Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Wisdom from the Fallen Leaves

During the earlier years of cultivating our current garden the leaves that fell during the autumn used to annoy me. Sounds very strange I know but that was an era wherein being pristine and perfection were more of a priority than just simply enjoying the garden and the changes it goes through the season.

Fallen leaves are debris that makes a garden untidy. They accumulate on to evergreen plants and succulents, smothering them and if they rot in situ which can potentially cause harm.

Fast forward now and in more recent years when the sight of fallen leaves in the autumn are nothing more than just...fallen leaves, part and parcel of autumn. They just need sweeping and tidying up every so often, little and often the best approach. When they accumulate on crowns just remove them as you pass by and the ritual continues until the last batch of autumn leaves have fallen.

Seasonal chore, that's what these fallen leaves signify to me now and no longer a source of annoyance. Mild nuisance they still can be but they are also viewed now with a degree of fondness.

This change in perception however represents a more relaxed approach to the garden, which in many ways allows us to appreciate the garden even when generously sprinkled with fallen leaves. 

On a nice sunny day, wrapped up warm and holding a mug of hot tea I survey the garden and now look past the debris and see beauty instead that is unique to autumn.

Mark :)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Hope in the Height

For most of this year I have felt rather disconnected with our middle patio.

It got damaged by fire last year and was replanted early this year, I am, however, pleased overall with the changes and the new plants we've put in.

Other parts of the garden that were rehabilitated post inferno I'm really pleased with and think looks better now like the jungle hut and the jungle area which now has more tree ferns in it. The middle patio however, although new plants have been put in have lost the height, maturity, and lushness that it used have. And consequent to that the sense of privacy the area used to have.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Joys of TV

At this time of the year we rediscover once again the joys of TV...

In fact I've put in a small note on my phone which ones to look out for.

There's the Apprentice on BBC1, Big Dreams, Small Spaces on BBC2 which will air everyday this week. Then there's the new season of Walking Dead on Fox TV, as well as American Horror Story whose previous season will also be available on Netflix sometime next week (mmmm marathon!).

Speaking of Netflix we have seen some of their new fabulous autumn film offerings like Skyfall (shame my favourite Bond girl had to die), Hunger Games: Catching Fire (which I must have seen six to seven times before on Blu-ray, still love it though!), and Nymphomaniac Volume 1 and 2 (an excellent, poignant film of an acquired taste, that despite its generous showing of graphic sex scenes it is far from titillating as it is to show the psyche behind the behaviour, and is definitely not a feel good film). Hopefully season two of Bates Motel will be available here soon too.

Oh and if we miss something (we don't just sit around after work, we do other things too...) there are always the catch up channels, digital box recording, as well as online streaming wherein you can access past episodes on demand via apps on smart TV. 

Ahh don't you just love technology! And I still remember family time in my youth huddled together watching the same program on black and white TV... 

So do I have enough on our must watch list? Not at all. Then there are loads of 'property porn' programmes to look forward to (interiors, designs and house building), as well as historical and documentary ones.

I think I may have elaborated enough already of some of the things we look forward to as we rediscover once again the joys of TV. But what has it got to do with gardening?

This week will be the last week wherein we'll get the chance to see the garden after work with some daylight still available even for only a short amount of time. Next weekend our clocks go backwards by an hour. Yes we gain an hour over the weekend but it also means from then onwards it will be dark already by the time we get back home from work.

Darkness, not conducive to spending time in the garden let alone take pictures.

In the spring and summer the television becomes neglected in our household, almost abandoned except perhaps for the ten o'clock news as we spend most of our free time outside, in the garden or somewhere else. But come autumn and winter the sense of hibernation sets in and warm re-acquaintance with indoor pursuits like watching TV amongst others takes over again. Activity snobs may say such a preoccupation is an unsophisticated and mostly brainless pursuit but my answer to that is, we work hard and twist our brains for most of the day like a lot of people do and surely a bit of untwisting afterwards wouldn't do any harm. Even if it's just 'watching TV'.

This is how we cycle our activities. There is always something to look forward to for every season. No time to mope during the colder months with so many other things to look forward to and be distracted with.

We do also know that this seasonal infatuation with the gogglebox will be short lived. Come early next year it's likely that we'll find Walking Dead drab and depressing and not watch the latter episodes until the season finale. Interest in American Horror Story is likely to linger. Patronage of property porn shows are likely to persist although they may start to fade later on into just becoming a background noise in the house as we think about and plan for the coming growing season ahead. Then later a new cycle begins as we abandon the TV all over again...

Although before we do that, for a few moments and something to look forward to early next year, we may see something very familiar on our screen. Familiar faces staring back at us from the screen, in a place that is also very familiar to us too. And a reminder how fabulous last summer was ;)

Mark :-)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Succulents Away!

Packing up plants for the winter is not something I look forward to, as it means summer is over and the colder months are lying ahead. The perk of it though is I get to inspect the plants more more closely than I would when they are actually out on display.

Only a small fraction of our succulents made it in the sun room as both of us don't want to clutter it too much. The rest of the house will remain almost plant free (we're not going in the 'jam as many plants indoors' direction ever again). I mentioned on a previous post that I may put plants in our lounge but I retract that now, best not to start in case such action will cascade into having more plants in the house.

Fortunately there are the two greenhouses where most of our not so hardy plants will be stored for the winter and packing it up has begun. Agaves and aloes are usually the first ones to go in so they get a chance to dry out before winter sets in.

The first batch are in:

Aloe cryptopoda
Agave salmiana angustifolia marginata
Agave montana - this one has thin variegated stripes only on one side of the plant
Agave titanota - stayed compact for a couple of years but this year the leaves have elongated
Agave guadalajarana
Agave victoria-reginae
Agave ghiesbreghtii
A few more succulents that may or may not stay in here for the winter. Some of them will need more warmth to sail through so will be relocated somewhere else, a new garden outbuilding that we are constructing at the moment (more on that later).

This coming weekend I'll be putting in more plants in this greenhouse and start sorting out the other one. We've established a routine now and although it looks like we have a huge amount of plants to move in it's not really as much as other enthusiasts do and not as tiring as it looks. It's quite relaxing in its own right actually.

Although I still much prefer moving them out.

Mark :-)

Monday, October 13, 2014

The New Jungle Hut

Enough of reminiscing, here it is, the new Jungle Hut!

Jungle Hut at Alternative Eden

Time flies so fast and it doesn't feel such a long time ago when we had to do these chores first, last May to be specific...

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Reminiscing the Jungle Hut

Sometimes in order to understand and appreciate the present you must look at the past first...

Very poignant and true, and I say that in a fun tone rather than a serious one!

This post started out as what is supposed to be about the newly redecorated jungle hut. Although we finished the redecoration several months ago we haven't had the chance to post photos of it yet. As I started to sort out the photos we took last weekend and writing about them I kept having flashbacks too on what it looked like before. And remembering what it had been through.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The Party Continues Indoors

Summer this year has been a blast and it seemed to have flown by so quick! It almost felt like a party that started early but was so good that before you knew it it was morning the next day already.

Philodendron 'Xanadu'
Well the party doesn't have to stop, it can continue indoors.

Boxes and plastic bags are two of Twinkles' favourite things! Here she is 'helping' me tidy up!

Monday, October 06, 2014

Root and Run

Remember the these two Agave attenuata that I mentioned on this post a few weeks ago?

As mentioned there they were growing at such a low lean that they looked silly and were occupying too much floor space. So they had to be chopped low down their existing trunk and buried in the hopes that they will re-root and grow upright from there.

Ideally the cut part should be left to callous first before being buried in potting soil to minimise the risk of rotting. But I ignored all that and shoved them straight in a pot of soil as soon as I cut them off and hoped for the best.

Well they remained static after that with no sign of distress thankfully. But when I gave them both a closer inspection last weekend, much to my surprise it looks like they have already re-rooted...

So quick! That was the most impressive bit. And some of the roots look like they're already in a bid to 'run away' too.

A Graptoveria leaf fell on the table and sent out new roots and produced a new rosette growing on to nothing. I thought of giving it a chance by moving it on to the gravel mulch of one the Agave attenuata
Both plants are looking great again and with them obviously having new set of roots now I have been watering them as usual (they require more moisture than other agaves).

Just crossing my fingers now that they will grow upright this time!

Mark :-)

Sunday, October 05, 2014

October Days

Once you get into early October you really start to notice the evenings drawing in, as well as cooler day time temperatures. We have started to think about winter, by getting one of the greenhouses insulated, the other is still ok from last year. Then there are the leaves, which are all starting to turn, some of which are falling. At the moment it's not too bad, with only a few trees/shrubs dropping their leaves, most notably the Paulonia that Mark mentioned recently and a Chardonnay grape vine. 

Rhus typhina Autumn Colour
Rhus typhina putting on a show
But other parts of the garden are still looking great, with plants putting on the final finale before frosts come. Although hopefully it will still be some time before we do get the first frost, keeping the garden looking good for longer, and also allowing us to keep the potted plants out, rather than putting the more tender ones back into greenhouses for winter.

Twinkles inspecting the Jungle Hut - we will finally reveal the finished new building soon :)

At the Jungle end of the garden the growth has been great this year, plenty of rain and a fairly warm sunny summer has meant many of the plants got carried away. When you consider what this area looked like after the fire last year its really like nothing happened at all.

Jungle walk

The middle patio area has also done well with the new plants filling the space superbly. We are amazed how well the Amicia zygomeris has done, responding well to extra light this year.

The new red pergola is also looking as it should now, surrounded by lush growth, in particular from the Schefflera rhododendrifolia to the right hand side.

We have been fairly quiet on another project that is well under way at the moment, the koi quarantine pond and shed. Most of the construction is now complete, although we still need to glaze the windows and complete the insides, but that will feature on a post soon! As part of the construction we are adding a power supply, to power the filters, lights and a small heater. Which will be used to keep the shed above freezing in winter rather than particularly hot, even so we are looking to save energy with more efficient lower wattage heaters, and packing in the insulation into the walls of the shed to minimise heat loss. The filtration set up will ensure we minimise water changes, thus reducing our costs by saving water.

The new quarantine pond, and jungle hut will be revealed soon!


Thursday, October 02, 2014

Favourite Plant of the Week - Paulownia tomentosa

Usually the foxglove tree, Paulownia tomentosa gets highlighted in the summer due to its fast growth rate and ability to produce really large leaves after being stooled in the spring. Occasionally it gets a moment of glory too in late winter till early spring when they get a chance to show off their foxglove like blooms (hence the name), which only happens if the buds don't get frosted away first.

Not a tree that is usually featured in the autumn but Loree of Danger Garden who hosts the Favourite Plant of the Week meme has named this as her favourite this week. Rightfully so as her specimen has performed really well and is still looking great at the moment.

Ours however is very much doing its autumn thing already, going deciduous and shedding its leaves all over. After reading Loree's blog though it made me appreciate this plant for the same reasons she has mentioned, especially with regards to the speed of its growth.

And speedy it is for the relatively large tree that we have now towering over our garden was grown from seed and planted out as a small seedling only seven years ago.

Our intention at first was to stool it to get those massive leaves in the summer but left to grow as normal the leaves they produce are reasonably big already so we just let it be. We may not get the gigantic summer leaves but what we have now is a rather handsome tree.

Stool almost to the ground in spring and let one bud get going and it will produce gigantic leaves. This one at Don's garden
Which reminds me we have another type of foxglove tree that we bought from Beeches Nursery earlier in the year, Paulownia kawakamii. It looks very similar, almost indistinguishable from P. tomentosa until you touch the leaves of the former which is sticky. We haven't decided yet where to plant it so for now it lives inside the large vase in the jungle area of the garden.

Paulownia kawakamii can be stooled too
Sticky leaves!
A fabulous tree, it should be grown in more gardens!

Mark :-)