Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pond Build, Next Steps

Next week will be The Queens Diamond Jubilee, 60 years on the throne is quite an achievement (only the second diamond jubilee in British history). Now I'm sure London will be packed next week with visitors all celebrating, but for us it gives us an extra day to push on with the Big Pond project. For those not familiar with British public holidays we normally have a holiday the last Monday in May, but this year that has been moved to the first week in June to give us 2 days off (with a bonus day for the Jubilee). Mark and I have taken advantage and booked three days annual leave, so we get a nine day break (including the weekends) from work for the cost of three days annual leave. I suspect we are not the only ones as many of my colleagues are doing the same.

The main border by the new pond
Nick likes to keep an eye on what we are up to
The current weather forecast looks promising and so it should allow us to get plenty done. The blockwork in relation to the pond is now all complete, so what lies ahead?
The Last of the block work was finished off
The next major item is to plan and build a pergola over the pond, to provide shade for the fish (and help prevent green water) and also to provide some privacy from neighbouring houses when we are sat on the decked area that will eventually be built next to the pond. Hopefully we will get this pretty much finished next week.
What its all about, our existing fish
After that we have to plan the electrical set up in the filter house. We will need to have an electrician set up a connection from our house and a fuse box in the filter house itself. This can then feed both lighting and electrical sockets for the equipment.

Whilst planning this we also need to think about the garden lighting in the general pond area, and we’ve been looking for something interesting. Whilst we are in construction mode its easy to hide any cables required to feed outdoor lights. We want to be able to enjoy the area even in the darker months, or in those warm summer evenings (lets hope we get plenty of those this year). Currently we are thinking of adding a light on the outside of the filter house, and then spot lights over the pond. In addition we may add some small lights in the deck area, possibly also an outdoor socket to make it easier to relax with a laptop next to the pond.

Several of the members of our local Koi Club has spot lights over their ponds and its incredible how much difference this makes when viewing the fish, they almost sparkle with the extra light.
Tims Pond, complete with spot lights and covered pergola
John's Pond, enjoying the fish even with the evening closing in.
After the pergola is built we can move the focus away from the pond itself and finish off the filter house, filters and then the seating area. It does now feel like we are finally on the home straight with the build!


Monday, May 28, 2012

Back to Planet Earth...

...and enjoying the sun!

The past two weeks have been pretty hectic and action packed, with a trip to Devon and Cornwall, and Chelsea being so close to each other that things got a bit manic. But with the heady and heavenly delights of going here, there, everywhere in those two weeks, it was nice to go back down to planet Earth, take it easy, and enjoy some time in our own garden.

And it was nice, very nice to indulge in the purity of gardening on your own turf. So much so that we just immersed ourselves in doing bits and pieces in the garden especially with the weather being so sunny and warm. We didn't even take a single photo of anything over the weekend, have done loads of that in the prior two weeks too so we thought we could give that a rest over the weekend (snaps on this post were taken today).

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Chelsea 2012: Show Gardens

The Show gardens were divided in three categories this year, large show gardens, smaller Artisan gardens and Fresh gardens. 

Of the main show gardens our personal highlights were the "Quiet Time: DMZ Forbidden Garden", Joe Swifts first entry to Chelsea "The Homebase Teenage Cancer Trust Garden", Flemings "Trailfinders Australian Garden". The overall winner was Cleve West's Garden.

The M&G Garden

Fantastic Garden by Chris Beardshaw, best hobbit house in the show!

Flemings Australian Garden
Cleve West's prize winning garden.

The Homebase Teenage Cancer Trust Garden

Diarmuid Gavin's Pyramid in the background and DMZ forbidden garden in the foreground.

The Artisan gardens were also interesting, our favourite (and the Judges Favourite too), was the "Satoyama Life" Japanese  styled garden.  We also particularly liked the Scottish Agricultural College Garden which had a theme relating to an imaginary plant hunter.

Scottish Agricultural College Garden

Satoyama Life

The Fresh gardens is a new concept this year, and we didn't really think it worked too well, the basic idea was to do something different, modern or unusual, but it just didn't seem to gel very well. The Fresh gardens were placed with various retail displays, and some of them (for example the Sculpture Park display) were far more interesting than the actual gardens in this category. It seems the Chelsea judges were also disappointed with only one garden attaining the much coveted Gold Medal.

Spot the spray-painted Agave...
The Renault Garden
This was the winner in the Fresh Gardens category
After a busy day its been fun to watch the more relaxed TV coverage and compare the gardens (they look bigger on TV!)


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Chelsea 2012: Exotic Australian Garden

Many of the show gardens this year had a naturalistic style to them, cottage garden plants and style was very much a key trend. As such, exotic plants were somewhat missing from the outdoor show gardens, execpt for a couple of smaller examples and the Trailfinders Australian Garden.

Chelsea 2012: Plants in a Warzone

One of the most thought provoking gardens at this years RHS Chelsea Flower show is Korean designer Jihae Hwang's garden "Quiet Time: DMZ Forbidden Garden". I must admit that when we saw this garden on TV the evening before we attended we were not really sure what to make of it, was it a garden? an art installation? or a political message? In reality of course its a mixture of all three. As Chelsea is a Gardening show, it should be noted that the plant range was quite diverse, with some very interesting and unusual plants (and not to mention several rare plants too).

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Day at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2012

The Chelsea Flower Show opened to the public today and we were invited to attend by Flemings Nursery from Australia who have created one of the large show gardens. Flemings have become well known at Chelsea over the last few years, often creating exotic styled gardens with an Australian twist.

As Chelsea is such a big event and so many fantastic gardens and displays to check out we had a full day there. The highlight being allowed to look round the Flemings garden and meeting the designer Jason Hodges - which was a lovely experience as the public are not allowed into the gardens themselves. We were able to look at the details, whilst the public was kept behind the ropes, it was like being in a shop window! We loved this garden, although the judges didn't award it the coveted Gold Medal, instead awarding the garden a Silver Gilt.

Flemings Garden (Photo taken by the Flemings Team before the public were allowed in)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Drama of the Minack Theatre

One of the places we were looking forward to visiting on our Cornish holiday this year is the absolutely wonderful Minack Theatre. The Minack is an open air theatre carved into the granite cliffs of Porthcurno in Cornwall, with breathtakingly stunning views of the Atlantic ocean. And to complement its gorgeous views are its equally gorgeous succulent garden with many exotic plants thriving in the exposed yet mild coastal location.

Have I mentioned enough positive adjectives already regarding this theatre? I don't think so, for this place truly deserves all the wonderful words you can throw at it. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Post Card from Devon

On our way down to Cornwall for our annual visit we stopped off for a day in Devon, with our friends and fellow exotic gardeners, Lucien and Laura. Their garden is looking lovely at the moment, everything bursting into life and many of the herbaceous plants ahead of our own garden.

The winter in Devon was so mild this year that two large Ensete Murelli survived in their garden without any protection! If only we had winters as mild as that in our garden!

We then spent the rest of the day touring some of the local nurseries near to Exeter, first up was Urban and Rural, which is a specialist nursery stocking various exotic and also large specimen plants.

So much to choose from, but on only the first day of our holiday we had to be restrained,
especially as most of the plants are quite large!

General view in the main polytunel
Left to Right: Mark, Gaz, Laura, Lucien and Sam Rankin of Urban and Rural
After Urban and Rural, we then headed down to Trago Mills, which is a large shopping village, with a huge garden centre, first stop was lunch! Trago has a huge garden section, and some great prices, sadly this is not a national chain, but worth popping into when in the area. We have always been pleasantly surprised by the plants at  Trago, often some unusual ones and generally pretty good prices too.

Trago Mills, garden centre.
So much to choose from, a huge selection of perennials.
The final place to visit was Hill House Nursery, a delightful nursery with a wide selection of interesting and unusual plants. Laura was rather taken by the wide selection of Dicentras, but was unable to persuade us to take another one home (she did persuade us at Trago!). Sometimes when plant shopping in a group you can end up persuaded into buying more than you planned! 

The stunning setting of Hill House

Decisions, decisions... We opted for plants then tea...

They also had a selection of succulents for sale
Brugmansia in bloom in the main glasshouse
Then to follow it all off we had Devon cream teas in the nursery garden. Plants and cake in the sunshine, what a perfect way to spend the day!

Mark had a habit of taking unflattering photos, this time I was the victim!
A great start to our holiday, after leaving Hill House we headed down to Cornwall for a week and we will share our adventures there in future posts :)


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Return of the Beautiful Sun

Schefflera kornasii flushing and reaching for the sun!

Finally, after weeks and weeks of rain and dull skies, the sun has returned!

It was almost disconcerting when it was all blue skies and wall to wall sunshine on Friday. I got so used to having overcast skies and loads of rain that it took me awhile to re-acquaint myself to the feeling of basking under the sun and seeing the garden in such bright light. Strange I know, but having weeks of the same dull weather does take its toll on your perception, that a sudden shift can almost cause a mini shock to the system.

In that period of rain, three weeks perhaps four, I've lost count exactly but I know it felt a long time, we drained the unfinished big pond almost every other day. Left undone it would have probably filled it up to a quarter of its capacity which would be 2,000 imperial gallons. It may not make sense to most but I can assure you that's an enormous amount of rainfall for such a relatively short period of time.

Arisaema ringens soaked in rain
But nevermind, thye sun is out and I'm not complaining, far from it. Rather I'm ecstatic, joyous even and I'm celebrating the return of the beautiful sun in my own little way, inside me and is manifestating with the smile on my face as I walked through the garden on Friday.

Blue skies...haven't seen it this blue for quite some time...
Persicaria 'Red Dragon'
The sun will probably not stay with us for a long time but I'm hoping it will. And even if it does go again I'm hoping it won't be another long abscence again. Afterall, the garden needs some rain too in between sunny periods and too long a sunny and dry spell is not ideal for the garden either.

Podophyllum hexandrum
Rodgersia 'Chocolate Wings'
As I walked down the garden on Friday I also thought how wonderful a start it is to the weekend, and for the coming week as well. Despite all the plant fairs and nursery visits we've made recently I've always thought the 'gardening season' for us doesn't really start after we've come back from our yearly trip to the west, the mecca of exotic gardening in the UK. The sun may or may not follow us there (I hope it does!) but it has certainly put us on a better mood. It's going to be a fab week!

Looks like the sun has followed us to the west...
Mark :-)