Saturday, April 24, 2010

Chelsea sneak preview

Hot off the press, exclusive, never-before-seen.... the plants which will feature this year at Chelsea.

Well, all right, it's not giving much away. Of course at this time of year nothing's in flower as there's a month to go before they'll reach their peak of perfection. But it was really wonderful to see them all there in one of Crocus's six polytunnels' worth of Chelsea gardens, just waiting for their moment in the spotlight.

This was all because Crocus opened up its nursery today for one of their open days - they're held three times a year, and they're a bun fight. Hundreds of people descend on the nursery to snap up loads of bargains and, it being Crocus, some wonderfully well-grown plants.

I must here declare an interest, of course, because I do work for Crocus, though on the kitchen gardening side so I was there just to have a good nose around like everyone else.

Crocus wrote the book on supplying plants to Chelsea, and has to some extent cornered the market: they're doing the plants for Tom Stuart-Smith's garden (sure to be utterly awe-inspiring) and Andy Sturgeon's too: talk about working for two exacting taskmasters. There may be others, too (though that's a state secret. Well, they're not telling me, anyway.)

As well as the polytunnels they've got what looks like several acres of plants outside, too. So... what can I reveal?

Well, not a lot. But Onopordums (those enormous great big Scotch thistles) look like they could be in for a starring role:

...and outside there were a lot of very dreamy phloxes...

I'm not entirely sure they should have been in flower, but here's a close-up anyway.

Pretty, aren't they?

And here's another entirely random shot of some gorgeous big cuddly box balls all rootballed up and ready to go.

As usual, I found all those serried ranks of mouthwatering plants impossible to resist, though I did try to be restrained and sensible. So I came home laden with:

3 Monarda 'Beauty of Cobham'
3 Anchusa 'Loddon Royalist'
3 Agapanthus roots
1 Molinia caerulea 'Transparent'
1 Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'
1 Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light'

Those last three because I've always felt that one Stipa gigantea - albeit large and well established - and one Anemanthele lessoniana - ditto - was less than a full quotient of grasses, so my garden has always required more. That should do it.

I highly recommend Crocus's open days: brilliant for a bargain and for a bit of snooping around (in the nicest possible way!) The next one will require you to sharpen your elbows before attending though - it's the Chelsea sell-off on June 6th.

Wonder how much they'll want for one of those onopordums...


Su Harris said...

How exciting. I think you were very restrained with your purchases all things considered! I love the box balls,and will watch Chelsea trying to spot them now!

La Petite Gallery said...

Very nice. i like phlox amd never
hears of a thistle plant. The
Agapanthus roots, here's a question
do you plant roots like an iris?
Are those the big blue flowers. Will they grow in Maine?

Thanks yvonne

Arabella Sock said...

Anchusa Loddon Royalist is one of my favourites. I saw it in one of the Chelsea gardens years ago and the blue was so intense I just had to have it. It tends to get 'rust' unfortunately but still worth it.

The Constant Gardener said...

Su - yes I couldn't believe I was so good. Actually I spent the first half-hour absolutely paralysed as I wanted everything I could see. But it was the Anchusa which broke my duck: I grew these once in my old house in London and fell totally in love with them just like you Arabella. It is a blue more blue than the bluest thing you can think of. But tricky to grow: I lost mine after a year or two but have pined after it ever since.

LPG: Agapanthus are like alliums on steroids. Massive big fireworks of bright blue (sometimes pink or white or paler blue) on tall stately stems. I find the best way to get them to flower is to grow them in containers: they're a bit enthusiastic in the border and just produce leaves, so need a little stress to produce those stunning great big umbels.

Should be able to grow them in Maine if we can grow them here - but choose one of the hardy types ('Bressingham Hybrids' here but not sure if you can get them there?) and bring them in in winter if you can: they don't need to be frost free but I think frozen solid in a Maine winter might do them in. Let me know how you get on!

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