Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bountiful Harvest...

We wrote once before about Bountiful Harvests that are only fit for the bin, last time it was about the grapes on our vine over the bottom patio. This time it is something far more annoying...

Sycamore seedlings.... Arrrrggghhhhh

The large old Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanusat the bottom of the garden featured recently in a blog when we cut it back, but it seems it knew what we were planning and got its revenge last autumn...

For this year we have had literally hundreds, and probably thousands of small sycamore seedlings, and if we don't get them out then they will soon take over.

We always get quite a number to remove, but for some reason we got so many, we were not sure why? Perhaps it was the late start to spring kept the area brighter as the various shrubs and over herbaceous plants were late in coming into leaf and gave the seeds more light to help them germinate.

Bag of bounty
Whatever the reason its blooming annoying! but with many of the branches removed that were over hanging this part of the garden maybe we won't get the same number next year.

Heres hoping anyway!


Monday, April 29, 2013

From Lawn to Jungle

We call the area at the bottom of our garden "The Jungle", the planting in this area is a little more untamed, plants jostle for position and people have to push past overhanging plants.

The area itself is not huge, but it does feel bigger than it is as you cant see it all and have to explore. It hasn't always been like that of course. When we first moved into the property this area was mostly a lawn, dominated by a huge old sycamore with a few shrubs round the edges, a pig sty on one side, and the remains of a World War II bomb shelter in the far corner. 

View towards what became the Jungle
Same View today after the shed was extended - (see here for the extension blog)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April in the Garden

This year Spring has been quite late in the UK and across much of Europe, with a long cold snap through February and March. However April is now showing some warmer and brighter weather and the garden is responding rapidly.

I love this time of year, with new shoots and leaves on woody plants, and herbaceous plants busting through the soil ready to explode into new and exciting forms that we have not seen since last autumn.

I took a stroll round the garden this evening with a camera in hand, here are some of the plants that caught my attention.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Scopolia carniolica

This delightful looking woodland plant was a pleasant surprise for us recently. I do not remember buying or being given it, so sadly I'm not 100% sure where it came from.

Scopolia carniolica

However it returned near to the middle patio area with the spring-like weather and rewarded us with the most exquisite maroon flowers. As we did not remember buying it we also were unsure of the name, however a request for an ID on our Facebook page gave us the answer pretty quickly (thanks Andrew, Don and others for confirming the name).

Scopolia carniolica
So now we have an ID, I thought I better find out a little more about Scopolia carniolica. It is a European native, with its natural habitat in the damp conditions of beech forests in southeastern Europe, covering quite a range of habitats from lowlands to more mountainous conditions. Although our plant is fairly small these can reach up to 60cm (2 feet) tall, I'll be quite interested to see how it looks as a bigger plant in future years.

It is a member of the Solanaceae family, and is reportedly poisonous, as it contains fairly high quantities of tropane alkaloids (also found in deadly nightshade), with the highest concentration found within the roots. Personally I tend not to worry too much about poisonous plants, many plants are poisonous, and as long as you are sensible and aware then you shouldn't have any problems. If we all only garden with plants listed as safe the world would be a very boring place. It can also be hallucinogenic properties and it was regarded as magical in medieval Europe with an association with witchcraft. 

On Facebook it was mentioned that there is a yellow flowering form (var. brevifolia), so that is something I will have to look out for, although I love the colour of these flowers.


Monday, April 22, 2013

The Ghost of a Koi Pond

The ghost of an old koi pond came back to haunt us again last year. It was finally dealt with and exorcised away last weekend.

Yes, there was a large koi pond already in the garden even before we moved in, albeit decommissioned. Photo taken in February 2005 as 
we were viewing the property and garden for the first time.
It was this large hole that we had to fill up when we first moved in to the house (and garden) and it turned out to be of great use as we cleared out the garden and saved on needing to avail of a skip hire. Gradually it was filled up with hardcore, organic matter, and other debris from previous projects.

The hole was gradually filled up with soil, organic material, and rubble. Photo taken in 2006
The fences in this area were old and falling apart and had to be replaced too.
If there was soil then we might as well grow something on it, although I don't think we actually harvested anything by the end of the season. 
Photo taken in 2006
We started to plant out ornamentals on the designated border by 2007, and demarcated where a seating area should be. I've forgotten 
how many tender plants we bedded out that time. Unfortunately Schefflera macrophylla turned out to be tender too!
Then when it was full it was compacted, filled with some sand and a temporary patio was built over it so we can use it as a seating area. And this patio lasted for awhile. 

The original patio as layed in 2008, using a mixture of materials available on hand then
We always knew there will be subsidence at some stage, it was just a matter of time and when. Organic matter rots, pockets of spaces that were inevitably not filled then would eventually get filled in, and the area will subside eventually. And that became evident last year. But we were far too busy then so it had to wait for awhile to be sorted.

The weather last weekend was wonderful, and perfect too for bigger spring jobs, like sorting out the patio
The patio residents had to move elsewhere whilst work was in progress. As for the chairs...
They had three coats of stain a few weeks ago. I took this photo so I can actually see myself the difference between a stained and unstained 
one. The colour of the stain I used turned out to be so close to the original that I wasn't sure at first if it made any difference at all. At least the 
colour is richer now and I know it's more protected against the elements.
The larger stones were kept and reused, whilst most of the smaller pieces were replaced with new and larger sandstone.
The leftover clay from the pond build came in very handy for this job!
And that time finally came, old flagstones were lifted up and more hardcore, rubble, and clay came in to level the area again. After they were compacted most of the old and weathered sandstone flags were relayed. Some of the smaller pieces of stone and paving that were used before had to go as this time we decided to mix in new but bigger sandstone flags with the old ones. These new ones should weather and blend in nicely with the rest of the old ones, gradually through the course of time.

Someone is curious...
Here it is now after two days of work (albeit leisurely and plenty of gardening in between), stones relayed and the area level once again. Hopefully this will last and stay like this for quite some time. The stones were laid on a sand base without mortar joints so that they are very stable but also easy to remove for adjustments if and when subsidence happens again. 

Patio now relayed but work in the garden continues....
Eventually subsidence will stop as we gradually add more rubble and inorganic material, and from there we can do something more permanent for this spot. But for now we'll just have to keep exorcising the ghost of an old koi pond whenever it makes an apparition. Mind you exorcising isn't so bad especially when it is done on fine days with fab weather like it was last weekend!

Mark :-)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Book Review: The Encyclopedia Of Cultivated Palms

The first edition was originally published back in 2003 and ever since The Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms has been a key reference text for all palm enthusiasts.  This much anticipated update includes an additional author and well known palm expert Scott Zona, curator of the Wertheim Conservatory in Florida and also includes a significant number of palm species and varieties that have been  introduced into cultivation since the original edition was published.

There are 825 species of palm described in detail, including key information for us on cold hardiness, water needs, height, and any other special requirements. Each palm is well illustrated, with almost 1,000 colour photographs in the book in total.

Our own interest is particularly focused on those palms available within the UK for example, Trachycarpus and Brahea are well represented with each having 8 species listed and described. Butia, Chamaedorea and Syagrus fair even better with 9, 43 and 24 species discussed respectively. Some of the very new introductions are omitted but clearly the botanic world can be quite fast moving and so any encylopedia will need regular revision and updates to include everything.

Many will be familiar with the revised naming convention that was proposed in 2010 for the Butia family, the new names are used in the book and are well explained, in particular how the name impacts on the popular Butia odorata (formerly Butia capitata).

After an initial introduction to palms, the book contains two main sections, the first of which deals with the photographs, The Gallery of Palms has 250 pages containing in excess of 900 colour photographs, many of which tease and delight in equal measure. Sadly many remind us how far north and cold we are in the UK and thus we can only admire many of the wonderful plants from afar or within the protected environs of places such as The Palm House at Kew.

Following on from the photo gallery comes the second and significantly larger section of the book which contains an alphabetical listing of the palms starting with Acanthophoenix and covering the 825 species through to Zombia. The individual entries each give an overview of the family with an introduction to the genus, followed by a more detailed discussion and explanation  of the individual species characteristics, including typical traits and growing conditions needed as well as seed form and germination techniques.

The final part of the book lists palms by  a number of categories, assisting those looking to select a palm for a specific aspect, for example drought tolerance or speed of growth, perhaps this section may be less useful for those growing palms in the UK as most will have to be grown under glass due to the colder climate.

For those of us growing palms in the UK we often have to deal with pests or overwintering plants in doors, the book doesn't cover pests and treatments or the suitability of a plant to spending time as a house plant. However this book is great value for money and a must have read for anyone interested in growing, identifying or simply enjoying palms. Highly recommended.

The Encyclopedia Of Cultivated Palms is published by Timber Press and available from all the usual outlets.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Get out of the Garden! And into a Spa‏

With Spring finally here and the garden jobs starting, we have teamed up with Experience Days to offer a great prize to one lucky reader, a Marriott Pamper Day for Two. You can experience the luxury and quality of the world famous Marriott venues and a treatment for you and a friend with a pamper experience.

Experience Days describe the prize as follows:
A Marriott Pamper Day is not just about exploring a new place, it is about discovering a new state of mind. Health and beauty treatments will help you do just that as you relax and unwind at the hands of trained professionals. Let your skin breath, let your muscles unwind and enjoy being inside some of the beautiful venues Marriott strives to provide. 
This wonderful pamper experience is available at selected Marriott Hotels & Resorts and the treatments are carried out by professional therapists using top quality salon products such as Decleor, Carita and Espa. A ‘Must-Do’ experience that is about much more than world class beauty treatments.
For more details on the prize see the Experience Days Website.

A Marriott Pamper Day includes a total of two treatments and the use of the club facilities for up to two people. Facilities include the gym, sauna, steam room and the pool. Your choice of two treatments ranges from the following three – a soothing manicure, a refreshing facial or a back-neck-&-shoulder massage. 

These treatments last for approximately 30 minutes each. The treatments are not per person so the recipient can keep their day all to themselves or choose to share the treatments and the facilities with one other lucky person.

The locations that this is available at are :-

Birmingham, Coventry, Chepstow, Derby, Glasgow, Maidstone, Manchester, Norwich, Portsmouth, Preston, Shipley, Southampton, London.

The prize does not include transport, so you will have to make your own way to the location of your choice. 

To enter, simply tell us which treatment you would select and why you have chosen that treatment.

Extra entries can be made by following us and sharing this competition on Twitter or by liking our page and sharing the competition on Facebook. An additional entry can be made by "following" this blog via Google Friend Connect

Terms and conditions: This competition closes at 23.59 on 27 April 2013. Any entries received after this time will not be counted. Entrants must be UK residents aged 18 years or older to enter. By entering this competition you agree and consent to your name being published and by taking part in the competition, entrants are deemed to have read, understood and accepted all of the Terms and Conditions and agreed to be bound by them. The winner will be selected at random from the correct entries and will be announced here on the blog. Please make sure we are able to contact you if you do win, as we will need to provide your name and address to Yeo Valley to arrange for your prize to be sent to you. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Fine Disarray 3

Spring preparation of the garden is definitely now in full swing starting this weekend, the first weekend in a very long time that felt truly warm (well relatively speaking, considering the British norm) and spring like.

A type of weekend and weather that has been overdue, long overdue. I'm grateful that spring seems to have finally arrived but the effects of its late arrival are definitely there and still feels a bit strange (more on that later...).

So this is the view of the garden for most of the weekend, coming out from the back door and into the top patio nearest to the house. I have featured this view a couple of times (One and Two) before hence the title being number three already.

Some plants are now out, so are the tools...
There's always an element of theatrics to any garden especially during the growing season, from spring till early autumn and there is lots of preparation in the run up to it (and ongoing during that period although usually not as intense). If I had a magic wand I could just have waved it and everything would be tidied up and look ready for the warmer months but alas such a thing doesn't exist.

Old fronds of ground ferns have all been removed, ready for their fresh and new ones to make this area lush again.
But would gardening be as enjoyable if maintenance and preparation could be done so instantly? I don't think so, and with that thought I'm glad that magic wand doesn't exist (actually it does, it's called 'hiring a gardener'). A huge part of the appreciation for gardening is the enjoyment of its continuing process.

Even the ducks have been enjoying the water and sun earlier today!
So with that in mind, bits and pieces are scattered here and there temporarily. Some areas are tidy already whilst others still needs some attention. And whilst you do more, you spot more that needs extra attention you didn't anticipate before and the 'to do' list gets even longer...

Pots of bananas, Musa basjoo and Musa sikkimensis acclimatising to life outside. We need to decide whereto place them this year.
But we'll get there. we always do. Most gardeners do.

And whilst pottering this weekend three thoughts stood out in mind on why spring this year feels a bit strange.

First, it's almost the middle of April and a lot of deciduous trees, shrubs, and perennials are still dormant. Or at least just in bud. Usually they are in leaf or have sprouted by now but no not this time. So despite what the calendar says it feels like we're gardening in the middle of March rather April.

A curious sight in the garden, Rheum palmatum leafing out.

Second, decision making regarding planting schemes and the fate of some plants (those that were damaged by the winter) has to be delayed longer than usual.

Third, we haven't visited any nursery or plant fair since February. Usually we've visited two to three by now but not this year (actually we did visit Crews Hill Gardening Club last Easter weekend but it's not really a nursery as such, more like a garden centre). 

Blame it all on the weather.

This fern one is raring to escape the pot and into the ground (Sphenomeris chinensis)
But the warm-ish weather has finally arrived and spring is going to explode. With everything delayed here, spring burst of life is going to be compressed in a short period of time rather than in a  succession like in most years. Is it going to be a dramatic spectacle to behold, or a manic and rushed event that you are likely to miss some of them in a blink of an eye?

We'll have to wait and see, it may happen any moment now. It can even happen this coming week (whilst we're at work, oops!).

Mark :-)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Spring Greenhouse Review

Spring finally seems to have arrived and we have been able to check how the plants in our greenhouses have been doing. We have two at present, both are 8'x6' aluminium framed greenhouses, one is used for more arid plants and the other for the lush/leafy ones. We provide a little bit of heat to both greenhouses, keeping them just above zero Celsius - usually about 2 or 3C as a minimum. Through experience we have found that for the plants we want to over winter under glass this is just enough heat to prevent the pots from freezing. More tender plants are over wintered in the house, but we try not to have too many like that.

First up is the greenhouse in the working area next to the filter house for the new pond. This greenhouse will be moved in due time, but for now its home to the more leafy plants.

A selection of choice plants, Cussonia at the back, with an Illicium just in front on the left hand side and Cordyline stricta on the right hand side.

Schefflera delavayi 'oak leaf form', we have tried a hardy selection of this Schefflera outside for the last winter, and i'm pleased to say it has shown no problems from winter.

And on the other side a few more plants waiting their time to be planted out, including Fatsia polycarpa and small Schefflera taiwania. The young palm seedling in the lower left of the photo is a Butyagrus - the mule palm, a cross between a Butia and a Syagrus palm, there was hope at one point that this would be a hardy palm for the UK, however sadly this has proved not to be the case.

As I mentioned this particular greenhouse will be relocated within the working area, and will have a new function once it is moved. It will no longer be used for plants but will house a quarantine/treatment tank for our fish. This will allow us to quarantine any new fish before we introduce them to the pond - just in case any have an illness or parasite not spotted at the dealer. We wouldn't want to introduce any problems to our large pond. It will also allow us to remove a sick fish from the main pond so that it can be treated on its own. Hopefully there will not be too many sick fish, but it is worth thinking ahead just in case.

I'm sure you are thinking why would we give up greenhouse space, well, that's not quite the full story. Do you remember this blog when we collected a second hand greenhouse... This greenhouse will be erected in the working area to be our new 'lush greenhouse' and as its bigger at 8' by 10' it will allow us to grow on more plants over winter, or at least have them better spaced out. When we bought it I don't think we anticipated it would be in waiting for quite so long, so I will be pleased to finally build it. Both of the greenhouses will be built on low walls to give an increased head height making it more comfortable for us and also easier to house slightly larger plants.

The other greenhouse houses our arid plants, keeping them separate allows a different watering regime and helps to keep the humidity lower in this greenhouse.

Its been a tricky winter this year for the arid house, autumn was very wet, so potted plants had to be placed under glass whilst still quite damp, and then with the wet cool winter they stayed on the moist side. This was sadly fatal for a small number of plants, including all the Aeoniums Mark had propagated last summer to be used for this current years displays. Fortunately we are off to Cornwall next month, so will be able to pick up some replacements.

However despite a small number of losses, the vast majority of plants are looking good after their winter holiday into the arid house.

Once the spring weather arrives it is always nice to see plants move back out to their summer homes, allowing us to give the greenhouses a good spring clean and undertake any maintenance needed. Of course they never become totally empty and will be home to plants we are propagating during the summer months.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Up, Down, and Still

A little update about the new pond...

At the moment this is warming up:

Large Koi Pond

and this is cooling down:

whilst they are staying still:


Just thought I'd do a little update on the fishy side of things in the new area, especially as they are the main reason why the project was conceived. The pond itself is now well and truly finished and the system has been running smoothly for a few weeks now. A couple of weeks ago we moved in the first two Koi to kick start the growth of filter bacteria and gauge how the rest of the koi will react to the new pond and water chemistry. So far so good and the first two residents have been happily swimming away since then. The only thing is, they look a bit lost and lonely, with their 'mates' still left behind in the old pond. 

So we're just waiting for temperatures to stabilize and come very close between the two ponds. The cold March and early April didn't help at all and prolonged the process but temperatures are getting better now and forecast for the next few days is much better.

The new pond is gradually warming up, currently it is 8.9C. The old pond needs to gradually cool down hence I removed all of its covers earlier than usual to help in this process and it is currently 11.9C (it was 13C with the covers on).

The two Koi that we had from the grow and show competition at Avenue Fisheries are still there as our pond was too cold to bring them home that day. And in addition to them we also acquired three more which we chose over the bank holiday Easter weekend. So the entire lot, five in total are all being kept there for us in a pond maintained at 12C.

The three we went for (top L-R Clockwise Doitsu Kujaku, Tancho Goshiki, Mukashi Ogon)
So it's just a matter of waiting until the temperatures are much closer to each other and when that happens we can move in all of the fish into their new home. It's important that the temperature difference is very little or as close as possible to help minimize shock and stress to the fish.

The hard landscaping is finished apart from one fence panel that needs to be installed (long story) but at least it's in the most inconspicuous spot so not essential. The little jobs left to do, cosmetic matters are all gradually being ticked off the list as the weather improves.

As for the plants, all of them are just about waking up from winter hibernation, again way behind than normal courtesy of the cold start to spring and we'll have to wait a bit more to see if we need to replace any. And which bits of them needs to be tidied up.

Tiny plant, big cheer!

Roll on spring! It took you awhile to get here!

Mark :-)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ornamental Edible Exotics

We wrote about James Wong's new book "Homegrown Revolution" last year, and I was reminded to have another look through it recently at our bloggers day out at Great Dixter. The attendees at Great Dixter write a variety of blogs catering for a number of different tastes and styles of gardens. As you would expect a number are very keen growers of fruit and vegetables. We were asked a couple of times about any interesting or unusual edible exotics that we may grow, and to be honest the numbers we do grow are fairly small.

We do grow a number of figs - we even blogged about them a couple of year back (see our Fig Blog here). But to be honest we mostly grow them for the leaves and appearance rather than their fruit, which in any case we have to beat the squirrels to as they usually get there first (grrr squirrels!!). The pergola on our bottom patio (next to the old koi pond) is covered in a grape vine, however I managed to select a wine grape that has a slightly bitter taste rather than a nice eating grape. The birds normally eat the grapes, although some years we have to harvest and discard, as Mark blogged about back in 2010.

So is that it, some bitter tasting grapes and figs we generously provide for the squirrels? Well basically yes. We have grown a few other veggies in the garden at one point or another, including sweetcorn, tomatoes, onions and runner beans, but nothing for a while.

Which brings me back round to looking through Homegrown Revolution again, and choosing a selection of cool looking edibles, many of the vegetable seeds, although not all, in the book are available from Suttons as part of a tie in with the James Wong Homegrown Revolution book encouraging people to grow your own vegetables.

If one plant jumps out the most it must be the Cucamelon, I mentioned it back in December, but have noticed it cropping up on a number of different blogs of late. It seems to have captured the imagination somewhat of multiple bloggers. I think they looks great, they even sound like they have an interesting taste, but lets face it most of us would grow these for the way the cute little melon-like fruits look as opposed to the way they taste. 

We are going to give these a try this year. Seeds for Cucamelon are available from Suttons.

Borlotto Firetongue

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Touched by The Dutch

Thankfully the snow on this plant has melted many days ago and I was finally able to take photos of it without that white stuff all over....

Mahonia 'Soft Caress'
What am I talking about? I had planned to write about this plant a couple of weeks or so ago but we had heavy snowfall then that hindered me from doing so. Fortunately all of that snow has melted seemingly ages ago and that snowy episode is nothing more now than just a distant memory (and may it not return till next winter!).

Oops! Soft Caress smothered by snow...
The plant I am referring to of course is the beautiful Mahonia 'Soft Caress'

I love the beautiful and tactile foliage of this plant, as well as its graceful habit and delicate appearance. It's very unique too compared to most Mahonias that you can readily buy here, in that the leaves are spineless, slender, and relatively dainty. And as the name suggests the leaves are so soft to the touch, almost inviting anyone who sees it to run their fingers through it (something you'd never do in other types of Mahonias, ouch!). An elegant plant that is both a pleasure to look at as well as to touch.

Now that's better! Same plant without the snow
I first heard about this plant a few years ago when it started to make the rounds amongst a few nurseries and enthusiasts across the pond. And it has been sporadically featured before on other gardening blogs based in the US. The moment I saw the photos, it was love at first sight. But alas, none seemed available here and the only way to get them then was to buy it in the US and get papers sorted so it can be shipped here. Too much hassle then, I'm sure it will eventually make its way here and I just needed to be patient.

Then last year I spotted this gorgeous (and significantly larger) specimen in one of the nurseries we visited:

Could it be? The knowledgeable and friendly owner of this nursery thinks it probably is. Not a hundred percent certain as when the plant was gifted to him it was already a big specimen (not too far off from what it looked like in the photo) and it came with no label, just a little tale of provenance.

What a gorgeous plant! Sadly it was the only one and certainly was not for sale. But if it was indeed a larger, more mature Mahonia 'Soft Caress' then it has given us a preview of what it could look like after a few years of growth. I only ever saw photos it as small plants before so to see something relatively big (and in the flesh) was a nice surprise. And I do like it grown like that, as a single trunk specimen looking like a palm or a parasol.

Speaking of 'not a hundred percent certain', if the plant above is not a 'Soft Caress', what else could it be? Apparently Mahonia 'Soft Caress' is a selection from plants identified as Mahonia eurybracteata var. ganpinensis, so there's a possibility that the plant above is actually the latter and not exactly the former. If that's the the case then the ID is almost but not quite....

But then again it could actually be a 'Soft Caress' (am I confusing you now?)....

From then, fast forward to October of last year. As we entered a general garden centre near us there it was, proudly featured by the main doors, a pot of Mahonia 'Soft Caress'. We were both speechless when we saw it, totally unexpected. Then inside there were loads of it, so many! After waiting for years, of what seemingly was a very rare plant there they were, pots and pots of it in front of us. In a general garden centre!

I read the label and saw where they came from. This plant has been touched by the Dutch...

By the Dutch tissue culture and plant mass production industry. And that's why it was there, loads of it in a general garden centre. And we spotted more of it in other garden centres we visited in the following months.

Did it matter to us that suddenly, a plant that was rare and elusive to us before was suddenly very available? Not at all, we couldn't care less and was just happy enough that it was finally available here, mass produced or not. We took home two pots right then and there and would be happy to buy more in the near future. We just absolutely love this plant. 

Eventually it was featured on the The Garden Magazine, which is a monthly publication of The RHS, as well as on television via Gardener's World (and rightfully praised by Carol Klein).

What about its hardiness? Well several gardeners in the US Pacific Northwest region have had it for years with very good reports. We've only had it for one winter and both pots were left outside, exposed and unprotected and they have both sailed through this winter looking unflawed. So far so good.

Mahonia 'Soft Caress'
And looks like this plant is destined to be popular this year and the coming years to come. The Dutch plant mass production industry has its share of issues and controversies on how it affects smaller and local plant nursery business. But I won't expound on those issues, and on this occasion just regard that at least this plant, something so beautiful is now readily available for more gardeners to enjoy. I have however also heard one or two people commenting on how their regard for this plant have lessened now that it is readily available, which I personally found really odd. Surely if you find this plant beautiful in the first place then that should matter the most and not let its commonality diminish your enjoyment of it.

Get over thy snobbery, beauty before rarity!

Mark :-)

[Update: May 2013 - This plant won plant of the year at the 2013 RHS Chelsea Flower Show]