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February 2012

January 2012

Viburnum Davidii - Blue is the colour

There are some plants that I don't often plant, as I feel that they are overused by landscapers in "Carpark" type plantings. Viburnum Davidii is one of those. It was a plant I got bored of and I took out of my last house garden (A new build with the front gardens "landscaped") when it became a home for all the visiting Vine weevils. - However after seeing this earlier in the week, I think I might be trying again with this shrub.


Behind the scenes at the Wisley Butterflies

One of the talks that I give to gardening and WI groups is about gardening for wildlife, and butterflies feature in that talk, but today I got to see some rather different and exotic butterflies and learn a bit about what goes on behind the scenes at Wisley to get these wonderful creatures into their glasshouse to amaze the public in the depths of winter.

The butterflies are sent in Chrysalis form, from Belize to Wisley via the experts at Stratford Butterfly farm. When they arrive, they are hung upside down (stuck on with non toxic copydex) in an emergence cage which is kept warm and humid. These green chrysalis will be Blue Morpho Butterflies in a couple of weeks.


When they do emerge, they need to hang for a few hours for their wings to dry out, before they fly.

(Owl and Malay Lacewing newly hung from the emergence cage)

When they've warmed up (and the glass house at Wisley is lovely and warm for them at the moment) then they'll fly off to find out what tropical delights the glasshouse staff have laid on for them.

Each year the Wisley team find more varieties of plants that are able to flower in an English January, and to provide nectar for tropical butterflies.


Orchids, Calliandra, the Jade vine Strongylobum and Lantana were all being well visited today by butterflies.


But for those that don't like the Wisley specimens, there is a buffet table


Where the guests actually prefer the fruit at the rotting, past it's best stage, and the centre of the flowers are sugar water (10% solution) for feeding and drinking.

I really enjoyed my butterfly trip today. And they are very popular as the queues on Sunday when I went with my family, and the full glasshouse today prove. So I hope they are here to stay as a winter attraction at Wisley. - They are in the Glasshouse until Mid February, so don't worry if you can't get there in the next few days.

Now i'm off to plan more attractive plants for our native butterflies this summer. - Anyone know if they like sugar water too?






Garden Bloggers Bloom Day January 2012

Unlike last year, when there was nothing flowering in my garden in the middle of January, this year the mild weather over Christmas has meant that Spring has come early.

my snowdrops are now all fully out. - I love this combination with the ophiopogon, which are berrying nicely.

The cyclamen coum are clumping up nicely. I'll leave the leaf mulch around these while they're flowering as raking it out would destroy the flowers, but when they have finished, i'll clear the soil, so that they can seed.

My Sarcococca confusa which is one of the nearest groups of shrubs to the front door, is now in full bloom, and emitting potent fragrance as you walk across the garden.

And there is a touch of colour on the Hellebores, which i've taken all the tatty leaves off to encourage them to flower.


Amazingly there are also some other odd specks of colour in the garden

plus some tatty calendula and a couple of blooms of oesteospermum hanging on.

Looking through the other GBBD posts at the May Dream Gardens i'm not the only one with flowers further ahead than normal, so pop over to Carol's site to see what's blooming around the world

Recycling and reusing your Christmas tree

12th night is nearly here, the decorations are being removed, but what do you do with the remains of your christmas tree?


For the last few years, we've got a needle last Nordman fir, as a Cut tree.

Only Pot grown (not potted) trees, have a chance of growing in the garden after being inside for the last few weeks. However i'm not going to feel that i've wasted this wonderful tree, as after giving us weeks of pleasure, we're now going to shred it and add it to the compost bin.

This will balance out the weeks of only putting in kitchen waste, and will give our compost bins a good layer of "brown" composting material to aerate the bin, and stop our mixture going sloppy.

If you havn't got a shredder or compost bin, make 2012 the year you get these fantastic garden additions, - but in the meantime, - here's the list of where you can take Christmas trees to be recycled locally.

Winter Inspiration at Painshill Park

As a gardener, i'm used to being outside every day, and despite the protestations of my 7 year old, we made the most of the sunshine and went for another walk today.

We are spoiled by great Scenery and landscapes locally in the Surrey Hills, but today's venue is a little more manufactured than the walks on the North Downs.


Painshill park was created as a romantic landscape by Charles Hamilton in the 18th Century. The trees and shrubs collected from all over the world, frame the wonderful lakes and valleys, and include a vineyard and a NCCPG heritage collection of plants.  It fell into ruin after the 2nd World War, but has been fully renovated in the last 30 years, including the follies and Towers, and is now a fantastic place for a walk, and inspiration.


This water wheel is used to raise water from the nearby river to fill the lakes and cascades, - but with the river in flood today, it was spinning but not raising water.

This Turkish tent which dominates the view down the valley is not actually a temporary structure like it looks, but a solid folly designed to be a place for vistors to have rest and tea, and look back over the valley.


If you'd like to visit Painshill during this month, they have a free entry offer every Wednesday in January

Unwanted wildlife in your garden

I'm a great believer in attracting wildlife into the garden. - Even small gardens can be great for wildlife (and i'm talking to several W.I groups this year about this very subject). However on our fresh air walk yesterday, we had to rehouse a fieldmouse that had decided to make our garden shed its home.


We live near to fields and farmland, so it's not suprising that we get some rodents as well as more benificial wildlife in our garden. Mice are very partial to young pea shoots, - Sweetpea and edible plants, and as i'm just about to sow some seeds in my saved up loo roll middles, I don't want any hanging around the garden.

Of course the mouse had been tempted in because we'd dropped some chicken and bird food on the floor. We've now had a big clean up of the shed so it's not as inviting to them. Sunflower seeds are some of their favourite food, so if you store your birdfood in a shed, make sure that it is in a sealed container. The benefit of them loving sunflower seeds, is that is what we used as a lure to get our unwanted visitor into our humane trap.

I'm, now hoping that this mouse will like its new home in a local orchard, and won't try coming home Chez Brown, then i'll only have to combat Pigeons and Foxes as unwanted wildlife here this year.

Happy New Year, - ignoring the wind and the rain

Happy New Year.


The weather hasn't given us a great start to 2012, but i'm taking a positive view on the new year, - like these fantastic Hellebore's which were providing an great entrance display at Wisley this morning.

I love January for the promise of longer lighter days to come. For the knowledge that it won't be long before you can sow the first seeds. For the catalogues that drop through the door with lists of new varieties to try (note to self, you don't Need ANY more seeds) and for the season of pruning with the promise of abundant fruit and flowers at harvest time.


I wondered if I should make some new year resolutions, - but I always forget what they are within a week, so I think i'll just write a couple of my aims on here, so i've stated them out loud

1) To plant a little and often at both the Allotment and in my garden.  i'd love to have vegetables, herbs and salads to harvest all year, -I almost managed it in 2011, but I have to remember that there are only 3 of us to feed, so I want lots of different types but not a huge crop at any one time of anything.

2) To take out plants that aren't working in the front garden. - 4 years in, I now know if there are plants that don't pull their weight in my dry and chalky front garden, so they have to go, - That includes the Astrantia, that has seeded like mad, but doesn't flower, and needs a soggier soil than mine

3) To practice what I preach design wise. - I always tell clients they should have paths to sheds, but I slop across the lawn all winter to get to the chicken food. Maybe i'll also get the rest of the fences painted so they are all the same colour as well.

I hope you are all looking forward to the 2012 gardening season too.