With all the weather recently, things have been very topsy-turvy. So I took the time this week to visit the botanic gardens to seek some inspiration and motivation to get going in the garden again.
As I mentioned previously, a lot of my outdoor time has been going towards other tasks, and, to be quite frank, the garden is a bit of a disaster zone.
Sure, there are some pockets still holding their own, but the over all look of the garden is not good. Why visit the botanic gardens at this time of year? Well the answer to this is easy. I know from visits over the years that if you are to be inspired anywhere, this is the place to go. Not only is there the great big glasshouses with plants from all over the world to get you thinking, but if you are to find any Winter colour, you'll find it here. and I wasn't disappointed. Before I even entered the grounds I could see an inspirational site. The winter colour of dogwood, the outline of trimmed hedges and the weeping form of willow all tied together with moving water - I knew this would be a good one!
In the grounds themselves, it was nice to see the herbaceous borders nice, clean, neat - and well labelled too. Of course, this involves a lot of work over the Autumn, so well done to all involved here, for doing things well.
In the sensory garden, although many of the plants had died back or lost their leaves, I was reminded of the value of evergreens and the majesty of good arches and structures. Plenty of interest to keep the viewer engaged.
My next stop was a large heated glasshouse with plenty of interest. In the cooler end of things there were lovely Cyclamen in flower. When you come across a display like this its well worth having a sniff or two of the flowers, as some of them are quite nicely scented.
Moving on into the bigger more heated area, and you find a wide range of Pelargoniums (or geraniums to you and I) in flower - and it really was an uplifting sight. Now I know what you're thinking - 'this is no use to me, I don't have a heated glasshouse' - and of course you're right, but for me, to see a blast of colour like this just gets the mind motoring. As in 'hmmm, some of my geraniums are still in flower outside, if I was to take them in and clean them up I'd be extending the flower colour a little more'.
I think my next stop was good to see. This is what they call the 'Teak House'. It was not heated, and the doors and windows were very open, so it felt like the seven degrees celsius inside as it did outside. Here were some cold climate plants on display including some nice snowdrops in pots and a particularly nice bonsai'd Picea abies.
As I left these covered areas behind me, I moved into the gardens themselves.
Yes there was a lot of dormancy, plants having died back or lost their leaves for the Winter, but also some spots of interest too. Have a look at the picture of this Chimonanthus praecox. The flowers were very subtle, you might miss them, but the scent was amazing!
Then there was some Chaenomeles (also referred to as 'ornamental quince'). This (earlier than the rest) flowering variety was called Chaenomeles speciosa 'Etna';
The bark of the strawberry tree, Arbutus x andrachnoides, which is an evergreen plant that has white ericaceous flowers in the Spring followed by red 'strawberry like round fruits in the Autumn;
And the always lovely winter flowering cherry (Prunus subhirtella autumnale). at some stage if the budget extends, this will be a prized purchase. The flower buds develop over late Summer and swell in early Autumn. Then, over Winter, when there is a spell of mildish weather, the open to give this lovely winter flowering effect.
With it being a cold day, I was quite happy to have a quick visit to the orchid house to see see some smashing examples of these plants in flower, and a curiosity hanging from the side ...
I then moved on to another great glass structure, called the 'Curvilinear Range'. This was a well laid out glasshouse, with different sections representing plants from different regions of the world, as well as a display or two ...
I did come across this 'bird of paradise' plant, with numerous flowers on it. I remember reading somewhere that it took ten years of growing per flower, that'd make this bad boy over 50 years old? Ehhh, I don't think so !
So, after taking some time out to see if I could be inspired and motivated to get cracking at home, I can safely say I came away with renewed energy and the beginnings of ideas for this year; helped along by plenty of tips and hints from my twitter and pinterest friends.
Finally, on arrival home, as if on cue, the Armaryllis had bust bud to reveal these lovely velvet flowers.