Lots of WonderfulNess

Sad as this is, my own garden has been getting me down. Progress is slow, very slow, and last weekend I felt like I needed to get away from it for a day and get some inspiration from elsewhere.

So I decided to go to Ness Gardens, a botanic gardens that is run by the University of Liverpool and located on the Wirral. Ness Gardens is a place I used to go to as a child, and can remember spending hours and hours rolling along the giant hill and onto the azalea walk. Unfortunately the hill is long gone, but the azalea walk is very much still there and the middle of May is the perfect time to see it in all it’s glory.

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I absolutely fell in love with the orange azaleas. I’ve looked in a couple of garden centres since and can’t find one, but I definitely need one in my garden.

One thing I noticed was that everything seemed so much further ahead than the plants in my garden. My sweet peas are just starting to grow up their frame and my alliums could  be described as foliage at best, but the specimens on display at Ness were in full swing for the summer.

Other highlights for me included this wonderful wisteria arch, which is something that I would love to incorporate into my garden. I’m tempted to try and grow one up the house, much like Adam Frost has shown on his new house on Gardener’s World.

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Finally I’m going to save my favourite plant of the day until last, which by coincidence, I bought last week to plant in my own garden. The plant is ceanothus, and I love the density of the deep blue flowers that it gives at this time of year. It’s absolutely stunning and as an added bonus, the bees love it too!

Ness Gardens is a wonderful day out and I would recommend it to anyone.

Time to get progressing on my own garden this weekend!

Jen

Amazing Plants from Costa Rica – Part 2

This blog post follows on from Amazing Plants from Costa Rica – Part 1 and gives you a flavour of the weird and wonderful botanical treasures that I saw on my trip. I felt there were so many incredible plants that I saw on my trip and really wanted to put them all in a blog, but it would have been much too long as a single post! Here are the remaining highlights from my trip:

1. Heliconia

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To us in the UK, heliconia are exotic houseplants that may or may not grow even in a hot and humid greenhouse. In Costa Rica they grew everywhere and the plants were enormous! I did wonder if they are related to banana plants, the leaves are almost identical, but their vivid red and yellow flowers always gave themselves away.

2. Coffee

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Costa Rica exports a lot of coffee. They can’t compete on price at the lower end of the market so choose to make exceptional coffee at a higher price instead. We visited a plantation and it was really interesting to see it being grown on the trees. The fruits in the pods above have three layers of shells which all have to be removed in different processes to get to the actual coffee beans themselves.

3. Amazing leaves

I mentioned in Part 1 of this post about the different colours in the foliage of the plants but the shapes of the leaves was equally impressive. Many of the leaves on the plants are huge and have such variety in their shape and texture. I definitely have a better appreciation of how leaves can enhance a garden after having been on this trip.

This is also a good excuse to get in a picture of the blue jeans frog.

4. This beautiful flower

Unfortunately I don’t know the name of this, please let me know in the comments box if you do. These gorgeous flowers were planted all over the towns and hotels to brighten them up, in various shades of red and pink. The petals are almost like leaves on the flowers in Costa Rica, much more solid and waxy than the delicate petals in the UK.

5. Sensitive plant

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I have a bit of an obsession with sensitive plants. I got one as a child and was amazed by it, but it died and I was never able to find a replacement. Then about six months ago, I found one in a garden centre but that also died. Just before I went on holiday I bought some sensitive plant seeds with the intention of trying to grow them that way. Then whilst I was away, we visited a national park called Sarapiqui where the sensitive plants dominated the edge of the roads, growing en masse as weeds. I understood then why mine died, the hot and humid climate was the polar opposite of the grey windowsill spot that my plant had been given!

6. Chilli plants

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Well this chilli plant in particular. The reason being it had so many different colours of chilli all on the same plant: red, orange, yellow, white and purple which I thought was really beautiful. I think this plant in particular looks like this variety so I might give them a go next year.

7. This spiky plant

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To finish off I’ve added this plant. I have no idea what it is, but I have never seen such a combination of delicate pretty flowers with such lethal spikes on the stems, you wouldn’t want to fall on it!

This weekend I need to get back to progressing with my own garden, it’s grown so much whilst I was away and needs not only tidying but progressing. Fingers crossed the sun stays out and we have a bit of Costa Rican weather this week!

Jen

Free Plants – Are They Worth It?

I love Gardener’s World magazine, I’m a bit obsessed with it. I kept on buying it every month and then realised I had enough Nectar points for a subscription so now get it that way. I have always been intrigued by the offers for ‘free’ plants, 96 free perennials, just pay postage, surely that has to be too good to be true?

So I decided to try a couple out to see if they were the real deal. The first offer has sold out at the time of writing (but in case it comes back in stock can be found here) and was for 48 free plants for wildlife from Thompson and Morgan.


I was looking forward to the poppies in particular which look beautiful, and although I’ve actually grown Echinacea Pink Parasol from seed, I figured a few more plants would be lovely in my garden. The only cost was of postage at £5.65 and the plug plants were promised by the end of April.

Well at least they kept to the date, because they did not keep to contents! The poppies and echinacea were replaced by other plants which I certainly wouldn’t have ordered myself which was very disappointing. Even worse was the lavenders were mostly dead from overwatering, and I’ve only managed to save 4 of the 12 plants supplied. I have emailed T&M to complain but at the time of writing have had no response.


I really don’t think the plants are great quality either. There are a few dead and yellow ones aside from the lavenders and the rest don’t have the best root systems. I’ve tried to rescue what I can and to be fair I do have almost 40 free plants, but they’re certainly not the ones I expected. In hindsight this probably was too good to be true.

I also tried a second offer, for 42 free Lavender Hidcote plants from Mr Fothergill’s which is still live at the time of writing and can be found here. As someone who has always wanted a lavender hedge in the front garden, the idea of 42 free English lavenders really did seem perfect for me. Postage was £5.95 and the plants were promised by the end of May.

The plants arrived on a Thursday (in April I might add, way ahead of the May deadline) when I was on holiday so I didn’t actually get them until 5 days later, which is a long time for a plug plant not to be watered. However when I collected them from the post office I was so impressed with them. Firstly, they were packaged so much better than the T&M plants, upright for a start and in their own mini greenhouse to keep the water in.


But the best thing was the quality of the plants themselves, which had really strong bushy growth and great root systems. They just seem strong and give me confidence that they will actually grow into full size plants rather than wither away.


Not bad for just over a fiver!


I think in hindsight if the free plants offered are something that you want then they’re definitely worth it. At the end of the day it’s a marketing ploy to get you to buy other things but you don’t have to. Although the T&M plants weren’t quite what I was expecting, if they correct the order they will still have been worth it, and the Mr Fothergill’s lavenders are amazing and I’m really chuffed with them!

Jen

Amazing Plants from Costa Rica – Part 1

I haven’t posted in a while, and my garden hasn’t progressed at all, oops! But that’s because I’ve been in Costa Rica! Wow, what a place, I’ve had the most incredible time and feel very lucky to have been. Costa Rica is known for its biodiversity and it’s amazing range of animals but I was equally fascinated by the plants that were there. So this post (with a second part to follow) includes my favourite plants from my trip and how they have inspired me for my garden.

1. Hibiscus

There were hibiscus plants everywhere in Costa Rica and they’re just stunning. I love the first picture on the left above with its beautiful feathery petals. After having read about them it sounds like they can be grown in the UK either indoors or outside but brought in for the winter so I isn’t have to get one now to remind me of the trip.

2. Orchids

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Well this orchid in particular, it looks like a fancy daffodil! Orchids were everywhere and grew so well outside, which as a Brit was a bizarre concept!

3. Variegated leaves

I’m not normally one for foliage but these leaves are just stunning. These plants definitely have inspired me to think more about using pretty leaves in my own garden instead of just for using on the flowers.

4. Cacao

Who doesn’t love chocolate?! We went to a cacao plantation to learn how chocolate is made and saw the plant in real life. The white fruit in the picture comes out of the pod and the seed inside is where the chocolate comes from, bizarrely the flowers grow out of the trunk! Tasting everything was fun too!

5. Bougainvillea

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I know bougainvilleas can be found in most warm countries but I’ll lever tire of seeing the density of the hot pink flowers (well technically leaves but you get the idea!). I’d love to grow one in my new greenhouse, I might try and get one at the flower shows next month.

6. Air Plants

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I’ve had an air plant for a while now and they fascinate me, so seeing them growing in the wild was bizarre! There were trees where every visible branch was covered in air plants. This picture isn’t the best but hopefully you can see the roots dangling down and a few air plants in the branches too, and they were huge!

7. Red-Bark Palm

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I don’t know the technical term for this palm but I do know that it’s beautiful, just look at the stems! Again I doubt this will grow in my garden but I’d love to find a plant or tree that had stems as stunning as this, the deep red contrasting with the green is an effect I’d love to have in the garden.

This would be a very long post if I posted everything I wanted to in one go, so I’ll do another post with some more plants from Costa Rica that inspired me.

Jen

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Greenhouse Fiasco: How Not to Purchase a Greenhouse

I’ve wanted a greenhouse of my own for a very long time, so when we finally bought our first house it was at the tops of my list of things that I wanted to buy (though maybe not top of Carl’s list!). I had a look around on the internet and visited a few places, and eventually decided that my best option would be to buy an ex-display greenhouse from The Greenhouse People based in Stoke-on-Trent. 

 This is my greenhouse on the internet. At the time of writing it’s for sale for £1999 and I paid £888 so I met my first objective of getting good value for money.

BUT! The deal meant that I had to go to Stoke, disassemble the greenhouse myself, transport it home, get it out of the van and reassemble it. This includes 32 individual panes of glass. My mum kindly offered to help me, but she’s 5ft 2 so it was a scary prospect!

We booked a day off, hired a van and drove to Stoke. It was not a fun day. The greenhouse wasn’t difficult to take down but it took a lot of time. Then a piece of glass exploded on us and we lost all our confidence. (I should add here that The Greenhouse People did replace this without me even asking. Despite my terrible experience I would definitely recommend them as none of it was their fault!) Thankfully a kind man who put greenhouses up all the time came to help us, or we would never have got the van back in time otherwise. 

Once we got home we had an hour to unload the van of all of the glass. It was so stressful and we were terrified of breaking another piece of glass. We managed it in the nick of time, and got the van back as the lady was putting her coat  on ready to go home. 

Fortunately we’d already prepared the base for the greenhouse. I wasn’t keen on having concrete in the garden, and paving is very expensive. I did some research and found a solution called Pro Base which is a plastic interlocking grid system. The good news with this is you can re-use it, it’s much kinder to the environment than concrete and much cheaper, working out at about £100 for the greenhouse. 



We used the weed membrane provided with the base and topped it with Cotswold Buff gravel. It was really difficult to get it level but we got there in the end. You’ve got to be so precise with a greenhouse because even if you’re a couple of millimetres out, the glass won’t fit in the greenhouse and you’ll have to start again with the build.


With our base in place we built the greenhouse. This was also really difficult. Because we’re locating the greenhouse in a corner it meant there was very little room to manoeuvre. With the exploding pane of glass fresh on our minds, we were quite scared at times and so wore safety goggles and gloves. This was the amount of space that we had to deal with:


The other problem was our base which turned out to be ever so slightly out in places, and so we had to keep readjusting in order to make the glass fit. We had already got the glass into the above tiny space before we realised the base was not level so it just added to the stress! 

We managed to get the greenhouse built doing a bit at a time over a weekend or two, and this is what we now have:


I can’t face putting the door on or the staging up just yet! 

So in conclusion I saved a lot of money getting the greenhouse this way, and got a much better greenhouse than I otherwise would have. BUT it was very stressful and took a lot of time, so I don’t think I would recommend buying a greenhouse in this way to other people!

Jen

Camellia Problems

I love camellias. My mum still has a gorgeous camellia in her garden which we affectionately call ‘the Jennifer tree’, which has been flowering profusely every year since I was born. The site of a spectacular camellia can’t be beaten really, everywhere I go lately I’m pointing at them in people’s front gardens and saying how wonderful they look.

So it was with great delight I realised we had a camellia by the front door of our new house, welcoming us at the the entrance. I was excited to see what the flower would be like, and in the end it was a simple yet beautiful, pure white flower with the most amazing yellow stamens at the centre.

The picture above was actually taken at the end of January and it still hasn’t finished flowering yet! This particular flower is on the wall as you can see, and I think perhaps got a bit excited about the extra heat it was getting from the house.

Despite my success at the back of the garden with camellias, I have had problems at the back. We have inherited another camellia with the  house that is on the North-East facing wall, and it hasn’t had any buds from which to flower at all. The foliage actually looks really healthy, but whilst the camellia in the front of the house has flowered and currently has lots of new growth on, the back garden version has stayed stagnant.

Google has suggested a number of reasons for this. The spot is currently full shade (though some pruning of a tree close to it might make this partial shade) which I doubt has helped matters. The other culprit is if it has got too dry in the previous summer, but I find that unlikely. It might be that I have to move it into a sunnier spot, but I will continue to work think about this one.

My other problem is with my new camellia that I purchased at the Knutsford Makers Market last summer. It’s a gorgeous camellia, with double flowers in shades of pink and white in a raspberry ripple effect. Unfortunately I’ve kept it in its pot since I bought it because I didn’t have the garden ready, and in the past week this has happened to the buds:


I have two potential culprits here, but if any readers have any ideas I’d love to know them too. Aside from yesterday, it’s been exceptionally dry lately and I could have taken my eye off the ball will watering. Alternatively there might have been a slight overnight frost which has just caught the petals. Either way I took my eye off the ball, I really hope it recovers! 

Jen

EDIT: By pure conincidence, Gardener’s World posted this video on Why there are no flowers on my camellia at the exact same time I wrote this post, so at least that answers some of my questions! 

Sweet Sweet Peas

With all the landscaping going on in the garden, it’s easy to forget about the plants! I have sown some seeds (which have taken over the house until I get a greenhouse!) and one of the flowers I’m most excited about are the sweet peas. I’ve down two different varieties: Sweet Pea Heirloom Mix and Sweet Pea Stripe Mix, both of which seem to be fragrant and delicate, everything a sweet pea should be.

I initially planted the sweet peas in compartmented seed trays and then potted them onto small pots, but I’ve since learnt that toilet rolls are a good option for planting sweet peas so the long roots can establish. I’ve also since learn you should soak the seeds overnight, but mine seem to be getting on ok with my amateur methods. I tried to give them straws to grow up, but as you can see they’re a bit past this now and need planting up.

I decided to plant them in pots because our garden just isn’t ready for them to go in the ground yet unfortunately, and train them up a wigwam that I wanted to make. So it was off to the garden centre for plant pots and willow canes. Hopefully as time goes on I’ll have these things just in the shed, but because I’m so new to gardening I don’t have all the supplies yet!


I’ve gently tied all the sweet peas to the stakes with string to encourage them to climb without damaging them. I’m hoping they have enough space as they are but time will tell.


I’m not sure wher I’ll put them yet but hopefully you’ll agree they look quite nice! I’ll be interested to see which variety works the best. Hopefully later in the summer I’ll be able to post pictures of the pots in full bloom.

Jen