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!

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens, Malta

Last weekend we had a short break to Malta, staying in the capital city of Valletta. As a weekend destination Valletta has a lot to offer, lots of history, architecture, great places to eat as well as various museums and grand churches - lots with historical connection to knights and the crusades.
Whilst there we had to get a little garden fix, and took in the small gardens of Upper Barrakka and Lower Barrakka.
Both are free to enter public gardens, with plenty of tropical plants to whisk us away from the late wintery weather back home.

Lower Barrakka Gardens provides a great view of the Grand Harbour and the neighbouring city of Vittoriosa. At the centre of the garden is the Monument to Sir Alexander Ball, pictured above which is a neoclassical temple located at the centre of the garden. 

Upper Barrakka Gardens is about a 15 minute stroll from the lower garden, probably quicker if you are not taking your time as we were.
This garden is similar in style and has large terraces again providing great views.

We always manage to find some kitties to pet when we are away from home!

Terraces with great views

Valletta is not known for its gardens, however we always seem to need out fix!


Friday, March 02, 2018


Well spring still seems to be on hold in the UK as we are battered by the "Beast from The East" and Storm Emma.  Somehow the two names don't really go hand in hand, I mean The Beast is a good description of the snow and cold weather we are getting but Emma? sounds a little more tame. However for parts of the UK bearing the brunt the weather is anything but tame.
Fortunately in our little corner the weather is not too bad, we have had a few drops o snow but nothing too significant. Roads and Travel has some disruptions but main routes are open, trains are running and most flights from the local airport are still running.


But with snow and tropical plants comes some interesting photo opportunities, the picture above is pretty much from the doors of the conservatory, most of the plants in the garden should be unaffected by the weather (the lowest temperature has been -7C / 19f, so cold but not too bad. The more tender plants are mostly tucked up in greenhouses, although theres the odd one that we had hoped would be fine still out. Lets see what happens when it warms up.

Thursday, February 08, 2018


Not usually into posting about the plantings on hotel grounds and resorts (bar exceptional ones like those found in Madeiran and Cornish hotels) as they tend to be formulaic and regimented. But going through our photos on our recent trip to Vietnam I couldn't help but long to be transported back to where we stayed, especially seeing once again the lush tropical planting they had there.

View from our balcony
The planting on the grounds are nothing unusual and exceptional, just the usual suspects and categorically belongs to the 'formulaic and regimented', but very nice nevertheless. Especially looking at them now whilst we're in the middle of a cold spell (not unusual for early February here).

And the view as you step out on to the pathways leading on to other areas
Quintessentially tropical, the coconut palm!

The grounds were maintained to a high standard and it was nice to see new plants about to be incorporated into the landscape. Beautiful things!

These tropical plants needs constant pruning of course but can't help but smile at the thought of getting some refreshments as you trim those coconut palms! And amongst these garden trimmings, a basket of more plants to go in.

Seeing these photos has reminded me also why we're into tropical and exotic looking create that illusion our garden is somewhere warmer and enhance the sense of escapism.

Ahh the warmer months, can't wait for their arrival!

Mark :-) 

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

A Little Taste of Vietnam

Almost a couple of weeks ago we had a break from the cold British winter by going on a mini break to the city of Nha Trang in Vietnam.

We've always been curious about tourism in Vietnam so decided to have a little taste of this country by spending some time in one of their more curious and fast urbanising cities.

Lonely Planet describes Nha Trang as 'loud and proud' and loud and proud it certainly is. The main attraction of the city is a stretch of fine golden sand beach that is 6 kilometers long that is mostly flanked to one side with rows and rows of tall buildings and sky scrapers. As far as we are aware of, they are trying to model the development of the city with that of Gold Coast in Australia and Miami (although the Spanish coastal city of Benidorm also crossed our minds). So in short, Nha Trang city is a bustling, fast growing metropolis with a beautiful beach.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

The Garden in Early February

The UK has a bit of a cold spell at the moment, although fortunately not too cold - about 3C this morning. Despite the cold it was a bright day in the garden to I took advantage and went out with the camera.

Blue sky almost makes it feel like spring is here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Weekend in Stockholm

With Christmas just around the corner we decided to start embracing it. And what better way than to visit one of those cities that looks extra charming in the run up to the festive season - Stockholm.

We first visited this charming city twelve years ago, Scandinavia's biggest city, so fairly familiar with the area. And superficially it seemed that very little has changed since then which made it easier for us to navigate on a rather impromptu visit.

With only the weekend to spend there, we opted to concentrate on the old town - Gamla Stan - browsing the quaint shops along the cobbled roads and visiting the Royal Palace which we didn't get to do back in 2005. And if we had spare time, which was the case, also include a browse on their modern shopping district adjacent to the old town.

First and foremost, a look at the very pretty Gamla Stan, with its winding and cobbled narrow streets lined with craft (and souvenir) shops, coffee shops, and restaurants...

Stockholm is composed of fourteen islands connected with over fifty bridges like this one

Gamla Stan is well known for having mostly ochre tone buildings

The cobbled streets are lined with both charming craft and tacky souvenir shops. This one is an example of the former.

Scandinavians seems to have the knack for creating beautiful window displays so effortlessly
And within Gamla Stan is the Kungliga Slottet Royal Palace which is worth a few hours visit when you're in the area.

Changing of the guards ceremony?
And since the more modern shopping district is just adjacent to the old town Gamla Stan we also had a good browse in the area, picking up a gift or two in preparation for Christmas.

Stockholm has so much more to offer than just shopping and dining of course and you can easily spend many days there with a myriad of activities and sights to see. It is one of the coolest cities in Europe and laden with great vibes and culture.

A little word of warning though, as with all Scandinavian cities prices of food, services, and other consumer items can be exceptionally high. So plan and budget carefully before you start your day. Just to give you an idea, two tiny cakes and small coffees as seen below in an independent coffee shop has cost us a £28 (US$37). Of course some places are more reasonably priced than others but the lowest levels we've seen are akin to Central London prices (which are already high as it is). So look around and compare first before you commit and flash the cash.

Mark :-)