I’ve been hankering after a wisteria for some time. I love the amazing purple displays they put on and tend to stop to gawk whenever I see one, much to the consternation of non-gardening friends with me (or the people in the back of my ambulance. Hoho.)
I’ve got a tiny wee garden which I’ve over-crammed already so I’m not sure where I’d put one, maybe I could train it along a wall or grow it as a tree-style one in a pot. Either way, today was the day. I decided to walk to the two miles to the local garden centre. I don’t drive (joking about the ambulance thing, obvs.) to see if they could help me out. I did some shopping on the way and by the time I got to the garden centre the queue was out the door, all the way through the large carpark and as far as the road.
There were some serious garden addicts there, needing their fix, you could see the signs; green fingers, checking nearby weeds in case they were something interesting, frothing at the mouth – my people basically. But it was hot, I was hungry, I needed to pee and I figured the gods had decided today was not the day.
I trekked home a little despondently.
As I was thinking, wistfully, what I would do if I did have a wisteria to call my own, I saw this:
I was a little surprised to say the least. I considered knocking the door to explain and say thank you, but I thought that’d be a bit weird, so I gave a big thumbs up towards the house in case the kind owners were looking out, which was probably weirder. I took one and walked home with a big grin on my face. Also a little odd for passers-by.
A drunk homeless guy stopped me to ask about the plant and I explained what it was and how I got it with enthusiasm enough that he got freaked out and went away. To my shame, I didn’t give him any money which would have been the right thing to do for the universe.
I’m not religious and given the coronoavirus situation if this was meant to be, then the powers that be have some very strange priorities. “No, we’re not going to cure coronavirus, but that bald bloke needs a plant!” poof! plant!
Unless god is a gardener, which makes a lot of sense. Sending little ripples of happy out that pay dividends somewhere down the line. I’ve been planting a shed load of seeds so if enough of them take, I’m going to put loads out in pots for people to help themselves.
Because you never know, maybe then a passing scientist/gardener who wasn’t going to cure coronavirus because people are such dicks will take a plant and change their mind.
Okay, I think that’s unlikely too, but if I see that homeless bloke, he’s definitely getting a quid.
Ever notice that the same colours in your garden tend to bloom together?
For a month or so, I had mostly flowers on the pink/purple spectrum. I wondered if it’s a thing and attempted to google the phenomena but had no success. These guys and several others all arrived en masse in early Spring:
As flowers of other colours started to pop up, I concluded it must have been a coincidence. Later, I had a wave of things on the yellow/red spectrum all arrive together.
I noticed, but didn’t really think anything of it. They all appeared at roughly the same time, but not in a dramatic way.
But then, get this, this morning three different orange flowers all appeared at the same time.
Three flowers. Different plants. Separate parts of the garden.
All orange, or shades thereof. All at once. One night. Poof!
Is it just me? Am I going soft in the noggin’? Anyone else noticed this? I do have other colour plants, this could be Confirmation Bias or something, I suppose.
But I also found this bee looking suspicious near the new orange plants.
Notice its orange colour.
Coincidence? Hahahahahahaha! Coincidence? Is it? Is it though?
That bee’s up to something, the dodgy little git. I wouldn’t be surprised, were I to search him, to find a tiny tin of orange paint and bee-sized paint brush.
Okay, don’t judge me – it’s an explanation, just not a likely one.
Please, put me out of my misery, if anyone else has noticed this or, even better, has not only noticed it but knows why it happens, let me know.
For the love of god, please, I’m starting to suspect the insects.
My neighbour, John, is an excellent gardener. For the three years I’ve lived here, I’ve peered over the wall in wonder at the clockwork way perfect flowers arrive in Spring and Summer like they’re dancing to the swipes of his magical flower-conducting baton. He’s essentially a druid. He can even conjure life into his garden in Autumn and Winter while mine is a beige, rotting wasteland.
He potters about, doesn’t seem to do much but somehow creates a garden of neat, unshowy excellence. He knows exactly what he needs to know to get the best out of what he’s got. I’ve learnt a lot from him.
Except good taste.
Because I want my garden to look like Summer has vomited on it.
Directly onto it, so bits of Summer are hanging off every available crevice. This is not really an aesthetic decision, which would imply a level of floral control I lack, I aim for ridiculous because it’s pretty much my best option. If you put enough in, something will survive.
With that in mind, I decided my garden table is a valuable resource in my war against horticultural decency. I’d already weighed it down to creaking with plants in pots, but I realised a table has edges.
Edges from which I can hang yet more stuff. In pots.
This year’s garden assault plan features pots in a big way. I want to put pots absolutely everywhere (and I’ve just realised I can hang smaller pots from bigger pots – bonus!), so hanging pots from the table seemed like a sensible approach.
In this time of national lockdown however, where going out to buy hooks and wotnot is an act of wanton selfishness, I had to make do with what I had lying around.
Luckily, I had wire and lots of those little pots you never throw out because they might be handy.
Today is their day to shine in…
An Idiot’s Guide to Hanging Pots off a Table:
(I don’t mean it’s a guide written in sensible, easy to follow steps, I mean an idiot wrote it. Hi. )
Step 1: Get wire and twist it around itself to make it stronger. I found the best effect comes from little quick twists as close as possible to the last twist. This very quickly drills a small but painful hole in your finger, especially if you have soft sissy fingers like mine, so wear gloves.
Step 2: Having done this, curl them into an S bend, hook one end through a hole in the side of the pot (which you’ve filled with compost and seeds of those dangling, trailing type plants) and the other over the lip of the table.
And, um, that’s it!
Well that was suspiciously easy.
I thought so at the time. But, hey, the system worked. Amazing! I hung all of the pots up using the Pots on Hooks (TM) system. And in only 2 steps. Of course, all the best plans are simple.
Smugly, I sat down to admire my genius and wonder if MENSA would accept a photo of the table in lieu of an IQ test.
A pot fell off. Dumping its precious cargo of compost and carefully arranged seeds over the concrete.
Okay, maybe Mensa would need the photo and a small bribe.
Another pot fell off.
Bugger. I looked at my handywork. Several other pots were already working their way towards the edge of the table. I was forced to conclude that my approach of just hooking them over the edge would likely be undone by utterly unforeseeable circumstances, such a gentle breeze or the existence of gravity.
I examined the table more closely. It had a metal rim that I couldn’t hammer nails into and a glass surface that would probably respond badly to having nails put into it. I did happen to have a paperclip to hand which slid nicely under the rim but it was a bit flimsy…
Step 3: Make your own paper clips!
Yes, my second stroke of genius was to bend wire around the pliers to make sturdy paperclip-type-things. These I could slide under the rim of the table and, sort of, bend them upwards to hang the pots from. Right? They’d be strong enough, surely.
A sensible person would make one and try it out. Not me, I made twelve, which took ages and a few wire stabbings through the gloves. Then I found they didn’t fit under the rim. No matter what I did. Even swearing at them didn’t help.
I swore at them, the table, myself, the sky, and at my neighbour’s cat who was blamelessly sunbathing nearby.
I was out of ideas. I had loads of pots, full of compost and seed, all wired and ready to go, but no way to affix them to the table.
Only one thing for it:
So I sat there, sipping from my beer can, trying to think of what kind of metal I could find that was thin enough to fit under the rim, yet strong enough to hold a pot.
I took another sip from my metal beer can, trying to figure it out.
Could I hammer the wire flatter? Could I order extra thin L-brackets online? Another sip from the thin, metal beer can. A pause to appreciate the hoppy wonderfulness and how well beer (in a thin metallic can) goes with afternoon sunlight.
What metal could I use? It was impossible (sip), surely no such metal (sip) exists. (Sip.)
Honestly, it took me most of the can to realise.
Step 3(#2): Yes, beer can aluminium is just flimsy enough to fit under the rim of the table but just strong enough to hold the weight of the pots. So, assuming your table is exactly the same model as mine, make yourself some beer can hooks. Otherwise you’ll have to come up with your own Step 3. Sorry.
To cut a long (but scintillating) story short: Behold my successfully be-pottified table!
Okay, it may not look spectacular now, but should be nice by summer.
As I type, I can smell the blood on my fingers. The latest skirmish ended badly. The enemy is remorseless, merciless, fluffy. The war will definitely be over by Christmas. Unfortunately, it’ll start again in late Winter – as soon as I clear dead stuff and turn the earth to plant for next Spring. It is an endless conflict. A battle for the ages. I’m surprised the Vikings didn’t sing sagas about protecting their petunias.
The enemy: my neighbour’s cats. Masters of psychological warfare who lure you in with cuteness, lull you with adorable furry bellies and by rubbing against your leg then, in the early hours of the morning, while you’re drooling away in dreamland, they strike!
They are feline fatales. Genghis Cats. Little Adolf Kitlers.
Their weapon of choice: Poop.
It’s been going on for three years now. Every time I leave disturbed soil, the cats interpret this as a gift – “Thanks very much, Pink-Blob-Thing-What-Sometimes-Gives-Us-Snacks, so kind. I think I’ll… yes, I think I’ll shit in it.”
Obviously, the problem could be simply resolved by me not giving them treats or making a fuss of them. But they’re very cute and I get to have cats in my life without having to actually buy food, take them to the vet or do any of the associated faff of pet ownership, so that’s not happening. War it is. And I’m losing.
Secret weapons I have employed in my battle against the little gits digging up my bulbs and defecating on them include:
This morning, I found a Dahlia tuber unearthed for the umpteenth time, next to a small mound of desultorily covered cat poo. Enough was enough. I got a bunch of bamboo sticks and garden twine and erected a fence around the area. After much swearing, mishaps and bleeding I stepped back to admire my creation and concluded it would stop a dog but a cat would be through there in 0.25 seconds. I forgot to take a picture, but here’s a photo of where I wasn’t paying attention and snipped my finger instead of twine.
Given the bamboo/twine fence was a silly idea, I ripped it up and repurposed it into my latest effort: a small forest of bamboo around my precious, much-unearthed and occasionally pooped-upon Dahlia tuber. Hopefully this will dissuade the buggers at least until baby Dahlia has grown enough to fend for itself.
The struggle continues…
Oh, and if anyone has discovered anything that actually works, for the love of god, let me know.
Before I start, a little caveat, I know precisley naff-all about what I’m about to be talking about. I’m literally going to have to make like 90-95% of it up. Lesser people may view this as an impediment, but if it doesn’t stop our elected representitives then, by Jaga, it’s not going to stop me.
So a while ago, while reading an article about making upright gardens made out of pallets, I suddenly had the idea of making an upright garden out of, get this, a pallet. I don’t know where I got the inspiration from, clearly some of us are just more susceptible to The Muse.
I had a pallet left over from when I made a briezeblock flowerbed (better than it sounds), so I skim-read some instructions, and set to work.
What follows is not so much as guide, as a cautionary tale.
Drink a few beers, ciders, Pims, whatever your preference is (or all of them if you have them). All DIY is improved by mild inebriation, fact.
Saw your pallet in half. This involves a great deal of splinters, pain and facing some unpleasant truths about your own lack of muscle-mass.
Paint it. Just slather it on. Don’t pay any attention to the sensible notion of applying two thin coats. If you’re not sure, just tip the can over it.
Wait a day or two and check on it. Discover it’s covered in large blisters of paint that don’t seem to be drying. Don’t be discouraged, this is part of the process.
Wait about a fortnight and find that it is somehow still not dry.
Say “screw it” and carry on working regardless.
Realise that when you sawed it in half, you did it like an idiot and your edges now look like a blind carpenter’s attempt to carve a ziggurat.
Saw the (still not dry) painted edges off.
If, like me, you’ve gone with yellow, this will mean you’ll get yellow paint all over your hands that just won’t come off, no matter how many times you scrub them. It looks like you’ve been carelessly eating a mustardy hotdog.
Restart sawing. Expect more pain and sad truths about your level of fitness. Now regarding the sawing, most people recommend a square wood saw, but I found using a hacksaw, sawing as fast as you can, while going “yyeeeeeeaaaaarrrgh!” yields interesting results.
Buy tarpaulin for the back. You probably should have done this before step 1. You’ll also need some tarp to protect your ground before painting (let’s call that step 2.5) Make sure it’s full of holes to liven up your concrete with indellible splodges of yellow.
Nail the tarp to the back of your pallet. Put nails everywhere. Don’t skimp, you don’t want that tarp coming off. Make it look like Pinhead from Hellraiser, except one of his victims was feisty and had a hammer.
Completely fill it with compost. It’s important you buy about ten bags of compost so you have four left over for no reason.
Fill it from the top so the compost falls out of every slat on the way down.
Take the pile of compost you’ve now got all over the floor, around your boots, and in your boots – cram it into the gaps.
Attempt to add plants
Realise that the sensible thing to have done was to fill it with a little compost, add a plant when you get to the slat, fill it a little more, add another plant, etc.
Cram and scrunch the plants’ roots through the narrow gaps as best you can.
Realise you haven’t got anywhere near enough plants.
Go out and buy more. I would advise dangly plants (for dangle-ness.) and perky, pointy ones (because, I dunno, it seems like a good idea.)
Add seeds. Loads of seeds. Find seeds you like, chuck the seeds in there. Find more seeds, put them in too. Steal other people’s seeds, it’s fine, they won’t love them like you do. The more seeds you put in, the more chance some of them may actually survive, right?
You should now leave it for a week or two to allow the roots to bed in and the plants to become secure. Nothing worse than insecure plants (“But am I flowery enough?”)
Run out of patience waiting for plants to bed in. They’re fine. Put it up against the wall the next day.
Some people say you should screw it to the wall and have something like a back-board there to prevent damp soaking through. Cowards! Just prop that badboy up.
Hope for the best.
So there you go. Instructions on how to make an upright garden for people who don’t like to read instructions.
Against the odds, it’s actually turned out okay. I’m as surprised as you are.
Throughout the process, I’ve fretted about the paint not drying, the wood rotting, squishing the plants, adding too many plants, bloody snails, water not getting to the bottom and other things so, really, it’s more of an Uptight Garden.
And I’m not just saying that so I can justify the rather weak pun in the title.