Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas: drink sorrel!

A quick post to have merry Christmas and a happy new year to one and all, I hope that everyone’s new year’s wishes come true, especially my one about winning the lottery

Christmas is a funny time, as the way everyone talks about the break it’s like we are having a month off, and mentally I’ve been planning on doing lots of digging and weeding as although the garden is looking ropey we still haven’t had big frosts and the ground is good and soft. However we are pretty busy with hosting and cooking and I don’t think we have many spare days at all!

Christmas is usually a slow time for plants beyond the Christmas staples, but as we have only been back in the country a week I haven’t had time to go to Columbia Road to stock up on hyacinths and Amaryllis so we are lacking in planty gifts. One seasonal plant I’m not a personal fan of is the Poinsettia, but thought that Victoria’s blog did about why it is a Christmas favourite was great! Do check it out

Although busy I have found time to do a new Christmas planty thing, and have just brewed my first batch of sorrel. I had no idea of what this was, but was given some at a work pot lunch and loved it.

I think it is mainly a Caribbean thing, although I have had hibiscus water at a Mexican restaurant which I think must be similar. In essence it is a delicious drink made from the sepals of Hibiscus sabdariffa. Misleadingly it is called sorrel, but is not the herb that Europeans use, but is called sorrel as the young leaves of the Hibiscus taste and are used a bit like European sorrel.
Not just a pretty flower! tasts nice too. Picture from here
From talking about it at work, and getting receipes I was delighted to find I must be psychically linked in, as it is actually a Christmas drink and found both dried and fresh sorrel at the first stall I went to in Peckham. I bought dried, and boiled it up for 10 mins, and let it sit for 24hrs before straining and reheating with brown sugar, ginger, a squeeze of lemon and a dash of rum (you then have it with more liquor if you want). Recipes seem to vary a lot, but this is what was recommended by pros at work.

ok, not the most apetising picture as it has just been boiled and left to seep for a day, but imagine drinking the nicest red blackcurranty drink which has the added bonus of being very healthy
I was apprehensive at how it would work, but it tasted great, a bit like a hot blackcurrant/lingonbury juice/mulled wine ish...delicious! do try it if you can get hold of it

Anyway, a big Happy Christmas to one and all!


Thursday, 22 December 2011

Sawatdee Khrap! Hello Thailand: part 1

I have just been lucky enough to have a couple of weeks holiday in Thailand which was absolutely fabulous as it is a beautiful country with wonderful food. I have been to Thailand about 8? times as there is always more to do and eat and now I am all cultured out.
So to be good tourists we started with Jim Thompsons garden which I have seen a few times before but primarily wanted to go back to have a nosy round the garden.

Jim Thompson is now a global brand, and his house is held up as an example of how traditional Thai architecture and design can be used to create a fabulous house. If you don’t know anything about him, basically he was an American who revitalised the Thai silk industry in the 50’s/60’s and championed Thai design. He created a house by piecing together 6 traditional Thai houses to create an amazing space to live and display all his Thai objects d’art. He mysteriously disappeared in 1967 and since then his house has been preserved and opened as a museum. I love the house as everything is to my taste, and I walk around the house crying about how nice it is, but the garden is also quite special.

The planting is relatively simple and naturalistic, with a limited number of plants grown well, good use of ground cover, big leaves and the height from palms and some tropical trees of which I have no idea of the name 

There is also great use of water pots which I love, usually Chinese in style and filled with either flowers or something like floating lettuce. They all have tiny fish in them to keep the bugs away and bring a cooling feeling.

 Another water pot and sculputre which adds to the look, again simple but lush planting

Every house in Thailand needs to have a spirit house which houses the spirits which were displaced from their own homes when the house was built. This is a serious thing with literally nearly every building having one, and every day offerings are given to the spirits to bring good luck. They are also incredibly pretty things, and fit beautifully into the garden. I was trying to find one to bring home, but sadly couldnt and they are rather big for hand luggage.....note to self, must take a carpentry course...

Its difficult to get a sense of scale from this as the plants we are used to are rather smaller than these huge heliconias, the flowers of which must be 6ft long

Beautiful gingers and foliage, I particuarly liked the climber below which was incredibly flat against the wall

 Water was used through the garden, with antoher smaller pond at the back of the garden next to a statue of a goddess and this larger one next to the cafe. I love it for the huge Alocasia growing in the middle which is about 10ft tall.

So many beautiful things. When Im not wrapped up in Xmas, in laws and being bloated from too much food I will bring you more!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Pictorial november musings

With Novembers imminent end, I wanted to just give a few pictures of how things are in the garden as it is odd how some plants are completely dead (like the dahlias) and others such as the Ricinus are still growing away very happily. I am now ready for the winter, its official! all the tender stuff is dug up, and the bananas are wrapped, I will not be caught unexpectedly by 3ft of snow....

This is the Tetrapanax flowering its heart out....they have what you would describe as insignificant flowers, as this is it, flowering at full pelt. Its interesting how the flower stalks are coated in the same brown fibres/powdery stuff which looks evil. It reminds me of those ancient videos of children playing in piles of asbestos 

This is the view from the patio of the ever growing Ricinus...Reach for the stars as S-club 7 would say.

Amicia the tallest it has been at 6ft, with my Musa basjoo behind. My wrapping is a little creative and depends upon what is to hand..this one is 5 big bags of leaves, a tepee, fleece, weed mat with a waterproof plastic top which blew over from the builders next door

I was excited to see how the umbrella grass (Cyperus alternifolia) has grown from a fallen leaf. They are exciting to propagate as basically you just cut a leaf and put it upside down in water, and then a new plant grows in the joints!

My full greenhouse, wrapped and mainly full of saliva's and feels like I have been eating them forever and yet there is still more to come.

The once full terrace is now bare with all the furniture wrapped up for Xmas, is a little sad

Fatsia japonica......I don't understand Fatsias as this one looks fabulous and almost F. polycarpa like with huge leaves whereas others in the garden look almost dead and are struggling, I think they must be very sensitive to drying out as this one gets run off from the shed roof whereas the others are all in areas which get dry.

My once grand entrance with Ganesha looking a bit mossy, and the palms that were in the pots planted out elsewhere. Come the frosts it will all be cut to the ground, but then a new mighty garden will rise again

Sunday, 20 November 2011

I need a bath

This gardening malarkey is a lot harder if you don’t do it regularly as by ‘eckers I need a sit down and a bath after a day digging and moving stuff around....

Salvias are back for more! Tetrapanax also flowering for thr first time, usually the frosts get the buds...
Its been very autumnal/wintery here today with a heavy mist which has been very atmospheric as I have been completing the final prep for winter. Things are looking very run down, and I have been enjoying pulling stuff out and thinking through different vistas and plans for next year. I even found myself humming a few Christmas songs as I put up the last bits of bubble wrap in the greenhouse and the patio furniture under a tarp.

Its fun planning for next year, and my list of must haves is growing. Top of the list is Dahlia excelsa which Mark and Gaz have done a piece on. I bought a Dahlia imperialis this year and have been rather taken by its majesty and the speed at which it grows. It is a very architectural and solid plant, and from a July planting it is now 10ft tall and about to flower. D.excelsa is supposed to be hardier and more clumping which I think would be great

Dahlia is in the middle of the picture looking very un dahlia like!
Doing NGS has meant I’m wanting to take less risks over the winter and have dug all of my Musa sikkimensis up, and have found seeing the size of the roots and the corms interesting. I was also surprised how the one which took forever to break the ground was buried fairly deep and wonder if having a raised bed would speed up their re-emergence.  I find them completely root hardy, but they tend to lose their stems without protection so they are all destined to be fleeced and spend the winter in a covered side passage.
Musa sikkimensis root and corm

The line up waiting for potting up, all bananas destined for dry cover, chopped down canns for the meter cupboard
Anyway, I need a bath!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Shy retiring wallflowers and Russian princesses

I’ve just returned from a weekend in Grimsby to visit the in-laws, I can probably be a bit mean about Grimsby (clue is in the name: boom boom) however it was all very nice. The part we go to is also not Grimsby proper, and Grimsby folk are of course very different from Laceby and Caistor folk. Grimsby its self is full of things to do, indeed there were lads on a stag do walking down the street drinking beer at 10:30 am, and a rather obese lady falling/rolling off her scooter in the high street. The Wolds were delightful with the sun low in the sky over rolling fields, there is also a good splattering or nurseries where I managed to get some cheap plants and bulbs for spring.

I haven’t really done much to prepare for spring, usually I get carried away with bulb catalogues but I’ve come to the conclusion that whilst I’m still moving lost of perennials around there is a high chance of bulbs dying from me putting a spade through them. The squirrels are also delighted at the annual Easter egg hunt I put on for them and very good at finding bulbs wherever I hide them. However I’m a sucker for a bargain and bought some discounted bulbs in Wilkinsons and also bought a tray of wallflowers from the market.

I love wallflowers as they are a flower that really reminds me of the garden where I grew up, and scents are one of those things that can transport you back in time. They are also so cheap as I was buying bundles of 10 plants for £1, and they show you how incredible some plants are at surviving as they are just bundled together in an elastic bands with just a couple of tiny roots, yet by spring they will be flowering the hearts out. BUY SOME NOW!

The garden is transformed in spring, and in a way peaks first in May and then again in September when it is at its exotic best. In May the forget me nots will be a carpet of blue with wallflowers everywhere and the odd allium I haven’t sliced up poking its way through. It all then comes out for the summer plants and to make space for things to grow through. I love this successional planting and wish I was better at it, as growing exotics which break through the ground late gives you a good window to have other stars in their place. The forget me nots are so easily pulled out, and the Eremurs which look stunning then die back almost immediately.
A little different to now, where you need a machete to get through (as stated on Gardeners World)
One of the good things about going up north has been seeing friends, all of whom were asking about Gardeners World and asking what I’m doing next. Its funny how a few of us seem to be having our moment as we saw Skip who had just been filmed for Come dine with me, a British TV thing where you take turns cooking dinner for 4 strangers over a week, scoring each person as you go. My friend Nick has just produced a fabulous album of his quirky folky harpy cool music....check it out! I find the whole media thing very amusing, although I’m not brave/foolish enough to do something like Come Dine with me. Nick is very cool to have an album, especially as he can now say that he has been remixed!

Anyway...plants! Things have been winding down but what is interesting is the difference between my two Paulownias.... P. Tomentosa (the one everyone has) lost its leaves about a month ago whereas P.fortuneii ‘Fast Blue’ is only just beginning to lose them now. I know the tomentosa is more exposed, but I do think there is a difference.

P. fortuneni is on the left, the other is a stick to the right
Paulownia is one of my must have see it fairly often in the UK, usually as a tall tree in parks which has foxglove like flowers in the spring (thus its common name Foxglove tree). In the exotic garden you can cut it down each year to the ground (stooling) and then it shoots up like a rocket, with my plants getting to be about 12-13ft tall with huge very tropical looking leaves. I try and grow it from root cuttings in spring but where they worked last year, this year I was rubbish!

It is named after Anna Paulovna (1795-1865), a Russian princess who then became Queen of the Netherlands however originates from China where they grow it near to houses to bring good luck and attract the Phoenix. In Japan there is also a tradition that one will be planted on the birth of a daughter, and when she was married it would be cut down and the timber used to make a wedding chest. Interestingly it grows wild and is a bit of a pest in Eastern USA after making its way there in the 1800’s when seeds that were used as packing material for ceramics escaped

It’s very fast growth and dense rot resistant wood has led to many calling it the ‘tree of the future’, it is also used as a tree to help with reforestation, and also with intercropping to prevent soil erosion. China is still the biggest grower and the wood is used to make everything from houses and furniture to electric guitars.
So there we go a good plant to grow if you want something jungly as it is very easy, and you can encourage a Phonenix to come visit!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Wearing dark glasses post tv appearance

As I sat watching Gardeners World on Friday I was thinking that it just wasn’t as interesting as it usually is (apart from Carol of course), and I couldn’t really think what was missing, till I suddenly realised it was me!

Yes......believe it or not my ego has inflated significantly since the show went out last week.
I was quite nervous about how it would look and how I would come across, not helped by the fact that I was away in Stockholm last weekend and couldn’t actually see it till Monday evening. Before I saw it for myself, I didn’t know how much I wanted to know and didn’t turn on my phone or look at Facebook until Monday... As I turned on my phone on 10 messages came through, all of which were positive and some from people I hadn’t seen in ages, same with Facebook.
What happened on Facebook was unexpected as I also got 5 friend requests from people I didn’t know.... now I don’t even automatically say yes to friend requests from old school friends as feel that a re-establishing contact message is basic manners, so was rather bemused by random requests without even an email, but was glad I was attracting at least a few hotties!
There was also 5 pages of discussion about the Gardeners World episode on HTUK which was very odd, but everyone was very supportive although I know that people who are exotic enthusiasts would probably want a lot more from an episode on jungle gardening.
My seen on Gardeners World
It was Monday evening when I watched the recording, 5 mins from when I got through the door. It is so odd seeing yourself on tv, and also to see how edited it all was. Although Carol and I were having a ‘natural’ conversation when it was a shot of my face, or hers, or a plant the footage was all from different takes....even the vocal was a little bit chopped up and edited down. The African music was also amusing, and I have found myself humming it when walking around the garden.

Overall I thought it looked ok, but it was amusing how huge the garden and house looked. Polite friends who said I came across as very knowledgeable and a natural so we already planning a pitch to the TV people for our own show with me doing the garden, my friend Pip doing the weather and Steven doing a baking section.
I haven’t quite got the ‘noticed in public’ effect that I thought may have happened although it is odd which of the people I know/work with saw it as it has outed many secret Gardeners World watchers.

On my way home on Tuesday evening I did think that I had been noticed as when I walked onto my road a stranger came up to me, and you know when you think someone is coming up to you to say something and you prepare, and I was all ready for a ‘yes it was me on Gardeners World, would you like me to sign a packet of seeds for you’ however it was merely a drunk person whom was returning from their friends wake who wanted to tell me about how they had died at 34 from a drugs overdose.

I did wonder if I should take this as some type of divine message as I have also just turned 34, however the divine meaning has been a little lost on me as I didn’t take it as a message to not do drugs (I don’t beyond the odd aspirin and medicinal gin). But perhaps gardening is my drug and I need to calm down/deflate the ego before it kills/bankrupts me?

I have now watched the clip  a few times, the most embarrassing being the last time which was actually when I sat down to watch the whole episode as I hadn’t seen the beginning or end. However as soon as my bit came on before I could fast forward it Steven came into the room and gave me a ‘OMG are you really watching yourself on tv again’ he then left and my brother also then came into the room to call me a saddo.

It’s all been a very amusing experience and I still chortle to myself when I think about it all....certainly something to tick off the list.

Anyway....plant and garden things....

I have been doing some hard digging again and had the slaves out over the weekend to help...its now back to the clearance routine, especially as my waist line is begining to expand again...

Clerodendrum trichotomum.....beautiful large shrub/small tree with gorge flowers, strong scent and now these crazy berries....
The oddest recent visitor to the garden was a female pheasant or grouse?! very odd as we are in the middle of London

Cobea scandens...annual climber, flowers start white and fade to purple. lovely but so late to get going....thank you Mark and Gaz for the Cobea tips as i will hunt down a Cobea pringlei next yr!

Dahlia merckii now looking great after much abuse by foxes and falling spades, thank you Sue for the plant!

Tetrapanax about to flower..... I have never had it flower as the frosts always get the flower buds, perhaps this will be the year?!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Preparing for winter (and an imminent tv appearance)

I was thinking that as I am about to be on tv talking about overwintering plants I should actually start doing something myself! the way looks like I will hopefully  be on Gardeners World this Friday (21st)

One of the problems with jungle gardens is that it is very hard to start preparing for winter, as a lot of the plants you grow are just getting better and better through the year. Natives/traditional plants often are a lot more cyclical reaching their peak for their high society appointments at Chelsea and Hampton Court and then winding down through the rest of the year to when winter is a welcome relief.  Exotics just build momentum, showing off more and more until they are caught unaware by the frosts.

A lot of the garden is still looking good, particularly the Ricinus, bananas and Kangeroo apple however loads is looking well manky especially the Dahlias which is why I’m very jealous of many people who still have them looking pristine... I have a feeling I probably need to keep feeding them to keep them going.

Its also still rather warm and sunny, in a moment of madness I even whipped my top of for a bit of topless sunbathing to get my vitamin D levels up. I also had to get the hose out to water some much abused looking plants as the soil is so very dry in much of the garden, and was incredibly hard to dig.

I was compelled into action this weekend as the boot load of plants I bought last weekend, along with those from the RHS show are just sitting there looking dry and should really go into the ground before winter. It is always so dull to just buy plants to go in places where you have gaps, far more of a challenge to just buy buy buy! but the prospect of squeezing in 20-30 new arrivals is a little daunting.  Often the first thing I do when planting is to see if there are any bits of lawn that can be slowly eeked away to enlarge beds...this always has to be done a little secretly to prevent strife with the non believers, but this weekend I just couldn’t break new ground it was too hard.  I then got into a vicious circle where I would move things as they weren’t working and put something new in, but then the maths didn’t add up as I would dig three things out to put one in, so I then had to find new homes for those three things.
I don’t do a huge amount to prepare for winter....Dahlias just stay in the ground although I will add a thick layer of mulch to a few faves, especially my new Dahlia imperialis which from a 30cm plant I bought in July is now up to about 8ft.  I did have a Carol moment and went around the garden collecting seed, as seed is getting more and more expensive. I have been protecting the bananas more as although Basjoo and Sikkimensis are both root hardy for me their stems can be lost if the winter is hard. As they are also quite young I’m trying to help them thicken their stems before taking a chance.  I’m also increasingly seeing how it is the wet that kills things over winter, and am making the most of a covered side passage which is open to the elements at the end, but will keep things dry. I also think it is warmer than the cold greenhouse.

My initial approached to jungle garden was a bit lazy, as I don’t want to be someone who relies upon a huge amount of tender stuff to have a nice looking garden. This looks great but is then expensive and a huge amount of work to over winter. My basic approach is to have a structure of hardy exotics (I just counted and I now have 12 young Trachycarpus) this is mixed in with hardy perennial things that look wild/jungly in the right context. I then have loads of annuals like Ricinus, and the odd tender thing...  It is getting this balance right that I’m aiming for, whilst not being too distracted by tender things that I don’t have space to overwinter.
Saying that there are lots of plants I take chances with, and opening for the NGS I’m perhaps less prepared to take risks so will be moving lots of things to the side passage such as Geranium maderensis (almost hardy, usually pegs it in Feb), Opuntia (hardy but the cold makes its pads skanky), Cyperus alternifolius and Musa lasiocarpus (which is hardy for me but i want a head start next year), Musa sikkimensis (to save the stems), some of the 1yr old Albizzia seedlings and a few of the new Salvias. We also have a meter room cupboard which is quite warm where I will cut back and store the Cannas, Bugmansia and for the first time a Musa ensete.

There is a lot on the internet about overwintering Musa Ensete, my favourite being a random german posts, but in essence you chop all the leaves and roots off, turn it upside down to dry it out a bit and then keep it dry and frost free till spring.  There is a lot on HTUK about overwintering including one guy who has done loads of videos.
So I think I will wait a couple of weeks until the first frosts are imminent or blacken a bit of the foliage....I can’t quite bring myself to cut things back yet whilst they are still looking good so will cross my fingers and hope that things will be ok. I guess I should also see what Monty and Carol say on Gardeners World..............

Anyway, I hope me and Carol on tv will amuse you, I’m rather apprehensive about what it will look like and if I look like a twat/idiot/overly camp (all the pictures Mum took seem to have me standing with my hands on my hips!). Self awareness/how you look/sound on tv is always odd. I was filmed this week by the lovely Sunil for a funding bid for work, and he did a great job creating a very high quality video and I was relieved at how I looked and sounded ok and didn’t seem to be much of an idiot although I do pull a huge amount of faces. Who knows how I will feel next week!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

What a weekend (aka I love Carol Klein)

Look at me and my NBF!
I think I need to pinch myself as I have just had the most surreal and wonderful birthday weekend. It all started at 8am on Friday morning when Carol Klein and the BBC Gardeners World film crew arrived to film my garden for a slot which was about jungle/exotic style gardening and putting the garden to bed for the winter.

I have always loved Carol Klein, and having her come to film was a birthday wish come true. For my non UK readers who have no idea who she is, she is basically British gardening royalty, and the most famous and recognisable of lady gardening presenters. Even the young builder from upstairs recognised her ‘ey, isn’t she that bird from telly?’ he asked as he swept the front porch for the third time that day.....

Whenever you watch tv you always wonder whether off screen ‘stars’ would be like you imagined them to be, and if nice people are actually real divas. Carol was just as I had imagined (lovely and not a troublesome diva) and great fun to spend the day with, as were the whole crew as they were just genuinely nice people.

The whole operation was a lot more slimmed down than I had thought. I wondered if I would hear Carol’s arrival as I imagined the house shaking as her Winnebago pulled up, but she stayed in a Travel lodge with the others. There wasn’t even a makeup crew or catering van... I had to get over my fears of how I would look on HD with my forehead shine, and Carol had to sort herself out once she found her lippy in her tea bag box. She clearly is not getting the recognition she deserves!

I knew that TV takes a lot longer to film than you think, but I was amazed at how many takes each section took as you have to do it a few times to get it right, then remember what you said and repeat it, do shots from different angles and then if you touch a plant/do something with your hands they then want a close up of this too! This was all to a backdrop of a very noisy garden as next door to the right the builders were drilling, to the other side they were piling and digging with a JCB, then there were airplanes overhead and the railway. The poor sound guy looked a little frustrated at times.  Each time they shot they also did say 'Action' which always made me giggle and feel just that little bit Hollywood!
Carol and my big banana

I had a funny feeling that we were being followed
The essence of the slot was about how to sustain/use plants for the exotic effect so we looked at how you could use annuals with a shot of  Ricinus and Kangeroo apple, then close up at Tithonia and collecting seeds. Then we looked at hardy plants you could use to get the effect looking first at the Calla lilly and then Clerondendron bungeii (wich sounds fabulous said in a Lanacshire accent). We finished with digging up a Musa sikkimensis which was then wrapped for the winter (to protect, not put under the Xmas tree)....if we had more time we would do a tepee for the Basjoo which stays in the ground but we decided against this.

I think the only part where my enthusiasm began to wane was digging up the banana (then replanting it twice) then wrapping it, unwrapping it, wrapping it again a couple of times. When I thought we were done we then completely unwrapped it again in order to reattach a couple of leaves to do a close up of cutting the leaf off....ah the magic of tv!

The most amusing bit was the last part of the day as it was getting a bit late and the light was going, but they hadn’t yet managed to do the introduction sequence walking up to the house...they had to keep re-filming as cars kept coming up the road with their headlights on ruining the magic.

So all in all a fabulous day...with all the repetition it could have been very dull, but I was lucky that the film crew were some of the nicest people I have met in ages. Carol was also a real hoot to spend the day with, and it was great to talk plants and have a giggle.

That evening I went for my bday dinner eating Kazakhstani food complete with bellydancing in a bit of a surreal haze, and had to remind myself what had actually happened. The next day we then went to Norfolk to spend the weekend making the pilgrimage to Will Giles garden, Amultree exotics and Urban Jungle.

I love Will Giles as his book is pretty much my gardening Bible, and seeing his garden in the flesh was a real treat. He has a lovely collection of plants, and spookily my own garden felt quite similar. He uses his spaces well with lots of different areas including a great covered passage, huts, fountains and flint walls.

Will Giles's fabulous treehouse

So beautiful! I want it all starting with the Schleffera....
I also took the opportunity to see Urban Jungle which I have used for mail order. It was a great nursery packed with well grown and cared for plants and I would recommend a trip. They also have a little garden and it was inspiring to see things I hadn’t seen in the flesh before but want to grow including a Tamarillo, Leonotus and Eryngium pandanifolium.

Finally we went to Amultree exotics, which I didn’t have a hugely positively opinion of as last year I wasn’t that impressed with their mail order but figured I should go as we were in the area, however it was great! As we walked round and chatted to the owner I was really impressed by his diversity of plants including many things I had no idea about. They also have a 50% sale, and it was my birthday so there was a huge amount of impulse buying and the car was so full by the end. I got loads of things I’m excited about including Cyathea brownei, Musa Chini-Champa, some Musa’s I’ve never heard of, Phyllostachys Shanghai 3, Phyllostachys propinqua  and lots more

Urban Jungle garden

I thought I may have to ask Steven to walk, but we managed to fit it all in!
So all in all a rather fabulous weekend, I couldn’t have asked for better. Whether or not the filming makes it to the program I’m not sure (if it does it will probably be on 28th Oct) however I had a truly fabulous day with Carol and the team on Friday which is still bringing a smile to my face.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Indian summers (well perhaps just a week actually)

Here in the UK we are having a bit of a hot week, although this is tempered with people on different forums talking about imminent snow and worst winters ever.

Things are looking decidedly autumnal as the garden goes over its best and like a middle aged man things begin to bald, and then bulge and sag in unexpected places.
The exciting thing of the week has been a hardy lotus that has just flowered in the greenhouse. Being a fan of the Far East I love lotuses, and their leaves sum up all that is exotic. I had been after one for a while, but every time I got close to buying one I relented as they were either too expensive or the sellers didn’t want to sell them to me. I wonder if this is something unique to the plant world as you can’t imagine this happening in a clothes or jewellery shop ‘Oh no sir, your bottom looks far too big in that, put them back’. In a way it’s nice as it shows how people care about their plants...I certainly wince when I see loads of carnivorous plants being sold as I know that within a few weeks they will all be dead as people don’t know what to do with them

The lotus is an experiment as people say the main problem with them in the UK is that it isn’t hot or humid enough, and the growing season isn’t long enough for them to put down enough energy into the tubers. Certainly ones I’ve seen outside all look a bit brown and crinkled. So my plan is to grow it in the greenhouse where it is hot and humid, especially from the carnivorous plants. I also want to build a special pond/area for it (at the moment this special area is disguised as a orange B&Q bucket)
So far it seems ok, and it will survive dam it! especially after I built significant muscle carrying it back from Hampton Court flower show (it looked small but there was so much grit in that heavy waterlogged soil)

Arty autumnal mornings, dew and cobwebs. Lets also say we are eating a lot of kale at the moment
So I’m still trying to enjoy the garden, and starting to do the new bits...this was sped up by my parents appearing at the top garden carrying spades and forks, intent on clearing weeded areas and starting to clear virgin soil. I must admit it is good to see properly cleared areas and look forward to these getting bigger.  The garden is also about to get a visit from the BBC, whether or not this works out and if we have what they are looking for I don’t know, but it’s something to tick off the list, more on that later....  

Reach for the stars, climb every mountain high and reach...

Arondodonax still getting bigger, Tithonia and Dahlias hanging on...

Monday, 19 September 2011

Love in the bushes

I had a nice Saturday pottering around and planning a bit for next year. Although the soil is actually very dry, in the last few weeks the garden has been feeling more and more jungly as things grow bigger and lusher. Some things are certainly past their peak and have been knocked around by the wind but it does feel that the plants are taking back control of the garden.

It’s good to begin planning for next year, and I have been taking lots of cuttings which I’m excited to see start growing. I’m also beginning to write things down and ponder the plants I’ve fallen in love with, those that are difficult lovers, those that are bad for me and those which perhaps should be given another chance.
Good lovers
Ricinus 'Zanzi Palm': I love you, you are fabulous this year this year growing to 8ft when I care for you. I have played with you different varieties, and used to like Zanzibarenzis best, however growing both together Zanzi palm is bigger, faster growing and branches more

Nerines: thank you for cheering me up at a bleak time

Persicaria:I love the shape and colour of your leaves and way you spread through your neighbours. I love you.

Kangeroo apple (Solanum) and proper tobacco plants: This year solanum you are the best, as I discovered how you seemed to hate peat free compost which stunts you so started you off in multi purpose and as such you have gone crazy....whether you survive the winter I dont know. Tobacco plants you are just so stately and seemed to have survived the slugs more than N. sylvestris .

Tithonia: I love you, where have you been all my life? before you what did I do? oh how you glow through the garden and bring me colour!

Lovers Ive been bad to in the past and need more care

Nasturshums: how I have dismissed your simplicity and commonness when all along you fill gaps so well with your glowing red flowers stabbing through the green. Next year I promise to plant you earlier so you can invade more fully.

Fatsia polycarpa: Why aren't you as big as you should be and looking magnificent? Is it me? should I be better to you? hopefully in this new space you can grow.

Unrequited love
Astelia: why do you look so good everywhere else apart from with me? with everyone else you are so big and tall, a status and feature plant, but 2 years on you look a bit like an abused bromeliad

Schleffera: I loved you so much, yet you sulk and cause me heartache. You family are expensive lovers and how my heart wept when your cousins S. macrophylla dies suddenly in the spring and S.taiwanna slowly drifted away. Please survive, please come back!

Curculigo: how lusty you made me when I discovered you, but how you suffered in the winter and have sulked ever since. please come back to me...

Lovers that string you along
Coco Yam: I nurtured you and tried to get you going in deepest spring and then you just sat there doing nothing, before suddenly erupting with your beauty so late in the year, being so much better than Eddoes. Now you fill me with lust, but couldn't you have come to life just a little earlier?

Musa sikkimensis: you were so good the first year you came into my life, sailing through the winter and growing to be 12-15ft. Now you are cut to the ground every winter....I helped your brothers and took them under cover but they didn't grow that well, and you popped out of the ground so late in the year but are now growing so fast
Mirabilis longiflora: How rubbish you looked as a seedling, how lax and needing support, but yet here you are now being very impressive with your very long and unusual flowers...why cant you be like this all over the garden? why have you left me awkward patches where I have to turn away from you in shame?

Salvia gesneriflora how I loved you, and even wrote about how good you were but yet over the summer you are incredibly brittle with large chunks breaking off overnight and then not flowering, even now one of your brothers has no flowers at all, arg!

Bad lovers
Cobea: last year you didn't flower and were eaten by slugs, this year you begin to flower now after invading next doors apple tree?! why do you spite me? but yet I cannot give you up as you grow so much and I love your flowers...
Salvia confertiflora: how I fell in love when I met you, gazing longingly at you in the car as I brought you home. How I saw you growing elsewhere as a huge bush 6ft tall, even hardy (so your grower said). Then all through winter I dreamed of you striking a pose in the garden, but then you are as brittle as anything with all 4 of your brothers loosing big chunks in the last couple of months. Yet how I cant let go, and how I take cuttings from all your fallen limbs to create an army of disappointment for next year

Lovers I'm stringing along
Ipomea: how you treated me bad in the last few years growing to 2ft max?! now you are big, but do you fit in? does your blue flowers work with what I want? I don't know but I will play with you while I decide...