Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cornish Pick and Mix

Sometimes I find myself taking only one or few photos of a place or subject. Not that they weren't of any interest whatsoever but more often I get caught up in a flurry of other thoughts and activities at that time that I forget to take any more than just a few snaps. These few photos are good enough to share but not plenty enough to make a stand alone blog post about them. 

Sort of a photo 'pick and mix', an odd selection of different things but good enough to combine with each other. And whilst browsing through the photos we took whilst in Cornwall May of last year I found several of these 'odd and few' photos and I'm combining then in just one post. A Cornish Pick and Mix I'll call them....

Trachycarpus fortunei palms

Some newly delivered Trachycarpus fortunei palms that we spotted at Trevena Cross Nursery, waiting to be potted on or perhaps delivered on to their clients. Quite interesting and fascinating to see them bound and lined up this way. Mind you I do like the colour of that wall!

A line up, now which one of them is the odd one??

The fernery section at Trevena Cross Nursery. I do love this bit, they usually have so many rare and unusual tree ferns to choose, and of different sizes too. When Cornwall was also hit by the nasty winter 2010-11 winter this nursery was not spared and they suffered extensive losses and damages to their stock, including their ferns. Some of the rarer and unusual ferns that they used to have were either killed or severely damaged and for awhile their stocks were limited to either hardy ground ferns of the more common Dicksonia antarctica. This year though it looked like they have started to regain their previous stocking level and variety.

Burncoose Nursery, one of my favourite Cornish nurseries and always worth a long browse for they have so many treasures all over their huge site. 

One of the retail polytunnels at Burncoose. Seems to go on forever doesn't it? Make sure you browse well and carefully, you might miss out on a gem amongst the crowd!

Cornwall, such a beautiful part of the world! Sometimes it's best to just ignore the map and drive randomly and aimlessly, you're bound to see pretty things along the way...

They say Cornwall can get heaving with people during the main tourist season but time your visit well and you may find an entire stretch of beach all to yourself (almost anyway), bliss!

Mark :-)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pining for Plants

And Aeoniums! I nearly lost all of my aeoniums this winter, not that they were left out nor exposed to freezing temperatures (far from it, they were inside a heated greenhouse) but they suffered from fungus due to the damp conditions in our small greenhouse. 

Pining for plants on a winter's evening, can't wait to go plant shopping again in the spring! 
Usually during milder times I leave a little gap on the door to allow some air circulation, which in turn keeps keeps the moisture levels down and prevents condensation (it is supposed to be an 'arid' house after all). But this time I had to keep it closed all the time as our cats seems to have developed fondness for playing in there (and wrecking havoc and mess). And if I leave a small gap squirrels still manage to get in and can do as much damage.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Prequel Pond

Prequels seems to be the trend nowadays when it comes to films, TV shows, books, and lots of other things. There are beginnings to virtually everything so no wonder there is a current trend to look back, to see how things began and what series of events happened that led to the development of how things are now (and in some cases, have been). But more often, the reason for a prequel is that sometimes it's just nice to look back.

Heck, even our big pond construction has a prequel to it!

Blast from the past, year 2008 - before the build of the big koi pond, there was the build 
of this pond, the 'Prequel pond'. The pond that started it all...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Review: Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs

Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs
Michael Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs is without doubt one of the most comprehensive guides to trees and shrubs. Containing over 900 pages of beautifully described and illustrated plants this really is a first place to start when selecting trees and shrubs for the garden.

The size of the book may be a little daunting at first, with the 951 pages, where do you start? To try and start on page one and read it all the way through is not really going to work.

I started by looking into several plant families I am already familiar with, first up was Aesculus. Many people will be familiar with the widely known horse chestnut but within this group are some wonderful species. At the end of last year I had bought an Aesculus indica, known as the Indian Horse Chestnut, so I wanted to see how my view on this plant compared to the authors. I was not disappointed  although this is rare in North America (where Dirr hails from) he describes the magnificent specimens at Kew Gardens. Being familiar with these I am pleased he shares my opinion. Clearly such a  large tree will not work in our own garden, but it is one I intend to keep small.

Exploring his selection of other Aesculus, I was drawn to Aesculus glabra var. nana, a delightful compact shrub I was not previously familiar with but one which may well find a home in our garden if I can find a source in the UK.

This book really does draw you in, flicking through and spotting interesting shrubs, which are described with lovely detail and multiple illustrations. The photography is superb and well over half the book is taken up by photos, both close up and from further back showing the detail and form of the trees and shrubs under consideration. Where trees have interesting autumn colour this is described and also illustrated.

Michael Dirr is a horticulturist and a professor of horticulture at the University of Georgia, and the book is written with the North American garden in mind, however this does not preclude it from being an extremely useful addition to the British gardeners reference library. I can see myself and Mark referring to this regularly when looking for ideas or for checking the cultural requirements of potential new plants for our garden.

Published by Timber Press, Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs is available in all the usual shops.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Trengwainton Dreaming

As it snows outside I dream of spring and beautiful times ahead. And beautiful gardens to visit in the spring (or any time of the year for that matter) like Trengwainton in Cornwall.

Trengwainton main entrance
The view of the main entrance as you drive towards the carpark, already a pretty sight!
We visited for the first time May last year during our week long holiday in Cornwall after hearing so many recommendations before that we must see this National Trust garden. Covering 25 acres of land, this garden has winding, wooded paths, streams, views across Mount's Bay, and rich planting of rhododendrons, magnolias, and camellias typical of other estate and valley gardens in Cornwall. And it also benefits from a mild micro climate conducive to growing exotics, some of which have been there for many years, thriving and looking spectacular.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Snow has Arrived

Well the snow has arrived this winter, bringing chaos to the roads and a strange serenity to the garden. With temperatures hovering around zero again today we had a look round the white landscape before heading off to do something in doors.

Knickers has been exploring
Following his tracks, lets see where he's been
By the looks of it he has been sheltering under the 'waggy'
We had quite a decent amount of snow, giving quite a thick layer to the table.
Trachycarpus fortunei with a dusting of snow.

Continuing to follow his tracks, hey in the snow I can get good at this!
The new area we refer to as the White Garden, but usually not for this reason.

0C at roughly midday.

Well if Knickers is about, Twinkles sis usually somewhere close by too.
Polygonatum punctatum in the snow.
No its not a giant hedgehog, but a snow covered Aloe polyphylla

Jungle hut or Alpine lodge?
Schefflera taiwaniana

Mark checking on the Koi
Do you remember Loree's photo of our garden from back in the autumn?

Heres almost the same view today...

Our tender plants are all tucked away safely in the greenhouses, and a few that normally stay outside have joined us in the house to keep warm!


Friday, January 18, 2013

It's The Final Countdown...

Those of a similar age to me will probably be thinking about the hit song by Europe at this point...

But that's not what I am referring to but rather we are on the final few things to do before filling the pond. I had hoped we would be able to get finished this weekend but sadly the winter weather that has arrived had other plans for us

Its not even as if there is much left to do; only a little woodwork to the pergola bases and then fitting the window into the pond. But for the sealant to set correctly around the window we need warmer temperatures, so that will have to wait. We even had a friend from our koi club lined up to help us fit it.

We had also started building the deck last weekend but again, with the cold weather and expected snow, will stop us from doing any more on that this weekend.

Lining up the joists

Fastening it all together. The white noggins were left over pieces from building the pergola.

Admiring my handiwork.

The final job we had started was removing the left over chalk and clay from when we dug the pond. Most of it was taken away last weekend, but I don't really fancy trying to dig into frozen soil this time.

Most of this pile has now gone.

The filter house itself is also nearly complete, subject to testing for drips when we fill everything with water. 

Talking of water one small job that we may be able to get done is fitting a water connection into the filter house. This will allow us to top up the pond from the filters rather than having to have a hose trailing into the pond. I haven't quite decided how we will do this, possibly by having a hose reel in the filter house itself. The other way may be to have a connection outside and then bring through a house with a spray gun on the end.

With it cold outside this week Mark has been doing one job a little bit at a time each evening. The small water feature will have a mulch of slate on the base, but as anyone who has added slate to the garden will know it tends to be very dusty. As we don't want the filter to get full of slate dust, Mark has been washing this in advance of putting it in the small pond. 

Small water feature

So rather then get frustrated by the winter, the best thing will be to just embrace it, and find other jobs to do in the garden or have a day out somewhere else. 

Has the song got out of your mind yet? Just in case it has, here it is again!! :)


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Win Yeo Valley Goodies

Its competition time again and we are pleased to have another competition to win a Yeo valley Goody Bag.Yeo Valley Lemon and Poppy Seed 0% Fat Yogurt

To celebrate the launch of their new delicious Lemon and Poppy Seed 0% Fat Yogurt, promotional pots have a competition to win one of 125 Wildflower Gardens from Plantabox, instantly online. They are giving away one a day, and you can personalise yours with your own message. Each comes in a lovely rustic wooden pine crate, with seeds to plant yourself. The seeds are a selection of annual wildflowers including field poppies, cornflowers and corn marigolds. See here for more details.

Plantabox from Yeo Valley Competition

Plantabox is a great British business, which is based not far from Yeo Valley, they make, personalised crates to brighten up patios & balconies. The boxes all come with different colours and finishes, with a large selection of  planting kits for you to grow yourself.

wild flower meadow

In addition to the competition on the pots, Yeo Valley are offering readers the chance to win a Yeo Valley goody bag which will include some of the Lemon and Poppy Seed Yogurt as well as a selection of their other lovely yogurts and products.

To enter simply answer the following question.

How many characters can be added to each plant box?

a) 24
b) 48
c) 64

Extra entries can be made by following us and sharing this competition on Twitter or by liking our page and sharing the competition on Facebook. An additional entry can be made by "following" this blog via Google Friend Connect

Terms and conditions: This competition closes at 23.59 on 27 January 2013. Any entries received after this time will not be counted. Entrants must be UK residents aged 18 years or older to enter. By entering this competition you agree and consent to your name being published and by taking part in the competition, entrants are deemed to have read, understood and accepted all of the Terms and Conditions and agreed to be bound by them. The winner will be selected at random from the correct entries and will be announced here on the blog. Please make sure we are able to contact you if you do win, as we will need to provide your name and address to Yeo Valley to arrange for your prize to be sent to you. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Winter Protection Austrian Style

A couple of years ago we had a lovely short break in Vienna in the run up to Christmas. Whilst there we visited the small botanical garden which rather conveniently was located close to our hotel. Heading towards the small exotic house we spotted this strange wooden tower...

What was in it....

Heating cables and a thermostat to keep it warm!

That's what it is a tall Trachycarpus fortunei protected from the harsh Austrian winter in a giant insulated shed.

Now thats dedication!