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, April 23, 2014

Sculptures at the Riverhill Himalayan Gardens

We first came across Riverhill Himalayan Gardens in Sevenoaks, Kent when it was featured in the TV programme Ruth Watson's Country House Rescue a few years ago. It is an historic, listed hillside garden that has carpets of bluebells and a display of flowering rhododendrons and azaleas in the spring, some of which are very old and have particular botanical significance.

My favourite piece in the garden
With some of Gaz's family living nearby we finally had the chance to check it out via a family day out there last Good Friday. As it was a family outing with a very young niece and energetic nephew in tow we didn't get the chance to scrutinise the place botanically but we enjoyed our visit nevertheless.

Kent is a beautiful county and rightfully deserves this title but it always makes me smile whenever I see this sign every time we pass by the QE2 bridge. It's in an ironic location...
Some of the rhododendrons and azaleas were flowering and looked spectacular and the bluebell glade was a sight to behold (so quintessentially English!). But what captured our attention the most are sculptures dotted around the garden.

The place looked pristine, there were plenty of visitors, the facilities of conveniences were there including the all important cafe (although it could do with being bigger but that will come in time as the place develops even further). 

A peek inside the sphere as seen above

It looks like they're on the right track to 'rescuing' themselves. 

Well worth checking out and visiting when you're in the area!

Mark :-)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Of Kitchens, Weddings, and a Jungle Hut

No we don't have a kitchen in our jungle hut nor we have plans of having an outdoor kitchen but we did put in some kitchen units there last weekend.

Before we can do anything outside, on the veranda bit we must sort out the inside of the jungle hut first, the bit used as storage for odd and ends and more importantly so, plants during the winter. When the construction of the new hut finished it was left bare and devoid of finishing touches (paint, storage, and flooring) as we immediately needed to utilise the space to overwinter plants. 

The last batch of plants are finally out in the veranda
A nice new view from the jungle veranda - Schefflera alpina
Since the start of the spring plants that have been stored there have been gradually moving out into the veranda to acclimatise for a few days before they move back out into the garden itself. Last weekend the last batch of plants moved out paving the way for a clear (almost) space that we can actually start decorating the inside bit.

Cupboards and storage cabinets were needed there as well as a sturdy worktop. Although we will be using the space as a functional storage area we still want make it look smart and presentable enough that with the right re-arrangement it can look more like a home office or studio rather than a shed. 

The solution was to install some kitchen units and a worktop inside the jungle hut. We bought some flat packed (as you would) and ready to take home units from Ikea and the worktop from somewhere else (strangely Ikea only does worktops in two meter lengths when we need exactly three, which other kitchen suppliers does). Nothing fancy, just simple and inexpensive ones, the sort that are used on rental properties.

Gaz assembled and secured the five units together in under two hours, the worktop slotted in nicely in just minutes and all doors were on in half an hour. Quick and easy and it looked smart. It also felt a bit eerie seeing the finished product for it didn't look too dissimilar to our new kitchen which is also all white, for a fraction of the price compared to section per section.

Which reminded me on how Kitchens and Weddings seems to have a premium simply for what they are. I remember when we were on the process of choosing a kitchen, looking around, asking questions, and realising that the units are really nothing more than glorified cabinets and cupboards and yet they are more expensive than...cabinets and cupboards made from the same materials. Sales people always put a spin and justification as to why this and that is such and such but my opinions haven't changed. Same with weddings, inquire or book a venue (or anything else for that matter) for a wedding and it is significantly more expensive than say for a birthday party, when requirements for both occasions can be almost identical.

Back to kitchens, seeing Gaz assemble a row of units in a fraction of an afternoon made the process seemed so simple. The reality is of course not that simple. It took the installers a dedicated week and a half to complete the process, much longer than our expectations and seeing them work made me appreciate how skilled kitchen fitters are.

Anyway, enough of the reminiscing and back to the jungle hut! Two coats of white paint were applied afterwards and only touch ups are needed later on. I suggested that we ought to have fun and paint the walls a different colour but we'll think about that in the next few days, that is if we want to bother or just stick with the white. Apart from the painting all that's left to do is to install some blinds on all four windows and a curtain pole above the doors so I can hang an exotic fabric/curtain on it to serve as a backdrop to the jungle veranda.

And soon it will be time to get stuck in with painting the jungle veranda itself!

Mark :-)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Thrill Me Trilliums

Trilliums, one of my favourite spring flowering plants. Up early in the spring, flowering by mid spring, then fades away by summer. It may not be exotic for North Americans, being plants that come from there, but it certainly is exotic here.

Trillium sulcatum
It's not the easiest of plants to establish and it can be very slow to bulk up. But well worth persevering with as we've seen so many public and private gardens that have been successful with them. Bulking up and doing so well for a stunning spring display.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Foliage Follow-Up April 2014

First it was the flowers and now it's the turn of the foliage as we join Pam Penick of Digging as she hosts the Foliage Follow-Up, a celebration of foliage plants that fascinates this month in the garden.

Here's a few of ours...

Like butterflies rising from the ground - Jeffersonia diphylla

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day April 2014

I was looking through the photos I took of the garden last weekend when I realised I took enough photos of what's currently in bloom in the garden to participate in this month's Garden Blogger's Bloom Day.

Here are just a few of what's currently in bloom in our garden, in this beautiful spring month of April...

Podophyllum hexandrum has flowered for us for the first time this year and I was pleasantly surprised how delicate the blooms are. The blooms close during the night
We grow Staphylea holocarpa 'Rosea' for its foliage and form but the flowers in the spring are a bonus. 
The Chocolate Vine, Akebia quinata is in full force flowering in our garden at the moment.
It took awhile but we love the way it is now starting to wrap up on the big tree at the bottom of our garden, as well as the fences behind it.
Magnolia stellata - a common garden plant here but it is popular for a very good reason...
How could one not love this plant when it produces such a display in the spring?
Another plant we grow for the foliage but the dainty blooms in the spring look rather sweet - Mukdenia rossii

We join Bloom Day for the first time and is hosted by May Dreams Gardens where all the links to blooming posts are to be found.

Mark :-)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Five Trees for a Fiver

We do love a bargain, especially if it's this ridiculously good...
Five trees for a fiver! Even Twinkles was impressed!
Yep, that's £1 a tree (US$1.67).

We spotted this fantastic bargain last Saturday in Poplars Garden Centre when we visited to buy some compost. They wanted to clear out some old stock to make way for new ones and several trees that didn't look perfect last year simply had to go this year. And when they want plants gone, they don't mess around with price reductions!

Hardy, deciduous trees that are and look exotic! If you like the look of Albizia julibrissin 'Summer Chocolate' then you're likely to like this one
At £1 a tree, how could we go home with just one? We never did manage to get some compost but instead we went home with five trees instead.

If you like the look of Cercidiphyllum japonicum f. pendulum then you're likely to find this attractive too (just ignore the pink flowers in the spring)
A tree with relatively big leaves and purple too!
Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' when in leaf