Pole Position

Somehow, and not by design, we have ended up with scaffolding on both houses simultaneously. I know maintenance has to be carried out, but this is not an experience I’m enjoying in the slightest. Scaffolding is the architectural equivalent of Hannibal Lecter’s mask: ugly, sinister and restricting ….. but ultimately necessary. In small gardens like ours building work makes a confined space even trickier to work in, and inevitably plants get squashed, mashed or showered with all manner of unpleasant detritus. Try spattering your prize hostas with wet, caustic mortar and you’ll understand my distress.

It’s unlike Him Indoors to see the bright side, but he was rather relishing the high-level sunbathing opportunities created by the aerial platforms. That was until he cracked his head on a scaffolding pole when trying to extricate his bicycle from the basement and then he changed his mind pretty rapidly.

Our London Garden, scaffolding, May 2015

In fairness, the scaffolders have been particularly careful. In both gardens poles have been deftly positioned so as to avoid my most precious plants. Between you and I, I’m quietly impressed. But, what goes up, must shortly come down and I am not counting my chickens. I’ve been here often enough to know that workmen who care about plants (with the exception of landscapers, and even then I’ve had dodgy experiences) are rarer than hen’s teeth, so it pays to lay it on the line in terms of what must not be annihilated.

The Watch House, scaffolding, May 2015

In our coastal garden we had it coming. The Watch House windows haven’t been decorated properly in eight years, which is pushing it, and the roof has so many old seagull nests on it you could forgiven for thinking it’s thatched. From a gardener’s point of view the ideal time for this kind of work would be midwinter, but for some reason decorators like to wait for fairer weather. Tragically this means our Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ is pinned mercilessly to the wall by iron bars. By the time she breaks free her fleeting moment of glory will be over and we’ll have to wait until next April for another glimpse of her golden tresses. Shaded by the first ‘lift’ of scaffolding boards, my agapanthus will hopefully recover quickly.

Echium wildpretii, The Watch House, May 2015

Two vulnerable plants were to be protected on pain of death – Echium wildpretii (above and below left) and Geranium maderense – the former flowering for the first time following 2 nail-biting winters. I am so pleased with my ‘tower of jewels’ and wish I had planned ahead so that I had plants primed to flower next year. The seedlings I’ve raised this spring may not send up flower spikes until 2018 and then of course they will die. I may have to cheat and buy some mature specimens in. Geranium maderense is also monocarpic (i.e. it dies after blooming), but thankfully I have four more of these at different stages so that I have the best chance of getting a display each season. Planting up of pots for summer has been put back by at least three weeks.

Echium wildpretii and Beschorneria yuccoides, our coastal garden, May 2015

Back in London the scaffolding has been less disruptive although, given the scale of the job (re-pointing), it’s akin to using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. The structure has created some unhelpful shade and an almighty trip hazard, but will disappear before the urge to grow a clematis up it takes hold.

Should I ever feel inclined to develop either garden vertically I will not be short of ideas, although the topmost level will be furnished with steamer chairs and a cocktail bar. Never mind if it’s right outside the neighbours’ kitchen window.

Hosta fortunei var. albopicta f. aurea, London, May 2015