Monday, June 27, 2022

Scheffleras from Taiwan

Let's have a quick look at a special group of Scheffleras with no ID growing in our utility/propagation area. Their background is explained below.

A few years ago we visited Taiwan and had the chance to look around a few towns just outside the capital Taipei. The island is very accessible by car via their excellent road network but you can easily get a glimpse of rural life from nearby towns just outside the capital using their metro system. Taiwan has an amazing array of flora that has provided the world with so many interesting plants for the garden. The genus Schefflera (or now known as Heptapleurum) is just one of the multitude of beautiful group of plants that originated there.

And Scheffleras are abundant indeed all over the island. You don't even need to venture out of the capital to spot them but of course more interesting and potentially hardy ones are best seen outside of it. 

I don't remember exactly where we got the seeds from (from different plants), it could be Jiufen area but I do recall a mental note that they were sourced around 200 meters above sea level. On the scheme of things when it comes to hardiness, that is relatively low elevation so unlikely to be hardy but interesting nevertheless. The seeds germinated like cress but getting them past this stage is very tricky as they are notoriously prone to dampening off which was the case. Of that batch only five remain which are fortunately rather vigorous and seems to be doing well. They seem to grow pretty quick and spend winters in an unheated greenhouse.

The seeds came from different plants and although one or two will look identical to each (those coming from the same parent plant) there are still subtle variation from each other at least. For now their exact identity remains a mystery and I haven't taken the proper time yet to investigate to find out. In a way, they are treated as novelty plants and make great part of our plant collection. And a prelude that maybe one day we'll do this plant collecting thing in a more organised fashion one day!

Mark :-)

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Fixing What Ain't Broken

The hard landscaping of our top patio has pretty much been unchanged since we moved into our place back in 2005. The paving is composed of mainly thick concrete paving slabs and bricks arranged to a pattern. It's not the most elegant nor impressive of materials but they were laid solidly, aged well, and served the purpose.  Having just moved into this property then, the priority for both budget and time was to sort out the house rather than the hard landscaping of the top patio. It wasn’t broke so why fix it?

As it was until last weekend

Through the years it had been playing in our heads to eventually upgrade the paving to real stone. But as it wasn’t changed early on, the patio has since filled with plants and pots as we also carried on sorting the rest of the garden. 

It would be wonderful if we were to change the paving to all stone now (a herringbone pattern would be nice!). But the idea of shifting all those pots to one side and having to deal with the mess and disruption for months on end didn't sound appealing either. Plus you put all that stone down only to cover more than half of it in pots seemed counterproductive. So we decided on a compromise...

Instead of lifting and changing everything, we'll concentrate on the pathway of the existing layout instead. With a little dose of creativity, we opted to use mix shades of sandstone to replace concrete paving slabs along the pathway, laid out to look random and planned at the same time.

We already have a plan for the old slabs but that will be revealed in due course :)

It'll be a relatively easier job to do this way, with only having to lift a few paving slabs at a time and not having to shift so many pots along the way. It should give the patio a bit of an upgrade and provide extra interest.

It's a work in progress at the moment and we’ll post photos once the work is finished, fixing what ain’t broken.

Mark :-)

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Palm House at the Garfield Park Conservatory

Continuing on from our previous post regarding the Fern House at Garfield Park Conservatory is a feature on the first section you'll see when you go in the conservatory: the Palm House.

The vignette of palms and related complementary understory planting that greets you is a fantastic preview of what else is in store...

Palm House at Garfield Park Conservatory

Much like the Fern House, the path divides into two that will lead you into the other portions of the conservatory. The Palm House, as it's namesake suggests consists of a collection of tropical and subtropical palms of great architectural merit. Under the care of their horticultural team, they are all looking very healthy and for most towering with huge leaves.

In contrast to the Fern House however, the understory planting is less naturalistic but more manicured and formal, much like what you'll see in private gardens, parks, and show gardens. They have generously used bromeliads and other colourful planting in a more coordinated fashion, to a stunning effect.

You can clearly see that this is a well maintained and taken cared of conservatory that is open to the public to enjoy.

Mark :-)

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Aroid House at the Garfield Park Conservatory

 The Garfield Park Conservatory has several botanical sections with the Palm House and Fern House occupying the largest spaces. The smaller ones are no less remarkable and the best of the smaller sections is the Aroid House. Let's have a look:

Aroid House at Garfield Park Conservatory

As the name suggests, this section is all about different kinds of aroids, planted together for a beautifully naturalistic and cohesive display. It is a showcase of different leaf sizes of aroids, from the minute to the largest, together creating a lush, jungle feel.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Favourite Plant of the Week - Cyphomandra corymbiflora

Cyphomandra corymbiflora, sometimes called a hardy tree tomato, has been growing in our garden for well over a decade, going through the poor winter of 2010.  We have found it pretty tough, although a very late frost last year did it some damage. Fortunately it recovered - fairly late in the season - and a mild winter for 2021-22 has helped it on its recovery. 

At this time of year it starts to put on its display of blooms, one of just a handful of plants flowering in the garden despite the season, we missed this display last year as it was in recovery mode but its back.

Cyphomandra corymbiflora

We grew this one from seed, i think we had a fairly good germinations rate but only kept one plant for ourselves. Where its been planted in a relatively shady spot, with quite a lot of competition.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Side Passage Makeover

Last weekend we took on a mini project by making over the side passage of the house that leads on to the garden. It had a partial makeover before, when we sorted out the planting halfway through this narrow passageway nearest to the house. But the area adjacent to the conservatory leading towards the top patio only received further attention in the last few days.

New planting on the garden side passage

Existing planting on the side passage, done many years ago

Thursday, June 09, 2022

Fern House at the Garfield Park Conservatory

A glimpse of what Illinois may have looked like 300 million years ago. That was the vision of landscape architect Jens Jensen when he conceptualised the Fern House within Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago, Illinois. The plans were made in 1906 and opened to the public in 1908 much to the delight of locals and visitors alike. It was reported to have been a sensation...

Fern House at Garfield Park Conservatory

Monday, June 06, 2022

Hosepipe and Secateurs

There was an occasion before where a photographer came here and my role as she took photos was to trail behind, with a towel and dust pan to hand. Every time she identified a subject or frame to photograph, I had to swoop in first to sweep up, wipe, remove a leaf, or rectify a flaw that would have made that shot less perfect. The main reason for rectifying things on the spot was to make each shot as less likely to need photo editing later as possible. Photo editing costs money, and they want to minimise that by correcting things as we went along.

That exercise made me realise how much fakery and over preparation are involved to get most of those perfect shots seen on books, magazines, and television shows.

Which conveys an unrealistic expectation to some, especially beginners that gardening is about the build up to that one perfect moment, like you see in published photos. And that perfect moment lasts a very long time. Both far from truth.

The truth is that gardening is a process to be enjoyed, and so many perfect moments happen within that process to enjoy and savour while they lasted, for some will be fleeting. It could be a moment of perfect lighting, or when plants happen to be all looking good at the same time within the same area, just to name a couple. 

So when I take photos of such enjoyable moments, if there is a hosepipe, a secateur, leaf litter here and there, etc I tend not to bother tidying them away to get that 'perfect shot'. They are part of the process, they are the truth and they contribute to making that moment perfect.

Mark :-)

Saturday, June 04, 2022

Quick Trip to The Palm Centre

On our way to Kew Gardens last Thursday we popped round to The Palm Centre first as we always did in the past. We haven't been to Kew Gardens for four years and even more so to The Palm Centre, as our last Kew visit was by train not by car as we tend to do. So we were extra curious as to how it is looking now after not seeing it for so many years.

Turns out it still pretty much the same but as expected there have been some rearrangements of display areas and they stock a lot more houseplants than they used to. Let's have a look...

Trachycarpus oreophilus

Jubaea chilensis to the left, planted out here for over two or even three decades already

As you come in on the driveway you are greeted with specimen palms for sale. They are geared for both the public and landscape gardeners needing specimen planting. As you can see from above they have a range of large Butia capitata, Jubaea chilensis, Chamaerops humilis, Chamaerops humilis var. cerifera among others. They also have a Trachycarpus display bed to the left of the driveway showing the different species in their collection, and the second photo above is Tracycarpus oreophilus.


There is a large outdoor retail section at the back where more specimen palms for sale can be found, as well as a range of bamboos, trees, shrubs, and some Dicksonia antarctica tree ferns (rounbd £90 per foot)

On the borders of this section are also a range of exotic plants permanently planted out to showcase how they behave with a free root run, established, and thriving outdoors.

Trichocereus terschekii

On to the greenhouses and above are their range of cacti and succulents for sale. Most notable above are the Trichocereus terscheckii which seemed reasonably priced at that size for £99. This is te same cactus growing permanently outside by our front door and I'm aware of several private exotic gardens in the UK have this permanently planted out all year round.

Trichocereus terschekii

And even more Trichocereus terscheckii spotted along the way, this time bigger specimen plants for instant impact. They also a range of tree aloes with Aloidendron barberae on the third photo above and some other agaves and other succulents.

 And as seen above, they have a much bigger range of houseplants for sale than ever was years ago. It is very trendy now and there are a lot of flats/apartments in the area so is a lucrative market for them to tap in to.

And a few more odds and ends as seen above, including a glimpse of their outdoor herbaceous perennial retail area.

So what did we buy? Not much really but you can't walk out of the Palm Centre after so many years without buying a palm so we bought a small Butia odorata (ex. capitata) for growing on, an Asplenium bulbiferum for the jungle veranda, and Nandina domestica in their bargain corner as a filler plant.

So off to Kew Gardens we go which will feature in a future post.

Mark :-)