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Author: tejvan

Allotments on Knight’s Hill London

Allotments on Knight’s Hill London

Back garden, spring 2008

I was caught by the headline ‘On the Eighth day God Created Allotments

With new interest in researching allotments I came across this fantastic picture with lots of detail. ‘Back garden, spring 2008 by Darkroom Daze’ has been made available under a creative commons license CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. Here is some of the supporting detail but you can find more by clicking the picture thanks to Darkroom Daze.

The garden was very plain and bare when we arrived in 1985. We have been developing the design gradually since then, but not from a single pre-planned conception. Eventually we developed the overall shape, with a ‘winding river’ effect made by the lawns and path. The shapes of the rockeries, planting and other features are based on the way a small stream winds between ‘interlocking spurs’ in hilly terrain. We did all the planting, and I built many of the features. For further history of our garden, see set description for ‘OUR BACK GARDEN’
FEATURES (also noted on photo if viewed with flickr)
– Arbour – R foreground, only slat-roof visible, assembled from flat-pack.
– Garden railway – L foreground, on Water Rockery, G-scale 45mm gauge.
– Path – of reclaimed York stone laid in ‘crazy’ style by local landscaper, late Mr. Rogers, to our own winding design, shortly after we arrived in 1985.
– Temple of Juno garden shed – centre L, with white portico and shingled roof, built by me in sections out of reclaimed timber (“Rosen Wanted”) at a previous house, brought here and extended with portico, and finished by joiner Steve Cruse.
– Upper Rockery (Railway Rockery) – lower centre, with evergreen and alpine planting, and Upper Loop ofGarden Railway (not visible here), built myself of various kinds of stone in simulated geological structure.
– Valrosa Cabin workshop – centre background, brown, fully insulated, completed earlier in the year by Acer Landscapes.
– Water Rockery – centre L, with pumped water course, upper pools, cascades, and lower loop of garden railway, though only the railway is visible here. Almost all built myself.
PLANTS (also noted on photo)
– Buxus sempervirens – jelly-mould box-hedge, centre L foreground.
– Chamaecyparis, columnar, not sure what species or form – in neighbour’s garden to L, along the fence.
– Chamaecyparis – probably C. lawsoniana, Lawson’s cypress, ‘Stewartii’ or ‘Westermannii’ – neighbours’ tall bright conifer, R centre.
– Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Squarrosa’ – Sawara cypress, centre L immediately in front of Temple of Juno portico.
– Clematis armandii – evergreen climber on fence behind arbour, lower R. Looks reddish because this is colour of new spring shoots.
– Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica – growing over old apple tree stumps. centre L foreground.
– Cotoneaster frigidus – centre L in front of Temple of Juno.
– Escallonia macrantha – two shrubs shaped into an arch over side path, L side only visible here, centre R.
– Juniperus scopulorum ‘Skyrocket’ – pillar juniper, centre R.
– Lonicera japonica – Japanese honeysuckle, evergreen, closest part of R hedge.
– Lonicera nitida ‘Baggesen’s Gold’ – lower centre R, between path and arbour.
– Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’ – golden marjoram, at front of Upper Rockery along the path, lower centre.
– Phormium tenax probably ‘Rainbow Queen’ – New Zealand flax, the spiky plant just R of centre foreground.
– Picea glauca var. albertiana ‘Conica’ – dwarf white spruce, two of them, one behind the other, lower centre by path.
– Picea glauca var. albertiana ‘Conica’ – dwarf white spruce, two trees one behind the other, lower centre on Upper Rockery.
– Picea mariana ‘Nana’ – dwarf black spruce, lower centre by path.
– Platycladus orientalis ‘Beverleyensis’ – golden form of Eastern Thuja, in shade, L foreground.
– Prunus domesticus (presumably) – the neighbours’ plum tree, upper centre L, to L of Valrosa Cabin.
– Pyracantha, probably P. x watereri – in neighbours’ garden, growing against fence, lower R.
– Pyrus probably P. communis – common pear tree, in neighbours’ garden, top L.
– Quercus – probably Q. robur L., pedunculate oak, growing along fence behind a neighbouring garden, top R.
– Taxus baccata – yew, golden fastigiate form, probably ‘Standishii’ – front L in neighbour’s garden.’

Rosendale Allotments Association

  • Established in 1880 the Rosendale Allotments Association RAA has 480 plots on the site with plot holders and sharers from South London.
  • RAA is looking for votes in a competition to find a name for their periodic newsletter.
    • The Plot Thickens
    • Green Stuff
    • Hot Off The Plot
    • Green News Digest
  • In common with many other allotment sites RAA has had to suspend the waiting list as at current rate of turnover waiting time for an allotment on the site is estimated at twenty years.

Shed view
Other credits Shed view by coconinoco CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 with London skyline.

Simple Daffodils

Simple Daffodils

Autumn is a good time to think of planting some more daffodils for cutting or naturalising.

Daffodils near Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire

Daffodils are one of the easiest plants to grow. If basic care is given, the bulbs can flower year after year.

Planting Daffodils.

The best time for planting daffodils is in September and October. They can be planted in the green in late spring. But, usually do fine through planting in autumn.

The most important thing when planting daffodils is to plant them at the correct depth. As a basic guide the depth want to be 3 times the length of the bulb. E.g. if the bulb is 2.5 inches. They should be planted at a depth of 7-8 inches. However, it is better to err on the side of planting more deeply. Planting them more deeply makes it less likely they will dry out.

Feeding Daffodils

After flowering, it is advisable to sprinkle a fertilizer around the base of the leaves. This gives the chance for the bulbs to gain greater strength for future years.

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Daffodil Blindness

Daffodil Blindness


Daffodil Blindness occurs when daffodils fail to flower, i.e the green leaves appear, but no flowers. I am updating this post formerly released in 2014 as I have just experienced  annoying blind daffodils. I bought a pot of narcissus supposedly to produce a  ‘generous number of richly scented bicoloured blooms’ . From 5 bulbs I only got one stem with a sparse flower. I should have read this reminder first! I was blind sided when I bought them.

Causes of Daffodil Blindness

  • Poor quality bulbs. If it is the first year of planting and your daffodils are blind, it is probably poor quality or new bulbs. If you buy bulbs from a reputable supplier, they really should be flowering in the first year, however you treat them.
  • Planting Depth too Shallowly. Many people fail to plant daffodils sufficiently deep. If bulbs are too close to the surface they tend to suffer from a lack of water and food, therefore they fail to flower.
  • Crowded Bulbs. If bulbs are planted too closely together, then they will be competing with each other for food and water and more likely to have insufficient food for themselves.
  • Drought / Lack of Nutrient. If there is a lack of water in previous year they may come up next year as blind.
  • Disease. It is possible disease reduces strength of daffodils.
  • Leaves cut off after flowering. Unfortunately, people like to tidy their garden and cut off unsightly leaves. But, this prevents them from gaining enough strength. You can deadhead (so they don’t waste energy producing seed) but you should only cut back leaves when they start turning yellow.
  • Aging. Older bulbs can become ‘tired’ and less likely to flower as the years go by.


How To Solve Daffodil Blindness

  • Unfortunately, once daffodils come up blind, you may have to be very patient and wait one or two years for them to regain strength to flower. In some cases, you might prefer to dig up and replant new bulbs in the autumn.
  • However, if you want you can try to make them reflower. If they were planted too shallow, you can dig up and replant at proper depth (3 times bulb length). E.g. 5 cm big bulb should be planted 15cm below soil surface.
  • If blindness is caused by overcrowding, it is definitely worth digging up and trying to split. Planting at proper spacings (2-3 distance of width of bulb)
  • Water and Feed. One of the best ways to prevent daffodil blindness is to water with liquid feed when the leaves are green. This helps strengthen bulb for next year.
  • Keep weeds at bay. Weeding with hoe prevents weeds competing for water. It also helps to keep daffodil fly ‘narcissus fly’ at bay.
  • Keep splitting bulb stock and giving new ‘child’ bulbs chance to grow.
Iris is the Rainbow Goddess

Iris is the Rainbow Goddess

Iris reticulata

Iris flowers are named after the Greek Goddess of the rainbow, which is appropriate for their extensive range of colours.

There are many different varieties of Iris The most common is the German Bearded Iris’ which include a range of different cultivatars.

  • Provided they are grown in a suitable location, Iris provide a good low maintenance display.
  • The main thing is to ensure the soil has good drainage. If the bulbs become waterlogged there is a risk of the bulb rotting. (apart from the varieties which are grown on pond edges.
  • Iris enjoy full sun or partial sun.
  • The Iriz rhizomes should be planted at or just above soil level.
  • Iris bulb varieties should be planted 2-3 times the depth of the bulb size.
  • I. unguicularis is a good variety for offering flowers in early winter when flowers are rare. These need a sheltered, sunny and free draining spot.

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Protect Your Garden from Wind

Protect Your Garden from Wind


Specimen tree sheltered by High Hedge

A windbreak can make a big difference to a garden creating safety and an improved micro climate. After we reduced a large conifer by half many plants got flattened by the wind which was now able to flow over the shorter windbreak.

Top Windbreak Tips

  1. Hedges, gorse and natural planting will help break-up the flow of wind. Banked up soil with a hedge on top often features in large windswept gardens.
  2. Solid barriers such as walls can create eddies and vortex effects that cause more damage than they protect.  This was forcefully demonstrated to me with lost greenhouse window panes after a big blow.
  3. Plan a first line of defence to break the winds full force followed by a second line. Design both together to be complementary. I prefer natural breaks of trees as the prime windbreak but for ground level protection I use smaller shrubs.
  4. In really wind areas windbreak trees will grow lower or be stunted so bear this in mind when planning the number and proximity of plants needed.

Mixed Shrub Secondary Windbreak

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Best Trees for Small Gardens UK

Best Trees for Small Gardens UK

A common site in many town gardens are trees that have outgrown their space. Large native trees like Oaks, Copper Beach, Planes, Weeping Willow and horse chestnuts are wonderful, but to be really enjoyed they need suitable space, like in a park. If they are planted in the garden they will

  • Create too much shade
  • Create too much ‘water shade’ – their canopy can make a garden quite dry.
  • Planted too near the house, they can also undermine the foundations of a house as their roots spread deeply into the structure.

To remove these trees is a big job. But, it’s better to do now, rather than leaving until it is even higher. (Though you may have to be careful and check planning regulations before cutting old trees down – some may be protected)

However, though some trees are too big to enjoy, there are many excellent varieties which will be good for the small garden.

Best Trees For Small Gardens

Acers – There are a huge varieties of acers. They can be very attractive in the small garden. They are also ideally suited for the small garden.


Acer Palmatum – a great tree for small gardens. They are very slow growing so stay nice and small. I’ve found they can be a bit tender in a cold windy winter. More on Acers

Birch – Betula Pendula


Birches make excellent garden trees, there canopy is not too dense, providing a lovely dappled shade. There small delicate leaves and bark can also be quite attractive, especially the white barked silver birch.

Hawthorn Tree. Can be used in hedges or used as a specimen tree. Will not grow too tall and provides good blooms in May or June.



The Laburnum provides a wonderful display of yellow flowers in May / June. It shouldn’t grow too tall (though this tree from Italy has grown as tall as house. One important point is that its leaves and flowers and bark are all poisonous. If you have young children, it may not be suitable unless closely supervised.

The best variety is Laburnum wateri vossii’ which produces long blooms of flowers.

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A Late sowing of Kale

A Late sowing of Kale


Here in Oxford, we tried sowing some Kale in the middle of August.

We sowed some directly into pots and as an after thought sowed some directly into the ground.

Going on holiday for two weeks after sowing seeds is always asking for trouble, and by the time we got back they had shriveled up and were only good for the compost heap. However, the seeds sown direct into the ground did quite well. A few got eaten by slugs but a couple grew fast enough to escape their clutches.

The location in the garden wasn’t the best, with shade from Conifer and other trees limited the amount of direct sun, as Autumn progressed, they were lucky to get one hour of sun per day. Yet, despite little direct sunlight, they kept growing and soon started to encroach on each other. We started picking some leaves from the bottom of the plants and got a few meals out of them.

As the nights shortened, growth slowed down almost to a stop and the Kale pests seemed to be taking out more than they were able to grow. I think later damage came from pigeons or the like, it doesn’t look like the work of slugs – too big and neat.

Anyway, they look OK, in the mostly empty border and were a good ground-cover as we await a new fence. The last few straggly plants will be harvested and will make the odd meal or two.

But, for late sowing, they didn’t get enough sunlight to really get going – even the richest soil can’t compensate for lack of light. But, next year, we’ll pick a better spot and hope that they really take off. We may also try a later sowing because Kale is a good plant for providing fresh veg through the winter months. However, we may have to take pest control a bit more seriously which will mean netting to stop both butterflies and pigeons – so maybe not in the flower border.

Here’s a useful post on growing organic Kale.

Related posts at Gardenerstips

Tips for Composting Leaves

Tips for Composting Leaves

Composting Broad-leaves

  • Broad leaved trees produce prodigious volumes of leaves in Autumn.
  • Their leaves should be composted or rotted separately to other garden waste. They can take upto 2 years to decompose properly.
  • It is worth persevering because they make an excellent soil conditioner.
  • The leaves will decompose in punctured plastic bags or a custom made leaf bin.
  • Often these custom made leaf composters are made with a simple wire mesh.
  • The advantage of using open bins is that they enable worms to enter and help the process of decomposition. It is important to have 2 bins / bags on the go at the same time, as they will not be ready in less than 1 year.

Accelerators for Composting Leaves.

  • It is possible to buy a special liquid which helps to speed up the process of decomposition. These accelerators are worth adding as they will speed up the process.
  • Basically, these accelerators help add nitrogen to the leaves.
  • If you have access to manure adding it to leaves will work very effectively.
  • Even accelerated decomposition will not increase the nutritional value.
  • Oak Chestnut and conifer leaves take far longer to rot down than others. I keep leaves as separate as is practical as my Acers rot quickly and can be used around my Rhododendrons to good effect.

See composting accelerators.

Digging in Half-composted Leaves.

If you don’t want to wait 2 years to decompose leaves, you can simply add them at the bottom of a trench and then add soil, they will naturally disintegrate over time.
Worms are crucial to the decomposition and are also good for your soil conditioning.
It is far better to collect the leaves than leave them on your lawn.

Tips on Making Leaf Mold Easily

  • Rake your leaves together into a pile. Bits of soil, grass and a variety of leaves are not a problem but make the pile predominantly leaves.
  • Put the leaves in a wire cage cover and leave to rot. alternatively put the leaves into a large plastic bag and puncture to allow air to enter.
  • Leaves should be damp and can be lightly watered but not left soggy. The rotting will not create heat like normal compost and decomposition will be slow.
  • The volume of leaf mold will be a tenth of the leaf pile you started with.
  • Conifers and evergreen leaves will take three years to compost and are best added in small quantities.
  • Shredding leaves or chopping with a lawnmower first helps to speed up composting.
  • Do not include nuts or tree seeds
  • Burn any diseased leaves and avoid honey fungus