We’ve just replanted the platform planters at London Road station for the winter with shade-tolerant plants: cyclamen, ivy and hebe. In the summer, the planters were slow to get going. Was it the very thick claggy compost we used, supposed to be ‘black gold’? Was it the fact that the planters are in shade for much of the day? Or was it the textile bags around the roots of the bedding plants which were supposed to make planting easier? We’re not sure – probably all three. We very nearly gave up on the foxgloves which were supposed to the be tall, eye-catching specimens in the centre of the planters. But now, at a most unexpected time of the year, they have decided to rally.
We have a flowering foxglove in the planter at the Brighton end of the platform. ‘Nick’s planter’, by the ticket office, is dominated by three lush, though non-flowering, foxgloves. We’ve transplanted another hearty foxglove into the planter at the Lewes end. The Lewes and Brighton planters now also have two purple hebes, and we’ve filled in with cyclamen and variegated ivy. We’ve replanted the rich purple leaved heuchera in the Brighton planter. The pastel colours may need to be enlivened by a few more vivid cyclamen.
As is typical of planters filled with compost, the level of the soil had sunk quite significantly since the summer. We’ve topped up with a mixture of multipurpose compost, our remaining Veolia soil enhancer from municipal recycling and our own very worm-rich chunky compost. We’ve added a scattering of chicken manure pellets for slow release in the spring: these provide a good source of nitrogen (for leaves, rather than flowers) but we may need to provide a bit more potassium and phosphorous to support the flowers. We also added bone meal to promote rooting.
It’s not been great weather for mixing compost and planting up. After a perfect Tuesday morning spent buying plants, Tuesday afternoon’s planting session had to be aborted because of heavy rain. Overnight, the temperature plummeted and there was a short-lived air frost. Things did soon warm up and despite threatening clouds and high winds, the rain held off on Thursday afternoon. Nevertheless, it was cold and wet work for Daphne, Mark, Madeleine and me. The new plants should be OK, though, as they are sheltered by the high wall. The bright cyclamen provide wonderful points of colour in an otherwise predominantly grey environment.
We had two very positive happenings in the process of planting. First, two young men coming off the train were proposing to walk off with my ever-so-useful gardening trolley, standing idle at the compost area gates. However, shamed by my shouting, they then insisted on penitence, and ended up shifting sacks of compost and unloading the trolley for me.
Second, our local B&Q store was scaling down its garden section. As I arrived at the check-out with £1-reduced packs of pansies and some ivy, the garden section manager said: ‘Do you want anymore plants?’. What a mad question! I always want more plants! ‘Just go and get what you want: we’ll only charge you half price for everything!’ Wow – a garden centre trolley-grab! Heaven! Probably just as well that the plants had to be taken back to London Road Station on foot. Thanks to B&Q, we now have pansies galore for the tree pits and mini lime-green cypress trees, skimmias and ivy for the pub planters. The magic of community gardening!