Monday, 14 April 2014

Selecting paint colours the plant lovers way

It has got to the time in our build when we have to select the colour for the outside of the house.  This is never easy and the temptation is to simply select the same colour as everyone else.  Those that do opt for something different most likely paint samples around the place to help them select.

The builder asked that we limit these to the wall to the patio, as the other render is still drying.  This wall will also not be visible once finished as I am planing to build a succulent bank up against it to make the most of the space.  Sadly he chucked away all the rubble from the build which would have been perfect to build the bank up instead of me having to buy tonnes of materials myself.

Once the paint had dried it was time to test it against the slabs to be used on the patio and paths

At this stage the succulent fan kicked in. There are obviously going to be lots of pots around and I will no doubt use the wall as a back-drop for photographing my plants so I thought it would be sensible to test that as well.

It is no surprise that the colur changes every time you place something else next to it. It is lovely in London at the moment, we are having a very early and sunny spring, so the succulents have got into early growth.  Especially given we had almost no winter at all.  The cacti are starting to flower, this is the first to put out a full flower though.

It is a much stronger colour than last year, which could be something to do with the sun and heat I believe. The echeverias are all starting as well, which is actually a bit of a shame.  Because the builders are still in the garden I couldn't take everything out of their winter storage areas, so they are scattered around under tables, benches and anywhere else I thought they would be protected from the builders.  They need to be brought out into full view so they can be enjoyed. Plus it is getting into that time I need to harden them off before the sun gets too strong. 

Hopefully only 3 weeks or so until I get the garden back.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

It's been a while

With the extension work and builders blocking the green house and generally trashing the garden, there has not been much to report. Then this last week we got a big step closer as this is now the view from the kitchen / diner.

The patio doors are in and that signals we are into the final stages of the build. It mean I can start to plan for the day they remove the rest of their stuff out of the gardens and the real fun can start. There are currently on-going discussions with my OH about the area in front of the doors, I think it is a perfect plant display area for some of my pots, but she seems to think that we should use it for table and chairs. You would think she would know me better by now.

To celebrate I went on the first plant buying tip of the year, to one of the rare plant fairs they hold around the UK.  It was a spur of the moment decision, as shown by the purchases:

At first this probably looks fine (all be it not very spikie), sadly the back row of plant were bought at the same plant fair last year, the front row, this years.  It does show a certain difference in the attention I pay to the other plants, as I have never bought the same succulent twice by accident. Thankfully there is enough space in the garden for both sets and I guess there will be no waiting for them to form clumps. 

While I have yet to properly start on the design for the front and back, I know they are both going to be more varied than the last garden and while there will be a lot of succulents and gravel sections, there will also be more lush and shade areas.  I am considering using rock gardens as a theme throughout and just swapping the planting medium in the different sections. That lot should all be perfectly happy in different sections.

Another plant I picked up was eremurus 'Oase'.  This is the third variety I have, and want them scattered around the gravel beds.  I'll do another post on these later.  Two different plants that found their way into my car were creeping clematis. I saw these somewhere as different plants to have in an gravel bed.

I want to try and get some different types of plants into the planting and theses looked amazing in the pictures I saw. Time will tell if they cope with my lack of watering and care. A friend who specialises in clematis (but ironically hates these forms) says they should do well in my type of gravel bed. If I can keep them alive I may use them on the green roof and vertical planting areas as well.

Very exciting to be thinking of getting into the garden again, sadly the doors have also highlighted how much closer the garage is to the house (and how ugly it is!).

The next project is to knock it down and build a smaller one in the section that is currently hidden behind it.   Then again maybe I should wait until the current project is actually finished before starting to plan the next one.

Friday, 7 February 2014

The winter health check

There has not been a lot of plant talk here lately. The works on the house dominates things at the moment, plus I have been in my winter disinterested period. Over the last couple of weeks things have started to change, and the greenhouse has been calling.

Today was a rare sunny day. After months of rain and storms, it was a change to be able to go outside and look at things in the sun.  So an ideal opportunity to do a quick check up on how the plants are coping with this strange winter.

The main cold frame was a sign of things to come, the plants currently look great, I can't remember seeing them look so undamaged at this point in Feb. The biggest problem seems to be that with the lack of cold, the snails are not totally gone and there is the odd bit of snail damage.

It is always good to see the echeverias doing so well.   Normally they suffer a fair amount of damage and take the first part of summer to recover. Hopefully this year they can start from a better point.

Then it was time to try and get to the greenhouse. The builders have totally blocked the front, so I had to squeeze through the side and then try and prize the door open.  With a little re-arranging I managed to open it just enough to get inside and again was thrilled to see everything looking very healthy.

I had left a few plants in here by accident and the fact that so far they show no damage is a bit of luck.

While it has been a stormy, wet winter, we have had almost no cold at all so far. The forecasts show no let up in the storms, but also no real drop in the temperatures.  I very much doubt we will get away without any real cold; one of the things that sets the UK apart from the rest of Europe and other parts of the world is the degree to which winter can go on. Hopefully the last part of the winter will be as mild as the rest, it will make a nice change.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Back in the garden

The garden remodel continues, the builders heard I was planning a rock garden and decided to help out.

It makes me smile when I look out and see the cycad as the only visible plant.  It looks very lonely out there on its own.

I am starting to wake up again having lost interest in plants a bit over the shortest days of winter.  There is a still long way to go, but the days are getting longer and I am starting to want to see what the plants are up to.  Sadly the builders have blocked the entrance to the green house, so I can not get in there at all. At the moment, I am reduced to peering through the window to check everything is ok.  As I can't get to the plants I am having to take solace in thinking about what I will do once the builders leave. There are two whole gardens to plan and no end of possibilities.

The builders are also doing their bit to help with some interesting planter opportunities, when they took down the chimney they kept the top for me in case I wanted to plant it.  Those holes have a lot of potential. Mind you it is kind of pretty the other way up as well.

It is good to be thinking about the garden again.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Winter hibination

It seems to have been the norm for the last few years that I really don't feel like doing garden and plant things in November and December.  Maybe it is the short days or the plants all being safely tucked up, but just can not get motivated to bother with the garden.

This year there is another reason in the final preparation for the big build and on Monday the work actually started. It was always going to be the case that they trashed the garden, especially as it is not that big, even after only 2 days it looks different.  The front now has slightly more height than it did before

In the back we agreed that they would leave the back part clear to ensure we could get in and out of the greenhouse and garage. Plus more importantly to ensure none of the plants get damaged.  Obviously being builders that seems to have straight out the window and here is the back garden:

Did you notice the ladder rested across the top of the plants onto the table next to the garage door.  I'm surprisingly relaxed about it at present, the garden has deliberately been left untouched instead of starting planting it up. Besides the quicker they finish the quicker I can start. When planning they were going to leave the patio area to ensure the house was finished quickly, but I was more concerned they had finished and cleared the garden for spring. There have been a few strange conversations along the lines of "it doesn't matter what you do to the house, but damage my plants and there will be trouble"
With another 17 weeks of build left I'm not sure how much I'll be posting. Hopefully I'll find something to write about, I am guessing I am going to need something to keep my mind off living in a building site. I will also need to get on with the garden planning, they need to know if I am going to use the wall to the patio to build a south facing agave bank, so lots of fun to come with looking at ideas for the final design.

I figure if nothing else the garden can't look worse when I have finished.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

What are the signs of your plant addiction?

At this time of year there is no hiding it, every windowsill is covered in plants, with a few of the larger ones on tables or by doors and generally scattered around the house.  The other common symptom is watching out for nurseries when visiting new locations.  This was in full flow at the weekend, it was too much when a sign appeared at the side of the road saying "Largest selection of alpines in the UK". Permission was granted for a QUICK stop and I left with 4 little pots and a big smile.

Sometimes it the signs are more subtle, on seeing these my first thought what great planters, drainage holes and everything.  Why can't we find troughs like this in London.

It took me a while to realise they were coffins.

Being in a grave yard at the time, should probably have been a clue.

I still think they would make great troughs, a definite talking point in the garden. I am obviously not alone. When I told this to a friend he sent me a link to a story about a couple who had planted up a trough they found in their new garden. Only to find out it was a unique roman  coffin worth £100000! (Here is a link to the story).

This is not unusual for me, I have notice that I tend to look at objects thinking about their potential as planters.  A big log that could be hollowed out, an old bird bath, or that toy dumper trunk that is crying out to be planted up.

So do you have any less obvious symptoms of your plant addiction?

Monday, 7 October 2013

Packing up: part 2.

The good weather has continued and it has been lovely out in the garden for the last few days.  It would be easy to forget things need to be packed up.

I have been mixing my days between enjoying the sun in the garden and local parks and slowly moving plants into the other rain shelters.

The second cold frame is up. This one contains the plants that just need the rain keeping off and will benefit from a little bit of extra warmth. Many of the plants in here were in the old dry bed and will be planted in the new one. Until it is ready they are getting pampered.

Next up was starting on the greenhouse.  This is my first summer with a greenhouse and I have spent a lot of time pampering the plants in there, ensuring I remember to water (a first for me) and generally watching their progress.

It has been a very good year for aloe flowers, I think they have all flowered which is a first.  Sadly the flowers confirm that the plant bought as aloe firebird, is in fact aloe lizard lips.  Not one I wanted, although it does flower profusely so good for some colour.

The echeverias don't want to be outdone, so are still flowering as well.  We are into the late flowering varieties now, especially some of the white forms.

It's strange, starting to move some of these plants into the house felt much more definite than the rest of the packing up.  These are the plants that will be damaged by frost, so I guess it means I know they are on the way.

The first windowsill is full and plants have started appearing on the other one that is not being ripped out.  A few of the bigger aloes have moved in as well, I've yet to figure out where they are going to end up. They are sitting by a glass door at the moment and will be moved when the building works starts. It gives me time to find somewhere to put them.