Turning Japanese

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I have to start with declaring, as it will quickly become obvious, that I know nothing at all about bonsai.  But with the power of google I am willing to have a go.

At our recent horticultural show one of the members donated a couple of bonsai trees to the plant sales table and my youngest bought one.  He has always had a fascination with Japan and had wanted a bonsai for years so at £5 it was rude to turn it down.  As the show drew to a close and we were clearing up there were a couple of small cotoneaster shrubs which were being grown as bonsai but in a standard plastic pot.  The gentleman who had donated them, having noted my son’s interest, gave him one of them and needless to say it ended up sitting on my patio table waiting for something to be done.

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Having found an old shallow square terracotta pot while tidying up, the germ of an idea started to form.  I looked around the garden and sourced some bits of Malvern stone and set to creating a Japanese masterpiece – being a natural optimist what else would it be!  It took some time to tease the roots apart and clipping the more tangled fibrous ones so I had something manageable to handle.  I then carefully assembled the rocks into an outcrop, although I am sure it is completely incorrect geologically.

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Getting the little tree to balance on top of the rocks while I spread the roots over the rocks was very tricky and fiddly. I can spend ages doing embroidery but this sort of thing I find very difficult and have little patience with probably because the roots didn’t want to stay where I wanted them to.  I weighted them down with gritty compost and then top-dressed with gravel.  I think maybe bonsai are normally topped dressed with moss but the gravel will hopefully hold everything in place until it establishes and then I can always add moss.  You will note in the top picture there is a small cane holding the branch up and this is to try to push the tree into a more upright position.  Saying that I recently saw some photographs of venerable old trees in Japan which were supported in just the same way!

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Continuing the Japanese theme I was thrilled that little fernlets of Cyrtomium fortunei (Japanese Holly Fern) have started to appear.  The spores were collected from my own plant so this makes them extra special.  Building on this success I sowed Pyrrosia lingua ‘Ogon Nishiki‘ spores which I got from my favourite nursery Growild in Scotland.  You have to sow spores on sterilised compost and my preferred method is to bake the compost in the oven – leading to cries of ‘What is for dinner today? Oh the old family favourite John Innes!!’.

There’s a chance I might be going to Japan next year so maybe I will get to see these growing in the wild which would be amazing.

Ferny Make-over

Athyrium niponicum

Athyrium niponicum

It’s interesting how your approach to the garden changes when you have time on your side.  I don’t mean a few hours but when you have a couple of weeks with few plans and so you can ponder and potter without clock watching and worrying about everything you want to achieve in an unrealistic time. Yvonne, a regular commentator on this blog, is often nagging me about the need to sit on the bench and rest.  What she doesn’t realise is that I do a lot of sitting on the bench but this leads to pondering and considering and then ideas form which then turn into tasks or projects.

This week I have taken the approach of doing chores first thing, crossing things off a long list, and then going out into the garden and seeing how the mood takes me.  One of the first areas I have tackled is the patio border.  The border is in two parts either side of the greenhouse.  This is the first area I planted when we moved in some 11 years ago and it has benefited over the years from continual adding of compost.  The foundation of the beds is some form of builders sand or grit, I’m not sure what, but either way it drains pretty well.  However, due to the shade of the wall the borders are shady and retain moisture for longer than the rest of the garden giving me that elusive moist but well drained soil that is often mentioned in gardening books.

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As this border is the view from my living room  I have tried to make it have year round interest.  In early spring there are snowdrops and some narcissus but I have been increasing the amount of foliage interest rather than relying on flowers.  There is a loose colour theme of yellow and white which is fulfilled by a yellow Chinatown rose that has just gone over, the Kirengshoma palmata, the white flowers of a siberian iris and the various variegated foliage.

The changes I made this week are minor but have made a huge difference to the impact of the border.  When I was in Ireland the group commented on how the Irish gardeners seemed to always be moving their plants. I kept quiet at this point as I am a terrible mover of plants and to demonstrate this I have to confess to moving the Blechnum chilense above all of a foot to the left. As you can see the Edgeworthia is making a bid to be a tree rather than a shrub and it needed under-planting.  The idea is that the Blechnum will provide interest beneath the canopy of the Edgeworthia. I don’t know why the Edgeworthia is growing like this.  I bought it mail-order and it arrived with a bare stem and 3 buds at the top and has carried on from there.  I don’t think I would have chosen one growing like this if I had been looking in a nursery but it will be interesting to see how it fares.

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I love the Blechnum chilense. I am trying to learn more about my ferns and blechnums are one group that seem fairly easy to pick out as their fronds are quite distinctive.  Once it is established I understand its fronds can grow up to 5ft which will be quite something and no doubt will lead me to having to move some of the smaller surrounding plants.  It is also meant to be evergreen so I should have something lovely to look at all winter.

Kirengshoma palmata

Kirengshoma palmata

The Kirengshoma palmata is becoming very large now and I think that I might have to pluck up the courage and divide it next year before it completely outgrows its space.  It is a wonderful plant which really should be grown more.  They suffer a little from slug damage when young but once they are established the slugs don’t seem to bother so much with them.  As I have said before the flower buds always remind me of butter curls. The plant dies back in the winter and I am left with the rose and an acanthus which are somewhere underneath it and the winter jasmine on the back wall.  As I sit here pondering, looking out of the window, I think some yellow and white crocus might do well in here for early spring interest – now where is that bulb catalogue!

 

 

In a Vase on Monday – Daisies

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I have been very remiss in participating in recent months in Cathy’s Monday meme – In a Vase on Monday. Life has been so busy at work and at home that it was one thing too many.  Anyway, the various things that have been challenging seem to be moving in a positive direction towards a resolution and I have felt the weights that have weighed me down lifting.  Today, I start two weeks annual leave so I thought I would celebrate by joining in again with the meme.

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As I have said before when posting on this meme I have no preconceptions that I have any flower arranging abilities beyond the picking and plonking in a vase.  I wanted to showcase the echinaceas and rudbeckias growing in the garden.  Sadly on going to cut the rudbeckias I realised that my lack of time in the garden recently meant that all the annual rudbeckias were growing horizontally and then curving upwards which makes flower arranging, even of the plonking kind, a but of a challenge.  Anyway, I have done my best and I have also included a couple of zinnias although I think they are a little lost and would probably have been better in a zinnia only combo.

So that’s my vase this week and I am going to try very hard to keep up with the meme now.

For other vases on this sunny Monday pop over to Cathy’s

GBBD August 2015

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I seem to have missed a few months of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day but with two weeks of annual leave ahead of me and few plans I find myself finally with time to join in.  The garden is entering its second phase of summer colour with echinaceas, rudbeckias, crocosmia and asters all opening.  The zinnias are just opening, a week later than I had hoped as they were grown for last week’s show!.

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I quite like zinnias and I think I might grow them again next year as well as cosmos which I haven’t grown for years and suddenly find myself missing.

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The other annual that I am loving at the moment is this nasturium which is making a bid for world domination from the window box.  I think this variety has a nice velvet tone to it.  The packet of seeds were some old Thompson & Morgan trial seeds I found in the bottom of the box so sadly I don’t know what variety they are.

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A new addition to the garden is this Chinese Foxglove.  The stem above is one of the shorter ones but the spires are just going over.  It has flowered for a month or so and adds a nice contrast to all the daisy type flowers at the moment.  Its tender so I will have to dig it up and pot it up for the winter or maybe risk it in the ground with a heavy mulch to protect it.

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The Primula florindae has been wonderful since early July.  It has had 3 stems of flowers, with two reaching 3ft tall.  The strangest thing is I don’t remember where it came from or planting it.  I can only assume I tried growing it from seed and discarded the compost and then it decided to show its face.  I have three or four young plants which I bought this year not realising that this was growing in the garden so hopefully I can create a nice display for next year.

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I thought I would share one of my clumps of violas.  I have a growing fondness for them as they are such good doers, flowering for months on end and all you need to do is dead head them and every so often chop them back to prevent them being too scraggly.  The one above Viola cornuta Clouded Yellow is almost at the point of needing a good chop back.

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And I have cyclamen flowering.  I think this is Cyclamen hederifolium but I’m not very sure at all.  They too have been flowering for a week or two and I wonder if the low temperatures this summer have confused them.

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Finally in complete contrast to the diminutive cyclamen I thought I would share the first flower on the brugmansia with you.  Sadly you can see the flower has suffered from the unseasonal weather but hopefully the other buds that are fattening on the plant will benefit from some nicer summer weather.

For Garden Blogger Bloom Day posts from all over the world visit Carol at May Dreams

Book Review: The Woodcutters Story

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I was asked to review The Woodcutter’s Story by its author Mark Walker.  Mark is a horticulturist and garden designer who has created show gardens at Malvern, Cardiff, and Hampton Court horticultural shows.  The book has been published in aid of Cancer Research UK.  Mark wants to raise funds for the charity and indeed the show gardens he has built over the years have all been to raise awareness of the various charities which he feels strongly about. There is a short section at the start of the book showcasing his achievements in this area.  In addition the book is illustrated throughout with Mark’s drawings.

This is a very moralistic tale about the perils of over ambition.  Mark has drawn on his experiences in creating show gardens but has set his tale in times past in order to remove any immediate association with particular individuals. He has chosen to name his characters after native trees which is a charming device and allows him to include short pieces on the trees featured. The reference to native trees links to the story which is based around a Woodcutter, and his wife, to has ambitions to excel at the local show.  His ambition and drive lead him to neglect the wood whose care he is tasked with as well as his wife; with dire consequences.  It is the sort of tale you can imagine being told of an evening in days past, maybe around the fire, to teach people the perils of greed and ambition.

The strength of  The Woodcutter’s Story is the way it  puts across very clearly and succinctly its moral and ethical message; you can hear the voice of the author quite distinctly. It is also an interesting insight into the challenges faced in particular by garden designers creating show gardens  who don’t benefit from large amounts of sponsorship or support.  Interestingly it also demonstrates the addictive nature of entering the world of showing and the perilous route it can take you down. It is certainly a heartfelt book and you find yourself feeling concerned about the route the main character is taking.