Saturday, August 9, 2008

Deadlines, deadlines...

I've been a staff journalist all my working life, and at least half of that (which is, erm, quite a long time) on evening papers, which as far as news is concerned, are the fastest things in the west. On a daily paper such as The Independent, where I've worked for the past eight years, you have all day (theoretically) to get the paper out. On an evening paper, such as the Evening Standard in London, where I worked for 10 years, you have around two hours. Then you tear it up and start again and two hours later, you have a new edition.
It's often struck me that lots of you bloggers would do very well on an evening paper, or on any newspaper, come to that. So many of you seem to be able to get your heads around an issue, research it, write a coherent post, and have an intelligent opinion on the subject, all in the space of a nanosecond.
There's just one problem with working to deadlines all the time, though. You tend to become a tiny bit of a last-minute merchant. Unless there is a pressing reason to find a solution to a problem, your brain doesn't quite see why it should make an effort. Now that the garden opening is in three weeks' time, however, it's been getting into gear. And when my colleague Anna Pavord, the Independent's gardening writer, rang me up and asked if she could come round next week and write a piece about the garden, my brain seemed finally to wake up and smell the decaf.
Take Thursday, which was my day off. I've been meaning all year (yes, eight months) to put a kind of step or bit of paving or something where the lawn meets the back of the garden. There's a shady bit under a purple cherry plum where I keep the compost bins, and the wheelbarrow, and spare pots, and all that stuff you tuck away somewhere out of sight. (Yes, I know the compost should be in a hotter, sunnier place, but the hotter, sunnier place is too valuable for plants to use it for compost bins.) There are some ferns there, and some bamboo, so it's quite civilised.
I 'd been thinking a bit of timber or paving would work, but how to make it look like it was meant to be there? Suddenly I had an idea: put some large cobbles either side of the plank, around the base of the bamboo. I half-buried them, so they'd look like they'd been there for a long time. It worked. (I'd like to thank AN at Garden Life for this idea because I'm sure it was looking at his fabulous garden in Japan and the other amazing pictures on his blog that inspired me.)
Next, what to do with the area in front of our plum tree (allegedly a fan-trained specimen on a small rootstock, but it thinks it's a giant redwood). I grow herbs there - oregano, thyme, mint, chives, the usual - but they tend to have small leaves, which look out of scale with the rest of the garden. It's always looked a mess, except in spring, when self-seeding forget-me-nots take over. I decided to try a half-barrel pond there, with a mini waterlily, and group pots of herbs around it. It's looking much better. Why didn't I think of that months ago?
Unfortunately, my brain was so busy coming up with solutions, it forgot to remind me to take 'before' photographs. Everything is still a bit of a work-in-progress, so I won't post any 'afters' until it's finished. Meanwhile, here's a picture of someone who does absolutely no work in the garden whatsoever.

16 comments:

Roses and stuff said...

I found your blog through Blotanical, and I've spent some time reading your posts. A very nice and interesting blog!

I always forget to take 'before' pictures, which is a pity, really - but once I get an idea I forget the camera.
/Katarina

patientgardener said...

I dont even have the excuse of working as a journalist to be a last minute mercent. I have been on annual leave the last two weeks and have failed to do anything - I'm sure its because I'm used to rushing around on my weekends off and the luxury of days ahead of me has made me very very lazy!

VP said...

First a promise of Helen Yemm and now Anna Pavord - funny how that focuses the mind ;)

Sounds like you've come up with some fab design ideas. Just don't look at the 2 out of scale conifer trees when you come and have a look at mine. I'm wrestling with what to do with them at the moment...

Victoria said...

Katarina, thanks for visiting! Patient gardener, I saw your post about the fabulous Herefordshire garden, so it sounds like you've been quite busy:D Hope you're having a wonderful holiday.
VP: Do you mean the two at the ends of the low walls? What you need is a third conifer! No, seriously, if you're worried about the non-symmetry, something tall in a big pot in front of either one would distract the eye. Or an arch (something plain and chunky and pergolaesque) over the steps? Then the eye would see the straight line of the structure, and be distracted from the conifers. (I assume you don't want to rip them out, and it's great to have things that look green and structural all year round.)

Northern Shade said...

I look forward to the after shots. It's interesting to see how new ideas and garden tweaking looks.
Your 4 legged pond accessory is a reminder to stop and smell the fish, er roses, in between all the garden work.

Benjamin Vogt said...

I think editing makes some people's blog posts seem more coherent or put together--and in reality (for me at least) I sometimes spend a day or two mulling it over before posting. Isn't the goal of a written piece to appear as light and effortless as a fether in the breeze? Still, if I had just a few hours to write a decent piece of writing, often, I don't think I could do it. Things need to be planted, carpets to be cleaned....

Victoria said...

Benjamin: Planting, maybe, but carpets? Did D H Lawrence clean carpets? Did John Steinbeck vacuum?
Northern Shade: the 4-legged pond accessory is very good at smelling fish and even better at stealing cold chicken. He has even been known to nibble the top of a sponge cake left to cool after it came out of the oven.

VP said...

No I'm thinking of ripping them out - one of them is going an ugly shade of brown and has also gone all bushy instead of keeping nice and compact (it's not a Leylandii, but I suspect Leylandii aphid) and they're now out of scale with the rest of the planting. Trouble is they're also acting as a screen as they block a sight line from the bedroom of a house behind us to where we like to sit out on the patio. So I'm dithering - don't really want to rip them out as I'll probably lose quite a lot of the planting I like there. And if I do, can the roots be got out (seeing it's a walled terrace) adequately, so I can plant something else. Should I get a 'better' more compact tree to go there or put an arch over the steps (which was the original plan anyway - I just never got around to training the trees!) instead. I change my mind every time I look at them! Hubby wants them to stay if possible...

Mmm and I seem to have written most of the post I've been planning for weeks on this, right here! May come back to cut and paste a little later.

Have you also found that opening your garden works wonders for that planting backlog you've been accumulating for months (or years in some cases I'm ashamed to say)? It certainly has with mine!

I also love your cat :)

VP said...

Just read your reply to Northern Shade. 1 of our previous pair of cats stole next door's roast chicken whilst it was 'resting' on the kitchen worktop before being carved for Sunday lunch.

Cats are great aren't they?

Victoria said...

VP: You have very good taste in cats! I must do a post about him.
I agree with you, I think an arch would be good. Is that a summerhouse you've got further down the garden? It would sort of echo that. It might be an opportunity, even. Trachelospermum; wisteria; roses; lovely fragrant things vs Leylandii aphid? Hmm, that's a difficult one :D Have you had a tree surgeon look at them?
Er, the planting backlog is still a planting backlog. I meant to get it all done today, but I came inside after two hours in torrential rain and somehow couldn't face going back out again.

VP said...

The tree surgeon's on my list of things to do. You're right about echoing the summerhouse which I did diiscuss with hubby a while back (he's not keen). I also have metal obelisks in both beds, so am thinking about commissioning something a bit more special from a local blacksmith instead - it's our 25th wedding anniversary next year, so could use that as an excuse to have a bit of a splurge.

Will do a post about it - chatting to you's been helpful and it would be good to get some thoughts from other garden bloggers.

And DO write about your cat - I nearly asked why you hadn't already, but then thought you probably had but I'd missed it!

Perennial Gardener said...

Sounds like you've been busy, busy with trying to get the garden in order for the visit. There are always all those "why didn't I think of that sooner" moments in my garden too. :) By the way your non-garden helper looks like he enjoys the garden regardless of the work in progress. lol

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

Victoria, it all sounds wonderful. I do think we journalists are used to working last minute. In fact, I have a small article due tomorrow assigned yesterday. It's a fast life.~~Dee

Victoria said...

Perennial Gardener: Thanks for your comment, I was in need of a little cheering. I have overdone the last-minute thing. I found myself practically taking the garden apart yesterday, only to find that it looked better the first way, so from now on I'm going to leave things alone.
Dee: I read your post about Garden Visit Anxiety Disorder and it really made me laugh. I'm going to forget about tweaking and think about "fluffing" instead.

kd said...

Oh no!!! I read, with increasing anticipation, the inspiring descriptions of your new design features, completely prepared to spend much time admiring visual evidence of your creativity and ingenuity, only to find...

...no photos. Sigh. Consider your blog "haunted" until such photos appear :)

All the best,
Krys

Victoria said...

kd: I'm so sorry. There will be pictures. Trouble is, every time I get the camera out, it pours with rain, or the light's in the wrong place, or I've left a bag of gravel in front of whatever I've just done. Etc Etc. But there will be pictures. Soon.