ROOFTOP GAR­DEN­ING with Julie Clark

Canal Boat - - Boater’s Break -

Around this time of year I spend time clean­ing my boat for the win­ter. This in­volves tak­ing down my plant pots and giv­ing the roof a good wash down to re­move any abra­sive grit and soggy leaves, it will even get a bit of a pol­ish to help re­pel the rain – my paint­work needs all the help it can get!

Ear­lier in the year I thought I had found a good ma­te­rial to put un­der a pot to pro­tect the paint in the form of a piece of plas­tic shower mat. It was anti slip and had holes which I thought would let the wa­ter drain through. Un­for­tu­nately, where it made con­tact with the roof it cre­ated mi­cro blis­ter­ing which only goes to re­in­force the im­por­tance of keep­ing the pots el­e­vated.

A trip to any gar­den cen­tre now will show that plant­ing is far from over for the year, as we throw away one sea­son’s plants it is time to think of the next. There will be an abun­dance of win­ter flow­er­ing plants and spring bulbs in stock. I al­ways feel a lit­tle sad to see polyan­thus in the shops so early be­cause to me they rep­re­sent spring, so I try not to buy these be­fore Christ­mas. Cy­cla­men, on the other hand, are es­sen­tially an au­tumn flow­er­ing plant and though the bright red and pink flow­ers we see in pots are a dif­fer­ent va­ri­ety from the del­i­cate wild cy­cla­men Hed­er­i­folium found wild in hedgerows or nat­u­ralised in gar­dens, they are a welcome sight and will pro­vide a bril­liant splash of colour for sev­eral weeks. Plant cy­cla­men up in a com­post that has a good amount of grit added to it to pre­vent wa­ter log­ging and try as much as pos­si­ble to keep wa­ter off the leaves to pre­vent grey mould from set­ting in and rot­ting the new buds that will de­velop from the crown.

Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber are the months to plant up spring bulbs and who can re­sist even just one pot of daffs? From tiny species of cro­cus to big fat, blousy par­rot tulips, there is ev­ery size and colour of flower imag­in­able in be­tween. The tiny iris retic­u­lata and cro­cus va­ri­eties will flower in Fe­bru­ary while va­ri­eties of tulips, daf­fodils and nar­cissi will flower through un­til May, so, with good plan­ning, you can plant bulbs now that will give you a won­der­ful dis­play for four months. Plant lay­ers of bulbs in one pot with the later flow­er­ing bulbs on the bot­tom so they grow up through the other lay­ers to give a con­tin­ual dis­play in one pot. Choose com­pact va­ri­eties for the boat so they don’t get too blown about in the wind.

I am al­most look­ing for­ward to spring now and we haven’t even had win­ter yet! Now where is that boat pol­ish..?

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