Urban Jungle Bloggers: planty wishes for 2016

Ladder of plants | Wolves in LondonHouseplants | Wolves in LondonJade | Wolves in LondonI’m a bit late with the December post for Urban Jungle Bloggers. As the eagle-eyed among you will have spotted, it’s not actually December anymore.

But the theme for the month is planty wishes for 2016 and I love it so much that I can’t miss the chance to join in, even if it’s nearly two weeks belatedly.

My planty wishes for this year are very simple: I just want more plants!

Lots and lots more plants.

Houseplant ladder | Wolves in LondonHouseplants | Wolves in London

To represent my plantopia, I’ve gathered together every single plant I have in my house and put them all into one place. (That place being a rather lovely old wooden ladder…)

Essentially, this is the look I want in every single room of the house by the end of the year. Ha ha, does that sound a little bit crazed?!

I need to work out positions for the plants where they can’t be too destroyed by the children, as well as simply buying quite a few more plants in the next few months, but that’s just the practicalities to figure out before I can achieve the dream!

Watch this space, friends, 2016 is set to be the year of the houseplant chez Wolves in London.

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Urban Jungle Bloggers: plants and art

 

Urban Jungle Bloggers: plants and artI’m sure you’ve all come across Urban Jungle Bloggers, a monthly series about living with plants, organised by Igor and Judith, that aims to:

“highlight the beauty and benefits of houseplants and other greeneries in urban spaces.”

As you know, I’m something of a plant fanatic, so the only surprise is that it’s taken me so long to join in. *

This month, the topic is plants and art and I had planned to get my little bathroom plant crew (a few ferns and lovers of low-light) and photograph them with some of my old botanical illustrations.

But yesterday, I bought this little beauty as a birthday present for sister and just couldn’t resist photographing it before I hand it over to its new home.

String of hearts plantIt’s called string of hearts (Latin name: Ceropegia woodii) and, oh my goodness, it is an absolute stunner. I didn’t know it before (I’m not wildly up on houseplants, it has to be said) but it stopped me in my tracks when I went into the flower shop originally to try and buy a small succulent in a terracotta pot. I couldn’t resist.

The glorious little marbled heart-shaped leaves spaced out on a long string-like stem makes it just beg for an old pot and a position on a high shelf, where it can cascade down appealingly.

Ceropegia woodii leaf

I found an Alys Fowler piece about it on the Guardian which says it’s super easy to care for and not too fussy about light levels, fluctuating temperatures or high humidity. (So, potentially, good for a bathroom or kitchen.)

Pretty to look at and easy to care for: basically my idea of the perfect houseplant.

Maltese statue

As for the “art,” hem hem, this is a little replica statue I bought on holiday in Malta a few years back. I’m sure I’m showing my ignorance by no longer having any recollection of what exactly it is replicating. But I have always loved her tiny head and fat thighs. Beauty in all shapes and all that…

So, that’s my contribution. Do head over to Urban Jungle Bloggers to see more, or take a look at the #urbanjunglebloggers hashtag on instagram. I can already tell I will be enjoying taking part in this monthly challenge hugely.

But now, I think, I must run back to the flower shop and buy one of these string of hearts plants for myself. I think I’m just going to miss it too much once I give this one away.

*Actually, if you’re a regular reader, you probably won’t be in the slightest surprised, knowing that my To Do list is generally six pages longer than my “Done” list, ha ha.

 

In the garden: October

Surrounded by cobwebs, the last of the flowers are just clinging on out in the garden at the moment.

Garden cobweb | Wolves in London
A teeny tiny feather caught in a cobweb

Elated by the sunshine, I took a trip out this morning to photograph the few remaining splashes of colour, to try and hold onto them for as long as possible before the garden takes on its winter coat of unbroken green.

Actually, I love all the different shades of green you can find in a verdant garden, but I would like to add a little more colour as well.

I’m currently agonising over whether to cut down a rather large, browning, overgrown conifer that’s moping about next to our pond and planting some dogwood in its place: Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ (you can see some in my post about trees / shrubs with winter colour from the start of the year). The idea is, the bright red stems in the winter would reflect in the pond and bring a bit of cheer (and contrast) to the otherwise green vistas. (Ha! I’m not sure you can actually use the word “vista” if the total distance you can see is probably about 20ft…)

I had just started to write a lengthy essay explaining to you the pros and cons of the decision, but have deleted the six paragraphs on the grounds that it’s not wildly exciting reading.

Anyway, back to what’s actually there at the moment…

The two pink rose bushes continue to bloom: they deserve an award for outstanding longevity as I think they’ve both been in flower for around six months now.

Pink rose | Wolves in London
This rose must surely be one of the last?
Rose | Wolves in London
I prefer these, less formal, roses…

Meanwhile, my new Rosa rugosa hedge has been making the most glorious red hips.

Rosehip | Wolves in London
Peekaboo

In an equally impressive display, my perennial sweetpea is still (still!) putting out flowers. For the last month or so, I’ve been thinking every bloom I see is the last, only for another to appear a few days later…

Sweet pea | Wolves in London
Incidentally, if anyone knows by looking what type of sweet pea this is, do let me know. I no longer remember what I sowed…

In the back garden, there are lots of bright Hesperantha coccinea by the pond. (More usual name? Not a clue, I’m afraid…) I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a huge fan of red flowers in the garden, but somehow, once the main summer has passed and we’re into autumn, my opinion changes completely and I am delighted to see such rich colours.

Hesperantha coccinea | Wolves in London
So cheerful

Behind them, my Japanese maple is still looking a little unhealthy, but has managed to put out lots of lovely purpley/red seed pods. What glorious colours!

Acer | Wolves in London
Ignore the brown, curling leaves and just look at the seeds…

And my lovely pink daisies have just put out a second bloom…

Erigeron | Wolves in London
I thought these were over, but some more just appeared

Finally, I just can’t resist sharing this photo of my little photographic assistant. He’s been given use of Daddy’s old camera and has spent much of the past few weeks in poses fairly similar to this one.

I asked him, “Are you taking a photo of Mummy?” and he looked at me quizzically, as if that would be a very odd thing to do, and said, “No! Taking photo of dis plant…” The apples don’t fall far from the tree, eh…

Toddler photographing | Wolves in London
Gardener, cleaner, photographer extraordinaire…

Garden moodboard: July

I had a bit of a conundrum with my garden moodboard this month.

On Saturday morning, I was standing in the middle of the garden, secateurs in hand, ready to snip snip snip away at lots of nice flowers to photograph them – as is my wont every month.

But as I looked round my 15x60ft patch of earth, I couldn’t really see any flowers to spare.

July garden moodboard | Wolves in London
From the garden this month

I know that anyone who professes to be even a little bit of a gardener shouldn’t admit that they don’t have many flowers in June. But such is the sorry case chez Wolves in London at the moment. Lots of things seemed to flower early this year, but the usual mid-Summer plants are still yet to open up…

The ones I photographed in situ recently aren’t abundant enough for me to want to cut them down. And the ones I have in abundance, I have photographed in moodboards so many times I couldn’t imagine anything new to do with them.

“Yes, yes, luv,” I imagined you saying as you looked at my pics, “we know you’ve got loads of verbena. Stop showing us your bloody verbena.”

And, indeed, I would have no defence for your criticism, for I showed you the verbena last month, and in May, and in July last year. And you know, there are only so many ways you can photograph verbena. (Admittedly, I have only ever selected one: against a white background…)

July garden moodboard | Wolves in London
Sage, rosemary, mint and some apples…

I decided that this month I’d probably have to give the moodboard a miss and since I had the secateurs in my hand, I’d go and do a bit of gentle pruning on the plum and apple trees and thin the fruits a bit at the same time.

Even if you hadn’t already seen the photos, you could tell where this is going, couldn’t you?!

I looked down at the pile of cuttings and thought to myself, a-ha! This month, I’ll photograph the prunings and maybe a few herbs that I was bringing in for lunch. A kitchen garden moodboard, if you will.

So this month I bring you a few of the small apples that I culled so their brothers could grow bigger, the plums that have caterpillars inside and some extremely unhealthy looking leaves. (Plus some sage, rosemary and mint.)

Unripe plum | Wolves in London
A sorry looking plum

The plums are seriously abundant so I’ve been removing as many as I can in the hope the ones left on the trees will grow bigger and juicier. Last year lots got a fungal disease and rotted on the tree and most of the ones we removed had caterpillars inside. Not a huge success! This year I am trying to look after them better…

 

Apple | Wolves in London
Already bruised…
Unripe apple | Wolves in London
Rosy but culled nonetheless
Apple | Wolves in London
Yet another damaged apple

We’ve got three different types of apple tree.  On a visit to Wisley on Sunday (more on that later this week), I tried to get them to identify the cultivars for me, but apparently they need the fruit specialist to do it in the Autumn once the fruits are fully grown. We shall return then, and I will finally know what’s growing in my garden…

Apple branch | Wolves in London
The RHS expert couldn’t even identify it from all this branch, leaves and fruit!

And perhaps I shall ask them what on earth if wrong with these poor leaves too…

(My guess is: caterpillars chewing on them (which I don’t really mind — it leads to lovely butterflies at least) and perhaps a disease or some sun scorching on the brown bits. At any rate, not terribly healthy.)

Unhealthy leaf | Wolves in London
Yikes, not looking good…

The rosemary, at least, seems to thrive on my regime of intentional neglect:

Rosemary | Wolves in London
Long since eaten…

Next month, I promise you some flowers. I spotted a few sweet pea buds this morning and the gorgeous nigella is almost ready to show its face…

The garden in June

I know, I know, I’ve been a bit garden-tastic over the past few weeks, what with all my chat about greenhouses and sheds and so on. I am working on some more craft-related posts at the moment too, you may be relieved to hear, but I couldn’t resist joining in once more this week with Mammasaurus’s How does your garden grow?

The sporadically glorious weather of June, combined with some bloody awful rainy weather, has been good to my garden.

I’ve been pottering about in the greenhouse with my seedlings at any rare gardening opportunities I have, leaving everything else to pretty much get on with it. And get on with it, it has.

Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve' | Wolves in London
Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’

The plants I bought a few weeks ago are all now planted into their final positions. I couldn’t find a good spot for the wallflower, so I have it in a pot on the table on the patio, where it just keeps growing taller and taller and producing more and more flowers. I’ve been really pleased with this plant (it’s the cultivar ‘Bowles Mauve’) and I definitely want to try and get some cuttings next spring to make a little thicket of them in a bed somewhere.

In the bed closest to the house, I sowed lots of hardy annuals earlier in the year. I think it was cornflowers, nigella and poppies. I then, rather foolishly, paid them little attention and let some weeds outcompete them, so I have a tiny little patch of seedlings coming up and lots of other bare patches of soil where I only pulled the weeds out once they had got really big. Luckily, the other side of the bed is also awash with a rather nice heuchera, a honeysuckle and lashings of campanula. So I shall just focus my attention on the right hand side.

Campanula | Wolves in London
Campanula and honeysuckle leaves

 

Heuchera | Wolves in London
A little spike of heuchera flowers about to burst open

In my main bed, the pin cushion flower has settled in happily. In bud I think it’s just as impressive when in flower.

Scabious | Wolves in London
Quite amazing, isn’t it?

Next to it, the erigeron is also attractive flowering and just beforehand.

Erigeron | Wolves in London
Waiting to open…
Erigeron | Wolves in London
Boom!

And a little further down some nicotiana, bought from the same garden shop trip a few weeks back, are stunning. The flowers are really gorgeous, but they’re on spindly stems, so I think in future I need to grow them through some ground cover to make them look a bit more attractive.

Nicotiana | Wolves in London
Delicate star-shaped nicotiana

Next to them, this alstroemeria is another legacy from the previous residents. It’s very happy here and grows well every year but, though I like it as a cut flower, I have to confess I find it a little garish in the beds. I’m undecided about what to do — try and move it elsewhere, perhaps a spot on its own somewhere where it can be the star of the show, rather than competing with lots of my (predominantly blue, purple and white) flowers? Get rid of it altogether, which seems a shame? Or perhaps I should just cut every single stem as soon as the flowers appear and bring them all inside for vases?! Okay, last option a little foolish, but, hmmm, I really need to think about it a little more…

Alstroemeria | Wolves in London
So very, very red!

On the other side, by the pond, I have no idea what this lovely white plant is, but I love it. (Of course I love it. It’s white!)

White pond flower | Wolves in London
Can anyone identify this?

And opposite, an old and very woody lavender looks pretty leggy most of the year but, oh, it’s worth it for this glorious sight (and smell) in the summer months…

Lavender bush | Wolves in London
Every garden needs some lavender, in my opinion…

Past this point, back towards the greenhouse, it all starts to go downhill rapidly into a vast jungle of weeds. Some are brambles, so at least we’ll have blackberries later in the year, but lots just need to be hacked back and dug up. Something I never quite find time for. I decided earlier this year to leave some unidentified plants that looked a bit like geraniums. They’ve taken over in a massive way and I think they are a sort of geranium weed. The plants are nearly as tall as me, the flowers quite tiny in proportion, but, at least, very pretty.

Geranium | Wolves in London
Yes, the flowers are nice, but they’re pretty hard to spot in the gigantic plant

The hubby is off work for four weeks in July, so I’m hoping to use the opportunity to spend lots and lots of time in the garden then, sorting it all out. And after that, I promise, I’ll show you some photos of the whole thing. (Disclaimer: photos only appearing if I can actually make the overall garden look nice.)

 

Garden moodboard: June

I love my garden, but it sometimes feels as if I am in constant battle with it. And it with me.

Garden moodboard June 2014 | Wolves in London
June moodboard, 2014: a mere selection for this month

When I first started taking photographs for these garden moodboards, in May last year, I imagined that by the following year my whole entire garden would look beautiful, not just the odd flower.

More than a year later, the beds are still a mass of weeds and mud and I couldn’t even begin to imagine photographing more than individual flowers to show you here… In all honesty, the overall picture outside is pretty horrendous.

Every time I go out there to do a spot of gardening like pruning or planting or thinning my plums (not a euphemism), I get distracted, instead, with pulling out bindweed and couch grass. Which then grows back with such force, that the next time I look there is even more in the same spot.

But it’s not just the weeds that seem to be standing in the way of my Chelsea-winning daydreams ever becoming reality.

A week ago, I planted 16 bean plants, up some lovely wigwams, with a slug beer trap placed right in the middle.

By this weekend, I had four paltry plants left. And those liberally covered with slug munched holes. By tomorrow, there will likely be nothing left at all.

Oh, sure, I’ve killed hundreds of slugs (possibly quite literally) in the beer trap. But I think they choose to have a nice supper of bean leaves first, before heading over for a post-prandial drink (and death, though they don’t know that in advance of course…)

Overall, it seems like I would need to work on my garden, undistracted, 9-5, seven days a week to have it looking even half presentable.

So, I particularly relish the chance to take my monthly moodboard photos. The best bits of the garden, on a nice clean white background; the weeds, slugs and unruly growth all edited out. (Except for that one time I showed you lots of weeds…)

This month is a bumper one for plants, but I was dashing round with the secateurs on Sunday while the baby, sproglet and hubby napped, so I was trying to be super quick before anyone started crying, and have only brought a few of my very favourites to show you.

Rose | Wolves in London
I am incorrectly claiming these pink roses as belonging to my little patch

The pink rose is in the front garden, growing over from the boundary with next door. Our side of the garden is the south facing side, so I suspect we have all the best roses to look at.

Nectaroscordum siculum (honey garlic) | Wolves in London
Sicilian wild honey garlic. Spoiler alert, it smells like garlic!

The honey garlic was in flower last month, but once the flowers are finished they start to point directly upwards into these amazing seedheads. (When actually in flower they droop downwards in a rather attractive weeping manner – see my pictures from last year.)

I’ve never picked these to come inside before, since I only have a few and they look so stately in the garden, right through into the winter months, but I was suprised — you may say somewhat stupidly, given the plants’ name — by how very garlicky this one smelt once I cut it off at the stem.

Verbena bonariensis | Wolves in London
Lovely, lovely verbena
Verbena flower | Wolves in London
…and it’s teeny tiny flowers

The verbena has been going strong for a good month now and will continue to do so until the end of summer. I adore it. The huge, tall spikes, topped with the vibrant purple, but such tiny delicate flowers. It’s one of my favourite plants in the garden.

Phlomis | Wolves in London
The bees adore the phlomis. I like it too.
Senecio cineraria | Wolves in London
Okay, I know I’ve shared about a hundred photos of this before, but it’s so very photogenic…

The front garden looks pretty good right now, I must say, with some towering blues and purples and a lower lying silver carpet, provided by this phlox and the Senecio cineraria.

Salvia | Wolves in London
By the afternoon, the salvia spikes were all limply pointing downwards in the heat…
Salvia spike | Wolves in London
Another one with tiny, delicate flowers
Daisy | Wolves in London
This plant just shouts, “Summertime!”

Out in the unruly back garden, the salvia and daisy I bought last week are now in the ground and brightening up an otherwise rather bare border.

Campanula | Wolves in London
Anyone know what species of campanula this is?

About the only other thing in flower there are some beautiful purple and white campanulas on spikes. They tend to droop downwards, so I need to plant something a bit more bushy underneath them, I think. (Again, not a euphemism. Why does everything gardening related seem to have a double meaning? Every time I type “front garden” or “bush” I giggle a little bit. Childish, I know…)

Astible | Wolves in London
Astilbe or not astilbe?

Finally, I think this white frothy thing is called astilbe. It grows in a great feathery profusion around the pond, just about managing to outcompete the bindweed.

It’s a tricky spot to weed, what with the danger of falling in, inaccessibility of the bit behind the pond, numerous frogs and tadpoles that I’m trying not to disturb and constant requests to the attendant sproglet to please stand back.

Blues, whites and silvers. My favourite garden colours. In reality it’s not quite as refined as this, of course, but I’m leaving the bright red and orange flowers – a legacy from the old owners – sitting happily in their beds.

Oh and one last picture. This little guy came inside on one of the plants so I couldn’t resist photographing him too. He’s pretty splendid, but moved around very quickly and wasn’t too keen to stop and pose for the camera.

Spider | Wolves in London
Definitely a spider…

And a postscript: a massive thank you to those who commented on yesterday’s post. I was really touched by the kind things everyone said and pleased to hear that this mish mash of a blog, with its random subjects, chosen only from what interests me personally, seems to interest others as well. I shall keep at it! Gardening, crafts, fabric, general chat and all…

Joining in, as ever, with Asa.

Growing, growing, growing

With a May bank holiday weekend coming up, and everything settling back to normal life after the arrival of sproglet two, I’m hoping to spend quite a bit of time out in the garden.

Dandelion head | Wolves in London

Everything, but everything, needs attention. The weeds are rampant. There are veg seedlings in the greenhouse outgrowing their tiny planting modules and getting far too leggy, because I still need to prepare their outdoor beds. Two flower beds are completely empty of plants. (Well, intentional plants, anyway, like everywhere else they are stuffed with weeds.) The plum tree needs a prune. The apple tree needs thinning. There are empty pots waiting to be filled and seedlings waiting to be potted on.

Basically, everything that didn’t happen when I was heavily pregnant needs some serious attention right now.

But still, in amongst the chaos, there are a few bits and pieces of loveliness to be found. Like this little plant, which I am unable to identify, but find very beautiful.

Flowers | Wolves in LondonThe plum and apple trees seem to be putting out a bumper crop. Since studyin’ deep at hortikulcher last year, I now know I need to thin them to get some decent healthy big ones (and prevent next year being a year of famine…)

Apples | Wolves in London
One of these little apples will be for the chop…

The biggest success story out there right now, is this campanula (or, at least, I think that’s what it is), which is thriving in pots as well as most of the flower beds.

Campanula | Wolves in London

Out in the front garden is bee heaven, thanks to the Verbena bonariensis…

Verbena bonariensis | Wolves in London

… and the phlomis

Phlomis | Wolves in London

Pootling around looking at the plants and flowers is more interesting to me than the rest of the family.

But luckily there are other diversions at hand too.

A favourite pastime for the sproglet is finding some snails, pouring water onto them so they think it’s raining (taught to him by Daddy) and then waiting for them to come out of their shells.

Snails | Wolves in LondonSnails | Wolves in LondonSnails | Wolves in LondonSnails | Wolves in London

And if the excitement of the snails pall at all, then we all head off to look for spiders.

Joining in with Mammasaurus and How does your garden grow?

Autumn in the garden

The garden in our house is a source of both great joy and great frustration to me.

acer palmatum
Beautiful acer palmatum

It was one of the major selling points when we bought the place a year ago: a 60 foot garden! In London!

But (as I know I’ve mentioned before, so my apologies to regular readers) it was also planted up in a way that wasn’t hugely appealing to me. The square of lawn is the size of a handkerchief, surrounded by gigantic flowerbeds too large to weed, filled with bright pink and orange azaleas and (now, anyway) a fair bit of bindweed too.

Of course, when we looked round the house, I cheerfully made plans for how I could change it, imagining it all finished within a month of moving in. A year later, though, and we’ve finally made a start. The azaleas are all gone, two huge beds have been levelled and turfed and the past four weekends have looked pretty much like this:

Gardening
Naturally, he was a great help…

Of course, now we know the builders are coming next week, I think a huge bulk of the turf is going to get trampled underfoot. Ah well, c’est la vie.

But now that the garden doesn’t just remind me of all the work that needs doing, I’ve been able to start enjoying some of its beauties. A wander round with my macro lens last week showed off Autumn in all its glory.

azalea leaf
The eagle-eyed gardeners among you will spot that, despite my protestations, this is indeed an azalea leaf. Well, what can I say, we did leave a few of them in there…
Lichen
And this lichen on a branch gives you an idea of just how old some of the plants are
Autumn
Could a photograph be any more autumnal?!
Berries
These blue berries come from the red-leaved plant above. Such stunning colours…
Moss
I just couldn’t resist using the power of the macro lens to take a look upclose at some moss on the greenhouse roof!
hesperantha coccinea
The star of last week’s Gardener’s World, for those watching, this is my very own Hesperantha coccinea. Fabulous reddy pink colours right into November

I’m linking up today with Mammasaurus’s How does your garden grow, a weekly browse through some gardening delights. I’ve just discovered it and have been having a great wander round other people’s gardens. Do head over if you’re similarly interested…

Related articles:

  • I’m pretty late with my Garden Moodboard this month (coming at the weekend though), but for some more pics of various plants from my garden, take a look at my moodboards for May, June, July, August or October.