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.
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.
Guerrilla Gardening is a movement which seeks to take unused often ugly plots of neglected land and grow plants and vegetables. It is a loose movement with a variety of aspirations and ecologically green projects. It has been described as ‘The Illicit Cultivation of Someone else’s Land.
If you look around your city town or landscape, there are bound to be a neglected areas full of weeds and unnecessary concrete that would benefit from your green ministrations.Guerrilla Gardening may begin as an illicit activity of just planting in a certain area. In a way the thrill of guerrilla gardening is a combination of the illicit activity and the action of improving the local environment. It could be viewed as a beautiful form of vandalism. A kind of reverse graffiti.
There are many different and simple things that can be done as part of Guerrilla Gardening in a green manner.
Planting bulbs / plants in an area devoid of colour
Protecting weeds grown in unusual places.
Clearing up litter
Taking up unnecessary concrete and planting in it.
Watering, feeding and generally looking after a bed of plants to give a different level of aesthetic or practical result.
My garden helps some wild life but I recognise eco-disasters are all my fault when I consider how I am contributing to environmental problems. I do try make adjustments to my consumption of resources but in reality it is a net failure.
Some of my 2020 ecologicalÂ disasters
I use a lot of water with 2 outside taps, 2 very small ponds, 2 equally small water butts and lots and lots of hand watering.
Plant miles created by me have hitherto been quite excessive. I drive to garden centers on a regular basis buying plants that have probably been raise abroad in electrically enhanced hothouse conditions then driven 100’s of miles to market.Packaging will generally be in plastic pots or some similar wrapping
Most of the seeds I buy are in multicoloured packets and contents are progressively fewer in number.
This year there are no frogs visible in my main pond despite early frog spawn. Do adult frogs find it too hard to get out of the water from this plastic molded version that replaced a leaky cement home made version. Either that or the major temperature changes this year have had an effect.
Dare I admit I use peat!
It may be unfair to blame corvid for the weather which confused lots of plants with an early dry summer, sharp frosts, droughts and then torrents of rain. On balance flowering plants have held their own with my patio roses managing three good flushes so far!
Htdrangeas did less well and I allowed perennial sweet peas to grow through the shrubs for a bit of colour.
Delphiniums failed but first early potatoes did well
I know I can use all sorts of materials as a mulch but I like the organic versions. Here I have piled it high well before it is ready as a mulch much less a compost
To help me with another problem, that of too much compost, I am going to try combining the two issues to solve both problems and use partially rotted compost as mulch. I have 3 large compost bins and a wheely bin for large wooden items but due to 2020 output this capacity has been far too little. Thankfully I can now book a slot at the council waste refuse site to take my tree stumps and larger items.
Mulch v Compost Issues
I need to be wary of seed infestations as the mulch has not had time to generate enough heat to kill off annual weeds.
I also hope to benefit from disturbing rats because they seem to have taken a liking to my compost that often generally kitchen waste.
It my be just my feelings but I like organic much to be damp and able to hold moisture. This means mulchable compost is good for the soil & (soul).
2020 has been a year of walking and observing nature in the raw. As autumn approaches the mushrooms and toadstools or fungi will be out in force. This will provide you with new observation opportunities on your nature walks. This week I spotted this gigantic fungi over 2 feet in diameter growing in a local graveyard.
These photographs are from previous autumn walks. Even if I had found them in the garden it would not be a cause for concern as they are part of natures support for the environment and many specific species.
See alsoÂ Â Fungus comes in all colours, shapes and sizes with most under the soil. The largest living organism in the world is arguably a honey fungus growingÂ 2.4 miles across in the USA.
On this first of August 2020 I am resolved to winnow down my collection of books on gardening and related subjects. I want to separate the wheat from the chaff and boy is there a lot of chaff to sort, probably 500+ tomes plus related ephemera. Not all of this winnowing activity will lead to new posts on this site but my first effort has done.
The most recent book I have read from cover to cover was the entertaining ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ by Peter Wohlleben. To me it is a master piece of accessible writing about trees, what they feel, how they communicate and how nature interactsÂ with them. It is based on years of experience as a forester. Peter has acute observational and analytical ability that is well reasoned and simply communicated. The main themes I have taken into my wider gardening and ecological understanding include:
Trees show we can take the long view and there is no need to rush, in fact time may create a far better and sustainable result.
There is a place for everything and with everything in its place we disrupt it at our peril.
We don’t know what we don’t know and there are more things in heaven and earth ( but what the Hamlet to mix my metaphors.)
If trees have social networking with many skills similar to human abilities and traits, then what else can our gardens teach us.
Look at what is easily visible and look again to develop understanding.
Fired with this enthusiasm I looked through for further enlightenment before IÂ pass on the books to others as part of winnowing down fromÂ my book shelves. I came across a 1974 book ‘Plants and Environment’ by R F Daubenmire a self professed Textbook of Plant Autecology. The book’s definition of Autecology is wider than a dictionary definition claiming it considers: geology, soils, climatology, zoology, chemistry and physics which are connected to the welfare of living organism and evolution of species. Not dissimilar to Wohlleben’s offering.Â As I have only read the preface and introduction in detail some chapers have been dipped into to suit my mood at the time. These include; soil, water, temperature, light, atmospheric, biotic, fire, evolution and complex environmental chapters.
As a text book it is more detailed and less apocryphal than the Hidden Life of Trees but aims at ‘the intelligent management of plant life (and trees in particular) for the good on mankind’. Both books have excellent notes and references.
Where has all the rain gone? In winter there were floods aplenty so I was predicting water rationing by summer. Now it is mid May and the ground is parched and rock hard.
I was struggling to plant my dahlias when I heard my neighbor having even more trouble getting his spade in deep enough. I said I was worried about my next water bill and low and behold there it was on the doormat by lunch time.
Lush is as Lush Does
To me green is the lush colour for all seasons. Other colours supplement or provide great highlights but the framework is green.
Evergreens are therefore a mainstay of my garden particularly the 50 plus evergreen conifers that look lush through the year.
It seems sad to eulogise dying foliage but this year the daffodils and blubells have clung on to the strappy leaves and provided some ground cover until I can get some annuals ready.
The water table and morning dew has been enough to keep the grass green and I am resisting the temptation to cut too close.
Two water barrels are not enough to allow me to water lavishly and 2 outdoor taps are a temptation. I and the garden will survive the rest of the year even though I predict summer floods.
Goodnews, I have 3 good sized compost bins. The bad news is I am filling them very quickly which if they rot down soon enough will become more good news. The black bin heats up quicker but contains less material and is hardest to get at to turn the waste so I guess that is a scoring draw (using football pools terms).
I should have known all along that hay rots into a soggy lump and isn’t great for garden compost making. It probably contains far more seeds that I or the garden can cope with.
I should have known all along that forgotten tools may turn up in heaps as they do not rot but rust even my spare pair of Felcos had some rust.
I should have known all along that rats like a warm friendly space to live and breed. A neighbor has had to call out the pest control twice during the lock down and I’ve discovered an unusual depression and hole in one of my heaps. I hope my early action will work.
I should have known all along that I would get better compost if I sieve out the tougher bits.Â A full bin has realised 50% fine sieved parts with the rest going back to restart the new bin. I also found fruit labels and sundry bits of plastic.
I guess I am lucky to have 3 compost heaps and have had the ‘fun’ of emptying one over the last 3 days.Â It would probably have been better compost if it had been left a few more months but the other 2 were full or filling up rapidly. I wanted to trench out the bean and sweet pea ground both of which should benefit from the moist compost at their roots. Another reason for action was created by corona virus and the cessation of garden refuse collections and closure of local refuse tips by our MDC.
So what of rotten rotters or poor composters that I unearthed this morning.
Not surprisingly plastics did badly, as, despite my efforts a clothes peg, several plant labels from garden centers and my own written identifiers had got into the bin. Other plastics including starch magazine wrappers, and stickers from exotic fruit that were discovered not yet if ever broken down.
Every year I find at least one missing tool that I had probably spent an age looking for. Last year it was a precious Falco secateur that turned up with a bit of damage the month after I had bought a new one.
The surprise of the day was 3 spectacle lenses and one arm. It beggars belief but perhaps I couldn’t see them when they fell in to the compostable clippings.
The bin I emptied must have stood on soil where an old bird feeder had existed. The metal spike stabliser was now dug out with the compost. There was no more metal this time.
It may be due to my impatience but Avocados give me the pip or should that be the nut. Whatever you call it the kernal takes more than a year before it cleaves into 2 unrotted hard pieces. The skin also fails to rot as quickly as all my other kitchen waste. They were nearly ready to go this time so I let them be.
Moss lies dormant and will not rot. Short of burying it I must be dissuaded from putting the lawn grass mossy rakings from a wet winter in the now empty bin.
I dug up an old tree stump but that won’t rot down in my lifetime so I may invert it and make a stumpery. Other thick woody lumps are not destined for my compost heaps.
Home made compost sieve to remove rotten rotters