Those that have a garden will need them more than ever but this week I’ve been thinking about those without access to fresh air whilst self isolating. I’ve written a post called The self isolator’s guide to quick-growing vegetables suggesting things that those with a balcony can grow to supplement their store cupboards.
Meanwhile, I’ve had more time on my hands despite the additional cooking and tidying that comes with a family of five milling around at home all day long. I’ve been gardening for solace – planting up my rockery, and gardening for food – in the veg patch.
Last autumn I shared pictures of the new rockery I’ve created on a sloping bed that rises either side of some steps. Since then it’s sat there, waiting through winter, for some rock stars to fill the stage. I’ve been impatient too but with the wet winter, the soil has been just too wet for the sensitive alpine performers that like to keep their feet dry.
Part of the problem here is our soil, which is clay. Elsewhere in the garden, decades of soil improvement with home made compost has broken up the soil to create a lovely growing medium. This area has had little such input and needs more than compost to do the job.
The answer is grit and sand. Lots of it. Thanks to Adam, who helps me in the garden, huge quantities of grit and sand were dug into the rockery this week meaning I could plant some conifers and by Friday the sunniest of the beds (the one on the left of the steps) was dry enough to start planting alpines.
I’m not a massive conifer fan but a rockery like this needs some evergreen punctuation points and little conifers provide year-round mounds and spikes of green. It turns out my local independent garden centre in South Heath has a really good range of dwarf conifers and I bought some tiny ones mail-order from alpine nursery Potterton’s.
This one is a pine called Pinus sylvestris ‘Bisley Green’ and I tried to place it to look like it’s self seeded into a rocky mountain outcrop. Up close the needles are a beautiful dusty blue green colour.
This new conifer has been placed to try and soften the impact of this huge rock, which was needed to retain soil at the base of the rockery. It has graceful arching branches that I hope will dance over the rock plate.
Another pine with blue green tones. I really like the shape of this one – it’s sort of leaning up the slope.
My first foray into growing alpines was planting up this little trough that I found under a hedge in the garden when I first moved in. It’s been very successful but the central plant – a dwarf Pink – has outgrown its spot.
Yesterday I dug it up and you can see how it’s spread from the base to form a low growing mat. My husband, on a break from his new home working station, popped out with a cup of tea and held it up for me. My first thought was that it resembled a mushroom cloud but I quickly moved my thoughts away from armageddon references and decided it looked like a squat jellyfish.
Planted in the gritty soil of the rockery it looks like it’s always been there.
With the rockery to develop and so much to do elsewhere in the garden, I’d decided to reduce the number of vegetables I grew this year. As the reality of the impact of Covid-19 hit, I quickly re-evaluated. The entire family will have more time to tend it and having access to fresh fruit and veg without popping to the shops will be a bonus if social distancing drags on. I’ve dug over my four veg beds and last week my eldest daughter helped me put in some first early spuds, four rows of onion sets and a first row of broad bean seeds.
This seasonal diary is part of a weekly link-up of garden bloggers from around the world, called Six on Saturday. For more information and links to other blogs crammed with gardening activity, check the blog of host The Propagator.