Monday, May 10, 2021

Jungle Musing

We initially shared this view of the jungle pathway on Facebook recently and was surprised at the number of people asking about the plant on the left (Daphniphyllum macropodum). We have grown this Daphniphyllum macropodum for around four years or so and have others in the garden, fairly unfussy but with large glossy leaves adding to the tropical vibe quite nicely. 

Daphniphyllum macropodum

This part of the garden has had seen some changes over the last year. The bed in the centre - at the fork in the paths, was newly planted last year after removing a bamboo. The pathways were all edged in stone - replacing the log edging that was showing serious signs of decay, and new stepping stones added recently. These flag stones were actually recycled from part of the bottom patio that was excavated for the current pond project (more on that soon I promise!). 

Trachycarpus fortunei with long petiole

We were also reminded of the extra long petioles on some of the Trachycarpus fortunei in this area. The small trunked one just behind the Daphniphyllum macropodum regularly has petioles in excess of two meters (around 7 feet) - Mark for scale.


Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Sending Out to The Universe

Have to say I'm not one to ask out there for opinions, but there is a particular pot in our garden that I was in two minds what to do with, that I had to send it out to the universe for further opinions.

This pot was already in the garden when we moved in with a Wisteria growing in it. The plant has been long gone but the pot remained in situ for over a decade as it was in a well hidden spot, away from our eyes so as not to be annoyed with it. Until recently when that area received some attention and suddenly it was in the way.

It's not to our taste suffice to say, and not in keeping with our gardening style. But one the reasons why it also remained is that it predates us and is part of the history of the garden. 

We assumed it was another run of the mill concrete planter, has an eighties look to it, and since we have a large rubbish skip at the front of the house was best relegated there, with Gaz even threatening to put a sledge hammer to it. With it's imminent execution, I cleared the decades old soil in it to find the following imprint inside: Cotswold Studios Ltd. U29

There's very little information out there and read on one site that the company doesn't exist anymore (needs further verifying). I also saw that this kind of pot was likely to be sold between the 1920's to mid 50's. So it appears to be older than we thought. The value of similar pots seem to vary widely too, from £10 to £££. Apart from that we're none the wiser. Sometimes the internet can provide lots of answers, but so far it just seems to be snippets.

So what should we do with an incredibly heavy pot we don't like but has sentimental/historical value (to the garden anyway)? Further opinions were needed and a question was sent out to the universe....

On Facebook of course, both on my personal profile and a gardening group. Have to say the response I received was not what I expected as it was a nearly unanimous 'keep'! 

In the gardening group it even resulted in a rather humorous banter as to whether the print is Yorkshire or Lancashire Rose (I personally think it's a Tudor Rose).

Anyway there's no harm keeping it for now, saved from execution moved to our garden tat purgatory. 

Or I may actually use it, perhaps a rather exotic looking Chinese rose to give this very English pot an exotic edge.

Mark :-)

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Sciadopitys verticillata

Garden conifers for me still conjure up images of the 1970s, a conifer bed, surrounded by heathers and in front of a house with stone cladding. Maybe I need to move on, forget the past, after all I was only there (in the 70s) for the latter few years.

One conifer that breaks that mould is Sciadopitys verticillata, the umbrella pine, a fabulous looking conifer that really is at home in an exotic theme.

Sciadopitys verticillata
Sciadopitys verticillata

We have one in a pot on the steps just as you leave the conservatory, and it never fails to capture my gaze as I step out of the house.  It has been remarkably unfussy for us, and perhaps at some point we will need to consider finding it a more permanent home in the ground, but for now a pot in a prime spot allows us to enjoy it. 

Hailing from Japan, it should be perfectly hardy for most of the UK, however it is famously slow growing and usually relatively expensive as a result. But worth tracking down a nice specimen.

So with out a heather or stone clad house in sight, perhaps I should re-evaluate how I think of conifers!


Monday, March 15, 2021

May we Bore you with our Foetid Hellebore?

 One plant that has been quite an unsung favourite in our garden for its fairly unfussy yet interesting ground cover has been the Foetid Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus), we initially planted one on the edge of a gravel pathway in the middle of the garden many years ago, and have been rewarded with a constant supply of young plants growing in the gravel every year. 

We have transplanted these with mixed successes, finding it prefers a brighter spot than we often give the young plants. But in the brighter locations it thrives.

One such place is the raised bed by the koi pond filters, where conditions have been a little harsh, a neighbouring conifer in next doors garden provides a rain shelter keeping it much dryer than we had anticipated, most of the woodland plants we had previously tried had failed, however Helleborus foetidus has been a success, filling the edge of the bed and giving the lush feel we were after.

Foetid Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus)

Foetid Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus)

The lime green flowers might not be to everyones taste, and as the name suggests, they are rather pungent when disturbed.


Sunday, March 14, 2021

Our Own Hanami


With travel currently off the agenda we are appreciating our own garden and the changing of the seasons even more than usual.

Today I was reminded that Spring is very much on its way with the cherry blossom on the small tree in our front garden. Planted 5 years ago, the Prunus cerasifera 'Nigra' is starting to put on a show. For us this tree is something of a departure to our usual more tropical selection, but it was picked to echo the 1930s era of our home, when similar trees were often planted en-masse as street trees. Sadly most people in our road have paved over their front gardens for parking, so there are limited trees remaining.

Three years ago we were lucky enough to see the Hanami Festivals in full swing on a trip to Tokyo. We were incredibly fortunate to arrive at the peak of the cherry blossoms. 

Sensoji Temple
Sensoji Temple

Perhaps our little tree has some way to go, compared to Tokyo, but those little pink flowers in our own garden brought back some fantastic memories. 


Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Digging and Deconstruction

The goldfish pond makeover saw a large advance in the project today, thanks to Craig and his team at Akahana Koi. We had opted to get the professionals in for this phase, cutting through the concrete on which the existing pond was built, removing part of the old walls and then digging down to increase the volume of the pond.

The concrete base was something we inherited with the garden and as a result had no idea how thick it was, we assumed it was fairly thick as it has been very stable despite trees being planted pretty close to it. 

Monday, March 08, 2021

Pining for Lost Plants

One of the advantages of having a blog is that it becomes a diary of our garden progress through the years that we can reference to from time to time. It's been a handy resource for us for various reasons, and will continue to be so for as long as we keep updating it.

Butia archeri to the right, photo in 2014

Saying that however, I tend to hover more over the photos and rarely read through the old posts thoroughly for the fear of cringing at what and how I had written things before.

As much as it's nice to look back, one aspect I don't enjoy though is getting to see some of the plants we have lost through the years.

Losing plants is part of the process of gardening. And losses happen for a myriad of reasons, sometimes even deliberately so especially if you've decided to move on from them. And I don't always understand why I did that looking back at photos a few years later but at that time it seemed a good thing to do. 

Same Butia archeri above, taken in 2012

Then there are the plants that despite all the extra care you've given them, you still lost them. Like the Butia archeri featured in this post. To me it looked very pretty, graceful, petite for a palm, and very rare that I opted to keep it indoors for that extra protection.

It lived well under glass for awhile but when it started to show distress, it went into terminal decline pretty rapidly. We've lost Butias before (especially with winter 2010 here) but this one I lost indoors, sigh! And it's not exactly easy to replace...

As you can tell, when I looked back at old photos recently and spotted this palm, I found myself pining for it again. Oh how I wish I can get hold of one again. And this is just one example of a plant I still pine for, as the title suggests there are many and looking back at old photos doesn't always help.

I spotted this old photo of our greenhouse full of plants and again found myself focusing on those not with us anymore. But I do try not to dwell on those too much. There are also many plants in there still with us, doing very well and giving us joy by thriving in the care we give them.

What about you, have you lost any particular plant before that you still miss and somehow can't get hold of again?

Mark :-)

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Project Update

We haven't shared an update on our latest project for a while so I thought it was time to put that right. We are making over the first pond, the one that started it all and led to building the large koi pond.

The major task has been to get the cladding on the walls, we have worked out a good routine with Mark cutting each piece to length with me fastening on. Getting a good rhythm going we have now completed everything that can be done at this stage.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Happy Caturday

Nick sitting on the desk

Knickers has been enjoying lockdown, with me working from home each day either he or Twinkles sits on an old towel behind my laptop.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Garden Schefflera

Schefflera taiwaniana
Schefflera taiwaniana
We have long been fascinated by the beauty of the hardy Scheffleras that will grow in our location. Over the years this group of plants have regularly featured in the blog and even now as they are far more widely available (and to some extend more affordable) they have a fascination with many. 

There is much debate currently as to the correct nomenclature for much of the genus - Heptapleurum being the suggested correct name. For the purpose of this post we will stick with Schefflera, but feel free to shout at the screen that we are incorrect!

Monday, February 22, 2021

The Garden in Late February

After a tricky first half of February when we've had snow and freezing temperatures for days on end, we finally had a much needed thaw on the second half. Last week the temperatures were high enough to feel spring like and last weekend was no exception. So how did our garden fare after the 'Beast from the East' that was the first half of February (why does everything have to have a name these day)? 

Not much different thankfully. A few frazzled fronds here and there but so far so good. Temperatures are very good now and hopefully this will be a nice coast to spring...

Fingers crossed! There's a bit of wishful thinking there as it's only February after all...

Pardon the lack of staging. Our garden project is entering the mess stage so potted plants are all over the place, like these palms temporarily relocated to our middle patio

Our lancewood path, Pseudopanax ferox and crassifolius

Mark :-)

Monday, February 08, 2021

The Jungle Before the Snow Returns

There are two things going on here before I took the photos on this post. First, we're rarely up and out in the garden early enough to capture snaps of the garden basking in early morning light. But whenever those moments happen, we both remember how flattering morning light is, giving soft glow rather than just illuminating. 

Second, we knew that there was an impending cold snap and snow showers forecast for Sunday so on Friday and Saturday we both got up nice and early, to get on with as much as we could before the weather turned.

And as we got on I took the time to stop for a few moments, to admire the 'jungle' basking in the morning light, and to capture the moment by taking these snaps.

It was almost hard to believe that Saturday was such good weather for a winter's day that Sunday would the complete opposite of it. Well having one day is better than having no good day at all. 

The cold weather and snow did arrive as predicted but I'm glad enough I managed to capture moments of that fine Saturday morning.

Mark :-)

Friday, February 05, 2021

Greening my Workspace

Like many people I have been mostly working from home over the last year, trying different parts of the house to find the spot that worked best. Eventually opting for what had become the cats room.

The smallest bedroom in our home had at one time been set up as a home office, back in the days when a computer took up a lot more space than a laptop now does. But sharing a room with the cats things did mean it wasn't really set up properly, a clear out and a tidy up later and the space was suitable to work. 

We tend not to have many house plants, except in the conservatory, however more have been creeping in over the last year or so, and the home office, sorry cats room was no exception.

Earlier in the year we had repotted the variegated Monstera that came home with us from a trip to Madeira and have been rewarded with some lush new growth.

Variegated Monstera
Variegated Monstera

variegated Monstera
Variegated Monstera

Variegated Monstera
Variegated Monstera

The larger of the two had been struggling a little before repotting, which we discovered was down to over watering - i think we were both "looking after" the house plants in this room and hadnt spotted the problem. Now with a new watering regime and fresh compost it is flourishing again.

sansevieria sp
sansevieria sp

With this being my base for much of every working day, a few additional plants and other objects have found their way in to the room. An as yet unnamed houseplant from a local nursery (Rhaphidophora  perhaps?) finds its way onto my desk in a pot we already had tucked away in the attic. The green rabbit was came home with us from a trip to Amsterdam 

Finally another unnamed addition from the same nursery (perhaps Monstera adansonii), sits on top of the book case.

monstera adansonii
Monstera adansonii (?)

Following the latest addition a colleague remarked via a Teams call that I appeared to be disappearing into the undergrowth. I'm quite pleased the new additions were noticed!

Have you been working from home more, and if so how have you accessorised your workspace?


Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Fearless Gardening by Loree Bohl

Many of you may follow Loree Bohl's fabulous plant blog Danger Garden already and are familiar with her writing style and favourite subjects. Through the years she has treated us with her insights and adventures in the world of gardening which we can perhaps treat as a prelude to her wonderful new book Fearless Gardening.

We finally got hold of a hard copy of her book recently and it was such a wonderful treat to read through it. Page after page of words of wisdom, tips, and fascinating insight into the plants that she has grown through the years and the gardens she has visited. And more than just words, the book is richly filled with photos that reinforce her writing and at the same time resource of inspiration.

The book starts with a concise insight into her own personal journey, how it all began for her and an overview on how she got to where she is now, able to impart wisdom and guidance that is the basis of this published work of hers.

She then profiles maverick gardening characters who went on to create amazing gardens against the odds of their situation then to pave the way for others to be 'fearless' too in creating their own outdoor space with plants. And to further guide the reader into this way of thinking, commandments are outlined that is meant to richly encourage the reader to go ahead with this approach to gardening.

The journey of gardening is fraught with so many lessons to be learned and questions to be answered along the way that can often bring doubts to ones abilities, even among the most seasoned of gardeners. And this is more so for those who choose to go for less traditional styles of gardening and exciting architectural plants that are usually not associated with ones area. There are so many facets to consider and in the main body of the book these are all explored with ease and eloquence. Not only are you presented with practical information and resources, but alongside that you are treated with fine writing and witty anecdotes that make reading this book a source of entertainment and pleasure.

Loree, with ease will take you through several featured inspirational garden visits, practical aspects of bold and 'fearless' gardening and plant cultivation, aesthetics, and anything else in between to make the book totally cohesive.

A note for UK readers, most of the plants featured are in the Pacific Northwest of the United States whose climate are very similar to most parts of the UK. Hence most of the plants Loree features has a very good chance of thriving in British and of similar climate gardens.

A familiar view

If there's one gardening book we'd recommend you read for 2021, this would be the one to go for. And even if your choice of planting would only be marginally similar or completely different to the ones featured on the book, the philosophy and mindset of taking courage, having self belief, and being empowered to garden in a way that brings pleasure and adventure over set conventions will certainly not go amiss.

Lorees book and gardening approach can be summed up in one short statement.

Mark :)

Monday, February 01, 2021

Little Problem Areas

 It was a fine enough Sunday that I was able to venture out and spend some time in the garden and admire the plants, like this Mahonia oiwakensis below (although I'm a little suspect with its ID...)

Pretty isn't it??

Now for the not so pretty bits...

A couple of small areas in our garden that I want to sort out by spring are the small frog pond and vase corner right at the very end of the garden.

The small frog pond above has seen better days when it used to covered on all sides with 'Mind Your Own Business' plant Soleirolia soleirolii, softly hugging the stones and growing on top of the plastic lip effectively concealing it. However, as our garden grew and this area became more densely shaded they don't thrive here anymore despite repeated attempts. 

There's always the option of removing it and gaining a planting space but it has its merit of being a breeding space for frogs which in turn helps the garden by keeping some pests at bay. The merit alone is strong enough reason to let it stay, it just needs sprucing up.

Plan is to remove all the existing stones surrounding it and the dead tree fern log. Then relay the stones but adding more to have a bit of layering, with the stone edges going over the plastic rim on all sides to hide the plastic edges better.

I'm also toying the idea of doing a mini brook water feature with it, putting in a pump that will let the water back in to the pool via a few rounded stones to one side. Will mull over this, watch this space...

The pergola above was the first garden structure Gaz built in the garden with the help of our dear friend Kevin who is now no longer with us. This makes it all the more important that we keep it. This is right at the end of our garden, in an area that is densely shaded almost all year round being under the canopy of a large tree. Behind the bamboo slat screening you can see our neighbour's cream painted shed. 

This shouldn't take long to tidy up, keeping the big urn where it is but  replacing the bamboo canes (because it's currently used as bamboo cane store, too functional!) with fatter ones. We'll have to sort out the planting and get that metal bird properly secured upright as it has a habit of falling down and breaking plants along its way (naughty bird!). I won't repaint the pergola, I quite like it's patina.

Hopefully by early summer I can post some after pics!

Other highlight of last Sunday was that we managed to do more on our new garden shed/filter house. Gaz had to do a lot of limbo dancing that day...

Mark :-)

Monday, January 25, 2021

A New Project

At the end of the garden we have our first pond, built in the summer of 2008, and featured in this post. That pond was originally planned to be a goldfish pond, but soon upgraded filtration allowed the birth of our love for koi, resulting in the large pond many of you are familiar with.

As it looked in 2008
Roll forward to 2020 and with lockdown limiting travel we decided that it was time to upgrade the pond and give the area a makeover.

How it looked last summer

The initial focus was on replacing the old fences and clearing the somewhat ramshackle old shed adjacent to the pond. The shed was inherited when we moved into our home in 2005 and has had various repairs over the years. Sadly it was beyond saving, with woodworm and rot overtaking the timbers. 

Sunday, January 24, 2021

After Snow Falls

Yesterday Mark wrote about the garden being before the snow falls, well this morning like much of the country it fell, so I guess the title of this blog wrote itself.

Looking out of the front of our house, and the world is now all white, being on a side road we tend not to see much through traffic so the road usually remains fairly snowy and then icy in cold weather.

The view from the back of the house is pretty much the same!

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Before Snow Falls

We're now on the latter stage of January and so far we have remained unscathed without having some snow fall. That may be about to change this weekend so before we get covered with the white stuff, I'd like to share some of our 'spikies' permanently outside all year round, with no extra protection (we don't do rain shelters in our garden).

Agave gentryi 'Jaws'

Agave gentryi 'Jaws' - can be a tad sensitive to winter wet and on particularly wet winters it can mark substantially but still recovers and looks really good again come summer

Agave geminiflora

Agave geminiflora (?) - I had to put a question mark on this one as I'm a tad suspect as to whther it really is something else. However all my attempts to get it identified, points to species Geminiflora. It doesn't have discernible filaments but the best thing about it is it's been remarkably hardy, being out unprotected all year round for many years now. Geminiflora tends to be on the tender side.

Yucca  schottii

Yucca schotti - the photo doesn't do it it justice when it comes to how blue those leaves are in person. And also how architectural it is with its long and rigid leaves. The sharp tips that can cause quite an injury with one miscalculated move near it, hence they get snipped off regularly.

Yucca thompsoniana

Yucca thompsoniana - we nearly lost this one after it flowered and looked really worse for wear many years ago. It has since recovered but being pot grown is perhaps holding it back from forming a spherical head.

Yucca rostrata (tallest), Yucca linearifolia (centre), and Yucca linearifolia 'Galeana' (right)

This clump of Yucca continues to looks good all year round, perfectly hardy in our location planted on a raised bed.

Yucca recurvifolia

Yucca recurvifolia - one of the hardiest and underrated Yuccas out there that glides through wet British winters gracefully. 

Sedum NOID

Sedum - planted on a large and tall planted, rather generous for it but love the way it just cascades down.

And last but not the least, a not so spiky vignette...

And this marks my soft return to the world of garden blogging.

Mark :-)