New Tropical Garden – Exciting times! Part 1

For the past few months I have been looking at a part of my garden which has always been a bit neglected. Twenty years ago when my family moved to Christchurch, the rear part of the back garden was sectioned off into a 20′ square area. Four apple trees were planted (too closely together), a ghastly hedge of evil Leylandii was erected to screen off the neighbours and some grass seed was sown. That’s pretty much all the gardening that the area had ever seen. As the years went on, the grass was mown (rarely), the apples were gathered (sometimes) and the Leylandii was hacked to a manageable height. However, in that time something was growing…

Me

I was only twelve when I moved, and at that age, the only gardening I enjoyed was digging up worms to scare my sister (if you even call that gardening!). Years later I’m now a keen gardener, I’m no Monty Donn, but I love planting things and watching them grow, raising seeds into adulthood, growing food for the table as well as digging up worms to scare my sister.

Now I’m (cough) 35 and rather than looking at the end of the garden thinking “that grass needs cutting” or “I’d better rake those fallen apples” or “I’d better trim the Leylandii as the International Space Station will be getting snagged in it soon”, I thought I’d redesign the whole lot!

The Flattening

I decided I wanted a lushious, lusious, erm, leafy, verdant area full of tropical plants. Something out of Tarzan or The Jungle Book – a jungle! However, before I created my Christchurch Rain forest, I needed to remove everything that was there. A mammoth task was to unfold, alas no mammoths were available at the DIY store, so I had to do it. First the Leylandii went (woohoo!!), then the sky high grass was dug up. It was only then I found a small tribe of semi-nomadic people who’d been living in the grass for the past twelve years, they’d been living off fallen apples and feared the wrathful god they called ‘the giant raking man’. I digress.

Once the Leylandii and grass were gone and the tribe had moved to next door’s garden, I had the sad task of removing the apple trees. They’d always been sorry things, planted too close together next to evil conifers which sucked all the moisture out of the ground, they were stunted and misshapen. I removed the first two, the most misshapen and ‘in the way’ ones and then I had a change of heart so kept the other two. Here’s what I ended up with…

A member of a travelling fair was passing by at the time of the photo, you might notice him on the right. Find out what I did next in the second instalment of ‘New Tropical Garden – Exciting times!’

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My return and The Fig Experiment

Hello all, sorry I’ve been away for so long – I’m sure you missed me (yeah right!). I was very neglectful in writing my blog last year but I hope to start doing some regular updates.

My raised veg garden is in it’s third year and is still going strong. I put some new layers on in January, a thick layer of newspaper followed by a mix of homemade compost and shop bought multi-compost. This year I wanted to make the soil in the raised bed slightly heavier so it’ll be better for cabbages and other brassicas. They prefer firm soil to live in and I’ve found the multi-compost is just too fluffy and light. So in February, I bought four bags of top soil just to lay on top as this year’s final layer. Why buy soil when it’s literally everywhere? I hear you ask. Well, unfortunately, my garden is full of awful weeds like ground elder, horsetails, hairy bittercress, redshanks along with all the common weeds everyone gets. So the only option was to buy some decent weed free sterilised soil. I still have to weed it but it’s nowhere near as bad as growing my vegetables in the ground.

The Fig Experiment

For many years I have despised figs, their leathery outer skin and their gritty interior simply repulsed me. However, I put on a North African inspired party after Christmas (don’t ask!) and some of the dishes required dried figs as an ingredient. I so bought the figs and as I was preparing the meal, I thought I would just try one – well it had been 15 years since my last attempt! I bit a piece off, chewed it and….I loved it! Now I don’t know what’s happened, whether my taste buds have changed, whether it was a particularly delicious pack of figs, or maybe aliens have chopped off my tongue in the night and replaced it with someone else’s. Whatever it was, I am now a convert and love figs, so much so, I’m starting a fig experiment.

fig1

The dried figs I bought (as with all figs) are packed full of seeds. Being the frugal, get something for nothing person I am, I wondered if the seeds would grow.

fig2

I have looked online and there is strangely very little information on this. What I have found is the common fig ‘Ficus carica’ is always propagated via rooted cuttings or by grafting. Figs are rather like with apple trees, a fig grown from seed is never the same as the parent.

A fig grown from seed, as I said will be a new type of fig. It may be a wonderful new kind of fig, producing bountiful delicious fruits, however, more likely it will produce a disappointingly small fruit or perhaps no fruit at all. Whatever happens, it’ll be interesting an exciting to find out.

There are a few discussions on various forums with people like me asking if it is possible to grow from seed but there are very few definitive answers. So now starts the experiment!

I extracted some of the seeds from a particularly sweet fig as my thinking is that although the offspring won’t be exactly like the parent, it’s always good to have the best breeding stock.

fig3

After eating the rest of the fig, I then soaked the seeds for a day and added them to a mix of vermiculite and compost. I did read one reference to growing from seed that they like a very damp environment, so I completely saturated the soil with water.

fig4

Only time will tell whether I’ll be successful in growing anything but from what little I’ve managed to read, in ten days time, I may have something to report. Wish me luck!

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Charborough House Gardens

Today I went to Charborough House with my family. Charborough is a large estate with extensive gardens and deer park and is usually closed for visitors. However, on the odd occasion they open the large iron gates for charity and let the riff-raff like us in. The tour around the gardens doesn’t take long as a lot of areas are closed off, however, I took my SLR camera and got a couple of decent shots.

Charborough House Gardens: Folly

Charborough House Gardens: Bluebells and Garlic 2

Charborough House Gardens: Bluebells and Garlic

Charborough House Gardens: Pheasants

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