Friday, 22 December 2017

A Visit To.......The Living Rainforest

I woke up on Sunday with an urge for a botanical type visit to somewhere new, so we did a bit of Googling and decided to pootle off to The Living Rainforest, just off the M4 near Newbury.
I am super interested at the moment in the way people are embracing houseplants and keen to remind folk that houseplants are garden and forest plants in other climes and I am trying to work out how we link the two things so that indoor gardeners realise that they are a part of the gardening community, even if they are just getting planty indoors. Anyway that's for another day!!

The Living Rainforest is on the site of what was Wyld Court Orchids in Hampstead Norreys in Berkshire, and is run by the Trust for Sustainable Living. The greenhouses now house three separate rainforest zones, with appropriate planting, and some wildlife, from each in the separate zones. Sadly when we were there the sloth was hiding, but we did see his back. What amazed me the most is that the centre supports 23,000 school children per year to learn about the rainforest and it's importance for the planet, which for me makes it a space I will always want to support. If we are to change the way we perceive the world we have to turn children and young people into passionate environmentalists who will use future votes to make sure we protect what effectively protects us.

I am not going to bore you with lots of words here because the photos really do speak for themselves, but what I will say is that this is a great place to visit with or without children, and if you are at all interested in what we today see as houseplants in their natural environments or just with each other as they would be in rainforests across the world, this is a great place to visit. Plus, go once, and you have a ticket for a year!!

Jade Vine (Strongyloden macrobotrys) from the Philippines.
Monstera deliciosa and water lettuce in one of the ponds. 
Anthurium veitchii. The leaf was as tall as me!
Madagascan Periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus)
More ponds and more Monstera!

For further info and visiting details go to the website at

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

The New Garden.........

I have had several social media requests for an update on the new garden so I thought a little something would be a good idea in the run up to Christmas festivities. As many of you will know we don't celebrate Christmas here at Venn Towers, preferring to celebrate the solstice and just take time out of our busy lives to rest and recuperate over the festive period. And with that usually comes a whole lot of preparation for the garden, ensuring that we are ready for the months ahead when life with my own space and supporting 41 others usually gets a tad manic. There is also a very new and exciting incredible edible Bristol project I need to tell you about soon, so watch this space for that!!
The aquaponics unit, surrounded by pots of bulbs

Thus far I have really done very little. The garden is completely gravel so there has been a lot of weeding to do and that will need keeping up with as the blighters continue to germinate despite the cold. The aquaponics unit is in place and the fish survived the move, and we are working to make the system more sustainable next year with a solar pump and aeration but I will return to that once we get the equipment. My pots have been weeded and a fair few filled with bulbs so there will be some colour in late spring, and I have bought a bit of bedding to alleviate the grey.

But what has been most exciting is a conversation I had with Burgon and Ball who have kindly agreed to gift me some products to really support the use of the whole space, whilst turning the garden into a really sociable as well as productive and beautiful space. At the weekend we put up the first of these which is a great peg board on which tools can be kept, as well as other bits and pieces which in my life usually end up being flung somewhere only to be found several weeks later, usually a bit the worse for wear!! I also have some of their amazing Flora Brite tools in pink, which should ensure my habit of going through lots of tools is abated because in a tiny space there is no way I can lose those tools. Or at least I hope that is the case! What I am most excited about with this type of product is that it, as well as the rest of the range it belongs to,  the Garden Supplies range, can be used inside or outside, or anywhere in between, so people with balconies or just window boxes, could still use this range. For example I have the herb planters on my kitchen windowsill, bringing the garden into the kitchen.

So that is where we are so far. There will be lots more to come over the following weeks so do keep an eye open for updates and let me know in the comments if there is anything in particular you'd like to know more about.