Getting Back To My Roots

Well this is a turn up, and it's only been 4-yrs already.  I have to confess that the MAJ Garden has gone beyond wild and into the sphere of bonkersville, which is confirmed by it's full to bursting proliferation of those plants that most would agree need to be gone, at least in the form with which they existed as we intrepid three headed back into a garden that now feels like the-back-of-beyond...

Brambles, Bindweed and Japanese Knotweed abound...

And there was a certain unspoken agreement that we needed to hail for and untangle the pond, along what would be a previously defined pathway.  But at this stage the pond was like a distant memory.

I for one loved every minute, but it was Clare film-maker turned intrepid garden pilgrim who reconnected with and redefined the lines of the aforementioned path.  

The Spaghetti Approach

And a new technique was born, unless my horticultural know-how is so out-of-touch (and well that's a given as it goes) but Daniel became quite the dab hand.  Not sure if there's any video footage but what became a process goes something like this:
  1. Fork at the ready
  2. Fork delves into the brush at the base
  3. Turn and turn again
  4. Pull
Simples.  And it felt highly successful, although I wouldn't dare share the results lol.  We spent around 5-6 hours full on and although the photo-footage shows little it encouraged the hell out of us.

Along with chatting, laughing, and the additional benefits of being in the great outdoors 😻 we made a fantastic start.  These lovelies are the best.

Bonfires 101.

Written by Daniel
21st June, 2013.

When I agreed to help write a couple of posts for the blog, Clare assured me that she would give me detailed notes, to help remind me what we had got up to on each day. With that in mind, here are her full notes for this post:  

"You weren't there, mannn. Vietnammm." 

Helpful much? Thankfully, I remember enough to know that this was bonfire day. Hold on, everyone, we'll be alright.

The day started, as many days in the garden do, with Clare seizing the opportunity to take some snaps of the tadpoles in the pond, to see how they were growing. Meanwhile, I was trying to move the bonfire further away from the pond, and making sure that any creatures hiding within were out of harm's way before we lit the fire.  As it turned out, I needn't have worried for a while, since lighting the fire was something of an anti-climax.

Within 15 minutes or so, we had used up the few matches we had, with only a few wisps of smoke to show for our efforts, and so MAJ had to make a run to Tesco to buy more matches and firelighters.

Once we had the correct provisions, we got the fire going pretty quickly, and it made light work of the pile of old branches and sticks that we had assembled.  Unfortunately, not everything was as dry as it could have been, which meant lots of smoke, so the three of us spent most of the afternoon facing the opposite direction and trying not to breathe in. 

When we did manage to turn around, though, the fire looked great as you can see from Clare's photos, and burning away all the old garden rubbish has helped to clear plenty of space for future gardening!
In the evening, having succeeded in smoking out half of Folkestone, we decided to leave the fire to burn out in its own time, and went to get some burgers and chips to mark the end of phase 1 of the gardening odyssey!

Party Preparations!

Written by Clare
8th June, 2013.
With a party looming, a garden tidy-up was on the cards.

The party was in celebration of MAJ's birthday, which we had already celebrated once in hippie style, with plenty of fabulous tunes and good old-fashioned hippie food - PIZZA (ummm?)  Onto party no.2.  We decided to spend the day before preparing for the party by getting the star of the show (the garden, obviously) looking it's absolute best.  And surprisingly, despite a couple of distractions we got quite a lot done!
We began by weeding and filling in the gaps between the patio stones, which seemed to make a big difference very quickly.  MAJ also managed to Delboy her way into borrowing some top of the range garden furniture.  The patio was beginning to look like a garden paradise.

It was around this time that I became momentarily distracted by the red arrows flying overhead, and MAJ went on a cous cous hunt.  After all, what party is complete without cous cous?

Then, with the intention of moving on to tidying the rest of the garden, I noticed that the pond was now heavily populated with something I had never seen before: TADPOLES.

 Obviously, this was enough to distract me (and my camera) for a good while, particularly when I realised that I could use my macro lens to spy on their tiny eyes and tongues darting about which was very sweet.
Aw, lovely.  So all in all, a successful day.  Daniel even managed to take on a tech-support role briefly when MAJs phone decided that it no longer had the will to function as it should.  Which provided a good photo opportunity for me - as if anything doesn't!

And so I'll end on a selection of other lovely photographs that I managed to get in the garden that day...

And another cheeky couple of MAJ, just because we love her so bally much!:
Happy Birthday, MAJ! xXxXx

A Rainy Day

Written by Daniel
28th May, 2013.

It was supposed to be so easy. All we wanted to do was to tidy up MAJ's patio a bit, and move a few troublesome bits of bamboo to more appropriate homes elsewhere in the garden. Now, before we started on this gardening odyssey, my knowledge of bamboo was roughly as follows:
  • It's hollow
  • Pandas like it
  • I like pandas
As it turns out, that's not the whole story. Who'd have guessed, eh? The main problem was that some of the bamboo had grown in gaps between the patio stones and instead of the roots heading downwards, in the conventional manner, they had opted to run along, parallel to the surface of the earth, about 2 or 3 inches under ground.

But at the time we weren't to know, and so we lifted the slabs on either side of the first plant (stalk?) and dug down, trying to make sure we didn't damage the root. When we started to pull it up, we realised our mistake, as half the patio came with us. Not a great start.

The other problem, we quickly discovered, is that bamboo roots go on for ages, so it wasn't long before we'd pulled up half the patio and since it was raining for much of the day, it wasn't especially easy to put back.

At some point in the afternoon, Clare's sister Sarah arrived, to be greeted by the sight of me standing where the patio used to be, pulling on an enormous piece of bamboo root, which was still thoroughly embedded in the ground. Clare, meanwhile, was holding the bamboo itself, about halfway down the garden path. In a desperate, last-ditch effort to finally separate plant from ground, I told Clare to run down the path, in the hope that the root would come with her. It didn't, so we were finally forced to resort to cutting it, so that we could install the bamboo in its new home.

Having finally re-homed the bamboo, we then had to try and get the patio looking at least vaguely similar to its old self. Thanks to the now torrential rain, the garden had gradually been turned into a mudbath of Glastonbury-esque proportions, which made trying to level the flagstones even more difficult. Finally, we had to tie the rest of the bamboo back, so that it didn't hang too far over what was left of the patio. For me, this meant leaning back into the bamboo, arms spread (imagine if Brazil used Christ the Redeemer to prop up the Amazon rainforest and you'd be somewhere close), in an effort to hold it roughly upright while Clare and MAJ made good use of some wire we'd found to hold everything back.

Job done, and soaked through, it was time to head inside for a nice cup of tea. It was surprising to realise, when we looked at the window, that even working on quite a small area of the garden had had quite an impact.

Clare's Brainwave

 Written by Jane
 The Garden In Spring 2009
A few months ago, Clare had a brainwave :) ... and I for one am so delighted that she did ... 

I love spending time with her and Daniel, they're a very talented and lovely couple to-boot.  Clare is an extraordinary film-maker and Daniel a budding writer make a rather switched on combo.

So the suggestion was made that they would come along and spend some time in this very wild and gorgeous garden, a delightful prospect in itself.  

What I Get Out Of It

They are fun and we generally laugh at the same things, Clare has a bonkers off-the-wall sense of fun, which I absolutely love and fall prey too way too often lol, wordplay being key to the mix.  Hope they agree!!!

Their help with this overgrown, often neglected (time too short - time demands too great) plot of greenery has had it's fair share of transformations.  The image above is around 4+ yrs old and was taken in the spring, the garden has developed a tad since then, and the wealth of colour prevails.

If I had pictures from when I first inherited it ... and I possibly do somewhere, it would have been a very different picture in some ways and exactly the same in others.

The magnolia tree, as already pictured by Clare just gets better with age, and is now at a point where it overhangs it's flower laden branches (to within inches of the ground) and the potential for a low-seat and bark covered area has waited long enough.  Will keep you posted on that one.

When I moved in I had only seen so far into the garden, you know how that goes, and was so happy to discover a further 25 feet of ivy-covered woodland area, at the bottom of the garden.  This is taken up to a substantial degree by a fairly old 80 foot tall Lime Tree that neighbours partitioned against it's even having a haircut.  I likey and just hope they feel the same, or this could be quite embarrassing.  

The Copper Beech

And who - in their right mind :) - doesn't love a Copper Beech?  The one that overhangs into my garden from over the side wall of a neighbouring area is firmly established and aging.  The leaves have increased their growth spurt with each passing season and as I delight in the contrast between it and where if barely, just now, meets the Magnolia.  

The resident squirrel loves to run along a series of the garden's wooden beams as it leaps onto a carefully selected deep ruby red branch full of playfulness.  A delightful sight and cheers me on each and every occasion as I stop and glimpse it from the lounge window.

The Growing Season

But the time for planting seasonal foods is slipping by for yet another year and I've hardly started.  It's time to do something no matter how small to make that change and interact with the garden more by getting myself out there.

It's always a pleasure to spend time in such a rejuvenating space.  And I'm always happy when Clare and Daniel suggest another visit, because it gives me the best excuse of all.

Back In the Wild

Written by Clare 
Friday, 17th May, 2013.

Believe it or not, we came back for more gardening.  Our thirst for adventure and exploration just cannot be quenched, and MAJ's garden is the home of both.  As a bonus, it's also (partly) home to the lovely MAJ who is always a pleasure to catch up with!

The garden is currently only accessible by a series of side-doors, each of which is guarded by a troll who poses three riddles.  At least half of that sentence is true.  There's a beautiful moment when you pass the final of (actually only) two doors and you step out into a beautiful mass of what is apparently sweet garlic (see left).  Thanks to MAJ for this piece of gardening knowledge.

As it happens, it does actually smell really strongly of delicious garlic - I just hadn't put two and two together because you don't expect such pretty flowers to smell like a vampire deterrant.  Anyway, this tiny patch is probably my favourite part of the garden so far, so it's a pleasure to pass through it on our entrace and exit.

Then there's a path down to the pond, along which there's a gorgeous plant with red leaves, which appears to be in a very loving relationship with a yellow plant from next door which swoons over the garden fence in order to cuddle it.  

Frankly, we're in love with them.

On our previous play-date with the wilderness, we had focussed on clearing the space around the pond, which also made the scrap heap and the back of the garden more accesible. We decided to spend the majority of the day clearing away the general clutter of the garden, revealing some organic routes which trail around some of the gorgeous features such as the clusters of bamboo or bluebells, both of which became more and more vivid as we cleared around them.  

Adding our first day of work to our second had really begun to reveal some gorgeous intricacies to the layout of the garden and a sense of optimism and excitement.  I was surprised to see so much difference so quickly, and I suspect Daniel and MAJ were too.

The process of clearing the garden had also begun to reveal a selection of items, including a piece of rotten wood impersonating the SS Enterprise, a stick which could double up as a pretty sweet wizard's staff and a mandrake/ent.

More importantly, we were beginning to gather materials which had potential for future use in the garden, including a selection of paving stones which we had reclaimed from various plants in the garden.  Naturally, this took negotiation skills and lots of charm. We began to organise a section of the garden to store these handy materials (also including plant-pots and bark) in the meantime.

I have now dubbed this area "the water feature."

There was such a visible difference at the end of the day.  We had cleared a vague path, tidied quite a few sections of the garden and MAJ had begun to formulate a vision of what the garden might look like in the future.  We can't help but believe that this garden will be the best garden on Earth.  In the meantime, while we continue to work towards this inevitable reality, you can enjoy these photos of lovely beasties I found...

 Until next time...

The First Big Push

Written by Clare 
Tuesday, 14th May, 2013.

Today was the first big push in our effort to initate a rejuvenation of the wildnerness outside MAJ's flat - and wow, what a great start.  Having weeded and tidied the front garden in relatively little time, and with only several major accidents including a head wound, MAJ promoted us to work on the back garden.  Frankly, this was much like being promoted from handing out leaflets for a circus, to lion-taming.  We felt way beyond honoured.

Before climbing through a couple of doors into MAJ's Narnia, she admitted that she hadn't actually taken a look at it in a while, and seemed surprised to find several plants she didn't recognise at all.  Meanwhile, Daniel and I were fairly sure that many of the plants had not even been encountered by scientists, and that we were were discovering many new species of plantlife.  
This garden is a lost wonder of the world.

So, Daniel got on with gathering dead plants, stray twigs and weeds with a giant fork (I believe this is the technical gardeners' terminology), whilst I was armed with a pair of secateurs.  It wasn't long before our hacking away began to reveal ground, and we discovered that the ground was home to a few paving slabs. 
Upon lifting up one of these paving slabs, we found a pair of frogs who had made a burrow underneath, furnished with a load of junk.  If I'm honest, at this point I became somewhat distracted by all of the frogs in the pond and I wound up taking A LOT of photographs of lovely frogs, which is what most of the rest of this blog will consist of...

As beautifully green as it is, our inspection of the pond led to a decision to clean it out, as 80% of it seems to be made out of sticks.  However, I suspect that cleaning it out will be a pretty disgusting experience because it stinks more than anything else on earth.  But the hundreds of frogs don't seem to mind.  Horrible smells or not, we are desperately looking forward to our next session of gardening, and we are very excited about the potential future for this wonderfully wild garden.  It's really nice to think that once we clear a bit of space, it could be a really nice space for MAJ to relax and soak up all of the beauty.

So all in all, it was a productive, lovely day in the garden, and we're all feeling very positive and pleased.  And to top it off, there was a beautiful spot of rain to end the day.  Gorgeous.  And tomorrow we're back to our indoor day-jobs!

....until next time.