My roots are in the north of England but I enjoy an occasional trip down to ‘the smoke’ as London used to be called. Fortunately there is far less smoke than 50+ years ago but the same can’t be said for air pollution nor particulates around major roads. We walked from Kings Cross along Euston Road to the Wellcome Collection and the ‘rooted beings’ exhibition. Breathing in the fumes caused some coughing and spluttering on the way so subsequently we walked through back streets seeing another side of London. Whilst the air was not as fresh as Ilkley Moor it was OK particularly when we stopped in Russel Square garden.
About Rooted Being Exhibition Free until 29th August 2022
‘Plants sustain life on earth. They are sensitive, complex and interconnected beings, playing surprisingly active roles in ecosystems and human societies’ wellcomecollection.org/exhibitions
‘The exhibition reimagines our relationship with plants and fungi, exploring what we can learn from plant behaviour and how we can rethink the significance of plants beyond simply resources for human consumption. The curatorial team have brought together works from the Wellcome Collection’s archive of botanical illustrations with artists’ commissions to form an open-ended narrative about vegetal life in the context of the climate crisis, from the perspective of environmental and social justice’. Anna Souter
In addition to the Wellcome Trusts usual medical information the contemporary ‘rooted’ project in the main gallery includes art work, botanical illustrations, a fifth century Papyrus and a 19th-century study of fungi.
Mandrake, Brugsmania and hallucinogenic plants are covered in a free brochure about the work of Patricia Dominguez
Two of my favourite exhibits included a large wrack sculpture and lobster pots filled with construction and plastic waste.
Not a massive exhibition but the subject is dwarfed by hidden meanings notably a holistic view about plants and the consequences of human interaction with the natural world.
Not what you would expect for a garden called ‘The Phoenix Garden’ in the middle of Tottenham Court Road near Crown Point. It isn’t a phoenix from the ashes of a great fire or a WW11 bomb site at but was built on a disused car park in the 1980s. It may be part of an overflowing burial ground for St Giles-in-the-field church back in the 1600s and is reputed to be the last surviving Covent ‘Garden’. The entrance is located in St Giles Passage
Despite being surprisingly close to the busiest part of central London there is a peace and tranquillity about the small but well formed, free to visit garden. It is maintained to a high standard by volunteers with lots of flowering plants and secluded seating. I was walking or ambling from Kings Cross to Westminster and unexpectedly came across the garden where I spent a tranquil time in a well stocked, well planned space. The large number of insects and wild life is a tribute to the planning and care that has gone into maintaining this community asset. The surrounding buildings do not intrude on the space but the photo below shows the competition from concrete.
It is a sad fact that the British hobby of garden-making is in decline. That is partially due to social changes and more importantly there being no new land for gardens.
Land is a scarce resource and what the suitable land is required for a multiplicity of other uses.
Concrete jungles are preventing the sensible development of gardens other than for displaying onroof top gardens, patios or other man made efforts.
The Dutch have developed plant growing to a fine art utilising land reclamation whilst our East Coast is eroded and some gardens fall into the North Sea.
Social Expectation and Change
Our UK population continues to grow, even though there is a blossoming interest in ecology and the environment, such growth is not noticeably translating into new gardens.
There are fewer new parks and gardens in public ownership (unless you count skate parks and playgrounds). At least not in proportion to population growth.
Living accommodation has changed in several ways with many more retirement villages, apartments and single occupation homes. Land is being converted in to a concrete jungle that will not return to a garden opportunity for many life times.
There are many competing activities to distract potential garden aspirationalists. Whilst RHS membership may be growing that may reflect the hobby of observing not gardening.
My patio roses have been given some TenderLovingCare to set them up for flowering this summer.
TLC has involved checking over the pots and how they and the roses over wintered. Luckily there were no disaster or significant problems.
Pots were on the dry side, no bad thing through winter but now I will up the watering with dilute fertiliser.
The high growth had been trimmed in late autumn but now I undertook some careful pruning. Old and dead wood was cut out and the center of the rose was opened up to allow in air as they develop.
I took off the top 3 inches of soil and replaced it with a top dressing of John Innes and compost. I added a few slow release granules to each pot first.
Last year I covered the top of each pot with an inch of Strulch to suppress weeds and help watering. That worked so well I am repeating this mulch for this year. The old Strulch and top compost has gone on the heap.
Future Care and Boosting Plans
Black spot can be a problem on susceptable varieties so I will spray with a fungicide. Infected leaves will be taken off and dustbinned.
I will feed with a rose feed in may and a tomato feed after the first flush of flowers.
I am potentially over feeding as I hope to get some more cut flowers this year.
I also plan to buy another plant, or several, they are great value for money.
My pots are a mishmash but I prefer those that are uniform terracotta pots.
Even in my glazed pots and two twelve inch square plastic efforts the patio roses produce masses of flowers annually.
Most pots contain roses over 5 years old and I do not re-pot them.
My favourite pots are 16 inch high ‘Long Toms’ that make a group of three. This grouping helps a micro-climate and a blowsy display.
The shortest pot in 9 inches high and I should have selected a miniature rose rather than a fully fledged patio variety. Several miniature roses are in my shallow soiled rockery.
New drives, block paving and concreting over may and I emphasise may seem a good investment but think of the gardens destroyed and the habitats lost under hard landscape.
Some ‘Reasons’ Gardens are Destroyed
Housing extensions, extra garages and granny flats can consume land fit for gardens but who cares when a green resource is lost and drainage becomes a problem.
New housing in green fields, with high density just like the density of the planners who approve the development in the first place. Add in the infrastructure (if any) such as facilities, roads and access leads to more wet misery.
One off builds or converting a house with a large garden into two or more dwellings (often with capital gains tax protection). An admittedly large house near me has built in the front and the back garden now is managing to squeeze in two more detached houses. Five on to one has gone and so has the garden!
The advent of E-motor vehicles has led to charging points on house walls and thus more hard standing for more large cars.
Decking patios and trendy designer features have the ability to send water and money needlessly down the drain. Save our gardens.
Nine years ago I wrote about the coloured leaves of this houseplant. Now I have got interested in oil painting and this plant makes a dream of a subject for this week. This is what was published at the time and I recommend a later more detailed post. Read also about Croton the other name for Codiaeum,and related houseplants
‘You do not need flowers to produce colour in your houseplants. In addition to Begonia Rex and its relatives why not try growing some Codiaeum, an easy to maintain leafy plant.
Codiaeums are interesting foliage house plants also called Joseph’s Coat.
Codiaeum Cultivation Tips
This variety is called ‘Petra’ but you may also find ‘Eugene Drapps’ with long lance shaped leaves almost entirely yellow.
Keep plants moist and in good light with a temperature of at least 60-70Â° F.
Root 6 inch cuttings taken from the top of the plant at 70Â° with a bit of bottom heat.
Plants can be encouraged to branch by pinching out the growing tip.
Frequent feeding is needed except in winter when growth slows.
Large plants will have lots of roots so it may be worth potting up a size using loam based compost.
Red spider mite can be a problem with Codiaeums
Without good light but not full scorching sun the colouring will not be as strong and bottom leaves may be shed.’
If you missed an autumn planting of lily bulbs now is a good time to plant some to catch up for this year.
In spring plant the new bulbs at a depth of three times the height of the bulbs. If you plan to leave bulbs in the ground leave about twice the width of the bulb inbetween (closer if you will be lifting them each year).
Planting in threes or fives will give a good show if you chose healthy bulbs with plump scales.
Lilies like a rich fertile soil so incorporate some slow release fertiliser. As they start flowering give them a liquid feed of high potassium fertiliser.
Keep watered during dry spells but never let them be waterlogged.
Lilly beetles can be a red pain. The eggs eat leaves and stems and deposit a black sludge. Pick off and crush the beetles, they can fall to the ground to avoid the slow gardener.
After flowering cut back the seed heads before they leach out the goodness from the bulb trying to set seed. Leave to die back then cut off at soil level.
Mankind has proved to be adaptable at least enough to survive as one of nature’s multitude species. However there are warning signs that for the long term all is not well in our environment. As one small contribution to a ‘rooted in nature movement’ we should consider the gardener as a key player and influencer.
Lest we forget nature is essential to provide our current and future sustenance, health and wellbeing. Food and shelter are axiomatic to the survival of the human race and us as individuals. In a small way gardeners can root each of us in nature and provide a significant contribution to our understanding and appreciation of our natural surrounds. Enough of the overview now a few words on a micro perspective.
Helping Nature One Potato at a Time
The hippocratic oath has a useful phrase ‘first do no harm’. Thinking about this in the garden can be a good starting point. Consider e,xcess chemical use, limited native species, plastics galore, food mile products failure to consider cause and effect.
Helping nature should help the gardener and local environment. There are many healing, mood enhancing and medicinal plants to grow beyond the humble potato. Colourful and scented plants are just some examples.
Designing and operating a garden in a ‘rooted in nature’ manner is very therapeutic helping develop emotional and wellbeing. Calming water features and contemplation space may be inspirational for mind, body and soul.
Ash trees take lots and lots of goodness from the soil then die back or get turned into CO2 as firewood.
Never plant gladioli near peas beans or strawberries if you want them to thrive. Cabbages can kill off strawberries
Fuchsias appreciate shredded green bracken underneath their roots
Couch grass seldom grows around tomatoes, lupins or turnips.
Raddishes help stop maggots near cabbages
French marrigolds are well know for protecting from white fly
Good but Ugly Tips
Mulch with black polythene, old carpet or thick layers of cardboard.
An old dustbin with a chimney can be used to burn rubbish efficiently but it doesn’t look as good as a bonfire
Old labels and random canes and sticks as supports look untidy and at least in winter should be gathered in.
Lilies are fine plants but can be ravaged by the red lily beetle. Hostas can be ravaged by slugs and both look ugly