Hello and Snowdrops!

A lot has happened since my last post, it was autumn and now it’s spring! I’ve moved house, been on work-related chainsaw, tractor and telehandler training courses, taken two RHS exams, spent a week in Scotland, attended a Mediterranean Plants and Gardens lecture at the Chelsea Physic Garden, finishing final year reports for my PGG diploma as well as preparing for a trip to Thailand which starts in 5 days time. Time really does fly when you’re having a good time!

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Snowdrop Grove

Regarding Thailand I will be spending three weeks in the north and north east of the country, studying orchids in their natural habitat. Thailand is home to over 1,000 different species of orchids, it’s an understatement to say I can’t wait; I was excited to spend 2 weeks in Portugal last year, this trip has taken my enthusiasm to another level!

In between keeping up with life in general I had time after exams to fit in a garden visit to Painswick Rococo in Gloucestershire. I visited last summer, please click here to read my post about it.

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Close-up

It is home to a stunning snowdrop collection, with one of the largest naturalistic plantings of in the country; The largest collections of Galanthus in the garden are:

  • Galanthus nivalis
  • Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus ‘Flore Pleno’
  • Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’

Painswick Rococo is in many ways the spiritual home of Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’.  Known as a superior early flowering giant snowdrop G. ‘Atkinsii’ has a trouble history.
James Atkins (1804-1884), a retired nurseryman originally from Northamptonshire, but who was living in one of the estate cottages owned by the family at Painswick.

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Atkins obtained a bulb around 1870, most likely from southern Italy, which he grew and called Galanthus imperati. This name has lead and continues to cause confusion but is was offered by Atkins to the nursery trade as this and sales started on a commercial basis around 1875; this species was highly prized by early snowdrop collectors for its size and beauty.

In 1891 the name Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’ was proposed to clear up confusion and recognise John Atkins as the selector of this particular stock.

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Two year after his introduction a nurseryman from York, James Backhouse, introduced a snowdrop which was to all intense and purpose identical to G. ‘Atkinsii’ but with irregular malformed flowers.

In 1914 E. A. Bowles called this G. ‘Atkinsii’ James Backhouse instead, recognising it as a distinct form.  One of the great mysteries here at Painswick is the appearance of G. ‘James Backhouse’ growing in sizable clumps without ever having been purchased by the Trust or indeed the family before it. . .

I enjoyed the snowdrop collection tremendously, it was a beautiful sunny day when I visited; the sun shining on a carpet of white heads in the woodland looked as magical, if not more so, than snow.

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Tree sculpture

A fantastic work of art had been carved out of a beech tree stump, if only I could create sculptures like this with my chainsaw!

This will be my last post for a while, it’s a little in advance but I wish all of my readers a very happy Easter – roll on spring! 😀

Batsford Arboretum

A couple of weeks ago I visited Batsford Arboretum, to see their collection of trees in all their autumnal glory. I first visited Batsford two years ago in spring, when their magnolias and cherry blossom blew me away.

Views of the Arboretum

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IMG_7726I was really looking forward to seeing the arboretum at a completely different, but just as beautiful, time of year – it didn’t disappoint in any way.

Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’

Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku'

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Acer pubinerve

Acer pubinerve

Close-up

IMG_7772It has 55 acres of natural Cotswold countryside and one of the largest private tree collections in the country with almost 3,000 tree varieties.

Ginkgo biloba

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Liquidambar styraciflua

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Close-up

IMG_7688As soon as I stepped into the garden colour hit me from every direction. A fine Ginkgo biloba specimen was like a tower of gold, several Euonymus and Sorbus species had beautiful berries.

Euonymus

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Sorbus pseudohupehensis ‘Pink Pagoda’

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Close-up

Sorbus pseudohupehensis 'Pink Pagoda'

Rhus succedanea

Rhus succedaneaA small woodland area primarily of beech trees (Fagus sylvatica) was very dramatic with a carpet of russet brown leaves on the ground, mirrored in the leaves still hanging in the trees.

Woodland area

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More acers

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IMG_7652The acers truly stole the show however. From a distance every pathway was lit with a splash of red, orange or gold, as I got closer I realised every tree was an acer! Some trees looked like they were on fire in the sunlight.

Acers again

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IMG_7740I became so inspired I even wrote a quick poem! I have a lot of scribblings in my notebook that I haven’t typed up yet. . . here’s the one I wrote at Batsford:

Acer

blood red ‘Bloodgood’

foliage flickering flames

even on the greyest, dankest of days

your colour doesn’t wane

it burns, brighter and brighter

reds and golds

chasing the cold away

a light of life

on this autumn day.

Callicarpa

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Last few acers

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IMG_7769The arboretum was a truly sensational display of colour, I always think autumn is the farewell party nature throws until spring. . . and everyone’s invited. I hope you enjoyed the photos. 🙂

NaBloPoMo_2015

PGG Study Tour of the Algarve – Marilyn’s Alvor Garden

This is another post about the time I spent in Portugal earlier this year. To read the first post in this series please click here.

We visited several very different gardens during our time in the Algarve. Both Rosie and Marilyn wanted to show us the diversity in designing gardens for a Mediterranean climate, primarily with the waterwise garden theme in mind.

Perennial planting

Another view of the perennial planting

Close-up of an ornamental grass

Close-up of one of the grassesThe second garden we visited with Marilyn was in Alvor, Portimão. It was larger than the previous one and felt more cohesive as a whole to me. Marilyn explained that when the new owners of the property moved in they quickly realised that the 350 square metre lawn wasn’t making sense, financially or aesthetically. After researching Mediterranean garden styles, they opted for a naturalistic gravel garden, thickly planted with herbs, perennials and grasses.

I liked the symmetrical clumps of perennials with swathes of grasses weaving through. The mixture of different heights, colours and textures gave it a dynamic, but not overpowering, appearance. It was a clever way of manipulating the space, seemingly creating a cascading topography within a flat area.

Close-ups of the perennial planting

Clump of perennial planting

Echium candicans

Echium candicansOnce the grass was weed-killed and ploughed into the soil, a 5cm dressing of gravel was laid on top, leaving a blank canvas on which to lay out the plants. The plants were watered fortnightly through the first summer and now not at all.

It was a year since Marilyn had finished planting it, the rich loamy soil has supported extraordinary growth in the first year. The plants looked so well established it was like they had been there for years.

Lavandula stoechas

Lavandula stoechas

Another view of the garden

View of the gardenThe combination of Echium candicans with Euphorbia rigida and Salvia ‘Royal Bumble’ was striking, the red against the lime-greeney yellow was a winner. A Grevillea robusta was present, also known as the silky oak. It’s the largest species in the genus, it was a fantastic specimen in the garden.

A plant I hadn’t seen before which was used in the repeat planting was Ballota pseudodictamnus, in the Lamiaceae family. It had aromatic, white hairy leaves with small pink flowers in whorls toward the stem tips. The foliage worked well as a contrast amongst the rest of the colourful planting.

The garden again

Another view of the garden

Euphorbia myrsinites

Euphorbia myrsinitesI didn’t know the herb Sideritis cypria was used as tea in Greece, Marilyn said it has a strong citrus flavour. I was tempted to take some home and try it! An interesting climber was Stephanotis floribunda. It had white jasmine-like flowers and is common as a houseplant in the UK. Two species of honeysuckle were climbing alongside it (Lonicera japonica and L. implexa), the fragrance was overwhelming.

Stones and pebbles were used to cover the ground near the lower growing plants such as Euphorbia myrsinites as a nod to a little rockery.

Ground-cover planting

Groundcover planting

Ornamental grasses

GrassesIt was great being able to see a couple of the gardens Marilyn had designed, especially after seeing one of her presentations earlier in the week.

Plants noted:

  • Ballota pseudodictamnus
  • Dodonaea viscosa
  • Echium candicans
  • Euphorbia myrsinites
  • Euphorbia rigida
  • Grevillea robusta
  • Jasminum polyanthum
  • Lavandula stoechas
  • Lonicera implexa
  • Lonicera japonica
  • Salvia ‘Bee’s Bliss’
  • Salvia ‘Royal Bumble’
  • Salvia x jamensis
  • Sideritis cypria
  • Stephanotis floribunda
  • Strelitzia reginae
  • Yucca gigantea

NaBloPoMo_2015

PGG Study Tour of the Algarve – Marilyn’s Carvoeiro Garden

This is another post about the time I spent in Portugal earlier this year. To read the first post in this series please click here.

We visited several very different gardens during our time in the Algarve. Both Rosie and Marilyn wanted to show us the diversity in designing gardens for a Mediterranean climate, primarily with the waterwise garden theme in mind.

The rockery

View of the rockery

The rockeryWe spent the day visiting two gardens which had been Marilyn’s projects this time last year. The first one was in Carvoeiro, Lagoa, a garden nestled into the hillside. Marilyn had basically redesigned the whole garden as the previous planting wasn’t suited to the climate or overall conditions.

Both rockeries were original, Marilyn had altered the structure of both so more soil could be incorporated and to generally make them less “currant bun” like. More appropriate plants were chosen, I liked the variety of succulents and cacti used which provided great colour and texture. Echeveria setosa had wonderfully furry leaves with orange flowers, a very cute specimen! Portulacaria afra var. prostrata was similar to Crassula, a popular succulent for bonsai. This variety is a particularly low growing form.

Echeveria setosa

Echeveria setosa

View from the garden

View from the gardenWhat used to be a long strip of lawn is now a Mediterranean walk with a mixture of grasses, herbs and colourful herbaceous perennials. A weed proof membrane was laid underneath the gravel area before planting, to help keep maintenance down.

The popular hybrid cistus Cistus x purpureus (a cross between C. ladanifer and C. crispus) was used, another cistus I hadn’t heard of before was Cistus x skanbergii, a dwarf rockrose with pale pink flowers.

The Mediterranean walk

Mediterranean walk

Cistus x skanbergii

Cistus x skanbergiiThe clump planting of Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Boule’ was very effective, it sprawled across the gravel like an octopus! The fragrance was heavenly too. Syzygium paniculatum is a dense bushy rainforest tree which is used for hedging not just in Marilyn’s gardens but in quite a few gardens in the Algarve.

It was a year since Marilyn had finished planted it, I was surprised to hear no fertiliser was used prior to planting, only slight mycorrhizal fungi. Everything had established incredibly quickly and was obviously thriving.

Euphorbia rigida

Euphorbia rigida

Succulents growing along the wall

Succulents along the wallThe plants were given deep watering by hose occasionally through the first two summers, now there is no need for watering. The owners are happy as they are no longer spending small fortunes on irrigation!

The owners have recently purchased the land next door which Marilyn is taking on as a new project in September (2015). She’s hoping to turn it into a garden with a large wildflower meadow and native perennial planting.

Marilyn’s new project

The land next door, Marilyn's new project

Cyperus papyrus

Cyperus papyrus

Plants noted:

  • Aloe ferox
  • Chamaerops humilis
  • Cistus x purpureus
  • Cistus x skanbergii
  • Convolvulus cneorum
  • Cyperus papyrus
  • Echeveria setosa
  • Euphorbia rigida
  • Euphorbia characias
  • Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
  • Jacaranda mimosifolia
  • Phormium tenax
  • Portulacaria afra var. prostrata
  • Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Boule’
  • Salvia x clevelandii ‘Allen Chickering’
  • Syzygium paniculatum
  • Trachycarpus fortunei
  • Yucca gigantea

NaBloPoMo_2015

PGG Study Tour of the Algarve – Garden Visits (Part 3)

This is another post about the time I spent in Portugal earlier this year. To read the first post in this series please click here.

We visited several very different gardens during our time in the Algarve. Both Rosie and Marilyn wanted to show us the diversity in designing gardens for a Mediterranean climate, primarily with the waterwise garden theme in mind.

Our last garden visit of the day was to Rua do Cadoico, a garden near to the town centre of Loulé in the hills behind Faro, which is the personal private garden of the president of MGAP, Burford Hurry. He has been gardening in the Algarve for 26 years and has lived in his current house (and garden) for 12 of them. He comes from an African background where heat, drought and cold are not uncommon factors in gardening.

View of the house

View of the house

Irises

Irises

Rua do Cadoico is tucked away from the bustle of the town on a steeply sloping site alongside an all year round waterfall. It is terraced on three levels, with the magnificent waterfall running straight through the heart of the garden. Burford has utilised the springs to provide humid areas for different species of ferns, apparently in the olden days the women of the village came to his property and washed the clothes communally in the river as it flowed through.

The waterfall

The waterfall

Another view of the waterfall

Most of the trees were already present when he bought the property, including a huge Morus alba. The mulberry was growing on the hillside, a fantastic specimen at roughly 50 years old. It had a colourful climber, Canarina canariensis, growing through it. Also know as the Canary bell-flower, it has beautiful orangey-red veined flowers. I also loved Lantana montevidensis, a low-growing, trailing variety with purpley-pink flowers.

Morus alba

Morus alba

Another view of the house

View of the house from the bottom terrace

I noticed some interesting training techniques on certain plants. A Carissa macrocarpa had been pruned into a perfect bonsai, Punica granatum had an unusual sprawling habit and a Ceratonia siliqua which had been specifically shaped to provide shade in the garden. I liked how Burford had cleverly manipulated the plants to maximise their full potential.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the visit. The layout of the place was unique, unlike any garden I had seen before. The use of hard landscaping elements (the walls, terraces, paths and steps) enhanced the planting greatly. The use of pots filled with bulbs and succulents was also very effective.

View from the top terrace

Another view from the top terrace

View of Burford's garden from the top terrace

The balance of plants working with the natural surroundings created an atmosphere of harmony. I find the use of water in any garden relaxing, Rua do Cadoico epitomised that for me.

Selfie!

Me in the bottom terrace, photo by Rob Burstow

PGG trainees with Burford

John, Dagmar, Jo, Becky, Burford and Rob

Burford was a lovely guy, it was great to meet him and very generous of him to show us round his garden. We hopefully made a good impression for other PGG trainees who go there in the future.

Plants noted:

  • Aloe ferox
  • Bougainvillea
  • Canarina canariensis
  • Carissa macrocarpa
  • Ceratonia siliqua
  • Chamaerops humilis
  • Chrysalidocarpus lutescens
  • Clivia miniata
  • Cycas revoluta
  • Iris spuria
  • Lantana montevidensis
  • Morus alba
  • Olea europaea
  • Punica granatum
  • Strelitzia reginae
  • Tradescantia pallida
  • Zantedeschia aethiopica

NaBloPoMo_2015

PGG Study Tour of the Algarve – Garden Visits (Part 2)

This is another post about the time I spent in Portugal earlier this year. To read the first post in this series please click here.

We visited several very different gardens during our time in the Algarve. Both Rosie and Marilyn wanted to show us the diversity in designing gardens for a Mediterranean climate, primarily with the waterwise garden theme in mind.

After visiting Margaret’s garden we moved onto Viv’s. Vivian Hirst is a very experienced garden designer who has lived in the Algarve since 1981. She and her husband bought the property, Mandihari, in the 1980s and transformed the house and garden, which is nearly 3 acres in size. There was nothing there to start with except a 500 year old Quercus suber, an awe-inspiring cork oak specimen.

Views of the garden

View of the garden

View of the garden near the swimming pool

Everything else was planted, 70% of which came from seed, the other 30% was bought in. The soil is heavy clay mixed with sand, it was clear to see how appropriate plants had been chosen to suit the conditions. I found the atmosphere wonderfully peaceful, especially in the dry zone of the garden with a fantastic collection of Australian type plants.

500 year old Quercus suber

The huge cork oak tree

Close-up

Close-up of the cork oak tree

The Monet style bridge over the large ornamental pond was picture-perfect, a big Corymbia citriodora along the water’s edge added shade to an otherwise sun-baked area. It was a massive specimen, I was amazed to hear it had been grown from seed in 1984. The scent of citrus from the crushed foliage was telling as to why it is commonly known as the lemon-scented gum. It had a friend in the form of an adorable Siamese kitten basking in the shade, she was so cute I wanted to take her home!

Corymbia citriodora

Corymbia citriodora

Very cute Siamese kitten!

Very cute Siamese kitten!

Another example of a mature specimen was Eucalyptus macrocarpa, with stunning red flowers which were similar to Banksia blooms. Tipuana tipu, the Pride of Bolivia, also had stunning vivid yellow pea-like flowers. It’s the only member of the genus Tipuana.

I noticed palms we had seen before, such as Trachycarpus fortunei and Chamaerops humilis. A more unusual one was Dypsis decaryi, the triangle palm, which is native to Madagascar. It’s famously known for its tristichously arranged leaves that form a triangle.

Eucalyptus macrocarpa flower

Eucalyptus macrocarpa flower

Collection of Aechmea sp.

Collection of Aechmea sp.

I recognised Robinia pseudoacacia, the black locust tree, with hanging clusters of scented white flowers. It’s a rapid growing, deciduous tree native to North America which is a common sight in streets and parks in England. Not one of the plants I was expecting to see in the Algarve!

Another view of the garden

View of the garden from the pond

Dracaena draco trees

Dracaena draco trees

A particularly gorgeous shrub was Leptospermum scoparium, the New Zealand tea tree. It had vivid pink flowers which were practically glowing in the sunshine. Petrea volubilis had purple flowers like jasmine, a beautiful climber a tad like a tropical Wisteria.

Leptospermum scoparium

Leptospermum scoparium

View of the ornamental pond

View of the ornamental pond

Euphorbia cotinifolia, the copper bush, had deep burgundy foliage, similar to Cotinus. I loved the contrast it gave against the brilliant blue sky. Streptosolen jamesonii was a bright, evergreen shrub, its clusters of flowers change from yellow to red. It was easy to see why it’s commonly known as the marmalade bush!

Viv’s time living in the Canary Isles showed in the many choice exotic plants and trees, like the dragon trees Dracaena draco, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis and other succulents.

PGG trainees with Viv and Rosie

PGG trainees with Viv Hirst and Rosie Peddle, photo by Viv's husband

We had a quick scout round the wildflower area just outside Viv’s garden and found the common broomrape Orobanche minor as well as Opuntia ficus-indica and Echium plantagineum growing en masse.

Orobanche minor

Orobanche minor Crop

My least favourite garden!

Horrible WAG house and garden

We also saw a prime example of the type of garden not to have in the Algarve. . . It was an opposing looking house with formal lawns and hedging surrounding a huge swimming pool. Give me Viv’s garden over that any day!

Plants noted:

  • Aechmea sp.
  • Chamaerops humilis
  • Citharexylum spinosum
  • Corymbia citriodora
  • Cupressus sempervirens
  • Cycas revoluta
  • Dracaena draco
  • Duranta repens
  • Dypsis decaryi
  • Echium plantagineum
  • Eucalyptus macrocarpa
  • Euphorbia cotinifolia
  • Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
  • Justicia adhatoda
  • Kalanchoe beharensis
  • Leptospermum scoparium
  • Melianthus major
  • Musa sp.
  • Opuntia ficus-indica
  • Orobanche minor
  • Petrea volubilis
  • Quercus suber
  • Robinia pseudoacacia
  • Schinus molle
  • Senna didymobotrya
  • Spathodea campanulata
  • Streptosolen jamesonii
  • Tipuana tipu
  • Trachycarpus fortunei
  • Wisteria sinensis

NaBloPoMo_2015

PGG Study Tour of the Algarve – Garden Visits (Part 1)

This is another post about the time I spent in Portugal earlier this year. To read the first post in this series please click here.

We visited several very different gardens during our time in the Algarve. Both Rosie and Marilyn wanted to show us the diversity in designing gardens for a Mediterranean climate, primarily with the waterwise garden theme in mind.

Rosie took us to visit three gardens in one day, as well as a garden centre. The first two were near Almancil, on the coastal Algarve which were both in the litoral soil zone.

The first visit of the day was to the personal private garden of Margaret Jackson. Her background as a professional architect is shown in the house and garden she designed, it was only a quarter of an acre yet was a little piece of pure paradise.

Views of the garden

View of the garden

Another view of the garden

Margaret’s garden was right in the middle of Quinta das Salinas, Almancil, a proper urban setting. It has been established for 9 years now, a garden which showcases plantsmanship at its best.

Margaret’s dedicated interest in her garden is demonstrated by the sympathetic use of many rare plants alongside native and other more familiar plants. The use of stone, rock and gravel created texture and structure which complemented the carefully selected plants to provide colour and contrast.

View of the house and swimming pool

View of the house and swimming pool

Cistus monspeliensis

Cistus monspeliensis

It was a typical Mediterranean scene in the background with Pinus pinea, Cupressus sempervirens and Olea europaea providing much needed shade then a totally different, exotic feel in the understorey planting. Loads of various succulents and cacti, Yucca gigantea made a dramatic statement planted alongside Musa sp. The clever use of Myrtus communis as a winding hedge divided up the space and led you subtly through the garden.

Cacti with Pinus pinea in background

Cacti with Pinus pinea in background

Cistus x purpureus

Cistus x purpureus

Strelitzia nicolai was very eye-catching, the giant white bird of paradise. It had banana like foliage with a bluey-black and white inflorescence, like a dark version of Strelitzia reginae. Drosanthemum sp. and Ledebouria socialis worked well growing in pots along the edge of the swimming pool.

Strelitzia nicolai

Strelitzia nicolai

Collection of succulents and cacti

Collection of succulents and cacti

Spiraea cantoniensis ‘Reeves’ was growing as a large shrub against the wall, with gorgeous white pom-pom like flowers. Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’ was thriving, it was weird to see a rose growing next to succulents! The almost thornless stems held beautiful pinky-yellow single flowers.

Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’

Rosa x odorata 'Mutabilis'

Ledebouria socialis

Ledebouria socialis

Pride of Madeira, Echium candicans, was architecturally perfect next to various palms such as Chamaerops humilis and Trachycarpus fortunei. The collection of Kalanchoe was interesting, K. tetraphylla worked well growing in pots, K. beharensis had gorgeous velvety grey foliage – easy to see why it is commonly known as the feltbush.

Melianthus major flower spike

Melianthus major flower spike

Wisteria sinensis

Wisteria sinensis

Little or no water is required to maintain the plants now they are established. Margaret employs one gardener to help maintain her garden now, apparently he is a scavenger who will acquire plants from anywhere, usually unlabelled! The challenge is then identifying them and seeing if they’ll work in the garden or not.

PGG trainees with Margaret

PGG trainees with Margaret Jackson, photo by Rosie Peddle

Margaret’s garden was an absolute delight from start to finish, the kind of place I can imagine myself designing someday.

Plants noted:

  • Aechmea sp.
  • Aeonium castello-paivae
  • Agave attenuata
  • Aloe ferox
  • Catananche caerulea
  • Chamaerops humilis
  • Cistus monspeliensis
  • Cistus x purpureus
  • Clivia miniata
  • Coreopsis sp.
  • Convolvulus cneorum
  • Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca
  • Cupressus sempervirens
  • Cussonia paniculata
  • Cycas revoluta
  • Dietes iridioides
  • Dracaena fragrans
  • Drosanthemum sp.
  • Echium candicans
  • Gaura lindheimeri
  • Geranium maderense
  • Kalanchoe beharensis
  • Kalanchoe daigremontiana
  • Kalanchoe tetraphylla
  • Ledebouria socialis
  • Libertia formosa
  • Limonium latifolium
  • Lobelia tupa
  • Melianthus major
  • Monstera deliciosa
  • Musa sp.
  • Myrtus communis
  • Olea europaea
  • Phoenix roebelenii
  • Phormium tenax
  • Pinus pinea
  • Quercus suber
  • Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’
  • Spiraea cantoniensis ‘Reeves’
  • Strelitzia nicolai
  • Strelitzia reginae
  • Trachycarpus fortunei
  • Wisteria sinensis
  • Yucca gigantea

NaBloPoMo_2015