June 15, 2021

Many years ago, when I was but a callow youth,

I spent a some of my time sitting around reading copies of either the Victor or the Hornet and eating ice lollies. Two sorts come to mind: the Lord Toffingham (which was banana flavoured with a toffee centre) and the Orange Maid.

This latter was very simple - orange flavoured (I doubt that an actual orange was ever closely involved) ice which stained the lips and made your tongue feel very slightly flayed with the combination of cold and acidity.

The Orange maid was the same colour as this Eschscholzia californica

June 13, 2021

Chelsea 2015 what a fantastic show.

Geum Roses and Peonies were abundant, all looking magnificent. I could have happily moved into several of the gardens. The Olive grove in the L’OCITANNE garden readily springs to my mind.

I am now on the hunt for Geums and boulders. I think I might have more luck with the former.

Mrs Bradshaw may well be taking a sharp exit from several of the gardens in my care. I am thinking more of Geum Totally Tangerine.

And finally, Tom Hare a name that we should all google and remember, his willow sculpture was breathtakingly beautiful.

June 11, 2021

As a supplier of wildflowers, I get some bizarre requests from garden designers;

‘I just realised that all the Cow Parsley is in flower now (May) and my whole design at Hampton Court show is based around it – if I cut back now will it flower again in time?’ And ‘ I need 100 Rosebay Willowherb in flower in 5 weeks time’.

Deep rooted wildflowers cannot be in pots long, and digging up late causes catastrophic wilt – and they only flower once in each year. Plan wildflower use and order before October to allow for propagation for the next year.

May 22, 2022

Was it the rain?

Or the wind? Or the evil plane tree pollen? I blame a hateful, soul-sapping combination of all three. Whatever - the celebrity count on press day at Chelsea this year was the lowest I can recall.

Usually you’re guaranteed a Ringo or a Rolf (oops, well not him now) and at the very least a Hampshire or a Kendal. Last year we hit an all time high with El Cumberbatch.

This year plenty were slated to turn up for the cameras but did they do a runner? I spotted only two: Bianca Jagger and Joanna Lumley.

May 19, 2022

Chelsea - I love it.

Chelsea - I love it. Meaningful conversations with specialist growers. Inspirational gardens, which from the designers inital concept to their final hard and soft landscaping details have not been overworked to enabling the creation of gardens with a real sense of place and balance. Feverish note taking on new plants, and playing Chelsea bingo. which entails listening out for conversations that contain “form, texture and colour” ” I think i’ve seen a celebrity” “I’m sure I could make that at home” ” I don’t quite get the concept” Get ten of the same and bingo, the loser buys the Pimms, it really is that simple.

May 18, 2022

Press Day

Arrived at 7.30am as a pillion passenger on Tim’s motorbike, we were at school together. The ‘Living Legacy Garden’ celebrates 200yrs since the battle of Waterloo. It features architecture from ‘Wellington College’ – our alma mater – a strange omen.

In the floral pavilion I had to see Stella Rankin (Kevock Garden Plants). In 2011 she showed such an unbearable faith in me that, for weird mental reasons, I’ve been unable to contact her since. Today I put that right. Her stand and plants are simply wonderful too.

Horticulture marries science, art, design and nature yet, and I speak as a former ‘science scholar’, the science bit is least understood and least celebrated in gardening circles.

But a joint RHS/UK Space Agency exhibit, campaigning for school gardening, proves that horticulture is, literally, ‘Rocket Science’!”

May 18, 2022

There’s little to beat a sunny Spring morning at Kew

- but step inside the Shirley Sherwood gallery to see the paintings by Masumi Yamanaka. She has spent the last five years painting some of Kew’s more famous trees, in numinous watercolours that seem to pulse with life.

They’ll send you dashing outside to compare the originals - her noble chestnut oak now just breaking into leaf…the stone pine storm-ravaged since she captured it. Suddenly you’re more alive to the drama of the emerging leaves - frilly green ruffles, stained glass copper beech or curious oak leaves like tiny duck’s feet.

The Shirley Sherwood Gallery website.

May 17, 2022

RHS Chelsea on Sunday

It’s a luxury to see the Chelsea Flower Show on the Sunday before it opens. Not quite finished but still splendid. You know you’re going to get a heady mix of the ‘good’, the ‘nothing too bad’ and the ‘ugly’. Dan Pearson’s planting has the complexity of a specialist nursery stand multiplied a hundred fold = ‘very good’. The ‘not bad’ ‘M&G’ garden was. allegedly, inspired by Vita Sackville-West but, being au fait with Siss, via ‘Great Dixter’, I didn’t find it very Sus-sexy! And the ugly? The ‘Royal Bank of Canada’ garden’s butchered olive tree looked particularly grotesque compared to the those in ‘A Perfumer’s Garden in Grasse’…….just saying.

May 15, 2022

“Countdown is progressing

Uno dos
Uno dos tres quattro” - the ‘Theme from S’Express’ keeps popping up in my head (annoying ear-worm that it is) as I work my last day in the garden before leaving verdant Dorset and heading to the big smoke.

The ‘Chelsea Flower Show’ is luring me, Siren-like, into it’s intoxicating embrace.

I’m at my busiest here, spring has gathered up her skirts and is rushing headlong into summer, but I’ve got to abandon the coldframes, rapidly emerging veg, burgeoning borders and my dog ‘Scudder’, for the horticultural phantasmagoria that I both lovve and loathe in equal measure………

May 11, 2022

Spring has arrived

and so marks the re-emergence of vast amounts of ground elder which is cutting a fine swathe through many a Shropshire border. This year I happened to come across Tagetes minuata, and have already placed a great deal of responsibility on my recently germinated seedlings. On this occasion flowering aesthetics are not a priority, even the seed packet describes it as not a looker.

My main concern is their ability to survive the potential deluge of slugs and snails which I do know have a liking for Tagetes. I am not known for blue pellet control.