Monthly Archives: October 2015

The genius of Genus

What to wear when gardening? I look at old photographs of
gardeners from 100 years ago, and rather envy their tweed suits and ties –
whilst wondering whether they were only quite so well turned-out when there was
a camera about…

For the male gardener in 2015 there are probably three
options. Firstly, old clothes – those no longer fit to be ‘seen out in’, but
still with some life in them. Secondly, outdoor/activity clothing – again,
possibly relegated from actual hiking duties, but not quite ready for the
recycling bin. And finally, ‘workwear’ – the sort of pocket-laden garb sported
by all manner of tradespeople.

Now, none of these quite fits the bill. Old cords are
comfortable and warm (and have that desirable touch of the Monty Dons), but they’re
horrible when they get wet and  (by the
time they reach the garden) they’re prone to going through at the knees. Cord
and other ‘old trousers’ also only have the regular  allowance of pockets, and those are usually
not fastenable so dropping change and keys in the herbaceous border becomes a
problem. Activity trousers have plenty of (zipped) pockets, and dry quickly,
but they are usually made from fairly light fabric, and aren’t waterproof –
ideal for hill-walking but less so for cold, wet days in the garden.

The ‘workwear’ option – the likes of Dickies and Dunlop –
may be more practical, and widely available, but somehow don’t quite feel right.
As a gardener, I want to be warm, dry and comfortable – but not look like Bob
the Builder.

I was pleased, therefore, to be given the chance to try out
a pair of Genus All-weather Gardening Trousers. These are specifically designed
for gardening – rather than being co-opted from another purpose, or from the
Oxfam bag.

Fabric-wise they are on the ‘technical’ side, being made
from a mixture of Polyamide and Spandex – which means they’re light,
quick-drying, and nicely stretchy. They’re also comfortably warm (on a chilly
autumn morning), and pretty waterproof too. Given that we gardeners spend a lot
of time on the ground, they have fully adjustable, built-in knee padding (which
works very well), and a damp-proof seat – so you can perch on a wet stone wall
or bench for elevenses, without getting the proverbial ‘soggy bottom’.

There are plenty of pockets too. Two zippable pockets on the
thighs, a zippable ‘kidney’ pocket (intended for a mobile phone), and two non-zipped
hip pockets. I’d prefer them all to be zippable myself, but then I am prone to carrying
(and losing) more things than are necessary.

Two ‘stab-proof’ pockets allow you to carry secateurs and
other sharp tools handily without injuring yourself. One is designed for a long
Hori-hori knife (of which more in another blog) – though mine was so sharp it
did still poke through uncomfortably.

Interestingly, Genus started out making gardening clothes
for women – whose options are maybe more limited than those for men. But the demand for men’s versions suggests male gardeners are keen to have suitable, well-made and
thoughtfully-designed clothing as well: and why not?

If you’re looking to invest in some serious trousers for the
garden – as an amateur or a professional gardener – I’d recommend you give these
Genus trousers a go.

A change in the weather

September, and the beginning of October saw some remarkable and glorious weather here. After all the rain in August, the prolonged burst (can a burst be ‘prolonged’?) of warm, dry sunshine brought about a sort of ‘second Spring’. Roses flushed up and are still full of buds. I have Digitalis putting out new flowering stems, and I even saw an apple tree in blossom the other day (though that did verge on the distinctly troubling). I can’t remember an autumn which has begun with the gardens looking so very green – none of the prolonged decline into dry barrenness which often follows the end of summer. 

Nevertheless, all good things come to their proverbial end. The new week began with a torrential downpour which lasted through most of the day. It was not a great day for gardening, but I spent it profitably and pleasurably, tidying up a modest patio area for a client. There were some shrubs – most notably a large and unruly Pyracantha – to cut back: though I managed to leave virtually all of its heavy crop of scarlet berries intact – they will be devoured by Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Redwings when the weather gets colder. 

More enjoyable (and less scratchy) was the process of emptying out, splitting and repotting a number of herbs. And then potting up planters and pots with a mixture of spring flowering bulbs. This garden is rather exposed and windy, so all the bulbs were chosen to be smaller varieties – Iris reticulata, Narcissi ‘Minnow’ and ‘Rip van Winkle’, and Tulipa ‘Tarda’. ‘Tarda’ is a wild, reliably perennial (and naturalising) tulip, hailing from the steppes of central Asia (cue Borodin) – very unlike the more familiar varieties, but ideal for pots and rockeries. 

The pots were then planted with a few autumn-flowering Cyclamen hederifolium which will provide some colour until the bulbs begin to poke through.

New Challenge

A change of regime at The Farm means that my time there has
come to an abrupt and frustrating end. Sadly, my work to renovate the gardens will
not be seen through as a ‘mow, blow and go’ contractor has been brought in. I’ll
miss the place: I had started, but won’t have the opportunity to finish, as John Humphrys might say.

Onwards and upwards though. I have taken on a garden on the
edge of the New Forest – let’s call it ‘The Green’ – which is in need of a
restoration programme of its own. A semi-woodland garden of about an acre, it has
hitherto been planted mainly with shrubs, ornamental trees and conifers – most of them in
individual island beds dotted around the large lawns. My job is to give the
whole thing a (long overdue) going over, removing long-established weeds and scratty
grass, and creating some sense of order and definition. Then I’ve been asked to
come up with some new planting which will introduce greater variety, more
colour and a year-round calendar of interest. There is a lot of potential, and
already thoughts are forming in my mind about ways to enhance the gardens: a
day’s weeding gives one plenty of thinking time. The owners are keen to bring
the garden up to ‘Open Gardens’ condition in 18 months’ time – a significant
challenge, but a fantastic target to have.

Open Gardens are also the order of the day at The
Almshouses, where we have just fixed a date in May next year for an opening.
Those gardens are, of course, lovely enough at any time of year (only in small
part due to my efforts, I hasten to add) being well established and
well-planted. I did clear and replant an area of herbaceous border last week –
taking out some tatty Lonicera and a
superannuated Hebe – and bringing in
some autumn colour. Lobelia, Rudbeckia,
and a clump of Imperata
‘Rubra’ created a warm
glow of maroons and deep orange, where previously there’d been nothing much to

A  treat while working
at The Almshouses was to pick (and eat!) a few delicious late raspberries: some
autumn varieties, and others summer canes that have simply kept on fruiting
right through the season.