Happy Feet

pink plastic ankle boots
It’s not just the jolly colours of the Nordic Grip Wets that make them great winter footwear in the garden or out and about, it’s the patented IceLock non-slip technology that was originally developed by the South Korean military to ensure they stayed on their feet in icy conditions. Apparently the rubber compound sole contains micro-glass filaments that are electrostatically aligned to give grip and traction.  They also happen to be waterproof, fleece lined, and very easy to put on and take off.  They are also incredibly comfortable, so much so that when my pair arrived I wore them round the house for an entire afternoon until persuaded that it did look slightly eccentric.  Nordic Grips are available in 5 colours for £44.95 from www.cuckooland.commulti-coloured boot

Australian Mistletoe

mistletoe growing from a tree in AustraliaOn our visit to Cranbourne Botanic Garden, the curator pointed out the Australian version of our mistletoe – which is parasitic exclusively on eucalyptus.  It so effectively mimics the foliage of its host that I don’t think I would have noticed it if it hadn’t been shown to me.  With my eye in, I saw it everywhere – the giveaway is that its leaves are generally greener and more densely clustered than those of the tree.

The Ubiquitous Eucalyptus

Snowy Mountains of Australia

Snowy Mountains

It’s not until you get to Australia that you realise that eucalyptus has adapted itself to just about  every type of climate variation – wet, dry, mountainous and marine – everywhere we went there seemed to a eucalyptus that was adapted to the habitat. We saw snow gums in the  Snowy Mountains, towering 100ft specimens in the rainforests and admired the marvellously mottled trunks of those fringing the Pacific Ocean. Impressive.

Silvery snow gum trees

Silvery snow gums

Wet rainforest of Australia

Wet rainforest

Dry rainforest of Australia

Dry rainforest

View through the mottled eucalyptus trunks to the ocean

View through the mottled eucalyptus trunks to the ocean

eucalyptus towering above beach with blue skies above

Gardens by the Bay Singapore

Gardens by the Bay SingaporeOne of the highlights of the visit to Singapore was our visit to the Gardens by the Bay. I read a lot about them when they first opened in 2011, but photos showed something that still looked quite raw and I wasn’t sure that they would be worth visiting. How wrong I was – firstly because Singapore is close to the equator so everything has grown at a prodigious rate and secondly because it is quite breathtaking in scale and imagination.
There are three elements to these gardens – a tropical garden that covers the entire site, the giant metal ‘super trees’ that are part sculpture, part plant support, and two biomes that are cooled to allow them to grow cloud forest plants in one and Mediterranean-climate flowering plants in the other.

We took a guided buggy tour round the outdoor garden to avoid flagging in the heat and humidity and then returned in the late afternoon to see some of the plants that had caught my eye. These included the extraordinary and aptly named cannonball tree (apparently the flowers smell divine and the fruit smells foul), the frangipani trees (Plumeria) with their deliciously fragrant waxy flowers and on a non-botanical note, Mark Quinn’s huge and extraordinary floating baby statue which hovers on invisible supports above a mound of grass.
the fruit of the cannonball tree  on the tree itselfyellow flowering pulmeriaMark Quinn’s huge and extraordinary floating baby statue
The metal ‘super trees’ are increasingly clothed in climbers and settling into their surroundings rather well. There’s a restaurant at the top of the tallest and sky walks between some of them to give wonderful views over the entire garden.metal super trees clothed in climbers
Of the two biomes, it was the cloud forest that was most spectacular with a central 35 metre high ‘mountain’ and waterfall. The vegetation on the mountain was lush and authentic in appearance – even though go got to the top of it by lift and then descended via a skywalk that curved around it so that you could see the plants in detail. Somehow, despite the artifice, it worked brilliantly well – and was blissfully cool compared with outdoors.view of the skywalk in one of the Biomes in Singapore
skywalk in the mist at the Singapore Biomes
There is a charge for each element of the visit to Gardens by the Bay – unlike the Botanic Garden where everything is free, including entrance. Nevertheless it felt like money well spent and is a ‘must do’ for anyone visiting Singapore.

The Wonga Wonga Vine

wonga wonga vine in flower
This is the Aboriginal name for the climbing vine Pandorea pandorana – and absolutely nothing to do with loan companies or money. We spotted several plants when we were walking in the Mount Buffalo National Park in Victoria where there was a quite noticeable variation in flower colour between the different plants. It is very lovely and as it is hardy to minus 5 degrees it might be worth growing in a very sheltered garden or a conservatory. It flowers early (April) so it might struggle a bit except in a very mild year or an exceptionally sheltered spot. www.roselandhouse.co.uk offers several varieties.a close up of the Wonga Wonga vine