Architectural Exotics

One of my favourite plants is the huge aeonium or tree leek that I bring into the glasshouse each winter.

It looks fabulous in its pot against the flint wall.

It’ll soon be time to take it outside.

Three or four years ago a wisteria branch fell on it and several of the fleshy rosettes and their twisted branches were damaged so I cut them off and stuck them in compost filled pots and lo and behold they struck and rooted.

They all sold at one of our charity garden openings on a makeshift plant stall I set up.

So recently I decided to propagate a few more and couple of days after we transferred the mature plant to a new and larger terracotta pot I pruned four of the smaller lower offshoots.

This time I left the cut ends to “heal” or dry and today I potted them up in compost.

This time I’m going to grow them on and keep them in pots then dot them through the borders as an interesting focal point – a tip of Jimi Blake’s of Hunting Brook Gardens in Ireland.

My dahlias have gone into pots to get them started before planting out in May after the last frosts. I’m going to take cuttings beforehand to increase my stock for cut flowers and make a better display¬† in the borders this year. I’m growing Karma Choc, Karma Naomi, Apricot Desire and my favourite Thomas Edison saved from last year.

The purple ones are Thomas Edison

Another dramatic sub tropical plant I’m going try out in the border this year is an¬†echium pininana that a friend, Max, gave me as a tiny seedling last year.

They can grow into towering spikes many feet tall covered in tiny purplish blue flowers and self seed profusely. They’re also known as Tower of Jewels.

And the mimosa tree in the Secret Garden is in flower now.

The mimosa behind the old mulberry tree is set off perfectly by the daffodils in the foreground

We’ve just re-staked it as the trunk was rubbing against the old support and it was no longer upright. Now when you look out of the window you can the bright yellow frothy clusters of flowers above the dark green yew hedge that divides the main garden.

I hope to use some in my ikebana arrangements which I’m still doing weekly with my teacher, Junko.

A close up of the mimosa in full bloom

Here’s a couple I did last week – one using forsythia, hellebores and phormium leaves.

The other is different coloured hellebores and some more phormuim leaves.



I hope you enjoy them.






Contraction and Expansion

Can you feel the earth, air and temperature around us contracting and expanding?

It’s like this part of the planet is taking deep breaths and waking up.

Here the mercury is rising and sinking to between minus two and 18 celsius.

I haven’t got a thermometer by the way, that was just metaphorical.

But the wild swings in temperature are real and I also feel as if I’m stretching and contracting between the deep inactivity of winter and the first stirrings of spring.

Walking through Buckenham Woods with my friend, Gel and her dog, Tom, who is older (in dog years) and even more doddery than I am – soon this will be a carpet of bluebells

I’ve been on a couple of short walks and last Tuesday, with lots of help from my friend Alex, prepped two of the four main veg beds by hoeing the few weeds there were and laying a very thin two centimetre layer of homemade compost on top.

This is the joy of “no dig”; low maintenance and a healthy soil. We have, as you can see, some nice white peacock kale and purple sprouting broccoli as well as some self sown herba stella and claytonia or winter purslane which is good in salad.

I finally sowed my broad beans in home made compost – one seed per module.

I’ve succumbed again to germinating a few tomato seeds (Baby Plum and Tigerella) I saved from last year’s crop and some Lemon Drop Chilli which should bear a fragrant citrus flavoured fruit that is very tasty and adds a zing to salsas.

The seed I’m using was saved from these “Lemon Drop” chillis a couple of years ago

I was given some Candy Tot and Tumbling Tigress tomatoes but because I am not sure if they’re an F1 variety or not I’m holding back on sowing them as they may not come true.

I was a little disappointed in the crimson flowered broad bean seed – there were only 32 in the packet – normally you get at least 40

Seeds should be planted at a depth twice their size; so I pushed in the bean seed fairly deep and covered it. Then in another half of the tray I scattered the tiny tomato and chilli seeds three to a module on the surface of the compost and covered with a very thin layer of the same.

You can see tiny tomato seeds which I then covered with a little compost and watered in with a fine rose watering can so as not to disturb the compost too much

I’ve brought them into the warm laundry to get them started.

Our gardener, Sarah, is back after a winter break and has pruned the apple and pear trees which now have much more light after the removal of the Bramley apple tree and a Victoria plum tree next to it. Both were diseased and, despite previous attempts, were beyond help.

The prunings have gone on the new dead hedge which is filling up fast.

I’ve been enjoying more Ikebana (Japanese style flower arranging).

Just walking around to select the material I’m going to use has given me a new appreciation of the garden.


The daffodils are just about to burst into flower and the snowdrops are still holding their own – a couple of weeks after first opening their little white and green petals. How they managed to survive the cold snap two weeks ago when we had snow and temperatures as low as minus ten I’ll never know!

These daffs under the mulberry tree will put on a great show in a week or so’s time

It’s heartening to see more ladybirds than ever before as well as lots of bees and other pollinators starting to explore the garden and feed.

The secretive dunnocks have come out from their hiding places and are sitting on top of the long, high holly hedge.

They’re belting out their short, rapid, squeaky song and mating.

Apparently they can do this up to 100 times a day!

That’s a sure sign spring is on its way.






Finding flowers a new home

I’ve been promising myself Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) lessons for a few months and I finally got round to booking a course of six via Zoom.

I’d watched a couple of videos by Junko on YouTube and decided to contact her.

She is now back in Japan after living and teaching in London.

She’s been practicing the Ikenobo form of Ikebana since her teens.

I ordered a couple of large white chrysanthemums and some much smaller purple ones from the local florist.

I cut some variegated willow from the garden – along with some other stuff that I didn’t end up using.

The lesson went really well. I’d bought a kenzan (the steel pin flower holder) and used a wide bowl as my vase.

I followed Junko’s instructions and was very content with the result.

During the lesson Junko-sensei said a couple of things that made an impression on me.

You have to talk to the flowers and plant material as if they are human beings.

You must ask them where and how they’d like to be arranged.

They all have a shady and a sunny side.

And your job is to find them a new home!