Our New Koi Pond

Regular readers will have followed the progress of our Koi Bond build, heres the finished result

Bright White and full of Light

As well as rebuilding in the garden we had plenty going on inside as well, one aspect was the new conservatory.

Singapore Botanic Garden

Whilst in Singapore we visited the botanic gardens, a fantastic explosion of tropical and exotic plants.


One of the key events of 2013 in our garden was an unfortunate fire coming from a neighbours garden.

Phoenix from the Flames

After the fire came rebuilding and our new Jungle Hut is better than ever!

Singapore SuperTrees

On our trip to Singapore in 2013 one of the highlights was visiting the Gardens by the Bay, with the magnificent SuperTrees

Monday, February 29, 2016

Xerophytes at Madeira Botanical Garden

One of the many places that we make sure we visit whenever we are in Madeira is their botanical garden. If Monte is great for staging, size, and atmosphere (but lacking in variety except for cycads), the botanical garden is a great complement to it due to the variety of plants that can be found in it.

Spikies and colourful bedding galore! I've given up waiting for that moment when no one was ambling along the view so this is the least populated photo I've managed to take.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Morning in Funchal

A visit to Madeira won't be complete without spending some time looking around the charming and bustling capital of the island - Funchal.

For plant lovers (and tourists in general), one of the first port of call is city's main market Mercado Dos Lavradores. It can come across as very touristy but it still is a living and breathing market used by the locals which in turn attracts tourists to have a look at.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Boom, Snap, and Crash

Midway through our visit at Monte yesterday, dark clouds rolled in and torrential rain fell shortly afterwards.

Boom the sound of thunder and the heavens poured. Not entirely unusual for Madeira, one moment it is sunny, the next very rainy.

Fortunately there were plenty of spaces to seek shelter in until the rain has subsided (they rarely last long it seems on this island). Whilst in that particular shelter our views were obstructed by columns of towering tree ferns, which in a way I thought was great. Oh to have tree ferns as a cause of obstruction! Not soon after though we heard an audible snap.

And then a crash.

Then as the rain has subsided we checked out what made that noise. And there it was, a tree fern that snapped. 

Oh dear...
Close up of the snapped base and its stele
In a garden where towering tree ferns are aplenty I suppose this is a rather regular occurrence. Every so often a tree fern succumbs to the weight of heavy rain or gusts of wind, just like in the wild. Wandering through the garden you do see stumps of them around, some even hollowed and planted with orchids.

Where it originally stood
Stele seen from the stump
It's almost a shame to see it lying there, what a waste! But on the scheme of that garden it's just a 'drop in the ocean'. The tree fern that snapped is more likely to be Cyathea cooperi.

Will it re root if the trunk were to be buried and given TLC for quite some time? I'm sure I've heard one or two individuals before, claiming to have done such a thing with success, or so they claim. But unlike Dicksonia antarctica which re roots from nothing from a sawn trunk, the case is not the same for Cyathea. It's unlikely to carry on living without a root ball intact.

To be in an area where you can take tree ferns for granted...

Mark :-)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Monte Palace Tropical Garden in Madeira

Back in Madeira for a much needed break from winter back home and to get a good dose of gardening inspiration for the coming spring ahead!

This is our fourth trip to this wonderful Portuguese island in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. Saying that, we haven't been since 2011, a good five years ago and yet it doesn't feel that long ago as our memories are still very vivid and very little has changed through the years.

Our first garden stop in the island is the spectacular Monte Palace Tropical Garden. It is 'one of the thirteen most spectacular gardens in the world' - so they say but it is easy enough to believe. Here is a selection of my favourite photos taken earlier today:

Monday, January 11, 2016

Crossrail Place Exotics

It's been a long time since I wrote a blog post and writing one after a period of absence feels a bit strange, albeit nice at the same time.

In the run up to last Christmas we made a special trip to check out the roof garden at Crossrail Place in Canary Wharf, London. It officially opened last May and it is a retail and public space with a 4,160 square meter roof garden. The complex was designed by Foster and Partners to mimic the clippers that once frequented West India North Dock.

As we entered took the escalator up and entered the complex this was first glimpse we had of a very promising public space...

Then looking back...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Late December at Alternative Eden

As parts of Northern England suffer from the effects of multiple storms bringing flooding its easy in our part of the world to think we are having a kind winter. We have only had a couple of light frosts and they were back in November, other than that it has been unseasonally warm, with day time temperatures regularly in the mid teens Celsius (high 50s/low 60s Fahrenheit). For our part of the country we have not seen the storms bringing damage but warm temperatures.

As a result the garden seems somewhat confused with hostas poking up from their extremely short winter slumber and neighbouring spring flowering trees showing blooms already.

If the cold does come it may be with quite damaging effects as plants suffer less when dormant but for now its giving us an easy time of it - nicer walk to the station in the morning and not having to put the heating on as much giving our wallet a well earned rest.

Tetrapanax rex pushing out new leaves
Middle patio area... this is honestly how it looks today.
The path past the Jungle Hut, still looking lush
Ensete maurelii planted as summer bedding, pushing out new leaves after November frost

We have added an additional member to our household that many of you will not have met yet.

This is Cotton, she's about 4 months old now and making her presence known with the other two cats. Knickers and her seem quite friendly despite her regularly tormenting him. Twinkles on the other hand does not seem best pleased to have a new kitten in the household and mostly just tolerates Cottons existence.

We haven't let her outside yet, but I'm sure she will have lots of adventures in the garden when she does finally get out!


Tuesday, November 24, 2015


It has been a month or so since we last wrote a blog post and even longer since one was penned by me.

In that time this blog turned five, yay Happy Birthday us! although perhaps the fact we missed it has some relevance. 

We have had a few comments and messages just recently asking whether everything was ok, or whether the blog had a glitch. I guess when you go from being frequent bloggers to taking a break it is obvious to those that follow closely the day-to-day activity and changes.

So to start lets put your mind, dear reader, at rest, everything is fine with us, the garden has had a good year and the tender plants are mostly put to bed for the winter. Although as always there is the odd plant that was missed (buying opportunity for next year!)

We both have had quite busy work lives recently, and with the garden mostly just ticking along and growing this year (no big projects etc) we have concentrated on other things. There has been plenty of non-gardening related activity, days out sightseeing, visits to the theatre, enjoying the local music scene, even many more frequent visits to the cinema.

Blogging has taken something of a back seat, and rather than just publish anything for the sake of it we have dropped away from things quite a bit.

What was interesting to note is that whilst we have dropped away completely for the last month you guys haven't, despite not publishing anything since mid October 14,000 of you have visited the blog, comments have continued to be posted and messages to us have arrived.

We will no doubt get our blogging mojo back at some point and have had a couple of conversations about how we take the Alternative Eden forward in the future, but for now we will continue with the interval. 

Ice creams and refreshments can be purchased in the foyer.

Gaz :)

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Return to Paul's Garden

Autumn is in full swing here and lots of expected changes in the garden are happening. Before we look into these seasonal changes in our garden let us look take you first a month back into Paul's garden first. A fabulous exotic garden that we have featured before and revisited last month as part of our Koi Club day of pond visits.

This bed greets you as you enter his garden from the side entrance, fabulous isn't it?

Then there's the koi pond of course...

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Brutally Beautiful

The Barbican Estate is a residential complex built during the 1960's and 1970's in Central London, in an area that was heavily damaged by bombings during World War 2. It is an example of a development with Brutalist Architecture and despite being a relatively new development in its entirety it is Grade II listed hence protected.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Curious Looking Fruits

This year for the first time the Akebia quinata growing at the base of the large sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) at the bottom of our garden has born numerous curious looking fruits.

Also known as the Chocolate Vine, here it was in full bloom a few months ago during the spring...

I'm not sure what triggered it to produce so many fruits this year. We have three other Akebias in the garden but two are still small and have yet to produce blooms while a mature one didn't bloom this year (or perhaps it did, I couldn't remember!). It is however on this site for many years now so perhaps maturity is a big factor.

The fruits are the size of plums and ripe ones split open to reveal seeds.

Now is it edible? A quick search online suggested it is and I have given the inner pulp a little taste and it was sweet, reminding me of custard.

It is very pretty in it's own right and perhaps best left to be admired as an ornamental plant curiosity rather than for consumption.

After a few days the core of seeds fall off as a whole. Will we be weeding out hundreds of Akebia seedlings next year? We'll just have to wait and see!

Pretty isn't it?

Mark :-)