Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Herb Garden

I have recollections of a Magic Roundabout - type animation of characters in a herb garden. I mentioned it to some friends once, and they looked at me as though I was on drugs. It turns out that it does exist. I was catching re-runs of it as a child, I hasten to add! I'll wager that the producers were on the happy stuff rather than I....

My project was completed last week, and here it is;

I've had the Rosemary standard for a while now, and thought a herb garden would be a nice way of displaying it. I've collected a few of the herbs I like; salad rocket, parsley, oregano, sorrel and thyme. I've left space for them to fill out, and will add basil as the weather warms up, and some nasturtiums for some colour.

 In the foreground are some Senetti/Pericallis/Senecio. To the right of the wooden planter are a couple of hardy palms - a Jubaea chilensis and bonsai Chamaerops cerifera.

The parrots are getting closer...

I have tentatively been calling it spring, as we always seem to have a wintery throw-back this time of year. We're having a slice of winter right now. I'll probably keep seeing the signs of spring until it's summer good and proper.

The local bird life is fully active now. Yes indeed. One day this week I woke up to what sounded like a plaintive kitten stuck up a tree. A swoop of pigeons and a shadowy brown silhouette indicated the presence of a kestrel, obviously hawking the local feral pigeons.

The next morning, some colourful guests to my bird feeder, two jays and several of the parakeets. Although there have been parakeets visiting the gardens around here starting around 1996, this is the first time I've seen them in my garden. The feeder is close to the house so I had a really close encounter.

Photo courtesy of the BBC News website.

Enough about birds. Here are even more signs of spring; 

Primula vulgaris is in full bloom at the moment. One of my favourite spring flowers. It self-seeds quite readily here. I am a little cross that some of the newer seedlings appear to be crosses with some garden centre monstrosities from neighbouring gardens. 

Muscari latifolium is in flower now. Very exotic, jewel-like flowers. I have a few Muscari, and have space for more - they're brilliant plants.

 From time to time you find a front garden where a certain plant has just taken over. More often than not, it's brambles or Japanese Knotweed. In this case, the owner of the house has no need to fret, the garden is over-run with Chiondoxa forbesii.

More impressive in real life, I assure you. It has even seeded itself between the gaps in the pavement outside!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hybrid Waterlilies

Spare time is difficult to find at the moment, and that's what led me to undertake some essential garden jobs before heading in to work this morning.

First job on the list was to move some large plastic buckets off the patio. One has been home to my original pond, sadly missed. The second bucket home to a trio of very special water lilies.

I have to say, it does turn the stomach somewhat, dealing with pond sludge at that hour of the day. Ah well. I'm hoping to squeeze in a raised pond somewhere in the garden this year, so I'm hoping for a lot more of this;

and this...

The above are utterly awesome new exotic hybrids, brought to us by James Knock at Wayside Aquatics. A visit to James in mid-summer, is to fall in love with water gardening. The selection is mouthwatering.

An account of the Kirk Strawn Waterlily hybrids by James Knock can be found here.

Below is my original dwarf lily - still very pretty. 

 Certainly worth rummaging around in the mud for!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I just can't get enough.

Okay, a bit of a tenuous link coming up.

The funky 80's band, Depeche Mode's 'Just Can't Get Enough', has just been released as a cover by The Saturdays for Comic Relief. 

What has this got to do with plants? Album covers. On one, Depeche Mode have featured a rose flower, and another featuring an Agave. It looks like Agave attenuata to me (a stunning but cold tender succulent).

Fear not, should I find any other album covers featuring exotic plants, it will be posted on here!


From time to time arises a 'must-have plant'. Fortunately here in the UK we are really lucky to be able to get hold of quite a lot. Juania australis, Guihaia argyrata, Shefflera macrophylla.... our nurseries are amazing at sourcing plants for us UK gardeners.

Here is what I want, recently available in the US;

Setcreasea pallida 'Variegata'. It's a bit psychedelic isn't it? Groovy. I am quite keen on this Tradescantia relative (some would argue it was a Tradescantia).  I have grown S. pallida 'Kartuz Giant' for several years, and although it survived one winter outdoors, I've yet to see if it survived this last icy winter.

Here is S.pallida 'Kartuz Giant' in my foliage border last summer - the purple thing;

S.pallida 'Kartuz Giant' is one of my favourite herbaceous plants, unfortunately it's a fave of the slugs and snails too.

So I hope to get my hot little hands on one of those variegated plants sometime soon!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

To be or not to be, in this case, it 'Mite B'.

Well, it was nice to potter around the garden the other day. I finally managed to get a few things planted that I had bought at the RHS Spring Show.

This is my favourite - a plant that surely has a lot of promise for the horticulture industry;

It is a hybrid/sport of Narcissus 'Mite', supplied by Avon Bulbs.

They are tentatively calling it 'Mite B' which rather tickled me. What a gorgeous, gorgeous (I said it twice, must be good) plant. Sheer class.

I appear to have calmed down my colour palette these days, because another pale spring-flowering plant made its' way into my RHS printed paper bag...

Picture courtesy The Alpine Garden Society (of the plant at the RHS show!)

Also from Avon Bulbs, a stunning new Winter Aconite - Eranthis hyemalis 'Schwefelglanz'. Would look amazing growing en masse (which I hope to achieve one day!).

Lastly a Hellebore. Although as a rule, I don't go for Hellebores, I couldn't resist this one;

This is H. 'Silver Dollar', of which I have now planted a group beneath my Albizia. I love the maroon blush around the serrated edges of the leaves. Ties in nicely with my Brahea armata trio, and various New Zealand plants.

Ciao for now!

Snow joke.

Apologies for the inexcusable pun. This year saw the heaviest snowfall in London for some 18 years. I had just got back from Zimbabwe, it was all quite bizarre. 

Anyway, some of my plants didn't mind the snow at all. Agave americana 'Marginata', Puya caerulea, Chamaerops cerifera and Yucca rostrata.

One or two didn't cope at all well. This is Brahea edulis - a pretty fast grower, so hopefully it will recover.

A few weeks after the snow, and a few plants look surprisingly happy.
Chamaedorea radicalis below.

Schefflera macrophylla - a very handsome plant. I was half expecting this to shrivel up at the first sign of frost, but it seems not!

The biggest surprise is Rhapis multifida. Fingers crossed it doesn't suddenly do a U-turn, it looks happy enough.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Spring is here, so it seems.

Wandering around my local park the other day, revealed that spring was on its way.

Whether the weather, whatever the weather. Whatever.

So the light of 2009 has dawned upon us, as has the new light of hope for some warm weather, after a couple of years wait! The weather can not be any worse this year.

So last summer was a washout. I finally took my 4 week holiday after Christmas, travelling (as crazy non-Zimbabweans do) to a country in political turmoil. Ah well, I've had a good life, I thought as I ambled onto the plane.

This was my first time to Africa. I just fell in love with the place. Plants and animals, animals and plants. It was the greenest place I've ever been (even greener than those rolling hills of Devon on a May day). The climate was a tonic. As well as visiting Zimbabwe, I was fortunate enough to visit Mozambique also.

Mozambique is not a place I would choose to go myself, but tagging along with my Zim buddies, I would heartily recommend it.

I wondered why I struggle so hard to grow palms in the UK. 

A Mozambican Hyphaene species, growing in the dunes on a spit of sand between a river and the sea.

Here is probably one of many highlights of my visit to Zimbabwe. Walking with the lions.

 An awesome way to spend January!