Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Travel Plans

Before long this blog is going to turn into a travel blog!

Having had a really busy year in 2010, I had earmarked January 2011 as a month to take a few weeks holiday. I am up for adventure.

I recently spoke to some friends who are going to Thailand (again) for the new year. I have become quite spontaneous with my holidays abroad, booking flights and throwing things into my suitcase at the last minute. I feel this will be one of those spontaneous moments.

How could one fail to be impressed?

I am keen to hear from any bloggers that have travelled around Thailand, places to see and go, how to get around, where to stay, where to avoid, where to stay longer etc..

I've found to my delight, that it's now the cool season, so a perfect time to visit! Whilst the UK freezes, meaning the airports are at a standstill, I am risking getting swept up in the chaos.

Any info/advice/recommendations gratefully received!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

End of year review 2010

Dear reader,

This year has been quite an amazing year, and I am sorry to both you and for myself that I wasn't able to blog about it along the way. A blog needs regular tending to provide reward, and much like a neglected garden, this one needs a bit of attention. So here I am, ready to take it on, shears in gloved hands and secateurs in my holster. Of course I shall have to toss these aside if I'm to get any typing done.

I hope the (ir)regular readers of my blog remember that my year up to July was fairly eventful? You should as it was my last post, which was also an event in itself.

Since July, things slowed a little, and I was able to take some gulps of air. My trip to Belgium and Holland was great fun as always. It was a little hectic at a time I could have done with a three week beach holiday sipping Pina Coladas. The trip was much like a cocktail in fact; cacti, nurseries, ham and cheese sandwiches, Dutch people and tea all shoved in a shaker and spilled out over four days.

There was one brief moment where summer had a full-on fling with autumn, and this moment fell on the day of the Highgrove bloggers meet, superbly co-ordinated by Helen Johnstone and Roland. Apart from making sure everyone was there at the right time and right place, Helen also managed to organise a perfect late summer day to be led around the gardens. I could go on, but in short, it was a sublime day in which I met my heroes Ann-Marie Powell and Cleve West who were even nicer in real life than on screen. It was a perfect opportunity to meet loads of brilliant people. I also won a prize of Duchy hand cream for my Tillandsia buttonhole - to which Ann-Marie added, "You can rub that all over!".

So to October, and the highlight of the year at the shop... The talk by Matthew Wilson aka 'Landscape Man'! It was covered by Arabella Sock here. I should add that Matthew gave a fantastic talk - far better than I was expecting (though, to be honest I didn't know what to expect). Many thanks to Matthew for being such a top-drawer Horticulturist - I hope we see him again on our screens before long. Belated thanks also to those that were in attendance.

The local magazine used the bad photo - I was smiley in the other one!

With a hop, skip and a jump, I move on to another of the year's big events, the Garden Media Guild awards. Extra special congratulations to those I know that won awards, Mark 'Dashing' Diacono for his amazing column, Lia 'Lush' Leendertz for best blog, Dawntastic Isaac for new talent, Matthew 'Train Club' Wilson and his team for best programme 'Landscape Man' and Anne Wareham for best website. I am particularly proud of Victoria Summerley for winning Journalist of The Year, possibly because I know her and she lives in my 'hood, but more likely because she is a fantastic writer and really deserves this accolade.

Although I wasn't at the GMG awards, I was made very welcome at the pub after-party. I met loads more people and it was great to put more faces to names. In a strange twist of fate I ended up staying late with Dawn and Lia, drinking too much and eating biscuits (of which many were scoffed by a biscuit fiend who shall remain nameless - I'll just say that his name rhymes with Stephen Macey). We headed over to a nearby bar/restaurant and had a bite to eat with a tipsy Andy Sturgeon (another hero of mine) and the absolute hoot that is photographer Rachel Warne and her photographer friend Paul. An axe was taken out of one of the GMG award goody bags and played around with by an unnamed member of our party, much to the worry of the waiter. I would suggest that axes and goody bags are not good combinations, for whoever thought this idea up.

Last week I went to a recording of Gardener's Question Time. More on this on my next post. Monty Don is returning to Gardener's World, and Toby Buckland and Alys Fowler have been made to leave. More on this on my next post also, as I shall be putting down my thoughts about gardening TV and radio. Brace yourselves.

In the meantime, have a read of JOTY Victoria Summerley's article, Helen's post and for something a bit more lighthearted Arabella Sock's recent posts.

Peace and love,


Sunday, July 11, 2010

I don't care what you do to them, just be good to me.

Dear lovely reader, thanks for clicking on the link!

So, as promised last week* I have set aside some time to catch-up on my 'catch-up' blog post. Although I'd much prefer to be out watering the garden, my neighbours are having a particularly smokey barbecue. I suspect most of Merton Borough have been confined to their homes to avoid asphyxiation. Merton's loss, however, is your gain.

Should I start at the beginning? Starting a business has been very draining. Horticulture more than other businesses sees us working every hour of daylight, and darkness brings forth a need to complete paperwork and The Books.

There we have it - garden shop in 4 easy-to-follow steps!

For those of you that were able to make it to the Grand Opening, many belated thanks. There was a dearheart that asked for directions to the nearest curtain shop, which I found rather confusing, until she revealed her identity. The weather was perfect, and the booze most plentiful. If you didn't make it, I hope to welcome you soon.

Although I concentrated my efforts on setting up the shop this spring, leaving my business partner Liam to run the gardening aspect of the business, I am now rather keen to get my teeth into some garden projects.

I was in attendance at The Malvern Meet, which was fantastic and superbly co-ordinated by Helen and Michelle. A perfect opportunity to meet many of you bloggers. There were a few people that I didn't get to chat with much, but no doubt our flower-lined (or indeed veg-lined) paths shall cross again. I was most impressed with Dawn Isaac's alcohol-drinking abilities, and intrigued by the bizarre Mad Hatter's biscuit tasting party at The Lighthouse where some of the girls were staying.

Chelsea week saw a brilliant lock-in party at my shop, attended by Victoria, Helen, Michelle, Julia, The Sock, Ms B, and a few other non-bloggers. There was cake and Pimms and laughs and Alan Titchmarsh presenting the Chelsea Flower Show in the corner. The weather was spectacularly fine, and a good time had by all. Reviewed here.

I did attend Chelsea on the Thursday, but it was so long ago now, I've been warned that I'm not allowed to discuss or review it. I'm risking a prison sentence just mentioning it now.

Little Parrotlet came into my life, dubbed 'Rio' (mainly after the song, and due to his species' origins in South America, also Rio is the Portuguese for river). He is a very docile and happy bird, and keeps me company in the shop.

The other highlight for me over the past few months was escaping to Martyn Cox's Open Garden. It's easy enough to get to, only having never been to the East of London, I got quite disorientated. Martyn's garden however, was a joy to behold and a true oasis in the city.

Morbid black Petunias - a preview plant that Martyn got somewhere. Probably a Goth Petunia-lover, in return for his soul.

A "thriving" kiwi vine.

The most sublime Aeonium collection, plenty of fruit and veg, a Japanese film crew and some fellow bloggers to boot. The sun's rays were unwieldy, and an outtake of me may make it onto the Japanese youtube equivalent as 'Incredible Sweaty Face Man'. Reviewed here.

I was so impressed with Martyn's Aeoniums, it prompted me to attend to my succulent collection. I aim to re-pot a number of them into terracotta pots, but for this year, they will be left on the bench to enjoy the sun.

All in all, I've been a bit busy to attend to my garden. I've kept it alive, and have made a few purchases (pictures to follow).

It's good to be blogging again, hopefully I'll manage to keep it up. I'm looking forward to visiting the succulent nurseries on holiday in Dutchland in a couple of weeks' time.

Congratulations to my friend Paul for his Gold Medal at Hampton Court on The Palm Centre stand, and my friend Alex who won a Silver Gilt for her prehistoric carnivorous plant display (complete with T-Rex!).

The picture at the top of the page is of Gladiolus 'Impressive', a supposedly hardy variety. The petals look as though they've been given a sloppy lipstick kiss by a particularly tarty pixie. It's planted on a roof terrace, which I am really chuffed about. Here's a pic;

Over and out.

*time flies.....

....when you're having fun.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Next week.

Next week I'm going to write a blog post about procrastination.

Love to all!


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Dear reader...

Those that know me will understand why I haven't been able to post here for some time. Somehow this blog has scooped up a few more followers. Rather than making a full post now, there will at least be a promise of a new one in the next few days.

It has been a very interesting time, since my last post.

To be included in my upcoming posting;

My new gardening business and garden shop (this has soaked up a lot of my time).
Progress in the garden.
Meetings with other strange, but lovely garden bloggers at Malvern.
Chelsea Flower Show coverage. Better late than never.
My new pet.
Guerilla gardening update, and review.
New plant acquisitions.
Future plans, thoughts, trips and visits.

So you see, I have a lot to catch up on!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Milton Keynes is about two and half miles away, as the quetzal flies.

Evergreen conifers. No, wait - come back! These are pretty interesting ones. These are species that were around at the dawn on time. Ones that dinosaurs would graze on, before getting stomach ache, presumably.

Winter is a pretty boring time in most people's gardens. All the Delphiniums and Dahlias that looked so nice in the summer, have shrivelled to a rotting mess. This is the reason why I've concentrated my efforts on plants that look good all-year-round.

I started off with palms and yuccas, then succulents and ferns. The list goes on. I suppose I first became interested in these ancient conifers after having see huge Monkey Puzzle trees growing in public and private gardens. Those weird sort of plants appeal to me.

I bought my Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria araucana pictured above) several years ago. It's actually grown quite a bit since I bought it. The little plant in the same pot is Ruscus aculeatus 'John Redmond', which holds on to red berries through the winter.

The tall conifer in the picture is the Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis), rediscovered in the 1990's in Australia after having been thought to be extinct for millions of years. I have been reading the progress of Julia's Wollemi Pine on her great blog We're Going to Need a Bigger Pot. In a similar manner to Julia, I am naming my plant, Wollemina.

Another ancient Australian conifer is Araucaria bidwillii. This is my one below. The last two winters have been hard on it, but has so far survived happily outdoors. A friend bought it back from Australia in 2003, and it has been outside ever since. The native Australians used to eat the 'Bunya Pine' seeds as they fell. The cone bearing the seeds is especially large, and people are advised against walking under these trees in years of heavy coning.


The problem with these amazing trees, is that they grow up into very big plants. Oh well, I hope to have a bigger garden to accomodate them!

Now for something completely different, Pseudowintera colorata;


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

One must defeat the evil gnomes in order to save the golden duckling.

Firstly, apologies to any gnomes reading. I realise there are both good and bad gnomes. This is Cyclamen coum, which has just started flowering under my apple tree.

Several weeks ago, I was reading the blog of the lovely Di. Here's the post on comment moderation. You might have a blog that doesn't have any comment moderation set up. I would urge you to follow the instructions on Di's blog post.
My spammers seem particularly keen on this post; Giant Redwood for whatever reason. I found the comments quite amusing.

Have a row of shots ready, and when you read 'Harare'... DRINK!

"Focusing your interest for viewing this beautiful and interesting place and to give you proper guidance and information we have launched different discount services and offers which can be availed anytime on cheap Harare *DRINK!* flight. With Harare *DRINK!* flight you can visit this beautiful place located in the heart Harare *DRINK!* on cheap flights to Harare *DRINK!* as well as Harare *DRINK!* flight deals are also available, we also provide you the facility to bargain trips on Harare *DRINK!* flight and any available last minute Harare *DRINK!* flight, you can however get great deals on all the economy Harare *DRINK!* flight, business Harare *DRINK!* flight, direct Harare *DRINK!* flight, cheap Harare *DRINK!* flight, last minute Harare *DRINK!* flight and as well on the group traveling on Harare *DRINK!* flight. At Harare *DRINK!* flight we will definitely meet or beat any price on the cheap flights to Harare *DRINK!* what you have to do is give us a try and the results will be in front of you shortly. We the Harare *DRINK!* flight provide you complete support as far as you transportation needs are concerned on very cheap and economical prices and you can easily serve beautiful moments of your life with your loved ones living at Harare *DRINK!* or any part of Africa by reaching them on cheap Harare flight.
At Harare *DRINK!* flight we specialize in the Economy, Business, and Direct Harare *DRINK!* flight deals we guarantee that we will meet or beat any price on the cheap flights to Harare*DRINK!* Give us a try!" For further information please log in to their website.

I shall be disappointed if any of my readers are still standing after my drinking game.

After installing comment moderation, and my reason for looking back at my Redwood post, I recently had another suspicious comment.

"Let me assure you this is a beautiful picture but Africa is full of lot more beauty than shown in this picture. However, seeing is believing is definitely not wrong. I have been to Africa in my child hood. I have witnessed the precise craftsmanship of God. Words can't describe what god has done on the land of Africa. Just look for cheap flights to lagos and/or other cities of Africa and witness the endless series of miracles with your own eyes."

Amen to that, brother! I bear the same sentiments, see.

I hope this will encourage everyone to moderate their comments.
As a footnote, please visit the blog of the inimitable, mysterious and utterly lazy Ms B, at Lack-A-Daisy. Percy needs a good home in Ms B's garden.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Please mind the gap between the train and the cosmic recesses of outer space.

Today I was doing a spot of digging in an area of the garden I've never dug.  As gardeners, I'm sure we all find interesting bits and pieces. I regularly find old medicine bottles, as a previous owner was involved with pharmacy. I've also found thin, sealed-glass straws, containing various plant names on small slithers of paper.

This is probably one of the most intriguing items I've discovered. The actual piece is a few centimetres thick, and would happily fit in the palm of your hand. The image has been applied in a thin glaze. 

It's not from a vase, as it is completely flat. The glaze undulates slightly, in a solid, non-moving kind of way.

Unfortunately the light bulbs don't do it any justice (the table is pure white). The background is a deep, navy blue. At first I thought the subject was a woman, but I think I may have got that wrong. The animal looks like a rabbit, I reckon.

We aren't far away from the Mediaeval Merton Priory. I wonder...

Another archaeological find is my angry African. He's a bit bigger, and is carved from stone. He is likely to be a lot younger than the first piece. I found him when I was walking through a busy shopping area in Harare. I looked down, and there he was, staring angrily up through the blades of grass. A bit of digging resulted in a rather special holiday memento.

Being left buried like that, I suppose I'd be angry too.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Please insert interesting blog title.

Two ingredients for a rather dull blog post.

1) I'm bored with trying to think of interesting blog titles.

I was going to use the following title for this post; "The Days Are Getting Longer", but realise most readers would probably fall asleep, in the time it took to follow the link to the post. I may go down the road of Mr J.A-S and just use faintly ridiculous titles. I think it's a good idea, so I'm going to go with the surrealist titles from now on. Be warned.

2) I started this post without having much of an idea of what I was going to write about. Let us see what this evolves into.

The days are getting longer. It's still cold. The birds are making the sounds they make in spring. Talking of birds - I was amazed by the numbers that descended on our bird feeders when we had the snow. Fieldfares, redwings, jays, parakeets, spotted woodpecker, three robins at one time, coal tits, long-tailed tits, blue and great. Then there were the regulars too feral and wood pigeons, starlings, blackbirds and sparrows. People concerned about sparrows in gardens really shouldn't be. Nowadays gardens offer a great deal to a far more diverse range of bird species.

 This time of year is a time when the gardener psyches him or herself up for the season ahead. Last minute shrub transplanting. Winter pruning. Seed ordering. What really gets me, is the heady excitement of having the new season creeping up on us. Last night I was thinking about my garden plans/business plans/ life in general from about 10.30pm to around 2am.

This is what happens to me at this time of year. It's not good because I just end up wandering around in a zombie-like trance for most of the following day. I wonder if other gardeners are like this, or is it just me?

I am seriously considering meeting the other UK garden bloggers at The Malvern Show. Looks like fun, and it would be great to meet some of the people I've commented to, or messaged.

The weather has been rather dull and grey, but it really is an important time of year to get planning and thinking ahead. The dullness now, also makes spring a lot more appealing.

Erm, I think that might be it. If you've read this far, you should be knighted.

Here are some pictures of January in my 'hood.

A few weeks ago in the snow. That's the tower at Crystal Palace in the distance.

The sunset this evening. Bit of a stunner.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


What's occurin'?

So a belated Happy New Year to my blog followers and anyone that happens to pop by here. I hope everyone had a good Christmas/festive season.

I had a nice Christmas. It already seems so long ago! You may have seen my post on wild mushroom picking. If not, here it is. For the main Polish Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve, we make little dumplings ('Uszka' which literally translates as ears) filled with the wild mushrooms and served in homemade beetroot soup. It's yummy.

I always feel there should be more photos of soup on garden blogs.

 Just after Christmas I went to see Avatar at the iMax in Waterloo. It was in 3D. It was the most amazing (a word I feel can never be over-used) film and cinematic experience I think I've had. It was all rather exhilerating.

Of course I shall have to link this post to plants in some way. I'm a big fan of computer-graphic jungles, and there were many an intriguing alien plant in Avatar. If you haven't seen it, you must go. There are some underlying messages about having a deep respect for nature and the appreciation and conservation it deserves from us. As gardeners we know this already, being sons and daughters of the soil.

Unfortunately I think I caught the flu at the cinema. Not just any flu either. It was the Swine Flu. I started feeling peaky around New Year (and was fast asleep when Big Ben sounded at midnight). My condition deteriorated a couple of days into January, and I was knocked for six.

Fortunately the gardeners on Twitter kept me amused when I was feeling really rough and ratty. Thank you. You know who you are..

I'm feeling great now, though it took a while to recover fully. What with the snow and all, it was a while before I could get back to work. Before you say anything, it is rather difficult to tidy gardens when the snow is heavy on the ground.

Moving on. I think regular readers might have noticed that this post has been somewhat wordy, and devoid, thus far, of a photo of some botanic subject. This is due to a blip with my Macbook. All fixed now, but my photos are all on CDs, and I'm planning to round off my Africa blog series in a simple link to a photo-sharing website. Just waiting for a chance to upload them all, I'm sure it's quite a slow process. Watch this space. It'll be good.

Okay, I've had a quick look and found some poor-quality iPhone photos of some beautiful effects the cold weather had on some rather normal plants.


Winter chard