Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Consequence

There are advantages and disadvantages to anything that happens in life. Some events will have more of one compared to the other but very rarely one will consist purely of only one and none of the other.

Oh yes, we have snowdrops too...
Even the garden fire we had last summer bought some advantages and benefits despite the unpleasant nature of the event. It's great to reap the positive side of it now although admittedly we would have preferred not to have undergone it in the first place.

Competition: Win Gardening Tools and Composter

With Spring just around the corner, our latest competition has perfect timing. Argos are offering a fine selection of garden tools and composter to one lucky reader.

The tool selection is a 5 piece Spear and Jackson set, which includes 4 stainless steel tools, with traditional wooden handles and a pair of gloves. Spear and Jackson tools are made to last and should look good and keep your garden looking great for many years to come. 

Along side the tools is also a Rawlinson beehive composter, this stylish composter should look great in any garden, whether a traditional style or more contemporary, and with a treated natural timber finish should last a long time too!

A great prize for experienced or new gardeners alike!

To enter the competition tell us what gardening job you are planning on tacking this spring.

Please share, like, or retweet this competition for an additional entry.

Terms & Conditions:
- Competition ends on 12 March at 23:59, after this time no entries will be counted.
- 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.
- Delivery will be within 28 days of Argos receiving the winner’s address, and the competition prize may vary at the discretion of Argos.
- The prize as described will be supplied direct from Argos, and there is no cash alternative.
- This competition is open to UK residents only. Should the winner not be based in the UK, there will be a re-draw.
- The winner will be drawn at random from all eligible entries shortly after the closing date.
- The prize may vary if unavailable
- Please make sure we are able to contact you if you do win, as we will need to provide your name and address to Argos to arrange for your prize to be sent to you.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Pineapple Cut

Wouldn't it be nice to live in an area that is mild enough that you can grow several agaves outside, plenty enough that you can experiment in altering the appearance of one or two of them?

This is just a flight of fancy of course, I wouldn't want to migrate somewhere on the sole basis I can grow agaves there (I'm sure some would) but this thought passed my mind when we saw these agaves:

Agave salmiana var. ferox
Agave salmiana var. ferox
Beautiful or Butchered? Like of Loathe? These agaves have had the pineapple cut!

You're lucky to be able to grow one or two of these outside in the UK and get it to reach gigantic proportions (it is possible especially with a winter rain shelter). As prized garden specimens you wouldn't even want to think about being experimental with the way they are trimmed. But if you live in a mild area and have so many, perhaps why not with a few?

Agave salmiana var. ferox
Agave salmiana var. ferox - taken later in the day

Or maybe not....

Gaz wasn't keen on it. I quite liked it in an odd and quirky sort of way (ducks for cover...)

Mark :-)

Monday, February 24, 2014

So What Did We Buy?

I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of interest expressed on what we bought from the recent RHS London Plant and Design Show. We enjoy looking at photos and reading about the plant haul of other plant lovers and vice versa for they give an idea on what's new and what's out there. Especially at this period where it's the tail end of winter and plant buying season is starting to get in gear again.

The plant tag that brings joy to my heart, lol!!
Keeping our plant haul a suspense was unintentional and the reason it wasn't included on our previous post about the event was simply because we forgot. It was a quick post as the show was on for two days and it was best to put some pictures up whilst it was still ongoing which may entice more people to visit the next day.

Friday, February 21, 2014

RHS Plant and Design Show

Our annual drive into Central London was today for the RHS Plant and Design Show, held in the RHS halls by Vincent Square, we generally avoid driving in, after all its usually much quicker by train. However for just one day a year we do drive in... Why? so we can load the car up with plants!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Park Güell, Barcelona

Combining our love of tropical plants and the architecture of Antoni Gaudí, is the quirky Park Güell. The original concept was that of a garden village, a landscaped garden that would house numerous homes and villas. However despite the best intentions and magnificent views away from the more polluted city the scheme failed. In fact only two homes were ever built and neither of these was designed by Gaudí. However Gaudí did move into one of these homes and it now houses a museum. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Architectural Merits

One of the places we visited last week whilst in Barcelona was The Picasso Museum. As you can imagine, typical of most museums photography inside the galleries is not allowed. However the museum itself, consisting of five adjoining medieval palaces converted to become a large art gallery is an attraction in itself, especially to those appreciative of architecture.

Sometimes only one plant is all you need to enhance a space....

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sagrada Familia

One of the most famous building sites in the world is that of the Sagrada Familia, the Guadi designed church raising up from the centre of Barcelona. Work started in 1892, and Gaudi was involved from the following year, the completion of the building is estimated to be some 15 years or so away. Construction has been stop start over the years, with fund raising being the key issue, however n the 1930s anarchists destroyed the plans and models prepared by Gaudi prior to his death in 1926. During his life, when asked about the length of time the project would take, Gaudi replied "My client is not in a hurry". 

Although still unfinished the church was consecrated in 2010, following the completion of the roof over the main body of the church, and despite the huge scale Sagrada Familia is a church rather than a cathedral.

The building has been open to the public for many years, with visitors entrance fees helping to speed up the construction process. I remember visiting back in 1994 and again with Mark in 2004, and the changes over that period are noticeable. Unfortunately for us the towers were closed to visitors, apparently due to bad weather, that did seem somewhat hard to understand as it was a clear sunny day. However we will just have to come back on another day! 
The Nativity Facade was the first one completed, and had the most direct influence from Gaudi.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Botanical Garden of Barcelona

Nestled within the green and leafy Montjuic area of Barcelona (where the Olympic Stadium/Estadi Olimpic is also found) is the city's still rather obscure botanical garden. There are no glasshouses here, which makes it unique from many other botanical gardens we have visited before but instead the plants are all growing out in the open in designated areas such as Australia, California, South Africa, Canary Islands, and Chile. 

Entrance to the Botanical Garden of Barcelona

South Africa Garden at Botanical Garden of Barcelona

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Casa Batlló, Barcelona

When one thinks of the architecture of Barcelona, one architect always comes to mind, Antoni Gaudí. Much of Gaudí's work was inspired by several of his key interests,  architecture, nature and religion and many of his famous buildings tie these interests together.  Gaudí planned every detail of his designs, integrating into his architecture a series of crafts and techniques in which he was skilled: ceramics, stained glass, wrought ironwork forging and carpentry.  Barcelona is home to several of his famous works and one of these is Casa Batlló, which is situated on Passeig de Gracia, a grand boulevard home to many stunning buildings and designer shops.

Casa Batlló, Barcelona

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Barcelona We Meet Again

It's been ten long years since the last time we've been to this vibrant city. Far too long for us to come back but then again time does fly! Back then we said to ourselves we must come back again soon then lo and behold ten years have past before we actually managed to do so. And this seems to be a particular trend for Gaz especially as his first trip to this city was ten years prior to that.
Banco Español de Crédito, Plaça de Catalunya
Banco Español de Crédito, Plaça de Catalunya

We usually go away somewhere around this time of the year, to break the winter, and our first thoughts were to Madeira. But then again I blogged about breaking visiting habits recently and in reference to that I thought that for a change why don't we go somewhere instead that we haven't been for a long time and yet have always wanted to come back to? Sort of a compromise between familiarity and a change of routine and scenery. So Barcelona it was.

There was hesitation at first, Barcelona in the winter? Will it be any good at this time of the year? We had an amazing, very memorable holiday (one of our best ever) in this city ten years ago, early September, sunny and warm and yet not oppressively so. Will we dampen this wonderful impression left on our minds if we go in a colder, and potentially damp time of the year?
Red bridge near the Marina

With a bit of research our hesitations were dispelled as this city seems to remain vibrant even in the depths of winter and worth visiting at any point of the year. Winter is usually mild by virtue of the location, and although it can get rainy and chilly in the evenings, on the whole the chances of sunny and dry periods are still very high (even more so if you compare it to the UK!).

Barri Gotic, BarcelonaBarri Gotic, Barcelona

And that's how we have found it here so far. Yes you still need to wrap up and deciduous trees are still bare but it has been sunny and dry most of the time (the odd drizzle so far) with daytime temperatures in mid teens Celsius and a stroll out brings more of a sensation of spring rather a reminder that it is still winter. 

Street Art, Barri Gotic, Barcelona
Street Art, Barri Gotic, Barcelona

Barcelona is one of those cities that we can truly say that there's so much to do and the culture is so pronounced that you'll need much more than a week to fully savour its delights. Only a select few cities in Europe can truly claim this status. Going back here is like meeting an old friend, only this time not in shorts and flip flops but in a thin winter coat. It's unlikely that we'll be able to do all that we would have wanted to do, much like what had happened ten years ago but that's what makes this city special.
Plaça Reial
Plaça Reial

Our stay here has only started and I can imagine wanting to come back here again. It's only a two hour flight, we ought to really. And we ought to break that ten year cycle. If we do will it feel like a routine much like how I feel with Madeira? Maybe, that's always a possibility, but at least not wait ten years if it can be helped as I don't like holiday cycles either.
Parc de la Ciutadella
Parc de la Ciutadella

Such a delightful city even in February, so happy to be re-acquainted! Best to pause for now, we quite fancy some tapas!

Mark :-)

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Favourite Plant of the Week - Dicksonia antarctica

We haven't had hard frosts and low temperatures yet to brown off the fronds so they're still looking very lush and green when I saw them last weekend. Seeing them so verdant still has made them our favourite plant for this week.

Dicksonia antarctica
Seeing tree ferns in leaf never fails to bring a smile on our faces. However what bought an extra smile was remembering that, yes, they sailed through fire damage too! Defoliated and trunk charred to nothing but chunky poles, lo and behold they flushed again a few weeks later and carried on like nothing happened.

They are a lot tougher than you think! Well a few Aussies did say so as well to us before fresh from the event and they were right.

So how do we usually protect them in the winter? With a ball of frost fleece or landscape fabric on to their crown with a scarf too of the same materials wrapped around their 'necks' for good measure.

This one was damaged by winter 2010/11 and has since only put out very short fronds. When it got scorched we thought that was then end of this as this tree fern was weak already. But it wasn't and it flushed again. 
So far this winter, no need to protect them yet. Hopefully we won't have to....

We join Loree of Danger Garden for her favourite plant of the week meme!

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Rare For You, Not For Me

Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you'd hear a fellow plant lover remark that a plant is so rare and elusive to him, and yet you actually know where to find it,  not just from one place but several??

Podophyllum delavayi A Sunny Day at Hardy Exotics
For anyone who has followed our blog for quite some time would have noticed by now that we do love plant shopping and visiting nurseries. In fact we thrive on this activity as much as developing our own garden! Well one can surmise that part of developing ones garden is going out there looking for new plants. And this activity is even more appealing if you love plants, love collecting them, and find the prospect of seeing new plants very exciting...just like we do!

Monday, February 03, 2014

Look Down and See Beauty

On a sunny winter's day wandering down the garden it's easy enough to just focus on plants within your immediate level of vision. More often than not though it's also worth looking down to see some beauty, like this Hellebore in bloom that is a cheer to see in winter...

This post was initially inspired by fungi glistening with rain that fell the night before...

But there were others too that were a delight to see on a bright winter's day like...

Magnolia delavayi sprouting from the base. A symbol of hope and recovery from the fire
Saxifrage, Stone, and Moss
Euphorbia x pasteurii
Chrysosplenium macrophyllum

Galanthus - oh yes we have some of these too!
Mahonia eurybracteata (syn. confusa)
I'm so pining for spring now. Or at least the time when we can get fully stuck in mainly into gardening again, whichever comes first. The very thought of gardening is such a huge motivation to finish off all remaining bits of decorating still left to do in the house.

Patience dear patience, it's only winter still!

Mark :-)

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Quietly We Enter February

So January has gone past and quietly we have entered February...

Echeveria rosea enjoying some winter sun
That's what I remarked anyway on Saturday morning when we both noted how calm and serene it felt at that time and such an atmosphere lasted for us all weekend. This is in contrast to our anticipation that February is actually set to be an activity filled month for us, which will be good as there will be plenty of blog material coming out of it. 

Serenity this weekend however was much appreciated, and much needed especially as we're still feeling the after effects and recovering from the silly busy year for us that was 2013.

It was sunny and the air was still for most of the weekend, in contrast to how the weather was the weekdays before that wherein endless rainfall and gusts of winds were the norm. So the break from all of them was a welcome relief and contributed greatly to this sense of calm at the start of February.

This was fine
This was fine
Even this fungi is fine!
But sunny it may be, it's still only February which means its still winter. And winter mode we will remain in for now so we only had a quick wander down the garden and carried on with indoor pursuits (house redecoration continues) afterwards.

At least the cats kept us company too!

A calm entry to a fun filled February...

Mark :-)