Bansai Bonsai!

It’s really difficult to know which images to pick for the esteemed art of growing Bonsai trees as they are, without exception, utterly beautiful. However, I’ve tried to stick to my favorites. Just when the art of cultivating mini trees began is a matter of conjecture, with myths claiming some trees have been discovered three and a half thousand years old. More frequent are some venerable and majestic examples alive today said to be at least a thousand. There is only documentation to support anything from 500 years to the present. Their longevity is legendary, so to begin with, I’ll share the grand old masterpieces of a rumored thousand.

Manseien-bonsai-1000years-old

In the Crespi museum, a grove of Ficus:ficus-bonsai-crespi1000yrsAnd a mere stripling of 800 years:

800-year-old-bonsai-treeRecently, a Japanese artist, Takanori Aiba, has been taking the concept of Bonsai further, and adding his own miniature structures to them. You’d think they would detract, but to general wonderment, his art enhances quite exquisitely.  It’s just fantastical.

Takanori aiba BonsaiEven so, left to their own sculptural and organic devices, any single Bonsai speaks eloquently alone. I’d not seen fruiting or blooming ones before I began researching them, but they are incredible, as are autumnal and winter versions:

White Pine

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Cherry Blossom1

Maple2

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Phenomenal coaching! Such harmony and balance. 5

Tiny forest7

Hibiscus8

Cherry blossom9

Pure beauty10

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Chilli tree13Had to share this one..the white tree of Gondor. It is, isn’t it?

Bay Island Bonsai 2008Finally…just goddamn cute. Aww! Wee tree!

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Veg in Vogue

Now the salad days are upon us, there are some fantastic new varieties of fruit and veg to look out for. It’s great to have new, and I mean brand new varieties to spice up a salad or a power smoothie and gathered there are some stunners. Personally I’d steer clear for the time being of anything that hails from China, they’re doing some mad things to fruit this year – although they claim to be non GMO, they don’t inspire the greatest confidence that they are. These pictures are not photo-shopped, but actual new breeds one can buy the seeds to grow! Blue watermelon:

Blue Watermelon laritek

Rainbow grapes:

5-packs-15-seeds-pack-Rainbow-Grape-New-font-b-Variety-b-font-color-including-crimson

and, er, black strawberries:

100-seeds-hermetic-package-black-strawberry

Well then – what can we look for closer to home and British grown by organic farmers? There are an incredible amount of new carrot varieties in all colors:

Carrots_of_many_colors but my favorite two are:

Sunlite

sunlite

and Creme Delight:

cremedelite

Scottish Heritage Potatoes taste as good as they look. Included below are varieties Mr Little’s Yetholm Gypsy, Kepplestone Kidney, Shetland Black, Highland Burgundy and Dunbar Rover.

scottishheritage

Heirloom tomatoes are readily available these days, praise the lord, and the freshest new star is the Indigo Rose, which is just gorgeous:

indigo rose tomato

Growers are always looking for new lettuce breeds to test and cultivate and the two favorites this year have been a mustard leaf called Frizzy Lizzy

Mustard, Frizzy Lizzy, 053013 (9)

And the Rouxai, which would grace any plate:

Lettuce,  Rouxai 063011 (1)

Keep an eye out too for Watermelon Radish, they’re a lively color with a mild amount of spiciness to the taste.

watermelon-radishes1-e1367867385429

If you come across any of the new hybrids, be sure to tell us how they taste – this month was the debut of the Brussels sprout crossed with Kale. Called a Kalette, it definitely looks interesting and will no doubt do you the world of good! Just don’t make me a smoothie of it!

Kalettes-comparison-2

 

Shedloads of Love

5Notwithstanding the creative genius that has come and gone with Shed Of The Year 2014, I do sort of like my sheds to be real, working buildings. Not a pub, a castle, a summer house or a cabin that sleeps four but a place where some actual gardening can also take place, even if nominally and decoratively. That’s not to say they can’t be shabby chic, twee or picturesque. There’s no fun in it otherwise. I think sheds are the grown up equivalent of forts for men and wendy houses for women – oh there’s a sweeping generalization for you right there. However, I lose count of the times on Pinterest that someone comments that they must have one (if it’s ‘cute’). I’ve picked some I like – for their structure, decoration, sympathy with their surroundings and curb appeal. Not a military collection or diner in sight, I vow.

Love that this American Gothic has a porch too. 6And here made from reclaimed wood and windows.

2A working cottage shed

7And a decoratively ‘I’m Jane Austin potting one violet seedling’ kind of vibe:

8Joie de vivre, and why not?

1This roost, tool shed and storage all in one is perfect for the contemporary house it complements – at De Beauvoir, London

de beauvoirBut it’s difficult to beat this grand old historical masterpiece which is the real deal and has been faithfully serving for centuries at The Manor:

the manorI’m ending with – how can you resist this – the internet kitten of all sheds…

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A Matter of Grave Importance

We often discount or forget about the gardens in our midst – cemeteries. Since the practice of full burial became a rare thing, they have morphed into undisturbed sanctuaries of plants, trees and wildlife that remain peaceful, serene places to marvel at how nature reclaims its ground, left to its own devices. I find them such quiet spaces of contemplation and beauty, not to mention having an abiding appreciation of the art and architecture of bygone eras they are brimming with.  Trees are not butchered into stumps but left to stretch out majestically, providing dappled shade. Ivy creeps around and through Gothic homage, and long since carefully planted tributes ramble unchecked. It’s a discovery of infinite tranquility; isolated pockets of wonder and calm in the midst of a bustling city.

In London there are seven major sites, apart from the hundreds of smaller spaces surrounding our many ancient churches. The best known, for its imposing glory and sheer variety of marvelous Victorian invention, is Highgate Cemetery. I’ll leave its wonders until last. Meanwhile, enjoy some unadulterated, if somber, beauty from the rest: Abney Park

abney park2

abney parkBrompton Road

bromptonThe splendid and rightly lauded Kensal Green:

kensal greenBy The Hardy Tree in the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church in London, hundreds of old gravestones circle an ash tree. In the 1860’s an older part of the churchyard was designated to make way for the new railway line. Coffins were removed with care and reburied elsewhere. Some of the headstones were placed in a circular pattern around a young ash tree in the churchyard. Over the decades the tree has, inevitably grown and parts of the headstones nearest the tree have disappeared in to its growth.

st pancras churchWest Norwood is also a rich source of gorgeous stone masonry:

west norwoodAnd as promised, the splendor of Highgate, one of the finest in the world.

 

hg10

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hg8The Vaults surrounding the Cedar Tree island:

hg7A green man stares into eternity

hg6The Egyptian Vaults

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hg2Nature reclaims:

hg1Wonderful stuff.

Just Imagine

I came across a marvelously creative garden in London that is the repository for the owner’s art, spilling out of the house as it does into every crevice. At Ladywell, nothing is out of bounds –

ladywell…every area is an expression:

ladywell2Which got me wondering if I could find other London back yards that overflowed with creativity. My first find was Manor Park

manor parkbeds, swans, colors aplenty, but then I broadened my search to absolutely anything and I want to share with you all the wonderful ideas I found. I think they prove that no matter how much space or money you do or don’t have, if you have an imagination you can insert GARDEN into your life to brighten up the most unlikely places. As someone who is used to eliciting laughs when I express my ideas for the ‘why not do X or Y’ I understand that reactions are invariably unsympathetic but in my experience, all you have to do is show people to wow them. So enjoy the visual treats, and be brave enough to look at something with a different eye as a likely candidate for flora. Go for it. These souls did.

bootstypewriter wheelbarrow toy car  summer canopy teapots plant bed plant hair shoe planter sink small drawers piano petunia bathtub mexican chest desk dresser flower bed SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA heads jeans car cabinet bus buckets boat bicycle bathtub yellow dresser