Sunday, July 02, 2017

Our Garden in Gardeners' World Magazine

Exotic Gardening takes centre stage in this months edition of Gardeners' World magazine, which includes a six page feature of our garden.

The article contains several garden photos and an interview with us by Annie Gatti. Preview of the article is seen above.
Cover of July 2017 edition

Together with our garden feature are other articles focusing on Exotic Gardening like Tough Tropicals amongst others.

Preview on the June 2017 edition

If you do get the chance grab a copy for a further insight into our garden. Gardeners World gives some tips and relevant advice on adding a touch of exotica into your garden, or perhaps turning your entire garden into one like we did!

Mark :-)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Go Grow Glow!

The yuccas in the second raised bed are enjoying the summer and growing away nicely, except for one that is...

The Yucca rostrata right in the middle of this bed has sadly popped its head off a couple of weeks ago. It was already looking peaky by the end of winter however I was hoping it would pull through and grow robust once the weather warmed up. Alas that was not the case as when we had a very windy period a few weeks ago, with the gusts off came its head. It's a shame to lose this one as it was the first Yucca rostrata I had bought and from a nursery too that no longer exists but was ahead of its game then. This yucca has always had a slight gash near the crown which I presumed had fully healed as it seemed in the last few years but perhaps last winter it became a site for rot to develop and spread to eventually finish it off.

Shame it had to GO but it is a dead plant in a very prominent spot. I'm still considering what to replace it with, whether another Yucca rostrata or a large glazed urn, or perhaps a different plant altogether. Watch this space...

As for GROW, a few notable ones are:

Chamaerops humilis
This Chamaerops humilis growing in a pot which had strangely spear pulled last winter even though it was a relatively mild one. The good thing is it is clearly recovering but pushing out new growth. Oddly though, it has also pushed out an inflorescence albeit a small one at the same time. Silly palm, couldn't make up its mind.

Gunnera tinctoria
Near the palm above is our Gunnera tinctoria growing robustly and has already rooted over the pond coping stone to dip its feet directly on to the water, helping it grow even bigger and remain upright.

Schefflera rhododendrifolia
And back on to the second raised bed, the Schefflera rhododendrifolia is looking extra good with it's new growth and flush of leaves.

Trachycarpus princeps hybrid
And jumping on to the middle patio, I spotted this Trachycarpus princeps hybrid positively GLOWing as it catches the morning light. Lovely!

Mark :-)

Monday, June 26, 2017

Tale of Two Agaves

Herein lies the tale of two agaves and how their different treatment through the years have made a difference on their growth rate. 

I bought two small Agave ovatifolias in 2013, grown from the same batch of seeds, they were exactly the same size when I acquired them. Repotted into identical pots, they both grew at exactly the same size until in 2015 when one of them was transferred on to a blue glazed pot and placed at the front of the house. Since the makeover all the plants there were given extra attention, to keep the front garden looking smart (prior to that the front of the house was genuinely neglected and often a dumping ground for building materials for the back garden). So plants were regularly watered, fed, and kept weed free.

The second one was placed by the edge of the koi pond in a plastic white pot. It was a prominent spot but not a conducive one for the health and growth of the agave. Under the eaves of a pergola, it remained dry whenever rain fell, and by being on the edge of a koi pond it was rarely watered to minimise the risk of soil (and more bacteria) running into the pond.

So the first one got watered regularly and was placed in a bigger pot, the second one kept on the dry side and remained in a small pot for years. The result is going to be obvious, two years on the former is more than double the size of the latter.

Feeling guilty that I have grossly neglected the latter, it was time to treat it right by giving it a much bigger pot. It has then been placed away from the shelter of the pergola  in the open to bask in the sun and get watered much more regularly. So two weeks ago it was given a new home.

Where it is now gets sun all year round, sheltered but will get rained on, and much more likely to get watered when we have the hosepipe out and the entire garden gets supplemental watering.

Hopefully it will catch up in size with its front garden brother relatively quickly. With both being in a pot neither of them are likely to attain the size they can potentially do when planted out. But they can still attain a very good size even in a pot if watered regularly during the summer and given a sufficient sized container.

Mark :-)

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Our Exotic Garden in Early June

Time flies so fast and it's the first week of June already! We just came back from a long weekend in Belfast and we'll be featuring snaps of the vibrant capital of Northern Ireland shortly.

Before we went there I had the chance to take a few random snaps of the garden...

Morning really is the best time to take photos of the garden, when the lighting is soft yet bright. The jungle area is looking verdant already and yet the summer growth is still looming.

I love the way the yellow culms of the bamboo catch the light and seeming help to illuminate this area

Phyllostachys vivax f. aureocaulis

Another view of the jungle...

It's been a good spring for the flowering of Trachycarpus fortunei wherein nearly all of our palms, big and small flowered this year. Will we get lots of seeds? We shall wait and see!

This sedum catching the morning light. 

One of Cotton's favourite sleeping spots

And this border on our top patio is looking verdant too. The Schefflera taiwaniana on the left will need staking as it's becoming top heavy.

Fortunately I managed to take these photos whilst the weather was fine as it was certainly not when we got back. Heavy rains and strong winds made spending time in the garden today very unappealing. Hopefully by next weekend the weather will be great again, and we'll be able to continue with our sprucing up!

Mark :-)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Makeover Weekend

With last weekend being a three day one it was the perfect opportunity to get stuck in and start giving two areas of our garden a spruce up and a mini makeover. These two areas are the bottom patio (where the big goldfish pond is) and jungle veranda.

Despite being only classed as 'mini makeovers', they'll still take quite a bit of time to complete. So no finished product and after shots on this post, but rather just glimpses of what we have done so far, up to the point where we packed up on Monday evening.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Plant Spotting in Venice

Venice was a beautiful dream, we really enjoyed our recent stay there. There was so much beauty in the place, and in almost every turn we made there was something noteworthy to behold.

More about this spectacular city on a separate post. For now I will focus on a few random plant vignettes that we've spotted on our walks in on the main island and a couple of nearby ones (Murano and Burano).

A rose garden on an exotic gardening blog? This will be a rarity for us but spotted this along the grand canal and couldn't help but note how quintessentially romantic the entire thing is: roses in full bloom, gently cascading on Italianate balustrades and statues, in a most desirable location of along the grand canal and surrounded by period buildings.

Ahh to be able to grow succulents like these on an outdoor windowsill! Not sure about an Opuntia though...

More likely Dasylirion longissimum (could be D. quadrangulatum) planted on urn. I understand the effect they wanted to achieve (i.e. fountains) but this is a harsh way of trimming these plants. They are best left with as much foliage as possible or just trimmed as 'half spheres' rather than just 'spurts'. Hope these still thrive well and for the long term.

Not sure about the identity of this climber, a Tetrastigma perhaps? The effect is beautiful.

Love this collection of plants in one of the many small squares within the main island. My eyes naturally zoomed in on the Aeonium perched on the slender shelf on the wall.

This Jasmine was everywhere and in full bloom, wafting a heady floral scent that makes strolling around extra pleasurable. Photo was taken in Murano.

Seen at the colourful island of Burano. Not many front gardens here but a few had a collection of potted plants at least. These ones were succulents.

And so was this one. Any ideas what those water bottles could be for?

More about Venice on a future post!

Mark :-)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Camera Phone is the Way Forward

It was an intense weekend. There's no other way to describe it but as such as we got fully stuck in with gardening jobs especially as the weather was very favourable.

We managed to tick off several things from our spring gardening chores list. It helped that we were both in the mood to get the garden in shape for the coming warmer months ahead. But as it was intense, neither of us had the chance to chronicle what we've done with a series of photos.

Speaking of photos, during our lull from blogging I have already identified that the way forward would be to use our camera phones more than ever before. Doing so would make it much easier to juggle blogging with our increasingly busy life outside of blogosphere. 

Come to think of it, it's quite astonishing how it's come a long way with regards to the quality of photos taken using a phone. Gone are the days wherein the norm were hazy looking photos, nowadays it can be even better than ones taken with a compact digital camera. This is the very basis of Instagram I suppose, which has phenomenally risen in clout as the quality of cameras on phones has also increased. 

Anyway, I wasn't completely hopeless as I still managed to get a few random shots over the past two days...

Persicaria runcinata 'Purple Fantasy'
Loving this perennial, although I've heard a few grumbles already from other gardeners saying it's too aggressive in spreading. Not an issue for use, not yet at least. The name 'Purple Fantasy' is what it commonly goes round here in the nursery circuit but it is probably known as something else in other countries.

Ginkgo biloba 'Beijing Gold'
Really striking how zingy yellow the leaves of this variegated cultivar are, in contrast to the non variegated leaves of another cultivar as seen on this photo. The leaves darken up a bit later in the season but pretty much stay yellow all year round.

Have prepared several mixed succulent plantings this year, and with this one it's just a matter of waiting for it to bulk up now.

Schefflera taiwaniana
It's Schefflera flushing time too! All of ours are busy flushing away as we speak, and the photo above reminds me of a fireworks display.

Dicksonia antarctica
And so are the tree ferns!

Mark :-)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Blue Pots, Bricks, Bins, and a British Gas Van

I seem to be collecting pots now almost as much as I do plants. But then again each pot is a planting opportunity.

Now time to give an update on the plants growing at the front of the house...

Three years ago we had a makeover of the front of the house by adding blue pots with drought tolerant planting. Later on we have also planted out a flowering cherry tree and added some railings to demarcate our space complement the house (it used to have railings back in the day). This year, sensing that we could add more pots to the corner seen above without compromising parking space, we proceeded to add three more to make the display stronger. Prior to that we wanted more height at the back so the Nolina nelsonii was repotted to a much taller blue one.

With three new pots to fill, we had to select new plants that will go in them and do well in this area. Taking cue from the plants already, we bought a few more drought tolerant plants on our recent trip to Urban Jungle.

First to be planted was an Agave parryi var. truncata. Upon removal of the plastic pot it came in with, I was rather fascinated by the pups circling the rootball - they looked like snakes or slithering creatures of some sort.

Fascinating they may be, they still got snipped before being placed into its new blue home. Next to be planted was a Dyckia 'Nickel Silver' followed by Agave neomexicana.

We're really pleased with the end result, and love the way the greens and blues from the plants themselves mix and complement each other (if I may say so).

What about the other plants at the front house? Here they are now:

The backdrop of the photo above is far from glamorous, with it being a parade of rubbish bins. It does tell a story though, of the our neighbour finally getting a house extension done after mulling about it for years. So the bins were out at the time these photos were taken to keep the side passage clear so the builders can do their work.

On the other side the backdrop is a British Gas van. One can easily guess what our other neighbour does for a living. The van is actually very rarely parked in that spot but by chance it was there then, and I actually like the way the paintwork coordinates with the colour of the pots!

My favourite backdrop though are the bricks of our house...

Mark :-)