London (change)
Today 15°C / 13°C
Tomorrow 16°C / 9°C

Charlie November

Latest posts by Charlie November

Large Canvas

Posted: 31/08/2013 at 11:22

It's HOW big? Wow.

Okay then! That's one big canvas. I'm going to need a bigger paintbrush.

Lawn: currently, you have this. As you've probably noticed, it mostly just uses up lawnmower fuel. If you have kids who love to run round in circles on it and yell and/or kick footballs around it, or you like to sit on lawn furniture on sunny evenings (excuse chuckling, as I'm in Yorkshire, where it rains on sunny evenings) the lawn may be valuable, but it's an expensive thing to maintain. Still, it's what you can have under a washing line.

Washing line: the picture was taken in some harsh light, and the near end of the house is overexposed as a result, but it looks blank, so that's a place the laundry won't spoil your view and you can have guests there without them being "under Big Brother's eyes" in front of a window or able to see into your rooms and watch you inside, which some people wouldn't like, so I'd make the first open space at the near end of the house.

Open space: another open space, somewhere further down the garden. You can get 6'x4' sheets of outdoor acryclic from Homebase, so an octagonal pagoda with one of those for each piece of roof is a possibility. So's a raised deck. You could put one on top of the other. This would give you a semi-rainproof place to sit and sip beer or wine. I don't mean pagoda, do I? A pagoda is really tall, with lots of overhanging roofs. I mean, erm, a ... mar... marquis? No. Thing. Legs, roof, some walls. Free-standing conservatory. Four porches back-to-back without a house between them. Thing.

Getting there: two paths, one down each side of the garden, with flowers between path and fence on the outside.

Shed, compost heap(s) et cetera: bottom corner, where you took that photograph.

Between lawn and thing and between thing and shed: here's where you get to do lots of engineering! To psychologically separate the two and increase the feeling of being in another place, raise beds between them. This will also hide the ugly compost heap and shed ... unless you want to build a really beautiful shed with a door that's actually tall enough. Why do sheds all have 5'10" doors, anyway? Boulders or gabions, in interesting shapes, creating tiered beds with pretty stuff growing in them will hide your "quiet place in the garden" from the house and vice versa. Between there and the shed, you could go with dense bushes and trees, but you don't want trees too close to the house.

Plants: entirely up to you in the middle, as you get to decide what soil to have in your raised beds and how well-drained it'll be. Just plan them all first in plan and elevation so the small ones aren't lost behind the big ones and you can reach to prune the ones that'll need it, and plant from the centre outwards and from the fence forwards. Be careful not to shade yourself out by putting tall trees south of your sun-lounger.

Gabions, retaining wall any other options please?

Posted: 30/08/2013 at 19:13

On price:

Quite expensive, apparently. What I *think* is the way to use them is to dig the bank back, level the base below the bottom level, put in a line of them and fill them up, fill behind them to level, put the next row on top, set slightly back, fill those, fill behind them to level et cetera until you reach the lawn level. It's probably a good idea to tie them down so the soil can't push them over each other with the passage of time and topple the lot, unlikely though that sounds.

Tree roots may well make this more difficult, as they tend to be thick, tough and near the surface, but the further from the nearest tree you start, the less harm you'll do the tree by just cutting through them and ripping them out.

I'd suggest building up high enough to level the lawn, so it can't flow over the top of them. This will leave you with a "dead" part across the bottom. Thinking of it as a path may be easiest.

To put a wall on it, you could probably just concrete the base onto the filled gabion. To put up a fence, I'd actually cut holes in the top mesh of the gabions and put the posts into them, pouring concrete in around the post bases, or put those ground spike things in through holes in the mesh, concrete those in and then stand fence posts in them (so you can pull out rotten fence posts years from now and put in fresh ones very easily).

I'm sure a wall of filled gabions would be a quite effective noise blocker, but that's a very thick wall and rather expensive. It would probably be cheaper to build it out of breezeblocks or bricks. You could also try a wooden fence with wide slats on both sides and narrow gaps between the slats on alternating sides, so wind can leak through but there are no lines of sight. It won't be as effective, but it looks less ... well, concrete.

Just my opinion, not a professional assessment, but you can probably build just about anything on top of them if it doesn't require a crane. An image search seems to confirm this.

Not sure about the plants. At a guess, anything that likes "well-drained soil", if you cover the things in gravel and then soil, should cope. You may find yourself having to top up with compost, sand and/or topsoil as it leaks down through the stones, though. There's probably a rule about soil depth relative to final height.

The washing ... umm ... well, shorten the hedges on the south side? Shorten the hedges all around to improve ventilation? Engineer's approach: build your retaining wall down both sides of the garden, finishing with a 1m gabion-top path well above ground level, mount pulleys on the outer wall on top of this, string the line around them and hang your laundry higher off the ground! Of course, this requires one person to attach clothes at each pulley so you can use both sides of the line at once. It wouldn't have to be a military fortified wall, really. You could just have a little Disney Princess-style tower at each side and string the laundry between them.

unusual garden, unusual problem to make safe - any ideas?

Posted: 14/08/2013 at 20:36

I'd go with something that'll look good "for now" and after the wall disappears behind your planted borders.

For most of it, a solidly built trellis and climbers ought to do. There's something to be said for an access path between that and the flower beds, so that you can get at it to keep them under control without having to set up a stepladder in the shrubs.

One thing about a trellis: it kind of looks like a climbing frame, but will fall apart under a person's weight. My trellis-as-security here has lots of brambles growing through it, making it rather unappealing as a climbing frame. The roses are getting thornier year by year, too.

For a corner with a table and chairs, a wind-reducing fence and an overhead trellis may work, although that kind of requires a front leg. You could put miniature trellis up the front leg and plant around it, too, to pretty it up. Something that'll dangle down nicely, like wisteria flowers or bunches of grapes, would be a nice feature for overhead.

Putting rails up and installing a retractable roof is an option, but may be considered extravagant. Also, the climbers would get into the rails.

What's the star in your garden right now

Posted: 13/08/2013 at 14:58

Definitely the lilies. I've no pictures because my new camera died when I tried to recharge it, but the white lilies. I think they're white Casa Blanca with a single red Black Beauty and a few pale pink ... er ... ones among them, but it's definitely the white ones that are shining this week. They smell fantastic, too.


Lily beetles? Yeah, found them, killed dozens, killed dozens of larvae, started finding and killing adults again. I seem to be winning.


On the wishlist but not in the flowerbed: an 8'2" Hotline lily. I suspect they'd get blown down as soon as they peeped over the fence, really.

Bird feeders causing weeds?

Posted: 12/08/2013 at 16:39

I've tried the RSPB's anti-squirrel cages on my feeders. (They work, but a brown rat managed to get into one. .177 solved that problem.) They have conical bases that can be attached either way up, so you can shed the spillage onto the ground or retain it. These nominally have drainage holes, but they're inadequate, as the damp spillage clogs them. I use them as catcher dishes under the peanut feeders (mostly full of treat pellets because nobody eats peanuts) but have them the other way up under the seed mix, so it ends up on the ground. It lands in a layer of pine needles from the trees around the feeder pole (positioned for the birds' benefit, not for viewing) and doesn't grow, so no worries there. Where I've put food on stumps for the blackbirds, I do get growth, but it's no big deal in the hedge.

One thing I've found growing where I feed blackbirds that I definitely didn't put out for them: elder trees. Every year, when the berries ripen, the blackbirds feast on berries then come for food in my garden and paint the area around their food stumps and rocks purple. Then there are elder seedlings. If anybody needs a dozen of them, let me know. 

help: bindweed is coming over from neighbour!

Posted: 12/08/2013 at 16:25

I've got Roundup Tree Stump & Root Killer here, £16 for 250ml ( 17.8p/g ) from Homebase, 360 g/l glyphosate acid.

It says 15ml in 1 litre in a sprayer or 15ml in 5 litres in a watering can for 30m^2 of bindweed, dandelions, docks, ground elder and thistles ( 5.4g/l ) ( 3.2p/m^2 ) ...

... or 20ml in 1 litre in a sprayer or 20ml in 5 litres in a watering can for 30m^2 of brambles, nettles, horsetail, bracken, or beech, sycamore, oak, hazel, willow or ash saplings ( 7.2g/l ) ( 4.27p/m^2 ).

I had some other brand before, which was £18 for a litre of 90g/l ( 20p/g ) and said 45ml per litre in a sprayer ( 4.05g/l ) ( 2.7p/m^2 ).

By the looks of it, you want 4 to 7 grams per litre for spraying, 0.8 to 1.4 grams per litre for the Watering Can Of Doom.


Posted: 11/08/2013 at 19:02

Ooh, yeah, lavender. Then you could make your own teabags to sell to my friend because I cannot find the Twinings Earl Grey With Lavender she loves.


Posted: 10/08/2013 at 09:02

For that steep back slope, I'd say "wildflower meadow," probably partly because it looks like it's halfway there already. It'd be a great place for birds to hunt bugs.

Alternative idea: orchard.

On a slope like that, you don't want high maintenance stuff and you don't want anything that produces its own tripwires, so brambles and honeysuckles are probably things to avoid.

For the front, low shrubs. Low, because you don't want them to shade out the place you stood to take that picture. Hardy perennials are your friends, because you only have to buy them once and plant them once. If you've got a cheap source of rocks, you could turn the whole thing into a terraced strawberry field, but that may be taking "I like strawberries" a bit too far. A few interesting "architectural" plants and a lot of year-round foliage, with something in flower most months, should work.

I'd advise against bulbs, because they don't hold the soil in place very well, especially when they're dormant, so your whole garden would get washed downhill quite quickly.

If that's an ash tree drooping down on the right of the first image, I'd suggest cutting that branch back quite hard before you start, or it'll be hitting you on the head while you work and then you'll have nowhere to stand to cut it without trampling your new plants.

Help needed to create a new garden

Posted: 09/08/2013 at 17:37

Speaking of seed heads, I found a loaded Allium Star of Persia seed head and could probably post it. Should have thought of that at the time. From what I've read, though, it could be a few years before plants grown from seed build up enough bulb size to feel like they can go for flowers.

Help needed to create a new garden

Posted: 07/08/2013 at 18:04

I just found my layered winter jasmine Jasminum nudiflorum. It's ... doing quite well. It's spread out three feet each way from its little tiny pot. The parent plant's got its mind set on crossing the driveway. 30 metres of front wall between it and the drive yet, but it's working on it.

One "Late Dutch" honeysuckle is growing shrub-like in a pot by the shed, the "Cream cascade" honeysuckle Lonicera japonica halliana is probably layered in all three pots by now. It was in two pots but then I foudn out it had layered itself into the lawn, so I moved that into a pot too.

They're yours if you want them, although we're a way apart.

No evidence of success with Akebia yet. Stubborn thing.

Roses finally finished flowering this week. Haven't tried to layer them yet. Reluctant to cut brambles out of the way while they're loaded with fruit ripening for the birds, so may take cuttings of the roses instead.

Discussions started by Charlie November

Holy glyphosate, Batman! What's that?

Huge thing with tiny white flowers and heart-shaped leaves 
Replies: 16    Views: 583
Last Post: 24/06/2014 at 16:52

Rose cuttings: timing

Replies: 7    Views: 374
Last Post: 31/03/2014 at 17:26

When is honey fungus not honey fungus?

At least I didn't spend anything. 
Replies: 18    Views: 1564
Last Post: 26/10/2013 at 16:46

Apple tree with white leaves

It seems to be healthy enough, if slow-growing 
Replies: 2    Views: 330
Last Post: 10/09/2013 at 18:34


Not a lily. Not an apple tree. 
Replies: 6    Views: 496
Last Post: 10/09/2013 at 22:29


Planning? Measuring? Me? 
Replies: 17    Views: 890
Last Post: 07/05/2014 at 16:57

Leaving tulips in the ground

Can they be left in if the drainage is good? 
Replies: 14    Views: 2132
Last Post: 13/05/2013 at 08:09
7 threads returned