The news is filled with the preparations for the great spectacle that is going to take place right on my doorstep in 30 days time, the Summer Olympics 2012. Not only is it taking place here in London, but right here in my borough where I live, in Newham, and the main arenas – The Olympic Stadium, the Basketball Arena, the Aquatics Centre and several other arenas are located in the Olympic Park at Stratford, only 3 miles from where I live.
Yesterday I heard on the news that home owners could apply for a grant of up to £1.000 to spruce up their front gardens before the Olympics, but it only applied to people living along the main routes into the arenas. Shame I don’t live on the main route, I’d quite like to get some Olympic money to buy plants for! Mind you, I always have a tidy front garden and lots of plants all year round, regardless of upcoming events. I usually have Pansies and Primroses in the winter, sometimes I plant Daffodil bulbs in the autumn before I plant the winter plants so the Daffodils can come up between them. In the summer I usually have a mix of annual bedding plants, whatever is cheap and cheerful, but I always have lots of trailing Lobelia. The tree in the big tub is actually a Garrya Elliptica 'James Roof’, which can be enormously big when planted in the ground, easily 4-5 m tall and the same in width. Here in the tub it won’t grow too big, and it gets a light trim every 3-4 years after those lovely decorative catkins have fallen off. Here is my front door today, with some of my summer plants in full glory.
|I live in a typical Victorian house, with the obligatory bay window and brick pillars. The low wall is perfect for a row of window boxes.|
|One of the window boxes on the window sill up-close. Geraniums, Petunias, Lobelias and there are also some Busy Lizzies on each side, but they are very small and almost drowning in the rest of the flowers.|
Unfortunately, none of my neighbours seem to have much interest in having flowers in their front gardens, and although there are some gardens with a bit of greenery in, most of them are pretty neglected and too many of the front gardens are just filled with rubbish. I can often see people stopping outside my front garden, admiring my flowers. I quite like that. But I must admit I don’t appreciate that children pick flowers from my window boxes – while their parents watch them and even encourage them! That’s something I don’t think I’ll ever get used to - I had never experienced that until I moved to Britain.
It’s not just humans that appreciate my window boxes; the squirrels in the area have adopted them for winter storage for their peanuts! This is a photo taken in April, after a particularly bad raid by the squirrels. They come with peanuts they collect from bird feeders in the area, dig a hole and put the peanuts in and throw out my plants in the process, and then later, sometimes many months later, when the window boxes have finally recovered from last raid, they come and collect the nuts again. The squirrels know exactly where they stored their nuts and can remember hundreds of storage areas.
So back in early May I decided that enough was enough, I was going to make ‘squirrel proof’ window boxes. My old, brown window boxes were pretty shabby and worn so in the spirit of sprucing up for the Olympics (without a penny in support!) I bought new, black window boxes. The change in colour was deliberate as I wanted to make sure the squirrels would see that these were new, different window boxes, not the ones they had stored their peanuts in! I put compost in and laid a fibre liner down before putting in the plants.
The plants I bought were just cheap, 10 plants for £3 in Tesco, I even think the tray of Petunias were 20 plants – for £3. I also bought some Fuchsias to go round the tree, they were a bit more expensive, I think they were 5 plants for £5, but I only used 3 plants here at the front. The new window boxes were a bit expensive, but if they last another 8 years like the old ones I will be happy with that. The 5 large boxes on the wall and the 3 smaller ones on the window sill cost all together £47. To make it even more difficult for the squirrels I put white decorative stones around the plants to hold the liner down and to prevent the squirrels from digging.
The plug plants have grown quickly, despite the dismal weather we have had, and you can no longer see the stones. I have however looked out through my window and seen squirrels several times running around between the window boxes with peanuts in their mouth while they seem to try to find a suitable place to hide their lunch – and then give up and leave! Me – 10 points, squirrel nil points!! Time will show if the squirrels will smarten up and find a way to dig here....I must admit I don’t look forward to changing to the winter plants in the autumn as removing all the stones and replanting will be a bit of a pain, but if it keeps the squirrels off my property then I am happy to do the extra work!
And as for the Olympics....I am recording all the TV programs and films I possibly can on my Freeview box so I have something to watch when everyone else is going to watch sport, I intend to hibernate in my garden and not leave the house at all and hope that we will get all the nice warm weather we still haven’t had. Take care, see you next time!