Archive for March, 2015

Euphorbias putting on a show at Old School Garden

Euphorbias putting on a show at Old School Garden

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

I looked back at my letter to you written at the same time last year and it is interesting to see how flowers and growth generally were more advanced then. Still, there’s starting to be the first signs of real growth in Old School Garden; such an uplifting time.

As you know, we have the builders in, so my time is pretty divided ; I’m conscious of not getting on top of the borders soon enough, though it is good that Deborah is able to lend a hand this year. Still, progress is being made on most fronts and despite a general air of untidiness, some parts of the garden are starting to fill out and green up.

One of the Terrace Mixed borders, newly 'tickled' and starting to green up

One of the Terrace Mixed borders, newly ‘tickled’ and starting to green up

I’ve also got a range of seedlings underway, and last week took the insulation out of the greenhouse and the more tender plants too, so now there’s a light, warmish place for the new plants to put on growth; and by and large they are. The Melianthus tale continues; see the picture below which shows that the plant now has two flower spikes and it could be that a real flower will appear in the next week or two, if the temperature and sunshine are sufficient. The whole plant, whilst looking a bit bare lower down, isn’t quite the tatty specimen I thought it might be. Hopefully, once the flowering has finished I can cut it to ground level and we’ll have a new flush of large, peanut-butter smelling foliage.

Meianthus flower heads- to flower or not to flower?

Meianthus flower heads- to flower or not to flower?

I’ve put in my first early potatoes (‘Foremost’) and plan to do the ‘seconds’ in a day or two (once more I’m growing ‘Charlotte’). The early veg seems to have survived the winter pretty well; onions and broad beans are getting on nicely and I’ve also planted out some more asparagus in an attempt to get a decent row in a year or two’s time. And I’m going to experiment with a ‘table bed’ given to me by our new neighbours, who won’t have the time to grow their own food. This was built by their predecessors and had a large compost- filled bottom with concrete slab sides. Probably a little deeper than is needed for most things, so I’m going to adapt the basic shape and add a wooden slatted bottom along with a plastic lining. I thnk I’ll try a mix of salad leaves in it for starters. More pictures to come of this new recycling project!

Progress on the wildlife pond area is pretty slow; it’s taking a long time to redistribute the ash and soil from the old bonfire heap and my latest obstacle is a large Birch tree stump that I’m trying to dig out. Still, this area of the garden is starting to a bit more organised and hopefully, in due course, will add to the variety of spaces here. As part of the building work I’m having a new shed put in to hold mowers, other powered garden equipment and no doubt some general storage too.

The site for this new shed that I originally cleared proved to be too tight, so not to be put off, I’ve decided to turn this area – which sits under a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees- into a spring garden. So here is a convenient spot right next to the old bonfire area where some of the spare soil can be spread to deepen the base for this new garden. It will be fun planting this up in the Autumn with a mixture of bulbs and other things.

I mentioned last month that I’d begun a creative writing course at Gressenhall Museum. This has proved to be very enjoyable, focusing on characters from the place when it was a Workhouse and exploring different modes fo writing to tell their stories. I have a final piece to write up about one William Rush, a pauper inmate who when  he as 13 years old volunteered to stand in for the Schoolmaster when the latter was off sick; he seems to have done an exemplary job and became one of the first ‘pupil teachers’ that formed part of the new approach to public education here in the latter part of the 19th century. If it seems of a reasonable quality I may even put this short story on the blog for all to see!

The entrance border at Gressenhall- grasses have really taken hold and will sonn be joined by 'Mount Hood' Narcissus and pink Tulips

The entrance border at Gressenhall- grasses have really taken hold and will sonn be joined by ‘Mount Hood’ Narcissus and pink Tulips

Whilst at Gressenhall for the course I’ve spent a few hours in the gardens getting things pruned and tidied up. i completed most fo the rose pruning there last week (and I’ve also spent quite a time doing the climbers and ramblers at Old School Garden) and done a bit of weeding. As you may have read, I’ve also put in some time at Blickling. The setting out of the walled garden seems to be going well, with the irrigation system now in place and a long length fo metal edging ready for installation in the next couple of weeks. This, along with the restored greenhouse, should really give the area some definition and we can see the scale of the planting task that confronts us!

So that’s about it for this month. Hopefully, you and Lise are well ahead in your own garden preparations, but if not, don’t lose heart; a little bit of untidiness is a good thing!

All the best old friend,

Old School Gardener

Picture by Catherine Morrisey, Limerick, Ireland

Picture by Catherine Morrisey, Limerick, Ireland


A useful article by Andrew McIndoe on companion planting- find it here.

Old School Gardener

A mowing strip using block pavers

A mowing strip using block pavers


Keep edges to a minimum by making the lawn shape simple. Install a mowing strip (a hard surface level with the lawn) along the edges of the lawn so that the lawn mower can trim right over the edge. Any awkward tufts of grass and rough areas can be dealt with quickly using a nylon -line trimmer.

Further information:

Mowing strips

Installing a mowing strip

Lawns in small gardens

How to choose a lawn shape

Source: ‘Short Cuts to Great Gardens’ (Reader’s Digest 1999)

Old School Gardener


PicPost: Gaze boy!

Gazebo near Gay Village, Montreal via Pierre Fitch

Gazebo near Gay Village, Montreal via Pierre Fitch

Municipal Dreams

Clay Cross takes its place – alongside Poplar – as a hallowed place in the Labour pantheon: a site of struggle and resistance, a town where a Labour-led council fought valiantly for its people, whose socialism was less an abstract ideal than part of its living fabric.  All that came to a head in the famous 1972 Rents Rebellion.  But it was rooted in a history, community and politics of much longer vintage. This post will look at that at that longer story and try to answer the question why there, why then – and, by extension, why not here and why not now.

In the early nineteenth century Clay Cross was little more than a hamlet at a crossroads.  A cross stood at the intersection of Clay Lane and Thanet Street and from that it is said to have derived its name.  But its history begins in 1837 when George…

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I discovered this amazing mosaic flower detail on Instagram. It is made by Sicis: The Mosaic Factory, based in Italy. This specific mosaic is made from lovely glass tiles and is going on a wall. The colour ranges available in glass tiles make designs for walls & floors endless. The details on these flowers are superb and I love the 3D effect and delicate copper and gold sparkle on the leaves. For more on my work and more beautiful mosaic photos, check out my Instagram acount: Ruarkmosaicart


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Photo Nature Blog

I recently created this video showing some of the work I’ve done. I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

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Symphytum grandiflora 'Hidcote Pink'

Symphytum grandiflora ‘Hidcote Pink’

1. Mahonia aquifolium- yellow flowers in February and May

2. Symphytum grandiflora ‘Hidcote Pink’- pink flowers in March and April

3. Iris foetidissima ‘Variegata’- scarlet berries from September until November

4. Geranium x oxonianum ‘Wargrave Pink’- pink flowers from May to September

5. Dryopteris filix-mas- a deciduous fern

6. Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae-  green cymes in March and April

7. Luzula nivea (Snowy Woodrush)- evergreen and good ground cover with white flowers in mid summer

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