Thursday, June 11, 2009

In the Garden: An answer to a Gardening Question

Like many an aesthetically driven person, I find it impossible to limit myself to the indoor world. I think that I might be a passionate gardener. I say this because I bear the weight of the disapproval of various family members who have been inconvenienced by my gardening activities which have been known to occur on a large scale, sometimes involving heavy machinery and on one occasion a crane and a semi trailer.

These days I endeavour to be a little more subtle in relation to the extent of my horticultural ambitions so as not to incur the wrath of people who who prefer my cooking. I now have the wisdom to wave my hand over an area and, with a very airy, innocent expression on my face, state that I am going to 'sort of plant some things' and that 'it will look nice'. I have two gardens, one which is sun drenched and mediterranean and the other which I am making into a sort of a big orchard surrounded by meadows (note the purposeful vagueness here).

A little while ago I noted a question posed by another blog author in A Bloomsbury Life about climbing plants suitable for growing up a wall 'facing away from the equator'. I use this term because I live in Australia where southern walls are shady and spring is in October, and as a gardener, I still feel upside down and back to front even after many years. A most useful plant for smothering a shady wall in a warm climate is the self clinging hydrangea petiolaris:

the above images are via, posted by a french ebayer selling bare rooted stock.
In France you'll see this plant described as hortensia grimpant
but it is widely available at most good nurseries

This particular climbing hydrangea is charming in a beautiful and simple way, the kind of thing that song thrushes will nest in. It does take quite a while to take off as the plant will insist on developing a good root system before lurching upwards at an eventually quite rapid rate. The flowers are only ever white and it is tolerant of a wide range of soils so long as there is plenty of well rotted compost dug in. As with any creeper, water is essential until the roots become widespread enough to reach beyond the line of the eves to the areas that receive rainfall. In a Mediterranean climate, drip irrigation may prove to be essential.

Another contender is the self clinging virginia creeper parthenocissus tricuspidata , although on a shady wall it will only tend to dominate the upper reaches. The images that I have posted below are of the Fountain Inn which was close to where I lived as a child in Cornwall. If my memory serves me correctly, the wall gets morning sun but is still subject to a lot of shade by virtue of the rather steep adjacent buildings and the very narrow street:

Hanging baskets are now very out of fashion and seem to have been deemed un-chic by local landscape architects. This makes them especially attractive to me as I am becoming increasingly bored with the stylish, spiky armies of cordelynes and cabbage trees ensconced in pretend sandstone that are featured in the newspaper. I have posted a picture of the Fountain in the quiet season in order that you can see the structure behind all of that abundance.

Before I get myself into too much trouble here, I must say that I do love sculptural plants, I collect echeveria, it is their formulaic overuse that aggrieves me.

1 comment:

balsamfir said...

Just found your blog bouncing through other blogs, and bookmarked you only to discover that you are a very new blogger. So I thought I'd mention that I've enjoyed reading your first month and hope you keep going.

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