Friday, October 29, 2004

1st-7th November (diary)

Soon we will plunge ourselves into cold shadows,
And all of summer's stunning afternoons will be gone.
I already hear the dead thuds of logs below
Falling on the cobblestones and the lawn.

All of winter will return to me:
derision, Hate, shuddering, horror, drudgery and vice,
And exiled, like the sun, to a polar prison,
My soul will harden into a block of red ice.

- Charles Baudelaire, Autumn Song

This is the start of autumn for me, and the beginning of the new gardening season with catalogues dropping through the door daily I will have some reading to do on wet days. The trouble is KID IN A SWEET SHOP comes into play and the choice of next year garden purchases are endless, Do I buy the NO MORE SLUGS magic powder for the Hosters or the 5 dollar money tree on e-bay for me, No I will wait and be happy with what I have, My best buys have been at flower shows a client of mine made me order 10 blue moon roses from Chelsea 6 years ago, They arrived at ‘this time’ as bare rooted plants then the blue rose line was lost and this new disease resistant type was to bring them back into gardens worldwide, I still remember opening this package with advanced excitement only to discover 10 dead looking twigs. However they were planted and from the next year on provided all the admiration you would expect, they are now in every seed catalogue you get your hands on.

Colds and flues
this year I have faithfully taken extra vitamin C Fish oils and keep myself busy, And so far the winter darkness has stayed at arms length. As a worker reliant on the season’s elements I find from now till Christmas not as bad as the rest of the winter. But you have to expect the worst. Here in the UK we have had rain most of the week and the gardens have turned into marsh land, Its not a good idea to do anything in the garden with these conditions however I have to get the pennies in, So clearing leaves has been something of a routine this week. But I have to always be on the look out for the right conditions to start digging, (sooner the better). I like to dig on a cold frosty morning when all the leaves have gone just turning over the vegetable patch is enough leaving large clumps of earth that will be broken down over winter by frost, I will add at least one barrow load of compost and manure per 4 rows dug.

The beautiful unfashionable ones.

These are the flower of November and I have been using them for the last few years, Very easy to grow and left in over winter a forgotten and stunning plant with a colour range to match anything that will brighten up the dullest November day.

Hippeastrum (Amaryllis)
Go and buy one to plant now.
I hated these for a long time and bought them as token gifts for Christmas, then I saw an instillation at Tate Britain that featured these plants, I was hooked! Plant them up and start them off on the top of a radiator you will have flowers at Christmas.

Cortaoleria selloana (pampas grass)
I noticed one of these last week swaying outside a friends bay window It seemed to be part of her front room and matched the interior, masking out the busy street it looked great, a classic right plant for the right place.

Bulb theft
There are increased reports of bulb theft! To stop these put nuts out in piles this will keep the bulbs and bird food in your garden and the squirrels happy.

You can continue to plant bulbs right up to December and on wet days look through the seed catalogues a recommendation is EDWIN TUCKER this is a fantastic one to look up lots of old varieties organic and non. (E-mail: also on the net.
NOTE: If you are having a bonfire check for wildlife before you light it.

Here are some photos of this week including a beautiful Cyclamen and the conker some more photos are due to be out on Tuesday.

Photographs and text copyright 2004 andrew stenning

Thursday, October 14, 2004

25th-31st OCT DIARY(SAHARA)garden

"The plains of sand give way to the dunes, and the dunes to the plains. Nothing but sand."
--Frédéric Bernard, 19th century explorer

October 25th through 31st
A travel tale

Visiting the Sahara last week will be something of an inspiration to me, for some time I have had a soft spot for gardens in the sand and have visited many [Arizona, Nevada and now Sahara}

As soon as you hit the ground in Marrakech all the mysteries of exploration are in front of you, The beautiful colours of Tangerine and Ochre and the sweet smell of incense take hold and the tantalising chaos give you a kick that is different to anywhere in the world.

Last week was the start of RAMADAN and the air raid sirens scream along to the call of prayer at five in the morning and six at night, marking the beginning and end of the DAY, After six the streets and motorways of Morocco die, and every Muslim scrambles to eat smoke drink and calm down. If you happen to be on a bus or in a taxi at six it will stop and you and everyone else will slurp down Ramadan soup mint tea and cigarettes.

It was while on a bus from Marrakech to Ouarzazate that this happened to me a long drive south through the winding roads of the Atlas mountains, cypress and olive along with Acacia and Artemisia, doum palm, oleander, date palm, and thyme line the long route and the landscape changes with the clock.

Quarzazate to Zagora is buy Peugeot 206 shared with ten Moroccans a part of the trip I will try and forget, Then onto the last post M’Hamid from here on it’s 4by4 and camel as the expanse of sand starts to dominate.

The boundaries of the Sahara are the Atlantic Ocean on the west, the Atlas Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea on the north, the Red Sea and Egypt on the east, and the Sudan and the valley of the Niger River on the south. Sahara is divided into Western Sahara, the central Ahaggar Mountains, the Tibesti massif (a region of desert mountains and high plateaus), and the Libyan desert (the most arid region).

I travelled south through the route of the Paris to Dakar rally touching morocco’s boarder with Algeria. Algeria is still under the pall of its own civil war between Islamic fundamentalists and the government, and Morocco's Polisario rebels continue to fight government troops in the southern region of the country.

So this was as far as I wanted to go and glad I did.

One characteristic of the vegetation found in the Sahara is that these species must be able to adapt to unreliable precipitation and excessive heat, set amongst this awesome work of nature the garden of the Sahara is extremely humbling, Looking up into the BLACK night sky you get an idea of your place in the universe and seeing the sight of swallows migrating from England across this harsh terrain made me think about the astonishing achievements of nature. The Sahara Desert covers over 3.5 million square miles and has only 2.5 million inhabitants - roughly 1 person per square mile (0.4 sq km)- which is one of the lowest population densities on earth. Wherever abundant food and water sources occur, one will find relatively large masses of people and wildlife. On the whole, the Sahara is one of the harshest environments known to man. And is a trip I will never forget.
For more on Islamic gardens click onto MOROCCO on my website.

Photographs of this trip will be published here this week. Also in my online portfolio on

Photographs and text copyright 2004 andrew stenning

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

17th-24th Oct DIARY

The week ahead for Oct 17th-Oct 24th, 2004

‘You’ve been so busy lately that you haven’t found the time, to open up your mind and watch the world spinning gently out of time’.
--Damon Albarn & Alex James.

Population is soaring and resources are finite, 52.000 young people are homeless in the UK, We are all sleepwalking into a dangerous future, Urbanisation is not a bad thing it creates hot beds for science art and culture, however it is a grave misjudgement on behalf of current thought to pack in developments that are expensive soulless and aesthetically disgusting. The opportunities we have now to create harmonious environments are better than ever in world history. Cheap housing projects are not a capitalist ideal because they put the power into other peoples pockets, what has this got to do with gardening [A lot]. For some time I have been researching a building scheme from the USA called earth ships, these are built from recycled materials and look fantastic, they need no heating and communities are encouraged to assign green spaces for sowing and growing.[look them up on the net].

Every time I work in new building estates it depresses me I have a blank visceral sensation, looking round there are no people compost heaps or taste, They appear to be an experiment in cloning, I always see gardens as optimistic things and should be developed with future generations in mind as they are of great importance to our culture. Nature is a fragile and very important thing that has designed our lives as it should be not how it is becoming.

Things to look out for this week
Earth ships
Hydrangea (the decaying flowers are stunning and worth keeping for Christmas decorations)
Laburnum splashing its neon glow in the garden
Seed heads of poppies
English Yew the berries are great this year But Highly Toxic
Heuchera ‘Chocolate Ruffles’

Things to do
  • Buy and plant an apple tree called ‘John Standish’ it is becoming the ideal time to put in bare rooted plants, of which there is much more choice.and this one is an old English classic. Also pick any remaining fruit such as apples before they are damaged by frost.

  • Apply leaf mould to your boarders.

  • Cut roses down by half to reduce wind rock.

  • Put up bird boxes

  • Start planting out winter bedding and bulbs, I have planted tulips in December and they still come up the same.

  • Start to rake up fallen leaves to put in your leaf mould heap.Best not to leave this till they are all down a bit at a time is good.You could use a wire rake
    so you dethatch the grass at the same time Although this is bloody hard work.

    Narcissus ‘Cheerfulness’
    Also start on VIT C as colds are on their rounds!

    Also note this week is the best to clean out the greenhouse in preperation for the winter months, Get everything out on a wet but not too cold day and clean with jays fluid, leave doors and windows open over night and Put everything back the following day.

    a sight that stopped me in my tracks this week was the intense scarlet of an acer japonicum mixed with the bark of a silver birch, with such fiery contrasts around the leaf litter of acers and cherries are left on the grass.The new carpet beneath the trees is as alluring as any flower.

    Photographs and text copyright 2004 andrew stenning

    Saturday, October 09, 2004

    Morocan Garden Style

    To include Moroccan Riad gardens. The Morrocan peoples garden and the YSL Garden Marrakech.

    (also more detail on Sahara published in NOVEMBER 2004 with photographs).

    photographs can be viewed at this time or by clicking on 'more andrew stenning photos' @Flickr .com under the photo set to the right.

    Credits include:
    Alison and Jandal and their Essaouira garden
    YSL Marrakech
    Riad Doha
    Riad al madina
    and La boussole de Sahara and their kind help with a toyota hi lux and camel.

    Photographs and text copyright 2004 andrew stenning

    Wednesday, October 06, 2004

    OCT 10th-16th [DIARY]

    There ought to be gardens for all months in the year,
    In which, severally, things of beauty may be then in season.

    - Sir Francis Bacon

    It was one of those perfect English autumnal days
    Which occur more frequently in memory than in life.

    - P. D. James

    September 29th was the feast of St. Michael around the time of the autumnal equinox; this marks the period of the earth beginning to die. St Michael was seen as a protector of dark forces and was very popular in the Middle Ages, Now however he is known for his asters! [That take his name] Michaelmas daisies [aster amellu]. They spray their influence all over gardens now in abundance, If you can catch sight of these on a milky sunny Autumn day it is something to remember, No pretension just the perfect daisy flower.

    Although we have winter to look to, this is one of the most prolific and fantastic months in the outdoor calendar the lightning speed of change is comparable to spring. As I said last week you have to be quick and I think the quotes above explain the whole sensation.

    As the conkers fall from the horse chestnut and the trees change coats one by one it creates a time of memory and thought, we know this is natures last smile of the departing year.

    Leaf fall seems to get later every year, if we cast I minds back to October 16th 1987 and the great storm of the south east of England it was the amount of leaves still on the trees and the saturated ground that caused this destruction one third of kew garden’s trees were lost lets hope we don’t get any gales this week!

    I love October most for it’s light on bright days taking a walk in a garden is like looking at a stained glass window, a hue of honey that gives the best autumn days a fragile feeling of things slipping away. Old summer perennial stems reflect the evening sun and come alive again. The leaf of geraniums and their new rich red hue complement this and add to the new look of the garden. I take this in on a daily basis and with things as they are around us now I ask just WHY!

    Thing to look out for this week.
    Apples they have been their best this year and not too much wasp damage.
    Anemone [Japanese] still flowering their heads off.
    Parthenocissus tricuspidata [Virginia creeper] the change is dramatic.
    Also still at it are summer bedding gazinias are as good now as in the summer months, it’s such a same to pull them out.

    Things to do
    Any frost tender plants should go in now as frost is on its way, a good tip with large specimens is to stick some canes in the pot around them and then wrap in Clingfilm. As well as acting like I mini greenhouse round the plant you will be amazed at your skill at postmodern architecture.

    Bulb of the week…. Garlic an easy and hardy crop to grow.

    Photographs of this week should be up on Wednesday. To see more of my photographs click here.

    Sunday, October 03, 2004

    Oct 3rd-Oct 10th 04.

    Plant to look out for this week are, Nerine bowdenii, Physalis alkekengi, Acers, Kaffir lilys, Amelanchier lamarckii and Rose hips, also if you are visiting a nursery or ordering plants make sure you add these to a list, Lilum ‘casa blanca’ of all the Oriental hybrid lilies this is classic perfection both in scent and looks. And buy a Hamamelis if you have room in your boot my favourite is ‘Arnold primise’ which has fantastic scented yellow flowers on bare branches, They may be cheap to buy now as they are not in flower, but this is the perfect time to plant them for a much needed kick in January.

    Leaf mould
    A very valuable soil conditioner is leaf mould, I am now turning last years onto the garden, collect all this years leaves and contain them in a simple chicken wire and stake storage unit. This time next year they will have metamorphoses into a sweet smelling black topping for your boarders, which the plants and wildlife will love.

    The best time of the month to do work on the lawn such as seeding and more importantly aerating with a wet winter sure to come the grass will really love this extra air and drainage. If you are seeding a good tip is to do it now! and cover the seeded area with plastic the seed will be up in 8 days I promise.

    Do not be tempted to cut back and tidy up perennials on the decline, over the winter these skeletons of plants are a valuable commodity to birds, This doesn’t do a lot to discourage diseases in the garden but with bird populations on the slid this is a sacrifice worth taking.

    Photographs and text copyright 2004 andrew stenning