Sunday, May 31, 2015

Went Out For a Pot, Came Home With a Plant

Just typical isn't it? Especially if you're a plant lover and spot a bargain!

So today we went out in search of several tall glazed pots to go on the top patio. Not finding any suitable ones at a couple of garden centres near us we went further ahead to Savin Nurseries to see what they have at the moment.

Now this nursery we enjoy visiting regularly for their reasonably priced plants and ability to spring surprises, to suddenly have some rarities for sale with great prices too. And it proved to be just like that again on today's visit.

We may have been looking primarily for pots this time but since we were there we might as well peruse the plant polytunnels. And whilst browsing we spotted them by the corner. There they were, a group of large Agaves with prices that are very reasonable.

It's still quite rare to see large agaves for sale here so to see them there of all places was an extra treat and a surprise! Which ones should we go for when they are all very nice?

There were some minor flaws on all of them due to being transported to the nursery from continental Europe but overall they were in great condition. We didn't have the camera with us so only took photos using my phone.

I recognised the agaves as follows: A. ovatifolia, A. potatorum, A. tequilana, A. desmettiana 'Variegata', A. mitis, and A. geminiflora. One of them I couldn't recognise so perhaps anyone out there would hazard a guess?

The ovatifolia was very blue, almost white and was beautiful! Had to leave it behind though as it was heavy and had nowhere else to put one at that size. The potatorum was great too and just as beautiful but being a more tender agave it will need shifting under cover in the winter and at such a size would be a difficult thing to do. But there were two geminiflora there and one of them I was instantly smitten with...

Can you see the 20p coin for scale? Agave ovatifolia
And was the one I went for and took home with me. It is big but the leaves are pliable and would be much easier to shift in the winter. The way it was trimmed for transport and sale it looks more like a Dasylirion at the moment, which is nice in its own right too.

Agave geminiflora
So did we buy any pot? Nope, they didn't have what we were looking for either. But that agave more than made up for the effort of going there. Come to think of it I don't think we need but those pots now. All worked out well in the end!

Mark :-)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Time to Be Creative

One of the things I look forward to at the start of the summer season is the stage dressing of the garden. This is such a fun thing to do and an opportunity to slightly vary the look of the garden from year to year by just a few modifications here and there. Changing accessories, a few rearrangements, new bedding plants among others can make a difference and freshen up a familiar looking place.

Playing with positioning of pots. Stage dressing of the garden for the summer has begun
And one of the new things I'll be doing this year will be incorporating a bit more mixed succulent planting in pots especially on the top patio.

Materials assembled
Our patio (or should be called a terrace as one of our friends insist) just outside the conservatory is still due a more permanent makeover and will be the subject of a few dedicated blog musings which will come up in the following days. But for this year at least it will be graced with some mixed succulent plantings.

There's some variation in each Echeveria agavoides and yet they come from the same batch
Echeveria agavoides 'Taurus' at the front looks so shiny, even metallic looking
My preference is still very much towards one plant per pot, solitary in their containers over several crammed together. Mixed planting however can look amazing and I do appreciate them. A few in the garden this year won't hurt and adds an element to doing something new and slightly out of our norm.

Saying that, by the end of the weekend I still did mostly potting up succulents on their own in a pot and only one mixed planting. I'm pleased with it and should fill in nicely as the season progress. I'll do more over the next few days but have to say...

My heart still firmly belongs to one succulent one pot.

Mark :-)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Hail and the Jumping Agave

Do you have any gardening superstition? I don't but I think I'm starting to develop one. That is that I must be careful when cutting and repotting Agave attenuata for doing so brings hail!

It started last year when I chopped two Agave attenuata living in our conservatory that were leaning at an acute angle which I then repotted upright. One detail that I forgot to mention on my post about it then was that some light hail fell as soon as I did the deed. Just my luck, they remained pristine indoors (albeit leaning) and the short moment they spent outdoors it just had to hail, great! Fortunately it was only light and the blemishes it sustained was minimal and barely noticeable.

Fast forward to May this year. In a recent post I made about my favourite shed it featured a photo of the Agave attenuata that was on the table inside that shed. Just like the two specimens living in the conservatory this one also developing a lean but still seemed secure in remaining upright with its heavy terracotta pot. Or so I thought. Going back into the shed the next day I discovered that the agave had fallen on to the floor, some leaves broken and gravel mulch scattered all over the place making a royal mess. Sigh, the agave has just jumped! The lean was bad enough for it to inevitably topple.

The jumping agave (fortunately the other succulents weren't harmed when it jumped)
And what to do now that it is too top heavy and with a lean? Chop and repot of course, like what I've done to two others before. And so I did just that and it didn't look too bad at all despite the topple and the cut. But shortly afterwards, guess what, hail fell again! But this time it was a tad heavier and the damage and blemishes it has caused is much more visible.

Poor pockmarked Agave attenuata!
So is this variegated one
Even this Agave lophantha got blemished
Oh well, I'm sure I'll be chopping and repotting an Agave attenuata again at various points in the future. But perhaps do it under cover and let it stay there for a few days just in case it hails...

Mark :-)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Win Tickets for Gardeners World Live

Gardeners World Live is on again at Birmingham NEC from 11-14 June.

We have 3 pairs of tickets to give away, for Thursday 11 June, Friday 12 June and Sunday 14 June. For more information see the Gardeners World website.

As well as 3 lucky readers, we also have a promotional code to enter when booking tickets for 15% off. Enter code 2MV4 when prompted

To be in with a chance of winning tickets please tell us who your favourite star of Gardeners World is and why. Please let us know which day you would prefer to 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 31 May 2015. 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 arrange for your prize to be sent to you. 

Three Days of Bliss

Bank holiday weekend, three days off from work and potentially three days of bliss. And it was especially as we didn't make any plans beforehand apart from mainly staying at home and do as much gardening as we could.

Nevermind the hosepipe....
Typical of a bank holiday weekend here the sun barely made an appearance. Fortunately it was still warm and there were long intervals between the odd drizzle so we still managed to do lots of gardening.

The rare occasion that sun made an appearance, and just had to take a photo - Mahonia gracilipes
And the sun's still there! Actinidia kolomikta
And the clouds return - Schefflera delavayi
We didn't aim for any particular project to do but rather a general catch up of various garden chores to get it ready for coming warmer months. 

It wasn't planned but a rather spontaneous tweaking of the side passage was done
Even the houseplants got some attention and maintenance, not that we have many, in fact we barely have any. But the odd one here and there in the house is good, recognising its benefits after nearly banishing them all a year or so ago. Like this pot of begonia in the office, it's not much but nice to see and takes the edge of the concept of an office being a stark, functional space.

Indoor plants can improve the overall look of the office, as can bright green bunnies!
As it was grey for most of the weekend photo taking was very limited due to poor lighting. Hopefully in the next few days we'll be able to take more. And typical of a bank holiday weekend too, the forecast over the following days will be sunny and warm. On the days we're back at work. Oh well...

Mark :-)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Chelsea 2015: The Great Pavilion

And to cap off our coverage for this year's Chelsea Flower Show, we give you a few scenes we've captured inside the Great Pavilion - where plants take centre stage over garden design.

Sometimes models gets in the way...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Chelsea 2015: The Artisan Gardens

Small, very small even compared to the main show gardens but they can still certainly pack a punch!

Size doesn't matter when it comes to creativity. In fact most gardeners (and garden designers) say that coming up for a design and plan for a small plot is much harder than a big one. But such is the challenge for those exhibiting under the Artisan Gardens category at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Here are this year's selection:

A Trugmaker's Garden by Future Climate Info - Gold

Chelsea 2015: The Fresh Gardens

Gardens that are conceptual and meant to provoke thought. Gardens that are meant to be looked out and then to ponder upon.

But are these gardens fresh as a daisy, or mad as a box of frogs? You decide...

Beyond Our Borders by APHA - Gold

Chelsea 2015: The Show Gardens

For most visitors the main highlight of attending the Chelsea Flower Shower is to see the exquisite large show gardens on display and this year's selection did not disappoint! The designs this year were more diverse and there were so many aspects to be inspired with. Let's take a look at these beautiful gardens:

The Brewin Dolphin Garden - Gold

Monday, May 18, 2015

Chelsea 2015: a Preview

The 2015 RHS Chelsea flower show opens tomorrow, but today ahead of the crowds, Mark and I had a preview of the gardens on show.

Our first impression was that there is more variety in the garden styles this year. This has been an improvement from last year with more interest and each garden having something special to offer. Of the hundreds of photos we took today here are just a small sample to whet the appetite. 

The Sculptors picnic garden is one of the artisan gardens, these re smaller than the main gardens, and often whimsical in style. This one really captured our imagination, with great planting, and many interesting details. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Beyond Leaves and Flowers

When one thinks about beautiful parts of a plant immediate thoughts tend to go towards the blooms, then a close second are its leaves (inverse if you're a foliage lover like we are). But there are other parts of a plant too that can give so much interest, and for some of them it is neither their blooms nor leaves that make them worthy of growing in the garden.

Just a few examples in our garden...

Kalopanax septemlobus
Nice leaves but the prickles on the trunk also do it for me

This prickly beauty is over 16' tall already

Plain green but is the only bamboo that I know of that has corrugated culms - Phyllostachys bambusoides 'Marliacea'
The photo doesn't do the scale of the stems justice but they are even bigger in diametert o most of our bamboo culms. Nice random stripes, bright colours, and markings too. Fallopia japonica 'Variegata'
In tangent with the plant above, this one begs to be stroked...not! Heracleum dulcis
Odd behaviour on this particular Schefflera taiwaniana. It shed all of its old leaves just before it flushed. But the stems remained intact. Beyond it, check out the Eucalyptus...
Interesting texture on the trunk of this Schefflera rhododendrifolia
Beyond interests on leaves and flowers plants can also offer so much more!

Mark :-)

Monday, May 11, 2015

My Favourite Shed

Not that we have many, we only have two. Okay only one proper shed, you know the sort that is a wooden structure that is utilitarian and where you keep your garden tools and other odds and ends. The other shed, my favourite one has the growing on pond in it. And lots of plants too!

The plastic box is not normally there but I was using it to keep the hosepipe in place as I do a partial water change.
As regular readers will know this project took a while to come to completion, with the project delayed by the garden fire in 2013. However things were back on track last summer and we built this shed late last year. Following on from that we have been enjoying spending time in it since it was finished in early January. Whilst doing a partial water change this afternoon I took some photos and thought of giving a quick update on how this new shed of ours is doing.

Some fresh water for the fish
We have tweaked the setup recently. The main filter is now an Evolution Aqua Eazypod, and this filtration has been enhanced by an Oasis Clear Pond filter that has a UV clarifier that clumps algae, prevents green water, and greatly helps with the water clarity. Plus it provides extra biological filtration too. In theory the Eazypod could more than handle the volume of water in this pond, but as you can never really over-filter a pond any filtration added can only benefit the pond and its residents.

Setting up the filtration has been very simple. The system is pump fed to a splitter where 75% of the water passes to the EazyPod and 25% to the Oasis filter with the UVC.

The Eazypod therefore does the bulk of the filtration - both biological and also mechanical. The inside of the Eazypod is filled with static K1 which has a huge surface area to encourage the bacteria that break down the fish waste. This also allows solids to settle which are flushed to waste (more on that in a moment).

The water from this filter is then returned by 3" pipe to the pond.

The second filter takes a smaller volume of water, this contains sponge filters and flocor, again providing mechanical and biological plus the UVC to reduce algae in the water. I think we will probably remove the flocor and add kaldnes K3 instead as this has a higher surface area, and thus can be home to more of the good bacteria needed in the system.

Another thing is that as the filtration is now maturing nicely improving fish healtj and water clarity, not only removing solid wastes but neutralising the toxic byproducts produced by the fish. I have to say I'm especially most impressed with the main filter of the pond which is an Eazypod. It filters very efficiently and is very, very easy to clean and maintain. You only need a few minutes to clean the filter and no need to be touching fish poo. Highly recommended if you're thinking of a filter for a pond!

The waste from the pond is fed to a large clump of bamboo just behind the filter house, I'm sure the bamboo wont object to regular watering with concentrated fish waste.

The other inhabitants along with the fish are a number of plants, enjoying the warmth and shelter the shed provides.

As for the plants, all are doing well and have noticeably grown since we placed them there in January. None have migrated out as of yet but it won't be long now when most of them will, now that the growing season is well and truly here.

Mark :-)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Flush Here and A Flush There

Spring is such an exciting time of the year when there's so much growth and activity going on in the garden that one is spoilt for choice on what to highlight. Times like this, instead of only highlighting one it's better to just immerse oneself and enjoy the variety of plant flushes here and there...

Lots of flushing going on in the greenhouse and just to highlight a few:

Nothopanax delavayi 'Stout' (syn. Metapanax delavayi 'Stout')
Nothopanax delavayi (syn. Metapanax delavayi)