On My Oasis – New Pets and New Plants

This weekend was an extremely exciting one in our house as the 21st day of chick incubation arrived. I basically spent every waking moment from Friday onwards sat next to the eggs, staring through the perspex and waiting for the slightest signs of a pip. I was rewarded at about 3pm on Friday (day 21) when one Polish bantam and one Barbu d’anver egg had a little hole. Whilst the polish chick made short work of its shell, the little black d’anver did nothing, and I worried, and stressed, and worried some more.

On Saturday another three Polish bantams arrived, and another d’anver egg pipped but still….no signs of this variety hatching. Finally, on Sunday, after the first d’anver had started to unzip (a process where they roll around in the egg to peck through a circumference of membrane and shell), the chick became stuck for three hours. I finally intervened and broke the top away. A few minutes later and some forceful pushes, and the little mite was out. Number two was in a similar position and had to be helped out the shell this morning. Alas, it’s got a leg deformity and can’t stand – I’m unsure this happened because of the long hatch time or the chick wasn’t able to get out of the shell due to this. At the moment I’m now worrying, stressing, and worrying some more about this chick. We’ve strapped its toes to try and uncurl them but it still can’t stand – rather sad.

New plants

I also headed to the local garden centre this past Saturday and, being unable to control myself, bought some more plants. This is how my last garden became a mess; I just bought all the plants I liked and any thought of design went out the window. Unfortunately a similar thing seems to be occurring here….though the dark leaved dahlia is ideal for the tropical border. I got a gorgeous white wisteria for the front of the house – hopefully to hide some of that 1930’s architecture or lack thereof – and also a chocolate cosmos. It’s the latter that doesn’t really fit into any of my design, but I’ll find a worthy spot for it.

One plant that is coming into it’s own is Verbena ‘Bampton’. I’ve planted this in the Mediterranean garden amongst the lavender and grasses, and against the coal bunker. It’s looking beautiful!


The stunning new dahlia


Verbena Bampton


Chocolate cosmos – I’ll need to take cuttings from this as it’s only half hardy

With the oncoming heatwave – I’m not looking forward to it – this week is going to be ALL about watering the garden and trying to keep things alive, particularly in a newly established patch where roots haven’t had a chance to properly penetrate the soil. So…get through the heat, don’t melt and most importantly of all, enjoy the garden!

On My Oasis – Dealing with Droughts

Argh! So, this year seems to be intensely dry. I think I’m noticing the lack of rain mainly because of the new garden. These are not established plants. Their roots haven’t had a chance to taper into the soil and search out the natural moisture. As such, I seem to be battling with the desperate need to water whilst remembering that we’ve just been put onto a water meter. Yep; the time has come for hubby and I to stop showering just so the plants can get their drink! I’m trying not to water too much, but with only a couple of downpours over the past month, there’s no other choice than to get out the house.


A scraggy hen wanders through the Mediterranean garden.

The Mediterranean garden

One area that is coming on relatively well is the Mediterranean garden. I’m really pleased to see the lavenders taking hold and my carex grasses flowering and setting up those beautiful fronds, adding not only structure, but movement as they sway in the wind. The jasmine’s in, and I was lucky enough to get my hands on a new variety of Stipa. ‘Goldilocks‘ is a medium-sized variety; perfect for smaller gardens. I also have some New Zealand flax to give some evergreen structure and I expect, as all gardens, the patch will evolve over the years.

I have to say, when it comes to my gardens ‘themes‘, I’m taking several liberties with the plants I’m growing. I’m aiming for a feel, not an exact copy. My Mediterranean garden, for example, might not seem ‘Mediterraneany’ enough for some people; it has grasses, lavender, jasmine, flax and cyclamen. These plants remind me of a Greek holiday on Paxos, and it’s that feeling of nostalgia I’m looking to recreate. Likewise, the ‘tropical garden’ doesn’t actually contain many typical tropical plants. Large leaves, lots of green and explosions of hot colours, yes. But lots of species that need winter care? No. I’m a strong believer that a garden is a personal place. You can create themes and ideas based on horticultural knowledge and specific design but, ultimately, your space should please you. Cyclamen in my Mediterranean garden? Well that makes me instantly think of Paxos where these lovely plants were growing out of the stone walls on the rugged mountainous paths.


In the past few weeks, the new chooks have come on leaps and bounds, both in their health and personality. I’m getting two to three eggs a day which is pretty good, and they don’t last long, I can tell you! The first new feathers are starting to come through – notably on their throats and backs – and their wattles and combs are red and fat. We’ve named them Matilda, Cersie, Arya and Guillyflower; you can see the theme there I think. Cersei certainly lives up to her Games of Thrones namesake.

I’ve been letting them out in the garden for a potter around on most days. Due to their current moult, they’re far more interested in dust bathing in my dry, barren soil, than pecking my plants to death but I know better than to go off and leave them. Left to their own devices in a relatively small garden, hens will cause devastation!

We also have some more chicks on the way – on Friday, in fact. 18 bantam eggs have been incubating for 18 days so, fingers crossed, we’ll have new lives hatching out soon.

Established plants

Luckily, I do have some summer colour in the garden, thanks to plants I inherited with the garden and some favourites I brought with me that have been grown, and will stay in, pots. Despite them being in the wrong place at the moment, the daylillies are throwing stunning oranges into the garden. I’ll let them all flower and then divide and move them later in the year to free up the cordon fruit tree bed. Meanwhile, a small rose I found growing from seed in a compost heap a few years ago is finally coming into itself and producing some beautiful flowers. And the sedum and succulent collection currently residing in terracotta pots on top of the coal bunker are doing splendidly.


So….this week I’m basically waiting with great anticipation for Friday and the potential of new chicks! What’s happening in your garden?

Four ways to create a stylish garden

RHS Chelsea’s long gone, disappearing with the blink of an eye to make way for the summer and the plethora of other shows on the horizon. However, for many of us, the inspiration of those chic garden oases remain, along with that questions – ‘How do I get a garden like that?‘. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the money or access to an acclaimed designer to recreate one of those stunning show gardens in our own backyards. But there are a few simple tricks which can help create a stylish space befitting any garden party.


A variety of blue hues is ideal for this shady spot

1) Limit the colour palette

If you’re anything like me, your garden is crammed full of every beloved plant, along with its vibrant and colourful flowers. I’m not saying that every designed garden has a limited colour palette – they don’t – but it’s one of the simplest ways to get a carefully crafted look. Use just two or three hues, or even various tones of the same colour, and you instantly make a cluttered space look extremely on-point. If, like me, you’re a fan of various colours, simply limit the palette in various areas. For example, my Mediterranean garden is blues and whites, whilst my cutting garden is crammed full of every colour possible. Meanwhile, the tropical patch uses bold reds, oranges and yellows against a backdrop of green ferns .

2) Add Garden Lighting

Garden lighting can be a great design addition to any garden, but don’t simply just plonk a load of solar power columns either side of a path. The point of lighting should be to create atmosphere, often one that’s completely different to the garden’s daylight ambiance. Sure, you might need some bright lighting on the patio area if you want to entertain, but when it comes to the garden, get a little creative. Use lighting to highlight special plants, or wind fairy lights not along a fence, but through a thicket of foliage. Coloured lights work especially well, whilst lighting an area at the bottom of the garden, will draw guests down to discover something new.

3) Invest in good garden furniture

I’ve mentioned this before – I’m not very good at remembering to put furniture into a garden; I’m too busy with the plants. However, when it does come to buying, it’s best to actually get a product that’ll last a long time and won’t give your guests splinters the first time they sit on it. I’m a huge fan of fake rattan, not only because it looks amazing, but due to it’s low maintenance. Aside from the cushions, which will need bringing in and looking after, the rest only needs a brush down now and then and can survive outside all year round. For some great examples, take a look at Skyline Design. There’s no sanding down and cleaning off, no new cupronol’ing every few years; it’s easy, stylish and comfortable furniture that’ll make you want to actually use your garden.

© Geoff Wakeling

Box balls look incredible all year round

4) Go for Greens

If you want your garden to look amazing all year round, it’s essential to have evergreen plants. During most of the year these work as a backdrop to the rest of your plants. It’s in the winter that they come to the forefront, keeping a grey outlook full of cheer. Box, bay, holly and laurel are just a few great plants to use. All can be shaped if you’re looking for something a little more formal; there’s nothing quite like a box ball covered with a drift of snow to get you in the festive spirit!

On My Oasis – Greece’s Sunny Shores

Okay, this may make some of your green with envy, but my oasis this week was Greece. I finally went on my honeymoon (we split it from the wedding so we’d having something to look forward to). Whilst I sat on the beautiful pebble beach, it was hard to worry about whether my pots were getting blown around by Hurricane Gonzalez. The news seemed to think it was a big deal, but when I got back, every plastic pot was still in place. Did it affect you?

Anyhow, as I was away, not alot’s actually happened at home so I thought I’d post a few pics of the beautiful views, shores and plants of Paxos. This little island is off the coast of Corfu and is STUNNING. Unknowingly, we arrived at the end of the season when most tourists had left, and on our fourth day there everything shut (other than one old man’s grill and the supermarkets). However, it did mean we got beaches, vistas and mountain walks to ourselves. In addition, an EPIC 13 hour thunderstorm whipped the sea into such a frenzy that we couldn’t get back to the mainland and missed out flight. Okay, we had to shell out more money for new ones but we got an extra day in this beautiful place. I highly recommend it!

On My Oasis – Verbena, Shasta Daisies and Visas

Oh look, it’s Bank Holiday so of course,  it’s pissing down. I managed to get away with a quick woodland walk before the heaven’s opened so now, other than a few trips down the garden, I’m indulging in a traditional day off; slumming it on the couch.

A swathe of verbena shines vividly against variegated wigelia

So, this week – in fact, yesterday – I had some REALLY good news. After a weekend away in Suffolk, where I was convinced that the best birthday pressies I could give my mum and sister (they’re both born in September) was some IOU’s in the garden, we arrived back in London to discover my husband’s visa had been approved! So, he has another 30 months in the UK. But, honestly, that’s not the exciting part – the best bit is that it means we can buy a new house = move = get a new garden for Geoffrey to play around in!

I’m ecstatic and have been surfing the housing porn of Rightmove. Of course, the first thing I lok at is the garden! I’ve known we were intending on moving out of London for some time, but now it’s really happening I’m extremely excited. It’s also come at a good time because the autumn’s is, by far, the best time to move plants. I’m sorry housebuyers, but there’ll be nothing left of my garden once I’m gone. I have a HELL of a lot of plants to start dividing, lifting and potting up…but for now, as the rain comes down, I’m enjoying what’s on offer.

A flopped daisy collects rain droplets

A flopped daisy collects rain droplets

As usual, the beautiful verbena’s are adding vibrant life to the surroundings. These really are a glorious plant, being structural, transparent and colourful. Luckily, they also sow themselves well so though I collect some seed at the end of each year in case of  a severe frost, there’s normally new plants popping up all over the place. I also nabbed some Shasta Daisies last year from a client’s when I was splitting a clump (I did ask…). They should be placed in full sun really, but I’ve found that they do well enough in shade as long as the long stems are supported. However, I was a bad gardener and forgot to do this so they’ve all flopped, but are pretty nevertheless. Other than that, it’s mostly foliage. I also forget about this end of summer period and tend to lack any dramatic buds at this time of year….however, now a move is on the cards, it’ll be time to start creating a garden all over again; HURRAH!

A Summer Nuisance – Dealing with Mosquitoes

It’s a little bit baking, isn’t it? After that winter of constant rain and not a frost in sight (certainly for us Londoners, anyway), we’ve finally got a decent summer. However, that’s not without its own complications, and I’m currently watering like crazy – particularly the pots, which are very prone to drying out. I’m lucky to have a south-facing garden but boy, does the soil really dry out on these hot, muggy days.

One thing you’ve probably noticed this year is the gargantuan amount of critters about. You might’ve been thankful for the lack of snow during the winter, but we really could have done with some…even if just for a week. Those frosts, cold tendrils and blankets of snow creep into the ground and kill off pests. Without them, the bugs can survive and start breeding earlier. The result? An even tougher war between pests and gardeners.


My pond has a tiny frog population.

A particular problem area for me this year has been the pond. As readers of the blog will know, my pond is a simple affair; a large black plastic tub that’s more often used for planting young trees in, that’s sunk into the earth, filled with water and a few plants thrown in. It keeps a tiny frog population happy enough, acts as a mini-oasis for passing mammals and birds and, on the whole, adds the ambiance of the garden. Unfortunately, this year, that ambiance is the buzzing of mosquitoes as they hatch and exit the water. I’ve had various ways of dealing with this over the years, including changing out the water and getting a few fish to reduce the larvae numbers. Unfortunately, a noxious bonfire from my neighbour two doors up spouted vile black fumes across my garden which got into the water and killed the three fish. Yes – I called environmental health on their arse!

This year, as I’m soon moving, I don’t really want to start buying new fish, so I’ve decided to go for a pond pump. On the allotment I use a thin layer of vegetable oil on top of the water barrels to stop the females being able to lay their eggs into the water. In a pond setting, that’s not possible. Mosquitoes don’t like moving water; the stiller and more stagnant the better. Luckily, Swell UK have got some great pond pumps for sale (there’s also a free delivery offer on at the moment). I’ve used the company before when I was setting up my vivarium and I can attest to the good quality of the products. I’m hoping that by using a pump, the mozzies will stop laying and, as a result, I won’t look like a pin-cushion. Though, every time I walk the dog in the forest I’m attacked too so I doubt I’ll evade getting bitten entirely. Pond pumps are ideal for larger bodies of water too and in addition to providing filtration, can create a great water feature that not only looks good, but sounds great too.

So, if you’re having trouble with these blood-sucking bugs, there are various options. Get a few fish, start agitating the water, and keep a fly-swatter close by!

Welcome to The Guide to Gay Gardening!

Living in the grey smog of London utopia, I forge my little existence in a slightly loopy, hermity, hippy manner, sharing my life with the hens, cats and other menagerie that have somehow taken over my life.

If I'm not enjoying the great outdoors with my netbook in hand, I'll be snipping, pruning, planting, cutting, propagating, shovelling, or just plain admiring. You can even catch the occasional glimpse of me on the TV now and then!

Take the weight off for a while. Sit back, relax, read, send me feedback, but mostly just take a moment and look around you.....mother nature is beautiful.

Geoff Wakeling

Mail Me: geoffwakeling(at) theguidetogaygardening(dot)com


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