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. 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 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

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Luang Prabang: a market with strange plants to eat

Visiting the market in Luang Prabang I could not even pretend to know what half the plants were, or what they were used for which is fairly unusual! A lot of the usual suspects were missing, as locally they are very good at using herbs (and animals) direct from the forest. So I'm not going to even pretend to know what I am talking about and let the pictures do the talking.

The whole market was just spread down one alley near the old royal palace

Pumpkins, banana flowers and chilli's 

random stuff, including some coiled twigs?!

 ? some type of palm flower?

Another type of palm flower?
This was a surprise...these are all bee larvae
Anyone for a frog curry?

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Thailand: flowers

So back to Thailand adventures.....I find the art, culture, architecture and gardens of this part of the world really inspiring ,and this trip was no different. The use of flowers for both decoration and spiritual use is important, and in particular there is a type of purple orchid that seems to be everywhere.
I love a good flower market, and during a cycling tour of Bangkok we got up close with one of the largest ,which was a good chance to see more, and learn about different offerings.
The ever present  pink orchids...each bunch was about 40p
The orange bags are all marigold flowers which they use to make garlands
These were 'ready to go' offering packs for Ganesha...each one had some flowers, a banana and sugar cane
Everywhere there were also these big ice packed Styrofoam boxes which had bags of unopened Jasmine flowers in them for garlands, also giving an amazing scent when they opened
I also managed to spot what I have been calling my 'hairy balls plant' which I grew for the first time after getting one at the Great Dixter Plant Fair. Here sold as a cut flower 
Finished garlands to be hung in shrines or given as offerings
The white are the jasmine buds
Un-opened lotus buds to be used as temple offerings
Finally me attempting to turn the lotus buds into an offering. You do a very clever thing of peeling back the sepals and folding them into triangles to expose the petals. I was rubbish!