Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5

We began our last day of this glorious tour visiting two epic stops that will necessitate me dividing this days tour into two posts. The first half was at the Chelsea Physic Garden and later that day, the Chelsea Flower Show, which you can imagine is a monster post on its own. Chelsea Physic Garden

Chelsea Physic Garden was founded in 1673, as the Apothecaries’ Garden, with the purpose of training apprentices in the identification and use of medicinal plants. The location was chosen due to its proximity to the River Thames. This allowed the Apothecaries to moor their barge, collect plants in the surrounding areas and take advantage of the river’s warm air currents, which contribute to the Garden’s unique microclimate. River access also allowed plants arriving from around the World to be introduced to the British Isles via the Garden. Its international reputation was established early on as a result of the global seed exchange scheme, known as Index Seminum, which it initiated in the 1700’s and continues to this day.
Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5
You can imagine our groups collective “Ooohs and aaaaaahs” when we came upon this sign outside the garden. We were all giddy with excitement on our last and most glorious day of the tour.
Chelsea Physic Garden
Our intrepid tour guide Carolyn Mullet, who is an amazing designer in her own right made sure we all felt truly spoiled on this trip and today was no exception!
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Though we were all bundled up in May, it was classic London gray weather. Nothing was going to stop us from enjoying this amazing day. We had a fabulous lunch in the Physic Garden before heading out either for formal tours or independent exploration of this historic location.
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I’m SUCH a foodie, I just had to show you our dessert! decadent chocolate cake with creme fraiche! A most excellent send off to the extravaganza that lay ahead of us. 🙂
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This artistic garden is all about health and medicinals. I took particular note of the artistry in how they displayed and used all manner of plants here. I love the twig bundles arranged on this path that will feature a bounty of ‘Lord Nelson’ sweet peas.
Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5
There were an enormous number of details to take in during this short time we had to explore in this extraordinary city garden.
Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5
Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5
One of my favorite spots in this garden demonstrated the context of where we were standing so beautifully; right smack in a busy and dense neighborhood in London only blocks from the River Thames with both row houses and high rises all around us. And yet here we are in a garden that is hundreds of years old and still going strong.

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5
Take note of this garden art and the medical symbology here, you will see it again in an amazing garden at the show!

Whatever the snake and stick mean, the rod should not be confused with another snake & stick combo: the caduceus, featuring two snakes, a stick and wings, that’s often used as a symbol of medicine in the U.S. The staff is said to have been that of Hermes, the messenger of the Greek gods.

Historically, serpents and snakes represent fertility or a creative life force. As snakes shed their skin through sloughing, they are symbols of rebirth, transformation, immortality, and healing. The ouroboros is a symbol of eternity and continual renewal of life.

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I was beyond shocked to see this incredible Echium not just existing, but blooming in May in cool, damp London! When they said micro-climate they weren’t kidding!

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5

Ther must have been some significance to this bust I’m sure, but the placement was unique, down low in the geranium!

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5

Intimate, shady paths wound through parts of this garden that featured shade plants and a fernery right behind me.

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5

“Rooms” in the garden were intended to feature groups of plants for varied uses in medicine, health, and wellness.

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5

Handsomely handcrafted waddle fences of different heights, styles, and materials confined various groupings of interests and plantings within the garden for study.

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5
In a garden that has a very specific focus and intent, design with floral focus in mind was mostly understated. But, then you look at and appreciate them, even more, when you see them stand up and say “Take my picture!”

Our time was VERY limited, so we had to scoot through this garden in time enough to go stand in line for our check-in time at the Chelsea Flower Show. SQUEEEEEEE!

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5

We walked just a few short blocks from the Chelsea Physic Garden to our staging spot for the Chelsea Flower Show, but what a view on our walk along the river. The photo makes it look SO peaceful when in fact it was nutty bananas with traffic and humans.

Something THIS show does that is unusual is that when you get your tickets to the show, you are assigned an entry time. So, you get in the queue and wait your turn for entry. Our time was later in the day as the light was fading and this photographer was panicking. 🙂

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 5
But, as you can now see, we made it in! Now you just have to stay tuned for the final chapter that covers this incredible one of a kind show!!!

101 Organic Gardening Hacks -Book Review

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Not many gardening books are as adorably friendly as 101 Organic Gardening Hacks, Eco-Friendly Solutions to Improve Any Garden, but then you likely have never encountered a gardener like Shawna Coronado either. Shawna brings an infectious energy to everything she does, whether it’s through her online presence on social media, radio, television, videos or her other books such as Grow a Living Wall or her guides to gardening in Indiana and Illinois.

This book is filled, front to back with charming and colorful graphics that are eye-catching without being childish, colorful but not cartoonish. They add just the right amount of lightness to make this book feel fun while you’re learning something new.

The format for this book (from here we’ll use the acronym “101 OGH’sfor short) makes it easy to use with sections each named for a different group of “hacks”. If you’re not sure what a “hack” is, it’s simply a slang term for a shortcut or quick solution to anything from a recipe to computer problem. The book starts out with  “Dirty Rotten Hacks” aimed at giving you easy to follow tips on all things soil, and compost. Throughout 101 OGH’s other sections we get ideas on a wide variety of topics including seed starting, landscaping and even outdoor lifestyle.

One of my favorite topics was hack number 25 titled “Stay Away From Toxic Tools” on page 40. Citing research from the internationally recognized Ecology Center of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Shawna’s clearly well-researched book explains the recent problems with garden hoses containing phthalates, BPA, lead, tin and more. 101 OGH’s makes an excellent case for going the extra mile to get drinking water safe garden hoses.

Hack number 92 is one that speaks in particular to my penchant for designing with foliage, “Plant Foliage for Shade Color” on page 143. You will find well thought out options for plant choices, both traditional and tropical that are colorful for shade as well as those that thrive in tough conditions such as limited soil and dense roots under trees. Even going so far as to mention getting a soil test if necessary and consulting an arborist before digging if the safety of valuable tree roots is concerning.

Full of fun photos many from Shawna’s very own garden, 101 OGH’s is user-friendly for beginning gardeners but full of great tips and reminders for experienced gardeners as well.
It would make a smart gift for the organic gardener in your life!

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 4

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Let’s geek out on architecture for a few moments, shall we? When I travel, I am at least as motivated to capture shots of fascinating architecture as much as fantastic gardens. And on THIS portion of the trip, I was utterly stunned.

Our fantastic CarexTours guides thankfully had us staying here at the Ettington Park Hotel near Stratford-Upon-Avon in Warwickshire for two nights last spring because I think I would have thrown a fit otherwise. This grand building deserved the attention. I only wish I could see it again in summer.

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We arrived in the late afternoon on a typical spring day in the UK, gray, sprinkling, chilly and windy. But, we were rewarded with such incredible drama from this Grand Dame we didn’t even notice.

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The entry hall was ready for us with bikes, umbrellas and even Welly’s to borrow!

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Once we were all given our rooms it was time to do a bit of exploring while dinner was being prepped. This was our private dining room where I felt SO under dressed!

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Our incredible dining room even had hidden passageways of course!

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The main salon just off a tiny little bar area was exquisite, my colors!!!

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The view from our dining room was looking toward the remains of this once private chapel for the family who originally built this incredible property.

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The hotel and recently undergone a major renovation and they did a wonderful job bringing this folly back to life. Wouldn’t it be fun to be there during an event?

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My own room was AMAZING. Though I didn’t shoot pics of it because it was quite modern in contrast. My bathroom was GIANT!

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Though it was still quite brisk, you could feel spring and I bet this garden get more beautiful by the day!

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The color of the wisteria blooms was incredible against the warm golds of the local stone used to build this enormous building.

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Hotel guests having fun goofing with this photographer while waiting for dinner service to begin!

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Everywhere you looked, the details imparted by artisans of bygone era’s were sumptuous and truly a sight to behold. The hotel told us that they believe it’s haunted as staff regaled us with stories of ghostly sightings in the halls.

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Can you imagine the time and level of attention to detail that each doorway took to make?
It was truly a reflection of wealth, power, and devotion to the church and state.

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Visiting the ruins of the former chapel was in and of itself spiritual. Maybe it was just me, but in the quiet, all by myself, it was like you could physically feel the history all around you. I could have photographed it for days.

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There was a tremendous amount of history here. This was a space where children were laid to rest.

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I realize these are a bit challenging to read, but if you can, take the time to try, it will be so worth it!

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Incredible details like this were everywhere inside the dark chapel area. There was a closed off portion still quite intact that a few people got a tour of, I wasn’t on the ball enough to get that tour, but I got to see other parts of the property that no one else paid attention to so it balanced out!

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One of my favorite shots because you can see the hotel through the one portion of broken glass.

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More details from the chapel!

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Epic Cedar of Lebanon standing guard near the chapel as we look back toward the hotel and a ray of sun!

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The gorgeous mature trees gave such a feeling of intimacy on this property.

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Heading away from the hotel to the back of the property, we were told there were even Roman ruins here at one point too. This path I followed took me past the employee living quarters and the old tennis court behind this wall. Forget me Nots abound!

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Honeysuckle takes its victim. 🙂

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On top of one of the maintenance buildings….can you imagine how incredible this must have been at one time? The copper alone must have been quite something!

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Then you turn to see THIS! Glowing fields of rape seed were incredibly dreamy.

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These horses seemed to have a GREAT life!!!

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Heading back to the hotel before dark, one last look at the scene. Sigh……

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Night time fell and she lit up like a fairytale castle. Off to bed and the next incredible place we visited! Stay tuned!

If you liked this post, go to THIS link and see about taking a tour with CarexTours for yourself. I was incredibly impressed and felt it was a truly life changing experience!
Until next post, CHEERS!

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens with CarexTours Pt. 3

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Spring at the Pettifers garden in Oxfordshire owned and designed by Gina Price is a privilege to behold. Upon arriving, you have no idea the delightful spectacle that awaits you through the beautiful gate.

 

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The front of Gina Price’s home gives only a minimal taste of what you’re about to see. Our tour group came in through the larger gates on the entry drive. 

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This fantastic color was only mildly foretelling of the visual treat we were in for during this lovely visit.

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Wouldn’t you LOVE for this to be your garage? I could have photographed just THIS for half the day, there were SO many fantastic details to take in and it was so neat and tidy!

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Then you turn and take in the incredible old country home before you. Since 1984 Gina Price has been gardening here after her inspiration from learning about the “New Perennial Movement” that emphasized featuring grasses within the mixed border. Her interest in focusing on perennials rather than the tradition of roses and shrubs became the theme of the garden.

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Keeping certain larger formally clipped, traditional shrubs for the effect of defining spaces served this garden very well!

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I could not take my eyes off of the two urns placed on top of the pedestals filled with succulents in cracks and crevices. The blending of two seemingly distant trends in the garden of traditional, old world and the new ways of using practical sedum for color, texture and low maintenance beauty were magical!

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The deep borders displayed voluptuous colors in both flowers and foliage and were incredibly well designed. Combining both old world planting style with 21st century ideas came together expertly.

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Drifts of spring perennials and bulbs worked together in harmony. I would have loved to be able to see this garden in fall too!

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Renowned for the formal parterre garden of clipped boxwood and yew, it also had a quite graceful, casual flair as well.

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Far from the house, this portion of the garden featured more demure color. This clematis must really be a sight in summer!

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Seating both intended for socializing, view gazing or solitary contemplation marked spots all over the property.

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I love the artistic nature and placement of these smooth wooden chairs and the unusual shapes that reminded me of oxen yoke.

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A broader shot that shows the lower part of the garden away from the house and the beautiful rolling hills and glowing rape seed growing in the distance make for an iconic view.

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So many plants to photograph, so little time! 

 

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Happy gardeners! 

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Terrific backdrop for garden loving couples! 

 
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Gina Price on the far right generously toured all of us through her exquisite landscape answering all of our questions before serving all of us proper tea and crisps.

 

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Pettifers also enjoys having a very talented garden assistant on site who had a wonderfully encyclopedic memory for plants and the history behind the garden too. It was a pleasure chatting with her!

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It was our good fortune to be visiting this garden in spring to catch it at the beginning of the growing season all fresh and lovely. What a garden!

Want your very own taste of the English countryside in spring? Click HERE for more information on the spring tours that are about to happen for 2017 and how to secure your own spot. GO-CLICK-NOW! 🙂 

Who is the BIGGEST Sexiest Tease in the Garden?

Winter Garden in The Seattle Arboretum- The Personal Garden Coach

The Winter Garden at the Seattle Arboretum

If November is about the slowing down and putting the landscape to bed for a few months, and December is about focusing on our indoor garden, then January is surely about the long, hazy dream of what a landscape COULD be with catalogs and wish lists, but what is February? February is the TEASE. The spell you can’t break. The sexy, lusty, take you right to the edge TEASE.

It’s the itch you just can’t scratch, the pleasure behind desire. You nearly break into a sweat at the faintest whiff of daphne perfume. The thrust of a brand new tropical plant in front of you that you simply must have because it nearly makes you forget your own name. The subtle mention of when we might get a glimpse of skin-baring (or fleece shedding) sun sends thrills up your spine.

The sensual act of browsing the garden tool aisles has you imagine your skill and prowess using them is nearly enough to send you over the edge. And as you gently brush up against watering tools and seed packets or sexy bulbs swollen and ready for planting, it’s almost too much to take. Yes, February is the ultimate spring tease all right, nature is a powerful summons.

Winter Garden in The Seattle Arboretum- The Personal Garden Coach

The Winter Garden at the Seattle Arboretum

Your seeds might be started inside, under the hot, horticultural, sexy glow of electric stimulation. Or maybe you are just playing it cool, having been burned by the tease before and not being able to fully complete the act before a late cold snap yanked you back to your senses.

Yes, you KNOW exactly what I mean. In February we achingly want to be outside, it’s almost an inner panic, a dizziness that only working in the soil will satisfy. But the cold, rain and snow has us locked up behind our computers, wantonly ogling others fertile blooms and foliage in warmer locales where they are already harvesting the rewards.

I am certainly NOT immune to this. I too have been exquisitely frustrated and come close to reaching out for the long distance satisfaction of a warmer climate landscape. In fact, I am maintaining my “grounds-keeping” (wink wink nudge nudge) just in case such an occasion pops us where I can hop on a plane at a moments notice to indulge my cravings. I am NOT above flirting with the idea of leering at a landscape in Santa Barbara or the Spanish Riviera to fulfill my gardening appetites and refine my gluttony for the fine bouquet of warmer air.

There is a palpable attraction to jumping on a plane to a landscape where there are bees buzzing over HOT flower sex, stigmas, pistils, receptacles, ovules…Oh my! But there is a point when it just feels wrong. It’s like I am breaking a sacred bond with late winters essence. When my credit card and my self-respect simply have to say, enough is enough.

Winter Garden in The Seattle Arboretum- The Personal Garden Coach

The Winter Garden at the Seattle Arboretum

I have to embrace what I have here at home. No, really! Until I can cultivate my horticultural design thirsts in less expensive and more meaningful ways. I can appreciate those mouth-watering, handsome landscapes that make me swoon feverishly from my corner of the country for a wee bit longer. I will learn how NOT to give in to the luscious gluttony of plants that I can’t have and landscapes that I will never come to know physically. I will resist the temptation of flying out-of-town to have a fling with another climate. I will refuse delivery on the notion that I MUST escape my day-to-day gray and I will maintain what respect I have left for my commitment to rain-wear and fleece.

The urges and wantonness that February propels us toward are soon going to be satisfied by March. It’s only a little longer and surely, I can keep my urges under control until then, right? RIGHT?! OK, I realize now that what I really want February to do is to take it slow. To gradually, deliberately move in a way that makes me tingle with each and every bud taking its sweet time to emerge – NOT TOO FAST now! We don’t want to rush things. I’m going to savor every single wet, spring kiss. I’m going to be aware and appreciative of every moment and of the enchantment of it, for real this time. If it has to be an un-hurried build-up to the mind bending explosion of outdoor excitement in July and August, then so be it, I relent.

Winter Garden in The Seattle Arboretum- The Personal Garden Coach

The Winter Garden at the Seattle Arboretum

The best thing I can do right now is relax and to give in to the tease, to enjoy the craving. I don’t want to rush with too much fervor right past the delicate dance of the early spring. This weakness in my self-control could ruin my appetite for later. Isn’t Mother Natures role in this whole thing to bring us the aphrodisiac, the splendid appetizers before the feast? Maybe curled up in front of the fire, basking in the arousal of a plant catalog is just the sort of titillation we all need to get by, at least for a few more weeks right?

We can do this. I may need to invest in some more Cinnamon Whiskey – but we can do this, after all, we’re ALL Hort-heads of one sort or another. Whether we like to admit it publicly or not- we all WANT it. But, now is the time for calm, for dignified behavior, for waging the war on lust.

So, bring it on February – wait a minute its March next week? Ha! I’m heading out-of-town for a plant show!!

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November Sun – Cold Color Celebration

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Sunny November days in Seattle are a pure unadulterated bonus. Our gardening climate is alternately dazzling and maddening at the same time. The depth of gray in winter seems to last forever and the utterly outstanding glory of summer here fall at the opposite end of our horticultural universe for an exquisitely painful short period of time.

“November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.”
–   Emily Dickinson

We can grow such wide array of plants here that it makes many in other parts of the world green with envy. So, on a crystalline blue-sky day like today, it feels like we are COMMANDED to get outside and document its glory for everyone to see. I did just that in my robe and jammies this morning for you! If nothing else, it may just be to document it for us so that when we are nearly suicidal on the gray days in January and we want to hop a plane to Las Vegas, we remember why we live here.

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Fatsia Japonica blooms

It occurred to me as I took this shot that the years of the heaviest Fatsia bloom, we’ve also had the hardest winter. Hmmmmm……..

We rely on many a Huechera for some November color here in the Northwest because we don’t really have too many flowers at all. So the WIDE variety of foliage colors are a very welcome sight here in gray land.

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Note the Fuchsia near the bottom still doing her thing! I scared the (bleep) out of a poor local Hummingbird trying to get this shot. Ooops!

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Another plant that “tolerates” our wet cold winter climate, is Phormium, or New Zealand Flax. You need to understand that I do say this somewhat tongue in cheek today. I lost about 27 of them a few years back after an ice storm. When the cold almost 2 inches of thick ice melted off of them, they actually looked fine until they succumbed to Crown Rot.
That was about 5 years ago now and I have recovered from my cynacism toward them, but only enough to have two. So, far. I just refuse to fall in love again and have my gardeners heart and wallet broken again. 🙂

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Having said that, I do have a torrid love affair with my Fatshedera. If I have to buy a new one every year, I’m cool with that. This variegated one was particularly lovely with cold weather color and the light of the morning coming through her.

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“If I’m ever reborn, I want to be a gardener—
there’s too much to do for one lifetime!” 

–   Karl Foerster

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