Sunday, 17 January 2016

Well wrapped up...


September 2015

Today, 17th January 
Although my interest in sub tropical gardening has always been there, it has loitered in the background, dragging its feet a little, but now all that is changing and I feel an almost Evangelical fire building up inside me as a brand new growing season approaches. The area shown above is the already - established sub tropical garden, first, in full flow in September, and second, as it is today, a shadow of its former self, denuded and bare! This area has always been the domain of my partner, and although I have enjoyed spending time in it, I have had no hand in its planning, planting or maintenance . 

In autumn this year, we extended the existing subtropical garden into an additional area of the garden, and, instead of it being my partner's responsibility, we are sharing the work on this baby ! We are full of  ideas for exotic annuals to grow, as well as plans for  a skeleton of hardy planting too.

New sub tropical garden
This season I will be growing lots of annuals/ fast growing perennials with an exotic feel -  Nasturtium 'Empress of India', Amaranthus Caudatus Red, Amaranthus 'Velvet Curtain', five types of Ricinus, (including the giant 'Zanzibar'), Hibiscus Hanihot, Celosia 'China Town', Cosmos 'Xanthos' (pale lemon yellow), Cactus flowered dahlias, Cerinthe, Zinnias, Canna Indica and Rudbeckia 'Cherokee'. Hopefully, these annuals/ fast growing perennials will lend a tropical feel to the new area of the garden, and we intend to plant very densely, with tall things next to a narrow path, to give the feeling , hopefully, of pushing through dense jungle. We have three tree ferns on order, which will be delivered in spring, and have already planted out some palms and grasses. There are already bamboos, Fatsia Japonicas and ferns growing there. The area of the garden is already enclosed by hedging, which makes it both sheltered and private.

Cerinthe, Canna Indica and sweet peas in the propagator
The propagator is out, and after the inaugural speech and cutting of the ceremonial ribbon, it is brewing its first seeds - Cerinthe, sweet peas and Canna Indica. I have always idly wondered why Cannas are referred to as 'Indian shot', and know I know ! Those babies are made of cast iron!  Internet wisdom is to chit them with nail clippers, but when I tried it, they shot off in all directions and ricocheted around the kitchen, finally coming to rest in dark little crevices, hidden from view. I tried stabbing them, sand papering them, slicing them and swearing at them. Without success. In the end I soaked them for 48 hours and they were reasonably easy to chit after that. I hope that they are  easy to germinate and grow on.

Like many other parts of the UK and USA, we have experienced an unusually mild autumn and winter so far, with only a couple of light frosts, but this changed yesterday, with the onset of much colder weather. The downside of sub tropical gardening is that there are usually some large but tender plants which need to be protected from cold temperatures. This being so, ours suddenly needed attention, with the change of the weather.

The ideal, with this style of gardening is to use plants which are totally hardy, but have an exotic look, and there are lots to choose from. Fatsia Japonica is a good example as it has large, glossy evergreen leaves, and the plants can achieve a good height after a few years. However, the real deal plants are soon tempting, and it can easy to build up a hard core of delicate plants which will curl up their toes at a few degrees of frost.


Our most tender plants live in the heated conservatory through the winter, so there are Abyssinian bananas, Agaves (which hate wet more than cold!), Begonia Luxurians and Strelizia (Bird of Paradise).


The greenhouse houses the plants which can cope with a little more cold, but still need some protection, so smaller tree ferns, Aeoniums, Musa Basjoo (the hardiest banana) and Abutilon Megapotamicum are in there. Last night they had a fleece duvet to keep them warm, and they look to have fared well, with no obvious casualties.



The large, tender plants in the garden have  been covered with fleece jackets, particularly palms like Phoenix Canariensis, which can take up to minus 8, when mature, without a problem. We tied up the fronds to offer more protection and slipped a fleece jacket over its head. Despite what the books say, we have lost them at much higher temperatures than minus 8.



The tree ferns are sporting a jaunty cap of straw stuffed into their crowns, kept in place by aviary wire.


Other plants have received protection, such as the Tetrapanax, which is continuing to push out new leaves, and the gunnera crowns. These have been protected up until now by their own leaves piled on top of the crown, but they have now been replaced by fleece held down by stones.

At tis time of year, the perennials, roses and shrubs are all sleeping deeply, and require no attention, so exotic gardening (for want of a better term) can be more labour intensive. Hopefully, it is all worth it, and all the tender plants will make it unscathed through the cold temperatures.










36 comments:

  1. What fun! How nice to have a conservatory and a greenhouse! You have some impressive plants for your sub-tropical garden areas. It will be fun to see your new area come to life.

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    1. Thanks for your comments! Lots of growing to do this season, to try to put ideas into reality!

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  2. The image of you firing Canna seeds around the kitchen is bliss! I am surprised that swearing didn't work - I am sure it is a time-honoured method of seed propagation. I look forward to seeing this area develop over the coming season. Most of all, I am looking forward to seeing those Canna indica seedlings grow.

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    1. I'm sure that swearing at seeds has been one of the main methods of propagation over the centuries and that success has depended upon volume and creative use of language!!

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  3. I admire the gumption required for such an undertaking...looking forward to how it unfolds over time.

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    1. No gumption Ricki ! Usual mix of making mistakes coupled with graft!

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  4. I'm going to enjoy seeing this develop. I'm trying cosmos Xanthos this year too for my cut flower patch on the plot.

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    1. We will have to compare notes Sue, on the 'xanthous'. I saw them at Thompson & Morgan's trial gardens last year and fancied giving them a shot.

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  5. Dear Jane, you and your partner are definitively not shy to work hard to have an exotic, tropical garden! I love the look of it, but I don't think that I would put in the labor that is required to have one in the UK. I am very curious to see how the new area will turn out this year and, of course, to see all your seedlings become flowering plants. I think you have sown an awesome selection there.
    Crossing my fingers for you that your plants are not getting damaged by the cold spell that you are experiencing.
    Warm regards,
    Christina

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    1. Thank you Christina. Are you experiencing normal temperatures for the time of year at the moment?

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  6. I laughed when I read about your attempts with the cannas. I have what can be described as an attempt at a 'tropical alleyway', shaded by trees on one side and the house on the other. Cannas are a great plant to get the look, although they die right back in winter and are REALLY easy to propagate by division :-). My favourite in this spot is the birds nest fern, don't know if they're available for you but they grow naturally in the mountains in Victoria (Australia) so could work in your climate.

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    1. Hi Sue, I will have to check out 'Birds Nest ' fern as I have not come across it as yet.
      Division! Why didn't I think of that ! Have got some big cannas which would divide very well ... will do that later in the ear. More cannas yay!!

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  8. I am looking forward to seeing your new tropical garden, what an exciting project. You are well ahead in your seed sowing, oh dear I haven' t ordered mine yet. You have inspired me to get on.

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    1. What a treat you have in store, Chloris, I love writing my seed list ! It takes me days as I love to research it really carefully and make lots of revisions.

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  9. You must love your sub tropicals to go to all this work for them. They do lend a vacation air to the garden. I wish you luck.

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    1. Thank you Lisa. Somehow it doesn't seem like work!

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  10. I envy you Jane. If you knew the number of things we have to treat like your semi-tropical treasures. For instance, rosemary has to be taken in in Canada and northern US. Yet some people have Abyssinian bananas. I suppose where there is a will there is a way.

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    1. It's funny, Alain, I always envy milder areas than ours where they have to protect less than we do ... the grass on the other side is always greener ...

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  11. I can feel the enthusiasm building up for exotic planting this year Jane, more so than before. All your efforts definitely well worth it!

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    1. Oh good ! Glad your enthusiasm is rising ! Not long now ! Do you grow lots of stuff from seed ?

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  12. My in laws were fantastic gardeners. Your post reminded me of their conservatory which was crammed with tender plants in the winter. Best wishes for a beautiful summer in your sub tropical garden.

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    1. Thank you Susan. Every space is crammed with tender plants at the moment ... roll on spring!

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  13. Such a lot of work, but you obviously think it's worth it to get the effect you want, I must just be lazy!

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    1. I will let you know at the end of the season if it has all been worth it, Pauline!!

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  14. I can but admire you Jane for your enthusiasm, a really interesting and informative post which almost inspired me to act but I am afraid that for my conditions it would be just too much of a battle. I have been thinking of trying a few containerised Cannas this year however so you never know:-)

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    1. Thank you Rick, I am very familiar with that feeling of being 'almost inspired'!! It is really better than actually being inspired, as you have all the enjoyment of the moment, without the work and the realisation that things could easily go belly up!! :-)

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  15. I just finished viewing scenes from your garden in your "about me" link. Wow! What a marvelous space you have, with something to delight almost anyone. I love it all! It seems that taking care of all of this, especially your exotic plants, could be a large amount of work, but then I know how much fun that kind of work can be! The results are certainly worth it.

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    1. Than you Deb, you are very kind. Work is hoovering and dusting ! This is play ... most of the time anyway!

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  16. Hi Jane, I know your new flowerbed will be spectacular! Looking forward to seeing the progress. I'm itching to start seeds but it's a little too soon. Winter is finally here, as well. We got 6" of snow last night......after last winter, it's a cake walk!

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    1. Hi, even 6 " of snow is a lot to us here in the UK! We haven't had any of the white stuff yet, and I am hoping we get through the whole winter without it. Are you expecting lots more to follow ?

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  17. Ok - you swear at your seeds, which is beyond funny. You and I would get along so well! I hope all your tropical lovelies make it through winter unscathed. You are in my Blogger Spotlight. :o)

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    1. Tammy, I am pleased to be able to tell you that swearing at seeds is now a PROVEN method of propagation, as those canna seeds have germinated!!

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  18. The dawn of a new obsession, congratulations, I see a future full of juggling plants in pots as the true tropicals take root in your heart!! I've not plugged my propagator in yet, I'm worried that the low light levels will leave me with distressingly leggy seedlings. My grow light is only sufficient for my toms and chillies. I shall enjoy watching your progress, but I hope I don't catch the tropical bug...

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  19. I know what you mean about low light levels/ warmth Janet, and I have been much more cautious in previous years, however we have a new greenhouse ... erm ... conservatory, which is both light and warm, so am hoping it will give everything a flying start . That's the theory anyway.

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    1. Good luck! I have frequently done the same, there again, our conservatory is not particularly warm at this time of year, even with the grow light. I am determined to hold off on almost everything until March. There again, I get determined about all sorts of things that never quite work out the way I had planned, which is why I don't do New Year resolutions!!

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I really welcome comments and have learned much from them, over the years of leaning over the virtual garden gate ...