Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Late December at Alternative Eden

As parts of Northern England suffer from the effects of multiple storms bringing flooding its easy in our part of the world to think we are having a kind winter. We have only had a couple of light frosts and they were back in November, other than that it has been unseasonally warm, with day time temperatures regularly in the mid teens Celsius (high 50s/low 60s Fahrenheit). For our part of the country we have not seen the storms bringing damage but warm temperatures.

As a result the garden seems somewhat confused with hostas poking up from their extremely short winter slumber and neighbouring spring flowering trees showing blooms already.

If the cold does come it may be with quite damaging effects as plants suffer less when dormant but for now its giving us an easy time of it - nicer walk to the station in the morning and not having to put the heating on as much giving our wallet a well earned rest.

Tetrapanax rex pushing out new leaves
Middle patio area... this is honestly how it looks today.
The path past the Jungle Hut, still looking lush
Ensete maurelii planted as summer bedding, pushing out new leaves after November frost

We have added an additional member to our household that many of you will not have met yet.

This is Cotton, she's about 4 months old now and making her presence known with the other two cats. Knickers and her seem quite friendly despite her regularly tormenting him. Twinkles on the other hand does not seem best pleased to have a new kitten in the household and mostly just tolerates Cottons existence.

We haven't let her outside yet, but I'm sure she will have lots of adventures in the garden when she does finally get out!


Tuesday, November 24, 2015


It has been a month or so since we last wrote a blog post and even longer since one was penned by me.

In that time this blog turned five, yay Happy Birthday us! although perhaps the fact we missed it has some relevance. 

We have had a few comments and messages just recently asking whether everything was ok, or whether the blog had a glitch. I guess when you go from being frequent bloggers to taking a break it is obvious to those that follow closely the day-to-day activity and changes.

So to start lets put your mind, dear reader, at rest, everything is fine with us, the garden has had a good year and the tender plants are mostly put to bed for the winter. Although as always there is the odd plant that was missed (buying opportunity for next year!)

We both have had quite busy work lives recently, and with the garden mostly just ticking along and growing this year (no big projects etc) we have concentrated on other things. There has been plenty of non-gardening related activity, days out sightseeing, visits to the theatre, enjoying the local music scene, even many more frequent visits to the cinema.

Blogging has taken something of a back seat, and rather than just publish anything for the sake of it we have dropped away from things quite a bit.

What was interesting to note is that whilst we have dropped away completely for the last month you guys haven't, despite not publishing anything since mid October 14,000 of you have visited the blog, comments have continued to be posted and messages to us have arrived.

We will no doubt get our blogging mojo back at some point and have had a couple of conversations about how we take the Alternative Eden forward in the future, but for now we will continue with the interval. 

Ice creams and refreshments can be purchased in the foyer.

Gaz :)

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Return to Paul's Garden

Autumn is in full swing here and lots of expected changes in the garden are happening. Before we look into these seasonal changes in our garden let us look take you first a month back into Paul's garden first. A fabulous exotic garden that we have featured before and revisited last month as part of our Koi Club day of pond visits.

This bed greets you as you enter his garden from the side entrance, fabulous isn't it?

Then there's the koi pond of course...

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Brutally Beautiful

The Barbican Estate is a residential complex built during the 1960's and 1970's in Central London, in an area that was heavily damaged by bombings during World War 2. It is an example of a development with Brutalist Architecture and despite being a relatively new development in its entirety it is Grade II listed hence protected.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Curious Looking Fruits

This year for the first time the Akebia quinata growing at the base of the large sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) at the bottom of our garden has born numerous curious looking fruits.

Also known as the Chocolate Vine, here it was in full bloom a few months ago during the spring...

I'm not sure what triggered it to produce so many fruits this year. We have three other Akebias in the garden but two are still small and have yet to produce blooms while a mature one didn't bloom this year (or perhaps it did, I couldn't remember!). It is however on this site for many years now so perhaps maturity is a big factor.

The fruits are the size of plums and ripe ones split open to reveal seeds.

Now is it edible? A quick search online suggested it is and I have given the inner pulp a little taste and it was sweet, reminding me of custard.

It is very pretty in it's own right and perhaps best left to be admired as an ornamental plant curiosity rather than for consumption.

After a few days the core of seeds fall off as a whole. Will we be weeding out hundreds of Akebia seedlings next year? We'll just have to wait and see!

Pretty isn't it?

Mark :-)

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Autumn Beckons

It's October now and autumn has definitely begun. Although the garden is still looking very lush and only a few plants have just started changing leaf colours and shedding them, preparations have begun for the coming colder months.

First things first, start treating and shifting our pots of succulents. It wasn't easy to break up the display we created for the summer but I took a deep breath and just went on with it.

I really ought to get a potting bench. This squatting malarkey isn't good for my back long term. Still one has to smile...

For the whole of last week it was sunny and dry, albeit with significantly cooler temperatures than the previous month. The week before though we had so much rain which helped most of the succulent to bulk up even more.

But there are lots of pots to shift so one must carry on.

As expected we didn't get to finish moving them all. We weren't expecting to anyway. Autumn preparation usually goes on for weeks but we've had a good head start already.

I'll miss the succulent display we had last summer...

But they don't look too bad under cover either.

They'll keep me company as I spend more time once again, during the colder months in the koi shed.

Mark :-)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Not Quite in a Vase

Vases, such nice decorative objects. And I certainly have a thing for them especially for unique pieces.

Once upon a time I used to make an effort to regularly buy fresh flowers or at least take cuttings from the garden and put them on vases. Nowadays such a ritual have been cut off as a compromise to such a busy life. Fortunately I do like looking at vases without anything in it either, as pretty objects on their own.

But if I did put cuttings in vases again I certainly did consider putting these in...

Pretty isn't it? Seeds heads of Pachystegia insignis.

The leaves would make great supporting cast for the vase too.

Alas practicality won and joined other cutting in the recycling bin.

Mark :-)

Tuesday, September 08, 2015


Whatever happens to a garden when the owners are no longer there?

It's a question that I ponder upon every so often. It's also a question that I encounter on a regular basis too. And in light of recent events in the exotic gardening scene here, made me think of this question and subject matter again.

Gardeners move on from the garden they created for a myriad of reasons. And when the gardener is no longer there, what happens to that space that has been created and received so much love and attention before?

The answer is pretty obvious. Some gardens become immortal. But that is a rarity. A vast majority, ninety nine percent of the time the garden will go shortly after the departure of its creator and caretaker.

It's something that we have witnessed ourselves before. The garden of the house opposite ours used to have a very well presented collection of alpine plants on large raised beds. Now there is a large skip sitting on top of the largest raised bed as the new owner prepares the house for a makeover. One of the large palms on our top patio was dug up a few years ago from a garden that was being cleared after the owner's divorce. That's just a couple of several reality tales that we know of.

Asking the question above in relation to our own garden, what would happen to it if we are no longer living where we are now?

Jungle hut may become a row of brick houses...
I have no pretence that it will be preserved. A new owner is extremely unlikely to keep it as it is. There's no guarantee that the new owner will even be a gardener at all. Our garden as it is now, even if it receives compliments is more likely to daunt than appeal to whoever will potentially take over. 

If we put the house on the market then we'll put a clause that we'll clear the garden if the buyer wishes us to. Densely planted as it is now without that condition potential buyers may be put off. And if we continue gardening somewhere else with a similar climate and keep the same style we'll be taking as much of our plants now with us.

The koi pond will be decommissioned too, perhaps even filled up. Or we can just reinstate the old boundary fence before we bought that patch of land where the koi pond is now as it's not part of house deeds. 

When we are no longer where we are now it may not even be a garden at all. It's future may even be a row of houses as our back garden, together with the adjacent ones are potential building plots.

Densely planted, may become overgrown, or a lawn...
But we are still here and as long as we are our garden will remain a garden.

With all this pondering in mind, the lesson is to enjoy the process of creating the garden. To enjoy the present and relish in the memories of the many fleeting beauties one encounters in the garden. Very, very few gardens will attain immortality and continue as they are even when its creators are no longer there. 

Enjoy it while it lasts
But memories and photos can last much longer. That even if the garden will cease to exist, it can still attain a good degree of immortality.

Mark :-)

Monday, September 07, 2015

September Beginnings

Back from a mini break, from blogging and gardening....

Saying that, we have finally planted a tree at the front of the house recently. It has only taken us ten years to do so but got there in the end. Nothing fancy, just a good old reliable and common street tree in the UK, Prunus cerasifera 'Nigra'. But it will do the job nicely and instantly adds interest to the front of the house and on our street that seriously lacks trees. Such a satisfying thing to finally have, a tree at the front of the house!

August was such a busy month in that we had several open days. They were all thoroughly enjoyable days, we had a fabulous time showing our garden around but they were also exhausting. After the last one we took a break from gardening and anything to do with it including the blog and just did other things. We're amazed how others can open their garden so many times in the season knowing how much it exhausted us. But then again we do work full time and can imagine that when we get to a stage of retirement we'd happily open the garden too almost every day even (we're in a different location/garden by then). 

One of our garden visitors
We'll be having some open days again next year for sure but still no intentions of joining the NGS just to clarify.

The garden is back mainly to ourselves again, we can loosen up and just let the hosepipe roll and not worry about it blighting visitors photos.

Twinkles approves...

And so does this Pseudopanax ferox...

Mark :-)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Will Giles Exotic Garden Norwich

Anyone with even a passing interest in growing exotic plants will be aware of Will Giles, gardener, author, tv personality who has over the last 30 odd years created The Exotic Garden in the centre of Norwich. The garden is a blend of very tender plants and hardy plants with an exotic feel, and does transport you to another place. The garden to us has a very Caribbean feel, with extremely bright colours combined with lush large leaves.

Hard to believe this photo is taken in the centre of Norwich. The house, which appears to be a fairly traditional looking British home, has a balcony and verandah added to the front, which when festooned with jungly climbers and curios transforms the feel of the home.

Tetrapanax 'Rex'

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Plant Haul from Urban Jungle

In our post yesterday we featured our visit to Urban Jungle last Saturday. As with any nursery visit, it was inevitable that we brought a few goodies home with us.

First, the pots. For the first time ever we brought home more pots than plants! I'm pot crazy at the moment and they have a wonderful selection there of pots with interesting texture and patterns. Here's just a few of them....

Now on to the plants. First of the lot is plain green Aloe arborescens as I didn't have one prior to this. The only one I had before was its variegated version.

Then a Ficus carica 'Ice Crystal'. Now this fig we have already growing in front of the jungle hut for many years now but the beautiful leaves were calling out to us so just had to get another one.

Next is the Chinese Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus henryana. A climber that we had before but lost during the garden fire a couple of years ago. The leaves remind me of Impatiens omeiana or a climbing version of it.

A hydrangea with large and purple coloured leaves, Hydrangea aspera 'Hot Chocolate'.

But my favourite of the lot is this variegated fern. It's not usual to see variegated ferns, (one of which is Arachnoides simplicior) beyond the Japanese painted types so when I spotted this I just had to bring home two. The lovely Coniogramme japonica 'Flavomaculata'.

Nice fern isn't it?

Mark :-)