Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Trip to Tresco

Back in May on our annual holiday to Cornwall we included a day trip to the Scilly Isles, and in particular a visit to the world famous Tresco Abbey Gardens, a delightful subtropical garden just off the coast. As we have done in the past we took the helicopter from Penzance heliport. Sadly this will be the last time we are able to make the trip via this particular route as the site has been sold off to be turned into yet another supermarket. There appears to be no replacement service in the pipeline from the southern end of Cornwall so in future we may have to take the ferry (several hours each way) or a helicopter from Newquay if a direct service is established. Perhaps next time we will have to stay in the Scilly Isles itself for a few days to make it worth while.

So as we were aware the helicopter service would be ending, we decided to make sure we didn't miss the opportunity to visit. We were joined by our gardening friends Chad and John for a great plant day to Tresco.

View of Tresco from the Helicopter

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Late September in the Garden

This year has been a funny old year for the weather in the UK, we had an very dry start to the year over the last winter, which gave rise to a hose pipe ban, and then once the ban was in place it didn't stop raining! Now we are in late September and it kind of feels like we never really had summer, we sort of just had a year of spring.

The days are now drawing in and there is a noticeable nip in the air first thing in the morning. We haven't yet had a frost but know a few other gardeners have (some even mentioned frost in late August!)

Anyway, at this time of the year, just before the first frosts is often when the garden looks at its best, so with a nice dry day we took quite a few photos of how the gardens looking now. With it being the end of the month I thought it was a good time for a garden update blog.

Aloe polyphylla, this plant has had a great year after being planted out

Monday, September 24, 2012

Hard Decisions

Balau (Shorea spp.), Ipe (Tabebuia spp.), Cumaru (Dipteryx odorata), Iroko (Milicia excelsa or M. regia), Teak (Tectona grandis), Red Cedar (Thuja plicata), Angelim (Hymenolobium spp.), Composite....

Okay, maybe not Composite, that was the spanner in the works.

But the rest are different types of hardwood commonly used in decking. It's a different kind of botanical pre-occupation for me at the moment as I go through and choose among these fine selection of plants. Definitely out of the ordinary, usually I choose plants that are alive. Now I'm choosing a plant that is dead, and processed, to be used in the garden for hard landscaping.

The elegant beauty of hardwood decking. (Flemings Show Garden at RHS Chelsea 2012)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Tropical Soul

One of the things I tend to do in the autumn and most winter is to plan ahead for the next growing season. This year has been quite an exception though as I have been planning for next year since last summer, much earlier than usual. Perhaps because it was so wet that we had much less time to spend tending to the plants, and because of the pond project too which took up most of our spare time this year. Either way I just regard it as a long build up of excitement for next year's potential.

In pursuit of that tropical feel again....
The long road to next year - words I've muttered to myself several times recently. But this year's summer wasn't a write off at all, far from it. Let's just say, it was unique.

Somehow this year I also felt that I have slightly lost touch with what look I want to achieve with the existing garden (the new garden is more modern and hard landscaping heavy, to say the least). Maybe because we have seen so many formal and 'English' style gardens recently and such styles are starting to rub off on me? Again, maybe because we spent most of our time building the pond? But now that the latter is almost done, I find myself with the prospect of having more time again to spend with the rest of the garden. And I need some inspiration for next year. I need to remember what it was all about anyway, why we have what we have now.

Beautiful, but is neither exotic nor tropical. I love it though, but not for our garden.
I need to rediscover our tropical soul. It's still there although semi-dormant and I need to poke and prod it with inspiration to rouse and revive it, ready for next year.

A contrived tropical garden. That's what it was all about, that's how it began and that's how it should be. To create an illusion of a garden that is from the tropics; of far flung, exotic places full of exotic and unusual plants. Perhaps to remind you of a cherished holiday abroad, or as a way of everyday escapism to make you feel you are anywhere else but here.

And yes it can be done, to create that illusion via creativity and substitution.

Of which I need to remember. I need to remind myself.

So how do I go about remembering it again? The first port of call are books. New books to remind myself and be inspired again.

A quick search online bought about several books about the subject matter 'tropical gardening', but I narrowed the selection down and recently acquired three to add to my existing collection of exotic and tropical gardening books:

Landscaping with Tropical Plants by Monica Moran Brandies

Tropical Garden Design by Made Wijaya (of which I've seen before, it's just I've never actually owned it and as it's a new edition, I might as well own one now)

and Tropical Gardens of the Philippines by Lily Gamboa O'Boyle and Luca Invernizzi Tettoni

All three are superb and inspirational. Lots of ideas to pick from the beautiful photography. But I have to single out the last one, for that book blew me away...

Funny enough, I went through those three books in that order so when I got to the last one, I was, well, gobsmacked ('totally surprised' for those who are not aware of this British colloquial word). Wow!

Stunning photography of stunning gardens with stunning plants. Have I said the word 'stunning' enough already? 

After going through this book several times and settling down after the initial astonishment of visual delights found in every page, one other thing that struck me is that most of the gardens featured are private residences, rather than large parks and public spaces. Which makes the photos more 'reachable', attainable, and aspects of it applicable to ones own space. Even in parts of the world that are far from tropical, like where we are.

Illusion and creative substitution are the operative words.

I would hasten to add though that this book is not for those seeking botanical knowledge. It's probably not even for garden designers, for there are no rules stated there. It is however, for anyone seeking visual inspiration, for anyone wanting to create a beautiful exotic garden. It is a book of pure visual beauty. And sometimes that's all you need. It's up to the reader to apply to ones own space the beauty they have seen if they so wish.

Bearing in mind that the tropics do not have four seasons, and that there is a state of year round constancy with regards to the appearance of plants growing there, it takes a bit of faith and flair to adapt that look in a cold temperate climate. But this extra challenge makes exotic gardening even more fun.

So has these books revived our tropical soul? Yes I think so. A flick through them every so often is probably needed. So we'll remember...

And it will happen.

Mark :-)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pink and Blue

Pretty Impatiens looking wonderfully Pink and Blue, just before they get pulled out in the autumn tidy up that is.
Impatiens balfourii
Filler plants, that's what they are. I wasn't intending on letting them stay for any longer than this season but I must say they are both looking wonderfully pretty at this time of the year.

Neither of them are herbaceous or root hardy here but the pink one reliably self seeds and lots of little ones sprout within the vicinity of the original plant next spring. I weed out all but one or two seedlings, and let that chosen one to carry on growing for the rest of the growing season.

Even if I don't pull them out the frosts will get them anyway. There has been a distinctive nip in the air lately and the presence of autumn is now unmistakeable. No frosts yet but it won't be long now before the first one arrive (although a delayed arrival will be most welcome).

Impatiens namchabarwensis
But the tidy up has now begun, and just because they look pretty they have to stay. I'm not even sure if I want at least the pink one back again next year, all the seedlings may have to be pulled out too (depends on my mood then).

They are pretty and that's good enough as fillers. Good enough for this year at least. I'll try something else next year.

Variety is the spice of life.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Black and White

First it was Bright and White.

Now it is Black and White.

Heck, even our cats are Black and White!

But this entry isn't about our cats. It's about the big black transformation of our pond.

There it was, after two and a half years of hard work, and after just two and a half days work by the fibreglasser, the pond is now fibreglassed - waterproof and black. And what a wonderful moment it was when I got home and found the pond and small water feature are finally black.

Look Ma, no creases!

And don't you just love professionals? You hire them and they get things done in such a short amount of time. So quick as well too, especially on this case. If we fibreglassed the pond ourselves it would have probably taken us an entire week or two to complete the task, being the after work DIY-ers that we are. Although we would have never done the fibreglassing ourselves anyway, it's one of those jobs that is best left to the professionals. Hence that's why we got John to do the deed.

John (facing away, right) and his assistant fibreglassing away
John is a seasoned pro and has been doing this for many, many years. And he is a long time koi keeper too as well as a fellow member of our local koi club, hence fully understanding the special needs a koi pond demands. With his expertise well known in the circuit, he has been commissioned several times to fibreglass ponds for show gardens, four of which were for the Chelsea Flower Show.

Getting the pond waterproof is such a huge turning point for the project. After all, if it ain't waterproof, it ain't a pond! It feels great that we are actually through to this very important stage and now we can move on to the remaining stages.

There is still a lot of prep work to the interior of pond itself before we can fill it up with water (once or twice before fishes are introduced), including the installation of the filters first. Otherwise it will just flood the filtration house. But for now we can start finishing off the exterior part like putting on the coping stone edging, etc.

Gaz doing some measurement before angle grinding some of the sandstone slabs.
And you'll need some cement to fix them in place.
And there's the small water feature too which was easy enough to finish off. A few evenings after work and a few hours over the weekend and it is mostly finished. All we need to do now is to install its own filtration and it will be up and running shortly.

For months it just sat there accumulating rainwater
Once the fibreglass has dried, sanded down, washed; coping stones have been cemented into place
And once the mortar has dried, it was blended away inside with a black pond paint. Just have to paint the outside white now!
Sometimes I feel we move at such a slow pace. Maybe because we're both overly meticulous at times? I think it's more of a case of mentally wanting to achieve more in a limited amount of time, more than realistic but I think we're not doing bad at all. I had a quick look back at our photo archives, of what we have done exactly a year ago and here it was:

How it was, exactly a year ago.
So glad to finally see the back of all that clay!

I have been looking at everything recently, pinching myself that we are actually at this stage. And that I have to think about relatively minor things now like lighting, outdoor speakers, etc. Rather than just endless digging and cementing.

Hard work yes but overall what an enjoyable journey. And I'm enjoying things even more now that we are almost there.

Mark :-)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Autumn Sunshine

Officially it is early autumn already. Or is it late summer?

Whatever it may be it felt more summery lately than it had ever been all summer. Perhaps September is the new July? Mind you I remember September and early October last year being gloriously lovely as well.

Not you usual autumn harvest - Cyphomandra corymbiflora fruit. Year in, year out it produces frutis but never get to harvest them for the seeds. Might try this year!
Hooray for an Indian Summer! Sometimes its the only chance of a summer we'll ever get in the UK. Mind you this year was exceptional. I've never seen so much rain here before, and such a prolonged period as well. Enough to reverse a hosepipe ban. 

So with this recent bout of sunny spells I'm feeling all excited about gardens and plants again. Much more so than I ever did compared to the months that's just gone past. It's more also because I'm starting to look ahead now, looking forward to next year and what new things can be done.

Trevesia palmata enjoying some early autumn sun
And so does this Cussonia spicata
We've started to prepare the garden now for the coming winter, albeit slowly and leisurely, as well as started to look forward and plan for next year. The latter part being the most exciting bit.

And the pond project is almost finished and will be finished soon. We can move on now to the next project. More on that later on.

Autumn bounty from one of our Fig trees - Ficus carica 'Brown Turkey'
It may feel summery now but the signs of autumn are starting to creep up. Now that you can't deny and not notice. Some plants have gone past their best and are starting to go dormant. Some have started to shed their leaves. But most still look good. A time of the year to just enjoy the garden and tidy along the way.

It's Dahlia 'Twyning's After Eight' time!
With the autumn sunshine, I'm enjoying the moment and so looking forward to new things ahead.

Mark :-)

Friday, September 07, 2012

Pass the Duchy

"Love is like a flower, you've got to let it grow."

The Duchy of Cornwall Nursery
How sweet! Those were the first words I saw when I viewed the website of Duchy of Cornwall Nursery just before I started to write this blog. Our visit was actually last May but better late than never as this place is definitely one of the nursery gems of Cornwall.

Something I have noted, on several occasions how generally revered this nursery is by both locals and visitors alike. Quite often I hear praises for this nursery, even from other nurseries (who are in essence their competitors) who are quick to say nice things about this place. And we can clearly see why: great and diverse selection of plants (from the rare and unusual, to the staples), reasonable prices, and plant stocks that are healthy and well taken cared of. Tick, tick, tick all the good bits indeed!

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Potty for Pots and Pottery

This is sort of a two in one blog, for when I was going through some of the photos we took in Rhodes recently, I was also reminded of something else, from a trip we had many years ago in another country altogether.

As the title indicates, I do love my pots and pottery, especially if it is made from natural materials like terracotta, wood, or stone. Not just for growing on plants but also (or for me, mainly) as a garden accessory. Okay, I don't 'like' it as much as gardening and plants itself, but do like the way how a well chosen pot immediately enhances its surroundings, in more ways than one.

So, as I've said, whilst looking at photos of our recent holiday in Rhodes I felt a sudden wave of nostalgia of a pottery workshop we visited whilst on holiday in the Philippines a few years ago. 

Pots galore! Even the ones that collapsed looks nice.