Thursday, 10 November 2011

Cherishing the roses and winter gardening

I must admit that I am not so much of a winter gardener - being a chilly mortal who sits inside at her desk swathed in cardis and shawls, with mitts on, and socks pulled up at the knees, you will understand that I find the nip in the air nips at my fingers and toes rather too much. In an ideal world I would retreat indoors in October, and venture out again in March as the green shoots are growing.

Reach out and touch the roses

But I did sneak out just before sunset today, as I felt I needed a small dose of fresh air, and to count my blessings in the face of some of life's difficulties.

November food

And I wasn't disappointed. It might be November in heart and soul, but we are still lucky enough to have spinach and carrots and broccoli and lettuce (yes, amazingly, lettuce!) all growing outside, a second flush of marigolds, and two precious November roses. As you can see, it is not a tidy garden, but the theory is that leaving plant debris and greenery will provide cover and food for wildlife.

Spot the green tomatoes

But my fairweather attitude to gardening is not the attitude to take when trying to live off the land - after all, we still need our greens in the cold months, and it can't all be stored in the freezer. And after the hectic harvest of summer, we now need to take the time to do necessary maintenance, and work on the structure of our green and growing space when the pace of life has slowed down.

Recycling in the garden - a mouse hotel

And when I say we, of course you understand that I mean the Head Chef, always ready to do the heavy work when I stand indoors and supervise through the windows, for after all, someone needs to keep the home fires burning, and if I wear enough clothes outside to keep me warm, then my movement is so restricted that I really can't be of much use on the hefting and heaving front.

And in terms of out of season hefting and heaving, I have been quite entertained by a couple of books I have come across from Timber Press, which are full of ideas and projects for me to add to the list of the Head Chef's things to do.

Garden Eco-Chic by Matthew Levesque is all about 'reusing found objects to create decks, paths, containers, lanterns and more', which certainly fits in with the permaculture principles we use in designing our growing space.

Be aware that this book is not for the faint-hearted or girlie amongst us - this is a book for chaps and chapesses willing to wield drills and saws, and get down and dirty on the constructive front.

I particularly like the ideas for creating different surfaces for paths and paved areas from a variety of found and recycled materials.

Levesque uses all sorts of interesting and unusual materials such as metals and plastics to make fencing, dividers, and more decorative items such as this mobile of copper offcuts.

However, with the price of scrap metal hitting record levels, I am not sure that now it will be quite so easy to find discarded copper and aluminium, and going by the levels of metal theft in our area, such things would be best confined to the back garden, out of the reach of passing scrap hunters.

The second book is rather uninspiringly entitled Concrete Garden Projects by Malin Nilsson and Camilla Arvidsson. However, it is a much prettier book than the title would imply, and has clear instructions as to how to make various containers, water features, and other garden structures using concrete, all very beautifully styled.

I was uncertain about the environmental implications of using concrete, but have found an article here which seems to be a thorough discussion of the issues. As will all things, there are pros and cons, and one has to consider whether one's use of the material is necessary, and also what the alternatives would be.

Am I mistaken, or is that a rather luxuriant crop of ground elder?

I had seen concrete stepping stones before, and do like the look of them, as well as the rows of concrete pots - the instructions are step by step with pictures, and such projects seem to me very feasible on a domestic scale, and the miniature ponds and water containers could be a very valuable addition to a garden in terms of helping wildlife. However, I am not quite so convinced of the rationale of making concrete 'cakes' using cake tins and jelly moulds and then decorating them with flowers!

On balance, I think these books are definitely useful for practical, hands-on types - there are lots of ideas for achievable garden structures and decorations, and they would make a really good present for the outdoorsy people in your life.

I, though, am retreating inside, heaping up the blankets, and looking forward to winter evenings sitting by the fire, knitting. I will see you outside when the days start lengthening . . .


Amy said...

You make me laugh. Like you, I would happily retreat inside till spring. As I get older, I tolerate the cold even less but would never want to move somewhere tropical. I like to look at the snow from my window as I am toasty inside.

Amanda said...

Lol! I could have written that first book 15 years ago when at least twice a week I used to visit the local DIY centre and buy a trolly of broken slabs for £1 and raid the scrap bin at my hubbies engineering company! It doesn't cost the earth to be original.

Prairie Rose said...

Love all your green things!
So beautiful:)

The Weaver of Grass said...

At last I am able to leave a comment on your blog. I have been reading it and not always able to comment. I smiled that you are not a winter person - I feel like that too but then one small dog fixes me with a pleading eye and i have to give in to a wintry walk.

Isobel said...

Your garden looks awesome. I wish I was a bit more of a gardener myself.

Nicky said...

Winter is for thinking about gardening not about doing it in my book. It can also be about planning lots of projects that hardly ever come to fruition!

Madelief said...

I wish I still had that much vegetables in my garden. Lucky you!!

Happy evening,

Madelief x

pebbledash said...

You do make me chuckle! I'm not particularly a winter gardener, but it's essential for me to get outside each day and blow away the cobwebs and take some deep breaths!

On a practical note - the planks surrounding your raised beds look wonderfully chunky. What are the measurements? (ie of the individual plank, height and width, not the whole area of the raised bed....or is this a question for the Head Chef?!

Little Blue Mouse said...

What are those shiny circular things in the mixed materials path in the first book? I like the look of them.

Katy Cameron said...

Looks like the Head Chef will be a busy boy! And of course, as chief directrix, so shall you ;o)

Kay G. said...

Concrete can be quite beautiful, in the right hands. If you look at my blog, and look at my earlier posts, you will see photos of the Monastery which is just a few miles from us. The monks built the church with concrete!
And everything in your garden looks wonderful.

Rowan said...

I garden all through the year provided that the weather and other bits of of life allow me too. I love being out of doors at all times of the year, autumn is always wonderful and winter too has its own beauties. I'm all for sitting indoors with a cup of hot chocolate and some knitting when it's pouring with rain though:)

dragonfly said...

They look like fab books, particularly the eco one. I have a couple of wonderful surprises in my garden at the moment, including a couple of roses having a second flush and a rather amazing acanthus flower.
I've spent a the last couple of weekends outside and feel decidedly better for it. As long as I'm wrapped up cosy and warm, that is ; )

Helen Philipps said...

Your green and growing food looks delicious and I agree with you about feeling the cold and being layered up! The books sound very interesting, and I think it does look like ground elder in the picture with the path...and I should know because parts of our garden look like that if not constantly being weeded! Have a cosy weekend.
Helen x

Annie @ knitsofacto said...

I'd argue that there's no such thing as a day that's too cold, just people who aren't wearing enough woollies, even if keeping warm does mean looking like the Michelin man ;D

Very impressed by that riot of edible greenery!

Mrs. Micawber said...

When tidiness comes into a garden, biodiversity goes out. I would vote for biodiversity every time.

Both of those books look wonderful. A meandering garden path is so appealing, especially one that's a mosaic of reclaimed materials. It's like a patchwork quilt for the ground.

And casting concrete! It ranks right up there with metalworking on my list of secret crafty hankerings which may never be fulfilled. I suppose this makes me a chapess.

Stay warm, but get some fresh air too.
Lucky you to have fresh lettuce still available.

Cheryl said...

Me too. Don't mind those winter days when the sun is out and its all blue sky, but otherwise I'd wait for Spring. If only the garden would just behave until then.

Crafty Green Poet said...

those look like two very useful and inspiring books!

Normally November is my least favourite month, but it's been so mild so far this year, that I've been enjoying it, plus the autumn colours are glorious...

Our indoor tomatoes continue to ripen...

taylorsoutback said...

Ah! That may be one of the reasons I took up quilting years ago...our gardens keep me outside all spring and summer but once the snow will find me in my sewing cave. We have all ready had a 3'-4' snowfall. Our two shelties are content to lie by the fire too.

Almost forgot - after seeing your Head Chef's approach to tomatoes supported on wire, I tried it this summer with great results! Thank you for sharing.
Your roses bring memories of my Grammy's rose garden...delicate colors and fragrance that has been forever imprinted in my heart.

Anonymous said...

I love winter indoor coziness, but I have to confess that I also love the winter outdoors if in the right environment. In Paris, it is chilly and damp and blustery and grey. But in northern New England, where I grew up, it is snowy and crisply cold and dry and usually there's some sun. I adore being outside in that kind of weather! Your November garden looks amazing, too.

Heather said...

Pomona, you're garden is Gorgeous!! What a treat to still have greens especially.

Barbara said...

The winter maintenance - that is something I do not envy in your garden.

Bellgirl said...

Your vegie patch looks gorgeous! I like the concept of a friendly garden where wildlife and weeds can seek refuge ;)


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