Friday, November 30, 2012

My visit to Alternative Eden, the garden of Mark and Gaz (part 2)

Yesterday we visited the densely planted jungle that is the garden of Mark and Gaz. Today we leave the jungle and step out into a more arid landscape. It’s the transition between these two spaces that I could never completely understand. In case you've felt the same (or this is your first time seeing their garden) took a photo from yesterdays post to help…

The bottom arrow leads back into what we've already explored, the top arrow points on to this, just around the corner, jutting out perpendicular to the rest of the garden, as I mentioned yesterday almost forming an "L."

What was once a flat boring bit of land (I’m guessing) has been completely transformed. Their Yucca aloifolia 'Purpurea' (again, guessing) are striking no?

And how many trunking Yuccas does one garden need? At least five…

Aloe polyphylla, the spiral aloe.

That thin leafed Euphorbia at the base of the Yucca is E. deflexa.

Graptopetalum paraguayense, yes…this gorgeous succulent has lived through the winter in the ground. (how jealous am I!?)

I also loved this Leucogenes leontopodium.

The green mound is Scleranthus uniflorus, and yes I had to touch it.

Agave bracteosa

Another Aloe polyphylla.

Looking back…

And on the other side of the path…

Here’s the Celmisia I mentioned last week, C. hookeri.

And finally the koi pond! (well, it will be…soon) I was surprised, it’s even bigger than it looks.

It made me happy to see they’d properly signed their work.

I should have turned just a bit more to get a photo of the area beyond. At least you can see a sliver of it. Where the piece of wood is now will be a window.

The work these two have done to create this structure is nothing short of amazing. Just clearing out lawn and putting in our patio was enough work for me. I am in awe. Looking back the other way (where we came from).

From the photos I’d seen I also thought the roof might feel a little claustrophobic, but it doesn't.
This will be a smaller open pond across the path from the large one.

Every gardener has a ‘plant maintenance facility’ (or plants in waiting) theirs is beyond the pond and filtration house area. There was a Saxifraga longifolia (I believe)...

And a Mahonia 'Soft Caress,' along with many others fabulous plants.

Inside their second greenhouse...

You knew there had to be another Schefflera today right? S. brevipedicellata…

But wait, there's more! Schefflera delavayi…with completely different shaped leaves from mine.

Finally we end this garden visit with Schefflera multinervia.

The time we spent in the garden flew by, it felt like minutes but before we knew it hours had passed. It was time to get a bite to eat! The guys took me to the Fancott, which was actually my only true English pub meal, and it was delicious.

After a leisurely meal and more chatting it was time to do a little sightseeing. We hopped in their car and headed to Woburn. This is where I admit my silly American-ness and say OMG! Sitting in the front seat of the car in what to me is the driver’s seat as we met oncoming or turning traffic was a thrill indeed. I had to stifle a tiny scream more than once.

As we walked through the village I was struck by how picturesque everything was…

I love seeing plants up on a balcony.

And old cemeteries had somehow become a feature of this trip too. I suppose when you visit a country as old as England you are bound to run into the prior inhabitants around every corner.

As for my hosts, thank you so much for inviting me into your home and garden and making my visit so memorable. The beauty of your garden was eclipsed only by your personalities, I so enjoyed getting to know you both a bit. I hope you’ll let me repay the hospitality someday!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My visit to Alternative Eden, the garden of Mark and Gaz (part 1)...

I cannot begin to describe how excited I was to be visiting Mark and Gaz (of Alternative Eden) during our September trip to London. It was thrilling to visit a grand botanical garden like the Kew, but what about a “real” garden, you know…the kind we all tend? One I've been virtually visiting (via their blog) for a couple of years? It was FABULOUS, what an opportunity.

Once our trip to London looked like it was really going to happen I contacted them for advice, right away they suggested we meet up, maybe at Kew. Yes! Then they said something on their blog about working in London. That’s when I realized they were close enough maybe I could actually visit their garden. A (hopefully polite) inquiry from me and the next thing I knew they were offering to take a day off work to accommodate my vacation schedule. Yes, just to have a crazy American visit their garden. How nice is that? When I mention this to my non garden-blogging friends they look at me like I’m mad. “You what? You took the train out of London (alone!?) to spend the day with two guys you’d never met before? Wasn’t that just weird?” But you all understand, I know you do. It was like we were old friends, catching up. We immediately had A LOT to talk about…

Even with all the time I'd spent admiring their garden via blog posts I still didn't quite understand the layout. We entered the garden from a door off the kitchen, and stepped onto this deck. Surrounded by exotic potted plants you could see see bit of the garden beyond, but it was impossible to tell just how big it was.

The garden is roughly "L" shaped, with the bottom of the L up against the house and extending a bit beyond (there's a jig/jag in there too but I'm trying to keep this simple). The older part of the garden is the long part of the L (and that will be today's post), with the newer raised planting areas, koi pond and filter house occupying the other end (which we will see tomorrow). Mark and Gaz moved into their home the spring of 2005, those of you who follow their blog but haven't gone "all the way back" might enjoy checking out this post from 2010 where they share pictures of the very early days.

Here I've stepped off the deck and into the garden. Rather than going straight we're going to veer to the right and look at another seating area.

And some more fabulous plants!

The big guy is a Dasylirion quadrangulatum, I want!

I also want to steal the idea of red poles in the large urn (only mine would be orange, of course).

You can see how this seating area abuts the deck off the back of their house.

As I look out across the lush plantings I'm starting to get an idea just how big this space is...

And you better be ready for some major Schefflera lust. It seemed every 5 feet there was another beautiful (previously unknown to me) specimen, this one Schefflera myriocarpa.

We've now backtracked and are headed down the pathway first glimpsed in the 4th photo above. I kind of felt like this was a test to see if I made it past the guards and was allowed further into the garden.

Rhapis excelsa...

As we enter one of many rooms obscured by foliage, you really feel transported to the jungle. I loved it!

Cutleaf Emperor Oak...

And Schefflera rhododendrifolia (formerly S. impressa). If you are starting to be impressed with my mastery of names of their plants don't be. Mark and Gaz kindly agreed to identify a few photos for me.

Coming face to face with this gorgeous Canna 'Cleopatra' I remembered how much I loved it when I saw it on their blog. I might have to track one of these down!

Next to Cleo is Tradescantia 'Blushing Bride'

That's some successful layering...

Schefflera vietnamensis

Euphorbia stygiana

Now we're coming up on the Jungle Hut (aka The Exotic Shed from their blog post yesterday)...

Wouldn't this be just the best place to sit and enjoy a warm summer rainstorm? With a book and beverage of course.

Love the details, work done my Mark and Gaz themselves of course.

Almost the same shot as above but pulled back just a bit.

Forging onward...

I didn't ask about this Schefflera assuming it was S. taiwaniana.

Another private spot...

In which to sit for a bit.

Here though you're not alone, look at those cute mugs! (the weather had been quite stormy before my visit, hence the coverings)

You bamboo lovers could go crazy here...

Tucked in a back corner was one of two greenhouses. Mark and Gaz have been so busy with their koi pond project many of their plants didn't make it out of the greenhouse this year. Probably for the better with the extremely wet summer they endured.

Such a collection!

As we walked through the tall bamboo and dense foliage I had the feeling I was being watched, yep. Wild jungle cats! This is Twinkles (the former cat person in me really enjoyed meeting both Twinkles and Knickers).

I didn't catch this guys name. beautiful is this!?

Fagus sylvatica franken (Mark informs me its a beech)...

Tree ferns! As if the Scheffleras didn't already have me green with envy...

Well, that completes today's journey through the exotic jungle. Tomorrow we'll step out into the light and enjoy the garden addition and take a look at the koi pond project!