Friday, 30 January 2015

Sexy succulents.Hokusai versus the Paint Tray.Bright blue fungus. Squirrels?

Just before I start  I would like to say if you like this blog and would  like to be notified when  a new one is published you can subscribe to one of the feeds that lets you know though I have no idea how you do that  but I do send out a tweet on @pwhorticulture as a reminder. I am not a regular  tweeter and I am almost ashamed to admit that this is a blatant recruitment  drive. I have a son who is setting up  a food business and keeps telling me  how many Twitter  followers he has gained each day which brasses me off  and I don't want to let him beat me, at least not without a fight - how sad is that.  

Excuse the gratuitous blog title but sex sells. 
Sexy Succulents
It was raining at the pottery the other day so I thought I would spend some time in the greenhouse  with the camera. We have an interesting collection of  succulents  most of which, when it comes to names, I don't  know  more than the genus and not always that so if you recognise any of the species or varieties please let me know. It is one of my missions this year to get as many of them named as possible There are Echeverias, Graptopetalums, and Kalanchoes amongst them.    

This one I do know, Aeonium tabuliforme. The picture gives no idea  as to how flat this rosette is. It is some 180 mm across and probably no more than 15 mm high.  It is monocarpic  so it   flowers just once from the centre of the rosette which then dies out. It can be propagated from seed or  offsets ( baby plants)  which sometimes appear at the base of the flowering stem. It can also be propagated   by tugging off  and rooting the individual leaves.

This is a Kalanchoe.

I have a feeling this is also  a Kalanchoe.

Pachyphytum oviferum - this  sends me into paroxysms of drooling delight. The sexiest of  sexy succulents. Do you remember, in fact  now can you even  get, sugared almonds ?  Experience more paroxysms below.


Ups- a - Daisy! 

I planted this narrow bottomed, top heavy, 70cm tall,  terracotta pot just before Christmas, knowing at the back of my mind that it had every chance of blowing over while at the same time thinking  'No it will be okay'. 
Well it wasn't. The very strong winds of mid January up-ended it  but  surprisingly without  a chip.
The wind must have toppled it over but rather than falling on its rim as most pots would, its rounded ellipse shape  allowed it to roll as it fell and  it went with enough momentum to turn it completely upside down. ( 'Well, how about that!' I hear you say.) It didn't do much for  my 'elegant' planting of  Cornus 'Midwinter Fire' twigs, rosemary sprigs ( Did you ever know her?)  and  dead seed  heads  of Sedum 'Matrona' but I  was so taken with the elegance with which  that the pot must have rolled over during the night that I was not too put out that my planting was squashed flat on the  terrace ( I live in an old council house so read patio.).
(If you are thinking of buying such a pot they come with a stone plinth and a bolt for attaching it to the base of the pot to stop such disasters happening, it is just that I was too lazy to use mine.)  

Funny  how even a hint of frost  makes us get the camera out. 

I like  what might be called wallpaper shots.  No particular subject or focus  but  just an interesting interplay of shapes, shades, textures and colours. Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' - with frost.


Glorious Days

The great  pleasure of working in other peoples garden is that you
 get the  chance to enjoy moments  like  this, Moments which you could never get in your own garden at least not if it is on the modest scale that mine is. This was taken on the same cold day as the Ophiopogon picture above which was taken early  morning at home.

I feel that a cartoonist with a sharper wit than mine could come  up with a very funny caption for this picture. Any ideas? 

Life was good this day.

Knowing that  there is a Ha Ha either side of this gate makes it look less pointless than it might otherwise seem.

The same garden but now a  much less harmonious picture. It is an almost ugly picture  but with   a great mix of angles and rounded nature, old buildings and an incongruous energy saving light bulb that made a picture that brought a smile to my face. Twenty past ten: nearly break time.

Frosted Post Tops
 I enjoy the frosty patterns on these fence-post tops. They would have been even better had the focus been  a bit more crisp but they fit well enough into my wallpaper category for me to enjoy

How is your imagination? Do you see an old oak tree in full leaf on the left? And a sort of ploughed field that somehow goes into the sky maybe with a galloping horse in there as well?  No?  Then take more drugs. 


More aliens?

Heavily pruned  Limes ( Lindens) on the high wolds of the North Cotswolds  make a fabulous sight  in late winter. Years of annual pruning has lead to  these gnarled and knobbly  branches which, depending on  your outlook, looking scarily sinister or just leprous.  

Each branch-end with its crowded top knot of  cut back  branch stubs looks like  an alien head  waiting to stretch out and  take a snap at you in an unguarded moment. Is there the hint of a  face of Jesus in the middle there?

Walking beneath these sinister shapes as the late winter sun sinks towards the horizon  brings on a feeling of unease.  

Another of natures surprises.

I was tidying up the garden  and moving some Hazel hurdles which had  stood in a damp corner for a couple of years when I was   dazzled by this  brilliantly coloured  fungi. The picture does not do justice to the  brightness and intensity of this  blue fungi. 
Just a word on Hazel hurdles; if you want a quick screen that you do not expect to last  long then use hazel hurdles. To ensure they don't  even last that long make sure they are resting on the damp  ground, ideally amongst moist  leaf litter  where bacterial and fungal decay can break them down at their  quickest. For a screen that will last a  reasonable amount of time use something else. 


Hokusai versus the Paint Tray,
I am sure you are all familiar with the Hokusai picture below 'The Great Wave off Kanagawa': mountainous waves, Mount Fuji in the background and three boats each with  what must be  eight of the most mighty scared oarsman and passengers. Further below  is  a series of more abstract  images of  the paint tray  from which I  was rollering  emulsion onto the walls. At first  I was  just taken by the patterns  but then I had a Hokusai moment and thought I would photograph them for posterity.
If a pile of bricks  can do it why not  a tray of emulsion paint -  look out Turner Prize here I come!


I lichen thee to a summer's day. 

I was tidying a mixed border  and came across  this very late carnation flower. I had already cut back the plant but could not bring myself to throw it in the barrow without recording  some of its beauty. I threaded  it into  the lichen covered  lattice of a nearby metal bench.  

Here's a teaser for the tree guys ( and gals). 
This aluminium tag was fixed to a tree. Originally it bore a number which was recorded on a plan.In an effort to correlate the trees on the plan with those on the ground I went to check which tree was which only to find that the  number on this label had been gnawed? at. 
It certainly looked like some creature had  had a go at it  and the only  animal I could imagine  that  would have  been able to get at the soft metal tag was a squirrel. The marks looked like teeth marks but I have no idea whether  they are the  marks of squirrel teeth or some other animal, and further still why would it  take so much effort  to gnaw away at this tag. Do squirrels suffer from aluminium deficiency of as their own reflection too much to bear? Let me know.

That's all folks. 

Until the next time.................

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Fabulous Topiary, Not dead but berried, Nerdy Gurdy Man, Outer Magnolia and is THIS the way to Amaryllis plus a bit of Kracow.

Ever since this blog has been called what it is we have never had a picture of  Amaryllis so its time to put that right. I  have never really thought of amaryllis as cut flowers  but I was given a bunch of this  fabulous  dark red variety for Christmas and boy were they good. They came as tight buds  and gradually blew out to these huge, rich, powerful blooms. Had I given this picture a bit of forethought I might have moved the tray of eggs and the plastic shampoo bottle but take a look at the shape of that yellow gourd and hey the  browns and blues of the egg tray do a nice job of complementing  the  jugs and teapot. The teapot is a salt  glazed pot by Toff Milway and it is a great shame it is hidden by the  plastic bottle so take a look at Toff's pots here.


Succulent berries from outer space..... well of course they are not really from outer space but they look like they could be from an alien world.The plant is a common enough Dogwood, Cornus alba 'Spaethii',  grown for its brightly variegated foliage; any berries are a bonus.

....and while we are on berries let's hear it for the Cotoneasters or at least until the birds get to them. The large leaved  evergreen and semi- evergreen species including C. salicifolius, C.bullatus, C x watereri and C. frigida all make large shrubs with very good berries. 

No name on this Sorbus but the leaves are too big for S. vilmorinii and the fruits too small for S. cashmeriana. Name or no name Sorbus are great value for money with  good flowers, bright berries and  very often  rich autumn colour.

These fleshy delights always look so tempting  hanging in straggling strings through  the dankest of  hedges in winter.In summer the flowers are small and unremarkable but the heart shaped (heart shaped  if you have a pointy heart that is.)  foliage is unbelievably shiny like a coat of spray-on lacquer. Black Bryony, Dioscorea communis is a  poisonous, hardy herbaceous climber which crops up as  a wild plant in hedgerows across the UK and Europe. It is never recommended as an ornamental plant but it is very shade  tolerant and I am happy to let it grow through the hedge under my old willow tree.    

I don't really grow this climber  for its berries which are a small bonus in late summer. I grow it for its magnificent foliage which is aptly  describes by its specific epithet, Ampelopsis megalophylla. The leaves are 30 to 60cm long and split into several leaflets. They are deeply veined and shiny. It climbs by means of grasping tendrils  and really need quite a bit of space in fact far more than I allow it along my garden fence and I have to cut  great lengths off it in the autumn. It roots quite readily from hardwood cuttings taken in autumn.  

I took this picture of what looked like elderberry fruits on a low growing  plant near the Olympic Park in London. It is not an elderberry but I don't know what it is. Any ideas?

This is supposed to be a garden slanted  blog  so I have to fight hard against myself  to stop me putting  non gardening stuff in and particularly  holiday snaps. 
However it doesn't always work and sometimes I lose my battle against me. 
We went to Kracow in Poland for a few days recently and there were so many opportunities for   good photos that I couldn't resist sneaking  a few in here. I am  big fan of patterns so these old doors were irresistible. The door with the gold flowers was at  the university where Copernicus studied in the 1500s. Copernicus realised the planets all went around the sun rather than the earth. Some of his  original instruments were  on display -  brill!

Cathedral  door.

...more door

Nerdy Gurdy Man

I find it hard not to notice the practical and the mundane particularly when they  are as good as this. These are cables that run from the surface straight down  a hundred or so metres  to the bottom of the salt mines we visited in nearby Wieliczka.  A hundred metres of heavy duty cable is going to weigh  an awful lot  and obviously you have to have then clipped to the wall  for tidiness and safety so what  if you can  devise a clip that not only holds them neatly against the wall but also takes the weight  of on each clip and grips more tightly the more weight is put on the clip. These clips do just that. The tapered design of the pegs and brackets causes the cables  to be gripped by the wood  and so support  the weight. 

 Many intricate and detailed carvings have been made in the  rock salt  during the mines seven hundred year history.  

A huge amount of heavy duty timber was  brought into the mine over the years to support  some of the larger galleries. The  timber workers were held in high regard because  the safety of the mine workers depended on their skills. In case you were wondering, yes the chandelier is a recent addition. 

Depending on the geology of different parts  of the mine not all galleries  needed support. For scale you can see the railings along the walkway at the top right of the picture. Could have been a  set from the latest Hobbit film.

I am fortunate enough  in my work to visit various private gardens a surprising number of which have some  very exciting features. The garden as a whole may not be particularly special but  many have a particular detail  that stands out and that   the owner can rightly be very proud of.  I recently came across this fantastic piece of topiary in the Cotswolds.  What I particularly like  is that  rather then the  usual rounded 'cloud' style of clipping this has been clipped, at least this year, with  flat facets which  raises it way above the ordinary. 

Suggestions of the Guggenheim  in Bilbao?

Very often  old topiary can be seen to have come from say a couple of old box plants  or, if the plants are in a line, the remnants  of an outgrown old hedge  but these seem perfectly random

Below is another garden I visit and  if the drive was a canal you  could easily be tootling along the cut in another country, France perhaps, or is my imagination getting a bit too stretched? 

Outer Magnolia.

The botanists tell us that Magnolias are fairly primitive plants and were one of the first plants to develop flowers, flowers which it would seem did their  job well enough for them not to need to evolve into anything more  complicated,.  Whatever the case this Magnolia grandiflora produced some large, dramatic flowers which were followed by these  beginnings  of seed pods. Kinda  cute and cuddly ain't they?  

Just as cute and cuddly is this seed pod of a climbing plant which I am guessing is part of the cucumber family and was flowering in yet another garden I visit. Any ideas what it is?


That's it for a while.