Blog 2012

8th. April 2012 - Olden Garden Community Project Open Day, Highbury

Olden Garden
The sky was worryingly grey and there was intermittent drizzle which didn’t bode well for the Olden Gardens open day. To make matters worse the local football team whose stadium is opposite had rescheduled one of its matches for that day.

It was the first time the garden had opened under The National Garden Scheme and the organisers had been working their socks off to make it lovely for the event.

Situated on the side of a railway cutting in Highbury the two acre community project has a top terrace of herbaceous borders, a lawn and a paved area by the side of the Garden Room where flowers in pots are displayed. Below there is an orchard, meadow, vegetable beds and a greenhouse, and in springtime the embankments are covered in blossom and golden daffodils.

People were slow to arrive but by mid- afternoon there was a steady stream of people coming through the door including two visiting Manchester City supporters wanting to make use of the “facilities”. The canny doorkeeper charged them a fiver each for the privilege.

In the Garden Room the table all but disappeared under the delicious collection of cakes baked by members. Outside on the terrace people sat around enjoying the home baking which was disappearing at an alarming rate so I rushed in to stake my claim buying the last slice of my own cake!

By the end of the day almost 100 people had visited the garden and a useful profit was made for the NGS charities.

The garden will be open again on the 3rd June (full details from the NGS website) so please put the date in your diary now.

15th April 2012 - Malvern Terrace Open Day, Barnsbury

All week the Met Office and the BBC Weather site had promised sunshine for Malvern Terraces’ open day. Alas this was not to be and by the time Chris and I arrived it was threatening rain.

This row of stunning 1830’s terraced houses which were built on the site of Thomas Oldfield’s dairy and a cricket field have cottage-style front gardens behind wrought iron railing which separate them from the cobbled cul-de-sac.

A Tree Peony in flower was a great favourite as were the Camellias just starting to go over whilst a Photinia Red Robin added a splash of colour on this dull day. Nearby an avian Robin delighted visitors as he sang loudly on the top of a weeping tree.

The plant stall in the street had a very desirable collection of plants for sale and under a nearby awning a singer sang.

Most important of all of course was the cake stall where we each had home made ginger and lemon cake with tea. The rain started and then stopped so we went and sat at a table in one of the charming front gardens where we were joined by a friend who had opted for the same choice of cake.

Everybody was very friendly, garden owners and visitors alike, and there was an exchange of horticultural information with plants being identified or not as the case may be.

Around this time the sun came out and enticed us into having another look round the gardens before walking home.

Deckchairs, Malvern Terrace Gardens
Malvern Terrace

20th April 2012 - Arvon Road Allotments, Highbury

Disaster! Yesterday a car crashed through one of the wooden panels around the outside of our allotment site in Highbury smashing down a flowering cherry, damaging some of the other trees and destroying the flora. The car is a third of the way down a slope and in the middle of our wood which is designated a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC).

Chris went to survey the site and was very upset especially as he and the other guardians of the wood along with allotment members had been working hard on conservation projects over the last few months. The wood was just about to flower for the spring and in fact there was to be an event this coming Sunday to celebrate all the work they had done. Ironically, whilst there he heard a Blackcap singing amongst the devastation.

He notified the appropriate authorities at the council and there was already a notice on the vehicle saying “police aware” but this evening the car was still there.

One of the other committee members, has tried with some success to bridge the gap with a few old pallets and the remains of the fence but tomorrow thousands of Arsenal and Chelsea supporters will march past and the temptation to enter may be too great for some of them!

24th April 2012 - Car in the Wood Update.

The car was towed away on Sunday; fortunately one of the plot holders saw this happening and took the number of the pick-up truck.

Later we heard that the car belongs to a local resident. It appears that he was giving his daughter a driving lesson and grabbed the wheel when she started to head for a street tree crashing the car through our fence instead. Fortunately nobody was hurt.

It’s a great pity that the car owner didn’t have the decency to report the crime (it’s a criminal act to remove a vehicle from the scene of an accident) and offer compensation. As a consequence several of our members spent hours in Hornsey Road Police Station trying to sort the matter out.

The police thought that the car had crashed onto waste ground and weren’t very interested. It was explained to them that it wasn’t waste ground but an allotment site next to an SINC but I think the incident’s still low on the list of priorities.

Islington Council who own the land have been less than helpful. After enduring months of petty bureaucracy from them we actually asked for emergency help with removing the car and securing the site only to receive an email three days later suggesting that we contact Network Rail (part of the site is on a railway embankment) and ask them to remove the car as they have the right equipment!

Our next move is to find the owner of the car and persuade the police to prosecute him; they have his licence number so it shouldn’t be difficult. If not we may have to resort to the small claims court. In the meantime moves are afoot to replace the fence ourselves.

Abandoned Car, Arvon Road Wood
Arvon Road Wood to show gap in fence from street
Arvon Road Wood taken from inside the allotments to show damage to fence.

29th April 2012 - Islington Gardeners Plant Sale, Canonbury.

No sign of sunshine for this popular event held in the lovely Canonbury garden of one our members but at least it stopped raining just before the sale started. There were lots of unusual and not so unusual plants grown by members. Sue had her wild flower stall as usual and was giving away the plants free to those who wanted them. Chris took a Stinking Iris (iris foetidissima) and a newly potted Lords and Ladies (wild arum) for the Arvon Road Allotment wood.

Happily, tea and cakes were on sale so we bought an apple cake and a leman drizzle which we ate under the open marquee and chatted with others about the forthcoming Mayoral election.

9th May 2012 - Stoke Newington Reservoirs

For the past few years Islington Gardeners wildlife gardening group have helped out in the garden of this London Wildlife Trust reserve. When we arrived even the drizzle didn’t detract from the wild beauty of the garden. The May trees were in full flower with Cow Parsley dominating the scene. The native hedges that we planted two years ago had matured and were looking good and the pond was full of wetland flowers.

We were allocated a few jobs by the warden which included getting to grips with a strand of Japanese’s Knotweed and training some Golden Willow into an already formed arch. All within our capabilities!

Chris and Sue got stuck into the Knotweed whilst I held the plastic bag; apparently they can spread by spores as well as underground roots hence the need to get them into bags straight away. Unfortunately there is a much larger strand outside the reserve on the bank of the New River so unless that’s got rid of the infestation will always be there.

When we had finished we went to help Jo with the willow arch before breaking for lunch joined by the other Sue and Sylvia who had been weeding a flower bed in the front of the reserve.

After more work we had tea out of the rain in a sturdy and capacious yurt which had been erected in the garden. Sue shared out some ginger cake (not homemade but very nice).

Later three of us started on a walk around the reservoirs but the heavens opened and we were drenched so quickly made our way home.

16th May 2012 - Sunshine Garden Centre

Great excitement, today we went to the Sunshine Garden Centre in Bounds Green. It’s not often that we travel into Suburbia!

The reason for our trip is that they deliver free to senior citizens in the London N. area. There are some advantages in being old.

The place is light, bright and the staff are helpful, cheerful and knowledgeable. A bit like being in a holiday camp really!

They have an excellent selection of plants and stock New Horizon peat free compost which was way we come. They also have a smart, albeit rather expensive café.

Along with the compost I bought three Argyranthemum frutescens in a rather decadent shade of pink for the landing window box which I’ll interspace with chocolate mint which I have at home.

Everything was delivered to our door the following day.

Recommended to all.

19th May 2012 - Arvon Road Allotments Plant Sale

Plants and pastry cakes were the order of the day at the Arvon Road Allotment’s annual plant sale held in Christ Church Gardens. We had tomatoes plants and Cavolo Nero for sale along with herbs and flowering plants donated by members. The first to be sold I’m pleased to say was my pot of Wild garlic or Ransom.

Overcast weather meant fewer punters but we still made a tidy profit which will go towards repairing the hole in the fence caused by the car smashing into it.

The cakes were particularly popular, made by one of our members who is a pastry cook. Chris and I couldn’t choose between the spicy pumpkin and the courgette yoghurt cakes so we bought both (two of each of course) along with a couple of almond and blackcurrant financiers and some pecan shortbread

20th May 2012 - Shepard’s Hill Allotments Plant Sale

Rosa 'Zéphirine Drouhin'
Central Hornsey and District allotments and horticultural society (CHADAHS) is as its name suggests a society of local allotment holder and gardeners. The main allotment sites are those of Shepherd’s Hill and Alexandra Palace.

It was yet another dull day for a plant sale but still a fair number of people turned out for the event at the Shepard's Hill site. One set of stalls sold flowering plants and the other vegetables. We headed for the vegetable stalls where we bought four Ferline blight resistant tomato plants and two courgettes before turning our attention to the inevitable tea and home-made cake stall.

Unexpectedly meeting some friends who have an allotment in Leyton we gained permission to show them around the site. Narrow paths criss-cross the area which has over two hundred characterful allotments on a north facing slope. There are full size allotments and smaller divisions which are still very big compared to our tiny plot in Highbury. The allotments are rather tucked away from any main roads and overlook Queen’s Wood, part of the ancient Forest of Middlesex. High up the slope there is an extensive vista over Alexandra Palace.

Chelsea Fringe

29th May 2012 - Garden of Disorientation

This afternoon we visited the intriguingly named Garden of Disorientation a mint garden and Mojito Bar in an old meat packing building in Smithfield Market. The disorientation is to do with it being an indoor garden in the City of London. Mint was everywhere, growing in pots placed inside old wooden pallets where they cascaded down sometimes all but covering the wood. In places they were tied up with shiny, green gift wrapping ribbon. There were many different types of mints displayed but the main variety was Spearmint.

1st - 4th September 2012 - Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) in N7

Without my glasses the small bird seen through the French windows resembled a male Chaffinch with its pinky shading. We’ve had the odd female but never a male before so this was interesting. I found my distance specs and saw at once that this was no Chaffinch. It was clearly a young bird with russet chest feathers.

It was utterly charming and confiding feeding on the seeds amongst the Sparrows as if it had been here all its young life.

It was defiantly a Finch, could it be a Brambling, surely not, or a Linnet or Redpoll. I search online and through Chris’ extensive collection of bird books including his Western Palearctic collection and even Witherby but to no avail.

It was only when I reviewed some photographs taken on the Fig Tree that I could see the red on the top of its head and came down on Linnet. This was verified by David Darrell-Lambert ‘Bird Brain’ of the London Natural History Society (LNHS) from some photographs we sent.

Linnets are by no means rare although they are on the Red data list. They normally breed in remote areas where there's lots of shrub and whilst this was not a breeding bird, just a youngster passing through, it is an unusual sighting for Lower Holloway, close to Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium with a construction site at the end of the garden.

After four days the Linnet moved on and we wish him all the best for the future.