It’s a Jungle Out There

Progress has paused on the garden this week and bizarrely not because of the rain. In fact our garden is probably the one place precipitation would be welcomed if only the turf was going down at the same time. Alas whilst we wait for materials to arrive J is concentrating on his own garden and will be returning to us, he promises, tomorrow.

The turf will be going down and the vegetable beds built which is good news for the stuffed-full plastic greenhouse of drooping seedlings… eager are they to have some soil in which to tunnel down their roots.
A new and somewhat healthier batch of plants, gifted by my father in law at the weekend, have also joined my sorry specimens in their cluttered waiting room. I have to say they look decidedly miffed at being given up for adoption by their green fingered maker….owner of the most impressive and inspiring plot I’ve ever seen …..and deposited instead into much sludgier coloured hands and in a far more modest abode…. we’ll have, by the weekend, two fairly large sleeper-ed beds as opposed to his acre. But what I lack in experience, I like to think, I gain in enthusiasm. Or do I? Perhaps it’s the boundless enthusiasm which is cause of my gardening undoing….

Once, having acquired the miniature padlock keys of an allotment, I furnished myself with books and busied myself buying seeds. As S tamed the waist high grass just enough to see a patch of bare soil I, ignoring all advice to hold on planting and concentrate instead on (boring) infrastructure, set about instead sprinkling said seeds about the place with wild abandon ….images of a Huntered and Kidstoned Alys Fowler in my head (though in hindsight surely no one does any kind of practical gardening in a dress?).
“Aren’t they meant to be in lines, pet?” S had asked.
I’d shrugged nonchalantly.
“Why does it matter?” I’d retorted. “A lettuce is a lettuce regardless of whether its grown in a line or otherwise….”
And so I continued….ignoring the books piled high at my elbow and the advice by now gathering volume at my ears.

It did matter.

As the lettuces started growing so too did the weeds and without lines to differentiate them I was none the wiser. Our first salad contained all kinds of non edibles including a big fat slug which survived the clearly un-thorough washing process and instead tried to make its escape from the salad bowl whilst at the table. I still bear the scars from the ordeal and not being a fond lover of critters at the best of times and certainly not at mealtimes, pledge to grow my salad from now on in shop bought compost in trays positioned far, far, faaaar away from slimy predators.

So whist my crash course ended in a mangling and the allotment key is now returned my blinkered enthusiasm wanes none. This week I found myself adding plant after non-vetted plant….my choices subject to no criteria other than whether they looked pretty in a thumbnail image… a virtual basket before sense returned and I hit cancel. Perhaps I had better phone a friend. One that knows, among a lot of other things, her plants.
“Let me know when you are ready” she had offered a few weeks back “and we’ll go to some nurseries and pick you out some plants. What kind of look are you after?”
Figuring out what our planting style might possibly be had me feeling a bit stuck ….but this cold damp weekend on a chance visit to the contrarily humid heat of Butterfly World I had an epiphany.


Before you guffaw at this classic demonstration of the scatty inexperience outlined above – the currently rainy part of South East London in which we reside not being remotely similar to the habitat required to support such a planting scheme – hear me out…..I’m thinking jungle as a philosophy. Not, really, as a ‘look’.

Lots of deep dark green. Lushly planted. Architectural Leaves. A few handsome flowering plants perhaps….hot pink or purply black? Maybe some tall lilies uncurling their folds of gleaming white petal. A shot, or two, of golden hued evergreens and climbers upon climbers to cover up that spanking new fence. And the shed. And the playhouse (and possibly enough to cover next doors hulk of a structure which includes monkey bars and trampoline too…Its not O who is jealous….c’est moi!)

Of course the lawn we are planning kind of moves away from the theme …there not being many football pitches however miniature they may be indigenous to the Tropics. The garden won’t be as enveloping as perhaps next doors on the other side… artfully designed series of garden rooms. But I can at least extend my ‘philosophy’ to the two deeply curving beds at the front of the garden, overflowing pots on the terrace….and perhaps a run of planting along those new walls forming the barrier between garden and veggie patch.

Which moves me swiftly on to my next area of dilemma ….which is colour of said walls/shed/fence. A fairly simple choice you might think except of course it involves me. And my notorious indecision.

I started assertively.
“What if we go green?” I’d suggested to S, “so that the planting blends with the fence and you barely see it?”
He nodded his assent.
Off I went to B&Q.
After a fruitless while perusing aisles of, let’s be honest here, fairly uninspiring choices I stopped an orange shirted man.
“Excuse me” I began “I’m wanting to paint our fence ….its one which has concrete posts and wood panels. I’d like it to be all the same colour. Have you got a paint that’s suitable?”
He looked at me, perplexed.
“These are the fence stains.” he said with a waft of his arm towards the towers of fence-care brown the DIY stores routinely haul out come the first rays of summer.
“Yes…but…the thing is….the fence has concrete posts so a stain wouldn’t really work. I want to try and cover those too. So I wondered if there was a range with both wood and masonry paint in the same …you know….palette of colours?”
He stared at me.
“What you are asking for” he said finally “is impossible.”

I pondered this a moment.

I can now operate my entire life from a smartphone.
I can raise the roof playing music from a rectangular device half the size of a credit card through speakers as big as a purse with no wires attached to either.
I can stop the TV, make a cup of coffee with a kettle which beeps as often as a NASA rocket and return to press play missing not a second of Location Location Location.
I can communicate, for free, in real time with my sister who lives 3500 kilometres away. Heck. I can even see her when we talk.

Can I really not paint a fence in one colour?

“Here are the masonry paints….” he said walking determinedly along the length of the aisle “So…you could…..hang on. ”
He stopped short raising a finger in Thoughtful Pose.
“Hang on. I know……..”
I looked at him eagerly.
“Find the paint you want for the wood. Then you’ll have to match it on the machine. We can create masonry paint on the mixer.”
“Great” I said. “That’s what I’ll do.”

A fly in the ointment is that no brands offer testers so I ended up splurging on 750ml pots before daubing no more than a few tablespoons of each on ply. Willow is one possibility. Muted Clay another….which I think quite possibly is in the running. So not green after all but apt. It does, rather accurately, describe the un-knowledgeable colour of these gardening hands. Here goes this jungle….

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6 thoughts on “It’s a Jungle Out There

  1. Hi
    NEXT do a range of outdoor paints – only available in the summer months – which are suitable for concrete fence posts and wooden fence panels. The cols are great and they have a heritage green and an antique clay similar to your testers which work out at £16 for 2.5ltr. I painted my concrete and wood fence and my shed and front door in heritage green over a year ago and they still look as good as the day they were painted 🙂

    • Thank you so much…..I shall hotfoot it to their website. Sounds PERFECT and far less likely to end in tears than B&Q’s solution!

  2. Like the darker green for shed and fence. Agree with Denise’s comment on facebook that whatever you spill on concrete seems to stay put!! And loved the playhouse Sarah! Nice one!!

  3. Love the jungle theme. Google fatsia japonica, it’s the perfect jungle-esque plant for our climate with large evergreen palmate leaves. Its definitely garden planning weather – we’re planning to build a tree house for our next project!

    • Hey lovely to hear from you! I’ve been following your bedroom progress with envy. I certainly will look that plant up….and will soon be jealous of your tree house I’m sure. I’m not sure we can manage anything other than off the peg!

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