same colour and size as the house brick;  the terracotta colour connects with the lintels.  Just using two hard landscaping materials keeps the design simple and harmonious, a good structure for the riot of plant textures.

This garden was one in a London-wide trail of designed private gardens not otherwise open.  This particular garden was designed by Acres Wild. The trail is becoming a May Day Bank Holiday fixture,  See one of the very early postings on this blog about a Clapham garden last year.