Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Evening light

The last few evenings have been quite beautiful here in Sheffield; summer at the edge of the Peak District. I've found the way the evening sun lit up some of my plants to have been quite breathtaking. I'm not sure the photographs quite capture the beauty, but I hope you can see through my amateur lens and enjoy some of the colours as I have.

Deschampsia cespitosa 'Goldtau' and Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku'

Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku'

Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku'. I love the colour of the new stems.

 Deschampsia cespitosa 'Goldtau'

Lychnis viscaria subsp. atropurpurea

Clematis x triternata 'Rubromarginata'

Clematis x triternata 'Rubromarginata'

Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora 'Irish Dawn'

Muted colours of the final light.

Centaurea cyanus

New leaf of Osmunda regalis 'Purpurascens'. The stems similar to the Acer.

Helenium 'Sahin's Early Flowerer'

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Mobile Sheffield

Sheffield city centre is a decent sized city. From the Castlegate area down to the Moor Market, it's about 2 miles. There used to be a city circle bus route that you could hop on and off to get to different parts of town, but sadly the council stopped this late 2013. Since then, the ME has left me struggling to get around the city. In fact, it's pretty much put me off shopping in town, except for my occasional chiropractor appointment. And even then I do the bare minimum, because it's just too difficult to get from one end of town to the other. However, there is a new kid in town that just might help.

Clark & Partners have just opened Mobile Sheffield, a mobility scooter hire shop in Sheffield's Moor Market. And for £4 a day, you can hire a scooter which you can use to take you all over town. 

The signing up process takes about 15 minutes and costs £5 for a year membership. You then pay £4 for the days' hire, plus £5 deposit, refundable upon return of the scooter to Clark & Partners. Once you have signed up, you can then call up and book a scooter in the future. This means the staff can fill in the hire form so that it's ready when you arrive, and all you have to do is sign the form, pay the £4 hire, then off you go.

The scooter hire process is straight forward and using the scooter was just wonderful. I was able to go to my chiropractor in one part of town, then go shopping in another. The scooters are easy to use and it doesn't take long to learn how to use them if you haven't used one before. The staff are friendly and helpful, and can show you how to use the scooter, and key issues to look out for when using it around town.

I would say that not all the footpaths  and sections where you cross the road are great. In one case, a skip and scaffolding from some building work was sitting in the way of the footpath, and it was not wide enough for the scooter so I had to go onto the road to get around it. In many others, the dip where you cross the road was still quite high and you clunked down from the footpath to the road. This is of course not the scooters fault, it's Sheffield City Council that needs to sort these problems. I'm guessing that won't happen quickly, so you do need to sometimes go a bit further on the scooter to find a way to get around to get where your going. But at least you are on the scooter.

I would still like to see a return of the city circle bus route. From a cost perspective, it costs me a bus ticket to/from town, £4.30, and scooter hire, another £4. As well as the £5 a year membership fee. Whilst I can afford this once or twice a month, a lot of people with limited mobility may struggle to pay £8.30 a day. Mobile Sheffield do offer wheelchair hire for £1.50 a day, and tri walkers and rollators can be hired for the day for free, with a £5 refundable deposit. So if you can walk some distances but need frequent rests, this is a good option.

I think having the city circle bus route, and the mobility scooter hire, together, would make Sheffield city centre a much more accessible, and affordable, place to shop for those of us with chronic illnesses and disabilities. 

Mobile Sheffield is a great initiative though, and one I warmly welcome and will continue to use. Knowing I can hire a scooter gives me the confidence to plan a trip into town more frequently than I have been able to the last few years. Do give it a try.

* * * *

You can find Mobile Sheffield at:
  Clark & Partners
  Moor Market
  Sheffield S1 4PF
  Tel: 01142 738 787
  Note: you need two forms of id when signing up.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

My garden right now: Chelsea Fringe edition 2017 #mymardenrightnow

When I took part in My Garden Right Now back in March, my garden was all in pots as we were about to move house. Well, we have moved house, but as we are renting for a year, most of garden remains potty!

Because I have the chronic illness ME, which hasn't been good in recent months, I don't have much energy to garden. I needed to set up my temporary garden in a way that made it easiest to manage. I've done this by laying down some permeable membrane, topped with woodchips/bark, in one section of the garden. This keeps most of the watering, an energy-consuming job, confined to one area. When we leave, we will lay down some turf to restore that area to the way in which we found it.

I also have a small display area for my alpines.

My gardener and I restored the one border that did exist (it was filled with weeds), but again, I've kept most things in pots, except for some herbs and strawberries, which I will gift to the future renters.

So that's my temporary garden right now.

And finally, this is me in my slippers. Coz sometimes it's just nice to wander around and enjoy the plants in the garden, before heading back to bed to rest again. 

I'd love to see your garden right now. Leave a comment with a link below and I'll come and visit!

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Thanks to Michelle for continuing this project, this time as part of the Chelsea Fringe. Visit Michelle's blog for links to other gardens right now. And check out the hashtag on Twitter: #mygardenrightnow

Friday, 26 May 2017

Book review: The Deckchair Gardener

The Deckchair Gardener: an improper gardening manual, Anne Wareham.

As someone who is now trying to garden with a chronic illness (ME), I'm always on the lookout for ideas on how I might reduced what I need to do in the garden, so I can just focus my very limited energy on what I enjoy. So when I heard about Anne Wareham's new book, The Deckchair Gardener, which says that it is for:
gardening avoidance and sensible advice on your realistic chances of getting away with it
I thought it sounded like might have some useful pointers. And it does.

The introduction describes how to become a deckchair gardener, including the difficult but necessary need to unlearn the 'rules' of gardening. The rest of the book is then split up into the four seasons, 'what not to do in Spring', etc, giving examples of so-called gardening advice and truisms and then challenging them.

Anne questions the many 'gardening jobs' we are told to do, whether in garden magazines or on gardening programmes such as Gardeners World. This is a really good point. Do we really need to do all these tasks? Cleaning out pots*, aerating the lawn, deadheading daffodils, hardening plants off, raking dead leaves off the lawn, the list goes on. Oh, a special mention for the 'expert' suggestion that you should dig up your parsnips and leeks in winter, only to just to move them to a trench in another bed by a convenient path. What?! One, no. Two, plan your veg garden so that all the paths are convenient. Three, no.

Anne advocates that lazy is good. And there is a lot of smarts about being 'lazy' and cutting out unnecessary work. For instance, deadheading daffodils. Anne points out that none of the daffodil flowers in the countryside are ever deadheaded, yet they continue to flower profusely year after year. I'd not thought of it that way before, and this is well observed. It was a struggle to not deadhead my daffodils this year, as I'm so used to doing it. So I compromised and only deadheaded those in pots, not those in the ground. I hope to graduate to no deadheading of all daffodils next year.

Hardening plants off is another good example of Anne's challenges. I've never done this because I couldn't be bothered, even in my pre-ME days. But I also felt guilty about not doing it because the experts were always telling us we should. Yes, guilty even though I never had any problems with plants that went straight from the greenhouse to the soil! That's the power of experts. Anne reminds us that the weather isn't predictable, it doesn't just slowly get warm, rather is warm, cool, frosty, warm etc, and that therefore constantly moving plants outside and then back inside is a lot of work. Instead, don't grow tender plants and if you do, just have some fleece on standby for a frosty night. Much less work. No more guilt.

What made me laugh frequently when reading the book, was Anne's ongoing fervour for mulching. Basically, if in doubt, mulch. Generally with woodchip, but gravel also works. Yes, our favourite garden enemy might like to 'hide' woodchips, but I know from experience that slugs will 'hide' anywhere. Including up the walls on onto my trays of young plants, munching them down to a tiny remaining stalk. You won't stop them by not mulching. The benefits of mulching outweigh any concerns though. Because mulching reduces weeds and watering, two time and energy consuming tasks. Anne is right, mulching makes sense and is the deckchair-loving way to go.

As well as challenging conventional 'wisdom', Anne offers a couple of suggestions for specialist gardens that I think could be really useful for those who would like to garden, but are limited by an illness or disability. One was a grasses garden, limiting yourself to one variety of grass, along with adding bulbs for Spring interest, which is when grasses have been cut back and waiting to regrow. But the one I really liked was the gravel garden.

Now, anyone following my blog will know that in my previous garden, for the kitchen garden I had put in raised beds, laid down membrane and added shale to the paths, so I didn't have to do any path weed maintenance (it worked). So why was it a gravel garden that particularly caught my attention, given that's pretty much what I had been doing? Because I only thought of it in relation to paths, not in relation to a garden as a whole.

I seem to always end up with gardens that have heavy clay. The standard view is to dig and add in good compost etc. Do some more digging, add more and more compost. Repeat for 20 years. Anne spoke to Derry Watkins of Special Plants who has a gravel garden. Plants are added straight from their pots, with all the compost attached, into about 20cms deep of gravel. That's it. Now that is low energy practical lazy gardening if you ask me. If someone running a successful nursery can do it, we all can.

Anne advocates 'no dig' gardening, as does Charles Dowding who has been experimenting with dig vs no dig for several years. I've been a fan of no dig for years. Just thinking about digging is exhausting. No dig gravel gardening, it's the way to go.

This is just a few of the many examples of what not to do in the garden so you can instead enjoy your deckchair. Or how to do the least and get away with it. One of the most important points Anne makes is to 'be skeptical', including of what she says. Question everything you read or are told you are supposed to do. Is it just creating more work? From the perspective of someone with a limited energy for her garden, this has been a really useful reminder.

There are some areas where we part company. I would never use glyphosate or any weedkiller in the garden. It poisons the soil, gets into the ecosystem, rivers etc. I'd stick to Anne's mulch idea, only first put down good quality mypex (permeable membrane), mulch with something heavy like shale or gravel, then cut holes to plant through it. This is a case where a bit more work is warranted, and gravel/shale fits into Anne's gravel garden idea, so it's not far off being lazy!

This aside, I loved this book. I started reading this book about six weeks ago. It's an easy read, but because I wanted to write a review, it took me more time and energy (coz ME) to do so. What I have noticed is that since I started reading it, I've found myself questioning many gardening tasks. Quite a number have been removed from my to do list. I gained a lot from this book, but my number one take-away from the book, 'do I have to?' has become my mantra. I'm now much more bolshie about not bothering with all these so-called essential tasks. I think that's a pretty good indication on how useful I found this book.

At the beginning of the book Anne says that it isn't for 'proper gardeners'. I disagree. I think proper gardeners could learn a thing or two from Anne's wisdom. I'd add that this is a really useful book for those who would like to garden, but who have limitations such as a chronic illness. It helps you focus on what is essential, so you use your limited energy wisely.

Anne's book gives you 'permission' to be a lazy gardener. I say huzzah! Bring out the deckchairs.

*I had already been freed from this task after reading Charles Dowding's Gardening Myths and Misconceptions.

Disclaimer: I 'know' Anne via Twitter, but purchased this book myself as it appeared to cover a topic I was interested in.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Ravishing peony

In our current rental garden, one of the few plants that was in it when we arrived, was this.

Huh? Yes, my thoughts exactly. Andrea, my gardener, helped me clear the grass and weeds and we realised it was probably a peony. We hoped by clearing it we were giving it a new lease on life.

The buds were amazing.

Then, voilĂ !

I've not always been a fan of peonies, as they can get so ruined by frost. But this one, oh yes, I see the attraction now.

What a beauty. If anyone knows the variety, do leave a comment below.

I'm considering digging it up in the autumn to split and take a section for me.