Saturday, 2 June 2012

An Archbishop, a swarm, a new visitor centre, good and bad NGS

A busy few weeks..... I would like to say it is because I have been tied up in the social whirl of Chelsea, but no (although a fair amount has been enjoying the coverage and bloggers). I have had in-laws visiting, 2 sheds to assemble, a shed base that has taken up far too much time, the other bee hive swarming,  and moaning about how hot it is (well I am British)
The NGS season is now firmly underway and last weekend I was lucky to remember than Lambeth Palace had its annual opening. I was really excited to go as it is one of those places which everyone knows about, but people rarely visit mainly as it’s not really open! It has been there, and the garden has been continuously cultivated since the 12th Century, with buildings dating from the 1400’s although the main building is 1800’s.
Lovely garden, but they have terrible trouble with the neighbours...
It is the second largest private garden in London (after Buckingham Palace) and covers about 13 acres including a large lawn, pond, bee hives, Lime and hornbeam walks, meadows, fountains and the biggest tea and cake area I have seen at an NGS event.
It is certainly worth a visit, if only for a nosy round, however I was deeply disappointed that the archbish wasn’t taking money on the door, or serving the cake.
Sheds and summerhouses (or the visitor centre as Laurence/Richards now calls it) has been the main focus of labour and time. We bought a 10x10 summerhouse (for gin drinking) along with a 6x8 shed (for storage and to be the bee-club house). The shed went up easily (well this is mainly as Stevens Dad came and did it) however who would believe a base would be so complicated!
Bases are so much more complicated than you think....good job we got the hired help in
For the last few months the shed base has been the focus of my rubble clearing as I excavated a hole, reused the soil and dumped in the rubble thus avoiding getting more skips. I thought that at the end it would compact into a nice flat levelness, but it was more rocky than one of Liz Taylors marriages.  The traditionalists said I should concrete it, but with a quote of £500 this was a little excessive and I settled with compacting the rubble, then a membrane, then compacted soil then carpet then ‘Eco base’ which was recycled plastic and a bit more eco than concrete.
So it has all gone up, all be it with some scratching of heads, then more scratching of heads, and we do still have some spare bits/finishing touches to do (we had to stop as otherwise we would have needed the divorce lawyers.
Planting has rather suffered, and I’m weeks behind where I usually am at this time of the year, however the rain and cold spell was lousy. Even when I was there to plant, by plans were scuppered with the second bee hive swarmed.  This one was a lot more accessible and we managed to catch it...It was quite exciting cutting a branch which had a football of 20,000? bees on the end of it and literally shaking it into a box.
you can just make out the bees, an immense crowd of them hanging like a giant bunch of grapes....
This weekend will be the big plant out, and I’m taking pleasure at the moment pacing the garden and plonking pots around . I’m aiming for 80% in the ground so have quite a challenge, but this is essential as I’m gong to BBC Gardeners World Live in Birmingham in a few weeks and to justify buying new plants I need to have planted all the old ones first!
We have also been to visit a great small NGS garden in Peckham, which has got me thinking about others I have seen which have been a bit mixed. I’m a big fan of small gardens, and feel that having more open through NGS is good as it helps show others what can be achieved in a small space.
We saw a lovely small garden on Holly Grove in Peckham.... It had a clean design with gabions filled with rock demarking well planted thick deep beds.... Although narrow beds are a knee jerk reaction for small spaces, having a deep bed avoids it looking like you have a row of plants in a line, and can be more effective and screen you well. There was also a great rectangular pond, good levels and entertaining space...oh and lovely cake.
Im always a sucker for a well designed pond with a nice showing of Dutchmans breeches

Gabions with a nice high bed backing onto what is the arch/platform of Peckham Rye station!
Sadly it made me think of other small gardens which were I think we were in for about 30 seconds before leaving. Oh and you should have seen the look on Stevens face when he saw that they had shop bough muffins...tea and cake is at least as important as the planting for many people. To give the benefit of the doubt maybe there had been a run on their home made fare and they had resorted to their emergency stock. Whilst Steven balked at the cake I was a little grumpy about the planting.....whilst they were all nice gardens, and hats off to people for opening them, I would have expected something that was immaculate (there were lots of weeds in one). I also think that there has to be something special about an NGS garden whether it is interesting design, horticultural excellence or interesting plantsIn my experience it is certainly the image of NGS that the public and gardening fraternity have.
Paying to see a garden open for the NGS that turns out to be disapointing or have nothing particularly interesting or inspiring to see would certainly put me off from going to another and would not give the impression of an organisation which has rigorous assessments in order to be listed. Something for NGS to think about I would suggest. What do you think readers?
Anyway, lots to do....good luck to everyone who is still planting all their stuff out!

i love an allium, however I always forget where they are and put a spade through them...these are the survivors

Arisaema griffithii...


  1. Interesting tidbits about some of the NGS gardens you have seen so far, and how some of them looked disappointing. The perception of most of the public is that anyone opening for the NGS has been screened with high standards. I suppose a few would have slipped through the net (and depends on how lax the assessor/county organizer is to begin with).

    I do like your summerhouse, and how open and spacious your garden looks complemented with lush planting.

  2. Thanks, however I think much of the lushness is the weeds!