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.

Exploring the RAF Oulton Museum at the Blickling Estate

Today I'm sharing the last in this series of posts from the Blickling Estate, and it's not quite the garden posts I've shared so far. Upstairs above the entrance to the gardens there's an exhibition about RAF Oulton which was built just west of the main estate close to Aylsham. 

In the Loft Exhibitions at Blickling

It was mostly a bomber base, with grass runways and a few buildings and flow alongside squadrons from what is now Norwich airport and was built and active during the Second World War, used to store aircraft after the war before being closed for good in 1949.

A serviceman's trunk with a serviceman's uniform and kit
cigarettes, matches and cigarette cards on the bedside cabinet

Most of the personnel transferred here from relatively nearby RAF Sculthorpe, as well as some from the American airforce, although the Americans were only here for four months. The exhibition showed many pictures from the time and had one area set out with a bed and another as a mess room, complete with games of the time, such as shove ha'penny, which reminded me of the board that mum and dad have. And of the time one Christmas, a while back, that they taught my youngest niece the game. From the look on her face, she was waiting for the rest of the game to unfold, before realising it really was quite simple and more fun than she first thought.

A gas mask in the loft exhibition at Blickling

There were plenty of memorabilia around too and we spent some time just marvelling at how life must have been at the time. It's not just the items though that captured my attention, but also the handwriting on things like this ration book, it really is of the time isn't it? And I wonder, how and why our handwriting style changed.

A ration book on display at Blickling
A traditional alarm clock and a Blickling postcard

It was a fascinating space, packed full of information about the Second World War, definitely worth a look if you're there.


Dappled sun, lots of weeds and a productive day

Well Saturday was a productive day in the garden. We managed to make the most of the weather and it's just as well as Sunday while still warm was wet here. It was great though to spend a good few hours in the garden, for the first time this year. 

We picked up where we'd left off on adding edging to our circles. That wasn't quite so productive though, we hit a complicated section - for complicated read root-ridden - and it took a fair bit of hacksaw wizardry by MOH to get it to sit properly. And a fair bit of time was needed using the tree saw to carve some of the roots into shape, and even then for some we needed to resort to a chisel. 

Definitely resourceful, but the tricky piece is in. Phew. 

A close up of the tricky edging section and the grass

The bad news is we expect the next three or four pieces to be equally as tricky, but I'm hoping with the tools (quite literally) at our disposal we'll make quicker progress, spurred on by an easy stretch near the patio. We've a deadline of mid-June to meet now, so need to get our skates on.

It seems though that everywhere in the garden the weeds had grown. A lot. While MOH was faffing with his hacksaw I filled four trugs with weeds and various sticks that had blown down, and even found time to squeeze in some of my own faffing - taking some pictures.

My hanging basket of succulents hadn't fared well over the winter, unbelievably it had dried out, and so I needed to intervene. I managed to rescue those that were just about clinging onto life and plant them alongside my succulent babies in a more traditional trough.  

succulents in a trough, in the greenhouse to avoid unwanted interference by the local squirrel population

It's only a small plastic trough, but if they grow and multiply as succulents do then I think it'll look quite pretty. It's currently in the greenhouse, not because it needs to be, but for its own protection. I've a feeling the local squirrel population is likely to dig these up before they get settled if I leave it outside.  They've been helping themselves to my tulips in the pots on the patio, which I'm none too happy about.  

And those poor tulips, their start in life wasn't so good anyway, let alone with any squirrel interference. 

Soon though I distracted by the lime green flowers of the euphorbias, which at this time of year are dazzling bright and dotted around the garden. They're not a favourite of MOH's and annoy him  just by being there and right now for being more visible than normal. I like them though, because of the colour they bring, so they're staying. And he knows this. 

euphorbias are great growing  in shade and underneath trees
The pink of the hostas add some colour halfway down the garden

They're joined under one of our large plane trees by the pink flowering hostas, which so far don't seem that nibbled. There is quite a bit of colour in our garden at the moment which is good - even the lime green counts as colour, you'll know that MOH has a long standing wish for there to be more colour in our garden of large trees and bushes. So when he walked onto the patio and said our garden looked quite colourful, I felt like it was almost mission accomplished. 

lime green euphoribas against the black iron pot

I'd left the sedum heads over winter, partly because I'm a bit of a lazy gardener and mostly for the birds. But they're done now and needed clearing away. When they're like this it's easy to twist them away from the base where new plants are already growing, and looking a bit like brussels sprouts. I pulled a couple of new plants up as I went about this task a little too enthusiastically it seems, so found a pot and stuck them, hoping for the best.

I'm sure they'll come through and I'll have another clump to plant in the garden some time soon. I think using the same plant in several spots throughout the garden is a good policy to have, it brings continuation and it's even better if you've got the extra clumps for free from existing plants.

The spent sedum heads have all been tidied away

Just in front of the greenhouse the currant berry was basking in the sun and looked to be enjoying it as much as we were. In the sun it really was quite warm, the temperature in the greenhouse was nineteen degrees, but it's already been as high as twenty eight. 

the currant berry was enjoying the sun as much as we were
Another blast of pink - the currant berry - waiting to open its buds

The hellebores are continuing to flower, but their colour has deepened and more are setting seed. I've already spotted a few tiny plants growing so I'm hopeful that there'll be more plants for free here, now I just need to find a way to stop MOH stepping on them or pulling them out as weeds.

More of the hellebores are deepening their colour and finishing their flowering

The yellow primulas continue to flower, and are now joined by this pretty white version among one of the many aquilegias already growing. For now I'll leave all the aquilegias, or granny's bonnet, but as they finish flowering I'll pull them up as they are prolific self-seeders, and well, even for me there's only so many you can have.

The white primulas are starting to make their presence known nestled against a terracotta pot and among the aquilegias

My yellow daffodils have been joined by the more delicate coloured almost cream and pale yellow daffodils, and there's many of their cheery heads dotted around the garden. These two growing through the pastel phormium looked both pretty and interested in the work that MOH was doing. He was working alongside them and in front of the yucca, who was clearly less impressed with being interfered with and so got its own back by stabbing MOH's forehead several times, drawing blood.

Gardening's not for the faint-hearted, not where the yucca's concerned anyway. I'm just hoping for all its stubbornness that this year it'll flower again, I think we're due some payback for the pain it dishes out.

paler and more gentle daffodils are joining the usual yellow flowers

With the single - but tricky - piece of edging in place, and the rugby close to starting a decision needed to be made - carry on, give the grass its first cut, or give up completely. It was too nice to be inside, so the TV was paused and out came the lawnmower. The grass is MOH's pride and joy and I knew that however pretty these iris-like flowers are, they wouldn't stand a chance of being saved once grass cutting season arrived. I'll never be one to have a naturalised lawn, well not this lawn anyway.

iris-like weeds growing in the grass

So it's just as well I got a picture hey? But it was oh so nice to get out into the garden, I'd planned to do more on Sunday, but the weather said not. Maybe that's a good thing and was nature's way of easing me back in gently, who knows? 


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