Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Garden Visit: RHS Wisley

A couple of weeks ago we visited RHS Wisley, partly to see the Butterfly exhibit, but also to get an exotic plant fix.
Wisley is set in some 240 acres of Surrey countryside, just to the south of London. Whilst the grounds are attractively landscaped  our main reason to visit was the large glasshouse. The main glasshouse is still quite a new addition to the garden, opened by the Queen in 2007, and contains three main climatic zones.

As you enter the first area is lush temperate planting, many of the plants here are hardy enough to try outside, or can be used as accent plants, overwintered in a greenhouse. Although its always enjoyable to see plants we grow at home in a permanently warm environment.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Making of a New Garden: In the Beginning...

Sometimes whenever I find myself looking back at our old posts and notice the ones we have written pertaining to the ongoing koi pond project, I also find myself thinking that there's actually more to this project than just the pond, much more than we have portrayed so far. It is true that the majority of the work of the entire project is the pond, and it is the main focal point of this area, but to ourselves we have always regarded that what we are actually undertaking is the construction of a new garden. It just so happens that the most demanding aspect of it is the building of the pond. But as I've just said, there's more to this area than the pond alone....

Yes, a new garden. And the story begins in the middle...

Often we are asked what our plans are, what we wish to achieve and what we intend on doing. Or if we just go along and make decisions along the way. Yes we do modify a few things as we go along, adjusting what needs adjusting in order to proceed. However the vast majority of what we have done is in accordance with the plans and designs we created prior to starting the project. The garden has been designed and most of the technical aspects had been worked out before we started.

I suppose I should have started, before we featured any aspect of the project on our blog, by showing the plans and sketches of the new garden. Most of these sketches were made on paper, a few were made on the computer but using basic programs rather than sophisticated design software. So how come I never featured these plans before? The answer is just I never took the time to scan these paper sketches until recently hence only featuring them now. 

And it is through these plans and sketches that we are able to show how this new garden began: how we gathered our concepts, ideas, and design to come up with the final plan of what we are undertaking now. It is an insight to what we are doing and a glimpse of what we're trying to achieve.

The Making of a New Garden: In the Beginning

So why is it a new garden? For the following reasons: It is a new annex to our existing garden; the plot was a total blank canvass, there was nothing in it but a lawn; and more notably the design is a departure from the overall theme of the rest of the garden, embracing a more modern and contemporary look but keeping the exotic planting.

There has been a lot of thought process involved and several facets to the project that it would be better if I present each facet through a series of posts that will appear on our blog over the next few weeks. This is so I can explore each facet much better and be able to discuss smaller portions rather than a single post

And to start this series here are some of the sketches, drawings, and plans of the New Garden:

Preliminary Sketches of the Layout
Another preliminary sketch of the layout
Once we decided to go ahead with the project the first thing we needed to do was to decide on the layout of the new garden. The key elements of the garden were first considered and several layouts were have been considered. The sketches above show some of the ones we have considered first.

The First Breakthrough
After lots of consideration we arrived at the preliminary final layout of the new garden. This was before we started any work to the plot and have yet to find out what other things we need to adjust once actual work has commenced.

The Final Layout
A few weeks after we started work on plot we came up with this final layout of the new garden. You can see at the top and bottom part of the sketch our neighbour's gardens in relation to ours, as well as the structures and plants on their property in relation to what we will be building.

Designing the Koi Filtration House
One of the preliminary sketches of the Koi Filtration House, including some technical details to be considered.

The Third Raised Bed and Water Feature
It took us ages to decide on the design of the small water feature beside the third raised bed, much more so than the Koi Pond itself! A preliminary sketch of one of the designs considered.

Any paper will do! 
Sometimes when you get a surge of ideas you need to sketch it with whatever paper is on hand. Above is another design considered.

Streamlined and Simple
With a small geyser fountain with sandstone tiling to the edges of the pool.

Structures in relation to each other
When embarking on any project it is helpful to create several sketches to help you visualize how some of the structures you are building will be in relation to each other. Above is a personal guide on how the filtration house will look like in relation to the pond. The pergola above the pond is not to scale.

The sketches and drawings above are just an introduction to the story of our New Garden, the beginning. I'll try and give a bit more insight into our thought processes on how we came up with the designs, the options we had, and the decisions we've made so far in the future instalments of this series. These will explore the design of the garden, the planting scheme, an insight about size of the pond, the little water feature, sources of inspiration, and much more.

Tag along on our journey to our New Garden, even if we had started the story in the middle!

Mark :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ginkgos with a Twist

I posted a photo of one of our variegated Ginkgos on our Facebook page yesterday and I was given a nudge by fellow blogger Gerhard to compose a blog post about our Ginkgo collection. I'm not a Ginkgo collector as such, we only have five varieties in our garden but I have a special interest in collecting the variegated forms of this beautiful tree.

Ginkgo bilobas are often found as beautiful and majestic trees in parks and public places and are renowned for its spectacular autumn colour when the leaves turn a vivid, golden yellow, drawing light and attention to the plant. And it looks just as good when the leaves are all shed and it carpets its surrounding area with an intense shade. But apart from its autumn colour it is very garden worthy plant with its lovely foliage and overall graceful habit.

Fantastic autumn colour! Photo taken of a specimen at Kew Gardens
However, despite its beauty I still find that is an underrated and underused plant, perhaps mainly to its reputation of reaching a gigantic size (hence unsuitable for most domestic gardens back gardens) but there are plenty of smaller growing varieties available out there that are suitable for even the smallest of gardens, and some of these varieties look great in a pot (Ginkgo biloba 'Troll' springs to mind). Even a balcony can accommodate this dwarf variety.

'Mariken' is a smaller variety that looks also looks good as a potted specimen
Autumn in a small pot: 'Troll'
As for the variegated types, for years there was only one variety available but recently several more have been cropping up in the market, and I'm hoping a few more will turn up in the coming years as I adore the variegated forms of Ginkgos. Plain green leaves of this conifer are great as it is but add stripes and gradients to it and for me it looks even better, Ginkgos with a pretty twist!

Ginkgo biloba 'Variegata' is the first one to come out and has been available for quite some time now. It is also known by other names (like 'Majestic Butterflies', etc) depending upon where it is sold but essentially they are the same with leaves randomly striped white/cream and occasionally throws out half/half and all white leaves too. It's one of my favourite plants in the garden and one of the most complimented by visitors. Even I cannot help but stop and marvel at the leaves whenever I pass by it and could easily spend lots of time taking close up photos of its foliage.


Ginkgo biloba 'California Sunset' is one of the more recent variegated types to have been introduced and looks distinct with the random white/cream striping occurring instead on fastigiate leaves. A beautiful plant with a weeping habit with the leaves swaying gracefully whenever a breeze passes by. For some reason I couldn't find any of the photos I took of my plant last year so I will have to borrow some from the net.

'California Sunset' (source)

'Beijing Gold'
Ginkgo biloba 'Beijing Gold' is another recent variegated introduction with much smaller leaves that emerge as bright yellow in the spring, gradually developing a gradient from yellow to light green towards the base of the leaf by late spring, then becomes stripy green and white in the summer, before turning bright yellow again the autumn, fantastic! A gorgeous plant that lights up it's own spot, you get that bright yellow tone in the spring and it's interesting to watch how the colour of the leaves change through the rest of the season.

'Beijing Gold'
'Beijing Gold'
I find that all of the variegated types are slow growing, with the 'Variegata' and 'California Sunset' best sited in a bright spot with indirect sun to avoid scorching of the leaves. The 'Beijing Gold' seems not to mind full sun with the yellow colour becoming more intense with sun exposure. So far I only have the 'Variegata' planted out and it has been for a few years now, I find that it is slow to gain height, about 2" a year! With such a slow growth rate I reckon it is suitable for permanent planting in even the smallest of gardens, in a prominent spot or to the front of a border to best appreciate its beauty.

Ginkgos look great in most styles of gardens, including exotic ones. And every garden should make room for at least one Ginkgo. And if so I highly recommend one the variegated ones!

Mark :-)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Something Old, Something New

Sometimes, being able to do some of the small things you've been wanting to get done for awhile gives as much satisfaction as doing much bigger things. And that's what it felt like when I finally switched this pot for a new one this weekend.

I placed this terracotta pot, planted with the terrestrial bromeliad Dyckia frigida on top of this pillar last spring and it stayed there all year up to this weekend when I finally made the switch. Although I did buy this pot specifically for this purpose I wasn't too happy with it once in situ. I overestimated the size and it looked disproportionately too small for such a prominent location. It was supposed to help demarcate the transition to the new garden but instead it looked like a non entity there, plus I thought the plant I chose to go in it didn't look right for the spot either.

But I was none the wiser what to replace it with so it stayed there until I got the chance to acquire a more appropriate replacement. And finally I managed to do the switch this weekend, out with the old and in with the new.

I spotted this pot in one of our nearby garden centres and took an instant liking to it. The colour and material looked right, a combination of concrete and grey stone chippings, and would fit in with the colour scheme of the new garden. And it was just the right size, big enough to make it's presence known and help tie in the new garden with the old, but not too big that it would pose a risk of falling off when strong winds pass by.

And fall it will not, much to my surprise this pot is exceptionally heavy for its size. When I first tried to pick it up I nearly fell over and Gaz thought I was just messing about. When he lifted it he instantly knew I wasn't. We both had to lift it to the trolley and once on the till (which has a scale on it) it weighed a whopping 30kg!! Anyway, with a bit of a struggle we managed to lift this 'small' pot in it's place and I'm finally pleased and content with what's on top of the pillar. I still haven't decided what to plant in it though, probably a glaucous leafed Yucca to remain there permanently. Or a mixture of tender succulents, with some trailing down the sides of the pot, as a temporary, yearly changing display. Lots of time to decide!

And on to newer, much bigger matters, I will pass you over to Gaz for an update on our pond project (Yes another new thing, our first ever combo blog!)...


Monday, January 16, 2012

The Butterflies at Wisley

The day has finally arrived last Saturday when it was actually too cold outside to do anything in the garden. Well, that's stretching it a bit I know, it wasn't really that cold and I'm sure we could do lots of other things if we really wanted to but the nippy weather outside was a great excuse to have a day out instead and off we went to RHS Wisley to check out the first day of their new winter attraction, Butterflies in the Glasshouse.

Even the cobwebs were shivering! Fortunately this was outside the glasshouse...
Frosty but lovely! 
RHS Wisley is a great place to visit even in the middle of winter, for the winter interest outside but mainly for their large glasshouse which you can take refuge in to, away from the cold and into the warmth where you can enjoy strolling around, looking and surrounded by beautiful exotic plants from warmer regions.

And into the glasshouse we go...
The glasshouse is divided into different sections (arid, temperate, humid, etc.) to suit the growing conditions needed by various exotic and wonderful plants from warmer regions, beautifully displayed and the plants are the main reason in itself to visit the place (which I will feature on a separate blog). But for now I will focus on the current attraction which are the exotic butterflies!

Within the glasshouse is a 'tropical humid' section and it is there where the butterflies can be found freely flying amongst the plants. I was a bit hesitant at first, going to the first day of this seasonal attraction, worried that the crowd would be so large and overwhelming that we wouldn't enjoy the place. To a certain extent that was the case with a queue forming to go inside the tropical humid section which it took us awhile to actually get in but fortunately the wait was far from boring as we were surrounded by beautiful plants and the slow movement gave us ample of opportunity to take photographs of the specimens (which we will feature on a separate post).

A queue, how British!
And finally, we got in  and it was well worth the wait! Once inside, you can stay for as long as you wish to admire the plants and of course the butterflies. Despite the queue it didn't feel overcrowded inside and you still had ample space to stroll around and take photos of these wonderful creatures.

Inside the 'tropical humid' section...

Xanthosoma (Yellow Leaved form)

And here they are, just some of the butterflies..

Butterflies 'in action'...

It was a most enjoyable day and was great to see the glasshouse again, and of course the butterflies! A day out like this was just what we needed, feeling refreshed we spent the next day doing a few more bits towards our project. 

Looking forward to visiting again, perhaps in the spring and/or summer, time permitting. The butterflies may not be there by then but there's plenty more to explore at Wisley, both inside and outside the glasshouse.


RHS Wisley: Butterflies in the glasshouse

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Treasures of Tregrehan

The woodland garden at Tregrehan is one the gardens we regularly visit in Cornwall. We love it so much that we've visited four times in the last couple of years, and if people ask us which of the Cornish gardens we've visited is our favourite we always says it's a tie between this garden and another one

I remember when we first went to Cornwall and visited some of the exotic plant nurseries there, a nurseryman noted my penchance for southern hemisphere plants, woodland perennials, and high altitude new Asian introductions. He recommended that we visit the garden of Tregrehan and that we'd 'love it' for its atmosphere and the sort of planting that they have. It took us awhile to follow his recommendation but when we eventually did, we never looked back.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tail flower - Anthurium schlechtendalii

We visited RHS Wisley today (a blog on the visit will follow in the near future), and this particular plant caught our attention for its unusual flower spadix and dramtic leaves.

Anthurium schlechtendalii is a relative of the more well known Anthuriums that garden centres are so fond of in the house plant section, however this is one of the larger species.

It is native to Central America where it usually grows as an epiphyte or as a lithophyte, although the specimen in the Wisley glasshouse is grown in the ground. The common name refers to the long spadix (the tail), which carries the flowers.

As with other Anthuriums this one is polinated by beetles attracted by the scent of the flowers although we were unable to detect any particular scent.
With Marks hand for scale.

Detail of the spadix.

Although too tender to plant out, I think this will be a plant I look out for, as I'd love to have one as part of our summer display.


RHS Wisley