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

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What Can I Give You This Christmas?

If choosing what type of tree to go for this year is proving tricky at the moment, even more so are what presents do we give each other for Christmas. On paper and in theory that shouldn't be so difficult but in reality it is. As adults anything that is wanted tends to be acquired at any point of the year so figuring out something unique for each other for Christmas is always a baffle.
A shopping day in London
Especially this year when Gaz put in a restriction saying:

No gardening related Christmas presents this year. And it must look good under the tree.

Oh dear, the question just became more difficult to answer...

Thinking through possible options made me also reminisce some of the more unique, gardening related items that were wrapped and made it 'under the tree' in previous Christmas like:

Monday, December 15, 2014

Pre Christmas Tidbits

Time flies so fast, it'll be Christmas in ten days! Each year I tell colleagues at work that we should have our Christmas work party early in the month (which we did) as no matter how much preparation or psyching up one does, it always seems to get manic in the run up to the the big day.

Before I proceed further, first things first, many thanks again to the Telegraph for the little mention on their gardening section last Thursday!

Second, a couple of days late but lucky thirteen it was as we were featured on the thirteenth day of Cision's Advent Calendar, yay! There's a little q&a there so if you fancy a little glimpse of what we'll get up to during Christmas do check it out.

Now back to the preparation for Christmas, as an adult it was seems to take awhile for the season to sink in and it finally did last weekend which meant there are lots of preparation to do, which includes decorating and buying presents. We haven't even bought presents to each other yet. But there are the weekday evenings too to do things and I'm sure by end of the coming weekend we're all settled and fully ready for the day itself.

Relating this post to gardening, we still haven't made a decision yet whether to go for a real tree or a fake one this year. On previous years we go for a real one as the scent of it in the house is wonderful however they are so messy to get rid off after the festive season so practicality may reign supreme this time. Bringing up this topic in real life conversations, it still amazes me up to now how many people have strong feelings about using a real tree to decorate for Christmas,in that how unnecessary it is now to sacrifice a living tree just for decorative purposes that will only last for a few weeks. For that reason only fake ones are acceptable for those who feel that way. I understand the point and I'm still on two minds about it, seeming that trees coming from reputable sources are now farmed.

Real or not, that's the question...
I suppose a good fake tree is a one off purchase and will last for a long time. What about you, what are your thoughts about it?

Anyway, apart from Christmas the quarantine shed is finished (bar a few finishing touches) and the pond inside is now set up including the filtration. So it's something we're very excited about at the moment on top of everything else. Hopefully we'll move some fish in there soon!

How is your preparation for Christmas going? Whatever your plans are or what you're up to hopefully you're enjoying the process!

Mark :-)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sweet Little Treats

December and in the run up to Christmas, a period of indulgence! And I have been indulging over the past few weeks (way before December actually) with lots sweet little personal treats, but not the calorific kind.

The earliest batch went into colourful containers...
I have been buying little succulents over the past few weeks and have continued to do so even when the weather has turned noticeably colder than before. Every week a little parcel arrives which I always open with excitement, like a kid opening a box of sweets! Ebay is where I look for these little succulents, usually on a Thursday night and check out the ones that will end on the Sunday. If the starting price is low I put on a bid and if I win it then it usually arrives on our doorstep by the latter part of the following week.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Fling 2014: Cistus Nursery

Before we went to Portland we already knew of the reputation of Cistus nursery, so getting to visit whist on the Fling was something we were particularly looking forward to. Cistus is a dream location for anyone interested in the usual, the unique and interesting with plants from all over the globe, such as these fabulous field grown yuccas.
Mark and I were fortunate to visit the nursery a couple of extra times whilst in Portland, so many of the photos in the post were taken when the nursery was quieter rather than packed with a coach load of fellow bloggers.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Fling 2014: Danger Garden

Several months have passed since our trip to West Coast USA for the Portland Bloggers Fling and we are still only part way though all the posts we wanted to write. However it time to have a virtual trip back to Portland and the summer of 2014, with a visit to Loree's Danger Garden.

Of all the gardens and attractions on the agenda, this was the one we were looking forward to the most. Danger Garden was one of the blogs we discovered in our first days of blogging so have followed the gardens evolution for several years. Loree also visited our garden back in 2012 and we promised to make the return visit, so it was extremely fortuitous when Portland was selected for the fling.

The front garden is given over to a gravel garden packed with succulents, a pathway cuts across the garden at an angle to the front door. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Building Ponds - Again

It seems like we always have a construction project on the go in the garden. The current one is the "shed of fun" we have blogged about recently. To add to our large koi pond, the shed of fun will house a growing on pond.

The initial idea behind this is to create a place that new fish can be kept before moving into the main pond. A sort of quarantine so we can check for parasites or disease and treat as appropriate before the fish enters the main pond. Treatment is much easier (and costs less too) in a smaller pond.  

As well as a quarantine pond we will also use this to grow fish on. We tend not to buy large fish, and often buy very small ones, to be able to appreciate the smaller ones in a large pond is difficult as they can get lost. 

The new pond will be about 2,500 litres (550 imperial gallons), and filtered by a Nexus Eazy Pod - an eBay purchase we will be collecting next weekend. We had considered a number of different filter options. Wanting to combine a number of factors such as ease of use, the space available, filtering qualities, initial costs and running cost.

Our first plan had been to use black box filters, and we actually bought one for this purpose, but having spent some time considering the set up we decided this was not for the best and went with an Eazy Pod. Fortunately a second hand one was for sale close to us, so that will hopefully work well (on both the pond and our wallet).

We were so busy working inside we didn't take any photos of the koi house. The door is has been made, and hung, along with a sturdy lock to keep unwanted visitors out!

Inside has been where most of our time has gone this weekend, with the front of the pond finished off and clad in uPVC tongue and groove cladding. We are quite fortunate to have a fantastic family owned builders merchant close by who have helped us through out our projects, either in suggesting products to use or just talking the time to chat us through some of the techniques to complete whatever project we were on at the time.

With the clear plastic sides this building will also be useful for over wintering some of our tender plants, and to that end we will add a shelving unit along one side to house them.

The pond liner will go in next weekend, and with any luck we will have the wooden surround finished around the top of the pond as well. The filtration will take a little longer to set up, we will need to pick up a number of additional items, pipes, connectors etc. However i'm sure this will be a lot easier to connect up than the filtration on the main pond.

Some of the connections on the main pond.
There's still quite a bit to do but we are on the final stages now. Pond liner and filters in next then we can start to play with the space.

The space next to the new pond will house a small table and chairs as well as also provide space for a number of plants to over winter. I can see us spending quite a lot of time in here over the winter months!

Gaz :)

(hopefully we will have more photos to share in the next update)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

BATB: The Advice

BATB = Blog About the Blog, and welcome to the first of an intermittent and continuing series of posts about...the blog.

In common with other bloggers we receive lots of emails inviting us to attend various functions. We would love to be able to attend each and every event, launch, or gathering that we get invited to but if the schedule clashes with our day jobs then we simply cannot go. And we only have so much time off from work every year that only a precious few weekday events get that special treatment of chipping off our annual leave.

Saying that, with the right timing and location combined with an interesting function, every so often we do make it.

At one of these events we attended recently the host of the party asked me for one piece of advice with regards to blogging as he intends to start one of his own soon. To which I replied:

Just be yourself and share your passion with consistency. Like minded people will naturally gravitate towards you and if they keep liking what they are reading then your followers will grow in time.

As soon as I said that I cringed a little bit inside. Not because it was untrue but because it sounded like a cliche. But he did only ask for one piece of advice and that little statement does hold a lot of truth and can be expanded if needed into a multitude of other related advices. 

His reply back though a little more surprising. He said my advice sharply contrasts with an advice given to him by another blogger, and that is to be as scathing and vitriolic as possible, to not hold back on the things that you say as readers like those sort of things.

I repsonded that we are not that sort of blog hence not the direction and tone that we tread. And then I asked who this blogger was and he said that it was... [snip - like I'm going to reveal that!]

Ahh, I recognised the blogger instantly. It's one of those garden bloggers that I call 'The Wannabe Journalists'.

The type of blogger that has chosen the platform of gardening to illustrate their writing skills by trying to create and expound issues which in turn provoke and engage readers. In the process of doing so, they hope to catch the attention of mainstream media and land themselves a column, article commissions, or perhaps even a full time journalistic job.

To be honest I rarely read such types of garden blog. They can be entertaining at first, and initially effective in provoking thoughts and bringing issues to attention but their steam tends to run out quickly. But why?

First, these sort of blogs are often, especially once you start dissecting the personality of the blogger and their writing, not really about gardening per se but about...issues. Second, once you look closely some do very little gardening or just do a mundane, minimal, and repetitive set of gardening tasks. And yet they have a lot to say about it. Third, some don't even have gardens at all, and yet they write about gardening. Not a requisite I know but it certainly helps if you have one, whether big, small, borrowed, or in pots...

A few years ago, when I started detecting members of this group of garden bloggers one of them managed to spin so many issues and posts about one tomato plant growing on a windowsill. Creative writing perhaps?

Going back to the party I followed up my query with a suggestion saying that he needs to make a decision first which direction to take. If he wants to take the direction the other blogger has taken then go for that advice.

Blogging can be a very personal thing and corporate blogs that tread this path rarely get as much interaction as those written by individuals for personal reasons. Often the personality of the blogger is in parallel or directly reflects the content of the blog and garden blogs are no exception to that.

In real life, people who constantly spout drama, conflict, and dwell on 'issues and tissues' may be entertaining at first but quickly become toxic and to be honest quite boring and eventually are best avoided. Life is too short to let people that drain energy hang around you for too long. 

Perhaps I can say the same with garden blogs? One based on conflicts, issues, criticisms, and controversies may be informative and thought provoking at first but without the solid backing of a product (i.e. a garden, especially for a garden blog) or a feel good passion that others can have an affinity with then such a blog will rarely persist.

And going back to that particular wannabe blogger, did he create a critical blog or a more personable one, well lets just say I'm still reading it...

Mark :)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Shed O'Fun 2

The construction of our 'man cave' continues...

We started the project in the middle of August and although that makes it sound like a very long time frame to finish off a shed, it's more than just a shed. Most of the work are also almost exclusively done over the weekends only and there were weekends too that we didn't do anything to it at all. Plus, with the ever shortening length of daylight it makes it harder to do anything after work hence weekend becomes the only suitable time.

Enough with the rambling...
The quarantine pond within the shed was mostly built last year but we opted to add a few more blocks later on to make it deeper and hold more water (and more fish). The final layer of blocks was cemented in last weekend. Going back in time, the decking that was on the top patio (where the sun room is now) has been reused and is now the flooring of the shed. When we restarted the project in mid August the framework of the shed went up quickly and was finished in one weekend.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Reflections of Two Garden Bloggers

So we have been blogging for four years, amazing how time flies! Four years of sharing our passion for plants and plant related adventures both in and out of our garden.

As we were sat down a couple of days ago and found ourselves reminiscing the things we got up to with regards to garden blogging over the past four years two main thoughts sprouted:

We rarely, if ever answer on our blog the questions that are often asked us by those who visit our garden in person as well as people we meet in person.

And that we rarely, and again if ever talk about the blog itself.

As soon as those two thoughts came up we also asked ourselves why we never did. The answer: they are a lot more complicated to discuss than meets the eye.

Then a follow up idea came up: Why don't we at least try?

Okay so that's the idea now, we will but in trickles...

Now going back to the two main ideas, first the questions. There are several questions that are asked us over and over again, same sort of questions that may vary in theme but the gists are the same. Some are a bit more unique to us whilst some I can imagine other garden bloggers can relate to. The ones that immediately stood out for us and will try to answer on future blog posts are:

Will you ever move homes and change gardens?

Any thoughts or plans about moving abroad?

Any plans to get into professional horticulture and make a living out of it?

What are your thoughts about social media and privacy?

So many questions, not always easy to answer...

For the second idea, as much as we opted not to before we thought it might be fun to start doing so now: to every so often blog about the blog itself. We'll share some insight into how we run our blog as well as tidbits and stories as to how some blog posts came to be. We'll also share some of the fascinating stories, gossip, and adventures (and misadventures) we've had over the past few years as we immersed ourselves into this wonderful thing called blogging. 

Come to think of it, it's amazing how many things never did make it to our blog for one reason or another, funny and wonderful stories that would be great to share now, even if just hints a few years after the event. There are some things too however that we simply can only witness but cannot blog about. There are taboo subjects in the world of gardening too believe it or not. Confidence and retaining trust from the people we interact with are still of utmost importance. But if we're feeling adventurous we might occasionally dip into those subjects and drop hints without causing ripples (only tiny ones perhaps). Blog about the Blog, that's how we'll call them.

Fellow garden bloggers, can you relate?

Now when should we start, hmmmm....

Mark and Gaz :-)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why Hide the Evergreens?

As I was tidying up some of our potted plants over the weekend, sorting and grouping them together in preparation for the winter (as well as just being organised, or attempting to at least) I had a sudden thought, why am I hiding the evergreens?

First, a bit of autumn colour in the garden...

It was very damp, grey, and misty over the weekend and although it never actually rained while we were in the garden the atmosphere was so cool humid that it felt like we were gardening whilst there was a constant drizzle. Still I wasn't complaining as the temperatures were at least mild and it was atmospheric, like gardening amongst the clouds. And I'll take this condition anytime over freezing temperatures.