celebrating sunflowers & stuff to do with willow boughs


Trio of sunflowers at the top of the strawberry stairs. (Aug 2020)

Our sunflowers have finally come into bloom. Yippee! Despite the slugs and snails devastating many of my early sunflower seedlings, a few managed to brave it out and are finally in full bloom.

We’ve got sunflowers sprinkled just about everywhere on our plot – at the top terrace at the top of the stairs, at ‘ground’ level near the boundary to H’s plot which is the level of the raspberry patch and main path, and also down at the bottom of plot, paired close to the sweet corn and little zucchino squashes – native American styled.


Two varieties of sunflower at the top of the strawberry stairs.

The bottom patch has corn, sunflowers and squash, which the natives called the ‘three sisters‘. We hope the corn comes good, but this year our squash are all leaf and flower and not much fruit, alas. Nevermind!  The little squashes that have formed are all greedily enjoyed as an absolute delicacy. Yum!)


Sunflowers at bottom of the patch, with corn in flower. (August 2020)


Spectacular sunflowers at ground level on the boundary to H’s.

Our excitement is second only to the bees, who are pollen covered and ecstatic.  Check out this guy.  Go bees go!


Bee busy harvesting pollen on a gorgeous sunflower. Love the psychadelic wings! (Photo by S)


Busy, busy happy bees.

There’s nothing that makes us happier than seeing bees of all sorts enjoying the flowers we plant.  I’m thinking I’m going to save the sunflower seeds to share with the flock of sparrow and finches who enjoy breakfasting at our back window bird feeders. Once the petals drop off and the seeds mature in the centre, I’ll simply chop the mature flowerheads off and hang them with wire off our balcony – natural styled. That will be sure to spread the enjoyment around. I’m sure there will be happy chirping and twirping when the sunflower heads get hung.


Willow arbour on raspberry bed. (August 2020)

Last week a fellow allotmenteer trimmed his pollarded willow. He invited us to take some of the cuttings, so guess what? We helped ourselves. The great Malink was at first fairly sceptical: “what are we going to do with all these slips?,” he asked as he pretended to use one as a very long 14 foot bullwhip, playfully snapping at my butt.  But I can’t help but say that just like all the found treasure I’ve scooped out of the neighbourhood rubbish, we soon put those slips to good use.

BirdProofedBasketAnd then we had to go back and get a few more rods.  So useful, these willow boughs!

We made a brand new willow arbour at the end of the raspberry bed – all the better to train the long fruiting vine canes of the super-prolific and awesomely tasty loganberries…  This is shown in the picture above, which used three sturdy willow boughs bent and wired together (two for uprights and a third bent over the top).

Inspired and excited by the possibilities of this flexible willow caning, I then constructed some bird-proofing ‘lobster pot’ cages for my wicker baskets planted up along the edge of the blackberry steps.

The baskets hold crops of tender greens – lettuce and radish – which are often ravaged by birds, so really did need a good protection mechanism. I ‘sewed’ the plastic netting on with cotton garden twine. So simple and elegant!  Once finished I’ll be able to remove the whirling pinwheels – which are admittedly gaudy and a bit disco coloured, but were a good cheap solution to scaring the birds off before this much better willow cane and netting set-up.


Stair wicker baskets, half-bird proofed. With radish seedlings sprouting. (Mid-August 2020)

These willow and plastic pea netting constructions are only half-finished. We witnessed a bunting reed fly in and out of the netting that protected our gooseberry patch – which was repurposed to house the potted ericaceous Jersey Blueberries – so we’re now well aware that plastic pea netting just isn’t enough. Sure, it will discourage the bigger of our flying beasts such as wood pigeons and parakeets, but you’ll still lose peas and fruit to the smaller flying thieves.  So in due course we’ll need to hang over these constructs a finer webbed netting around the lobster pots…  (The picture below shows a half-hearted effort on the F&M wicker basket but will have to be finished more properly later.)


Basket protected by two layers of netting – the finer bird-proof stuff is almost invisible. Radish seedlings safely ensconced within.

And just in case you’re curious about netting in general, I’m a big fan of the large grid hearty plastic pea netting, but as we already discussed, this doesn’t do it to protect against the feathered fruit raiders (and that’s all birds, from sweet robin-sized buntings and finches to the big bodied beasts of wood pigeons and parakeets).

To properly protect against feathery fruit and tender leaf raiders, you really do need the finer black mesh netting. But on it’s own that finer netting is enough to drive any gardener to rather copiously drink mid-day – I kid you not. The big dude had close to complete meltdowns dealing with the stuff when we tried to set some up in May around the four-poster fruit cage at our bottom boundary to J’s and M’s plot.

However, if you have a better structure to hang the blasted and very fiddly lighter netting onto, well, take it from me – it’s a million times easier to manage. And netting’s just no damed good if it’s so finicky that you can’t get into it to do any harvesting.  Or at least that’s what I decided after letting all of M’s red currant harvest go to rot earlier this summer just because I couldn’t figure an easy way in or out of the netting system over her currant hedges.


Brassicas under a bridal veil of mosquito netting. With potted hyssop within for extra protection.

Following the creating of the loganberry arch at the end of the raspberry bed and the two lobster pot frames over the wicker baskets, we also created a willow frame to protect the sprouting broccoli plants that were started from seed in spring (seeded mid-May) and finally planted-in in early August. I’ve finally come to see the benefit of netting – and now am convinced of the usefulness of mosquito netting to protect brassica plants from the white butterflies that absolutely devour them.  In this we’re copy-catting the mosquito netted ‘tent’ built on the lower plot below us.


White flowering campanula, on the blackberry stairs.

Other general allotment developments include the insertion of a nice clump of white flowering campanula into the clay around the stairs. I adore campanula! If happy it will flower almost continuously through the calendar year, and flowers in late autumn and early February are not unheard of.  Yippee!

The patch on the blackberry stairs was added as a complement to the earlier insertion of a white and a pale blue patch of campanula at the top border to H’s plot – just at the edge of the newt pond.


Campanula at the top corner near H’s newt pond.

Campanula will spread if in a happy spot and I’m hoping in time we will have patches that cascade down the stairs in the gaps between pots and crop growing spaces.

And even our inanimate pals have company now. Felicity Fiacre – our stalwart semi-retired store manequin-come-scarecrow – has a new pal.

Meet little Alphonse, a sausage-dog shaped watering can I picked up at a chi-chi flower shop on a north side street off Oxford Street last spring. What a cutie. Sure, he’s never put to use, but so what? He stands proudly en guarde. SuperWoof!


Alphonse in Felicity’s basket. With potted curly parsley – and sweet woodruff at ground level.


Alphonse on guard, with ever-watchful Felicity Fiacre. What a team!


Top of the blackberry stairs, with squash in the pea bed & nasturtium cascading down the steps.


Success! Self-seeded mizuna growing at the base of the red rose arbour. Self-seeded crops are gardening at it’s easiest. So satisfying!


Italian Green Raddichio Plot – a gift from our pal S.  All safely under black netting to protect from parrots, pigeons and feathered raiders of all sorts.


Future pickles in development… Cucumbers forming at long last in mid-August. Enfin!

And lest us not forget. The pandemic’s not over. So many still sick, still in hospital or worse. Health service workers are still at it day and night. Good to see Tate Modern’s done it’s bit to mark their appreciation.


Tate Modern, Bankside London. Early August 2020.

Here’s hoping you’re all staying safe, wherever you may be.



About smallPaws

A tumbleweed from Canada who's been living in London for twenty or so years.
This entry was posted in allotment journal, harvests & feasts, perennials, veg patch. Bookmark the permalink.

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