Cross Pollination

This may not be of interest to sensible people who spend more time in their gardens than watching TV. But I thought I'd share anyway. A show I've been working on for the last year and a half (and which nearly killed me) is on Channel 4 Monday 2nd at 8pm. It's about some present-day engineers who try to recreate the Dambusters raid of WW2 for real on a huge lake in Canada. Even if I do say so myself it's really quite good. It's called Dambusters: Building the Bouncing Bomb.

Here's the two teasers (geolocked, so can only be viewed in the UK I'm afraid):

And this one has some rude language in, so best viewed with headphones if you're at work:


The wisdom of ladybirds

Two years ago we tried to grow some climbing French Beans. I say tried, because just as they were starting to flower they became so coated in blackfly that they looked like something out of a horror movie. It was like the plant had a living, crawling rippling skin. This abundance of aphids attracted vast quantities of ladybirds (whose young eat aphids by the sackload), but despite this, the plants eventually just gave up. I think we got one solitary bean from them. But the following year I noticed that not only did we have less blackfly, but loads more ladybirds - even in early spring. Thanks to the abundance of aphids, they'd overwintered in our garden. Since then we've always had lots of ladybirds, and far fewer aphids.

However, this spring despite the lovely ladies in red in the photo above, we have a big patch of Euphorbia entirely coated in aphids. And they're not happy - the plants that is, I'm sure the aphids are very content. I'd love to say I maintain a zen-like calm in the face of these pests, trusting that the ladybirds will eventually notice such a tempting free lunch. But I'm not. Tomorrow morning I am going to go out and try to blast the sap-sucking scum off my plants with a powerful hose.

(if you've time, read the wikipedia article on aphids. I knew that ants 'farmed' them - but I didn't know they hid aphid eggs in their nests over winter, carefully putting them back on an appropriate plant in the spring - how cunning is that?)

A very unhappy Euphorbia... come on ladybirds - where are you!


Kitten Sandwich

I have to share this photo, even though it's way off topic. I listen to Adam and Joe's radio show on BBC6 music, and they invite listeners to send in photos every week. You can see the results here. This weeks theme was bizarre sandwich.

I say this because we got a bit carried away and I feel I need to put this photo in context. Our cat is looking alarmed because the bread is frozen and his ears are getting cold.

I laugh every time I see this photo. I think that makes me a bad person.


The big spring clean

A sunny weekend here, and so the co-gardener and I rolled up our sleeves and finally tackled our big garden spring clean. After spending all day out there in the sun I think I'm actually a bit red, and we're both absolutely knackered. But the garden does look much better for it.

So as part of a general tidy, I decided to tackle our pots. They've been looking manky for a while now with several casualties of winter and neglect. I have a zero tolerance attitude to pot plants. I just can't really be bothered to water them in the summer so we only grow plants that are very drought tolerant (ie can take a bit of neglect) or things we really want that we're potting on. 

Before - a sorry state...

An hour or so later, and they're looking much better! I recycled most of the soil from the pots, refreshed it with a bit of well-rotted horse manure and a few chicken manure pellets, and reused it. Hopefully they'll be much happier. There are some Sedums I'm growing on, a Phormium, some indestructable succulents, some Shasta Daisies I'm growing on, and some very unhappy thyme plants that I'm hoping will survive the slug onslaught.

Meanwhile the co-gardener was working very hard on the shed. What a difference a day makes! We're not just painting it so it looks neat - we can't afford a new shed, and the paint should protect it for a good few years to come.


And after

On the right in the photo above you can see some Cavolo Nero (black cabbage) that we've overwintered. It's now flowering all over the place, and the bees and bumble bees love it. I'm also slightly obsessed with it. I think I now have at least 30 photos of the flowers. I'll spare you the whole batch (including the arty ones I took using the flash - which just looked crap). But here's one for the road.

Sorry - couldn't resist adding one more... there's a bee and everything.


March month by month

I have just posted my new month by month pictures. There is growth. Not much, but a bit.

Follow the link above, or if you like, just follow this link.

Of parrots and pigeons

Walking home a couple of days ago, me and the co-gardener stopped to stare up at a particularly stunning cherry tree in full blossom. As we looked up, we realised that there was more up in the branches than just blossom. There was a funny-looking bird. And it looked like it was eating the flowers. In fact there were several birds, all with forked tails, hooked beaks, and bright green feathers. They were parrots. Yes, I'm not making this up, there are parrots living in London. I've seen them before in giant flocks, but this is the first time I've seen them really close up. I wish I had a longer zoom, as the photos I took doesn't really do them justice.

Turns out London has been home to ring-necked parakeets since the 19th century - although their numbers have shot up since the 1990s. No one knows where they came from, and they are now so successful that they can legally be shot as pests (if you have a proper license). While some might get upset by the thought of these foreigners invading our shores, I'm a big fan. They brighten up the city, and they're much prettier than the bloody pigeons.

Spot the parrot...