Derek – Sunday 24th July 2022

It’s been a busy period in the garden this month. There was Forest Gate Festival at the beginning of the month, which split us in two. We were one of the 120 stalls on Osborne Road, and also kept the garden open on the same day. Last week, we had our Summer Celebration with musician Miri and her feminist blues songs. She lives just across the road and is a great garden supporter. We also had a second visit from Anything Goes Duo – Rachel and Glyn, on guitar and violin, giving us a range of old favourites and reminiscences.

An important part of the day was the Fothergill art project. This is part of a range of workshops and talks on John Fothergill (1712 – 1780) who lived in what is now West Ham Park in the mid to late 18th century. Fothergill was a doctor, a Quaker, and a prolific plant collector. His botanical collection was said to rival Kew’s. He also commissioned lots of plant illustration, some of the best of which is inaccessible in Russia, being bought by Catherine the Great. When he died, his estate was sold off, including the illustrations and the plants, which was a great local and national loss.

With West Ham Park, we are involved in this commemorative art project which will go into the library in February. The day’s contribution was a long collage-cum-pastelwork of exotic plants to give the feeling of the many plants that Fothergill collected.

July has been a long dry month. Temperature records have been shattered, getting as high as 39º in Forest Gate, and over 40º in Lincoln. This is climate change in action and our garden illustrates it too well. Many gardeners protect their plants by prolific watering in times of drought. We can’t, as we have no running water. And we have lost quite a number of plants, including most of the fruit bushes we won in a competition only a couple of months back.

Currently, the world is 1.1º C above pre-industrial temperatures. But this is a rising curve, we could easily get to 3º, maybe 4º or 5º which spells disaster in so many ways including drought, wildfires, famine and land lost to rising sea levels. Is it too late to prevent this? Are our excessive fuel habits so ingrained, that like chain smokers, we are unable to cease? Certainly things are bad, and they will get worse, how much worse depends on what actions we take right now.

The compost in the compost bin is ultra hot, due to the hot weather and to exothermic chemical reactions as the plant material breaks down. You need a big bin to get really high temperatures, as smaller bins have too much surface area and so lose heat. As we transfer compost from one bin to another, out crawl woodlice and myriad other creepy crawlies that have been breeding and basking in the heat.

The pond is very low, so we add water from one of our large containers. Not too much, as our plants need the water too. There are a lot of froglets in the pond, tiny, about the size of a small fingernail. Some have already left the pond, but with this dryness I can’t see them lasting long. I see an adult frog, a giant compared to a froglet, a sensible fellow, come back to cool down.

We wonder what to do with our wildflower bed, much of which is now dead. In early July it was magnificent with poppies, corn marigolds, pink and white campion, borage, hedge mustard and scentless mayweed. But the hot dry weather has largely killed the plants. We’ll leave it for a week or two, and hope we get some rain to enliven it.

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