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Archive for the ‘‘How to’’ Category

origibal raised bed

Back in 2010, I espied a couple of old palettes in a neighbour’s front garden and thought these might make wonderful raised beds for my own front garden. I spent an afternoon deconstructing the palettes and building the beds (here’s a ‘How to’), and then filled them with a mixture of topsoil and lovely rich compost as the soil below is rather heavy clay.

original raised bedsA year later and the beds were flourishing. In fact, they’ve been wonderful spots for experimentation ever since, and I’ve loved growing heaps of salad leaves, herbs, tomatoes

Tulips in front garden

and my annual tulip display (grown in the front garden as squirrels decimate these bulbs in the back garden).

Old wooden raised bedHowever, this wood doesn’t last forever, and despite a bit of mending here and there, these beds are now well past their best and in need of replacement. The question is, what with?

Deborah Nagan I visited Deb Nagan’s very inspiring garden in Brixton in 2013 as Part of the Chelsea Fringe,
Deborah Naga's metal raised bedsand her lovely metal raised beds have always stuck in my memory. Such gorgeousness combined with such great practicality.

So where to get some metal raised beds?

Tree pit edging

In the past we’ve used Everedge to supply us with metal edging for our street tree pits,

Rsuted steel raised bedand they also have a large range of other products for raised beds and planters. Following some very helpful discussions, I plumped for two (very reasonably priced) custom-made raised beds, 20cm high in Cor-Ten Steel. This naturally rusts over time, but they also supply galvanised steel which won’t rust, and powder coated steel which can give you different colours.

Rusted steel raised bed 2I love the deliciously warm colour of the rusted steel and its rather industrial look sits well in our urban setting. Peter from Everedge has added, in the comments below, that you can also have rolled edges if you’re worried about safety, but I can’t say that this crossed my mind when I was planning the bed.

It took a little while to construct as you have to bolt various lengths and corners together, but these raised beds should last for many years to come and I’m eager to see how my red and white Arsenal tulip display will look in this rusted bed come April.

P.s. I’ve also noticed that Harrod Horticultural sell a cream 30cm high snazzy ‘Retro’ raised bed. Not rusted steel, but groovy nonetheless.

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Tim and samll elephantHere’s Tim. Topiary Tim. He’s looking a bit sad.

One of our elephants has had to go.

Baby and big elephant2Up until the end of last year, all was looking well in the herd. But then, fairly swiftly, telltale signs of honey fungus were spotted. There was dieback on the trunk and ears of the baby elephant.

At first we were in a state of denial. Maybe somebody had poured some nasty chemicals on the ground or perhaps wandered past with a flame thrower? But who were we kidding. We dug up roots of the wilting/dead trunk and ears, and our worst suspicions were confirmed. White fungus was clearly visible between the bark and wood.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Honey Fungus. On the RHS website it says, ‘the only effective remedy is to excavate and destroy, by burning or landfill, all of the infected root and stump material. This will destroy the food base on which the rhizomorphs (brown root-like cords) feed and they are unable to grow in the soil when detached from infected material.’

Cutting back baby elephantSo all of the baby elephant has had to be destroyed. Sad, but pragmatic. We’ve dug out as much stump and roots as we could get to, not just the obviously infected wood, but also the rest of the plants which made up the baby elephant (which luckily looked untouched by the fungus).

Pond liner

As a belt and braces approach, we’ve also added a couple of pond liner barriers to roughly 18inches deep as this should block any remaining rhizomorphs, which look like bootlaces apparently. We haven’t noticed any of these, but they could easily be confused with roots. I’ve also checked with the RHS about removing the soil around the affected area and they say that the soil doesn’t have to be removed. Hugely relieved as this could be a mammoth (ha, ha) task, but we’ve added plenty of rich garden compost for the new plants.

Griselinia littoralis

It would be unwise to plant privet again, as it is so susceptible to Honey Fungus, so we checked with the RHS list on which evergreens are less likely to be affected. Tim’s plumped for some (fast growing) Griselenia littoralis. This has much bigger and brighter green leaves than the privet, but should be an interesting addition to our topiary hedge.
Elephant herd

We also plan on giving the rest of the herd a good old feed and mulch come spring, so that the elephants are fighting fit for the years ahead. Here’s hoping we’ve caught the fungus in time….

P.s. Here’s how our elephants were created by Tim Bushe (aka Topiary Tim and @hedgecutterman) in one of our neighbour’s front gardens back in 2012.

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Peach Hollyhock, BlakeneyI can feel it coming on. This slight obsession with Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea).

Deep pink Hollyhocks Ambler Road

Not only are they wonderful for greening-up our streets, but now they’re creeping into my front and back gardens (and a few clients’ gardens too). I want a field of them. I want to plant every seed that I’ve lovingly collected to see how they develop after cross-pollination. But alas, I’m short of an acre or two.

Cream Hollyhock with deep peach centre and blushings BlakeneyOn a recent trip to Blakekney on the north Norfolk coast, these joyful blousey creatures were everywhere. In little alleys, surrounded by flinty gorgeousness, in front of cottages on the street,

Cream Hollyhock with gentle peach blushings Blakeney

and even on their last knockings, I found them irresistible (and collected a few seed heads from each).

Hollyhock seedlingsI’ve only ever sown Hollyhock seeds in spring, from seeds gathered from neighbours’ front gardens, but I’ve collected seeds from surrounding streets and friends’ houses and started off a selection of these in the beginning of September. I’m not sure if, given a head start, these biennials/short-lived perennials will flower next summer, but I thought it was worth a try and will overwinter these in my greenhouse.

October Hollyhock seedlingsI’ve even started off a few last week to see how these do too.

And there’s plenty more to sow in spring for further experimentation. The delicious ‘Halo’ series (bold blooms with contrasting colours at their centre), are said to flower in their first year, so definitely worth a try,

Creme de Cassis Hollyhockand I spotted this rich ‘Crème de Cassis’ variety a few years ago at the Hampton Court Flower Show which I’m now itching to get growing.

We’re hoping to go large with our tree pit planting for our community project next year, so many of these little seedlings are destined to brighten up our streets (and a few front gardens if people want them). Just can’t wait to see how they all flower in the years to come.

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