Sunday 30 June 2013


UG. It is a glorious summer day, the sun is shining and the plants are beginning to go crazy and get jungly yet here I am sitting inside feeling sorry for myself, a snotty ball of hay fever miserableness...ok this is worsened by having a boozy day yesterday, but still, its not fun!

 Anyway I have been doing lots of artistic things and will share some of my new paintings soon, I’ve also been doing some hypertufa sculpture which is very exciting, more on that to come too..

Day lilys....Not my usual cup of tea, but if you get the right colour they can be stunning. They are currently looking amazing by the Tetrapanax jungle. Being insect pollinarted they are also ok for hayfever
One piece of slight miserableness which lifted today was the bees.... they have not been my best friends recently as they tried to swarm, and then last week looked to be trying to swarm again, however giving them some more space and time for the new queen to settle in  seems to have worked and they seemed happy today. They are also beginning to start storing honey which is great news...

The bees are loving the opium poppies...these are all self sown and it is always a miracle that so many have survived the weeding. The garden is currently peppered with lots of different shades of red and plum and they are beautiful...the bees also love them in the morning with groups of them having a party in the flowers.

Mum was also instrumental in leading a slug Apocalypse earlier in the week and there are carcases everywhere so finally some of the dahlias have a, all in all the garden is looking great but getting bigger by the minute and needing sorting!
So on towards a gentle July garden meander.....
The Echiums which survived the winter are beginning to look rather large

The pond is looking rather full with the banana and Tetrapanax beginning to bulk out

This is the other side of the pond, the Ensete is still coming back to life, cannas and Ricinus beginning to shoot, Paulownia shooting

 A yucca looking Fab.u.lous

Eccremus.....Ive found this funny as they were very ropey from seed last year, however those that survived the winter are turning into major plants with stunning tropical blooms

Yes, I am still wandering around the garden gazing at the bamboo willing it to grow taller, thicker and stronger and here at the side it is suddenly looking dense

I am back to swooning as all of a sudden the Helianthus salicifolius is back to looking fab

I admired this Clematis from afar being put off by the name (Princess Diana). What would people think? I'm not that kind of boy... however I bit the bullet and this year is is looking proper....I actually think it fits well into the garden as the flowers look rather naturalistic and I welcome the bright colours

Things are still a little bare, although the Jerusalem artichoke forest is HUGE! the banana isn't quite in leaf..

The tropics are there....Canna musifolia behind a Digitalis parviflora? gingers behind, Ricius poised to pounce...

Paulownias growing by the minute

A Kangeroo apple with Persicaria Red Dragon which is probably in need of a haircut

And finally who can resist a palm with the light shining through it!


Tuesday 18 June 2013

Tales from the National Gardens Scheme London Party

Last night was the official London NGS garden party at the Royal College of Physicians...a jolly occasion to celebrate what we all do, catch up with friends and meet other garden openers.
It was a lot later in the year than previously which was nice (there is only so much outdoor schmoozing you can do on a cold rainy evening in April) and I was looking forward to a good nosy round their garden.

I took Mum with me, as she is of course weeder No.1 and Steven is currently being a tennis Umpire for Wimbledon so wasn't around. ‘Should I wear a hat?’ she asked

So we rocked up at a rather grand affair (there were mini raspberry tartlets and lemon meringues and there was no way the tea would be in Styrofoam cups) The lovely Wayne was there looking infinitely more relaxed about his opening than last year, and had in fact seemed to be turning into quite the doyenne of the NGS.

 There were new people who had just opened their gardens (large glasses of wine), and people who were soon to open (apple juice and busy looking at the garden). There were people who had been opening for 20 years wondering if they would be getting gold trowels for service, and anxious that the 1 year they didn't open due to having a heart attack would meant that in the NGS eyes they were back to yr 1.

The actual college garden was great and we were treated to a tour by a very knowledgeable guy who led us round with a mini megaphone distilling facts about medicinal plants...his top fact for me was how eating a poppy seeded bagel would put enough opium into your system for you to fail an Olympic drugs test, and it would stay in your system for a week!

Annoyingly I looked away at the moment of drama when someone fainted into the flower beds. There were whispers at the back as to whether or not she had been trying some of the drugs that he was talking about, however I wondered if she was testing his knowledge about what plants she could be treated with.

So all in all a great evening, and very affirming for what we do. I am still in awe of all the fabulous people like Penny and all the organisers who run things as they are all volunteers which is great as unlike many large charities where 90p of your £1 may go to making that £1 with NGS the vast majority goes direct to good causes. Hurrah for the NGS!

PS apologies for being a bad blogger with no pictures, I had my camera but was so busy schmoozing and trying to attract the attention of the wine filler uppers that I blinked and it was over. So a nice picture of Ganesh looking great instead

Monday 17 June 2013

Three NGS WOW gardens in Dulwich Village

This weekend was the first NGS (National Gardens Scheme) festival weekend as this is the most popular weekend for opening so after lunch we tootled off to 3 ‘wow’ gardens in Dulwich village

If you weren’t aware ‘The Village’ is a rather affluent area and green area, not at all what you would expect from somewhere in inner London, I had also heard rumours that they had only allowed bus stop signs fairly recently, so we were expecting big things!

The first were two gardens opening! Initially faced with big houses we walked through long, dark side passages to emerge into the light an English country idyll...a walled garden with traditional borders, gravel path and proper lawn with a surrounding view of green. Beautiful borders, bounteous peonies everything overflowing with flowers. The first garden went on forever, rising up central stone steps to a formal rectangular pond going on to a vegetable garden. Finally a gate led to the neighbouring garden which was also open.

The second garden was similarly stunning and at we were faced with boulders of natural rock, a waterfall and series of pools. More big overflowing borders and great colour combos terminating at a round pond complete with cherub fountain. Swoon. All something out of a garden magazine and rather intimidating....Steven immediately demanded a copy of the garden (it was his type of thing with big mown lawns and straight paths) I felt I needed to go home to do stuff to feel better about my garden!

However there was another garden to see, and as a result of a long lunch, and rather distracting white port we were running later than expected and had to haul ourselves out and rush to the next one.

It was another wow. Walking in we were faced with an uber designed garden, the first thing we saw being a beautiful swimming pool bordered by a pink wall and sun loungers. It rose up by raised vegetable planters past a big oak tree under planted with lots of box balls to be faced with another huge rectangular lawn with a platform for seats at the end. At either side were large linear beech hedges giving a formal look, however just behind them it was a polar opposite in that it was a complete naturalistic type garden...woodland path on one side of the garden, and orchard the other. Beautiful!


fabulous veg growing the way you want it to be...

I loved this very strong design until Steven said it reminded him of a memorial garden where each ball represents someone who died 

*swoon* some huge rectangular lawn with the beech hedges at the side

Behind the hedge, informal naturalism with a mini orchard

and a woodland walk

So all in all a great trip out and 3 gardens I would definitely recommend.


Friday 14 June 2013

Birmingham Gardeners World Live Flower Show: The good, the bad and the ugly

I think that’s a Gunnorhea’ said the old lady chatting to her companion behind me...

So began my third trip to Gardeners World Live at the Birmingham NEC with my friend Peter who is about to burst on the gardening scene as a new designer

'Gardeners World Live' is a little misleading as a title as in essence it is a huge flower show which is a little bit reminiscent of Hampton Court; however there are a splattering of celebs doing talks so we saw Cleve West and then Diarmuid Gavin being asked about his favorite plants (I think he is a Crug regular!)

We started with the show gardens as rain was threatening. Mmm. They weren’t especially inspiring and were a little but cliché....the Gunnera one was about perspective and how we only focus on the small things affecting us and ignore the big stuff like global warming. Mmm. The car (below) is a comment on the current financial situation and the hidden motives of bankers, however nature will take over in the end. Yawn....
This was also a ‘show garden’ cleverly hidden as a van which looks to be selling stuff.

The small gardens were also not very exciting, but it was interesting to see a RHS judges eyes to the side of things from Pampas2Palms  

I am getting a bit fed of gardens that use swathes of 'native vegetation' yes its great to use natives, yes its great to be pollinator friendly, and ooh how clever to make that look just like the countryside, but ug, enough! This garden below even had stinging nettles in it

I liked this one....nice combos and it was different

Nice shapes and naturalistic planting...
Don’t get me wrong there were some nice ones however generally they were unexciting, lacking inspiration and quality....some looked like they had been thrown together that morning after a quick trip to a nearby nursery. Perhaps I am being snobby, however I am used to all the Chelsea coverage which looks incredibly high quality in comparison and this is what I would expect.

However the plant marquee was amazing with all the nurseries having great stands and displays and lots of things which were very hard to resist!
From desert to jungle, fabulous jungle and exactly my kind of thing...I loved the Lancewoods

I so want these...fabulous mini ponds

Well planted displays looking fabulous

Nothing beats a lord of the rings themed display
I was feeling uber trendy as bee hives still seem to be *the* accessory for gardens and were featured in lots of displays.
Also how can you resist a visit to Beekeeping through the ages?

The main covered space was shared with BBC Good Food live which was all a bit random as it was just stands selling stuff and a bit like just going to a market, for the last couple of years a big chunk had also been the flower show however this year there was almost no plant sellers at all (beyond the societies). This was a big shame as it was just dull non plant related stands (dresses, some art, arthritis cream) We walked through very quickly feeling disappointed....however they had moved the plant sellers into the nearby car park which gave more light and space, but did feel a bit plonked in a car park. When it started pouring it was also rather empty......
Give way at the allium stand...there is life beyond 'Purple sensation'
A hardy orchid was my favorite purchase of the day, however I also loaded up with bright red, simple flowered clematis which I am thinking could fit in. Also another tree dahlia and some Tropaeolum speciosum which have the most penetrating red flowers....

I'm in love.....
This Meconopsis was Peters could be terminal
So overall it was a good show to go to, however this was rather sweetened by my fabulous companion. I loved all the nurseries but found the generic displays dull and clichéd. I would go again, and it is perfect if you have loads of plants to buy as it is still early enough in the season for them to do well, however if I had to choose between Hampton Court and Birmingham I would  choose Hampton Court as the quality is infinitely higher.