Morfydd St. Clair

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since Feb 09, 2015
Hamburg, Germany
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Recent posts by Morfydd St. Clair

Between a late cold snap, slugs, and various cute and fluffy rodents, my annual bed killed:

I bought some Cyperus longus to go in my new pond and then failed to dig my new pond, so it is languishing in pots almost dead.  The Corsican Mint is also still in pots, tiny pinpricks of green against dead brown foliage, but I firmly believe Corsican Mint has a deathwish anyway.

My Hablitzia tamnoides disappeared, as did all my lovage, old and new.  Thanks, rabbits.  Oh, and they ate my new Toona sinensis and skirret.  I'm re-buying and they all get tree guards this time.

On the bright side, the Vanessa rosé grape I thought the cold snap had killed is coming back, as is the Rose of Sharon that randomly died winter before last and I had resigned to being a trellis for the muscat grape (which is doing great).  

We had a super mild winter, then hard cold snaps in April, then it was a cold May, and then last weekend it was suddenly a bit too warm to comfortably garden (but we did anyway) and this week has been just miserably hot.  It's weird seeing half my garden just peeking out from the ground and the other half already going to seed.
Ok, that's great to hear, thank you!
3 weeks ago
While you guys are talking mulberries:  I picked up a weeping mulberry last year and put it in a corner.  It's about 5 feet tall at the peak of the arches.  Will it grow as huge as a normal one?  This would be bad as in its current location it would cause impolite shade to my neighbors.  If I need to move it, is that even feasible at this point?  Thanks!
1 month ago
Ceanothus will make a lovely blue hedge, and it comes in any hue from sky blue to deep indigo.  In theory you can make a tea substitute from the leaves.  I like the yellow of my cornus mas (cornelian cherry) which yields tasty cherry-like berries, but it blooms really early.  One of my trees bears yellow fruit, not red, so if you get that + a late-blooming ceanothus you might even get the two colors at the same time.

Edited:  Whoops, missed that you were looking for full-sized trees.  Neither of the above will get much above 2 meters tall, sorry!
1 month ago
I have probably thought of the overstory the least, because I have a small Kleingarten and it came with a mature apple tree in the eastern third.  On my west side there is a line of hornbeams just outside the garden which make everything pretty shady in the afternoon.  Until recently I've been trying to keep everything as sunny as possible because of them, but as the summers get hotter and more miserable, I'm thinking of more shade trees.  I've planted a silk tree because: beautiful (and nitrogen-fixing) but it's trying to die on me.  Maybe I should reconsider a full-sized chestnut!
1 month ago
Fear the temp and precip charts for my area!,Hamburg,Germany

Winter precipitation is drizzle and/or snow in the winter, and hard fast thunderstorms in the summer.  It took me forever to understand this, coming from the PNW and increasingly harsh summer droughts.  

It's nice that I don't worry about watering things except:  When planting, still new and fragile, in pots, and/or an actual dry spell.  I was way too cocky last year, and after a dry spell of almost a month with deeply unpleasantly hot temps, my potted mint died.  I've never killed mint before* - I'm so proud!

For fragile plants, I suppose I should shelter them in some way from the hard summer rain, but I'm not that sophisticated yet.

*Except Corsican mint, which dies if you look at it.  I am bitter at all the pots I bought guaranteeing to be a "step-able" groundcover in the PNW, yet I still bought some this year for some experimental decorative plantings in Hamburg, hoping the different weather will work.  They are currently languishing at the point of death on my windowsill.  Argh.
It does seem very like tofu - blend and strain once and reserve the liquid, boil and strain a second time and reserve the solids.  I think I'm going to see how much damage I can do to my nettle patches this year with this.
3 months ago
Oh hai, I'm reading back issues of Permaculture Magazine (UK) and suddenly came across an article called "Designing & Planting a Permaculture Potager"

Link is if you have a digital subscription.  (It gets you the whole online archives too!)  Or Summer 2011 if you have paper copies floating around.

This is a pretty basic article - I think either Creasy's book (excellent recommendation!) or Larkcom's would be more long-term helpful - but it's a nice intro.  And it has specific spring/summer planting recommendations by color!
There are a lot of ornamental flowers that are also useful and not too expensive en masse.  Alyssum is lovely, a well-behaved groundcover, nice for bees, and marginally edible.  Breadseed poppies produce massive amounts of seed to spread in future years.  (Technically, yes, they're opium poppies, so YLLEEMV - Your Local Law Enforcement Environment May Vary.)  Hollyhocks (all the malva, alcea, etc., variants) also produce tons of seeds - I've been collecting them from the weedy versions rampant through my city - and they're edible and very old-fashioned-pretty.

I had wood-sided raised beds that worked ok, but weeds wanted to lurk in the edges.  This year I'm trying just humped-up dirt beds, paths are dug a bit down, covered in cardboard and then wood chips (and all the leaf mulch that blew off the beds over winter - Sigh).  I'm growing out ornamental dandelions to hold the sides in, and have some Corsican mint as well.  We'll see how it goes.

Paths are a pain.  Well-trimmed grass looks lovely, but my grass wants to invade everything within reach.  As always, wood chips are great if you can get them in quantity.  (I can't, sigh.)  Gravel has to be picked clean of organic matter to look tidy.  Jay mentioned glass, and I want to shout out to one of my favorite businesses in Seattle - - who do gorgeous recycled glass tiles and tumbled glass chips for paths.  BUT I could never afford to do even my 2 small paths in their glass chips.  And you have to pick them clean too.
I'm going to put a plug in for Creative Vegetable Gardening by Joy Larkcom, Amazon link here:  

She's really inspired me to improve and expand my annual garden, introducing perennials almost as hardscape.  My partner gets discouraged (and so do I sometimes!) by how ragged the polycultures look, especially as they're not filled in yet.  I think organizing and formalizing a part of the yard will give us a better sense of control, and get back the fun in gardening.

She helps clarify how to structure a formal garden, how to use annuals to fill in as larger perennials develop, and how to break the rules once you know them.  The pictures are fabulous and the book is full of helpful tips.

I think I found it via Permaculture magazine (UK) back issues.  I have the Kindle version, which is worth reading on a device that shows off the gorgeous pictures.  A paper version would probably be even more useful for inspiring your family.