Tom Hart Dyke's Blog


Wintry Wonderland

A belated Happy New Year Dear Blogging World!!! Brrrr what a wintry blast of late that has delightfully painted the British Landscape in dazzling carpeting hues of white. In The World Garden the snow has created a therapeutic silence. With the onset of the white stuff – nearby busy roads, aircraft above and the nearby clattering of trains mystically fall silent. What a silencer snow is. Releasing a calming state as I magically and crunchingly tread from a chilly Chile, entrancingly passing an icicle endowed snow covered Pineapple in Southern Brazil (this glass and copper structure has proved remarkably winter hardy!!!). A wry soothing smile exposes my crack lips and I head to the heart of Australia and observe a smattering of wintry weather on the apex of Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) – my smile advances to a chuckle as I traverse the Ethiopian Highlands and from afar, focus on our wet, drought and frost tolerant Baobab Sculpture (an 8ft tall, 1 tonne specimen made of thick metal wire). Such a tough specimen! What a magical winter wonderland.

I’ve braved the inclement weather to check on our vulnerable plants that require various forms of winter protection. Two nights of minus 10C coupled with heavy snowfall – have lead to a couple of sleepless nights laced with frost tender worry. The polytunnels which house the cactus/succulent and warm temperate diverse collections are in fine fettle. The propane gas and electric heaters are whirring away at full stretch to keep my frost tender babies nice and snug whilst preventing the internal temperature from dropping to freezing point. The gallantly rotating cold air ‘office’ fans maintain a buoyant atmosphere, reducing fungal diseases such as botrytis often prevalent in enclosed horticultural structures and encourage an evenly balanced temperature spread throughout almost negating cold and indeed hot spots.

I approach Mexico with a huge sigh of plant filled relief; the nearby cold frames to protect the South American Bromeliads such as Puya spathacea and Fascicularia bicolor subsp. canaliculata are holding fast and crucially the temporary polytunnel complete with foundations that Myself, Alison and Mario construct every autumn is more than holding its own. Inches of snow decoratively compress the plastic roof but crucially this plastic is keeping out the winter wet – the biggest killer for succulently inclined plants such as Opuntia (“Prickly Pear”), Agaves including the “Century Plant” – Agave americana and Yuccas (Spanish Daggers”). Provided these Mexican and SW USA plants including their root system are kept dry in the winter – you can substantially diversify your botanical collection. Please note that this 50 odd foot long and 20 odd foot wide structure is open ended and along its length is a gap of some 2 feet. These spaces induce crucial air moment with the aim of decreasing air moisture density within the structure – keeping the atmosphere surrounding the plants as desiccated as feasibly possible. 

As much as I admire the wintry transformation - thankfully its freezing hours are numbered and the Gulf Stream will soon be upon us - casting its mild thawing spell.



Bloggers where have I been psychedelically transported too? I was deposited in horticultural heaven. I had escaped The World Garden for the first time since my magnificent Moroccan escapades in February together with my dear sister Anya and her fiancé Stephen. My chlorophyll zipped through my lungs replacing NW Kentish air molecules with the energy of zinging fresh, sparkling even, far NW Scottish Gulf Stream endowed entities. I was encompassed by my first encounter of the iconic Fly Agaric Toadstools; had my coarse tongue subliminally licked the skin of that strikingly coloured yet poisonous, symmetrically phallic toadstool? I whooshed in a further deep razor lichen breath, scintillating my chilly billy nasal hairs and closed the lids over my horticulturally burning retinas. I was hazily in multiple far flung lands – TASMANIA! CHILE! NEW ZEALAND! SOUTH AFRICA! SOUTH AMERICA! CHINA! JAPAN! Upon opening my sedated eyes I confusingly remained in all of these regions: Only Idyllic Inverewe Gardens in Scotland can have this hallucinogenic effect.

Inverewe is ‘tropically’ endowed - being perfectly positioned to take full plant filled advantage of the strong Gulf Stream influence – despite being further North than Moscow!! This pristine yet rugged 54 acre botanical extravaganza seamlessly blends into the rugged landscape whilst overlooking a saline Loch Ewe bursting with bubbly seaweed. There was plenty to satisfy Tom the plant nut - being bowled over by a range of plants from every corner of our green globe. Towering “Woolly Tea Trees” (Leptospermum lanigerum), a splendidly buttressing “Cider Gum” (Eucalyptus gunnii), countless twisted trunks precariously spurting from rocky outcrops endowed with hugely ornate white/pink stripy sumptuous gum bark plastered “The Tasmanian Snow Gum” (Eucalyptus coccifera), and peppery, tongue numbing (should you endeavour to chew it!) Drimys lanceolata couple with a knock-out understorey stand of Dicksonia antarctica (“Tree Fern”) all rushingly bought back delightful flashbacks of my plant hunting Tasmanian adventures from yesteryears.

It would be botanical rude not to mention a couple of other stunners that engorged my already chlorophyll shot eye-balls! Hailing from Chile I give you Fascicularia bicolor subsp. canaliculata. A mound forming borderline hardy bromeliad with dazzlingly red coloured leaves that are only produced to coincide with flowering thus cleverly attracting ornithological pollinators – a beauty. And not to be too biased towards Chile – but my poll position plant without a green shadow of a doubt goes to the half hardy small suckering shrub - Philesia magellanica. A monotypic genus related to the Chilean Bell Flower – Lapageria rosea – and with irresistibly caressingly waxy sparkling flowers.

Well bloggers this is just a snapshot of what is a horticulturally orgasmic National Trust for Scotland run kaleidoscopic garden that you simply have to visit.................

Warm October Wishes Bloggers,

Tom – the plant nut .x.

For further information on Inverewe Gardens contact (0844) 4932225


Marvellous Morocco:

A massively belated New Year Wishes Dear Bloggers. In fact Chilly Billy Willy Wishes – For the last seven days I haven’t observed a ‘mercury high’ above 2C! Still this is positively tropical compared to Nov/Dec 2010 with a -15.4C with 23 days of no daily increment rise above -0.5C. Bonkers!

Right Bloggers, on with the subject matter for today – My recent 5 day plant hunting jaunt to delightful Morocco. Accompanying Tom The Plant Nut was his best friend and legendary travel companion from years passed Tom Stobbart (see photo at bottom). Yes, bloggers someone who wanted to travel with me! In faithful Tom I had someone who could simply put up with the verbal barrage of plant filled banter, such a good understanding friend.

Tom, what was the mission statement of your premier North African first trip? In short, to visit one of the most famous gardens in the world – Jardin Majorelle, in bustling Marrakech - plus with a 4X4 vehicle from the buzzing souks & smoky food markets of Marrakech hit the road upwards climbing towards 4,000 metres in altitude into the centre of the High Atlas Mountains. Wowsers Readers, did we make every minute count, more than fulfilling the above mission statement.

First off, Tom and I were literally horticulturally & meditatively blown away by an astonishing garden located in the heart of Marrakech.  Jardin Majorelle was founded in 1924 by the French painter & plant collector Jacques Majorelle and more recently owned and restored by Yves Saint Laurent. It’s known as one of the finest gardens on our green globe and after our visit – I couldn’t dispute this claim. As we entered the gardens walls – the chaotic hustle and bustle of Marrakech (those mopeds were determined to catch us unawares!) - Simply melted away, replaced with an air of calming tranquillity sweeping both mind and soul under the horticultural carpet; a subdued entranced state kicked and seeped its way into our bodies. I felt the urge to sit down as we became ‘jellified’ in our new ‘wonderfully spaced out state’!

The sound of rustling 40 foot bamboos, an array of calming water features, deep rusty red glazed tiled pathways, an awesomely diverse range of plants in particular palm trees and cacti and above all the wacky coloured sickly yellow and green urns really oozed excitement and eccentricity. The finishing splendid touch for moi was the cobalt blue path edges and walls – a total knock out! This devastatingly strong blue set off the cacti brilliantly well – such as in the photo of the “Mexican Barrel Cactus” - Echinocactus grusonii.

A mystical force enraptured, entranced and mesmerized the hoards of international visitors when we visited – including two young men from Southern England!

Wide ranging bloggers, you’ve got to visit this spell binding cool green space – I’m definitely returning one fine day!

Then off to the dizzy height of The High Atlas Mountains, with my dear friend Tom acquiring a delightful grinning smile as he took control of our 4X4 Monster Hire Truck. With black smoke belching out of the exhaust we headed for some of the highest peaks in North Africa only a couple hours drive away from Marrakech. From a lazy croissant endowed breakfast in a sun baked Sub-Saharan style landscape in Marrakech lined with the world renowned “Date Palm” – Phoenix dactylifera (see photo) – we ascended via the Ourika Valley to the dizzy peak endowed heights exceeding 4,000m and into a completely different transitionally changing alpine zone – arriving for lunch at North Africa’s Only Ski Resort – Yes Readers – I did type SKI RESORT! EXTRAORDINARY!

At this altitude the UV Rays stepped up their campaign, our lungs had to work overtime with depleted oxygen – and all of this whilst eating outside Central European style chalets, dressed to the hilt and munching on a special meat stew – Horse Meat! Any more surreal? I think not readers! I promise you in the photo, behind Tom eating his lovely ‘high altitude stew’ – are snow covered peaks with a substantial ski lift! Coupled with hundreds of locals chaotically & frantically lapping up the white stuff, in ski’s, snowboards & toboggans! AWESOME!

The highlight for me though in The Moroccan ‘Alps’ – was observing a pure stand of the majestic Atlas Cedar – Cedrus atlantica in its native habitat – bringing back vivid fond memories of our ancient cedars here at Lullingstone.

All in all a fabulosus trip – with a return trip definitely on the horticulturally endowed cards!

Stay Warm Readers,
Tom - The plant enthusiast.x

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