Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Crimes against horticulture

Yup, they're pretty tacky looking, yet a small part of me kinda likes their psychedelic colours. :-s

 This little guy couldn't take it, the dyed cactus spines were just a step too far for him.

I'm never going to buy one of these travesties of course. My reaction is a bit like when you see that tackily decorated house at Christmas, all blow up Santas and an explosion of multi coloured lights. You wouldn't do it yourself, but you have a bit of a sneaking admiration for the balls it takes to pull it off.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

They're weeds Jim, but not as we know them.

While having a walk some weeks ago I came across stands of wild garlic Allium ursinum. Now, there's nothing at all unusual about that. It's a common plant, found growing abundantly throughout Europe and Asia in many woodlands and along lane ways with its preferred habitat bring deep moist soils and shaded sites.
It's one of those spring plants that leafs out and flowers early in the year, getting its business done before the canopy of leaves on the trees above becomes too dense blocking out much if the available light. While in flower the air all around is filled with a pungent garlicky scent, so even if you can't see them you always know when they're nearby.
It's a rampant spreader and if it gets a foothold in your garden it will quickly seed around and spread all over smothering any herbaceous plants not big enough to fight off the onslaught.
Although I haven't tried myself all parts of the plant: leaf, flowers and bulbs are edible.

Anyway, enough waffling, back to the purpose of the post. While looking around I glanced downwards and noticed  among the thousands of green leaves one with a white central portion, "Hmmm interesting" says I.
You see, I also have a bit of a thing for some (certainly not all) variegated plants. I like to keep my eyes peeled when out and about for any sort of foliage abnormalities that could prove interesting if grown on. Sport fishing some call it, the sport of looking for variegated sports on plain green plants.
I looked a bit closer at the patch and found many more leaves with varying degrees of variegation along the cental leaf rib, some a few millimeters in width while in others the majority of the leaf was white with the green portion having retreated to a thin margin around the edge.
I'll be growing them on, and time will tell if they're stable, fingers crossed. They will be allowed to flower but must be quickly deadheaded, I just can't be letting them seed around in my garden!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Fine, I give in!

I've had a niggling nagging voice yacking in my ear for quite some time telling me it'd be a good idea to start a blog.
Up until now I've resisted, I've even been told not to do it. Besides, who'd want to read it, and why? Yet here I am and here it is, my blog.

I hope to share pictures of the plants I love to grow (I'm obsessive and think about little else), my garden and the gardens I visit, as well as a post or two about food along the way. I've a bit of a sweet tooth with a heavy leaning towards chocolate desserts so these may feature strongly at times.

I'm a gardener, in a sea of non gardeners. Since I was young I have gardened, obsessively, I just didn't tell anyone, I mean, who gardens? Certainly none of my friends did, and still very few of them do hence the title of my blog, as it has always been like my dirty little secret, but now I'm sharing it with you. I'm lucky that over recent years I've connected with some  new gardening friends and they're around my age too which is pretty amazing.

So this'll be my outlet, a place to share my exploits, successes and failures and occasional rant with people in all corners of the world.

Schefflera taiwaniana

I've a bit of a thing for members of Araliaceae, a love affair, an obsession you could say, but on one proviso, they have to be hardy (for the most part) to get a place in my garden. Another criteria that they must meet is to look exotic or be somewhat different from the norm, it's all the better for me if they look like they hail from some sub tropical woodland perched on a mountainside in some far off land.....

Step forward the beautiful Schefflera taiwaniana.
Here's a plant that ticks all the boxes, unusual and certainly exotic in its looks, with gorgeous evergreen leaves like an umbrella that's been through a hurricane with only the spokes left intact.
It's the hardy but refined cousin of that neglected umbrella plant (Schefflera arboricola) that grew in  the corner of your mother's bathroom during the eighties, well my mother's anyway. Yet this plant just has an elegant poise that its indoor dwelling relation lacks.

Look at the lightly fuzzy new growth in late spring, like little greyish shuttlecocks, gorgeous eh?

and then they green up, lose the fuzzy indumentum and gain that poise that I was talking about, see what I mean?

Just look at the size of the leaves, with the obligatory hand in the shot for scale.

My plant originally grew in a pot for three or so years but consisted of one stem that just kept going straight up, with a tuft of leaves at the top. 
Scheffleras can be prone to beanpolelikeness, they go straight up, heading for the sky as they're generally woodland understory plants and want to head up towards the light. This is not what I wanted from my plant, so before planting it out I took a drastic step. I approached it with my heart in my mouth and with secateurs held in a slightly unsteady hand, with relative ease I sliced through the pithy stem, chopping it down to about six inches from the base. 
It responded admirably, with new growth breaking from various buds on the stem. Now I've got a beautiful shrubby specimen with six or so branches growing in dry shade beneath a large Acer pseudoplatanus, how many plants that you can grow in dry shad look as hot as this??
It also survived two brutal (brutal for a normally mild coastal garden in Ireland) that decimated all my tree ferns, reducing them to oozing stumps. It sat there, not blinking an eyelid at the baltic temperatures.

....it is, in my opinion, stunning.