iMow, smart gardening of the future?

Now the weather's warming up no doubt you're starting to think about cutting your grass, or like us you might even have cut your grass already.  When I say us, that's the Royal us as in our household grass cutting is MOH's domain, and it's a serious job. Or it seems to be anyway.

It reminded me though of the demonstration on the press trip to Stihl and Viking in January, where we saw their robotic mower, iMow. Bright green in colour, we also learnt it's also bright by nature.

But first, why would you iMow?

Viking told us it was time saving, the lawn is always cut, it's good for the grass as it's cut from all sides, it's ergonomical, environmentally friendly, there's no grass to dispose of and could even be a status symbol.  It's a pretty nifty mover too.

If I'm honest I'm not convinced. I can see the advantages of it, but think the practicalities of retro-fitting the system into older-style houses could be tricky, but not impossible to do. I think that for some people, cutting the grass is a pastime, and not necessarily a chore. I suspect for many though it's a chore, but then the price point might dissuade some. And for those that are keen on their lawns, like their gadgets and have disposable income then they're likely to want stripes in their lawn, which the iMow can't deliver.

Take our garden for example, we don't have power outside, but that's fixable. We'd need somewhere to house it near the power source - that's slightly harder to resolve and we'd need to make some changes, but not impossible. It needs perimeter wires installed, so it knows where to stop mowing which is part of the installation so no problem there.

The big sticking point for my garden is that it wouldn't cut to the edge of our circles, as for safety reasons the blade doesn't reach to the edge of the plastic housing. So for it to work in our garden, we'd need to add hard edging to the edges of our circles, perhaps edging them with brick, so the mower could go to the edge of those and cut to the edge of the grass. So for us, it doesn't work, especially as we're part-way through adding edging already.  Clearly if we were just starting the edging project, and we were set on an iMow we'd plan accordingly.

I think it's more practical and actually more useful in new build houses or developments with communal gardens that need regular maintenance. The robotic mower could be trained and set to work, and it'll generate its own mowing schedule. I also think there's more developments to come in this area, and that's likely to bring the price down, and therefore make it much more attractive to people who consider mowing the grass a chore.

It is very clever though.  And, if you've delegated grass cutting to the iMow, then you'll need to find something else to do, perhaps these might help...

While the iMow is in charge of cutting the grass, you'll need to find something else to do

Some people even name theirs

You can set hours for when it can work, so it's not working while you want to enjoy your garden. It has an inbuilt rain sensor, so when it rains it heads back to its shelter - and that's to protect the grass, rather than the machine. It remembers how much it's done, so if it's sent back to its shelter either because of the weather, or because it's used its hours up that day, it goes back to where it left off when it's able to work again. And the battery charging is clever too, if it's behind in its workload the battery charges more quickly; if it's ahead of itself it charges at a more leisurely pace. 

And so it's easy to see why people treat them as pets, and give them names.

So, could you iMow?


*This is a collaborative post with Stihl and Viking whose factory I visited as part of the UK press trip, but as always all views and opinions are my own.  

PS: If traditional lawnmowers are more your thing, then my post about the Stihl lawnmowers might be for you, especially if you're considering buying a new one.

Hellebores and hydrangeas

Today I'm sharing some more from our visit to the Blickling Estate last Saturday, we went looking for snowdrops and found them, but also discovered plenty of hellebores and my long-term favourite, hydrangeas, which were definitely full of faded beauty. I mean, just look, and you'll see what I mean. The hydrangeas were faded and almost resembled paper than the colourful petals I first think of, and they're hauntingly beautiful, don't you think?

ferns and hydrangeas at the Blickling estate
faded hydrangeas still looking beautiful

The greenness and lushness of the ferns is set off but the brown, decaying stems around it - and well, you know I'm a fan of ferns, so I'm sure you'll excuse me just another shot.

I couldn't resist a picture of the lush green ferns at Blickling

The pictures above were taken as we wound and wended our way through the garden to the Orangery at the edge of the garden. One day I'll get there and actually go into the Orangery, but once again I've had to make do with peering through the windows. I shared a similar shot - or maybe even the same one, who knows? - in the snowdrop post and I'm still impressed with how well it came out through the glass, and one full of condensation at that. 

Another peek into the Orangery on the Blickling Estate

I bet it was much warmer in there than I was outside peering in!

The real discovery though was behind the Orangery. As well as the snowdrops, there were plenty of hellebores and they were their usual embarrassed gorgeousness, and unusually there were plenty of yellow ones. I think most often they're pink, the ones in my garden definitely are. In the walled kitchen garden I'd also spotted some dark, almost black hellebores, but clearly I was so enamoured by them I didn't actually photograph them. 

Blushing hellebores behind the Orangery at Blickling

And despite thinking I had plenty of photos of the ones from behind the Orangery, I didn't, but thankfully the shot I do have is pretty special. Behind the Orangery there was also a bit of a white bench theme going on, and I imagine this one will be a glorious place to rest awhile in warmer weather.

A bench to admire the views, perhaps on a warmer day

The garden it looks out onto was full of early colour, the mahonias with their pink buds and yellow flowers also looked great and I took the opportunity to get up close. And in doing so, spotted another white bench. I told you it was a theme.

Sneaking up on a  colourful mahonia
And I've spied another bench, or tree seat

Another burst of colour in this part of the garden was coming from the dogwoods and their vibrant red stems. The grey-green of the euphorbia-like plants (I'm pretty sure they're a form of euphorbias) provided the perfect foil to the flaming red, and looked great growing through the dogwoods. Perhaps that's something I could replicate with my own dogwoods, it's definitely something to consider isn't it?

fiery dogwoods, now I understand why there's a bench there

And as if to prove that the euphorbia-like plant was beautiful in its own right - and I think they are, it's MOH who likens our euphorbias to daleks - this one was straining over the path to be noticed.

A euphorbia-like plant

With the rain, yes rain, sadly not dew, it really did have a point and one it made well, don't you think?

A year in Greenwich Park: January

Well January was a funny old month weather wise wasn't it? And I think I captured most of it on various days. It started with heavy frosts and blue skies, and gorgeous light. Over the month I've settled on a more regular route, discovered new parts of the park and bumped into people I know at times and so had company on my journeys. So six months into this series and I'm still making new discoveries, that's something I never expected, but it shows how things can be the same and yet change.

A heavy frost and a sunny morning in Greenwich Park
The crunchy type of frost underfoot that's pretty and delicate too

My most regular route takes me parallel to Maze Hill and I've been intrigued by these properties whose back gate opens onto the park. How special is that?

A boundary wall inside Greenwich Park
Imagine opening your back door into Greenwich Park

And as well as the view, I'm also rather taken by the brick wall.  Imagine having this view though.

And this would be your view across Greenwich Park

Onto the new discovery. In the bottom right hand corner one day I stumbled across this rather fancy gate, which I later discovered leads to the Queen's Orchard. It's shut for the winter - I know, boo! - but given the date in the ironwork, and it's name I'm taking it as a Golden Jubilee tribute. Which means that the last time I was in the section of the park, it wasn't there. 

I can't wait for it to open in the Spring and have a nose around, and learn more about it.

The Queen's Orchard in Greenwich Park - a new discovery for me this month - but one with a fantastic gate

I mentioned before about the light this month, it's been amazing that I've made it to work on time as I keep finding new vistas to snap. The one below is a reminder of just how close to the City you are.



I also spotted some welcome colour - the yellow of the flowering witch hazel, a funny looking plant and one most of us are more used to seeing in a bottle or a gel.

Another new discovery, witch hazel in flower in Greenwich Park, bringing a welcome blast of yellow

Another boundary wall of the park has also held my interest this month. It wends and waves its way along Maze Hill. I've taken many pictures of how un-straight it is, and where it's been repaired and this is the best of the lot.

The brick wall boundary from outside Greenwich Park

Ah. And then there was the snow. Or the excuse of the snow. For the first time in a long while the threat of snow didn't bother me. With a walk to work, and the chance to take some snowy pictures, I was almost quite looking forward to it. Hurrying home in the flurry of wet snow on the Thursday night, I did the sensible thing and got my sensible boots out of the car in readiness for use the next morning.

The only thing was, it didn't materialise. 

This was the snow.

The morning after the snow in Greenwich Park


I couldn't believe this former hater of the white stuff was disappointed. But these frozen puddles almost made up for it.

Frozen puddles at the top of Greenwich Park
Frozen puddles in Greenwich Park

Like mini ice rinks - untested by me though - they're something I've not seen before, although I did see some unfrozen versions back in November.

And if the weather hadn't already given me enough, then came the fog.

And then there was the foggy mornings in Greenwich Park, which brought great photo opportunities

And eery walks through the park when you really couldn't see much in front of you. And when all of a sudden a neon-clad runner would appear out of nowhere. At times I'm not sure who was more shocked.  Later in the month the frosts returned and gave this bush a covering. It made me smile and almost looks like its gone grey overnight.

Frost frozen on bushes in Greenwich Park

There's been another new development too, scaffolding on the Royal Observatory, which you can spot in the distance between these trees.

A new development, there's scaffolding on the Royal Observatory

So with all these new routes I've missed seeing some of my regular dog walkers, but I've bumped into people I know and at times have had company on my walk through the park, or stopped for a chat. It really is quite a social place, even for its commuters.  And as I said at the start, quite a month, who'd have thought that for January!