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.

Fire!

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 25, 2015

Butterflies and Baja California

We continue our tour of Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam by featuring the first of their three greenhouse attractions - The Butterfly Greenhouse. The other two being the The Palm Greenhouse and Three Climate Greenhouse.



Keeping in mind how small this botanic garden is, their greenhouses are relatively small too but all has sufficient interests in them to merit a visit. And of the three, The Butterfly Greenhouse is the smallest. 

And speaking of threes, the butterflies are just in one of three adjoining greenhouses. The middle one is used for propagation and not open to the public. The outer ones though are open to visitors.


Baja California to the left and Butterflies to the right
Before we proceed to see the butterflies let's check out the Baja California one first...



Even though we haven't been I'm pretty sure that this greenhouse doesn't do this part of Mexico any justice at all but the plants inside are interesting enough to check out. Gotta love a greenhouse laden with spikies!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Tiny, But Packs a Punch!

The Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam is one of the oldest botanic gardens in the world and is located within the centre of the city which makes it very convenient to visit. And it is perhaps one of the smallest too, tiny even but it is relative to the size of the city rather than dominating it.

Tiny it may bet it certainly still packs a punch!

I'll let Wikipedia and it's own website do most of the talking when it comes to more information about it. For now let me share to you first some of the few photos we've taken outside before we give a tour of its three greenhouses on separate posts:

The entrance to the Three Climate Greenhouse
Winter still has its grip of the city and there's not much going on outside apart from the resilience of the evergreens. Phyllostachys to the left and Cortaderia to the right.
I thought it was a Schefflera at first but it was Daphniphyllum macropodum
Nice looking building but not open to the public, although parts of it can be hired for private parties. At other times I can imagine this is where most of their administration work is done.
Before we continue let's have a very quick look at their plant sales area first...

Hostas in leaf like it's late May already...
And Hydrangeas in bloom! This is Holland afterall...
Now on to other parts outside:

The Palm House, one of its three greenhouse attractions. The structure looks a lot newer than it's age of almost a hundred years old.
Winding paths with herbaceous beds in between
Carnivorous plants beds just outside the Three Climate Greenhouse. Hardy but scruffy!
Nice enough place to pause and sit. I wonder if next month the pansies will be replaced by tulips in bloom...
A small Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis) still in a cage??? We can't believe this gimmick is still being done!
Perhaps an instruction is written on the tag when they bought it saying - must be placed in a cage if to be planted in a botanic garden. Ah well, a little plant drama never did harm.
We only took a few photos outside especially as it seems winter still has its grip on the place but I can imagine change is about to happen pretty rapidly in the next few days. The biggest highlights of our visit were a look a look into their three greenhouse attractions which we'll feature on upcoming posts!

Mark :-)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Droog Garden

Droog is a design company based in Amsterdam and their studio curates various modern objects for the home and other spaces. Since we're in the city we paid their studio a visit, to check out their items and perhaps take in some inspiration as well (we're into modern decorative objects and home furnishings too as some of you may have figured out already).


The studio had some very nice and cutting edge objects for the home but the biggest surprise was their courtyard, a surreal looking garden full of modern....art? Conceptual perhaps.










Some of you may shudder at the idea of art in the garden whilst some embrace it wholeheartedly. So depends on which camp you are you will either like or loathe this space. If you like it perhaps you like modern items too.

We liked it, it looked fun and quirky but we like it for what it is, a courtyard in a shop/studio used to demonstrate concepts and and modern pieces of garden/outdoor products. It was a fun surprise for sure!

No garden products went home with us though, but a few indoor light fittings did!

Mark :-)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy Face

After all the cutting back and scrubbing of last weekend it was time to let go of grumpiness and don a happy face. The best antidote sometimes is to get away from it all.



It's been tricky for the both of us recently to get some time off from work and I'm just glad that we managed to this time. With not much time to plan we headed off somewhere not too far away, in fact only a forty five minute plane ride - Amsterdam. 

I've been to this city several times before but it's been twelve years since my last visit and six years of so since Gaz last visited. Despite both being here before, Gaz and I have never visited together and I've almost forgotten how pretty this city is.



It's even prettier than how I remember it to be and it's almost a new experience all over again. This is something I can rarely say about other places.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Other People's Garden

It was a long, hard working week and with the weekend looming I was looking forward to our downtime which includes doing some gardening. Spring is just around the corner and increasingly there are things that needs doing in the garden and last weekend would have been a perfect opportunity to get some of them done.


I wonder what's the story behind this bird feeder?
Then Gaz drops a surprise...we have agreed to spend the weekend sorting out 'other people's garden' instead. That didn't go down well to say the least.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Indoors, Outdoors

In the summer of 2013, we had a number of major upheavals, mostly planned although not all! One of the planned upheavals was the addition of the conservatory on the back of the house, along with a number of internal changes.

Eighteen months on (time really does fly) and we are gaining the benefit of that addition, in several ways. There are the sensible benefits,  the house is warmer with the conservatory creating an air gap - acting as a porch and also helping us to keep the kitchen tidier. But also for the more fun reasons, having nice plants with sufficient space around them to enjoy them.

In the past we have had too many plants in the house, with the kitchen, hall way, lounge and just about any spare surface filled by plants. We made a decision to reduce how much came into the house, but the conservatory allows us to bring some in and enjoy them, rather than having to duck under or round large palms in the kitchen!

It is nice to sit in the conservatory with exotic plants around us, having a nice warm drink but with the space to enjoy it.



The plants have benefited from the warmth, light but also from not being too hot. In the past when we had plants in the main part of the house the central heating gives a very dry atmosphere that not everything appreciates.




We were talking about the changes we made to the house at the weekend and I mused whether we should have made the conservatory larger, however as that would have reduced the top patio by the house neither of us would have wanted it to be bigger. Overall I think we got the size about right. Large enough to sit in and not feel cramped but not a huge space. 

Lets hope the plants continue to enjoy it!

Gaz.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Exotic New Purchases

Last weekend was a mixed bag of activities for us, especially on the Saturday where we somehow managed to fit in lots of different things all in one day, and yet it didn't feel hectic.


The weather on the weekend was on the whole very nice especially the first part of it so we got stuck in doing some gardening in the morning. By noon we had to stop and go to the monthly meeting of our local HPS wherein the guest speaker was Bob Brown of Cotswold Garden Flowers fame. Now we were really looking forward to this as not only Bob is a very engaging speaker but he will be bringing with some plants to sell too. So plant knowledge gained and plant shopping to follow, always a winning combo! We were expecting to take home lots of plants with us after the talk.

The talk was great as usual but we ended up buying not a single plant! Lots of nice things were there but they were either plants that we have already, not into, or the sort that is best picked up later in the year. So we went home empty handed. We do visit his nursery at least once a year anyway so we'll do our purchasing then.

Leaving the meeting venue we opted to pop round and check out a couple of nurseries that were en route home. Not expecting to find anything interesting (it's still very early in the new growing season), we went home picking up a few items from these two nurseries.

The first lot was a tray of hardy ground ferns that were all planted out on Sunday. The others were (apologies for the quality of the pics, took them at twilight today as otherwise it would have been a photo free post):

Grevillea lanigera 'Red Salento' - will go in a blue for the front of the house. Liking the foliage and potentially profuse flowering in the winter. At the moment it also reminds me of a conifer (Abies in particular)
Hydrangea macrophylla - big leaves, easy, hardy, would be a great filler plant for that lush look
Double headed Yucca rostrata 'Sapphire Skies' which I believe is a Sean Hogan of Cistus Nursery selection (or is that introduction?). I'd like to believe it is double headed by nature but more likely it's two seedling in one pot. But who knows! It's a bargain at £8.99
Arriving home and with sun still out we resumed our gardening then later on we remembered that it was also the meeting night of the local branch of British Cacti and Succulent Society (BCSS). We're not members yet but we've always wanted to check it out seeming as the meeting venue was like a five minute drive from where we live! So we finally attended as guests and we weren't disappointed. Suffice to say we'll be joining this one too.

Then from there off to town we went for a nice Saturday night Italian meal.

Mark :-)

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Chop Chop Time!

Chopping action continues in the garden now that spring is just around the corner! The weather was sunny and bright during the weekend, very spring like and perfect for gardening. But we still  have to keep in mind that it's only early March and we're not out of the woods yet.

What we can certainly do though is to start getting into full swing trimming and chopping back plants as part of spring tidy up and preparation.


As I walked out in the garden first thing in the morning I spotted clumps of Crocus already in bloom. The one above were fighting its way amongst the overgrown toppled leaves of the Kniphofia thomsonii var. thomsonii, reminding me that we ought to get cutting back as lots of plants are due them.

Which includes the plant below. A bit scary to do but it needs to be done...


Yikes!


And another one!


Done!

Schefflera rhododendrifolia
We very rarely chop back Scheffleras but this one needs to kept in shape. Looks like a drastic cut but it should look even better much later on.

Hope you had a productive weekend!

Mark :-)

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 :-)