Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How Much Perfection?

After seeing so many perfect looking gardens in Portland recently, and whilst tidying up in our garden earlier I found myself thinking and wondering, how much perfection is needed when you open a garden?

We don't do open days but we do show our garden to individuals or groups of people. In fact we have two groups coming over the weekend. Although we're both relaxed and easy going about it (most of the time at least) we still anticipate and prepare for anyone's arrival with that extra bit of effort in tidying up than what we usually do just for ourselves. In doing so I also can't help but wonder what are people's expectations, do they expect perfection? They better not for our garden ain't perfect. We're happy to show but they'll have to take it as it is. Perhaps such attitude lets us prepare without panicking.

With the events coming up and work on the garden it makes you also reflect on what is there already and what still needs to be done. At the end of the garden after the filter house we are once again catching up with the jobs. The fences still need to be completed, im not sure exactly what we will do, Gaz was looking through the Buy Fencing Direct site to help us decide, something functional, or something more "designer", time and budget will no doubt influence us.

But what about me, do I expect perfection whenever I visit a garden? Honestly, I don't for nearly all of the time I just let myself get consumed with the emotion of happiness of just being there. I take in the beauty and look for inspiration, so much so that any 'flaw' just goes over my head without any notice.

Does this sound really positive? Well everytime we visit a garden we start in a positive mind frame and most of the time it stays that way for the duration of our visit. Sure some gardens we'll love more than others but there will always be something special in each of them, ideas and inspiration to take home with.

Positive but not blind. Yes we've seen poor gardens too, and even more annoying is that we have even paid to see them. Thankfully they are very few, rare, and far in between.

Going back to 'flaws', so I rarely notice them in other gardens. But I do notice gardens that are too perfect, too unflawed. Contradicting sentences? A garden that is too perfect, like being lifted from a photo spread in a magazine that has been airbrushed too much I find disconcerting, even strange. Where has the character of the garden gone? What does it say about the gardener apart from being too clean? And is that so bad?

There is perfect, then there's too perfect. Like a human face, put on too much concealing makeup and you also erase the character of a face. You get a mask instead. But isn't it more fascinating to find out more about the person behind the mask?

I'm rambling on too much now...

So how much perfection?

To answer my own question I'd say, perhaps perfect enough to show respect to whoever is visiting and not to embarrass yourself. But not too perfect so as to lose character. 

What about you, how much perfection?

Mark :-)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Rain - The Garden in July

On my way home from work this evening I was mentally preparing myself to be doing another long bout of watering the garden. Instead what I came home to was rain...

Rain, feel it on my fingertips, hear it on my window pane...

Rain, beautiful rain, most welcome rain.

The entire country is having a spell of sunny and dry days so rain in between those days is most welcome. The garden needs it. And the gardener needs it too.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Front of House Plants Update

Last May I featured the front of our house and how we've finally taken the time to sort out the potted plants there and make the area tidy. So how is it looking now that it's almost end of July? Let's have a look...

As I've mentioned on our previous blog post the space at the front of our house is tiny and planting possibilities are very limited. And how it remained scruffy and potted plants there were neglected for years as we concentrated at the back garden. Being the face of the house it was about time we sorted it out and put in new plants that will also reflect the type of plants we grow in our back garden.

More importantly from then onwards to actually take care of the plants there rather than neglect them like we did to its previous residents, oops! I'm proud to say that we have been very good and have been on top of watering and weeding the area as necessary... almost anyway (check out my follow up to this below). It does help of course that we have chosen drought tolerant plants that can cope with the south facing aspect with heat radiated by the paving and walls.

The Yucca gloriosa 'Variegata' is starting to look good again after having had a hard trim last May. It is the only plant remaining from the original batch of plants that were here before the makeover.

Sempervivums at the base of the Yucca are bulking up nicely too.

Nolina nelsonii has bulked up since then, is looking more blue as it should be and the new growth seems to be a bit twisty but that is normal for some of them.

The Alliums have done their thing, been and now gone. Either I keep the pot of mulch where it is, stash it away, and put something else. I'm likely to do the last one although I haven't decided what to put in it yet.

Three of the four Agaves have visibly grown too...

Agave montana is filling the pot nicely and has obviously responded well for being in a bigger pot.

Oops, blurred pic! So here's another one...

The person who gave this to me gave me a little pinch for putting in the wrong label for this one. According to him this is Agave atrovirens var. mirabilis, not Agave salmiana var. ferox as I labelled it on my two previous posts. It is doing very well and has bulked up since May. Provided it sails through winter fine this will be a giant one..

Agave ovatifolia is looking good too, and looking even more blue.

So there was three, the fourth one looks like it has barely put on any new growth. Looks like this will be a slow one - Agave parryi var. huachucensis

The Nolina parviflora, well it is growing...

So I said almost above, almost because two of the plants turned out to be not that drought and heat tolerant after all, despite the initial premise that they will be. They all get watered at the same time and fairly regularly too but these two seemed to need a lot more than we were giving. And prepared to give. They can't stay there for long they will have to be replaced.

The two Eryngium agavifolium Giant Form seems to require a lot more water than what it already receives, and/or more sensitive to heat than the rest. Or perhaps it just resents being in a pot, although it's not like it's been in that pot for a long time. I'll be replacing in the next few weeks or so, once I've bought the new plants to take its place. At least the Nolina parviflora at the corner is faring and performing much better.

The two Nerium oleander and Thuja plicata 'Whipcord' are doing very fine, with the oleanders rewarding us with blooms for weeks now.

Pink and Red? Well typical me, picked up two of them from the same batch and assumed the blooms would be the same colour. Only to discover weeks later that they aren't. Nevermind, I'm not fussed with the colour of the bloom anyway as I bought them mainly for their foliage and drought tolerance. It made me smile though once I realised their difference, although my preference would still be for them to be the same.

So there you go, I don't think we've done too bad at all. Next update would be how they will fare over winter. I'm optimistic on that one as this is a more sheltered spot that gets winter sun too. We'll see. Meanwhile I'm the look out for an appropriate replacement for the Alliums and the two Eryngiums.

Mark :-)

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Royal College of Physicians Garden

My alter ego, you know the sort that pays bills, as a clinician has seen myself attending numerous conferences and symposiums hosted at the function halls of the Royal College of Physicians. And every time I attend these gatherings I look forward to seeing their courtyard garden which has a good selection of exotic plants, most of which grow outside permanently, owing to the shelter provided by the walls of the building, as well as by the 'urban heat island' micro climate in Central London. 

With such a favourable micro climate in the city there are so many plants you can grow there that will not do so even if it's planted just outside of it, the periphery of the inner city and beyond. A walk in the city, it's not unheard of to come across large Phoenix canariensis, Butia capitata, Araucaria heterophylla happily growing outside. I've even come across  before Ficus elastica, Schefflera arboricola, Crassula ovata, and so many more traditional houseplants growing as outdoor potted plants on various parts within the core of the city. That's how extra warm in the winter and sheltered it is there.

Fling 2014: McMenamins Kennedy School

After visiting Loree's Garden (which will come up later on), we made the fairly short walk to Kennedy School, which is a former elementary school in Portland. After closing as a school in 1975, it was boarded up and sat unloved for 20 years until McMenamins took it on to create an "adult playground", complete with bars, swimming pool, entertainment venues etc. However we were there for the gardens rather than the entertainment - although we did stay behind for a pint in the basement bar.

We began the tour on the front lawn, with an talk about the history of the planting and the approach they have taken.

Very little existed in the way of planting when McMenamins took on the building, just a handful of trees, most of which are still there today.

Bloggers exploring the gardens

A new xeric bed has recently been added, which looks like it may need a little more time to settle in.

Public planting in the UK rarely is as interesting, this certainly beats the typical bedding displays and conifers you get round most hotels or pubs.

Cotoneaster glaucophyllus
Whilst the planting lacked the personal touch of the various blogger and personal gardens we visited it really was great to see a what was in effect public planting using so many interesting plants. 


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fling 2014: Chickadee Gardens

One of the highlights of the Garden Bloggers Fling was to visit the gardens of fellow bloggers. This can be a strange experience as sometimes the layout of the garden or the size and perspective of the garden is different in ones mind to the actual garden. Chickadee Gardens is just five years old, although the garden feels much more established than that. Tamara grows a wide range of natives and maintains an environmentally friendly garden, that has been certified by the Backyard Habitat Certification Program.

Tamara's home is unusual compared to the neighbours, having a more 'Spanish' feel which combined with the planting, blue skies and garden decor created a wonderful place to escape.

Fling 2014: JJ De Sousa

I thought about how best to cover the fling, should we cover it chronologically, by location, type, by day, or even by colour? In the end we thought we would dip in and out of the various gardens, not having a plan as such but posting about the gardens and locations as the mood takes us. Perhaps something will remind us of a garden and so we will cover it. We are not going to set any goals, we may not end up covering them all, or perhaps it will take us up to the Fling in 2015 before we get to the end.

So without further ado the first garden to share is the garden of JJ De Sousa, garden designer and proprietor of Digs, an eclectic shop selling a wide range of interesting home and garden accessories. Sadly we didn't get to visit the shop too.

The garden wraps around the home, which is centred in the middle of a 77'x127' lot. 

JJ De Sousa

You enter the garden via an orange gate of carrots. Well why wouldn't the gate be carrots! Which gives the first clue as to the favourite colour of JJ!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Beautiful Experience

We just got back home from attending the Garden Blogger's Fling last weekend in Portland, Oregon and we had such a great time! It was a truly wonderful and unforgettable experience for the both of us and we give out our huge thanks to the organisers of this year's fling: Heather, Jane, Loree, and Scott who pulled out all the stops to come up with such a well organised, fun fling.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Morning Glory in the Garden of Sean Hogan

On our first morning in Portland, Oregon we spent some time perusing and relaxing in the private garden of horticulturist Sean Hogan, who is also the owner of Cistus Nursery located in the same city. The sun was shining, the weather was glorious, and just to make it perfect we were immersed in the beautiful personal space Sean has created.

We arrived in the city the evening before wherein Loree met us at the airport and took us to Sean's place. Afterwards we all went out for dinner but as it was well dark already by the time we got back we had to wait till the morning to have a proper look of the garden. I have to say even in the dark you can make out the silhouette of the beautiful plants and you can tell already that it's a beautiful garden. So come the morning, after a lovely breakfast we sat out to relax in the back garden.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

RHS Hampton Court Flower Show 2014 - Floral Marquee

Our coverage on this year's Hampton Court Flower Show continues with scenes inside the fabulous Floral Marquee!

Monday, July 07, 2014

RHS Hampton Court Flower Show 2014 - Show Gardens

We had a fantastic time spent today at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show, catching up with friends and taking inspiration from the plants and displays at the Floral Marquee and of course the Show Gardens which were divided into different categories.

The weather was sunny and warm, simply perfect which made the day extra enjoyable and very conducive to admiring the exhibits and other features the show had to offer. There was a brief spell of rain showers later on but we were inside the floral marquee when it happened and the rain stopped just before we needed to leave. How's that for perfect timing?

The show was huge as always and there were so much to see but we managed to peruse most of it during our relatively brief stay there. As usual we felt we could do with another day spent there to fully savour this huge show but as most of you would know by now there is another 'event' we will be attending for the rest of this week coinciding with the
remainder of the show

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Lazy Summer Days

Ahh Summer! You dream about it all winter and when it actually arrives it's something to savour. I know summer heat can get intense and even oppressive on some parts of the world, which effectively prevents nearly anyone from doing anything outdoors from late morning till late afternoon. Here in the UK it rarely gets that uncomfortably warm even on sunny days where temperatures rarely goes above 30C. Okay, stretches of sunny and dry weather are not guaranteed here either (sometimes we don't get it at all, like in 2012) so when you do get it, it is an extra incentive to enjoy it.

Even Twinkles is enjoying summer in the garden
So far this summer is proving to be a really good one (by British standards).

Product Review: Evolution Aqua Evo 55

Our koi pond has been up and running for just over a year now, and so far things seem to be working as intended. We were recently offered the opportunity to add an Evolution Aqua Evo 55 UVC by Swell UK. Evolution Aqua have been developing a range of good quality pond accessories over recent years with a full range of filters and accessories for koi keeping. A UVC on a pond system helps to reduce algae by killing the algae as the water passes through the UVC, it also helps steralise some of the bacteria in the water.

The Evo 55 is simple to fit, it comes with fittings to connect to flexi-pipe however as we have a rigid pipe based system we needed to use slightly different fittings. Fortunately these are of a standard size so single screw into both ends of the UVC.

All our filter equipment is connected to water proof power supplies, although there shouldn't be any water splashing about in the filter house we wanted to be extra careful, and so far this has worked well. It was a simple job to connect the power to the UVC.

With the filters operating for a the last 15 months, it looks like we had the right approach in over filtering and under stocking. The fish have really benefited being relocated from their old small pond, growing well and also having fewer problems. Cleaning the filters has also worked out as we had hoped, not taking too much time as its such a simple almost automated process. At first I had to follow the instructions each time but now it just is second nature.

We are hoping the water quality and clarity continues to improve as the filters mature and with the addition of this UVC.