Thursday, December 08, 2016

It's Been a While...

Its been such a long time since I wrote anything on the blog, that I had almost forgotten how it works. 

Mark posted a while back that other things were occupying our time, rather than the blog or garden. But sometimes its good just to pen ones thoughts, after all a blog is supposed to be a diary of sorts. 

So what have we been up to! Well this year has been quite a busy one. Several garden projects (as im sure regular readers will have expected), trips abroad, a landmark birthday for myself (21 again!!), days out and DIY in the house whilst both of us having busy professional lives too have kept us occupied. 

The garden has done well this year overall, a couple of surprises with established plants randomly dieing off - Choisya ternata and Aralia elata variegata. Both had been in the garden for a number of years - the Choisya probably about 10, and had shown no signs of problems but suddenly they were gone. We expect to have lots of none-varigated suckers from the Aralia next year as it was a grafted plant.

We also completed the raised bed on the top patio which had been planned for some time.

This was finished in the same sandstone coping we used on the koi pond to tie it into that look, and after some deliberation the brick wall and fence was painted white behind it.

Beyond this and a few smaller projects the garden is pretty much as it was last year. Winter is now fast approaching and the garden has had some frost already, many of the tender plants are already in the greenhouse or jungle hut, although some are still out, trying to keep them out as long as possible but do need to get everything else moved soon.

As I mentioned above we had a number of holidays this year, after a very quiet year for us last year we were determined to make the most of our time off from work, and also make more efforts to take advantage of living fifteen minutes from Luton Airport.

The highlight was a trip to Bali back in October - this was Marks birthday gift to me, and was a fantastic surprise. 

Internally we have finally finished renovating the master bedroom, one of the few rooms in our home that was untouched by our major renovation in 2013. 

So with 2017 around the corner, we have a number of plans for more travel maybe even a major change in lifestyle, so watch this space.


Saturday, October 08, 2016

Autumn Blow

Autumn, it's that time of the year again when we're back to chasing daylight...

With the length of days shortening at a fast pace, it's becoming increasingly difficult too to get some garden chores done after work, when nearly all of them require good lighting to be done properly. Sure there's always floodlights (and we even have head lights now, nifty gadgets!) but nothing really beats the illumination given by the good old sun.

Anyway, before I digress even further what I'm really meant to say is that we're back to mainly being weekend garden warriors again. And with it being autumn it means that one of the garden jobs we have to do is giving the garden a good leaf blowing.

Now this is one the tasks I actually don't like doing and leave it for almost solely for Gaz to do as he doesn't mind it at all. In fact he's actually really good at it. Which is handy because of all garden maintenance that we do that produces the most visual impact in a short period of time of doing so, leaf blowing is the one that takes the top position.

Now why do I dislike doing the leaf blowing so much? It's mainly because of the cable. I'm clumsy with cables and feel that they always get in the way for a smooth and effortless job. And it's bad enough that I have to cope with them when using the vacuum cleaner but needs be I should. Sure there are loads of cordless ones out there but up to now nothing really beats the power of one that is still corded (and with three cats, we do need powerful ones).

Going back to leaf blowers, the same principles goes that it should be powerful enough to do what it's supposed to do and perhaps only a cabled one would do the job...

Until the our friends at Stihl offered us to try and review one of their new products which is a cordless leaf blower.

A cordless leaf blower, will it be powerful enough blow away those autumn leaves running just on rechargeable batteries? And will the batteries be light enough that the blower can be easily maneuvered into delicate angles? And how long can the batteries last, will it be long enough that it can finish the job and beyond that? The scepticism is there of course but a lot of the negativity has been neutralised from the start knowing how reputable a brand Stihl is.

Stihl, we were both very excited to try the product out and to satisfy our own curiosities.

And so we did. And the BGA 56 did not disappoint, far from it...

The battery was quick to charge, was easy to slot in, and was light enough at 3.3kg including the battery that it made the assembled leaf blower easy enough to carry and maneuver while doing the task. In fact it actually felt lighter to carry around than our existing corded one. The design is so much more compact and sleeker too that the airflow seemed more 'precise' that debris was much easier to blow away with much less effort on the arms less exposure to the surrounding plants (and pots!). 

More importantly, was it powerful enough that it was able to do what it's supposed to do? A glowing yes! It's combination of being cordless, a sleeker design, relative light weight, powerful blow, and overall less set up time made the completion of the task a lot quicker, which was a fab bonus! \The length is adjustable to suit you use. Usually it takes Gaz an hour and a half to do the entire garden, having to keep moving cables and the extension lead. This time around, it was done in forty minutes. The battery is said to give 20 mins of continuous blowing, although it lasted longer for us.

A big credit though has to go to the compact lithium ion battery which didn't lose intensity during the entire duration of its use and lasted longer than claimed.

And yes it is cordless! And I had a go to too and thought it was fun to use. Looks like leaf blowing won't be solely Gaz's job from now on.

Thanks Stihl, it's a really great product!

Mark :-)

The Stihl BGA 56 is available from all the usual Stihl stockists.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Railings at The Front Garden

I was going to post about the progress of the plants at the front of the house but whilst collating photos for it I've noticed that we haven't featured the railings we installed in the same area earlier in the year. So the plant post will have to wait for a little while for a little railing interlude.

Now the space at the front of our house is tiny as most of you know, and we have to be extra creative and resourceful to make the area nicer and distinct from our neighbours. So far we have added several plants in blue pots and in September last year we planted a cherry tree in the ground. So far so good and we're not doing too bad in introducing plants to the limited space that we've got without sacrificing parking. However a little push further with jazzing up the front never did harm.

We've been considering putting up railings for a long time but never managed to until recently. Mainly because we weren't sure how our next door neighbour will react at the restriction of having railings on one side of their parking space. We took our time choosing the design we liked as there are a wide range of metal railings available. Second is the effort of putting one, as it will involve digging, chipping away at solid concrete, and cutting metal. But as if we're not used to hard work...

But it's our place so why be so bothered with our neighbour's thoughts when the railings will be within our boundaries? Also, railings will nicely demarcate our property, will be sympathetic to the age and style of our house (1930's), and another way of adding that 'extra' without using up too much space.

So one spring weekend we just went ahead and installed the railings.

We're really pleased with the end result and even Knickers seems to approve!

Going back to the cherry tree, we were sent a solar garden uplighter by the kind folks from The Solar Centre to try and review. First of all, the appeal of a solar light was there as it won't involve wiring back into the mains of the house hence installation will be quick, in minutes actually. 

The solar panel itself is discrete and almost disappears amongst the pots and the light itself looks contemporary. For the size of the light, it is powerful enough to softly illuminate the cherry tree once dusk hits for a good few hours. 

The verdict is still out how long will it light up once the very short length of daytime in winter fully kicks in. But more likely it will not be long as we're noticing it shortening already as it is. Still we think it's a great product for soft illumination and with a performance a very good improvement from your usual solar lighting.

The completed railings (taken back in March)
And back again to the railings, much to our pleasant surprise our neighbour was the first one to complement our new addition. Even their visiting parents went out of their way to talk to us and complement how it enhances our house. Other neighbours too said the same. 

Up next soon will be an update on the plants at the front of our house!

Mark :-)

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

A Different Style of Stripping

It's been over three years ago since we gave one of our Trachycarpus wagnerianus a full Brazilian treatment, how time flies!

Here's how it is looking now...

And a few more angles of the same plant...

We haven't removed any more fibres and old leaf bases since then and it is due some soon, which we'll hopefully tackle in the next few days (not that it's a big job!).

However, a couple of month ago we spotted this in a nearby garden centre...

We think it looks good too, a different style of trachycarpus stripping. It looks very 'tropical palm' as well.

There is definitely more than one way to skin a ..... trachy!

Mark :-)

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Colour on the Top Patio

Last year I created a mixed display of mainly succulents in pots on the top patio. I really liked the effect that was achieved and had so much fun preparing the display. Inspired by that I decided to do something  similar again. This time bigger, better, more colourful, more vibrant, and more dramatic

I love it! I'm in love with it!! And I really, really enjoyed making the display and looking at it!

Monday, August 01, 2016

A Quick Peek... some of the succulents that didn't make it out of the greenhouse this year.

The top patio is once again home to a succulent display, similar to how we did it last year (albeit on 'steroids' this year, coming up on a post soon). And because we haven't really bought that many plants this year, at least compared to our usual rate of plant buying in previous years, I used a lot of what I had already to make the display.

Still a few didn't make it out for various reasons. Here's a quick peek:

Some of the succulents are either too small to be displayed this year, or extras that don't need to be out for now. As you can see at the middle shelf, we also have an excess stock of pots that didn't make it out this year.

After just saying we haven't bought that many plants, the above two photos are new purchases. I couldn't resist picking up the possibly Aloe ferox above because of its vivid red spines. Not that I need another one but it was hard to resist!

A closer look at some of our small succulents...

and finally...

The sole survivor of a batch of three. It's looking promising and has put on a lot of growth this summer. Aloe 'Hercules' - thanks Gerhard!

Mark :-)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Suburban Jungle Maintenance

A real, wild jungle is almost maintenance free (or rather self maintaining, striking its own balance). 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Pergola, Sicario, and Festive Lights

Funny how you can get inspired from the strangest of places or circumstance, like after watching a very violent film...

Last year after watching the film Sicario, I took note how lovely the pergola was that was featured on the film festooned with garland lights but with big round bulbs, rather than tiny fairy lights usually seen on Christmas trees. I won't go into much detail on what happened under that pergola in the film for the benefit of those who haven't seen it but suffice to say it was very memorable. Anyhow, I jotted it down as a garden idea for 2016.

Fast forward to June and in the midst of searching online for something similar to what we have seen on the film, we have received an email from Festive Lights giving us an opportunity to review one of their products. Lo and behold, there it was in amongst their products are the lights very similar to the one I was looking for, how lucky was that!

So I immediately requested for them and they sent them straight away for us to install and try.

They sent us a 15 meter bundle of the 5 meter festoon warm globe lights, interconnected with an outdoor battery pack as its power source. The length was perfect for our existing pergola on the bottom patio, to arrange them in a similar fashion as to how it was on the film (with a bit of slack on the wires as they hang randomly across the pergola).

We would have preferred lights that were mains connected as they tend to be brighter but this turned out to be fine and sufficiently bright running on size D batteries. Plus, with no wiring involved on to mains electricity, connecting and installation is much easier and convenient to place practically anywhere.

We are pleased with how they look installed on the pergola and how they illuminate the area when it gets dark. Makes hanging out at the bottom patio a tad bit nicer during the night.

Unlike the film, no violent endings on our pergola please! Or anywhere else for that matter!

Mark :-)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Dusk in the Jungle

We haven't been that good at posting photos of our own garden recently. But that doesn't mean not much has been happening, in fact it's the other way around. It is summer after all and it's easy enough to get so immersed in doing things in the garden that taking photos gets sidelined.

Plus there's also a little element of being temporarily selfish too, taking delight in keeping most things to oneself and having a breather from sharing what you see, of one's own personal space.

But time's up now for being selfish and here's a quick look of how our jungle is looking like in early July, with photos taken at dusk today.

The lighting contrast was less than ideal this evening and many of the shots we took turned out blurred. Thankfully a good chunk still turned out fine and good enough for sharing.

We've been having so much rain recently, not that unusual for Britain of course and the ferns especially have been loving it! Much to our delight...

Some cutting back on the other plants in the jungle needs to be done in a week or so but we're mostly satisfied how things are growing so far.

Mark :-)