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!

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