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, March 04, 2015

Living Memory

No gardener likes to see plants die (well most of the time anyway, and there are exceptions of course).

Especially if that plant has a memory attached to it.

Like the bamboo below which was given to us by our much missed friend Kevin, gone so soon at the young age of thirty nine due to glioma, a few years ago. He gave it to us when we were still living in our first house which has a postage stamp size garden. When we moved to where we are now naturally it came with us. It was one of the first plants we planted out when we started developing our current garden and the plants significance increased even more when Kevin passed away.

There was no way it wouldn't be with us....that is until it decided it won't be with us anymore.

It started to go on decline last year when noticeable most of its culms have turned brown and very little new growth were replacing it. Perhaps it was just underfed and underwatered? But the plants surrounding it are just fine, if not doing even better.

But months before we noticed it going downhill it was preceded by two other bamboos of exactly the same type in different locations of the garden mysteriously dying as well. Hmmm....

Usually bamboos die when they are severely neglected (obviously) and when their hardiness are tested beyond their limits. Or if they go into full flowering mode (which is almost certainly lethal to clumping or pachymorphic bamboos). But generally bamboos are very tough and rather hard to kill, at least coming back from the ground when conditions are favourable again.

But three of the same kind of bamboos in different locations dying almost in succession is just odd. The bamboo that we are talking about were all labelled as Fargesia murielae 'Jumbo'.

This bamboo flowered profusely and almost simultaneously worldwide during the eighties but have produced viable seeds which carried on to become the new generation of this bamboo. Most temperate bamboos flower infrequently and only after many, many years (earning the common notion they only flower once every one hundred years, which is not true of course) and severely sets them back, if not killing them altogether. This was the case with this bamboo but with the new batch that has done well and propagated since now has that insurance that it is unlikely to flower again for a very long time. Division is far too slow to propagate such a well performing bamboo. Tissue culture was much quicker.

But there was no sign of flowering, it just went into terminal decline. Puzzled and mentioning it to a friend who is a bamboo collector himself, he said there were several reports elsewhere of this phenomenon happening to the same bamboo recently, and funny enough including one of his!

It seems we all bought ours at around the same time and our consensus was it is likely a 'bad batch of tissue cultured plants only rearing it's ugly head now'. Now I don't know much about the intricate science of tissue cultured plants to make definitive comments about it here but I am aware that it can produce erratic results later on. I even remember a discussion many years ago about making sure we all bought a Phyllostachys nigra that came from a division of a known good plant. Rather than tissue cultured ones which apparently was very inferior in quality (not producing big culms at all).

Back to this bamboo, despite it's meaningful association and significance we have no choice but to dig it up and replace it with something else. It's a shame to lose and let go of a gift but photos and memories will always be there.

And besides, it's best to remember someone who are no longer with us with something that is alive rather than dead.

I'm sure you'll agree.

Mark :-)

Monday, March 02, 2015

Déjà vu

First day of March yesterday and although I'm still feeling groggy from winter I got stuck in did some tidying up in the garden. A few plants got trimmed then I turned my attention to the Kniphofia caulescens we have on the third and first raised bed near the koi pond.

On the third raised bed
They look their worst in the latter part of winter and always needs to be given a good trim before they start romping again in growth come the warmer months. Seems simple enough a task to do, and it is but you could easily find yourself spending over an hour on each plant.

On the first raised bed....scruffy!
And whilst doing so it has given me a sense of deja vu, like I've done this before. Of course, exactly the same task at roughly the same time each year. I suppose any seasonal routine can make you feel that way. The other odd thing about it though is like I felt like I travelled back in time, and even got reminded of what my thoughts were whilst doing the same task a year ago, and the year before that. Odd...

Anyway back to the present both Kniphofias have done reasonably well over the winter and are looking slightly less scruffy as in previous winters. Still there were loads of dead material to remove before it got to the stage of how it was on the photos.

Coming from the mountainous regions of South Africa (also commonly known as Lesotho Red Hot Poker) they do well in full sun with very good drainage and appreciates extra watering during the summer. In the winter it prefers to be on the dry side to sail through fine as it is prone to rotting if it gets extra hydration during the colder months. It does however tolerate most of our wet winters here as long as they have that all important good drainage.

What they tend to look like in the summer...

Like where we have it, on raised beds. The pokers they send out are a bonus but their best features are their blue and succulent looking foliage and habit that makes them look more like aloes in the summer. An aloe look alike and hardy too, nice!

Mark :-)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Late February Colour in the Garden

Last week of February already, how fast does time fly? Mind you it also means spring is definitely just around the corner!

Most garden bloggers in the UK seems to have been keeping themselves busy and active plant wise with plenty of snowdrop activities. So far we haven't caught the fever yet although it is a nice preoccupation on an otherwise almost void period of a gardening year. We did catch a glimpse of the few snowdrops that we have in our garden last weekend and they are just about to bloom too. They seemed rather late but nevertheless a delight to see! As usual forgot to take photos of them though but hopefully they blooms are still around this coming weekend.

Anyway, here are a few random shots of our garden taken last weekend...

Tree fern fronds are mostly still green which means our lowest temperature this winter hasn't been below -6C...yet (we're not out of the woods and touch wood as I don't want to tempt fate). Based on our observations through the years the Dicksonia antarctica frond only go brown and crispy when temperatures go lower than that.

Our tallest Schefflera taiwaniana. So hard to photograph well without extra effort as it's taller than me (and that's a good thing).

This one, Schefflera kornasii not so difficult and only slightly taller than me. And it's also looking better than ever!

Orange can be present in an exotic garden too even in the depths of winter.

And speaking of orange....Phyllostachys bambusoides 'Castillonis'

Now that we're on to bamboos let me continue it a bit with one of my favourites, this Chilean beauty called Chusquea culeou. The culms are solid (character of the genus) unlike the hollow ones of most other bamboos.

And finally a very generous gift from our friend Don (check out his fab garden here), a New Zealand native lancewood, Pseudopanax crassifolius that is over seven feet tall and I can't help but admire everytime I pass by it. Although at that height it is definitely hard to ignore, plus it looks fabulously odd!

Now what will we get up to this weekend? Hmmmm....

Mark :-)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Broken Traditions

We didn't make it to the first RHS plant show of the year which was held last weekend. The second tradition we have broken since we have started this blog. The first one was a yearly spring trip to Cornwall which we didn't do last year and looks like it'll be the case again this year.

RHS Plant and Design Show 2014
Which makes me wonder now, will there be a third tradition that we'll break in the near future? And if so what would it be?

On traditional I don't think we will break will the the annual pruning of the large old sycamore tree at the bottom end of the garden. However I suspect that traditional may in part exist as it gives Gaz a chance to play with various boys toys or garden tools to you and I

Breaking traditions are not always a bad thing. In fact it could be the other way around and be a good thing, breaking monotony and introducing new things into ones system.

Cornwall, when will we see you again?
Going back to the tradition we have just broken, for years that plant show was dubbed as 'RHS London Plant and Design Show'. This year it has become 'RHS London Plant and Potato Fair'. I'm not sure what was the trigger for the change of title apart from the obvious which is the increasing popularity of 'grow you own produce' over or at least equal to ornamental gardening.

The change of the title and focus of the show however had no bearing to our non attendance this year. It was simply because of work which is extra demanding at the moment. We're both managers in our careers which makes taking time off extra tricky. Even when going on holiday. Ironically though we have both gained extra paid days off this year. But time off not taken this time is time off that can be taken later on. So our minds are hovering already on what other new things we can try this year.

Happy memories - our Cottesbrooke plant haul in 2011
and in 2012
Perhaps the Great Dixter Spring Plant Fair, or perhaps the Wisley one. They are both on the same weekend hence it will have to be one over the other. And for the first time Kew Gardens will have a plant fair as they take on the Plant Finders Fair which used to be held at Cottesbrooke for years before moving to Borde Hill last year then to Kew this year. Will it stay in Kew this time and become a tradition there? Who knows, we'll all have to wait and see (personally even this early I'd rather it go back to Cottesbrooke, it was perfect there).

Which reminds me, there is a third tradition (or is that the first?) that we have broken already, and that is going to Kew Gardens on a regular basis. We haven't been for over a year! So if we go to the fair on the last weekend of April we'll be sort of unbreaking a tradition. Or is that we'll be starting a new one?

Time to see Kew again?
It's getting a bit confusing now! Whether breaking old or making new traditions, isn't it nice to know that it simply means there lots of options out there? That choices are there for the picking. And that's a fabulous privilege!

Mark :-)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Helping Hand

Some plants looks so lovely in person but are so hard to take photos of that can convey their pleasing character on to images.

I suppose it's not so much of an issue if you have a sophisticated camera and have the time to enhance images using a photo editing software, neither of which we have.

But sometimes all you need to do is to give such plants a helping hand. Like the airy Nandina domestica 'Filamentosa' below:

Nandina domestica 'Filamentosa'
Can't wait for it to get bigger!
And this Mahonia fortunei

Looks unique and distinctive from other mahonias - Mahonia fortunei
Rhododendron roxieanum var. oreonastes

variegated Phyllostachys aurea

Phyllostachys aurea 'Variegata'
Most plants however are complete show-offs, they don't need any helping hand and are ready to be photographed almost anytime like the Fatsia polycarpa below:

But these show-offs still needs the helping hand of a gardener to keep them looking good, in another way of course.

Mark :-)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day February 2015

This is going to be a slightly unique Bloom Day for us, we're only featuring one plant...

Walking around a garden centre near us earlier today we spotted one special hellebore in amongst a sea of others. And it's an hellebore that's been on our wishlist for quite some.

Helleborus (Rodney Davey Marbled Group) 'Anna's Red'
Finally we got hold of one after being on our wishlist for several years. We've had some chances before especially on plant fairs but have narrowly missed it. We first saw Annas Red at the 2012 RHS plant and Design show, however we were too late in being able to secure one. The stall holder told us to try next year!

Helleborus 'Annas Red' at the 2012 show
Even the foliage is lovely!
Saying that this sort of thing has happened time and time again. A rare plant that you can get hold of, give it time and you end up spotting them in an ordinary garden centre.

We join Carol of May Dreams Gardens for this months Bloom Day! Click on the link to see what's blooming in the garden of other bloggers this month.

Mark :-)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Whilst Not Looking

As it is winter we don't spend that much time in the garden as we would in the spring or summer. So it's easy enough not to notice some details, like this climber doing its thing on the garden bench...

Holboellia angustifolia subsp. linearifolia
Only saw it when I was about to shift the bench under cover so it can dry out before being lightly sanded and repainted in blue (same shade as was in that spot before).

I found it amusing so I kept the bench where it is for now. Should we let it stay there and make it a trellis bench? Sounds fun, and saves me painting it too....

Naah! I'll untangle it in the next few days. I still prefer a blue bench with no climbers on it.

Mark :-)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

24 Hour Parcel People

Well after several months of waiting we will finally get to see the BBC show we contributed to last summer. 

Its on BBC2 at 9pm, and will no doubt be on BBC i-player shortly afterwards.

Gaz and Mark :)

Monday, February 09, 2015

Bare Bones and Skeletons

As I was about to write this post it occurred to me that the title could imply that I'll be talking about the 'bones and skeletons' of a garden - the plants and hard landscaping that provide structure and framework to ones green space.

It'll be a lot less complicated than that though as I refer to simply a few plants that I find interesting without their leaves and are nothing more than just bare bones and skeletons at the moment.

They look pretty in their own way all leafless and certainly part of winter interest in the garden....

I quite like this row of Ginkgos looking like this now as much as what they look like in the summer

The buds of the Acer heptaphlebium are enlarging but whilst leafless it's giving me a clue of its habit and form for this year onwards
One set of bare bones that always needs work is the large sycamore tree at the end of the garden. It is rather fast growing and drops seeds everywhere, however over the last couple of years we have been taming it cutting it back. We have an extending tree saw on a pole that allows us to cut quite high up from the ground, however I suspect we will need to set up the ladders to reach the higher branches this year.
Ginkgo biloba 'Pixie' and Cercis canadensis 'Lavender Twist' 
As I admired their bare form and shape of their little branches I noticed that the climber Tetrastigma obtectum is finally getting going after a slow start in the summer
If our garden was all evergreen I think I'll find it a lot less interesting. Fortunately it isn't!

Mark :-)

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Winter Colour, Winter Interest