Friday, 26 July 2013

Oxford: meadows, dinosaurs and plants

So the other weekend instead of staying home and being a tennis widow, whilst the husband was doing a tournament in Oxford I went with him in order to have an exploring day roaming around the town, drawing and looking at nice plants.
One of my favourite museums in the world is the Pitt Rivers museum, an ancient place stuffed to the gunnels with ethnographic ephemera from Somerset witches posts to Inca skulls and much of my morning was spent wandering, saying hello to the shrunken heads and lusting after things I would never have. Adjacent to the Pitt Rivers is the equally lovely Museum of Natural History in a fabulous Victorian space which is much like a greenhouse...sadly it is being renovated; however I did manage to say hi to the dinosaurs

There was even one of the college gardens opening the next day for the NGS although I had to peak through gates to see it.
I also popped into the Ashmolean for some inspiration to feed my Ganesha and Bali obsessions

Then ended the day at the Oxford Botanic Garden, the oldest botanic garden in the country which was guarded by a huge gate and right next to the river where I spent some time watching people trying to punt and fall in

Its a great little botanic garden with some greenhouses for steamy inspiration and one of the biggest European Fan palms I have seen. They also were trialing some perennial wildflower meadows which were looking at their best, overflowing with pollinators and colour...this type of gardening is very inspiring if you can get it tow work and flower through the whole of summer!

I am still lusting after Veratrums...

I have no idea what this is!

I always forget I have bought one of these, then weed them out thinking they are thistles!


Saturday, 20 July 2013

New NGS garden in Herne Hill: lemon drizzle and a fire pit

Last Sunday we scraped off the sweat, put on more suntan lotion and tootled over to Herne Hill for a garden on Shardcroft road that was opening for the NGS for the first time.

It didn’t disappoint as the garden was well designed and planted, and the cake was top notch.mmmm lemon drizzle with a side of chocolate brownie.mmmmm.
The best bit which I would replicate was this amazing circle of birch trees in the corner of the garden (to right of summerhouse) surrounding a circular gravel? middle with 2 round benches with a fire pit in the middle.  This was next to a magazine perfect littleshed/summerhouse hideaway which made me want to live there! Apart from that there was a formal rectangular wildlife pond, and loose naturalistic planting from raised designer beds. I was particularly taken by Achillea moonshine.


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Concrete, compost and sand

So another project of late has been experimenting with hypertuffa.... this was something which first kind of become well known with the craze for making alpine troughs. In essence it is a kind of lightweight concrete which you make my mixing combinations or sand, pertlite, vermiculite, compost and concrete.   The mix means that the end product looks relatively natural, or a bit like volcanic rock...thus the name. The mix tends to take a while to set so can be carved and molded which means there is a lot of potential for some exciting sculpture. There is a good forum about it here

I have been starting small and been playing with some stone niche shrines, and Aztec(ish) figures but have big plans for more exciting things. Watch this space! 

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Plant show paintings

Another recent inspiration has been people at plant shows...

Both are based on the London spring RHS shows, the later is loosely the Crug stand...

Friday, 12 July 2013

Bali paintings

So as well as gardening I have aspirations around painting, and this year I have deemed to be an 'art' year and are currently taking Fridays off to focus in on this (and help remain sane with gardening and bees). This builds on a portrait painting class I have been doing on Monday evenings forever....whilst I love the class portraiture isn't really what I want to focus on, however it has been helping me get a grounding in oil painting and the more traditional side of things (my teacher was taught by someone who was taught by Millais so is very old school)

So I am trying to do my own paintings at the moment and these are two of the early ones springing from my Bali obsession, its culture, temples, carvings, people and plantlife.... as a side a good blog if you want a taste of what is going on is Stranger in Paradise

Both are temple gates...

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Things looking rather fetching

Finally things seem to be getting into their stride, and it is easy to want to spend a long time wandering the garden with a gin in hand.....

Geranium Red Admiral and tree of my fave geraniums for the piercing colour of its flowers which make it fit well for the exotic look....

 I always had mixed feelings about Phormiums, as they seemed to become a bit of a 'car park/municiple' plant....however after seeing this one settle into a dry sunny area I have changed my mind as they are rather jungly. This is the first time it has flowered with these really exotic flowers which have been responsible for at least 3 pollen stains on my shirt as I have admired them!

The Water Lilly's are loving the sun *swoon* at their magnificence 

This is my main jungle border looking a little empty...some of this is as I have moved a lot of stuff around, my Ricinus seem more intent on flowering than growing 8ft, and there are more holes than I would like :(
 Then this is the new project which is a little stagnant....decking would have cost 2.8K! so we may just turf or gravel things. I am getting a little concerned that this is a big hole for September....
 I love a cape fuchsia although they can be a little rampant, but everyone needs something rampant at the bottom of their garden to liven things up....
Things are slowly padding least the bananas are taking and the Dahlias are alive, however most are still under 1ft....

 Again all a bit emptier than I was imagining...I think Im realising how poor and dry the soil is here, so I am working my muscles carrying up watering cans as the hose doesn't reach this far....
 Middle bed with the same Ricinus problem, my Tithonias also appear to be holidaying elsewhere....
 The Ecremus and Cobea are making a good job of getting going....

 Salvia bethellii
Tetrapanax and tree ferns....

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Digging out the tweed and clipboards: Becoming part of the National Gardens Scheme

Apologies for being a bad blogger! The weeks have gone by and I have filled my month of being a tennis widow with Steven going off to be an umpire at Wimbledon with everything except blogging. Artistically I’ve been producing a few different oil paintings that I’m happy with, I have been experimenting with hypertufa sculpture, trying to be a good beekeeper and of course gardening. I plan on a few shorter posts to follow if I’m brave enough to share my paintings.....
Object trouve
However the big thing is that I have volunteered to get more involved in the National Gardens Scheme itself...yes the time has come, and I hope to become an area organiser. These are the people of the NGS that people think of, the stern faced, tweed wearing people with clipboards...... I will be doing all I can to reinforce this stereotype (sadly it isn’t true of the people I have met)

So an exciting beginning, and last week I went off to meet Penny, the current chair and London organiser who amazingly used to cover all of London by herself! It was very exciting to meet her properly and see her garden...after all you expect big things of organisers gardens, and it didn’t disappoint....Clearly she is also a good egg as she keeps bees, and also has chickens and a garden that could (probably has been) featured in many magazines.  See it for yourself as it opens this weekend (Cobham)

There is a lot to live up to, and I am looking forward to this new volunteering as I do love the NGS and am very happy to support it. In terms of the role its self it is also mainly about supporting people from ‘my territory’ who are on the scheme and find new gardens to encourage them to open. I also think it will fit in well with what I do as I already like visiting gardens, and love the characters that you meet along the way.  I also hope to use this blog to preview new gardens and tell of adventures I am having along the way.  Hurrah!