A Few Hours on the Patio

Herbs3After a few days in bed with a dreadful headache it was a pleasure today to just spend a few hours fiddling with things on the patio.  It’s how I used to spend a Saturday morning when I had a regular five-day-a-week job.  Sipping coffee, pruning the bonsai trees and trying not to worry about anything.  There’s plenty to worry about, what with the political situation, the Brexit vote, the ascendency of Trump in the USA, and my heavy involvement with opening a new gallery in Tonbridge.  (More on that project soon no doubt.)

Herbs1Back in January I made some new pots so that I would have a matching set for the herbs which live by the back door on the patio.  Last month I made some ceramic labels for them which I squeezed into the kiln around the work for South East Open Studios.  So here they are in their new pots.  Many of our kitchen herbs are Mediterranean plants so they have not been happy with this year’s cool Spring and thundery Summer.  The dodgy weather also meant poor light for photos, but here are a few.

The bay tree is in a large pot which we commissioned from David Melville some years ago, and until last year held a bonsai wisteria.  The wisteria has moved on to another home and the bay looks very handsome in its new pot. It’s just had an attack of bay sucker, a little fly that lays its eggs and curls the edges of the leaves around them.  The larvae don’t do that much damage but they produce a sticky substance which then encourages mildew to grow on the leaves which makes them unsightly and unusable in cooking.  In between the thunderstorms today I picked off the affected leaves and gave it a spray with an orgainic pesticide suitable for edible crops.

I tried having herbs at the allotment, but the problem is that you want fresh herbs at the last minute, and a 20 minute walk each way to get them isn’t possible.  Just outside the back door is the answer.  I can decide I want peppermint tea and grab a couple of sprigs whilst the kettle is boiling.


So, left to right, we have: French tarragon, peppermint, with spearmint behind, sage, thyme and parsley (with a spare little gem lettuce behind that) Greek basil and marjoram.  Sneaking on the end is a stevia plant, and behind that a bonsai olive tree.  No, it has never given fruit, I’m just amazed it survives our climate.  I have just taken some cuttings from a neighbour’s rosemary bush, so next year I hope to be able to add some of that to the collection.  She died last year and the family have just sold the house. This particular plant has a deep blue flower which the bees love. Rosemary being the herb of remembrance it will be a good way to remember her.

Talking of bonsai, they have been much neglected this year.  I managed to get a spruce and two maples pruned, and then had to tackle this zelkova.  Here are the before and after shots.

As is obvious, these little devils can really get out of hand if they are not pruned regularly.  Underneath the rampant growth is a rather pretty root-over-rock which grew from some sprouted seed which was a gift from mum in 1992.  About ten years ago I got it established over a piece of green granite, and made this plain dark green glazed stoneware bowl.

Apologies for the long silence.  More on the exciting new gallery project in the next week or so.

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7 Responses to A Few Hours on the Patio

  1. Sheri says:

    So lovely. My father worked very hard to become a Bonsai Master, and after he retired he really put his heart into it. I was very proud of him, and it was always fun to go to the shows and see my 6′ tall white curly-haired and -bearded Jewish dad among his peers.

    • Mike Evans says:

      I wouldn’t class myself as a bonsai master. I’ve been growing and maintaining some trees for over 20 years now, and attended some workshops for guidance. It’s a slow process – trees respond to what you do in terms of years rather than minutes. It puts a different perspective on things, and I like that.

      • Sheri says:

        Yes, that’s what he liked as well. I’m trying to remember when he started, but I think it was about a 50 year love affair.

  2. Mike you are a man of many parts! Your comment on the trees responding in terms of years really stuck me. Do you know the work of Dorothy Gill Barnes who identified forestry trees that would be felled, several years in advance, and then wove their bark and allowed the trees to grow on. The vessels she formed were only available after the tree was harvested.
    Matching herb pots is far more organised than I ever manage, but you are right, they need to be by the back door.

  3. kjjefferis@blueyonder.co.uk says:

    This was an interesting blog – I have a rosemary called Mrs Jessops’ Upright which grows

    About 4t tall if you are interested . R.

    • Mike Evans says:

      Thanks for the offer – I’ll see how my cuttings do. I think the Rosemary from my neighbour’s garden is “Wisley Blue”. By the way, the redcurrant cutting you gave me a year or so back produced a couple of handfuls of fruit this season. It would have been more but I didn’t realise that the blackbirds were going after the berries even before they started to turn red. I was a bit slow getting a net on.

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