Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Late February Colour in the Garden

Last week of February already, how fast does time fly? Mind you it also means spring is definitely just around the corner!

Most garden bloggers in the UK seems to have been keeping themselves busy and active plant wise with plenty of snowdrop activities. So far we haven't caught the fever yet although it is a nice preoccupation on an otherwise almost void period of a gardening year. We did catch a glimpse of the few snowdrops that we have in our garden last weekend and they are just about to bloom too. They seemed rather late but nevertheless a delight to see! As usual forgot to take photos of them though but hopefully they blooms are still around this coming weekend.

Anyway, here are a few random shots of our garden taken last weekend...

Tree fern fronds are mostly still green which means our lowest temperature this winter hasn't been below -6C...yet (we're not out of the woods and touch wood as I don't want to tempt fate). Based on our observations through the years the Dicksonia antarctica frond only go brown and crispy when temperatures go lower than that.

Our tallest Schefflera taiwaniana. So hard to photograph well without extra effort as it's taller than me (and that's a good thing).

This one, Schefflera kornasii not so difficult and only slightly taller than me. And it's also looking better than ever!

Orange can be present in an exotic garden too even in the depths of winter.

And speaking of orange....Phyllostachys bambusoides 'Castillonis'

Now that we're on to bamboos let me continue it a bit with one of my favourites, this Chilean beauty called Chusquea culeou. The culms are solid (character of the genus) unlike the hollow ones of most other bamboos.

And finally a very generous gift from our friend Don (check out his fab garden here), a New Zealand native lancewood, Pseudopanax crassifolius that is over seven feet tall and I can't help but admire everytime I pass by it. Although at that height it is definitely hard to ignore, plus it looks fabulously odd!

Now what will we get up to this weekend? Hmmmm....

Mark :-)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Broken Traditions

We didn't make it to the first RHS plant show of the year which was held last weekend. The second tradition we have broken since we have started this blog. The first one was a yearly spring trip to Cornwall which we didn't do last year and looks like it'll be the case again this year.

RHS Plant and Design Show 2014
Which makes me wonder now, will there be a third tradition that we'll break in the near future? And if so what would it be?

On traditional I don't think we will break will the the annual pruning of the large old sycamore tree at the bottom end of the garden. However I suspect that traditional may in part exist as it gives Gaz a chance to play with various boys toys or garden tools to you and I

Breaking traditions are not always a bad thing. In fact it could be the other way around and be a good thing, breaking monotony and introducing new things into ones system.

Cornwall, when will we see you again?
Going back to the tradition we have just broken, for years that plant show was dubbed as 'RHS London Plant and Design Show'. This year it has become 'RHS London Plant and Potato Fair'. I'm not sure what was the trigger for the change of title apart from the obvious which is the increasing popularity of 'grow you own produce' over or at least equal to ornamental gardening.

The change of the title and focus of the show however had no bearing to our non attendance this year. It was simply because of work which is extra demanding at the moment. We're both managers in our careers which makes taking time off extra tricky. Even when going on holiday. Ironically though we have both gained extra paid days off this year. But time off not taken this time is time off that can be taken later on. So our minds are hovering already on what other new things we can try this year.

Happy memories - our Cottesbrooke plant haul in 2011
and in 2012
Perhaps the Great Dixter Spring Plant Fair, or perhaps the Wisley one. They are both on the same weekend hence it will have to be one over the other. And for the first time Kew Gardens will have a plant fair as they take on the Plant Finders Fair which used to be held at Cottesbrooke for years before moving to Borde Hill last year then to Kew this year. Will it stay in Kew this time and become a tradition there? Who knows, we'll all have to wait and see (personally even this early I'd rather it go back to Cottesbrooke, it was perfect there).

Which reminds me, there is a third tradition (or is that the first?) that we have broken already, and that is going to Kew Gardens on a regular basis. We haven't been for over a year! So if we go to the fair on the last weekend of April we'll be sort of unbreaking a tradition. Or is that we'll be starting a new one?

Time to see Kew again?
It's getting a bit confusing now! Whether breaking old or making new traditions, isn't it nice to know that it simply means there lots of options out there? That choices are there for the picking. And that's a fabulous privilege!

Mark :-)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Helping Hand

Some plants looks so lovely in person but are so hard to take photos of that can convey their pleasing character on to images.

I suppose it's not so much of an issue if you have a sophisticated camera and have the time to enhance images using a photo editing software, neither of which we have.

But sometimes all you need to do is to give such plants a helping hand. Like the airy Nandina domestica 'Filamentosa' below:

Nandina domestica 'Filamentosa'
Can't wait for it to get bigger!
And this Mahonia fortunei

Looks unique and distinctive from other mahonias - Mahonia fortunei
Rhododendron roxieanum var. oreonastes

variegated Phyllostachys aurea

Phyllostachys aurea 'Variegata'
Most plants however are complete show-offs, they don't need any helping hand and are ready to be photographed almost anytime like the Fatsia polycarpa below:

But these show-offs still needs the helping hand of a gardener to keep them looking good, in another way of course.

Mark :-)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day February 2015

This is going to be a slightly unique Bloom Day for us, we're only featuring one plant...

Walking around a garden centre near us earlier today we spotted one special hellebore in amongst a sea of others. And it's an hellebore that's been on our wishlist for quite some.

Helleborus (Rodney Davey Marbled Group) 'Anna's Red'
Finally we got hold of one after being on our wishlist for several years. We've had some chances before especially on plant fairs but have narrowly missed it. We first saw Annas Red at the 2012 RHS plant and Design show, however we were too late in being able to secure one. The stall holder told us to try next year!

Helleborus 'Annas Red' at the 2012 show
Even the foliage is lovely!
Saying that this sort of thing has happened time and time again. A rare plant that you can get hold of, give it time and you end up spotting them in an ordinary garden centre.

We join Carol of May Dreams Gardens for this months Bloom Day! Click on the link to see what's blooming in the garden of other bloggers this month.

Mark :-)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Whilst Not Looking

As it is winter we don't spend that much time in the garden as we would in the spring or summer. So it's easy enough not to notice some details, like this climber doing its thing on the garden bench...

Holboellia angustifolia subsp. linearifolia
Only saw it when I was about to shift the bench under cover so it can dry out before being lightly sanded and repainted in blue (same shade as was in that spot before).

I found it amusing so I kept the bench where it is for now. Should we let it stay there and make it a trellis bench? Sounds fun, and saves me painting it too....

Naah! I'll untangle it in the next few days. I still prefer a blue bench with no climbers on it.

Mark :-)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

24 Hour Parcel People

Well after several months of waiting we will finally get to see the BBC show we contributed to last summer. 

Its on BBC2 at 9pm, and will no doubt be on BBC i-player shortly afterwards.

Gaz and Mark :)

Monday, February 09, 2015

Bare Bones and Skeletons

As I was about to write this post it occurred to me that the title could imply that I'll be talking about the 'bones and skeletons' of a garden - the plants and hard landscaping that provide structure and framework to ones green space.

It'll be a lot less complicated than that though as I refer to simply a few plants that I find interesting without their leaves and are nothing more than just bare bones and skeletons at the moment.

They look pretty in their own way all leafless and certainly part of winter interest in the garden....

I quite like this row of Ginkgos looking like this now as much as what they look like in the summer

The buds of the Acer heptaphlebium are enlarging but whilst leafless it's giving me a clue of its habit and form for this year onwards
One set of bare bones that always needs work is the large sycamore tree at the end of the garden. It is rather fast growing and drops seeds everywhere, however over the last couple of years we have been taming it cutting it back. We have an extending tree saw on a pole that allows us to cut quite high up from the ground, however I suspect we will need to set up the ladders to reach the higher branches this year.
Ginkgo biloba 'Pixie' and Cercis canadensis 'Lavender Twist' 
As I admired their bare form and shape of their little branches I noticed that the climber Tetrastigma obtectum is finally getting going after a slow start in the summer
If our garden was all evergreen I think I'll find it a lot less interesting. Fortunately it isn't!

Mark :-)

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Winter Colour, Winter Interest




Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Plants, Parcels.... and a Film Crew?

Last summer we ordered a selection of plants from Crug Farm, nothing unusual in that I hear you say. Well not quite, the order and delivery were fairly standard... apart from everything from the order, selection and delivery was filmed for an upcoming BBC TV Show.

The new series of Modern Times, continues next week (BBC Thursday 12 February at 9pm) with 24 Hour Parcel People. Ahead of that showing the BBC have released a clip of the show.

We wont say any more until the show, don't want to give away any spoilers...


Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Snow in a Flash

Last Saturday we had a relatively thick snowfall early in the morning but it was all gone by midday. This morning our area was blanketed by snow again but it wasn't a surprise as the white stuff started to fall late in the evening before.

Now being a usual working weekday I didn't have much spare time to hang around and take photos of the garden, my priority was to get to the train station. But I know that by midday most of it is likely to be gone again and all we'll have are memories of the snow.

What to do? Well take photos in a rush of course. And I meant proper rush as only had a spare couple of minutes before I had to go so I took a few shots from our bedroom window and also from the sun room. It was just after seven in the morning so was still dark and had to use the flash.

Alas no time to venture out further into the garden so I had to content myself with views from the house. At least I have some proof and reminders that it did snow here today.

Leaving the house I managed to take these extra photos using my phone...

Time was fast running out so I had to rush to the train station. While briskly walking I was thinking that trains might be delayed because public transport in the UK can sometimes go on a standstill even with just a 'fleck of snow'. And guess what? Let's just say it was a stressful commute to work in central London.

Fortunately going back wasn't too bad. And when I got home nearly all of the snow from the morning were gone, bar a few clumps dotted around. Good! I like snow but the novelty of it very soon wears out. I prefer my snow in the garden here then gone relatively almost a flash.

Mark :-)

Monday, February 02, 2015

Horchata and Tapioca Pearls

Mmmmmm....tapioca pearls....

in cold horchata and what you have is my favourite exotic summer drink! I love the chewy texture of the former mixed with the light milky and ground almond flavour of the latter. It may come across as a strange combination, sort of a Spanish/Latin/Asian fusion drink. The resulting mix however is not that dissimilar to the flavour of bubble tea drink that is popular in Asia which some of you may be aware of already.

Sweet daydreams of summer after making a brief cold journey from the house to the koi shed to feed the fish and seeing those 'pearls' above that look so much like tapioca pearls.

Alas, those 'pearls' are not edible and are actually beneficial bacteria laden balls and you certainly wouldn't want to put them anywhere near your mouth despite its innocent and chewy appearance. We add them to the pond filter every so often to help with the biological filtration as the filter is new and yet to mature. Basically they help keep the pond healthy until the filter can sufficiently do what it's supposed to do on its own.

Bacteria balls in the filter, it was time to inspect the other residents in the shed which are the succulents. Last weekend I was able to move in the remainder of what's supposed to go there after a quick trip to Ikea to buy more of those colourful bowls.

I'm loving the bright colours, makes the shed a more cheerful place to spend time in. 

Lined like that on the steel shelving they look like laboratory specimens too. Quite apt as I guess a lot of those succulents are products of tissue culture.

Now let's have a closer look at some of them...

Aloe 'Sparkling Burgundy' but not looking so burgundy at the moment
Aloe brevifolia to the left and a couple of Aloe suprafoliata in the middle
A trio of hybrid Aloes at the front
A couple of white variegated Aloe brevifolia at the back amongst hybrid aloes and some agaves
Other residents not on the those shelves are doing fine...

One of the Tillandsias on the left vase did perish so is now gone. The Aloe ferox on the right was given by the kind folks at Jersey Plants Direct
Sat on the chair, a quick look back up to the succulents before I head back to the house...

Come to think of, why wait till summer to have some horchata?? I'll make myself some over the weekend, ice cold enjoyed in a warm house! Even better that I have uncooked tapioca pearls in the larder.

Dreaming of summer? And what's your favourite summer drink?

Mark :-)