Sorry for the lack of posts. We have become parents and it is beyond exhausting.
This is Pablo. He is a tri-coloured Welsh Pembroke Corgi – the newest and furriest member of our gardening team. He has sturdy digging legs, a low-slung belly for raking autumn leaves and a nose for trouble.
His interests include chewing anything he is specifically not allowed to chew, borking at things that have moved slightly since the last time he saw them, and sniffing out cat shit in my nice new garden soil (on which, more later).
So, what’s been happening in that tiny East London garden?
We have not been up to nothing. Pablo and I have made much progress on the garden. Even if it doesn’t technically look much like it.
Lots of the structural stuff has started to come together and the hard landscaping is at least planned if not underway. But this being East London, nothing is ever easy.
I ordered two new panels of fence to replace a couple that were warped, rotten, covered in ivy and falling to pieces.
Our wonderful neighbour Paul helped me slide the new fencing into place. It was a five minute job – followed by a stunning, three-hour-long traditional Portuguese lunch, cooked by Paul’s fabulous partner Sofia. The new fencing cost about 20 quid, so I consider that a rather good return on investment.
“Wait, that sounds pretty easy to me,” I hear you say. Well, yes. But, I was less than thrilled when, literally the same weekend we put in the new fencing, this happened.
Because some gutter-scraping parasitic cock urchin decided to do a bunk from whatever criminal activity he’d been up to and crashed through everyone’s backyards, and because this is East London and we can’t have nice things, I had to go back to the fencing place and ORDER MORE BLOODY FENCING.
The Metropolitan Police were precisely as interested in this criminal activity as you imagine they might be. Which is to say that, on the Scale of Cop Enthusiasm, where one is “cleaning up two-day-old vomit from a holding cell floor” and ten is “doughnuts”, we came somewhere around “looking out the window and deciding it’s too wet to leave the nick”. This is despite the fact I saw the guy and have an excellent description of him and a not-too-bad-if-I-do-say-so-myself homemade identikit image of him I drew on my Etch-a-Sketch.
All we got out of the police at all was a letter saying “sorry to hear you have been a victim of crime, but we’ve literally done nothing about this and we’re afraid we can’t solve this total fucking mystery”.
I don’t remember this happening on Dixon of Dock Green. But then, I’m too young to remember Dixon of Dock Green, so…
Anyway, lest you think no actual gardening is happening, here are some plants wot has appeared.
Some key plants for my backyard/crime scene/cat litter tray
I’ve made great progress on the garden design. I’ll share that in a week or two. But a few key plants have started to arrive. And buy “arrive” I mean I’ve been ordering them online. You can buy everything from tacos to bum ointment online these days but this is my first experience buying plants on the internet.
The first one to turn up was a huge Garrya elliptica. A completely splendid climber that has spectacular silver catkins in winter. Here’s stock photo of one.
Garry here is going to be splayed against the fence at the back of the garden, so we can all admire his dangly bits for Christmas. Which is, I suspect, not the first time that sort of thing has gone down around here.
The next lot of plants to turn up was comparatively disappointing.
There are 10 box plants, which have fallen far short of expectations. They’ve had a hard summer and haven’t seen enough water, so they’ve gone bronze, so I’ve started referring to them as Rio 2016 Australian Olympic Swim Team.
I also paid for a four-foot tall “Black Dragon” wisteria, only to have a foot-high twig turn up in its place. Further, the 120cm tall Acer palmatum “Suminagashi” I ordered was only a metre tall, if you count the pot.
Nothing measured up to the promises made on the internet. I feel like I’ve been on a Tinder date with an entire nursery.
My green wall seems to have shrunk in the wash
You may remember the passion with which I wanted a green wall for the “side return” part of the garden. It turns out green walls are bloody expensive, so we’re “making do” for now. But I don’t think it looks too bad.
I’ve focused on adding some plants to create a bit of height to the top of the fence, mostly to give Paul and Sofia some privacy. It’s a weird experience to stand at your sink, up to the elbows in suds, staring out your window at your neighbour, also up to his elbows in suds, staring back at you.
Perhaps this is how romances started in the old days? Neighbours, bored by the drudgery of domestic life, gazing longingly across fence tops into each other’s eyes while doing the dishes? Perhaps playfully flicking soapy bubbles off a spoon. Or suggestively wiping down their rolling pin. Or deep-throating a bottle brush while dry humping a Le Creuset frying pan. Before you know it, they’re splayed against the back fence, covered in Fairy Liquid. I mean, who can say for sure it didn’t happen?
I may have digressed. The point is, this little row of hardy, evergreen ferns (mostly aspleniums, arthyriums and whatever the other one is called) add a bit of privacy as well as a stunning splash of colour. Obviously there are more plants coming, but this is a rather pleasing start.
Speaking of a “splash of colour,” we did get that bistro set we wanted. Now we have an extremely stylish place to sit while we wait for Pablo to take a dump.
And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…
Does citrus actually stop cats pooping in your garden?
Speaking of poop, I’ve had many people ask me whether my experiment flinging citrus peel around the garden was effective at stopping the neighbourhood cats using it as some kind of scat depository.
You may recall I distributed the citrus peel on the advice of Gary (wot does me hair) the morning before I went to Australia for two weeks. Apparently that’s what they do down the allotments.
Well, bugger me! I came home two weeks later and guess what? No sign of cat poo at all.
But also, and significantly, no sign of cats either.
It turns out my upstairs neighbours went on holidays while I was away and their nervous cat sitter had locked them inside, like feline Flowers in the Attic.
To actually answer the question, “does citrus peel deter cats from using your garden as a litter tray” I can, definitively, say it does not. I know this because I just spent 10 minutes scraping cat shit out of the tread of my rubber boots with an old screwdriver.
“But Dan,” you rightly point out, “ten minutes is a long time to spend cleaning cat shit out of your boots. Surely that’s only a five minute job?”
After I’d cleaned them I nipped back out into the garden and managed to stand in another lot. So, it was two five minute jobs. Honestly, the shit is hard to avoid out there. It’s like the basement of a Berlin nightclub in the wee hours of Saturday morning… but decorated it with trellis.
(Editor’s note: I went Google searching for a funny image to put here. WTF, internet?…)
(But if you want that, you can buy it here.)
Is anyone in the mood for an amusing footnote?
I’ve just returned from walking the dog, who managed to leave an unscoopably liquefied shite on the footpath, four houses down from ours. It was right out the front of someone’s door. Like, so inconveniently located, it looked suspiciously deliberate.
Clearly, I couldn’t just leave it there, so I took the dog home and returned a few minutes later, armed with a two litre bottle of water to wash it away. If any of my neighbours happened to be looking out their window about a quarter of an hour ago, they’d have seen a strange man in the middle of the street watering a dog shit with a bottle of Highland Spring, as if he expected it to re-hydrate and grow into an actual dog.
Anyway, that’s it for now. Next time, no poop, I promise. Meanwhile, here’s a little more Pablo.
Join my garden journey progress from the start, here.
Read the next blog post in this series here.