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

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Hail and the Jumping Agave

Do you have any gardening superstition? I don't but I think I'm starting to develop one. That is that I must be careful when cutting and repotting Agave attenuata for doing so brings hail!

It started last year when I chopped two Agave attenuata living in our conservatory that were leaning at an acute angle which I then repotted upright. One detail that I forgot to mention on my post about it then was that some light hail fell as soon as I did the deed. Just my luck, they remained pristine indoors (albeit leaning) and the short moment they spent outdoors it just had to hail, great! Fortunately it was only light and the blemishes it sustained was minimal and barely noticeable.

Fast forward to May this year. In a recent post I made about my favourite shed it featured a photo of the Agave attenuata that was on the table inside that shed. Just like the two specimens living in the conservatory this one also developing a lean but still seemed secure in remaining upright with its heavy terracotta pot. Or so I thought. Going back into the shed the next day I discovered that the agave had fallen on to the floor, some leaves broken and gravel mulch scattered all over the place making a royal mess. Sigh, the agave has just jumped! The lean was bad enough for it to inevitably topple.

The jumping agave (fortunately the other succulents weren't harmed when it jumped)
And what to do now that it is too top heavy and with a lean? Chop and repot of course, like what I've done to two others before. And so I did just that and it didn't look too bad at all despite the topple and the cut. But shortly afterwards, guess what, hail fell again! But this time it was a tad heavier and the damage and blemishes it has caused is much more visible.

Poor pockmarked Agave attenuata!
So is this variegated one
Even this Agave lophantha got blemished
Oh well, I'm sure I'll be chopping and repotting an Agave attenuata again at various points in the future. But perhaps do it under cover and let it stay there for a few days just in case it hails...

Mark :-)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Win Tickets for Gardeners World Live

Gardeners World Live is on again at Birmingham NEC from 11-14 June.

We have 3 pairs of tickets to give away, for Thursday 11 June, Friday 12 June and Sunday 14 June. For more information see the Gardeners World website.

As well as 3 lucky readers, we also have a promotional code to enter when booking tickets for 15% off. Enter code 2MV4 when prompted  https://www.theticketfactory.com/gwl/online.

To be in with a chance of winning tickets please tell us who your favourite star of Gardeners World is and why. Please let us know which day you would prefer to win.

Extra entries can be made by following us and sharing this competition on Twitter or by liking our page and sharing the competition on Facebook. An additional entry can be made by "following" this blog via Google Friend Connect

Terms and conditions: This competition closes at 23.59 on 31 May 2015. Any entries received after this time will not be counted. Entrants must be UK residents aged 18 years or older to enter. By entering this competition you agree and consent to your name being published and by taking part in the competition, entrants are deemed to have read, understood and accepted all of the Terms and Conditions and agreed to be bound by them. The winner will be selected at random from the correct entries and will be announced here on the blog. Please make sure we are able to contact you if you do win, as we will need to provide your name and address to arrange for your prize to be sent to you. 

Three Days of Bliss

Bank holiday weekend, three days off from work and potentially three days of bliss. And it was especially as we didn't make any plans beforehand apart from mainly staying at home and do as much gardening as we could.

Nevermind the hosepipe....
Typical of a bank holiday weekend here the sun barely made an appearance. Fortunately it was still warm and there were long intervals between the odd drizzle so we still managed to do lots of gardening.

The rare occasion that sun made an appearance, and just had to take a photo - Mahonia gracilipes
And the sun's still there! Actinidia kolomikta
And the clouds return - Schefflera delavayi
We didn't aim for any particular project to do but rather a general catch up of various garden chores to get it ready for coming warmer months. 

It wasn't planned but a rather spontaneous tweaking of the side passage was done
Even the houseplants got some attention and maintenance, not that we have many, in fact we barely have any. But the odd one here and there in the house is good, recognising its benefits after nearly banishing them all a year or so ago. Like this pot of begonia in the office, it's not much but nice to see and takes the edge of the concept of an office being a stark, functional space.

Indoor plants can improve the overall look of the office, as can bright green bunnies!
As it was grey for most of the weekend photo taking was very limited due to poor lighting. Hopefully in the next few days we'll be able to take more. And typical of a bank holiday weekend too, the forecast over the following days will be sunny and warm. On the days we're back at work. Oh well...

Mark :-)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Chelsea 2015: The Great Pavilion

And to cap off our coverage for this year's Chelsea Flower Show, we give you a few scenes we've captured inside the Great Pavilion - where plants take centre stage over garden design.

Sometimes models gets in the way...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Chelsea 2015: The Artisan Gardens

Small, very small even compared to the main show gardens but they can still certainly pack a punch!

Size doesn't matter when it comes to creativity. In fact most gardeners (and garden designers) say that coming up for a design and plan for a small plot is much harder than a big one. But such is the challenge for those exhibiting under the Artisan Gardens category at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Here are this year's selection:

A Trugmaker's Garden by Future Climate Info - Gold

Chelsea 2015: The Fresh Gardens

Gardens that are conceptual and meant to provoke thought. Gardens that are meant to be looked out and then to ponder upon.

But are these gardens fresh as a daisy, or mad as a box of frogs? You decide...

Beyond Our Borders by APHA - Gold

Chelsea 2015: The Show Gardens

For most visitors the main highlight of attending the Chelsea Flower Shower is to see the exquisite large show gardens on display and this year's selection did not disappoint! The designs this year were more diverse and there were so many aspects to be inspired with. Let's take a look at these beautiful gardens:

The Brewin Dolphin Garden - Gold

Monday, May 18, 2015

Chelsea 2015: a Preview

The 2015 RHS Chelsea flower show opens tomorrow, but today ahead of the crowds, Mark and I had a preview of the gardens on show.

Our first impression was that there is more variety in the garden styles this year. This has been an improvement from last year with more interest and each garden having something special to offer. Of the hundreds of photos we took today here are just a small sample to whet the appetite. 

The Sculptors picnic garden is one of the artisan gardens, these re smaller than the main gardens, and often whimsical in style. This one really captured our imagination, with great planting, and many interesting details. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Beyond Leaves and Flowers

When one thinks about beautiful parts of a plant immediate thoughts tend to go towards the blooms, then a close second are its leaves (inverse if you're a foliage lover like we are). But there are other parts of a plant too that can give so much interest, and for some of them it is neither their blooms nor leaves that make them worthy of growing in the garden.

Just a few examples in our garden...

Kalopanax septemlobus
Nice leaves but the prickles on the trunk also do it for me

This prickly beauty is over 16' tall already

Plain green but is the only bamboo that I know of that has corrugated culms - Phyllostachys bambusoides 'Marliacea'
The photo doesn't do the scale of the stems justice but they are even bigger in diametert o most of our bamboo culms. Nice random stripes, bright colours, and markings too. Fallopia japonica 'Variegata'
In tangent with the plant above, this one begs to be stroked...not! Heracleum dulcis
Odd behaviour on this particular Schefflera taiwaniana. It shed all of its old leaves just before it flushed. But the stems remained intact. Beyond it, check out the Eucalyptus...
Interesting texture on the trunk of this Schefflera rhododendrifolia
Beyond interests on leaves and flowers plants can also offer so much more!

Mark :-)

Monday, May 11, 2015

My Favourite Shed

Not that we have many, we only have two. Okay only one proper shed, you know the sort that is a wooden structure that is utilitarian and where you keep your garden tools and other odds and ends. The other shed, my favourite one has the growing on pond in it. And lots of plants too!

The plastic box is not normally there but I was using it to keep the hosepipe in place as I do a partial water change.
As regular readers will know this project took a while to come to completion, with the project delayed by the garden fire in 2013. However things were back on track last summer and we built this shed late last year. Following on from that we have been enjoying spending time in it since it was finished in early January. Whilst doing a partial water change this afternoon I took some photos and thought of giving a quick update on how this new shed of ours is doing.

Some fresh water for the fish
We have tweaked the setup recently. The main filter is now an Evolution Aqua Eazypod, and this filtration has been enhanced by an Oasis Clear Pond filter that has a UV clarifier that clumps algae, prevents green water, and greatly helps with the water clarity. Plus it provides extra biological filtration too. In theory the Eazypod could more than handle the volume of water in this pond, but as you can never really over-filter a pond any filtration added can only benefit the pond and its residents.

Setting up the filtration has been very simple. The system is pump fed to a splitter where 75% of the water passes to the EazyPod and 25% to the Oasis filter with the UVC.

The Eazypod therefore does the bulk of the filtration - both biological and also mechanical. The inside of the Eazypod is filled with static K1 which has a huge surface area to encourage the bacteria that break down the fish waste. This also allows solids to settle which are flushed to waste (more on that in a moment).

The water from this filter is then returned by 3" pipe to the pond.

The second filter takes a smaller volume of water, this contains sponge filters and flocor, again providing mechanical and biological plus the UVC to reduce algae in the water. I think we will probably remove the flocor and add kaldnes K3 instead as this has a higher surface area, and thus can be home to more of the good bacteria needed in the system.

Another thing is that as the filtration is now maturing nicely improving fish healtj and water clarity, not only removing solid wastes but neutralising the toxic byproducts produced by the fish. I have to say I'm especially most impressed with the main filter of the pond which is an Eazypod. It filters very efficiently and is very, very easy to clean and maintain. You only need a few minutes to clean the filter and no need to be touching fish poo. Highly recommended if you're thinking of a filter for a pond!

The waste from the pond is fed to a large clump of bamboo just behind the filter house, I'm sure the bamboo wont object to regular watering with concentrated fish waste.

The other inhabitants along with the fish are a number of plants, enjoying the warmth and shelter the shed provides.

As for the plants, all are doing well and have noticeably grown since we placed them there in January. None have migrated out as of yet but it won't be long now when most of them will, now that the growing season is well and truly here.

Mark :-)