Sunday, June 30, 2013

RHS Tatton Park Flower Show

With summer looking nice and established at long last in the UK there are a number of large shows to entertain and delight, the summer show season kicked off with the Chelsea Flower show, and in just over a week the Hampton Court show starts, both are which are close to London. However further afield and towards the end of July is the Tatton Park Flower show. This will be a new show for us this year, and for me will be something of a "homecoming" as I grew up not far from Tatton in North West England. The Tatton Park show is set in the grounds of one of Britain’s most historic estates and the RHS describe the show as being "a stunning blend of inspirational gardening with all the magnificence and grandeur of a garden party." It is well worth seeing the rest of the garden at Tatton whist you are there.

The show has been given something of a makeover this year with the RHS introducing four distinctive 'zones', each with its own special atmosphere and flavour:

The Grow Zone is the floral heart of the show - with the displays of rare and familiar plants as well as the various nursery stands plus the RHS will be holding a number of hands-on demos.

The Inspire Zone contains many of the more contemporary ideas and show gardens, it will feature this  year’s Young Designer Gardens feature Eco Innovations and also the Galaxy Gardens.

The Feast Zone is a celebration of everything 'Grow your Own'! The zone takes you all the way from edible gardens and Great British Allotments to fruit and vegetable competitions, plot-to-plate demonstrations and the Great Taste Food Market.

The Escape Zone brings the seaside to the heart of Cheshire for this evocation of country and coastal living. It will also feature many of the shopping areas with everything from garden furniture to practical tools as well as over 100 artists and craftspeople.

Show Manager, Kris Hulewic commented 'Whether you are a seasoned horticulturist hunting for new plants or just starting out and looking for tips on gardening basics, there is no better place to be this July. I hope you enjoy the North’s greatest garden party!' 

As always much of our focus will be on the show gardens and with 30 show gardens at Tatton to explore hopefully there will be several to catch our imagination. The RHS has released the designs ahead of the show and we have picked a selection of the ones we will be particularly looking out for.

A Stainless Century
A Stainless Century celebrates the invention of stainless steel in Sheffield by Harry Brearley 100 years ago, and the impact this invention has had on the city and on the world. A central water feature depicts the flow of molten metal as it pours from a white hot crucible to form steel bars. A pergola and wall feature inspired by iconic buildings in Sheffield give height and demonstrate the structural and decorative qualities of steel. The planting reflects the theme with metallic-coloured foliage and flowers. Rusted steel accents highlight the impact that stainless steel has had in freeing the world from corrosion.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Jungle Hut

Half way down the garden is our jungle hut, marking the entrance into the jungle end of the garden. Originally a large shed we added the porch area on the front to create a secluded seating area which has featured on the blog before. Enclosed with lush planting on all sides its a great place to sit and enjoy a drink or snack in the evening. And after a long journey home from work today it was the perfect place to relax and soak in the surroundings! Nearly all the plants you can see are permanently planted out with just a couple of more tender palms in pots.

Do you have a secluded spot you like to escape to after a busy day in your garden?


Monday, June 24, 2013

Out With The Old

As Mark blogged about recently, we have a number of plans ahead with the garden and the next on our list is the patio near to the house, we usually refer this as the top patio. This area has been home to a number of potted bamboos (almost 30 different species and cultivars), many of which need dividing and re-potting or planting into the ground - although several are too vigorous to be planted out here!

We have taken the decision that after many years with these bamboos that the time has come for a complete change here, and we have decided to let go of nearly all of these plants. Whilst this may seem like a bit of a dramatic decision we have had great pleasure from collecting and enjoying these plants but our garden is of limited size and so to be able to do something different and enjoy a change we need to allow them to go to new homes.

A couple of personal favourites will be kept but the rest are going to friends and family who can give these plants a better home, and in the most part a place in the ground. We decided against putting them on eBay so that we could still gain pleasure from them in the future when visiting friends gardens, and who knows we may even get given the odd division back in the future if we miss certain ones!

So... how do you get an 8 foot bamboo into the back of a car...
It's a good job bamboos bend!
We will still have many bamboos in the garden, as we have a number of plants in the ground so it won't be a complete shock!

The main makeover will take place next spring, however we need to create some space for a related house project (we will no doubt share some of the end results of this related project inn due course).

So what will we do.. well the plan is to completely change the feel of this patio area. I want to link this to the new area through choices of colour and materials. This will mean stone, wood, and probably plenty of white.

But it's not all change, the existing plants that are in the ground will remain, this includes three bamboos and several palms. Plus a couple of the old potted bamboos will stay to help maintain a screen between us and the neighbours.

We want this area to have quite a manicured feel, but clearly with exotic and tropical looking plants, perhaps with hints of a patio area from a tropical hotel...

Our existing patio furniture will no doubt find a new home, most probably in my parents garden, along with a couple of the bamboos it will almost feel like our garden! We want the new look to this patio to have quite a unified feel, and so the new furniture must help tie this together. I keep looking at the rattan style furniture which I think will work here. We had avoided this style of furniture in the garden previously but we both came to the same conclusion that this would work well in the new design.

In terms of plants the key thing for me will be to ensure the patio area looks good even in January or February, when anything deciduous will be bare of leaves, and any herbaceous plants will be tucked up under ground. In the main I want to stick mostly to evergreen plants, so there will probably be one or two more palms joining the party. 
The existing patio area as it looked earlier this year.
Many of the other potted plants will be staying, and hopefully will get planted into new beds once the make over is complete.

However other than clearing the bamboos off to new homes we won't be doing too much to this area this year.

Gaz :-) 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Woburn Abbey Plant Fair

We often comment that the best nurseries and plant fairs are all quite some distance from where we live, so it was lovely to discover that some of our favourite nurseries from around the country would be attending the Woburn Abbey Plant Fair. Woburn is about 10 miles from us so quite a short journey. The landscaped grounds of the magnificent Woburn Abbey Stately Home formed a lovely location for this show. It is not as big as some of the others we have been to but that did not detract from the day.

Brits love to queue! Waiting outside for the show to open

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Season of Scheffleras

All the Scheffleras in our garden are busy flushing and putting out new growth at the moment. Like with many plants this year the burst of new growth has been delayed, much later than usual and the Scheffleras were no exception. But their current, almost simultaneous flushing are quite a sight to behold whenever we catch glimpse of them as we walk around the garden. A delight to see and never fails to bring a smile especially to Schefflera lovers like us. You can see just how many of these have grown by looking back at this post about our Scheffleras from a couple of years ago.

Schefflera taiwaniana
As they currently flush and grow away, here's my personal celebration and a glimpse of just some of this wonderful group of plants growing in our garden.

Schefflera digitata
Schefflera aff. chapana
Schefflera aff. myriocarpa
Schefflera rhododendrifolia (syn. impressa, Needham/Kew Form)
Each species behaves differently when it  comes to flushing, branching, and generally putting out new growth. On years when the growing season is relatively long (but not necessarily that warm, it rarely gets sultry warm here anyway) some of the Scheffleras put out several flushes from spring till early autumn, up to four flushes on such rare years. Whilst some only flush once and that's it for the year, concentrating its energy afterwards into flowering and later on producing seed.

Schefflera macrophylla
Schefflera alpina - this one has been kept in the pot it came in originally for over a year now and has grown since to a current height of 10' 
tall. Fortunately it is still thriving despite being on the neglected side. Must find it a permanent home soon.
Schefflera kornasii
Schefflera rhodendrifolia (syn. impressa, Garden House form)
Schefflera fantsipanensis
A resilient Schefflera taiwaniana - as we cut off large branches off the big tree near it a few months ago one of them fell directly on top of 
it, severely bending the main growing point. Fortunately we didn't cut it off as much to our surprise it just carried on growing from it, 
bendy at first but later straightening itself out.
Schefflera taiwaniana - from our biggest specimen
Schefflera delavayi
The growing season is still early, the season is still young. With its late appearance I am confused myself whether it is still spring or it is summer already. Whatever it may be, for me it is currently a season of Scheffleras.

Mark :-)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The One That Unlocks the Garden

As we entered into spring we made a list of things to do and projects to be done during the coming warmer months. Some were exciting and pretty to do, whilst some were more functional but necessary. 

The entrance into the utility/working area
Doing something that will directly make the garden 'pretty', if you may call it that may be more exciting and tempting to do first but such activities doesn't necessarily make for a good priority. Sometimes you have to prioritise more functional projects first.

The thing is in our garden there are three major areas that still needed a makeover: the new garden (with the koi pond), the top patio (nearest to the back of the house), and the front garden (and a tiny one too, with barely enough space to park two cars off the street). And with the narrow access way to the back garden from the front and limited amount of space (and resource too mind you) we could only do one area at a time...

The New Area (blast from the past photo, as it was June 2010)
The Top Patio (photo courtesy of Loree of Danger Garden)
The Front Garden (if you can call it that!)
And it has to be on the right order: the new area first, then the top patio, and last would be the front garden. Why does it have to be in this order if you ask? Because the new area, of the three is the furthest from the house so that has to be done first. En route to there you have to pass by the top patio, which includes wheeling a barrow through it. If we make over the middle area first then it will be at risk of being damaged as we wheel and carry heavy materials constantly through it as we sort out the new area. And whilst we do the work on the new area where do we store the landscaping materials? Out in the front garden (which makes for a front garden that looks untidy almost all the time, not giving the best of impressions to anyone who passes by). It's not an ideal situation to stack things at the front but where else can we put them whilst we're doing some work, with lack of space elsewhere and all. So...

These things have to be stacked somewhere, and with limited space it had to be at the front garden. Not ideal but hey ho...
Before it gets too confusing I'm glad to say that after almost three years the new area is now finished; koi pond done, three raised beds done, pergola and decking done, a huge tick off the major trilogy of area makeovers and from there we can finally turn our attention to the other two....

But oops, not quite, not yet! What about the working/utility area right down at the bottom of the new area? Okay, it is technically segregated from the 'new area' but it is still part of it and it needs attention and doing to it just as much as the rest. It is not an area of beauty and aesthetics yes, but an area of function and necessity that if done will help make the rest of the garden look nicer. An area of storage and to nurture plants (and fish). So indirectly, it is still a project for garden aesthetics and beauty.

In smaller gardens (like ours, relatively speaking), if you don't have a working/utility area then you have to do your potting up and other chores in one of your 'tidy' areas of the garden, wherein you have to tidy up after every time you do work in it, ideally almost immediately. And not only that, you have to be creative where you store your tools, excess pots, compost, and in displaying all the plants that you have so you don't have to sacrifice the limited space you have to the mercy of a working mess.

Something had to give. While the working area was being sorted, the top patio was 'decomisioned' and became a temporary working area. You can see Twinkles in action there
But if you have a designated working area...

So it had to be prioritised. It's not a 'pretty, pretty' sort of project but it has to be done for it is the one that unlocks the garden. And I'm glad to say that the plant side of this working area is now completed (the pond side, the smaller greenhouse is a bonus but still needs doing soon of course).

The 'plant side' is now finished. Which means I have space to store plants now that are not meant for display this year
The 'pond side' still to follow but no big rush for this one
In this area I can carry on and do all of my repotting, store pots and compost, and store plants that are not meant to be displayed in the garden this year. So instead of having loads of random pots scattered around, they can all be stored in one area instead.

The 'unglamorous' side of the Filtration House, the side facing the working area. The ledge however is a permanent storage space potted plants.
A recent visitor took as much interest in the plants in the working area as much as the plants out in the garden...
and you can tell that this visitor is definitely a plantsman. For a plantsman takes as much interest on the plants that are hidden away as much as the ones on display.
A glimpse of what's currently occupying the greenhouse
Each plant has it's own story why they are stored away. Either they are genuine extra plants, they need extra TLC this summer, they need growing on first before they get planted out, and anything else in between.
The working area will help make the rest of the garden look tidy, unlocking areas that were temporarily taken out of use whilst storage and utility work were done there.

And once the pond side of this area has been finished then that's it, the entire new area is finished. A huge tick off the trilogy. And we can move on to the other two.

Mark :-)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

RHS Hampton Court 2013: Preview

The 2013 RHS Hampton Court Flower Show will soon be here, starting on July 9th. This year the show format has been updated with the various gardens, trade stands and exhibitors split up into distinct zones. Each zone will be themed and include plants, gardens, food and trade displays to reflect each theme.

The Grow Zone will explore the world of plants, Inspire Zone features conceptual design and fresh ideas whilst the Escape Zone will transplant the visitors away from the hustle and bustle of the city to the countryside without leaving the grounds of Hampton Court Palace.

Stephen Bennet, the RHS Shows Director explained ‘We have made exciting changes to enhance the visitor experience by introducing zones to the shows, each with its own distinct flavour and atmosphere taking the visitor on a journey through these fabulous shows in their spectacular settings.”

As always the show gardens take centre stage, with there being 33 show gardens this year and as always there will be a number of trade displays in the Floral Marquee.

The Gardens
This is our pick of the show gardens:

August 1963 - I Have A Dream
Designed by Steven Ryan, this garden is described as a place for contemplation. It is a contemporary garden that celebrates 50 years of progress in racial integration and equality since Martin Luther King’s famous speech from August 1963. The backdrop, paving and water features are inspired by the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. The three main blocks of planting are designed to represent racial segregation and racial equality. The water features have a white and a black water cascade, with the water flowing into the centre of the garden and meeting in a single pool. The obelisks in the garden are inscribed with quotes from the speech.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Greenhouse Complete at Last!

We have had quite a productive day in the garden, with the final glass reinstated into the greenhouse. With the glass finished we then gravelled the floor, saving time over paving stones and also felt like the right ground cover for in here.

As soon as the glass was in a few plants moved in, various yuccas, palms and other succulents, all of which will enjoy a blast of heat being under glass. Now that we can finally use this space we can also tidy up various plants dotted about the main part of the garden that needed a home which should help make the rest of the garden feel a lot more tidy and easy to work in.

So with this greenhouse built and the paving complete outside it we are half was through the "working area" project, with just low walls for the smaller greenhouse to build and then the quarantine pond inside.


Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Win Yeo Valley Goodies

We are pleased to announce we have another fantastic Yeo Valley Goodie Bag available as a competition

To celebrate the arrival of summer, Yeo Valley have announced another new Limited Edition yogurt that is bursting with tropical flavour!

The Mango, Peach and Passion Fruit big pot yogurt will be available all summer, and contains 0% Fat.

It will only be available in the shops for a limited time only and also includes the opportunity to win a pair of Eden Project garden deck chairs - see the packs for more details.

To tie in with the new product we have another cool bag filled with Yeo Valley Treats to give away.

To enter the competition simply reply to this post and tell us your favourite flavour of Yea Valley Yogurt and why you like that one. Remember to make sure we are able to contact you if you do win.

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 14 June 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. 

A Greenhouse Reborn (x2)

Way back in 2011 we bought a greenhouse on Ebay which was intended to go up in our working area. Well finally this one has been built!

It has been built on a wall one concrete block tall (22.5cm / 9") tall. Whilst this is not a very high wall it does help give that extra head height in the greenhouse that will make quite a lot of difference to how useful and usable the space actually is.

This greenhouse is roughly 8'x10' and will be used to grow plants on as well as over winter them in the colder months, kept frost free with a small heater and lots of bubble insulation.

Some of the glass itself still needs to be put in, and I'll aim to finish that off over the next couple of days. However it will get a good scrub first to remove any of the old grime and dirt it had accumulated.

Outside we laid a small area of paving slabs, this will also be used to store plants, having a small space for all those plants in waiting should help keep the rest of the garden tidy.

The next project is the smaller greenhouse we moved last weekend, I have mentioned before that this one will be home to a small quarantine tank with a separate filtration system. Housing this in its own space keeps the fish, water and filtration completely separate and independent from the rest of the fish and ponds reducing any risk of cross contamination in the event of a problem with a fish.

As with much of what we do I plan out our intentions, firstly to make sure i know what I am doing but also it helps me explain my plans to Mark so we can agree on any changes or amendments needed. and the quarantine pond is no exception:
This is roughly what we are thinking, the image on the left is a cross section through the pond. This will be sunk slightly into the ground and then built up. The greenhouse itself will be raised up on blocks to give a more head height and space.

A filter (the blue box in the diagram) will be pump fed (the grey blob) and be housed on shelving over the pond. The idea is to keep the use of space as efficiently as possible whilst still getting a good volume of water in the pond itself. In the main koi pond the pond pump is fitted dry in-line with the pipework, however this one will have a submersible pond pump. The key requirement will be efficiency, and some of the new generation of pond pumps are far more efficient than they used to be, having a much lower power requirement than those of the past. On the main koi pond we opted for new "eco" pumps, although with the rate of change in technology there are now even more efficient pumps available.

The plan, as you can see from the second image the pond will take up about half of the floor space in this greenhouse (total size 8'x6')

With any luck we will get the base done for this greenhouse this coming weekend and can then fit the tank etc later this month.


Monday, June 03, 2013

Mas Que Nada!

Give this area a makeover like it's the only garden space we have. Imagine the adjacent greenhouse as our house and this is the small courtyard or garden that is attached to it.

This is the thought that I kept repeating to myself as I stared at the bottom patio, trying to think what to do with it to get it ready for the summer. The pond in this area, the original koi pond is due to be redone at some point soon but recently I have started to have doubts whether we'll still be able to do it this year as there's so much going on. But I can't leave it looking as it is all year, it needed a makeover even if it's just a temporary one. 

I needed some inspiration, and whist tidying up in the area listening to the radio the song Mas Que Nada  was played. The sun was shining, it felt warm, and this popular Samba song by Sergio Mendes (jazzed up by the Black Eyed Peas in this particular version) was playing on radio. Now how summery an atmosphere can you get right at that moment?

Then I suddenly thought, hmmmm...Mas Que Nada...think colourful, vibrant, hot, summery...we need hot colours on the patio but not from plants. And with the idea of having bright colours an overall idea what to do with this area came to mind.

Quick! I better get moving while I'm all inspired!

So I immediately sent Gaz to the nearest garden centre whilst I carried on and asked him to buy a selection of glazed pots. Each pot being of only one colour but it should be bright and warm to the eyes. Think 'Jewel Tones'.

And he did not disappoint (much to my amazement, hehe!). He did a fantastic job, selecting some nice ones exactly what I had in mind. Actually they were perfect.

So with the pots on hand I selected succulents that would go well with them and potted them up. I removed the covers of the pond (good riddance, they were such an eyesore), swept the patio, relocated some of our garden vases and arranged them in the area, and by the end of the weekend the job was done.

This area is now ready for the summer. Ready for some barbeque in the weeks to come (weather permitting!), or a perfect place for tea and cakes.

And speaking of tea and cakes, we joined in with The Bloggers Cut,  the virtual celebration of the Chelsea Fringe festival hosted by Michelle from Veg Plotting, and what better way to celebrate the newly made over patio area than with tea and cake. Check out this link to see what other bloggers have been up to!

Barbeque, cakes, tea, beer even. So many things to look forward. And with Mas Que Nada laying on the background even better (but maybe not on loop!).

Sometimes you get garden inspiration from the unlikeliest of sources. And on this occasion, it was from music.

Mark :)