It is six years since I last visited RHS Flower Show Tatton Park, I have always really enjoyed this show but work commitments have made it difficult to get to. Not this year though, I had the green light and I took the opportunity to reignite my love of this show.
How can you not love a show where the first thing you see is a man sitting riding on the back of a huge snail accompanied by a large flappy butterfly? When you start laughing before you've hardly set foot in the show you know you are going to have a good time.
There really is a lot to see, you are drawn to investigate the displays. I loved MowTown, which was surrounded by lawnmower stands all giving advice and a display from the British Lawnmower Museum which I have visited some years ago.
The various show gardens were excellent and as usual I am not going to talk about all of them. This is one of the Back to Back gardens: Every cloud has a silver lining designed by Clive Scott. The garden aims to highlight the work of the charity Moodswings which helps people recover from mood problems.
This is The Perfumer's Garden' designed by Charlie Adams. These gardens are back to back and are really quite small which makes them relatable to what can be achieved in a small garden space. This garden aims to show what could be achieved behind a perfume shop 'Pulse of Perfumery' in Knutsford and how the space could be made a space for wildlife and people.
This is 'Let's go fly a kite!' designed by Jenny Bingham and Penny Hearn. This garden is to celebrate 25 years of the Children Today Charitable Trust, which raises funds to provide specialist equipment for children with disabilities. I loved the use of gabion cages to hold the outdoor play items. It is also exceptionally well planted and shows what can be done in a small space.
The show is split into sections and I wandered from place to place.
I stood and watched these men stone carving for a while. It is a skill I greatly admire.
I loved this hosta and bird moment on one of the stalls.
I stood and admired the carrots for longer than is reasonable. I struggle with growing them so to see such beautiful specimens made me pause. There is so much love and care poured into growing show exhibits.
The gardens built by local schools were outstanding.
By outstanding I mean just amazing. Probably the best school gardens I have ever seen.
Then on I went. This is 'Baroque Garden', one of the 'Young Designer' gardens, a series of gardens created by young designers (the clue is in the title....) The above garden was designed by Laurence Senior. It is very formal with its hard landscaping and nicely floofy with the soft planting, a very good combination.
This is also a 'Young Designer' Garden, 'The Phytosanctuary Garden' designed by Kristian Reay. This beautiful garden is a warning about the devastating effects of Xylella and how gardeners and scientists all have a role at keeping it at bay.
This is 'Contemplation Corner' designed by Pip Probert.
I liked this garden a lot. It is such a good combination of hard and soft landscaping.
The colours worked really well together. It was my favourite of the larger gardens.
Another of the Back to Back Gardens is 'The Art and Nature of a Port Sunlight Garden'. I visited Port Sunlight a long time ago (I reckon 20-25 years ago) and loved it. This garden reminded me that I really ought to revisit. It was designed by Liam English.
This very wonderful insect-friendly wall is from 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar Garden' designed by Simon Tetlow.
We are constantly hearing the news that our insects and pollinators are under threat and that we need to do all we can to protect and encourage them.
This small garden is packed full of simple ideas. It is beautiful and also an important message. I think this was my favourite of the smaller gardens.
This colourful garden is 'The Start in Salford Garden' designed by Andrew Walker.
It was bright, zingy and cheerful. I loved the planting and the birds woven through it.
This is Equilibrium, designed by Richard Heys, Audra Bickerdyke working with female prisoners at HMPPS and YOI Styal. It had a real sense of peace and tranquility about it.
Then I went into the Floral Marquee, always a favourite part of any show for me.
I have to confess I managed not to buy any plants. There was one I would have bought, but whilst it was featured on the stand they did not have any on sale. So I noted the name and I will track one down later. I enjoyed checking out all the stalls. I spent too long in front of the bonsai stalls (again) but left with my purse unscathed; for which I think I deserve a medal.
I could not end this post without a nod to the two men in flowerpots. They were greeting people as I arrived and probably typified what I always think of as the RHS's friendliest show. This year's show did not disappoint and confirmed that opinion.
I was recently sent a copy of the new edition the Royal Horticultural Society Propagating Plants. I have not paid for this book and I am not being paid to write this review; my words and opinions are my own.
I enjoy propagating plants, there are few things that can make me as happy as creating new plants for free, and this books promises just this on the cover. When I first received the book I thought it looked a bit big to be honest. I thought it was going to be overly-wordy and probably overly-sciency for me. The old adage 'never judge a book by its cover', could be expanded to 'or how big it is'. This book is a good size because it is jammed pack full of everything you could ever want to know about propagation.
The book starts by telling you how to use the book. This is very useful as I did my usual thing of plunging straight in and getting carried away by the amount of information there is. It is better to take a breath and take a moment to understand how the book works and how the information is laid out.
The book takes us through learning from nature, to historical and modern propagation techniques. You are then led through how plants propagate themselves and vegetative propagation. This is all really useful and interesting as if you understand what is going on, then you stand more chance of success.
The photographs in the book are by Peter Anderson. They illustrate perfectly the points being made and are beautiful too. I like a lot of pictures in books like this and this book has many. There are no assumptions made about what you might already know and this is good, as you never know that thing that may seem basic to others, that is a gap in your own knowledge.
The instructions on how to carry out the basic techniques are clear. There is the advice that you would expect about the importance of hygiene and why it matters.
This is all what you would expect from a book on propagation I am sure, but then this book tips over into the 'this is the most useful book I have ever seen on propagation' as it takes you through almost every plant you could ever want to propagate and explains how to do it. Ever fancied propagating a Hamamelis? This book will tell you how. Do you want to graft your cactus? This book explains this in detail. Not got enough Ferns? This book is the one for you. Orchids, water plants, perennials: the list goes on. For example: the book does not just have a section on 'sowing by seed', it tells you specifically about sowing Calendula, sowing Matthiola and Nigella and many more individual plants. It is full of specific examples as well as the general information. The blurb that accompanied the book says it is the most comprehensive guide to propagating plants ever published, I can only agree.
RHS Propagating Plants is published by DK Books and retails at £19.99 or less if you look at a well known internet book shop. Buy it for yourself or drop big hints to a loved one, if you want to propagate plants this is the book for you.
July already, already July: where is this year going to....
I stand in front of the duo of quince trees and ask them how they are doing.
Quince Minor replies "muther", in a voice not unlike Jarvis Cocker, "I've lost all my quincelets but on the plus side I am a lot less blighty than I have been in previous years."
"look at me muther, look I have new growth developing, next year is going to be wonderful and for now I shall just grow here looking fabulous, promise."
There is a little brown around the edges, but I can only agree with Quince Minor; a couple of years after planting and all is looking much more positive.
and Quince Major you ask?
Quince Major stands tall and impassive.
High in the branches is the lone quince, the sole survivor. I am not sure that this quincelet, this quinceling, fully comprehends that it carries the hope of the year upon it. For one quince is fewer than last year but so much better than none.
Meanwhile, Quince Major also has new growth emerging, all is good.
Last year I wrote about my visit to Woburn Garden Show, where I declared it to have quickly become a favourite event. I was therefore delighted to be invited to attend again and even though it was an already busy weekend for me, I made sure I could go.
It was a bit of a muggy day but not fiercely sunny or too uncomfortable for being outside. I always like a well organised arrival process and the management of the entering the grounds and then parking, staffed by a small army of wavers and pointers, made arrival nice and straightforward. I arrived late morning and there was a steady stream of cars waiting their turn to park. On the gate tickets were checked by the local Scout group, which gives the event a community feel about it that I like.
As I walked into the grounds I had a ‘stop in my tracks’ moment - look at this cloud pruned Cotinus coggygria. A frequently under-rated shrub often grown in an under-rated way looking fantastic. A reminder (if one if needed) of the quality of the gardening carried out at Woburn Abbey.
I then did my first sweep of perusing the stands.
I dwelt for some time on the plant stalls, checking in to say hello to Rob Hardy from Hardys’ Cottage Plants (the test of a good show is whether Hardys are there) and yet I was so busy talking to him I did not take a photo of their stand - sorry Rob!
I might have liked these little chaps a bit more than I should....
I visited the marquees: one for gifts and one more food/drink based.
And I spent some time in the stage areas: one stage where garden-related talks were taking place from Adam Frost and Pippa Greenwood
and a new feature area at the show about ‘Good living’ with talks on cooking and growing your own food.
I enjoyed this area of the show a lot. Connecting people to the food that we eat is really important.
There were lots of edibles to purchase,
and some rare breed pigs to admire.
As with last year I enjoyed the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the show. It was the perfect way of spending the first summer Sunday of the year. I spent a little time having a nosy and checking out the plant creche, if you want a quick idea of what is trending at a show, check the plant creche.
I like a lot of things about this show, I like that there are good quality plants to buy and also good quality garden ephemera. There was some beautiful art and also greenhouses, furniture, ponds; almost anything you could think of.
Did I buy anything I hear you ask?
Dear reader, my purchases were:
Some spirally plant supports that I have recently discovered and I am a great fan of. You can wind them into flopped plants that should have been staked weeks ago and they help recover the situation. I bought a soap-stone carved bird. It sang to me and I had to buy it (please note this was imaginary singing - it does not have a real singing ability.) It was also singing to Flossy when I got home....
Last but not least I bought a Musa lasiocarpa, the ‘Cavendish’ banana. A dwarf as it only grows to around 2 metres tall..... I was specifically looking for a banana plant so I was delighted to find this healthy specimen at a very good price.
You know when something catches your eye and you cannot quite just look away?
I have been a supporter of the charity Perennial for a few years now. Perennial was founded in 1839 and aims to support people in horticultural who are in need of some financial assistance and/or advice and support. I go to some events and I pay my annual 'friend' fee and hope that in some small way I am helping. Then in May I saw a tweet that advertised Perennial's 'Marathon Month'. People were being asked to raise funds over the month of June by walking a marathon. Every step counts, I read, and thought that sounded doable. I did not think about it for long, I decided I would give it a go. An email was sent, the fundraising page was set up and I waited for June to arrive.
June 1st was a Saturday and I decided I was going to take Perennial at their word and count every step. Saturday usually is a gardening day so I started my fundraising campaign with a photo of my gardening shoes; checked that the app that measures how far I have walked in a day was working, and off I went. I mowed the lawn, I gardened and I walked 3.5km. I was happy, I photographed my end of day total, updated the website and tweeted my progress. Some (very) kind people donated, for which I was very grateful and the campaign was all systems go.
The month involved various trips out. I routinely tweeted photographs of my footwear for the day and updated people as to progress.
I went to Chatsworth Flower Show and the Cotswold Wildlife Park, walking walking walking
Every day I posted a picture of the day's walking footwear.
Week days are usually office days. It turns out I walk a lot at work.
Maybe not the most suitable of walking attire and yet, as said at the start, every step counted.
Thirty days and several changes of shoes later and June was over. The walking was complete. I had walked just over 112 km, which is more than two marathons and far more than I would have believed possible. I have raised £260 so far which I am very pleased about. I cannot be more grateful for everyone who has donated so far. Obviously as I am fundraising for a charity I want to raise as much as possible and it is still possible to donate (gosh is that a huge heavy-footed hint?) (oh yes).
I have attended all of the Garden Museum Literary Festival's apart from last year. A double booking and the costs of travel/staying over in London made last year sadly not possible. As soon as the date was released this year I booked immediately, I was not going to miss it again. This year the festival was being at Houghton Hall in North Norfolk.
As ever I am not going to go through all the talks I went to, suffice to say they were interesting, informative and thought provoking and inevitably there will be book purchases as a result.
One of the reasons I treasure this festival so much is that it gives me a moment to pause and stop for a while. This year it was an enforced stop as there was very little mobile signal at Houghton Hall. The world stopped and my phone stayed useless in my pocket. I am very attached to my phone, but even I enjoyed the peace.
The grounds at Houghton Hall are impressive. There is currently a Henry Moore exhibition which I loved. I have never been close to any of his work before though I have seen pictures of it. The scale is just phenomenal.
Out in the parklands there is a stumpery with special white deer trained to stay within it. Ok, that is a lie, they are not specially trained but the deer clearly knew they looked good alongside the stumpery and were refusing to move.
The Walled Garden is a 'must visit'. It is gardened in different sections and as you walk through the towering hedges into each new space you stop and stare anew.
Evidence of the design work of the Bannermans is clear.
The modern sits well aside the traditional.
This sunken area in the rose garden was begging me to sit down with a glass of chilled wine and a good book.
Even the moments of paving were worthy of note. How simple and yet beautiful is this?
Yet possibly the place I found the most intriguing was through this window....
This is the 'Old Chapel',
What an incredible space. I do not think I have ever seen anything like it. Enclosed and yet open, it had a very special feel about it.
I used to holiday in North Norfolk when I was a child and I have vague memories of visiting Houghton Hall at some point probably in the mid-1970s (yes I am that old). As I travelled into Norfolk I realised that this journey was going to be more than just going to a Literary Festival, but more of that shortly.
I have had the best of days. I cannot begin to tell you what a good day I had at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show. I can of course tell you, it would be a short blog post if I did not...
I shall start at the beginning, the first stall to catch my eye right by where I entered the show. This fantastic Albizia fluttered it's eye lashes at me.
Rather lovely is it not?
Onwards I went. I decided to walk to the furthest point and then walk back through the show. It is a large show, the largest RHS show and I did not want to miss a thing. The quality of the show gardens and feature gardens was quickly apparent. They were exceptional. I will not feature them all but I will start with my two favourites. I cannot decide which of these was my very favourite.
Firstly the Smart Meter Garden designed by Matthew Childs. It might not be the sexiest name for a garden you have ever seen but it is a superb garden.
It appears quite simple but there is a lot going on with the planting.
The other garden that I absolutely loved was 'The Dream of the Indianos' garden designed by Rose McMonigall.
I loved the vibrancy and colour of this garden. I also loved the backstory, a fascinating piece of history that was totally new to me. I had the joy of having a long chat with Rose at the show, her passion for this subject was apparent.
Other gardens I really enjoyed included the Drought Resistant Garden that is inspired by the late Beth Chatto and designed by David Ward.
It is a spectacular example of great planting design and evokes the spirit of Beth's drought garden perfectly.
This is 'The Forest will see you now' designed by Michelle Brandon and is about how we need to connect with nature and the phytoncides the trees and plants emit help us feel better generally.
There is a lot of naturalistic planting to be seen at this year's show. There is the RHS Back to Nature Garden designed by the Duchess of Cambridge, Adam White and Andree Davies.
I thought The Viking Cruises Lagom Garden, designed by Will Williams was rather special. I loved the colour and the floofiness (technical term) of the planting.
The Thames Water Flourishing Future Garden designed by Tony Woods was also worthy of a pause.
I loved the colour of these rocks and how well the plants are combined with them.
and this water station where people could fill up their drink bottles with water. Such an important thing to do to help us think about the resources we use and throw away daily.
The Calm Amidst Chaos Garden designed by Joe Francis is a thought provoking piece of work contrasting green calm with the chaos of modern life.
There are also large vegetables in the Edible Eden section.
and amazing benches
and I haven't even mentioned the Floral Pavilion yet!
So much to see.
and did I buy anything?
How could I go home without an Albrizia? It just had to be bought
and this Paulownia jumped into my hands as well. A tree I love and yet for some reason have not been successful with so far. Wish me luck!
I had the best of days on my visit. I thoroughly enjoyed being at the show. Next RHS stop for me ..... Tatton Flower Show, my first visit in several years and I am excited already.
June has been a month of quite a bit of weather. It has been dry and then the rain arrived, lots of rain. It has been mild, it was been warm and then it became very hot. This means everything in the garden is growing at 300 mph, especially the weeds.
In the Knot Garden there has been a small resurgance of poppies. The somniferum poppy can wait for decades before the right conditions occur for it to germinate. They love soil disturbance so it is not surprise that where I have removed the lavender edging has resulted in some popping up. When I first created this knot garden over ten years ago, the first year it was a sea of lavender poppies. I am just so soppy I could not remove them as the effect was stunning. Please focus on the poppies, not the weeds....
Please also do not laugh at my hanging basket attempt. I keep saying it will all knit together and hide the black plastic, but I wish it would do so. I have had this basket for several years so I wanted to reuse it rather than buy a new one as I feel if I already own the plastic it is better to use it then just throw it away. Anyhoo, you can see it is a sixties retro vibe of blue lobelia and white alysumm. The lobelia is clearly the more vigorous at the moment. I keep it watered and I am feeding it weekly. The bees love it. There is also a trailing coleus in there. It is not trailing a lot yet but I live in hope.
I walk around to the back garden and the first view it looking differently from recently. I have not been able to show this view for a couple of years as the Manx rose had grown too large and filled the space where I used to look through.
So I have cut it right back to the stumps. This is a very vigourous rose, it will recover, honestly. I had let it get too big and I need to be more careful with it going forward. It is such a good rose I have no intention of losing it.
The Long Shoot is showing how much growth the garden is putting on. The start of the path is almost lost under the stachys and geranium who are reaching out to meet each other.
His Gingerness, the wonderful Bruce, sits and checks that the Conservatory Border meets with his approval.
It is looking very rosey at the moment and I am generally happy with it.
The Pond Border, which now has the 'hedge' of Rosa Claire Austin removed looks rather green but now gives a view across the pond. What Pond? I hear you ask, it is a little overgrown.....
I was walk around the garden the evidence of the 'June Drop' makes the walk very bumpy. I sometimes worry that so many seem to fall but there are always plenty left.
Under the Bramley Tree the Spring Border has now morphed into Shade Border. The hellebores are dying back and geraniums and small acer are coming to the fore.
The Exotic Border has seen a small outbreak of coleus and begonias. I like both very much and I think they have made good punches of colour into the green.
As I walk past the Exotic Border I get a nice view between the Prunus Ben-chidori and the Medlar Tree towards my new shrubbery area. This area has just been part of the Wild Garden previously but it is a nice sheltered spot for various shrubs and I have been developing it over the Spring. The main real difference is that I have been mowing the grass here when in previous years I did not apart from in the Autumn. This keeps it easier for the shrubs to establish and thrive.
By the side of my rocking chair, this pretty little tree is a Chionanthus virginicus, which I have had a few years now but has been a bit underwhelming so far. It is one of the plants I dug up to possibly relocate with last year and when I replanted it I put it in this new location by the shrubbery. The soil is better here, it is well drained but also has moisture. The tree seems to love it and has rewarded me with its fringy flowers.
Also in the shrubbery is this very nice hydrangea that is just starting to open. I will show more of the shrubbery as it develops in a separate post so that you get more idea of what it actually looks like.
Meanwhile the Prairie Borders are chock-full of weeds but the grasses are growing well. I really do need to give it a good determined weed.
Did I mention I was soppy when it comes to poppies? This is one of the veg borders. It is full of self-seeded poppies that are a haven for bees and hover-flies. They are attracting so many much needed pollinators into this part of the garden I cannot pull them out yet. Let's face it, they just look so pretty too.
So do not grumble and tut at me too much. This is my Three Sisters planting this year. There are runner and borlotti beans, some yellow courgettes and sweetcorn. The odd poppy is in there too - oops.
I end, as is traditional, on the pond. Yes it is very overgrown this year, it feels like when I manage to control one invader another takes its place. You can actually see a tiny puddle of water which shows it was refilled quite well by the recent heavy rains. It still has not reached full, it has not been full all over the winter so I am watching the level carefully. I may have to break my rule of never adding water to it if we get a drought like last year.
The other day I went on a visit to Pam Shave's garden which opens for the National Garden Scheme (NGS). Oak Tree House is located in South Kilworth in Leicestershire, a mere 20 minute skip for me in the car and so a delight to visit somewhere local.
Oak Tree House is owned by Pam and Martin Shave; Pam is the County Organiser for Leicestershire NGS so I was hopeful that her garden would be rather special. The visit had been organised by the Garden Media Guild (have I mentioned I am a very proud member of the GMG?) and these visits are always a treat of a day. The day began in proper NGS tradition with cake. It was good cake.
I am only going to give you glimpses of this garden, just glimpses; it is too good to spoil it for you by showing it all. What I love most about NGS garden visits is that there is usually something that makes me go 'oooh' and usually that is something quite simple yet very effective. Out of all the parts of this garden I loved, the use of foxgloves along this border was my 'must replicate that' moment. I have good years and poor years of foxgloves and this year has been a poor year. I now know I cannot leave it to chance so seeds will be purchased and sprinkled.
The garden works well from every angle.
I really liked these orange lupins. They shone in the light of the slightly cloudy day.
This view takes you down towards the vegetable garden.
It is a beautifully organised, beautifully functional and beautifully beautiful vegetable garden. It is on a slightly raised terrace to one of side of the garden and a feature in its own right. I had vegetable garden envy.
This garden has finished opening for this year, but I am sure it will be open next year so please look out for it in the 'Yellow Book' (or on the NGS website...) and whilst you are waiting there are many other gardens to visit. The money raised from the entry and the cakes goes to charity. A massive £58m has been raised by people opening their gardens for NGS since 1927 and 80 pence from every pound raised goes directly to the charities they support. On top of this, whilst enjoying the gardens you can have your cake and eat is in the full knowledge that charity cake has no calories (fact).
I was very pleased to be sent the new RHS book by Adam Frost: 'How to Create Your Garden'. I have not paid for this book and I have not received payment for writing this review. My words and opinions are my own.
I enjoy watching Adam Frost on Gardeners' World as I always think he always seems very practical and sensible. Adam has won seven Gold Medals at RHS Chelsea Flower Show and started his career working for North Devon Parks Department, he also worked with Geoff Hamilton at Barnsdale. Adam's credentials for writing a book about gardening are impressive.
The book is in three parts: Design, Build and Enjoy and these are then broken down into different chapters. Adam talks you through from step one about how to design your garden. We begin with him telling us about getting to know our space and the importance of information gathering. There is no point in launching straight into doing things if you do not know what you are dealing with. Understanding our spaces matter, how the lights behaves in them, what our soil is like and what is happening in and around it. Very importantly Adam asks us to think about what we want to use our garden for. I think this is vital as once you understand this then what it needs to look like starts to fall into place.
Throughout the book there are pauses to 'Ask Adam'. These chapters reflect back on what has just been discussed and ask questions that we as gardeners would ask. Questions such as: 'Do I really have to draw up a scale plan'? I am not a great drawer of plans so this is my kind of question. Yes the answer is yes and Adam explains how it will save time and wasted effort in the long run.
Midway through the book there is a section on 'how I work', which is Adam explaining how he puts a gardens together; working down through the layers starting at big plants/trees and then ending up with the small detail. It is one of those 'obvious once you have read it' pieces, but it is only obvious once someone has carefully explained it to you.
Every element of creating a garden is in this book, from plant choices to brick laying. The book ends with Adam talking through how to enjoy your garden and a month by month list of what needs to be done. The final part of the book is a glossary and useful information on how to calculate quantities and measure accurately. All very practical and vital information.
I liked this book, if you are thinking of designing your own garden then this book will help you every step of the way. It is full of useful photographs and diagrams to illustrate what Adam is telling us. I am happy to recommend it.
How to Create your Garden by Adam Frost is published for the RHS by D K Books and retails at around £20