Monday, April 28, 2014

Beeches in the Spring

Every spring, almost like a tradition we head down to Beeches Nursery to check their beautiful plants on offer. And year in and year  out they never disappoint.

This sign of theirs along the pathway towards the entrance made me grin from ear to ear. Any gardener of precious plants would understand!
A glimpse of their display planting by the entrance
On our previous features (2011 and 2012, I didn't manage to blog about our 2013 visit) we have mentioned how pristine and well presented this nursery and I'm glad to say it has remained as such. The plants are grouped together by type and alphabetically arranged for ease of browsing.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sculptures at the Riverhill Himalayan Gardens

We first came across Riverhill Himalayan Gardens in Sevenoaks, Kent when it was featured in the TV programme Ruth Watson's Country House Rescue a few years ago. It is an historic, listed hillside garden that has carpets of bluebells and a display of flowering rhododendrons and azaleas in the spring, some of which are very old and have particular botanical significance.

My favourite piece in the garden
With some of Gaz's family living nearby we finally had the chance to check it out via a family day out there last Good Friday. As it was a family outing with a very young niece and energetic nephew in tow we didn't get the chance to scrutinise the place botanically but we enjoyed our visit nevertheless.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Of Kitchens, Weddings, and a Jungle Hut

No we don't have a kitchen in our jungle hut nor we have plans of having an outdoor kitchen but we did put in some kitchen units there last weekend.

Before we can do anything outside, on the veranda bit we must sort out the inside of the jungle hut first, the bit used as storage for odd and ends and more importantly so, plants during the winter. When the construction of the new hut finished it was left bare and devoid of finishing touches (paint, storage, and flooring) as we immediately needed to utilise the space to overwinter plants. 

The last batch of plants are finally out in the veranda
A nice new view from the jungle veranda - Schefflera alpina
Since the start of the spring plants that have been stored there have been gradually moving out into the veranda to acclimatise for a few days before they move back out into the garden itself. Last weekend the last batch of plants moved out paving the way for a clear (almost) space that we can actually start decorating the inside bit.

Cupboards and storage cabinets were needed there as well as a sturdy worktop. Although we will be using the space as a functional storage area we still want make it look smart and presentable enough that with the right re-arrangement it can look more like a home office or studio rather than a shed. 

The solution was to install some kitchen units and a worktop inside the jungle hut. We bought some flat packed (as you would) and ready to take home units from Ikea and the worktop from somewhere else (strangely Ikea only does worktops in two meter lengths when we need exactly three, which other kitchen suppliers does). Nothing fancy, just simple and inexpensive ones, the sort that are used on rental properties.

Gaz assembled and secured the five units together in under two hours, the worktop slotted in nicely in just minutes and all doors were on in half an hour. Quick and easy and it looked smart. It also felt a bit eerie seeing the finished product for it didn't look too dissimilar to our new kitchen which is also all white, for a fraction of the price compared to section per section.

Which reminded me on how Kitchens and Weddings seems to have a premium simply for what they are. I remember when we were on the process of choosing a kitchen, looking around, asking questions, and realising that the units are really nothing more than glorified cabinets and cupboards and yet they are more expensive than...cabinets and cupboards made from the same materials. Sales people always put a spin and justification as to why this and that is such and such but my opinions haven't changed. Same with weddings, inquire or book a venue (or anything else for that matter) for a wedding and it is significantly more expensive than say for a birthday party, when requirements for both occasions can be almost identical.

Back to kitchens, seeing Gaz assemble a row of units in a fraction of an afternoon made the process seemed so simple. The reality is of course not that simple. It took the installers a dedicated week and a half to complete the process, much longer than our expectations and seeing them work made me appreciate how skilled kitchen fitters are.

Anyway, enough of the reminiscing and back to the jungle hut! Two coats of white paint were applied afterwards and only touch ups are needed later on. I suggested that we ought to have fun and paint the walls a different colour but we'll think about that in the next few days, that is if we want to bother or just stick with the white. Apart from the painting all that's left to do is to install some blinds on all four windows and a curtain pole above the doors so I can hang an exotic fabric/curtain on it to serve as a backdrop to the jungle veranda.

And soon it will be time to get stuck in with painting the jungle veranda itself!

Mark :-)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Thrill Me Trilliums

Trilliums, one of my favourite spring flowering plants. Up early in the spring, flowering by mid spring, then fades away by summer. It may not be exotic for North Americans, being plants that come from there, but it certainly is exotic here.

Trillium sulcatum
It's not the easiest of plants to establish and it can be very slow to bulk up. But well worth persevering with as we've seen so many public and private gardens that have been successful with them. Bulking up and doing so well for a stunning spring display.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Foliage Follow-Up April 2014

First it was the flowers and now it's the turn of the foliage as we join Pam Penick of Digging as she hosts the Foliage Follow-Up, a celebration of foliage plants that fascinates this month in the garden.

Here's a few of ours...

Like butterflies rising from the ground - Jeffersonia diphylla

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day April 2014

I was looking through the photos I took of the garden last weekend when I realised I took enough photos of what's currently in bloom in the garden to participate in this month's Garden Blogger's Bloom Day.

Here are just a few of what's currently in bloom in our garden, in this beautiful spring month of April...

Podophyllum hexandrum has flowered for us for the first time this year and I was pleasantly surprised how delicate the blooms are. The blooms close during the night
We grow Staphylea holocarpa 'Rosea' for its foliage and form but the flowers in the spring are a bonus. 
The Chocolate Vine, Akebia quinata is in full force flowering in our garden at the moment.
It took awhile but we love the way it is now starting to wrap up on the big tree at the bottom of our garden, as well as the fences behind it.
Magnolia stellata - a common garden plant here but it is popular for a very good reason...
How could one not love this plant when it produces such a display in the spring?
Another plant we grow for the foliage but the dainty blooms in the spring look rather sweet - Mukdenia rossii

We join Bloom Day for the first time and is hosted by May Dreams Gardens where all the links to blooming posts are to be found.

Mark :-)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Five Trees for a Fiver

We do love a bargain, especially if it's this ridiculously good...
Five trees for a fiver! Even Twinkles was impressed!
Yep, that's £1 a tree (US$1.67).

We spotted this fantastic bargain last Saturday in Poplars Garden Centre when we visited to buy some compost. They wanted to clear out some old stock to make way for new ones and several trees that didn't look perfect last year simply had to go this year. And when they want plants gone, they don't mess around with price reductions!

Hardy, deciduous trees that are and look exotic! If you like the look of Albizia julibrissin 'Summer Chocolate' then you're likely to like this one
At £1 a tree, how could we go home with just one? We never did manage to get some compost but instead we went home with five trees instead.

If you like the look of Cercidiphyllum japonicum f. pendulum then you're likely to find this attractive too (just ignore the pink flowers in the spring)
A tree with relatively big leaves and purple too!
Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' when in leaf

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Spring Scenes in the Garden

Ahh spring, it's finally here, bliss! And the garden is actively showing so many signs of new growth and promises of a beautiful growing season that is just beginning...

New frond of Cyathea cooperi unfurling
Last weekend was a mixed bag of weather, sunny and warm on Saturday then grey and drizzly on Sunday. But despite the cloudy weather of the latter it was still on the whole bright and dry enough to be still conducive to gardening. In fact we both found such weather quite nice, a break from the wall to wall bright sunshine and dry weather we've been having lately, with the dampness in the air casting a sense of freshness everywhere. Don't get us wrong, we love and adore sunny weather but you appreciate it even more if it is interspersed with cooler, damp weather and some rain.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Win a Blagdon Water feature

The beautiful sights and sounds of a water feature can now be enjoyed anytime and anywhere! The unique Liberty range from Blagdon is powered by a revolutionary rechargeable Lithium battery system, meaning set up is instant and hassle-free. When the battery runs down, you can simply remove the battery pack and charge it indoors for three hours in the same way you would a laptop or a mobile phone. The Liberty water features come in five different styles to suit all tastes and types of outdoor space so there’s something for everyone! 

Nathan Ring, from Blagdon explains “Having to dig up gardens, patios and paths to lay cables needed to run power to water feature pumps often puts people off having a fountain. Our Liberty range makes innovative use of the latest Lithium technology to create beautiful water features quickly and hassle-free. As no mains power is needed, the Liberty range also gives people the freedom to position their water feature wherever they want to make the most of their space available.”

Liberty water features can run for a week without additional charging (based on two hours of use per day). The removable Lithium battery system can, however, be taken indoors to recharge, needing just three hours to fully recharge using mains power in the same way you would a mobile phone or laptop. To help make the most of the battery life, a remote control allows you to programme the water feature to run on either 2/3/4 hour basis or continuously. The range retails between £120 and £229.99 depending on the model.

We’re giving one lucky reader the chance to win a Liberty water feature of their choice to enjoy in their garden this summer. We’re also throwing in a solar panel upgrade that runs & recharges the battery at the same time.

To enter tell us which water feature in the range you would want to win and what you like best about it.

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 21 April 2014. 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 Blagdon to arrange for your prize to be sent to you. 

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Synful Duo

Always a delight these Synful duo, odd looking yet pretty woodland perennials every spring...

Syneleisis aconitifolia
Syneleisis aconitifolia

Syneleisis palmata
Syneleisis palmata
The former is more advanced in growth than the latter but the leaves of both will get bigger and bigger as the growing season progress. They thrive in a shady, moisture retentive soil and fully hardy in our location. 

Mark :-)

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Red Pergola Restoration Begins

The red pergola, a signature piece in our garden that featured in countless of photos on our blog finally succumbed to old age and decay last year. It had been ailing for awhile, receiving patchwork repair as and when it was needed so it could keep its appearance but it's been needing a full on restoration for quite some time now.

And we thought it would only be a restoration job when we started to dismantle it early last year, thinking that at least the four posts would still be fine for use. No sooner though that we discovered that they were better off replaced as well, and the restoration job then become a full on replacement one.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Aurea, Aurea!

Phyllostachys aurea, more commonly known as the Golden Bamboo and less so as the Fishpole Bamboo is possibly the most popular and readily available Phyllostachys bamboo for sale in the UK. You're likely to see it in any garden centre and even DIY sheds tend to stock them in their outdoor plants and gardening section.

Phyllostachys aurea
Phyllostachys aurea and their characteristic compressed lower nodes
We have several 'clumps' (it's a running bamboo and doesn't always remain a clump) of these in the garden and last weekend I spent some time tidying up a few of them. Some of them are meant to screen off something or look dense hence they on the whole left to do their thing. Others however are stripped to highlight their culms and their characteristic compressed nodes as well as impart a more airy feel to them and let light filter through the culms. The former are lesser maintenance while the latter requires more and will need regular pruning through the growing season.

Phyllostachys aurea can be dense growing and have branches all the way down and through the entire length of the culms (good for
screening). To appreciate it's nodes you may need to strip off the lower branches
I have been productive and managed to tackle a few of them and whilst admiring my work at the end of the day I was reminded how misleading the common name 'Golden Bamboo' really is. The culms never actually become golden in a bright yellow sort of way but. The closest to it becoming one is more like pale yellow on older culms a few years down the line when they become mature and nearing the end of their life (just for those culms that is, not the entire plant).

Most of the culms remain green for most of the time. Still a nice colour though but really it should be sold more with the common name Fishpole Bamboo rather than Golden Bamboo. Although admittedly the latter sounds more appealing than the former.

Saying that, there is actually a genuine golden form of the Golden Bamboo called Phyllostachys aurea 'Holochrysa' or it's synonym Phyllostachys aurea 'All Gold'

Phyllostachys aurea 'Holochrysa'
Phyllostachys aurea 'Holochrysa' - youngest culms start out green but can quickly turn bright/golden yellow.
Unlike the other one...
So why is the real golden form of the Golden Bamboo not sold readily as such, and instead the green form is?

Well the green form is more vigorous, more rewarding, propagates easily, and grows much quicker. The golden form doesn't,  it bulks up much slower...

Phyllostachys aurea 'Holochrysa'
Phyllostachys aurea 'Holochrysa'
Too slow to be commercially viable and for mass production. And besides, the species name aurea in latin means gold, hence the common stuck with it. And I don't think that can be shaken of.

But if you really want a really golden, bright yellow culmed Golden Bamboo, it is out there, just look for the right name.

Mark :-)