Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Tatton takeout

At the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show, wandering around soaking up the beautiful, the amusing, the interesting, the eccentric and the downright incomprehensible, I found myself next to a little knot of people in deep discussion about the show garden we happened to be looking at at the time.

'Well - I dunno,' seemed to be the general consensus. 'It's not really something you'd have in your own garden, is it?'

I hear this opinion a lot. Generally, I want to shake the people who express it: it is, in most cases, entirely missing the point.

A show garden is not something you lift lock stock and barrel and plonk down in your average suburban back garden, any more than you would stick the original Damien Hirst shark tank in your hallway. They are works of interpretative art: depictions of a mood, a feeling, a style, an idea.

I love shows because it's the horticultural equivalent of visiting an art gallery, and just as uplifting. The wonderful thing about this particular art form is that it can address so many different aspects of life: from the narrow - experimenting with a new planting style, say - to the very broad indeed - an abstract representation of the journey through the rehabilitation process from dysfunctional criminal to thoughtful and integrated member of society, as we had in the HMP Everthorpe garden this year.

Of course you wouldn't have it in your garden: but to say it therefore lacks impact is like questioning the relevance of Van Gogh just because you don't have one in your living room.

If you're looking for relevance to your own garden, it's not all or nothing: just as you can decide to decorate the bedroom in Mondrian-style abstraction or Monet-style chocolate box, you can create your garden with your perceptions heightened and sharpened by what you've seen.

However: gardeners are prone to be rather practical. And I almost always bring a bit of every show I visit back home - even if it's just a snatch of an idea here and there, or a special planting combination.

And there were, it must be said, lots of things at this year's show I just coveted. Here, if I could have had them, is what I would have stuffed into the back of the poor long-suffering family estate and hot-footed it off with back down to Somerset.

Sue Beesley's plants

All of them. Every single one. In more or less the same arrangement they were in this garden. In fact I'll now completely contradict myself by saying I wanted to dig this garden up wholesale and take it away: I have just the perfect spot for it. Sumptuous, and one of my two favourite gardens at the show; the other one was....

Daniela Coray's meadow

An urban orchard, to be precise: but just my kind of thing, a spangled, jewel-like sunshine-filled space full of flowers, bees and loveliness.

The oak sleeper edging in 'Chocolate Orange'

The garden as a whole didn't do it for me: but those sleepers are just the thing for shoring up the steep banks on either side of my quarry garden.

The water harp from Blathánna Fiáine an Inbhir

Those 'strings' are actually water. Clever, and beautiful too.

The stacked log wall

from Perspective by Chalon Kitchens

So simple: so effective. And dead easy given a chainsaw and a lot of logs...

The wooden lean-to

from the Oxfam Garden, When the Waters Rise

Sweet chestnut poles, simply wedged together: it even had a green roof full of herbs on one half. Rustic, charming, and looked like it had been there forever.

That Mini

Birmingham City Council's display for the RHS National Flowerbed Competition: what's not to like?

The hanging pods in show feature Portach

You couldn't keep visitors out of it (I had to queue to take this picture).

One of the planted water bowls from Waterside Nurseries

I keep seeing these and can't help wanting one, maybe just outside my door. The perfect small pond: just wish those plant labels were a bit smaller, but hey-ho, mustn't quibble.

Papaver 'Peony Black', from the Botanic Nursery, Wiltshire


The herb garden from Hooksgreen Herbs

Just the effect I need to create tumbling over my rockery: they had a fine china-blue flowering chicory there too which really caught my eye.

My poor car is going to be creaking at the seams (and my garden is going to be rather stuffed with that lot in it); but my, it'll be gorgeous when I get it all home.

Friday, July 15, 2011

July flowers

There was a full moon last night. I didn't realise until I switched off the telly and wandered outside to give the dogs a stretch: I ended up transfixed by the sight of my garden in full flower and bathed in silver light.

It may be past the summer equinox but for me July is the height of summer, the only time of the year when you can experience evenings like that. Everything is just at that perfect point of maturity, and bursting into flower with an unstoppable energy.

Next month it'll be nowhere near as good - is anyone's garden at its best in August, I wonder? - so I'm determined to the most of this month while I can. Not only am I going to take more time out just to look at all those flowers - that's pretty much the point of it, after all - but I'm also going to make the most of those exquisite summer's evenings. Especially after the moon comes out.

Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Postcard from Hampton Court: Sunday

So... farewell then, Hampton Court.

It's been a good one and will live on in the memory for its mega edible garden, for my money the best yet of the centrepieces replacing the old Daily Mail pavilion; and for its evocations of scenes as distant as an Afghan battlefield and as close as a chalk stream in Hampshire. Conceptual gardens broke out of their box and made a bid for the mainstream; and the small gardens reached a quality and integrity that will be hard to match in subsequent years.

But - as usual - the stars of the show were the plants. So as a final flourish here's my last postcard, celebrating all that was wonderful in the Floral Marquee. Let's do it all again next year.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Postcard from Hampton Court: Saturday

Canna 'Cleopatra'

from Hart Canna, on their stall in the Plant Heritage marquee

One of several gorgeous cannas that caught my eye (also into my notebook went the water cannas with their slender spear-like leaves and vibrant flowers: 'Endeavour' was a particularly lovely soft red).

Keith and Christine Hayward have been working for years to eradicate the rampant canna virus, imported with stock from the Netherlands and now so widespread that almost every canna you buy ends up sickly, striped and puckered with disease (I once bought one from a Chelsea garden sell-off, in the days when they did such things, which looked lovely when purchased - only to succumb a few weeks later).

The Haywards however have taken the only responsible approach: take what little unaffected stock remains, and propagate that, developing a range of virus-free canna: probably the only ones in the country you can be pretty much absolutely sure won't develop the disease.

I've followed their progress in this over several years, since they nearly went out of business because of the virus but pulled themselves back from the brink. So I was really pleased to see their stand in the Plant Heritage marquee, full of vividly-flowered cannas with stripes and striations only where they were meant to be. Huge congratulations to both Keith and Christine for their achievement: and it's good to see cannas looking healthy again.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Postcard from Hampton Court: Friday

This gentle joke was tucked away in a corner of the Pococks Roses stand in the Wonderland of Roses marquee. It made me smile: especially since the rose it was referring to was right next door.

Rosa 'Nostalgia' (Pococks Roses)

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Postcard from Hampton Court: Thursday

Plant combination of the week goes to The Stone Roses Garden, designed by Stephen Reilly and Donna Taplin(small garden: silver-gilt)

Dreamy and feminine, but with just the right notes of earthy purple, and those roses were sumptuous: it's not often I like pink roses but for these, I would make an exception.

Rosa 'Burgundy Ice'
Stipa tenuissima
Astelia 'Silver Spear'
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Tom Thumb'
Verbena bonariensis
Acanthus spinosus
Betula ermanii

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Postcard from Hampton Court: Wednesday

'Picturesque', designed by Melissa Jolly (Conceptual Garden: Gold)

So clever: a series of plantings inspired by famous paintings, in this case Rousseau's 'Jungle Sunset'. Here's the original:

I also loved 'Natural Spheres' based on the Kandinsky painting, exploiting the naturally spherical shape of plants like alliums and echinops as well as artificial spheres such as trimmed box balls. Other plant 'paintings' included a Damien Hirst airplants-in-a-glass-box and Monet's waterlilies.

All in all, it was an inspired and delightful play on the concepts of garden and art, and still makes me smile.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Postcard from Hampton Court: Tuesday

The World Vision Garden

I'm not usually that sure about what you might call 'land art'. I tend to find myself wondering how you're going to mow an inverted grass cone, and other such imagination-killing practicalities.

But in this case: to hell with the mowing conundrum. Marry land art with a sheet of water and you have absolute sculptural perfection.

The thought behind the garden was that the mound above the water represented the children who have all they need; the sunken grassy pit was those in poverty. The screens fragment the view and from only one perspective is the sphere seen, in reflection, as a perfect whole.

Oh yes - and the planting was subtle, understated and, I thought, sublime, especially against the brooding slatey greys of the (recycled plastic, though you wouldn't know it) screens.

A little planting list for the notebook:

Allium giganteum, Ammi majus, Deschampsia cespitosa "Goldschleier', Gaura lindheimeri "Whirling Butterflies', Nassella tenuissima, Stipa gigantea, Thalictrum flavum ssp. glaucum x rochebrunianum 'Elin', Verbena "Lavender Spires", Verbena bonariensis, Veronicastrum virginicum "Fascination"

Monday, July 04, 2011

Postcard from Hampton Court: Press Day

The garden that wasn't: a 'show feature' rather than a show garden, 'A Garden By Night' is easy to miss as it isn't in the show brochure and only a sign outside an otherwise unremarkable tent at the end of the main avenue of show gardens announces its existence.

But don't miss it: it's quite unlike anything I've ever seen at a flower show before.

Inside a tent, the blazing sun outside blacked out, you entered a twilight world of shadows where you fully expected bats to swoop through the dusk catching moths. And it elevated garden lighting to an art form: Neil Wilkins, glass sculptor, is a very, very talented man. Pure theatre.

Friday, July 01, 2011

End of month view: June

It's been a month of making progress, if slow: the mad rush of spring has calmed and I'm just planting out the last of my young plants (looking a bit the worse for wear, I have to say: this drought-ridden spring hasn't been kind to plants in pots).

But for now I can enjoy the garden burgeoning into colour, everything growing at the rate of knots, and my earlier work coming - sometimes - good.

It won't surprise anyone who knows me that the veg garden is seeing most of the action: so that's where I'm concentrating for my end-of-month stocktake this time.

There have been a few surprises as I'm trialling one or two veg varieties this year: first up is an amazing pea, due to make its debut in the Thompson & Morgan catalogue next year I believe. If you're not yet convinced that veg can be as beautiful as ornamentals, take a look at this:

The all-important taste test, of course, has yet to come: at the moment the pods are rather a muddy purple tinged green, not unattractive but not exactly wow-value either. We'll see: just love those flowers though.

Another splash of colour is the double row of marigolds I sowed on both sides of my onion bed:

I'm so doing this again: it makes me smile every time I see it. It's supposed to deter onion fly too: they get confused by the strong scent of the calendula. Well - there aren't any onion flies as far as I can see: so it seems to be working so far.

The spuds haven't been so lucky.

I've never had early blight on the new potatoes before. It's making my heart sink for my so-far hale and hearty maincrops. I should know, of course, that in damp and rainy Somerset the chances of escaping fungal disease of any kind are pretty close to zero: but such an early arrival has come as something of a surprise. The spuds themselves don't seem affected: these are 'Foremost', nice enough, but rather bland for my taste.

And finally: a visit to the engine room.

Packed with growbags this year: there are over 20 in there, at last count. It's not how I usually do it - I'm a big fan of growing in soil in the greenhouse borders as a rule, as plants look after themselves so much better. But this is the greenhouse I inherited (rather than the one I brought back from the allotment: that's still being planted up with cucumbers, melons and sweet peppers). So it's on a hard standing, and I didn't have much choice.

Fortunately I was after some experiments to do for t'other blog, so I've got all sorts of things going on in here: product reviews, trying out different supports, you name it. Oh, and those baskets in the back are my sweet potatoes: all of them T65 this year after they won my undying support by producing my best crop last season.

Elsewhere, the whole garden is getting decidedly woolly around the edges, and I am, frankly, dreading July: it's hedge-cutting month, and strim-the-undergrowth month, so I'm looking down the wrong end of a lot of hours strapped to either strimmer or hedge-trimmer. I have half a mile of hedge here: this is no small undertaking. Here's what we're looking at: the back slope gives some idea of the jungle-like undergrowth:

...and here's a typical hedge.

Luckily they're not all quite that tall, but since they're all hazel-dominated mixed hedges they're pretty much this overgrown. Wish me luck.

Thanks as always to Helen at The Patient Gardener for hosting the EOMV!
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