Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

September means Spiders

One thing about this time of the year is the number of spiders, I always notice that by late September there are loads of them in the garden, many of which are big (for UK standards) after a summer of eating various bugs and aphids in the garden.

Fortunately neither of us are afraid of spiders, and we are both pleased to see them as they do eat a huge number of pests in the garden, but why do so many insist on creating their webs across the footpaths. I have lost count of how many times I have had spiders web all over my face.

Love them or hate them, they are a great form of pest control.
If I spot the web in my way in time I will try and avoid it or at least brush it out of the way, I have even been known to try and move one side to attach it somewhere else!

With the lovely late summer sun we are having at the moment the Spiders are getting a good feast on the bugs before winter.


Friday, September 23, 2011

The September Garden

September is usually a month of transition, with the last blast of summer but also cooler nights and some much more autumnal days.

The garden isn't yet ready to sleep and many plants are still flowering such as the dahlias, with others giving colour in the form of fruits and berries.

Cycad sending out a late flush of new leaves.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A trip to Todds Botanics

A couple of weeks ago, Mark and I were over in Essex visiting a fellow exotic gardening enthusiast who happened to live only 10 minutes from Todds Botanics.

Todds has always been an interesting nursery to visit, with quite a few unusual plants for the exotic enthusiast. The nursery has developed a well known speciality in large olive trees, as well as having its own olive plantation on site. Although we don't have the room for one of the large trees we always enjoy seeing them.

It has been a busy year for Mark, co-owner at Todds, which included winning a silver gilt award at Chelsea, as well as numerous other awards at several of the other large shows.

As well as the olives, Todds usually have a number of unusual yuccas, and we came home with two (Y. madrensis and Y. baccata). We were also taken by Yucca aloifolia, which were very well priced for such a large and (more importantly) hardy yucca. Although we left these behind I suspect we will be back for one before too much longer.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wonderful Wandering Jew

One of the fascinating aspects of exotic gardening are finding plants that are hardy versions of common and well known houseplants like the Wandering Jew plant (Tradescantias). These plants are very easy to propagate and we have planted several types outside through the years with varying results. Some come back strong whilst others come back weak or very late in the season, some do not, and even the odd one or two sited on sheltered areas remained evergreen on previous winters. 
A couple of Tradescantias on the edge of a border

However, none of them you can genuinely tag as reliably hardy after a hard winter. But there is one type that I can say reliably hardy, in our location at least, and that is the Spotted Wandering Jew, Tinantia pringlei

Scrambling away...
A clump in dense shade
We planted out Tinantia pringlei a few years ago and found that it reliably comes back in the spring, and even stronger that before. And it self seeds too, popping out on other places but not a nuisance to thin out and remove where they are not wanted. I like the way it's purple spotted leaves cascade and gently wade it's way into other foliage within the border, helping create that lush look. And in late summer you are rewarded with little purple flowers.

Another one we tried is the variegated version of the same plant. I was doubtful at first on the stability of its variegation and that it would revert when it comes back in the spring. Much to my pleasant surprise it has proven otherwise and the variegation has remained stable on next years growth.

Apart from it's preference for moisture retentive, organic rich areas, I find it unfussy to grow and does well in both sun or shade. However, grown in dense shade it tends to lose the purple spotting on its leaves and becomes plain green (but still attractive).

So if you like the look of Wandering Jew plants but prefer something more permanent and not have to bed out in the summer then this is worth considering.


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Bottom's Up!

Or should I say bottom's down as we have finally installed the two bottom drains and the soil pipes at the base of our new pond.

These bottom drains are much, much larger than the standard ones available in specialist shops as they are custom made by one of the members of our Koi club. Both the lid and the bottom part are moulded fibreglass, to be connected on to 4 inch soil pipes upon installation. These large drains remind me of alien space crafts, or rather the props used in filming cheap, alien B-movies!
Say cheese! Me for scale (and yes I've gone platinum for autumn)
Off to a good start with some breakfast by the pond!
What appealed to me about the design of this bottom drain is that the lid are on hinges, which makes it easy to lift up and close back using a net whilst under water. And also the size and shape of the bottom part itself makes it easier to remove any sediment that may settle into it. Koi can be very inquisitive and has the tendency to occasionally dislodge the lid of ordinary bottom drains, and if this happens virtually the only way to put it back on is to dive in (or you can also drain most of the pond water, which isn't practical either). Bearing in mind that the pond will be 6 foot deep with 8000 gallons of water, diving and draining are neither practical options so we had to bear this in mind at the construction phase, and opted to go for this design as it eliminates this possibility (unless Koi learn how to use a screw driver!).

Knickers getting comfy in the drain before it got filled with water
Prior to the installation of the pipework, another thing we managed to accomplish was to lay the concrete base of the filtration house, which is adjacent to the pond. It was important that we get this done quite early on so we can start laying the blocks for the walls of the building, and gets it ready so that we can continue to work on it during milder spells in winter. 

So after marking their final positions, we had to dig a shallow hole where the drains will go as well as the trenches where the soil pipes will pass through. A bigger job that had to be done was to chip off one side of the pond, the one beside where the filtration house will be, so the soil pipes can jut out and be connected to the filters much later in the project. Once all the rubble and chalk was out, we glued the pipes together, put them into place, checked the levels, backfilled and concreted them in place. Well almost all of them. It was getting too dark so we only had to do the essentials and will do the rest in the next few days, but at least most if has been done.

Solvent welding the pipes
And once the concrete had dried, we have started to build the walls up on that side of the pond.

So three important project landmarks happened in the last week: the base of the filtration house has been laid, the bottom drains and pipes are put in place, and the pond finally has walls on all of its four sides. Phew!


Wordless Wednesday