Sunday, 1 April 2012

Any ideas where I should shove my beans?(!)

[Be warned this will be a very picture-heavy post as I'm taking you on a tour of the acres of grounds surrounding Jones Towers]

Further to yesterday's post when I announced the demise of my allotmenting days, I've been starting to think what I should do with the many-ish broad bean and pea seedlings that I'm nurturing in the plastic-houses:

I've had a quick look online and it seems it's possible that I could pop them in some containers and they might work.  Of course, in an ideal world, I'd be able to plant them into the ground but once you've had a look at what my garden's like, you'll see that ain't really gonna be possible here.  Not really.  Although I might be able to find a leetle space, it's looking more and more like containers are going to be the way forward here.

If you've read my blog in the past, you'll probably be aware that I live in a three-storey, tall, thin end-of-terrace townhouse built in 1964. The builders shoe-horned the houses into the cul-de-sac where we live and gave us all the smallest possible gardens they could get away with.  Fortunately we live on the side of the close which has the biggest gardens - my friends who live opposite have a teeny-tiny paved courtyard at the back of theirs which is just about big enough for a rotary washing line, some garden chairs (not that they get any sun in the back garden on that side of the street) and a few pots.  At least we have a meagre amount of grass that we can call our own.

Plus the houses on our side of the street are built into the side of a hill so our garden has an element of terracing and verticality involved.

Look, I'll show you.  And I'll make no apologies for the state of the garden at the moment - I know there's lots to be done, even in such a small space!

This is the patio bit which is on the ground floor outside our downstairs back door:

This picture was taken at about 12.30pm and this is the furthest the sun ever really gets into it - hence a bench placed where it is, under the study window.  There are four pots with bamboos against the wall on that side to provide a bit of a screen.  At the base of the wall facing the bench are planted ferns (the old brown fronds need cutting back) and hostas, because it's damp and shady there.

Standing now with my back to those bamboos facing the other way:
There are three blue ceramic pots with more bamboo.  As you can see, it's really very shady down there.  I also have two tall aluminium pots on each side of the bench; each of them contains a Sambucus Nigra, a plant with lacy black leaves that shows up beautifully against the white walls.

The top of the wall down here was, I think, used as a bed once but one of the previous owners (badly) laid bits of broken paving slab on it instead, so I use it as a place to put containers with tall growing plants in whose heads enjoy being in the sunshine but also don't mind a bit of shade.  It's also the main thoroughfare through our garden for the local cats.  Indeed, one of them has just knocked off a broken bit of paving slab:

So here there's yet another bamboo in a terracotta pot, next to a large Fatsia Japonica.  Those who are keen of eye might also spot a pale green Hellebore in the bottom left of the top photo - this was a self-seeded plant that found its way into a gap between the crappy paving stones.  In the bottom picture you can see really how uneven it is.  It's actually quite dangerous because I have to walk (crouch, more like) along this when I need to get to my Dicksonia Antarctica Tree Fern which is in a blue pot (you can just see the pot in the first photo of these two), on the other side of the bridge.  Oh, this is also where the honeysuckle that winds its way through the railings on the bridge starts from.

You can also just make out the start of the first, steep, flight of steps that take you up from this ground floor level to another, small, area of patio and the bridge:
This area looks like this:
The primroses have self-seeded themselves between the paving slabs.  (Those with beady eyes might spot a small furry black and white face peering round a pot at me - this is Bruno Williams who lives next door and is Sylvester's nemesis.  He's also adorable and the most helpful cat I've ever met.  He wanted to know what I was doing and if there was any way he could assist). It's pretty narrow here and I already have another tall aluminium container which has an artichoke in, a rosemary bush, a pot with mint, another pot with Dicentra Spectabilis and a large container with a small pink Phormium (which has been overrun with grass - this might be a good candidate to clear out and use for beans or peas):

The bridge goes from our upstairs back door and leads onto this level of the garden:
I try to keep the actual wooden decking slats of the bridge free from too many pots because of the water seepage and algae-growing factors, but I have to admit that the far end of the bridge, where it joins the narrow patio bit looks like this:
There are some tatty pots here with ornamental grasses, a dark red Heuchera in a matching pot and a Mystic Spires Blue Salvia in a pale blue square pot.  The bridge gets very sunny and this corner gets the sun in the morning.

On to the four steps leading up to the first bit of lawn, with young Bruno being helpful, as ever:
There are, as you can see, pots here, containing ornamental grasses, snakeshead fritillary and oregano.  These steps are very narrow indeed, only one pot deep and it's hard not to fill them up with pots during the summer!

We have two areas of lawn, both very small.  This is the first area and is the largest.  Here I'm standing on the top step and taking pics from left to right:

On the left hand side I recently cleared some plants and did some hard pruning.  I removed all the lower branches of the large conifer tree, cut down two smaller conifers but left their stumps and roots in the ground, and pruned back a large colourful bush whose name escapes me for the moment.  As you can see to the left of the photo below, the soil here is very thin, full of roots and the ivy is just itching to get into it.  Towards the right of the photo, there are Day Lilies, bluebells, a hellebore and a Chinese Peony.  All crammed in that little space.  This side of the garden barely gets direct sunlight and, if it does, it's not until evening.

The right hand side of this bit of lawn has 4 or 5 Callicarpus bushes which are there for the purple berries in autumn. The soil here is bad - let's face it, the soil's bad through the entire garden - and it's very dry:
There are tulips and bluebells in here somewhere, as well as grape hyacinth.  I took this sitting on the bench we have here, as this spot gets the sun all afternoon.  Just to the left of where I'm sitting there's this:
which is a ramshackle collection of things in pots including a Stephanotis, a small Chinese palm and a Gertrude Jekyll rose.  There's also some tulips and a Japanese Maple in there for good measure.

At the end of this bit of lawn, there are two more steps leading to the upper bit of lawn where the tatty shed, the bird feeding station, and the plastic-houses live:
There's a retaining wall here, on both sides of the steps.  On this side, the left, there's a gap where I took out a dying Hebe and I think the green thing on the right is a Pyracantha.  It's damn thorny, I know that.

The other side looks like this:
The tall, beige plant is a Chinese Zebra Grass which has to be cut down to the ground every year - I'm currently halfway through the process.  There's a garden ornament here too, in the shape of a metal pole with another pole across it with two metal birds on one end, weighted with a glass sphere at the other end, that spins round erratically in the wind.  Right next to it is another Japanese Maple.  This one goes red in autumn, the other I mentioned earlier goes yellow/orange.  The large conifer you can see behind it, with upward pointing branches, is a Christmas tree I planted out one January, several million years ago, when it was about a foot tall!  It's a gorgeous shape and has the most beautiful dark rose pink pine cones but its roots do mean that the ground underneath is as dry as a bone.

This is where the plastic-houses and rusty incinerator live:
Where the incinerator is positioned is where I did actually dig a very, very small veg patch about 5 years ago, before I got the allotment.  I'm not really sure I want to do that again, although, thinking about it, I could possibly put in some raised beds here, especially as the ground is so hard and rubbish.....

Immediately to the left of the plastic-houses there is a huge Fuschia bush that also needs pruning back to the ground.  It takes up an awful lot of space but, having said that, its location is grim - there's a tall wall covered in ivy right behind it, a shed on one side and the fence on the other, so it doesn't get much sunlight in the afternoon but at least it's sheltered, I suppose:

I used the dalek compost maker for a while - it's tucked into a corner between the wall and shed - but found it only attracted rats which then made nests inside and underneath the shed.  It also didn't make compost because it was in the shade!

The area to the other side of the shed is just sad.  It's a dumping ground, pure and simple.  It's where I've chucked my unloved and unneeded pots that won't fit in the shed itself, together with some larger prunings:

And down the side of the shed is even worse *hangs head in shame*:
Yeah, needs a really good clear out, I'd say!

So, standing with my back to the shed, looking back down the garden, it looks like this:

If you've made it this far you deserve a medal, and my thanks for joining me on this tour of the estate grounds.  It's not going to appear in the RHS Yellow Book any time soon, is it?

And while it may look a bit like there's loads of space for me to plant the broad beans and peas into the ground, there isn't really.  It's going to have to be containers, I think, unless any of you lovely readers have any other suggestions?


Anonymous said...

Mmmm, I see your problem. Well, unless you want to create a raised bed then containers it is, I fear. It's probably only worth doing raised beds if you are sure you want to keep using them.
If you want something short term just for this year you could use grow bags - this year I am trying a suggestion I read last year (for tomatoes but it would work for peas and beans too) which is to pick them up in the middle and shake them down so you get 2 large pockets, then cut across the top. This gives you 2 conjoined sacks of compost, which hold each other up and give you something deeper and much more useful for growing stuff in than the average far too shallow bag - they are also deep enough to put in some support for your plants as well.

Mrs Jones said...

Ms Alienne - that idea with the growbags is brilliant! I shall look into it forthwith!

Lesley Beeton said...

What a conundrum! I have found that beans (runners, dwarf, broad) seem to do OK just about anywhere. I grow up the seedlings and then pop them in wherever I have space. Put a few canes up and bob's your auntie.

Thanks for popping over to my blog earlier, lovely to meet you and see your place, Mrs Jones :)

Lesley x.