Wednesday 22 January 2014


So spring beckons and with sunshine there pull of the garden is strong. There is even the glimmer of new life with the first snowdrops and bulbs pushing through. The deep cold that was threatened has not arrived, and it has been the mildest winter for a long time (cue epic weeks of deep snow). I am so surprised how I still have lots of nasturshums and nicotiana which are still alive, my Amicia is also still going and the Tetrpanax may even get to flower..

So a ramble around the spring garden

Hellebore....after killing nearly all the Hellebore's Mum put in this one seems to have survived..I think it does look strangely exotic

Cobea...amazing it is still going, and I really hope that some survive

Melianthus...a very strong shrub which was just getting into its stride at the end of the year, and is usually cut back to the ground. It may even flower for me for the first time
All is rather raggedy, with odd tidy patches where the mood has taken me. still lots of Tetrapanax on the go

Salvias, rubbish all summer but they haven't stopped since September

general decimation...however a pleasing job is to thin out the bamboo, cutting out the oldest, thinnest and tatty growth which opens up the clumps and makes them much more handsome. Next year I will do this earlier as the cut culms and leaves would make for excellent insulation for plants that need I would put loads of this debris around ther banana to be wrapped and then fleece this giving lots of extra insulation.

Fatsia polycarpa flowering...ALWAYS check which type you get if mail ordering as there is so much variation in leaf shape, and although you may want the very lacy fancy ones you could end up with one like this which looks very life a regular Fatsia japonica

This is the current issue as when you come up the steps the aim is that your eye is drawn to Ganesh (below) however instead you stare up at the flats (above) so I'm working to put in more things to catch the eye and perhaps move a giant bamboo and plant this Trachycarpus..... The winter garden is full of plants like this, and is littered with sticky and forks to try and plan out where things could do

Winter protection for the Musa's with most things cut to the ground, below is the giant blue bamboo I want to move as it was small for years, but has suddently sent out 15? foot new culms..

Things are still fairly lush in parts, although raggedy...the Solanum lanceolatum is certainly a bit bashed around and I have cut it back to give this young Trachycarpus a chance to grow....although small I was amazed at how big the root ball was last year when I moved it
Anyway, good luck with your own winter gardening and getting back into the stride of things, why have a gym membership when you have a garden?

Monday 13 January 2014

Trachycarpus fortunei and the Palm Centre in Richmond

After seeing two posts by Mark and Gaz about the Palm Centre in Richmond I felt I could resist no longer and made the trek to West London whilst the sale was still going on. I also wanted to use this post to give an overview of how quickly Trachycarpus fortunei grows as I couldn't resist buying 2 small palms and wanted a reminder of how long I needed to wait until they were lush.

I had never been to the Palm Centre before, but it has always been on the 'to do' list as the closest nursery to us. I have also been impressed by their recent displays at Hampton Court flower show, and who can resist a winter sale?

Driving in it was instantly like applying a defibrillator to my stunted winter heart as in the display beds there were huge examples of different palms and bamboos, and the site was so much bigger than expected. I had in my mind that it would be small as space in London is at such a premium, however it was huge....on our first wander round we also missed a big chunk 'oh the grasses are at the back' which back?? 'oh the acre right at the back behind the bamboos'

There was a huge expanse of glasshouses filled with fields of palms which were bulking up. It didn't initially seem to have the diversity or energy to get new things that say Amultree has, however it has all the staples which were grown very well. There was also a big bamboo section with some lovely mature plants which I would have bought lots of if I had the space. In summer things must be a lot nicer and the acre at the back full of tempting plants, and this is a good reason to come back.

So lots of temptation with my main impulse buy being a Brahea armata, a very blue palm which i have ogled for a while. I also picked up a Chamaedora microspadix to try and 6 Cordylines as I figure I need some good staples to add some exotisism, and also some height, especially as my neighbor is planning an extension.

I also bought 2 Trachycarpus fortunei which now means I have 8 in the garden...too many?! no, of course not. I still think this is the most reliable and fastest growing palm, and key for anyone wanting something exotic. They are also easy and very hardy, an easy piece of the tropics for anyone in need of the exotic.

So that got me wondering exactly how fast do they grow? the knee jerk answer is a foot a year when they are happy, which i can believe with my oldest one, but thought it would be a good chance to look back at my own palms, as growth comparisons on the web seem hard to find

So this is when it was planted in 2008, still in its pot so you can see how small it is

End of 2008



 then 2013. The trunk is at about 5ft, and must have grown about 1 to 1 1/2 foot in the last 12 months

 2013 again

Then another example, one on the terrace in a large metal planter first planted in 2007

Compared to the one in the ground, growth is a lot slower and it is probably half the size in terms of trunk and size of the leaves which is probably from lack of water and nutrients

So I hope that is helpful in seeing how fast things grow, especially if you are as impatient to get things going as I am, as they do bulk up fairly quickly.

Finally go if you are in the area, or if you fancy a nice day trip, especially as the nursery is in the kitchen garden of Ham House, a lovely 17th Century house (National Trust) which is right on the river Thames and also opposite Marble Hill House (English Heritage) another big stately home. So get the train to Richmond and have a great walk along the river or drive and park..nice plants, bit of culture and a nice walk on the river, where can you go wrong?

Ham house, culture and pretty gardens innit..