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!

back (again)

Apologies to my regular readers for the wait between posts...after returning from an amazing few weeks in Thailand and Laos work has turned rather busy and evenings have been spent working rather than blogging. There is also an odd thing about this time of the year where the shorter days have made the garden more inaccessible as the mornings are a race to get to work and by the time you get back it is dark. A combination of this and the slow decline towards winter has meant that the garden is not at the foremost of my mind. I am missing this, as gardens have such an amazing calming quality (this quality is currently being filled with gin) and although it is very much the end of the season there are still lots of things looking good. 
Frosts are not too far away and I have already prepared by buying a new temporary plastic greenhouse (more on that later) and I think this weekend will be the time I did up the Ensetes and bring the very tender things in. This year I will also dig up the dahlias , which is more a slug protection issue than a tenderness. I think I will also wait until the frost blackens the cannas before digging them up, which is also a reflection on how unfit I am. Lots to do!