Thursday 21 February 2013

RHS London plant show and succumbing to temptation

Ok so I now seem to be the owner of a rather gorgeous looking Schefflera macrophylla...  yes this is the same species of plant that I paid far too much for a few years ago only to see it survive the winter and suddenly die in June. Yes I’ve said I wouldn’t get one again, and even commented this when Will Giles commented about his suddenly dying too. I should know better I thought as I handed over my bundle of cash for a new one...however the other voice says ‘wahey you have bought one of the most fabulous hardy exotic plants you can get’  I had also easily justified the cost as why buy lots of little things when you can buy one big thing? And hey I hadn’t treated myself for a while, well, at least a week...
Talking with others it seems like they shouldn’t be allowed to dry out and what they like is moist very free draining soil. Hardiness also seems to be debatable with some people suffering winter die backs and others not being so my plan is to keep it in a pot where I can ensure it is properly watered, and where it can be sheltered on my terrace. Fingers crossed that it survives, as to kill the most expensive plant I have ever bought twice would be very careless! However I hope that even if it doesn’t last for long it makes a fabulous summer bedding plant.
Spring has arrived in Westminster
Last year I bought far too many plants at the show as my eyes are far bigger than my plant carrying muscles and I had to get a cab home with a beautiful Rubus linefolia that the cab driver seemed convinced was a Cannabis plant! This year I was determined not to do the same so was pleased that the Schefflera was of a manageable size (well about 4-5ft high and wide, but light) so I grabbed it and the new Aspidestra I bought and felt confident about braving the overland train. This was all until I was told to avoid touching the leaves much as they could cause blisters and I should therefore avoid the underground! Clutching the plant gingerly I think I was at least 10 meters down the road before I felt myself starting to itch, this then got worse and new itches started on the train journey and once home I rushed to the sink to see how hideously disfigured my face would been from this plant which had been bitch slapping me all the way home. However, thankfully this was all totally psychological and I was completely fine, phew!

So all in all it was a good plant show, and great opportunity to meet up with Mark and Gaz who are far cleverer gardeners and bloggers than me, so I was hoping some of their brilliance would rub off (PS it’s all their fault that I bought the Schefflera, they are such a bad influence). The show was full of people including lots of older ladies whose elbows were razor sharp when it came to getting to the front and spotting a bargain...I have a lot to learn. There were also some great nurseries and good opportunities to buy plants...if you were a snowdrop lover you could also pick up pots of special plants at £25 a pot which makes my Schefflera look a bargain! Together with the sun it made for a really positive experience as it really feels like the new gardening season has started again and new things are bursting into life. HURRAH!

I loved this plant as it looked like it had been squashed/slimed!

There was always a big crowd around the Crug stand...

More pictures of the Crug many pretty things!

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Climbers trellis and mud

Sometimes in gardens there are nice things to do (such as wandering around gazing at flowers with the odd bit of weeding or admiring new things in an Oscar Wilde aesthetic type way) then there are ok things to do (light weeding/tidying) then there are things that you have to grin and bear (areas over run by weeds, major digging). The other weekend I was firmly in the things that needed to be done camp when the whole day was taken over by trellis....
It seemed like such a good idea at the time, to get a load of new trellis (50% off! Everyone likes a bargain!) this was to go all along the side of the front garden as it would hide an ugly wall and collapsing fence, look smart and hide next doors bins. I’ve also been feeling guilty about the front garden as my heart is firmly in the is also tough going with really rubbish heavy clay soil incredibly cloying in winter and rock hard in winter....the soil is also only about a foot deep over solid concrete. However this is the year it will have a revamp and look better (we are an NGS garden don’t you know...) I have plans for beautiful festoons of climbers and some kick ass late autumn show stoppers...I will also try and sneak in some exotics (officially it is more cottage garden)
So we stood in the garden surveying the scene...the first thing was a decision to remove some old brick walls which divided the bins as they were a bit rubbish and we thought this would make putting up the trellis easier....about an hour and a half later after lugging 5+ wheelbarrows of bricks to the far end of the garden I wasn’t so sure. My approach to DIY was also different from the families...I’m a bit more ‘oh just bung it in and nail it’ the others were a bit more ‘mmm so if we have a 7mm drill bit we need this rawplug’ They also did things like use a spirit level?!
This is my idea of hard work, standing at the back directing the slaves.....
So needless to say as the sun sank on London we were left standing in the mud trying to put up the 4th panel of 11. Ug!  However on Sunday afternoon once the slaves finished up, it does look good. So this has got me thinking about climbers.... I am such a fan of climbers as exotic garden wise they bring the kind of wild nature taking over look as they take over fences and trees... So front garden I have bought a Holbenia and Stauntonia, both have nice waxy looking exotic ish leaves, and fragrant flowers. Can’t wait
In terms of a bit of a ramble though climbers I like....
Kiwi: is probably my favourite exotic climber as I love their big leaves, and bold powerful looking new shoots which look ready to conquer. Sadly they haven’t yet conquered Camberwell, but I am still hoping
Virginia Creeper: this is probably my next fave for taking over.....good vine for festoons and getting jungly with it
Clematis armandii: again big and vigorous....the leaves have that dark green gloss which is deep jungle. Perfect for hiding a fence. I also like Clematis montana for its vigorousness; this is the fastest growing fence hider....
The Clematis montana climbed all along the fence and onto the railings in a couple of years! although quite a classic garden plant it can provide a jungly backdrop
Muehlenbeckia: This grows through the Clematis armandii and has a great contrast between the small cut leaves and wiry growth, overall rather different to the unusual climbers; they also manage to compete well. Very easy and once established roots easily from stems
Passion flower: Every time this flowers it still amazes me as the flowers as so complex and stunningly exotic. A very jungly plant as it gets everywhere reaching for more territory. I haven’t had much luck with the pale pink or blue versions, and the hardy one was only zaped once on a cold wall in that really harsh recent winter but overall I couldn’t be without this plant.
Passionflowers covers the wall to the right, their flowers dripping onto the terrace. Tracheospermum on the railing at the far end, its scent filling the air evocative of steamy nights in foreign climes...
Cobea: I love as an annual but it can be very late to flower....but great value for how fast it grows. Cobea pringelii (a hardy perennial species) is still on my must have list
Tropaeolum: I used to grow the flame flower which I loved loved loved for its penetrating red flowers, however it never really lasted more than 2 seasons and so I have given up on it. I also grow T.ciliatum which is supposed to be a rampant invasive plant, but it has been minding its business quietly for a few years.
Trachyospermum jasminoides: I so love this plant, and when in flower can perch nearby breathing in the heavy scent thinking I am many miles away. So so nice, and although it grows slowly it is worth it. Last year it got to the size where it scents our terrace, dropping flowers gently onto the chair below. *love* The regular jasmine is also great and I have it in a few places as it does look nicely jungly, however scent wise is nothing on the Trachyospermum
Aristolochia: this whole family is on my wish list, large leaves and off flowers that look carnivorous. Yum!
Ipomea: I wish these grew well for does the convolvulous get to be huge, but my seedlings only a few foot!
Climbing roses: ok ‘rose’ is a bit of a dirty word for me but I am a fan of the climbing ones such as those MASSIVE ones that you see taking over trees as when you look up close the stems are as thick as your arm and look like something from a King Kong jungle. I also like them from a security angle as no sane burglar will cross them....
Campsis: another plant I probably should give up on but I want them to work too much. How can you beat their exotic orange flowers? Sadly the two I have is about 4yrs old and about a foot, the other about 3ft L Please grow my pretties!
So a bit of a climbers ramble...there are of course loads more and I have it on the list to try grape vines, don’t get me going on hops, I’m not sure about climbing hydrangeas and although I think there must be an exotic looking honeysuckle I haven’t found one yet.

Sunday 10 February 2013


Its rather wet and miserable in London at the moment...and although the desire to get outside and do things is building, the closest I have got to gardening was sitting in the summerhouse with a hot cup of tea making a mental to-do list.

However I am catching up on tv and rather enjoying Monty Dons new French Gardens program... I love France and have been reminiscing about our trip there in 2011 where we just drove through the Loire Valley having long lunches with kir vin blanc in outside cafes in panoramic medieval villages wandering round chateau and admiring the gardens....note to self must buy lottery ticket, then buy run down old French chateau

Villandry which Monty visited (clearly he must have read my blog?) was one of our favourites and as I was stuck inside I thought it would be rather apt to dig out some photos to share. It is a really remarkable place as the scale is breathtaking...Montys focus was on the potager which is fabulous, and it was interesting, but a bit disappointing, to see that they don't actually use the produce/it isn't a productive garden. However it is breathtaking....and what you don't notice is also that behind all the formal pomp is a more modern garden which was equally as inspiring and I have lots of photos of plant labels as I met things such as Helianthus salicifolius and Aeseculus parvifolia for the first time.