Unexpected delights of cheap gardening

By Richard Wright

Published on Friday, April 26, 2013 - 11:12


Unexpected delights of cheap gardening

Hyacinths in Richard Wright’s garden.

GARDENING GARDENING for free, or for pennies, is the very best sort.

That is why allotments look right with bits of corrugated iron and rickety, old sheds and wrong with picket fences and paved paths.

Plants that pop up of their own volition fit the ethos too.

My spinach self-seeded on the allotment at Sandlands before I arrived and I hope will remain there after I have gone.

A jolly little free bonus popped its nodding head out of a gap in the flagstone path at home the other day, too.

The snakeshead fritillary is a notoriously 'picky’ plant. I was always told it requires a problematic mix of damp, humus-rich soil that is also free draining.

There is not much of any of that in the path crack. There’s also no chance the bulb could have formed at the recommended planting depth of 5ins either.

The path sits on a 1ft-deep bed of hardcore rubble, because it was free to get rid of it that way.

I have bought fritillaries in the past and always found them difficult to maintain. They tend to flourish one year and the next, when conditions are not to their liking, disappear.

They are really, in the wild, a plant of the old English, unimproved, water meadow, which is left alone in spring and grazed in summer

But this solitary newcomer is worth a lie-down and look at on the hard path. It is of the traditional, and unusual, purple and white-flecked petal variety, which looks especially stunning from underneath — which is somewhat problematic as it stands less than 1ft tall.

I will make the most of it, too — before it’s trodden on!

It nods at an especially stunning display this year of hyacinths, which are poles apart from their unassuming neighbour.

For years, part of the Christmas tradition has been filling the house with the heady aroma of hyacinth — a gorgeous, but sneezy, occupation.

The front garden now hosts a goodly display of blues, pinks, white and ivory specimens because each year, after they finish flowering ,I pop them out of doors where they have lasted for many years.

Certainly, you get double value for the outlay.

On the free front, a colleague of mine has just returned from Cuba, a country I have always wanted to visit.

There the US blockade has meant doing things on the cheap is necessity, whether it be patching up their lumbering cars with Coke cans and ingenuity or effectively using the land with community allotments.

My colleague, Rachael, was mightily impressed not just with the country and the hospitality she received, but with the make-do-and-mend gardening skills, which turned the holiday complexes into very special green places.

She was at Playa Pesquero in the Holguin province of the southern part of Cuba, where the hotel’s owners produced their own plants from cuttings, which were planted out around the chalet buildings which comprised the hotel complex.

There was not a plant pot in sight — just chopped off water bottles and tins containing all manner of exotica, which can be grown in that climate.

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