Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Open Sesame!

Open Sesame! 

Like a lady that lifts up her crinoline skirt to reveal all that surprising space underneath those layers of fabric!

It's my overactive imagination again of course, one can easily conjure images of a door opening using those magic words or a rock magically moving to reveal the entrance of a cave behind it (as in from the story Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves). It's just that somehow the first image that conjured in my mind when I exclaimed 'Open Sesame' to myself was a 19th century lady suddenly lifting up her skirt.

But one word that I did say out loud was 'Voila!' after a particularly good session of removing palm leaves and stripping down lower branches of some of the bamboo culms, then standing back and admiring the fruits of our labour.

Space...all that space we seem to have suddenly gained. Precious space that is a perfect opportunity for underplanting.

And it is also a little realisation and reminder of the faith we had of what we're trying to achieve with the planting scheme in this part of the garden.

The Jungle Area - July 2006
With jungle style gardening, canopy and layered planting is important and unless you start out with big specimen plants for that instant height and impact (which is an expensive way of doing it) you are likely to start out with smaller plants, hoping that they will eventually get bigger for that all important height and canopy.

And starting out with small plants, the journey towards height will entail lots of patience, faith, and self belief in what you're trying to do as it can take years to get there. A good dash of knowledge and elbow grease is needed too, in choosing the right plants to begin with and giving them the much needed maintenance to help them along the way.

July 2006...
Same area now, April 2012 (note to oneself, must tidy up the cables to the pond!)
When you start out with small plants, apart from the lack of height it's also sometimes astonishing how much foot print they can have, occupying so much horizontal space whilst  at the 'short and squat' phase. But the more they grow the more space they will eventually free up as they start getting towards the 'tall and slender' phase.

As long as you choose the right sort of plants of course. Go for ones that, in time will grow upwards and out of the way, providing height and canopy as opposed to ones that mainly go bulky without a significant increase in height.

Now which plants to choose choose from? So many to mention and some deserve a blog post in their own right but in our location the solitary trunking Trachycarpus palm fits the bill well, and so does Fatsia. Cordyline australis used to be a good candidate but with recent harsher winters it has proven not as resilient as perceived and just keeps getting cut back, resprouting from much lower down or from the ground. And that's not good if it keeps going backward rather than forward (or upward I should say!).

Then at June 2006...
Now April 2012
And yes it can take years, but when you start getting there it will still surprise you. Thats how it felt for us at least, that after all that trimming and cutting we suddenly realised how much some of the plants have grown, how much height some of the palms, trees, shrubs, and bamboos have attained after years of being planted out. And how much space has been freed now that some of them are tall enough.

And the best bit is, they're going to get even taller and bigger!

Now you can't just leave the space underneath them empty for too long, especially if you love plants and love the lush look even more...planting opportunities for shade lovers!

Aralia cordata 'Sun King' - a shade loving perennial now occupying this 'new' space. Should light up this area!
I remember someone saying to us last year that "I never really liked your garden until recently, with all those leaves brushing past my face as I walked along the pathway before. But now that plants have grown taller I enjoy wandering around now. After all those years I finally understand what you're trying to achieve". 

Open Sesame! Some new space have opened up for us. A bit more room for a few more plant treasures!

Mark :)


  1. Unbelievable difference in the space you managed to obtain or should I say take back. :) That 2012 shot is beautiful.

    Cher Sunray Gardens

  2. I love the "then" and "now" photos. They illustrate better than anything how much your plants have grown. The photos look like they were taken in totally different gardens.

    This is a very inspirational post, especially for gardeners suffering from a lack of patience (like myself). Good things do come to those who wait :-).

    :: Bamboo and More ::

  3. I can't wait to see how the Aralia does for you...I've had my eye on that plant for a while now.

    This post makes me feel better about my own garden..I'm getting so impatient waiting for things to grow and look like real plants but I guess it really can happen eventually!

  4. Just yesterday I was getting fed up with planting small plants and wanting them to mature in a week. While removing the Rhody in my back garden has opened up a lot of planting space it's also meant loosing a mature specimen, which is hard! Thank you for a timely and inspirational post. Your jungle is beautiful!

  5. Funny isn't it? I love leaves 'brushing past my face' - it makes walking through a tropical garden more intimate and exciting. Looking at your garden makes me worry that even though I've enlarged our tropical border - it still isn't big enough! D

  6. Dreaming of ladies lifting their crinoline skirts?! is there something you want to tell us? lol!

    really good to see before and afters and very inspiring.... grow tall my beauties!

  7. Thanks Cher! It's only when I looked back at the 2006 photos recently did I realise how much the palms and fatsias have grown. I knew they have grown much taller but I know now by how much :)

    Thanks Gerhard, having patience does help although being impatient isn't too bad either, gives you the onus to go for instant big specimen plants like I do sometimes (I consider them as extra treats!).

    Thanks Tom, give it some time and they will soon size up before you realise it. I'm looking forward to how the aralia will look like later in the season, looks promising already.

    Thanks Loree! It's not always easy losing mature specimens as time and effort went with it to get it to that size. But all of us have to be pragmatic at times and just let it go, not always an easy thing to do. Your new plants would soon size up and will look great :)

    Hi David, your new border should be big enough this year but I reckon you'd want it bigger for next year!

    Hey Clive, no we haven't switched teams yet and I view the lifting skirt in a fashion sense, lol! Thanks for the comment, we're on the same boat when it comes to wishing our plants to get taller and taller :)

  8. It is fascinating to see the growth over the last 6 years. I have been developing my garden for about the same time but only really decided which direction to take in recent years. Like you I have planted with small plants and am patiently waiting for them to grow to create the layers I had planned. It is slowly starting to happen and it gives me a real lift after so much work

  9. What an enjoyable post. You make some excellent points, you've got to look at the big picture. The before and after shot on the palm is incredible, everything looks so lush and exotic. I too strive for the jungle effect. What a botanical treasure, patience young jedi.

  10. Yes - layering is so important in good planting. Gives opportunity for so much more interest, different micro-climates and wonderful combinations of colour and texture!

  11. love the shirt in the first pic Mark, suits you sir lol, nice palm tree


  12. Hi Helen, it's fantastic isn't it, once you start noticing how much plants have grown since they were planted a few years ago. Having patience does help (and I did think of your blog whilst doing this post!).

    Thanks Nat, glad you enjoyed the post and photos :) The first photo does look like a young Jedi doesn't it? It's supposed to be Ali Baba, lol!

    Hi Ian, I definitely agree! Layered planting extends the interest in the garden :)

    Cheers Mixie :)

  13. Great post! It is wonderful to finally see the fruition of dreams, after years of cultivating and waiting! I love your before and after photos. Your garden does remind me of images of eden! You have inspired me to take another look at my own space, to see if there are places for some tropical type plants like aralia.

  14. Which is why gardening can be described as slow sculpture.

    It's always fascinating to now look up at something that not that long ago you looked down on. The hardest thing to wait for in the garden is height - but once you have it there are far more possibilities.

  15. Thanks for the choice words Debs :) Aralias would look lovely in your garden!

    Indeed John, it can be a slow, evolving sculpture and the results can still surprise you in a pleasant way. Planting things now (and back then) certainly pays dividends in the future :)

  16. I just love the garden which you both are creating. Have to say I enjoyed the innuendoes even more, ah well now you know what sort of mind I have.

  17. aloha,

    wow, they are looking great in your garden - nice to see the tropics in England.

  18. haha Alistair, thanks for the comments, and glad we know your sense of humour!! :)

    Noel, glad you like them, England doesnt quite have your climate, but theres lots of ways we can create the look!

  19. :) Frugal Gardeners like us have to learn to have patience. Years ago before I moved to Scotland I remember my neighbours cordyline was as tall as her two storey house - those things once grew like rockets! I'm one for the layered look too - I just pruned the first 6 feet away of sideshoots from my bamboo on Friday to let in more light to the few plants below and have a more 'transparent' look to that part of the border.

    I think your garden must be in the midst of a non tropical storm now - I've just seen the forecast for England today! brrrrrrrrrrh

  20. Hi Rosie, it has been very chilly, and has only just stopped raining (first time since Friday here!).

    Bamboo does at least bulk up fairly quickly, and looks much better trimmed.


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