Monthly Archives: May 2014

A Chelsea exhibit – face to face!

A Chelsea Ball gown with a crystal theme.

A Chelsea Ball gown with a crystal theme.

Isn’t it beautiful? It certainly brightened up my working day!

I often nip into the florist over the road, when I have some time to spare, before work. Apart from floristry flowers, they sell plants too – usually the run of the mill bedding etc. but often unusual and reasonably priced specimens.

But today, while checking out their gardening requisites, I came face to face with this beautiful floral ball gown. Now, my immediate reaction was “Is this a homage to Chelsea?”, to be told by one of the girls that she had actually been there and this was her exhibit – somewhat faded by now, she was quick to point out. As you can see, the official R.H.S. plaque is by it. She had been awarded a silver-gilt! She had been so excited by the whole thing but obviously extremely nervous. I had to confess that, despite seeing the floral art coverage, I had not noticed her. I must look again.

She did let me take a photo, and was happy for me to share this, with you all!

So amazing to see one of these so close up and in detail! The hemline and shoulder “straps” were decorated with feathers, and the floral bodice, studded with crystals!

So beautiful! Well done, girl!

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My thoughts on Chelsea

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No, this is not part of one of the Chelsea show gardens. Since I have no photos of this year’s show, this is the next best thing to introduce this post. This is my “copy-cat” Chelsea border! You see the power of Chelsea flower show?
This small stretch of my main herbaceous border, was inspired by Luciano Giubbelei’s show garden for Laurent-Perrier in 2011, which used a colour palette of pinks and bronzes, apparently reminiscent of rose champagne. This is its second year, and is filling out nicely – definitely all froth and fizz! It has all the Chelsea hallmarks – cow parsley, bronze irises, floaty thalictrums and, of course, the purple alliums!

Which leads me into this years show! As you can tell, I’m a huge fan of Luciano (I’m not name dropping, just shortening it – Giubbelei’s a nightmare to keep spelling! Sorry, Luciano!) I was drawn to his earlier gardens which I saw in magazines, and loved all the formality and straight lines – so minimalist and contemporary (though not for a plantsman!). Since he started showing at Chelsea, he has moved on from his all-green palette, and introduced flowers, which he does so well. This years garden, in my mind, was well worthy of “Best in show”. The pool, which is central to the design, is absolutely stunning. All his straight lines are still in evidence, with the steps in the pool and the adjoining rills. The planting, again in geometric blocks, really softens all the hard landscaping. And the colours are so soft and beautiful. The tree? Well, I can boast, I too have an Amelanchier! The colour scheme really moved away from the Chelsea norm. I loved the creamy whites and yellows, with only a hint of blue, for depth and contrast. And it was good to see lupins make such a statement, after years of obscurity.

Which brings me on to my next view – that of the planting. I’m sure you’ll agree that there are always trends in Chelsea planting. One year it’s the strong shapes of purple alliums everywhere, the next it’s frothy cow parsley. I always believed that the designers were trying to “steer” gardening fashion. However, this year I have heard it mentioned, that it is more likely to be due to the limited number of plant suppliers to the show, dictating the plants available. That makes complete sense to me and could account for it.

I also liked Cleve West’s M & G garden. I loved the modern take on the Paradise gardens of old, all offset by the adjacent wilder planting – the concept of a paradise from the wilderness.

The Daily Telegraph garden was my other favourite, but it seemed to have mixed reports. Some saw it as too perfect and pristine, others saw it as too corporate. I was drawn to it, again, by its formality and straight lines. But the overwhelming factor that hit me, that seems to have produced little comment, was to see a lawn as the centrepiece of the garden for the first time in yonks! Ok, I agree that it was so pristine, that it would not stay like that for 5 minutes in the real world, and it would be high maintenance in this day and age. But didn’t it look wonderful? Although the garden is a very contemporary style, it’s also a very traditional layout. A central lawn, surrounded by borders, and a shaded patio area, complete with seating, water feature and potted plants. I can easily imagine it being a family garden, with a few daisies thrown in. And the box “cushions” at the corners were just so tactile! I found the whole garden very comfortable and usable – though I may be alone in thinking that!

The gardens again, were totally inspirational. It was lovely too, to see the flush of new, young designers this year. Didn’t they do extremely well? Matt Keightly’s garden, “Hope on the Horizon” was beautiful, with its hard granite cubes among soft planting. No surprise it was the “People’s Choice”!

And I want to finish with a few “buzz” words to some up this years trends – blue, plum, lupins. Oh, and if I hear the phrase “push the boundaries” again, before next May, you may well hear me scream!

A Fruitful Weekend…..

….and a couple of mysteries!

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First, my new “toy”!
We decided to invest in a mini raised bed for our strawberries. We never have enough for our liking! The strawberry patch had become very overgrown and weed infested. It was a mix of runners from 3 different species, and we wanted to start afresh, as you should after a few years. Last year, we bought 3 new plants of “Cambridge Favourite”, which we decided we liked the taste of best. We planted each of them in a large terracotta pot, with the intention of replacing the “mass” of self-rooted plants, with runners of pure “Cambridge Favourite”. We didn’t want to replant them in the weedy ground, and so thought a mini raised bed would solve the problem, by raising them off the ground in fresh, new soil.

The bed consists of 4 black plastic boards, connected with pegs, giving a bed of 51x97x25cm. You can buy an additional fitted liner, necessary if you are using the bed on a hard surface. Easy! You see the bed in process of being filled with compost. Boy, did it need a lot! But we do love strawberries!

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And now the finished bed!
It was hard, to dig up and throw away the old strawberry plants, no matter how much it was the right thing to do! I still saw disappearing strawberries! However, the 3 original plants are still in their pots, and hopefully, next year, we can expand the bed and have more strawberries, from the runners. And so on! Should be self perpetuating. That’s the plan!

Some of the gorgeous buds are now bursting forth.

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A beautiful pink unknown Oriental poppy.

Nectaroscordum

Nectaroscordum


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And now to our first mystery! Although, by the time I’m typing this, the solution is starting to come to me! I thought this patch was of “Deep Black”, but when I saw the blue buds, I thought they were instead “Jane Phillips”. I must have muddled up my labels. The mystery was, that when they opened, they seemed paler than last year. How could that be? However, by now, the adjacent irises are now starting to open, and I am now recognising the familiar blue of last year. The solution is becoming clear! My “Deep Black”, which incidentally hadn’t flowered yet, was not, in fact, “Deep Black”! I must have been sold a mislabelled plant. It’s pretty (with a lovely scent!), but it’s not “Deep Black”!

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And what do you make of this aquilegia? How can two different colours and forms of flowers come from the same plant? Or so it seems! I can only assume that I must have planted two different seedlings together. An interesting effect!

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And the foliage goes on! Several of you admired the foliage pots I showed previously, so I thought I’d show you the complete collection!

That was a most enjoyable and satisfying weekend!

And this week is Chelsea! Another highlight! I love May!
So I’m off to the telly!

All Aboard for Malvern!

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At last, it’s time for Malvern Spring Show, or Festival, as they have now re-named it! One of the highlights of our year!
I say “all aboard” as it is an easy train journey for us and so that frees us up to sample some of the other delights of the show. We both love visiting all the show gardens, but when it comes to the floral marquee, “Mr. Chef” loses interest. So he heads off to the Food and Drink hall, which is more his “cup of tea”. Although it’s not tea he’s seeking out! They do have exhibitors of local beers and ciders. And it would be so rude not to keep him company!

But first things, first – the show gardens!
There were 9 show gardens (fewer than in previous years, as we recall), 4 festival gardens and many lovely little school gardens. This is where our future gardeners and designers lie.

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This was the “At Home on the Beach” garden by Villaggio Verde, the olive specialists. Yes, as you can tell by the grey skies, we have not been whisked abroad. This garden was the winner of “Best in Show” and it was easy to see why. The attention to detail was incredible – so much so, that the beach hut was actually selling paella! All it needed was a bit of sun and blue sky, and you could think you’d been instantly transported!

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Now, this was another of my favourites. The next best thing to being transported abroad, by the previous garden. Named “A Fruity Story” it showed how a productive garden, complete with fruit, herbs, and salad crops, could still be a relaxing and entertaining area. I loved the intimacy of this sunken seating area, complete with pizza oven (which I’ve more than dropped hints about, I’ve made a direct request for! One can dream!) and comfy cushions. I would certainly love to have this in our garden!

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This was the “Blush” garden, designed as an urban retreat, for relaxation, with a soothing colour palette of brown, pinks, and purples. I’m interested in your opinions! I know mine! While it was a very well designed and imaginative garden, and the planting was sumptuous, it was too pink for me! Pink in the garden looks best in the flowers! But it definitely made you notice!

By now, it was time for refreshments, so off to the Food and Drink hall. Once fed and watered, our shopping began. What epicurean delights were there! Our bags were full of sausages, smoked and marinaded meats, Welsh Oggies(which we’d never sampled before – a cross between a Cornish pasty and a Forfar bridie!) and to round it all off, chocolate flavoured with botanicals, such as violet flowers and orange peel with chilli!

At last it was my turn, and back to the Floral Marquee for a serious foray. Of course, I left with some new gems! Goes without saying!

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I came back with Viola “Molly Sanderson”, a beautiful black one, for my cottage border, another Stipa gigantea, and a new one to me, Silene dioica, “Firefly”, a double form of the wild red campion, with beautiful magenta pink flowers. Should look wonderful in among grasses. And it was much admired, on the way home. Boy were we tired, but happy!

Now, this weekend will see these planted, and I have a new “toy” to play with too – show you later! And there’s Chelsea next week to look forward to (on telly – I’m not going!) And sunshine too! I intend to make the most of it! 🙂

Enjoy your hopefully, sunny weekends!

The Cuttings Calender – April

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I think I’m getting into my stride now. As the year unfolds, there is much more material available in the garden for cutting. Add to that, the inspiration that I have had, from following Cathy’s meme at “Rambling in the Garden”, has really helped my imagination.

Thanks to that, this has to be my favourite for April. I started to use a selection of flowers, along with foliage to create this display. We have here, Bluebells, Dicentra, Pulmonaria, Muscari, Forget-me-nots, all set off with the variegated foliage of Euonymus, and arranged in a pretty, blue and white mug.

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In a similar vein, my milk bottles came back into use, this time using Bluebells with Erythronium “Pagoda”, with its delicate yellow bells, again with some Euonymus foliage.

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By total contrast, there is this dark, sultry arrangement, which came close. These photos are of the same pot, but in different settings. How different do they look? I chose the dark flowers of Geranium phaeum, Vinca “Atropurpurea”, and a couple of sprigs of Akebia quinata (never imagined I’d use climbers in a vase!) and the foliage of Anthriscus “Ravenswing”, Heuchera “Chocolate Ruffles” and Bronze Fennel, and lightened with a couple of sprigs of complementary pink Chaerophyllum hirsutum “Roseum”.

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These last two candidates were rescued victims.
Firstly, some stray pink bluebells in a patch of blue, which completed their display indoors with some Luzula sprigs (again, I tip I learned from fellow bloggers!). The second, was a stem from my recently acquired Ashwood hellebore (remember the damaged stem, the day after purchase?). Shall we term this the “A+E” category?

So that’s it for another month – unless I decide I’m good enough to join in with the meme!

Fit to burst!

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I love May! I love May for all its lushness and freshness, for all its promise. So much foliage and so many buds just waiting to burst open. So much anticipation for what’s about to happen. It’s all there, waiting to explode into a wonderful floral display. Or that’s what we all hope and pray for. After all, we’ve worked hard enough for it! The spring overture is fading now, (and hasn’t it been wonderful!) and it’s time for the main number. There have been some flowers, but only a few to start with. Let’s say, they’re the intro!

It’s the carpet of forget-me-not that provides the floral link between spring and summer, in our “Cottage Border”. Let me show you some of its amazing buds.

Buds of Oriental poppies with Nectaroscordum

Buds of Oriental poppies with Nectaroscordum

Iris "Jane Phillips" in bud

Iris “Jane Phillips” in bud

In the Black and White Beds, it is the foliage that holds sway just now.

The Black Bed

The Black Bed

From this angle, and without its flowers, this bed doesn’t live up to its title, but I can assure you, its time will come.

Foliage pots

Foliage pots

The Black Bed backs onto the patio with its array of blue pots, this collection being for foliage effects.

The White Bed

The White Bed

And for contrast, the adjacent white bed looks so fresh now and is the first of the two to start flowering, with The Solomon’s Seal looking so cool!

Angelica archangelica

Angelica archangelica

This may be the piece de resistance! Angelica about to flower, in the Herb Garden. Shame that’s the last we’ll see of it, though. Let’s hope for lots of babies to take its place!

All this, AND two Bank Holidays!! 🙂

My shopping trip and impulse buy

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For some time now, I have been desperate to visit Stone House Cottage, a garden and nursery not far from us. A free, bank holiday weekend and the time was right!

I had compiled a shopping list, and was keen to shop! But they have wonderful gardens there too. So interesting – full of follies, and rare and unusual plants, in particular, many scented shrubs and climbers. A Plantlover’s paradise! You can imagine I would be in my element!

This was not to be my first visit. I had been a few times before – a couple of times in early spring, and once in high summer. I was hoping to see it again at a different time of year. Alas, this was not to be! Time constraints meant we couldn’t spend long there, and I had to console myself with the shopping list.

I was desperate to replace an Azara microphylla I had lost in a cold spell, a couple of years ago. It’s an evergreen shrub, often grown as a wall shrub, with small, shiny, dark green leaves. The insignificant looking yellow flowers appear in February/March, and though tiny, they emit a huge vanilla perfume, making the whole area smell like a bake-off – all cake and custard! I couldn’t be without it. Shopping list, tick 1!

Next on the list, after reading an earlier post by a fellow blogger,(thank you Chloris!) I was keen to find Ypsilandra thibetica and had tracked it down to here. Luckily they had that in stock as well. Shopping list, tick 2!

Then came the impulse buy! While wandering around, I was stopped in my tracks by the most amazing perfume. I found where it was coming from – an Elaeagnus umbellata. This plant was a new one to me. Even Mr. Chef was drawn to it and he admits himself that he has a weak sense of smell. So it was easy to persuade him to bring it home with us as well!
This is the shrub sat on the seat in the picture. It is a sprawling shrub with silvery green leaves, and tiny cream flowers – the guilty party! Apparently, it can grow quite large (oops!), though it can be pruned back easily, and I had no place earmarked for it when I bought it. I’d worry about that later! A definite impulse!

I had enough time to spot a few more plants on my wish list, so hopefully there will be another visit soon, with more time to spare next time. I want to revisit the garden, complete with camera!

If you can’t wait for my photos, you can have a peek at their website. You will be jealous!
http://www.shcn.co.uk