Sometimes you need some Eremurus in your life

We were particularly excited last week when we acquired another White Foxtail Lily from Shannon’s. We were so enamoured by the plant that we even named one of Madtone’s new tracks after it (see last post).

It’s the bizarre starfish-shaped root crowns that do it for us, family members have gasped “Urghhhhh, keep THAT away from me” and have also remarked “they’re disgusting” when we’ve showed them the crowns. We here really appreciate the root crown’s oddness as you know we love something a bit “out there” here at Weeds! The tweet (at the top) from Shannon’s from a few years ago still makes us laugh.

We’ve lost a couple of plants over the years as we don’t think they like our heavy clay soil here in London. As the plant originates from the dry grasslands of western and central Asia it prefers a free draining soil and when awakening in the spring the early leaves don’t particularly tolerate the frost. We give the bed a good bit of preparation before putting it in, mixing in some organic matter to help with the drainage.

It’s a very bizarre sight when the plants starts to kick into life in the spring. Over a few weeks you can see the thing drilling up through the soil and reminds us of the film War Of The Worlds when the monsters from outer space start to wake up. Sadly, the plants don’t look like those monsters that have the hoover-like tentacles though. Now that would be interesting!

It’s brilliant when leaves explode out of the soil and then the fantastic flower head a couple of months later. No-one talks about how odd they are then do they? Leave the Eremurus alone! We love it here and will bring you updates when it pops up in the spring. #FoxtailLily #Itcamefromouterspace

Well you live and learn!

Gardening is such a massive subject it’s impossible to know everything. Even if you know a bit there’ll always be a bit more you can master. Why not get back into the classroom (or learn from home or in the great outdoors) and undertake a gardening course. As well as learning new stuff there’s a good chance you’ll meet like-minded people who may turn into future gardening friends (Hi Scarlett!)

There’s all sorts to choose from including the varying levels of the RHS certificates, gardening for beginners and seed saving workshops and then there’s the loosely gardening-related courses like foraging and bee-keeping. The courses go from the cheap to the expensive so there’s something to suit all pockets. If money is on the tight side there are free courses about or ones that are as cheap as chips, they just take that bit more effort to find. We’ve also seen courses at various community gardens that are free, all you have to do is help for an additional hour with some small gardening chore in exchange. A favour for a favour and all that!

A few years ago we did a couple of free courses at a local city farm. The first was making a herb garden in a window box type planter and the second was worm composting in the city for beginners which was well informative (above is our wormery made from a bucket cadged from the local butchers not long after the course). The herb course even came with a free planter with a great selection of free herbs to choose from too, talk about a bargain! Have a look online (tap in “free gardening courses” on google, facebook or twitter) or in the local press. Community groups, local allotments and gardening charities may be good to contact about free courses too.

Another free way of learning is on the web, the BBC has a series of great informative gardening guides available, from growing fruit and vegetables to the basics of soil here. Well worth having a look at!

If you hear of any good courses on the cheap or for free do pass them our way and we’ll blog them here. Best of lunch with your gardening studies!



Seed saving and other stories

Cheers to our good friend Marc B for letting us know about a feature which was up our street on BBC’s Gardeners’ World this week about a “seed guardian” in Wales called Adam Alexander.  It’s excellent stuff to watch and it’s on i-player here episode 22 at about 25 minutes in. Have a look at Adam’s blog too (here) as he’s an interesting chap to say the least and has loads of advice on growing stuff, collecting seed and a lot more!

Talking of saving seeds and the like here’s news via @freedomseedbank of a great free event at the Skip Garden Harvest Festival on September 22nd at the Skip Garden, 1 Tapper Walk, London N1C 4AQ which includes a seed saving workshop explaining amongst other things “the theory and practice of saving seeds” which sounds great stuff. For more information and to book pop to their eventbrite page here.#saveyourownseeds

We thought we lost you

We were feeling sad at Weeds HQ earlier this week as we thought the forty odd quid solar fountain for the pond we bought a couple of years ago had died on us. There was no light on the control panel and it looked like that was it a goner.

Today we gave it one more chance and laid the solar panel directly in the sun for a few hours and the thing shot back into life later in the afternoon. The battery was as flat as a pancake. Salute to solar power! By the way the goldfish bought from Lewisham’s “premier” pet shop are still there but went a bit camera shy when this photo was taken (don’t worry that pesky Heron hasn’t had them!)

Three tunes and a lemon verbana tea please

It was through a facebook post of Haji Mike from Cyprus a few years ago that we learned of the great lemon verbena. The fragrant herb grows well in our parts too but you have to watch it in the winter as it’s not too hardy. This year for the first time we even noticed some flowers on it. The best thing about the plant is the lovely zingy tea made out of a few fresh leaves (more on the tea here.) And to accompany a cup of the stuff here’s three tracks in a downtempo breakbeat style.

The first is Paraiso from ANF on the NAFF label (it certainly ain’t!) out of Canada, nice stuff indeed! The next is a great one from I-Cube/Oeil Cube called XXXX (Abel’s edit) that I’m sure we may have featured before and slightly puts us in mind of another top tune Barbara Mason’s Another Man. 

Finally we have a corker from Skeleton Army called Touch on Killer Smile which after a couple of plays has wormed it’s way into our brains. Love the music maker’s moniker origins (see here) and love the tune! Three to wind down with!

Hold your head up oh, hold your head high

Visiting Shoe Lane Library this week we noticed a book on the shelves by Jon Ronson about the entertainer Frank Sidebottom who Jon played keyboards for in the 80’s. It’s a winning combination of happy, sad and the strange.

What tickled us were a couple of tales, one about when the band was travelling by van to a London gig. On reaching the Edgware Road the chap driving stopped and asked a passer-by: “Excuse me, is this London?” to which the shocked person replied “Yes”. The driver then said “Well, where do you want this wood?” Another was about a gig at Dudley JB‘s where the uninterested crowd of a dozen totally ignored Frank and the band, procured a ball and split into two teams and played football on the dancefloor. Frank supposedly rated it as the best gig he ever played!

We were lucky to see him live at a Late at the Tate in the early 2000’s but it was a performance he did earlier that day there that sticks in our mind.

We caught by chance an afternoon warm up gig by Frank outside an adjoining gallery to the Tate (where an exhibition of his artworks were). It was as daft as you’d imagine and towards the end of it a strange incident occurred. Frank had just passed out the microphone to the crowd of about 20, encouraging a bit of audience participation. One of the punters held his nose and shouted in a mock Frank Sidebottom voice “I am the real Frank” (it sounded like that to us). Frank’s mood changed from being all jolly to very hurt as he gave the keyboard a hard blow which set off a three note funeral type march and walked off very slowly with his head bowed as if  following a coffin and an air of doom and gloom came over the place. The three note drone continued for a good 5 minutes until someone in the crowd turned the keyboard off. Was it a set up? Was it part of the show? It was odd whatever it was.

If that weren’t mad, we walked off to get a pint and returned to catch the exhibition of his artworks in the gallery. It was then we noticed 3 or 4 Tate staff frantically scrubbing off freshly painted graffiti from the outside wall of the gallery which wasn’t there when he was playing. Was this the work of an mad and angry Frank? What was it all about? Who knows. R.I.P Frank Sidebottom. #franksidebottom