Tuesday, 30 December 2014

2014 in the garden: things that went well, and things that didnt...

So the year is almost over, and with not much gardening to be done it is a good time to sit and reflect on the year; what has gone well and what hasn’t. Overall it has been a really good year for the garden as we started with a really mild winter meaning that many things that usually die survived. However; this then meant the worst ever year for slugs and snails that decimated everything.

The spring was mild, and the summer warm rather than hot which meant I didn’t have to water as much as usual, but things that needed the heat didn’t get as big as they should have done. We finish the year on another relatively mild winter (we still only just had a killer frosts) and I look forward to 2015.
So overall a good year for.....
Cobea: they survived the winter and are rampant as a rampant thing.
Musa sikkimensis in a giant pot.  This was a huge success to the year as the bananas thrived and gave height and structure to the terrace. I will do this again!
Friend’s generosity: Patrick has been amazing giving me huge pots and two Cyatheas. Others have continued to willingly be garden slaves and help out on the day. THANK YOU!

Hedychiums: the stars of the year, thriving in pots and not being composted.

Honey; hurrah I had a bumper crop

Bamboos establishing: 3-4 years on the bamboos are now looking amazing

Giant Echiums: after not flowering for about 4 years I had about 3 get to about 12 foot. Amazing plants.

Canna musifolia: This continues to be my favourite Canna, and when happy they look amazing

Melianthus major: survived the frosts and had the most amazing exotic flower!
Height and Structure: finally the backbone of the garden is really coming together. Fences and neighbours are disappearing.

And a bad year for...

Dahlias: they were decimated by the slugs meaning that many were so late that I lost out on some colour..

Salvias: they sulked and many didn’t flower well...boo.

Carnivorous plants: still suffering from sustained neglect

Datura inoxia: a star of 2013, but they never really got going


Finding space for anything: UG! Things have got bigger and I barely have any space...mmm. more pots I think?

Vegetables: a combo of a new job and the snail attack from hell has meant that not much has thrived.

And what will 2015 hold?

  • More things in pots
  • Irrigation systems
  • More cordylines to give fast growing evergreen height. They may be common but they are still very exotic.
  • Vegetables: new design and more energy to actually manage to eat something from the plot!
  • NGS garden visits: I was bad and only really visited local gardens, missing out on the treasure trove of gardens which are open across London. Next year I will visit new NGS gardens, and diarise them in so that I don’t miss them
  • More fiddling and jiggling around. A gardeners work is never done....


Sunday, 28 December 2014

Merry Xmas

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year to all my readers!

Xmas in London has been bright and sunny, and although cold I have been trying to burn off the Xmas cake calories with some gardening. This would be going ok if I then didn’t eat more when I came back in; however that is the Xmas way.

I am lucky to have struck gold with a few presents this year. Firstly I am now feeling like a proper professional with as I have been given some non pound shop secateurs complete with a belt holder. Gone will be the days of loosing secateurs only to find them a year later rusted on the bottom of the compost heap.

Then I have had some great books which I look forward to sitting in my cold summerhouse to read. Firstly 'In the Shadow of Angkor' the reprint of a 1913 book describing (in English) many of the temples of Angkor for the first time...an atmospheric jungle escape 
Secondly 'Paradise by Design'. portrayals of tropical resorts and residences in Thailand and Bali. Beautiful places and plants which is making me dream of escapes.... 
So I hope that you have been good and got the presents that you wanted too!
Finally just to bring things back to reality some pictures of the garden on Christmas day


Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Growing Hardy Gingers

This has been the year that I have had the most success with Hedychiums which I put down to either the long hot summer, or me having had stern words with them earlier in the year about either performing or heading to the compost bin.

I had grown Hedychium gardnerianum for quite a long time in other gardens, but it never really did that well, the flowers usually either appearing just at the same time as the frosts (and then being zapped by them). Then when creating the new garden I had a bit of a lusty obsession with them as there were suddenly loads to collect from nurseries such as Amultree and the Big Plant Nursery. I could also see them growing really well in Will Giles's garden and figured why not?

So I bought the new collection home and planted them in the ground where nearly all did almost nothing. The exception being H. densiflorum which settled right in and was very reliable.

I then kept the others alive, but they didn't really do much. Hedychium densiflorum kept me going, as did the lure of the red underside of the H. greenii's leaf. Some overwintered in the ground, many languished in pots in the greenhouse.
So it was the make or break year, and I decided to try them in pots as I could give them more water and nutrients. I also think they could be more sun baked on my terrace.
And....it worked! The biggest success was a big pot of H.greenii on my wall. It probably took its time to get going, but the foliage helped it earn its keep. Then in October it had lots of spectacular flowers.

Then came H. maximum...I put this in a pot thinking with that name it should fill a gap and look good and jungly. Then it flowered too! hurrah! and when it had finished left some lovely flower bracts.

And just at the same time to join in the party a H. kewense which had been sulking in the ground for 5? years also flowered. 
So they aren't heading for the compost heap yet...my big learning about them being
a) Give them lots of water

b) Feed them well
c) Keep them warm in summer

Sunday, 14 December 2014

First Frosts

Last week we finally had our first frosts. Not the kiss of death type of frost, but more the peck on the cheek of death type.

Nasturshums are very sensitive souls that pack up at the first whiff of -1, and the salvias are a little scorched
However many things are still looking great, the Echiums seem to find a new lease of life in late autumn

Fatsia polycarpa flower

And for a new addition to the garden Ganesh has a new shrine which hopefully will protect him from some of the ravishes of the weather

However many parts of the garden are still untouched which is a little bonkers, it being December and all...

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Over wintering key plants

So frosts are imminent and the weekend was the time to take in most tender of my plants, which mainly consists of Ensete maurelii, Musa sikkimensis, Brugmansia and a few others.
I wanted to explain more about how to overwinter the Ensete as this is the one that people seem to ask/worry about, but which is easy when you know how. But, you do need to be brave! So a step by step guide
1) Before....the unsuspecting Ensete in all its prime
2) Take off all the leaves...I did end up stealing a bread knife from the kitchenwhich made it very easy!
3) Dig up and remove most of the soil and roots taking care not to damage the corm. be brave!
4) Use a hose to wash off the remaining soil, and cut back the remaining roots. clean up the remaining leaves, but dont take too many off
5) Cut the top of the leaves off so that the top is fairly flat
6) Store in a frost free place keeping them upside down for a few weeks so that any remaining liquid drains out. I keep mine in a dark meter cupbaord
7) Done! check from time to time (I find mine sometimes get aphids) pot up in spring
My final winter prep was about digging up my Musa sikkimensis. There was one year when they survived in the open ground, however since then they were cut back by frosts, and although they were root hardy they never regained their height. I therefore tend to simply dig them up, pot them up and put in my covered side passage where they dry out and have some protection.
The Brugmansia (here on the left) was similarly treated...I dug it up, pruned the root ball a bit, cut back growth to the main stem, potted it up and put it in a dark frost free place.
The scene of decimation

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Final throes...

There is only so much denial that you can go through before you have to accept that winter and the first frosts are just around the corner. After some acceptance issues I have now ok to say how the summer is over and winter is rather imminent. As such this was the weekend to dig things up and prepare for the frosts, which I will cover in a second post, however before I started digging things up some more of the plants that are still looking great.

Tetrapanax flowering

Salvia confertiflora....I love this plant however it never quite gets going.

Dahlia imperialis flowering, a sure sign of imminent frosts!

a rather naked looking Paulownia

A very large Dahlia imperialis

Ricinus...overall not a good year

Cobea...after surviving the winter they have turned into rampant monsters and have flowered an incredible amount

The terrace with the new plastic greenhouse, more of that to come