Fairy wings or horny goat weed?

Week 14 – Fairy wings or horny goat weed?

I love Epimediums. Also known as barrenwort, bishop’s hat, fairy wings, horny goat weed or yin yang huo in Chinese. The majority of species come from China with a huge range of forms and species, many of which make a great choice for my living walls as they prefer a moist environment. Handy. They can be evergreen or deciduous and there are so many to choose from it makes my eyes water. I’ll be testing various varieties in my living walls throughout 2018 and will, I’m sure, slowly edit my selection down to a half dozen… yeah right, as if… make that two dozen. They’re just too fabulous.

Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleitun’, forms beautiful spreading evergreen ground cover and has the most wonderfully delicate yellow flowers. Perfect for creating wonderful flashes of brightness amongst the mottled greens and reds of it’s equally fabulous foliage. Like I said, I love epimediums.

Asplenium trichomanes

Week 13 – Asplenium trichomanes

Easy to miss, Asplenium trichomanes or Maidenhair Spleenwort, whilst delicate looking is actually extremely hardy (H6 – which is down to −20 °C). The leaves of this species are composed of numerous tiny leaflets held onto a wiry deep brown central stem which comes from the centre of the rosette. Numerous rosettes make a clump.

It’s one of our native evergreen ferns which grows in a range of rocky habitats, including cliffs, rock faces, screes, and perhaps now most commonly, on walls. Yes, walls! Of course they do. I’ve seen them! How could I have not used this fern already in one of my schemes? Maybe because they are so unassuming. They don’t shout out at you saying ‘use me, I’m a beautiful fern’. So they get overlooked. But it will be ignored no longer. I intend to test the little Spleenwort out and include it in my next living wall. Mixed in with some Soleirolia soleirolii, moss and a few other ferns, it’ll look ace, just as it does in nature. They are however tiny and I’m going to need a lot of them, so I better get plant hunting. (Lucky for me they grow like weeds in devon!)

My Favourite Tree

Week 12 – My Favourite Tree

On friday I flew home from the sunny south of Fance to the snowy south of England. Driving home from Bristol airport the weather got wilder, colder and as I neared home suddenly very much snowier. Now I know everyone has been getting a bit carried away with beautiful photos of everything ‘snowy’ including me, but this shot simply sums up my love of south Devon. A wind sculpted Ash that looks amazing most days, but on this particular wintery evening, looked simply stunning. I know when I see this tree I’m almost home, and on this particular occasion I was very very glad to see it…

Villefranche sur Mer

Week 11 – Villefranche sur Mer

This week I returned to France to check on a garden we created in 2015. It’s always nice to return to see how things are developing albeit with a certain amount of nerves. You never know how your planting plans are going to develop… it might have turned into a shambles! I am pleased to report however that the garden is looking rather good. No death, disasters, or disease here just happy healthy plants that are all maturing as they should. I’m now heading back to Devon and more snow!

Tom Massey

Week 10 – Tom Massey

I’m starting my next wall in a few weeks which is destined for a very nice garden in Richmond designed by the charming, talented, RHS gold medal winning, Tom Massey. As always I’ll be experimenting with my plant selection and this time I’m looking to include a number of fabulous Epimedium’s including the stunning Epimedium stellatum ‘Wudang Star’.

London Calling

Week 9 – London Calling

The full TLA team all met up in London this week to install not one but two living walls. Alan and the Stevington squad brought their walls for a fab courtyard in Highgate whilst I (the current Devon team) brought up my latest offering which slotted straight into a wonderfully modern garden in St Johns Wood designed by John Davies. John’s a fabulous designer who we’ve produced a number of living walls for over the years and you can see his beautiful portfolio of gardens here.

The Beast from the East

Week 8 – The Beast from the East

Snow, sledging and slipping around. I fleeced up the living wall that I’ve just finished (installing next week in St. John’s Wood) and headed for the slopes! Well, our own personal sledging field which sometimes doubles as a farm. Much fun was had by all including yours truly.

The devil is in the detail

Week 6 – The devil is in the detail.

I thought I’d share my latest plan. This is how it all starts. I hand draw all my vertical planting plans. This is the first draft showing my go to backbone plants. Not shown are the special plants that are sprinkled on top like hundreds and thousands on a birthday cake. These exotic rarities (such as the Saxifrage stolonoifera ‘Ginkgo 98’ PB) are not always spotted by clients but I like to hide a few surprises in amongst the greenery nonetheless. The devil is, as they say, in the detail.

“The devil is in the detail” is an idiom that refers to a catch or mysterious element hidden in the details, meaning that something might seem simple at a first look but will take more time and effort to complete than expected and derives from the earlier phrase, “God is in the detail” expressing the idea that whatever one does should be done thoroughly; i.e. details are important. When it comes to our living walls – I agree completely.

Saxifrage stolonoifera ‘Ginkgo 98’ PB

Week 5 – Saxifrage stolonoifera ‘Ginkgo 98’ PB

The 20th March is officially the first day of Spring but here in South Devon it feels like it’s already arrived. Snowdrops and daffodils are appearing everywhere as new life returns once more. Life is getting busier and business is booming. Over the last week I’ve been drawing up planting plans for our next batch of living walls. Delving once more into the wonderful world of plants, I’m introducing reliable old friends to exciting new ones. I feel it’s essential to keep experimenting and this requires research and investigation. From Devon to Scotland I roam, hunting for delicate beauty for sale. I stumble across exciting new plants offered for sale by nurseries I’ve never heard of in the most unexpected places.

One such nursery in Scotland, Growild Nursery is ‘a small nursery located on a 200 year old farm in south-west Scotland that specialises in growing rare and unusual species plants, in particular hardy perennials from Japan, China, the Himalayas and North America’. Perusing their website, I feel like a kid in a sweet shop. I want one of everything. There are so many fabulous specimens, including some that have been discovered by the internationally recognised living wall designer, botanist and plant hunter (and my personal plant-hero) Patrick Blanc. I buy numerous plants including the stunning Saxifrage stolonoifera ‘Ginkgo 98’ PB (below). It’s an evergreen species with beautiful, white, starry flowers on tall stems and rosettes of fleshy, green leaves, marked slightly with silver on younger leaves and I am very excited at the thought of including it in my next wall.

We’ve not met, but I wanted to say thank you to Lisa and Andrew at Growild and all the other dedicated plant loving nursery owners up and down the county. Your hard work brings me so much pleasure. I owe you.