Symbolic Forest Gardenblog

An experiment in container gardening

Archive for November, 2011

Winter planting

Today, we cut down the remaining wizened bean plants, having made sure we had saved all the potentially viable beans for sowing next spring. With the beans and their canes missing, the garden has lost all its height, and looks very empty all of a sudden. Very bare, compared to June or July.

However, the cycle goes around. In the post, the other day, a garlic bulb arrived.

Solent Wight garlic bulb

Carefully peeling off the papery skin revealed a tight-packed spiral of fat cloves

Solent Wight garlic bulb

This is a softneck variety, Solent Wight, chosen because it’s meant to be a particularly easy variety to grow in southern England, as you might expect from the name. The cloves were planted up in a couple of our largest containers, moved to the sunniest side of the garden along the wall of the house; in spring a thin sprinkling of annual flower seeds might go in between the garlic stems if there looks to be enough space for them. In 8 or 9 months, if all goes well, this bulb will have turned into ten or more ready for drying and eating.

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Inspiration

The last time I wrote an “Inspiration” post, I said: not to cause confusion with the blog title, but even though our little patch of earth decking is not a forest garden, I do find forest gardens inspirations, in terms of their atmosphere. The dappled light, the growth everywhere, the mixture of different foliage at different heights, it is all an atmosphere I would ideally want to evoke; but it clashes with our situation and our other aims.

Just to increase the confusion, this second “Inspiration” post is also rather foresty. This time, though, it’s not even a garden. It is: the Weißensee Jewish Cemetery, in the Berlin suburbs, and the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe.

Jewish cemetery, Weißensee

The paths are kept scrupulously free of leaves by the cemetery’s staff, but in line with Jewish traditions the individual graves are covered in undergrowth.

Jewish cemetery, Weißensee

Jewish cemetery, Weißensee

Jewish cemetery, Weißensee

The cemetery opened in 1880, and somehow survived both the Nazi period and Communist neglect. Despite being declared a “cultural monument” in the 1970s, at the same time it was threatened by a road scheme. Nowadays, its future is more secure.

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Gardening By Night

There haven’t, as you might have noticed, been that many posts on here in recent weeks. One reason for that, more than anything else, is the changing of the season and the changing of the timezone. When I get up in the morning, it’s dark. When I leave the house, it’s just about light – at the moment it will have been light for maybe 15 minutes, which of course will drop over the next 6 weeks. When I get home again, it’s dark, and it’s been solidly dark for well over an hour. Getting a job nearer home would help, but probably not very much, especially in the evenings.

However, there is one benefit to all this darkness. It means we can string solar-powered fairy lights all around the garden, and actually have darkness to see them in.

Garden fairy lights

Despite the title of this post, they hardly let you garden in the dark. However, they do look good, when you look out of the kitchen windows, or stand in the middle of the garden late at night and whirl around looking at the lights and the stars.

Coincidentally, since I first drafted this entry – last week after we first put the lights up – I’ve read something else on night gardens: a post by Bristol-based gardening writer Lia Leendertz on the BBC gardening blog, about designing your garden to make it a pleasant place to spend a winter evening. Sadly we don’t have room for hedges or a fire pit, but I do like the idea of a telescope. Maybe I can make do with an SLR, my longest lens, and every teleconverter I can lay my hands on attached. Actually gardening at night will be a harder project to get going.

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Second Spring

This morning, I came across an interesting article in The Observer: for many plants and animals, spring seems to have come the wrong side of winter. Animals that should be hibernating are waking up again, and plants are still growing strongly and flowering, possibly because the weather has been unusually mild for the season. It prompted me to go outside into the garden, and have a look at the green bean plants, which we had left on their poles, just stems and pods and a few raggedy leaves, so that the beans we had left on the plant could develop and dry naturally ready for next year. Indeed, what did I find on the green beans? Lots of new buds, some of them just coming into flower. Here’s a photo I took this afternoon.

Green beans, just coming into flower - in November

No doubt these flowers are not going to get much further; and they’re definitely not going to set fruit because we’ve not had any bees in the garden for a few weeks now. This weather doesn’t seem quite right, though.

There are a few things I did in the garden this week, largely while K was baking the Christmas cake. See, “just coming into flower” and “baking the Christmas cake” aren’t phrases that go well together at all if you’re north of the Equator. This is what got done:

  • Pulling up the last of the radishes.
  • Pruning some of the perennial herbs – the thymes, lavender, feverfew, and mint.
  • Saving seed that is ready, or almost ready: runner beans, green beans, and coriander.

No doubt I am doing all this at entirely the wrong time of year, but – as far as the pruning was concerned, anyway – it felt like the right time to do it. The beans are for sowing next year; the coriander seeds are probably for the spice cupboard, and the pruned thyme branches were saved for the oven too.

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