Trip to Tokyo

We started 2017 with a trip to Tokyo

Our Koi Pond

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

Singapore Botanic Garden

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

Colourful pots

The summer of 2016 saw the addition of a number of colourful pots tp the top patio

Phoenix from the Flames

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

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Plant Spotting in Venice

Venice was a beautiful dream, we really enjoyed our recent stay there. There was so much beauty in the place, and in almost every turn we made there was something noteworthy to behold.

More about this spectacular city on a separate post. For now I will focus on a few random plant vignettes that we've spotted on our walks in on the main island and a couple of nearby ones (Murano and Burano).

A rose garden on an exotic gardening blog? This will be a rarity for us but spotted this along the grand canal and couldn't help but note how quintessentially romantic the entire thing is: roses in full bloom, gently cascading on Italianate balustrades and statues, in a most desirable location of along the grand canal and surrounded by period buildings.

Ahh to be able to grow succulents like these on an outdoor windowsill! Not sure about an Opuntia though...

More likely Dasylirion longissimum (could be D. quadrangulatum) planted on urn. I understand the effect they wanted to achieve (i.e. fountains) but this is a harsh way of trimming these plants. They are best left with as much foliage as possible or just trimmed as 'half spheres' rather than just 'spurts'. Hope these still thrive well and for the long term.

Not sure about the identity of this climber, a Tetrastigma perhaps? The effect is beautiful.

Love this collection of plants in one of the many small squares within the main island. My eyes naturally zoomed in on the Aeonium perched on the slender shelf on the wall.

This Jasmine was everywhere and in full bloom, wafting a heady floral scent that makes strolling around extra pleasurable. Photo was taken in Murano.

Seen at the colourful island of Burano. Not many front gardens here but a few had a collection of potted plants at least. These ones were succulents.

And so was this one. Any ideas what those water bottles could be for?

More about Venice on a future post!

Mark :-)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Camera Phone is the Way Forward

It was an intense weekend. There's no other way to describe it but as such as we got fully stuck in with gardening jobs especially as the weather was very favourable.

We managed to tick off several things from our spring gardening chores list. It helped that we were both in the mood to get the garden in shape for the coming warmer months ahead. But as it was intense, neither of us had the chance to chronicle what we've done with a series of photos.

Speaking of photos, during our lull from blogging I have already identified that the way forward would be to use our camera phones more than ever before. Doing so would make it much easier to juggle blogging with our increasingly busy life outside of blogosphere. 

Come to think of it, it's quite astonishing how it's come a long way with regards to the quality of photos taken using a phone. Gone are the days wherein the norm were hazy looking photos, nowadays it can be even better than ones taken with a compact digital camera. This is the very basis of Instagram I suppose, which has phenomenally risen in clout as the quality of cameras on phones has also increased. 

Anyway, I wasn't completely hopeless as I still managed to get a few random shots over the past two days...

Persicaria runcinata 'Purple Fantasy'
Loving this perennial, although I've heard a few grumbles already from other gardeners saying it's too aggressive in spreading. Not an issue for use, not yet at least. The name 'Purple Fantasy' is what it commonly goes round here in the nursery circuit but it is probably known as something else in other countries.

Ginkgo biloba 'Beijing Gold'
Really striking how zingy yellow the leaves of this variegated cultivar are, in contrast to the non variegated leaves of another cultivar as seen on this photo. The leaves darken up a bit later in the season but pretty much stay yellow all year round.

Have prepared several mixed succulent plantings this year, and with this one it's just a matter of waiting for it to bulk up now.

Schefflera taiwaniana
It's Schefflera flushing time too! All of ours are busy flushing away as we speak, and the photo above reminds me of a fireworks display.

Dicksonia antarctica
And so are the tree ferns!

Mark :-)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Blue Pots, Bricks, Bins, and a British Gas Van

I seem to be collecting pots now almost as much as I do plants. But then again each pot is a planting opportunity.

Now time to give an update on the plants growing at the front of the house...

Three years ago we had a makeover of the front of the house by adding blue pots with drought tolerant planting. Later on we have also planted out a flowering cherry tree and added some railings to demarcate our space complement the house (it used to have railings back in the day). This year, sensing that we could add more pots to the corner seen above without compromising parking space, we proceeded to add three more to make the display stronger. Prior to that we wanted more height at the back so the Nolina nelsonii was repotted to a much taller blue one.

With three new pots to fill, we had to select new plants that will go in them and do well in this area. Taking cue from the plants already, we bought a few more drought tolerant plants on our recent trip to Urban Jungle.

First to be planted was an Agave parryi var. truncata. Upon removal of the plastic pot it came in with, I was rather fascinated by the pups circling the rootball - they looked like snakes or slithering creatures of some sort.

Fascinating they may be, they still got snipped before being placed into its new blue home. Next to be planted was a Dyckia 'Nickel Silver' followed by Agave neomexicana.

We're really pleased with the end result, and love the way the greens and blues from the plants themselves mix and complement each other (if I may say so).

What about the other plants at the front house? Here they are now:

The backdrop of the photo above is far from glamorous, with it being a parade of rubbish bins. It does tell a story though, of the our neighbour finally getting a house extension done after mulling about it for years. So the bins were out at the time these photos were taken to keep the side passage clear so the builders can do their work.

On the other side the backdrop is a British Gas van. One can easily guess what our other neighbour does for a living. The van is actually very rarely parked in that spot but by chance it was there then, and I actually like the way the paintwork coordinates with the colour of the pots!

My favourite backdrop though are the bricks of our house...

Mark :-)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Cactus. Cactus, Everywhere

Botanica seems to be the big trend in interiors at the moment. I thought it was a 2016 thing, but it looks like it is set to continue this year following on from the many items we already saw springing (or is that sprouting?) from stores last year.

Cactus seems to be the most prominent of the lot, followed very closely by pineapple. Throw in to the mix monstera, philodendron, and palm leaf patterns. Bringing the garden indoors is very trendy at the moment, at least in terms of patterns and colour schemes.

Funny enough, it seems Europe has been rather slow to ride on the trend as this has been going on for awhile in North America. In fact some of items we've been spotting now have been on sale for years now across pond. But I'm glad they have finally made their way here to become mainstream, at least for now.

Cactus, cactus everywhere. From the high end like these three vases from Danish brand Hay by Linda Cofan and carried by Liberty London:

More recently, as lighting in LeBHV Marais in Paris...

These vases were also spotted in the above department store but have also seem them in other places like the mid range store West Elm:

And the fabulous Luka Luna also in Paris. I can only take a snap of the window display as they don't allow photography inside the store but if you find your way in the area between Hotel De Ville and Pompidou Centre this is well worth checking out.

Back in the UK, Ben de Lisi also have a cactus inspired range in the home section of Debenhams department store:

And like anything that is on trend, it has also trickled through to cheap and cheerful shops, like these at Tiger:

I have yet to buy any of the items above despite gravitating towards them each time I spot them. Hopefully the trend will last long and persist for a considerable time. They are fun and aesthetically pleasing, and perhaps may encourage gardening and to go for the real things.

Mark :-)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Tokyo 2016 - Part II pink swans and skyscrapers.

Our third day started out with a very relaxing morning in Ueno park a park surrounded by towers, immediately reminding us of New Yorks Central Park albeit on a smaller scale. Our approach into the park was met with a sea of brown 'reeds' that really seemed quite off putting. Surely the super clean Tokyoites wouldn't tolerate such a messy lake. We quickly realised however that this wasn't a lake full of scruffy reeds but actually a huge lotus pond associated with the temple located in the centre of this section of the park. This must look stunning in the summer time.

Heading round the park the larger body of water was home to a floating armada of pink swans (and blue, yellow, green etc), how could we resist!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tokyo 2017 - Part I towers, temples and neon!

After two flights, the first for three hours followed by a nine hour flight from Helsinki, we were somewhat relieved to see all the airport signs were in English. We were both amazed at just how smooth everything ran, disembarkment, immigration and baggage reclaim all dealt with in 20 minutes or so. If only that happened back home!

First task finding and buying train tickets into Tokyo, we had flown into Narita airport which is further out than Hanira(Check spelling) and a 40 minute journey into the centre of the city followed. Arriving at the hotel late morning we opted to fight the jetlag induced tiredness and set out to explore the bright lights of Ginza. 

Mount Fuji from our hotel
Stores in Ginza