Sunday, October 27, 2013

Home and Garden

As work progresses on the rebuilding of the jungle hut our thoughts are turning to the completion of this and also the house itself. One question from the builders last week was where to route the drain pipes and gutters. We previously had connected one side to a water butt, however with the extended deck area this may not work the way it had before. The current plan is to use the water to irrigate the tree ferns on one side and bamboo on the other. We wont be able to capture the water and get the design right. Perhaps its just as well that we do have a water butt on the small shed to help through the dry summer periods (if we manage to get any that is!)

We are still anticipating that the new building will be completed this week, however with a bad storm forecast for this evening it is possible that things may get delayed if our builders get called away to assist with storm damage elsewhere - hopefully our garden will be spared any damage. We have taken basic precautions, placing pots onto the ground that were elevated, and removing the various agaves that sat on the pond wall. Neither of us fancied the idea of having to try and get a sunken pot from the bottom of the pond, October isn't exactly the best time to be diving in with the koi.

We moved these in case the gusts of wind blew them into the pond
Just a small gimpse of the pond, we know we still need to share photos of the completed pond but with the very hectic summer we have had this was delayed. We will share them soon I promise :)

However we have mostly spent this weekend working on the house itself, the weather being too wet and windy to enjoy being outside, and we are nearing the end of the various projects. It is nice that most of the rooms the builders had worked on are now complete, so we have been busy setting up the kitchen and lounge how we want them, unpacking boxes and cleaning. Somehow builders dust manages to get into sealed boxed, I don't know how they manage it!!

Lets hope the storm passes without too many problems.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Return of the Jungle Hut (Part I)

Having professional carpenters in the garden is something of a novelty, until now we have done everything ourselves, calling in assistance from my Dad on occasion. The rebuilding of the jungle hut, however, is being paid for by our insurance company and so we don't need to resort to DIY.

First they dismantled the old one, which they commented had been very well built. I guess we knew that already as the main part was at least 20 years old, and showed no signs of any problems. That was unceremoniously dumped into a huge skip before it was taken away for recycling - most of the timber content gets pulped and I understand then used as fuel. 

New timber sat next to the old hut in the skip 

The new Timber arriving
So with that gone did we get chance to photograph the big empty space - no not at all, as by the time we had gotten home that evening the start of the new building was going up.

The new Jungle hut will be similar to the old one, although the decked area is growing in size and the shed itself will be slightly smaller. Its looking very solid already and the cladding being used is much thicker than the old - and in my eye looks much better too.

Very chunky cladding
The decking is also much thicker than we had used, so will be nice and solid too. As before the shed will be double glazed and insulated to ensure that when we over winter plants - and it will be needed for that very task before much longer - the cost of heating is kept to an absolute minimum.

Twinkles likes the new shed
We are expecting the finished building to be completed next week - I love having the professionals in!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Take a Bow Jungle Hut!

The Jungle Hut is being taken down today to make way for a new one but before it exits I gave it a final once over last night, just before I finalized tidying up what was still left there to be salvaged.

The sun has set for the old jungle hut
Gaz was feeling a bit nostalgic about it, not sad but sort of reminiscing as he did build the veranda bit with his dad a few years ago. The rest of it is much older, being there all along and came with the garden when we bought the property.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Mad Dash

We're at the polishing stage now with the house renovation so meaning lots of redecorating to do, yay! Very exciting phase for us as it's a very visual and aesthetically pleasing phase, it feels like we're finally regaining our house back from the builders, and everything seems to 'fall into place' after a summer of upheaval. A long phase on its own and sorting out finer details can take as much time as the building work did (it's back down to just the two of us to do all of the redecorating) but once it's all done, it's all done.

Plants...make way for the builders!
Both of us are currently so focused on doing as much redecorating as much as we could (it's exciting and at the moment we're doing the kitchen) that it's difficult to prize our attention away from the house and into the garden.

But winter is fast approaching and that's still at the back of our heads so whether we like it or not we really have to start preparing the garden this coming weekend.

So we're at the redecorating phase which means the builders have very little to do now in the house (just a collection of minor odds and ends left to do), which also means...

They can turn their attention now to the rebuilding of the Jungle Hut. And these builders, when they move they move quick and we have to keep up with them.

Goodbye old Jungle Hut! Sweet kisses to you x x x
The demolition of the Jungle Hut is scheduled for this coming Wednesday and we were only informed last Sunday evening. And to prepare for the demolition we have to clear out the jungle hut itself of anything that is not meant to be taken away for recycling.

Fortunately, we've cleared out most of the contents that are meant to be kept weeks ago but there are still a few items there remaining that has to be removed and stored for the time being. These items are mostly the decorations that graced the jungle hut to give it that 'look' but we're only keeping a select few, especially ones with sentimental value, and letting go of the rest. Clearing the remaining items shouldn't be a big chore and can be done in no time at all.

However, we also have to clear out the pathway that leads from the jungle hut all the way through the side passage of the house and into the street where the recycling skip will be. Now this is the tricky bit. We do have a lot of plants and heavy clutter to remove along that way.

That's it, move plants away from the pathway and jam them somewhere else...
The pathway is narrow enough as it is, might as well make it a bit easier for the builders. The white materials are extras for when they built the conservatory and they'll have to clear them out too tomorrow (along with the Jungle Hut).
We only have Monday and Tuesday to get everything ready and we both have work during the day on both days. Which means we only have the evenings after work to do all that shifting. And with autumn being autumn, it will be dark already by the time we get back home from work. Not to mention rainy and cold too.

But it had to be done so there it was, the mad two night dash to clear out as much as we could in conditions that are less than ideal. Two nights of post work lifting and shoving of plants, vases, and decor in the dark and in the rain.

Randomness and chaos, but most of the plants are looking good though!
It wasn't too bad in the end and it went quicker than I initially thought. We would have preferred to do all the shifting at a much slower pace but we have to adjust to the scheduling of the builders.

So the pathway to the skip is as clear as can be (or wide/good enough anyway). Now it's time to say goodbye to the old jungle hut. I think it deserves it's own dedicated post which will follow soon, sort of a mini tribute to our garden fixture that unexpectedly met a fiery end this year. 

Never mind! Out with the old, in with the new! But whilst the old one was fine, it was good fun!

Mark :-)

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Greenhouse Update

It's that time of the year again when we have to start thinking about where to put plants away for the cold months ahead. The greenhouse at the bottom of our new garden (past the koi pond) will be the main home for those that will need some extra protection for it will be gently heated to keep it above freezing for the entire duration of winter. 

Nearly all have gained size and done well since the start of the summer
But before you gain entry you'll have to feed these fellas first...
We've got loads of plants and space is a premium so we better start thinking about how to position all of its winter residents to maximise use of its limited space. Which means lots of planning...

But before that I better take a look at what's there already.

It's pushed out some new growth so I'm hoping that this Yucca thompsoniana is re-rooting nicely
The photo betrays how blue the Nolina nelsonii at the front is.
Clockwise from lower left - Beccariophoenix alfredii, Chamaerops humilis var. cerifera, Chamaerops humilis, and a Cycas revoluta
Another one that is very blue in the greenhouse - Yucca schottii
and its neighbour Solanum pyracanthum
Whilst not looking one of our Agave montana has thrown out some variegation. To core it or not to encourage variegated offsets, that is the question... (sorry for the weeds!)
New growth that gladdens my heart - from a previously flowered and rootless Yucca rostrata
The current residents have pretty much stayed as they were since we've put them there at the start of the summer. We've barely had time to do any gardening recently and the most I've done here before was to give everyone a quick check that they are fine and watered as and when necessary. So far so good and a majority have done well despite the minimal attention we've given them. There were a few casualties and there are some weeding to do now but overall the residents are in a good state.

We lost nearly all of our power tools during the fire hence we weren't able to build any greenhouse staging in the past months. To be honest, lost tools or not I doubt we would have been able to build those stages anyway with our spare time severely preoccupied by the house renovation. So I'm pondering on just buying off the rack ones which I'm currently looking in to, seeing what's available out there that's sturdy but won't cost the earth either.

The vignette just outside the greenhouse - how many can you identify?
And speaking of lost tools, they have all been found again as replacements have been sent (and premium ones too, yay!) which means that once the house is done garden DIY can recommence.

And back to the greenhouse, apart from the staging we'll have to put some insulation in too, to keep the warmth inside and consequently reduce heating costs. Then once that's done we can start putting more plants in, all part of the big ritual of tucking the garden to bed for winter.

Mark :-)

Sunday, October 06, 2013

A Few Bites of the Big Apple

'New York, New York, So good they named it twice' goes the words of the famous song. For us perhaps this needs to be 'So good you need to visit it twice'! We had a full week in the Big Apple, but this really was only enough time to just start to scratch the surface, there was so much more we wanted to do.

We did however manage to cram in some of the main sights - both botanically and the more famous tourist ones like the Empire State, Statue of Liberty, Broadway, Central Park, MOMA, etc. We even managed to meet up with a fellow blogger, although we sadly, didn't get chance to visit his garden - next time!

Whilst away we managed to blog a few times, taking advantage of free public wifi that seems to be so prevalent in New York, everywhere from Starbucks to Museums and public spaces seemed to have free wifi available, something that the UK should work harder to catch up on.

We were able to share short "postcard" style blogs from, Bryant Park, The Rockefeller Centre, The High Line and the NY Botanic Gardens.

The View from Bryant Park

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Four Seasons in One Day

Whilst we were in New York Botanical Garden a few weeks ago we managed to see and experience all four seasons in one day...

Four Seasons is NYBG's current special installation of four gigantic garden sculptures, each being 15 feet tall, to be found in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory Courtyard and will run until the 30th of March next year. The sculptures are the creation of artist Philip Haas and was inspired from the series of paintings of the same name done by Italian renaissance painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo. We're lucky enough to see some of the originals in art galleries in Vienna and Paris on previous trips and it's great to see some of his paintings transformed into giant, vividly colourful, three dimensional sculptures.