Week 15 – A fledgling blog post
With business booming and hundreds of meters of living wall to create Adam has fallen behind on his weekly blog posts. A long way behind. I have agreed to step in and lend a hand. For my first post I thought I should write about my own living wall which we created almost exactly a year ago. The living wall is located in our side return and is in full view from our large kitchen windows. This spring it has proven to be a massive distraction for my children with meals and homework endlessly interrupted. The reason? Well we have had robins nesting in the corner of the living wall and so every time they swoop in or out we all look up and watch the robins. They don’t like to leave the nest for more than a few seconds at a time so the distractions are pretty much constant! If you look closely you’ll see the mother tucked away amongst the Asarum caudatum. Beautiful.
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.
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!)
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…
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!
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’.
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.
Week 4 – What is a weed?
A weed is just a point of view or a matter of opinion. In the latest issue of the RHS magazine, The garden, there’s an article entitled ’Tackling small, early weeds’. One of the weeds listed is Hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) and it advises hoeing or the application of weedkiller to get rid of it. In stark contrast, Marlow Renton and Eric Biggane who are wild food foragers say “this plant tastes like peppery cress crossed with rocket and is one of our favourite edibles. Great for salads, soups, salsa, pestos and anything else you might ever use cress for.” On their homepage Marlow and Eric state “We have put this site together because we have a genuine love of wild British food. We like wild food. We forage it, harvest it, cook it, dry it, prepare it, store it and eat it”. I think it’s safe to assume that they don’t consider Cardamine hirsuta (otherwise known as Hairy Bittercress, Lambs Cress, Land Cress, Spring Cress, Shot Weed or Flick Weed) a weed.
I think a weed is more often just a plant in the wrong place. It is not something to be killed and certainly doesn’t deserve to be sprayed with nasty chemicals.
Week 42 – Will’s wall
A fine mix of evergreens planted earlier in the year are doing very well in Will’s wall outside his kitchen window. Personally I like to include a vivid splash of colour in my planting schemes, but equally there is something very calming about a sea of green. Staring at it the other day I realised that leaf shape is just as important as colour and flowers when it comes to the entertainment value of a living wall.
Week 41 – SGD Awards Finalists
I’ve cast my vote. SGD Awards People’s Choice 2017: Harbour Garden – Helen Elks-Smith MSGD
As strictly come dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood would say “absolutely FAB – U – LOUS… darling”