Tuesday, 31 October 2017

It’s fox eviction time!

It has been on the cards for a while; I think I have been patient – very patient to be honest. The fox cub is now an unruly 'teenager' and old enough to leave home, the mum has left the den long ago, the sibling cub is long gone or has passed away – mortality is about 50% among urban foxes - thankfully – or else we would be swamped with foxes! So 2 weeks ago one of my garden helpers and her husband were here and we dismantled the smallest of my shed to get access to the large void behind it to clear all the bramble and Virginia creeper behind it.

Over the years, this space has become a perfect space for the foxes to hide and make a den for their cubs – completely sheltered and totally inaccessible for me to clear. The roof of my large shed was creaking under the weight of the increasing amount of bramble and had started to leak. It needs re-felting and the only way to get access was to take down the small shed and clear the whole lot away. A huge job – and I already miss my tool shed.

Getting in behind the small space between the shed and the wall was not easy with years of leaves rotting down. Better not be scared of spiders! Clearing out this became my job – I saved all of this and sifted it, it became an amazing leaf mould!

Seeing the big area behind the shed for the first time was great, I had only imagined it before. It took us a whole Sunday to cut down all this and put into bags.

And this is what I am left with.

This is hard-packed soil with roots and broken paving slabs and pieces of old concrete that someone in the past has just left here. I bet 2 hunky young men with pickaxes, shovels and wheelbarrows could clear this area in an afternoon for me....but I don’t know any hunky young men who would do that.

If I did, I would have asked them to lay these paving slabs for me that I have been working on the last....ooohh 2 weeks or so. I try to do one or maybe 2 slabs every day I am out in the garden. This is the raised area I have my tropical plants on, where I eventually might have a pond, but that means more dreaming of muscular fit men, as this raised area is filled with 2-3 tons of soil which will have to be emptied out first before any water can go in....In the mean time I am settling for having plants on top. But the pots were difficult to place before so I am now trying to make it better with some leftover paving slabs. I am getting there eventually, just working in my usual turtle tempo. And since I am having this long-term dream of a pond I am not laying the slabs with concrete, just levelling the soil under. Ask any bricklayer if that's possible and they will say nope, you can't do that. Well, you can - it just takes longer to do. You have to make sure all the soil is thoroughly and equally wet, and have a little dry soil on the side to use to drizzle over as a thin layer before putting the slab down. And have a good eye and use a spirit level. Every time that bubble ends up in the middle in each direction is a cause for celebration! I sat on the ground most of the first summer I was here and did the slabs that replaced the lawn that was here before exactly the same way and those slabs have been walked on for 2 years now - still looking good and lying nicely (reasonably) straight.

Here are my tools for the moment – stool, caddy and trolley – and a huge crowbar. OK, I was hiding a few things in this picture, those who knows me well know that I need my crutches too, but I don’t put them in my photos – and I usually work at night, with flood lights on, and headphones with music on full blast. Oh, and the cats in the area always pop in to say hello when I work – and so do the fox cub – even if it has been evicted. It is still coming. Didn’t really get the message. It is so tame now that sometimes I think it is the neighbour’s ginger cat that has just walked past me, and only when I turn around to talk to him do I realise it is the fox cub looking back at me. They are about the same size and not that different in colour under my LED floodlight. I have even had the fox cub sitting on my backdoor step when my door was open, looking through the net curtain I always have to keep insects out. I suppose the cub didn't understand how to get in through it, but that's probably just a question of time, it didn't take the neighbour cat more than a few attempts before he mastered going through the magnet lock on the curtain. I bet the fox would learn it just as quickly, they are clever!

Anyway, all this work means my garden look more like a garden centre at the moment, there are pots everywhere.

I have just had to place the plants where I could find room for them.

Did I mention there are plants everywhere?

Including on my table....

OK, let me find some plants to talk about. I posted this photo on Facebook last week – with the title ‘Last strawberry and first Hellebore’.

I am happy to report that both ‘Florence’ and ‘Toscana’ are still flowering so there are more strawberries to come – and most of my Helleborus niger are now either flowering or budding.

This time of year is quite exciting in my London garden – it’s like having 3 seasons at once and happens every year. I am still not finished with many summer plants, and autumn is barely started – and yet here next to the strawberries is a rhododendron with flower buds almost bursting - and snowdrops already out of ground.

And turn around and you will see my cherry tomatoes which I thought I had to clean pick and ripen indoors, but it is still going strong and giving me enough tomatoes to eat almost every day. I am not cutting it down yet, and this photo is taken 30th October. Not bad or what?

It is still flowering and the tomatoes are still getting red, I just give them 2 days indoors before I eat them and they taste just as they did in July.

And next to the tomatoes is my abutilon, which I almost gave away because the nursery sent me the wrong colour. I ordered a dark red one and they sent me an orange.

It looks gorgeous – still wrong colour for my garden, but for now it is allowed to stay.

The garden is slowly winding down in certain parts.

Getting autumn colours....

....while other parts are just gearing up for their most important show of the year!

Look at Camellia ‘Takanini’ – isn’t this the most gorgeous flowers you have seen?! And it will continue to flower until March or April and possibly May if we have a cool spring. I often say that the camellias are taking over when the roses are having a break but that’s a bit nonsense in my garden as most of my roses are still flowering and will continue until I cut them down in late January.

Next to ‘Takanini’ is  'Winter's Snowman', a completely white camellia, still quite small as I bought it as a cutting. It will be a lovely plant when it gets a bit taller.

And third one to flower – almost there is another peony camellia, just like ‘Takanini’, this one is called 'Volunteer', with huge flowers in a soft pink with a lighter edge, the flowers look as they have been dusted with icing sugar.

There are more spectacular colours – this is not Photoshopped – this is as close as true to the real colour of Acer 'Amagi Shigure'.

And this is a plant I haven’t talked about before – might not be known to many – it is an Impatiens and it is about 7ft tall. What? Nope, I am not lying, it’s true. It is an Impatiens tinctoria, a hardy perennial, and it grows like mad – a bit unruly, definitely a plant for the back of the border, but these flowers just keep coming non-stop and it seems like it will keep going until we have frost – if we get any. The flowers look like orchids and the plant is enormous – I have re-potted twice and will have to do it again next spring as I am not sure if I am going to put it in the ground. It is currently placed in between the roses which seem to be a good place for it – feet in the shade, face in the sun. Here is more info for the curious.

Do you remember my cosmos from last year? Those that grew so tall that they were much taller than my shed? They are even taller this year. And even later to flower – some of them have just started flowering this week! A cool August and topsy turvy September is probably to blame for that. Deadheading is probably futile to think of....all these were sown outdoors in small pots and planted in these containers. Easy-peasy, just wish they were a bit earlier to flower - after all, they are meant to be summer flowers and.....ehem, summer is loooong gone by now.

I’ll just admire them for as long as I have them and hope we don’t get a frost night for a long time – it only takes ONE frost night to kill them all.

And finally, I have bought one more birdbath, the birds have christened it already....I can’t for my life understand why they need to poo in the water they drink and bathe in – but there you go, I am not a bird so how would I know. The birdbath is made of recycled car tyres, great idea, looks good – it actually looks like stone, you have to touch it to realise it is not made of stone. But I appreciate the light weight when cleaning it, I can just tip it over and hose it down. Bert the frog has made himself a home in the birdbath and there is still ample space for even a pigeon or two to have a wash-down.

I usually finish my blog post with a garden movie, but having in mind all the work going on at the moment I have not made my usual movie – instead I have something else I hope you will enjoy.
People say never work wild children or pets - try adding wildlife to the equation! I have spent 6 months trying to film various birds, squirrels, foxes and more or less wild cats visiting my garden. Sometimes they walk around my legs while I work in my tiny garden - and I NEVER have my camera close by when that happens of course - sods law! Some of the footage was filmed by simply setting my camera on a tripod and press record and let the card catch whatever came by. Usually nothing. Hours of sifting through absolutely nothing, just for 3 cats and a squirrel to run over the wall while I was checking the camera....sods law again :-)
I tried for 3 weeks to get footage of the foxes walking over the wall, they do that every evening, but all the footage I got was too dark to be useful. That's foxes for you, sleeping all day, roaming all night. They are in good company, I do the same. Well, I am not roaming very far, I keep to my own garden, but I am sleeping most of the day and up all night.
I hope you enjoy the movie :-)
Music: Baby Elephant Walk from the movie Hatari, performed by City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.

See you next month, until then take care,


  1. Helene, your flowers are lovely! Especially your Camellias, the red one is a wonder! I have an overwhelming passion for Camellias, there must be 20 or so of them in my garden and some are still blooming. ¿Do you keep your Camellias outdoors in winter? Greetings from Argentina.

    1. Hello, yes all camellias are hardy in Britain so there is no problem keeping them outdoors and in pots or in the ground here. Our winter is starting in about 6 weeks time and the early varieties like Takanini and Volunteer will flower all through the winter.

  2. Finally foxes won't disturb you in the garden, Helene. I see you have done a lot of work and your garden looks perfectly. Love wine-color of Acer 'Amagi Shigure', so unusual.
    Take care!

    1. Thank you Nadezda, I love the plum coloured acer too - a real beauty! I wish the foxes would keep away for good, unfortunately the cub is still turning up most days, hopefully it will find a new home soon....

  3. WE have similar no go area behind our greenhouse - minus fox cen - but with no chance of moving the greenhouse its a case of squeeze and chop.

    1. It will be an easier job to keep clean now that we managed to get to the bottom of all the debris, if I can keep up the work it will simply be a matter of sweeping as there are paving slabs along the wall behind the shed. I had no idea - had to get through more than a foot of leaf mould to find them!

  4. Wah...I can't imagine the cosmos can be so high..

    1. The tallest, pink ones are called Cosmos bipinnatus 'Dazzler' - if you want to grow them yourself I am sure you will get the same height :-)

  5. Hello, Nadezda is right you have been working a lot and we can see it in a lovely video! Camellias are stunning, we - mom, my sister and me - are not very smart regarding these beautiful plants (I remember just my mom having two big plants with red blossoms named after me and my sister; somebody stole them in a hallway of our block of flats where they overwintered years ago...). Thank you for your night advice regarding "Hamlet" question water or not water lilium speciosum during the winter. By the way I am a good liar: an average of January temperatue in the Czech Republic (the coldest month) is -5 - 1°C, well nights are certainly colder but anyway I probably better remeber extremes than standard average weather... I love new so far hidden space even it is small, because I can dream about new planted corner and plan in my head what I will choose there. It is a pure joy and I take it as a part of my garden tasks:-)... I would send you one hunky and hardworking (not really young and always easy gpoing) guy but he works on our house and has to work in our garden and implement my crazy ideas (when I make him);-)... Take care and be careful about work with slabs, it has to be heavy and difficult for you! Hela

    1. Hello Helena, I have devised a way of working with the slabs using my trolley and large black plastic bags so I can drag them along and not have to lift much - working alone often creates the most brilliant solutions out of necessity :-)

      As for the climate and winter temperatures - remember that for us gardeners it is not the average temperature that is of interest, it is the maximum and minimum temperature. It only takes ONE night where it dips below a certain temperature to kill off a plant that wasn't supposed to be outside. So if you have an average winter temp of minus 1-5 then you probably can have winters with down to minus 10-12 or even 15 at times? And if it's windy, that will make it colder. I assume you have different regions with more or less snow/cold weather too, not that it helps to know where you live, I wouldn't know, but keep an eye on the temperature this winter and you'll see. I have a thermometer that shows minimum and maximum temp for last 24 hours. Very useful for a gardener :-)

  6. How industrious you are, Helene! I've been moving a lot of rock and paving stones myself of late and that is WORK as I know well. I loved the video. The music you selected was perfect. What a parade you captured. Like you, I've had trouble capturing the local wild - and not so wild - life in my area, although we have security video now that often captures the nighttime antics of the raccoons. Your squirrel made me laugh. Mine disappeared for a time when I stopped filling my birdfeeders during the summer months but they returned to "harvest" the persimmons when they ripened. They also helped "carve" my Halloween pumpkin this year. Best wishes with your ongoing efforts in your beautiful garden!

    1. Thank you Kris, the antics of the foxes and squirrels have me in stitches at times - and makes me so furious too at times! They create so much work for me and make so much damage, but I hope by getting rid of the den at least I will have less fox traffic next year. It is a bit crazy with the foxes here at times, the cub is walking around in the garden when I am sitting at my table as if it was a cat - not faced at all by the fact that I am right there.
      The winter is always my busiest time in the garden and this winter is no exception. Lots of things going on, lots of projects :-)

  7. Oh, I love the Cosmos! Mine do the same thing--right up to the first frost, and sometimes after. But we've had a couple of frost/freezes now, so those plants are finished flowering. This is the time of year when your garden leaps ahead of mine...right on through to May, when our hot, sunny, long summer days make plants grow so fast. I think I would like to live in the Midwest from May through October, and in London from November through April. ;-) That's so wild about that area where the foxes made their den. I had a chuckle when you mentioned the young, hunky men taking care of it in a few hours. It will be interesting to see what you do with it.

    1. Hello Beth, yes I know we have compared our gardens before during the winter/early spring - funny thing is, by the time we get to end of June, you have always caught up with me so it's just that everything is more spread out over the whole year over here.

      Sadly, no strong, hunky men has turned up at my door as a result of my blog post. It's going to take me a loooong time to clear all that on my own if that's what I end up having to do. But I have exciting plans for the big shed :-)

  8. Hej Helene!
    Alltid lika trevligt att se din trädgård, med allt fint som blommar. Bra att du fått hjälp med de tyngre uppgifterna. Kameliorna är så fina. Mina cosmos var också höga förra året, och har spridit sig lite runt om, men det får de gärna göra. Annars är det inte så mycket som blommar här, trädgården tar vintervila och vaknar upp igen i vår.
    Ha det fint /Marika

    1. Hei Marible, jeg har visst ikke svart på dette innlegget - her er det like travelt som vanlig så bloggen min er nok ikke så oppdatert som tidligere. Skulle gjerne ha litt flere timer i døgnet :-)

      Jeg tror cosmos blir høye hvis de ikke får så mye sol som de gjerne vil ha - og vår sommer var heller kjølig i år.
      Ha en fin helg :-)


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