Showing posts from May, 2009

YAWA: Your Events Diary For June

We often think of the phrase Flaming June to mean a period of good weather resulting in a great show of growth and flowers. As a gardener I feel it has a double meaning: the aforesaid good weather, or a polite way of swearing about the opposite reality. Of course, we should now be in that lovely period of frost-free gardening where tender plants can be left out without fear of punishment and the Clematis arereally showing themselves off in my garden as pictured. It's also a month of many and varied events, so let's see what the You Ask, We Answer team have found for us:
1-7: National volunteer week. Lots of information available for you to find a voluntary activity to suit you. Happily my post last year inspired several of you to get out there and do something rewarding :)
5th until October: Future Gardens opens to the public. This is an exciting new garden festival which continues until 4th October. You'll find lots more information over at Zoe's plus June's Gard…

Out on the Streets: June 2009

Oh me, oh my - it seems like only 2 minutes ago we were in March and Out on the Streets!
But no, it's nearly June and time for another look at public planting in your neighbourhood and/or on your travels this year. It's entirely up to you to decide what to show us, it just needs to be in the public eye like the pictured bright planters (and a rather nice tree lined avenue behind don't you think?) I found in Cardiff recently. We had a wide variety of contributions in March which you might like to look at for inspiration, or here's some further ideas:
Choose a site, perhaps the one closest to where you live and show us how it changes through the seasons. OR perhaps you have something to say about the way plants are used in the public area of an office or another building you visit frequently Write about a community project that's happening in your neighbourhood, maybe one you're involved in yourself The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - contrasting examples you see e…

GBDW: Plants For Shade

Brunnera 'Jack Frost' - a spectacular introduction to my shady border in 2008
Say the word shade to a gardener and you're likely to get a long face and a pitying look in return. Yes, the planting palette can be a little tricky in a shaded situation, but it doesn't mean that the border can't look spectacular. I've still to get it totally right, but I treat shade as an opportunity to have a different look to part of my garden. And in the height of summer, a shady spot can be rather a relief can't it?
I have 2 shaded areas as both the front and back of the house is bordered by public land, which has a native hedgerow and trees planted along its entire length. This gives us privacy of course, but it does mean my Eastern facing borders are shaded for much of the day. The trees are deciduous, so at least there's a fair amount of constant light in late autumn through to late spring. I garden on a clay soil (and in Zone 8), so at least moisture isn't a prob…

At Hay Festival

Last Friday I found a long brown envelope addressed to me in the kitchen. Hmm, I thought, it's a handwritten address, so it can't be anything nasty like a tax demand or bill.

NAH: What's that?
Me (after frantically ripping the envelope open): Um, it's a complimentary ticket to see Dan Pearson at the Hay Festival on Sunday.
NAH: Who's he and how did you get that?
Me: He's a hot shot garden designer and I entered a Wiggly Wigglers' e-mail competition, ages ago, thinking in the unlikely event I won I could go whilst you're working on your steam engine at Midsomer Norton. I'd totally forgotten I'd entered, so what a nice surprise!
NAH: Slight problem. Your car's just failed it's MOT and the garage can't get the part needed until we're on holiday. Your car's not safe to drive long distances.
Me (absolutely gutted): Oh.
NAH: Well, I could go to Midsomer Norton on Monday and we go to Hay on Wye for our day out together on Sunday instead.

ABC Wednesday 4: S is For...

It seems even Chelsea isn't immune from pestilential ravages such as slugs and snails. But in keeping with being one of the world's biggest flower shows, their problems are of course on a much larger scale ;)
For further Super posts on the theme of S, do visit the ABC Wednesday blog.

Playing In Victoria's Backyard

Right, that's Chelsea done and dusted, apart from a couple of snippets to follow shortly. Of course what most of you have been waiting for is how I got on at Victoria's. I have teased you rather haven't I? I've been selfishly hugging my delicious visit to myself just to make everything last that little bit longer, but now it's time to tell you all about it.
It never ceases to amaze me how generous people are in the blogosphere and how they're not complete strangers when you meet them for the first time. Victoria and I were nattering away from the word go and we hardly paused for breath until Emmat arrived for breakfast on Tuesday morning. Of course the first thing we did when I arrived was to have a long look at the garden. The view I'm showing you is from one of the two huge sets of patio doors across the back of the house. This is a garden which can't be ignored from there and rightly so.
Of course I was already familiar with it, but in the form of litt…

Chelsea Flower Show: A Lessons Learned Review

To complete all the floriferous and designer gorgeousness I've shown you over the past few days, here's a few snippets and lessons learned I must tell you now before I forget them. That way you and and I are guaranteed a tippity top time when we next go to Chelsea... I must cross entire continents to go and hear Roy Lancaster - thanks for the tip James, but sadly I was too late.
Gnomes and all sorts aren't hidden on just Jekka McVicar's stand, lots of the nurseries do it. I'm now imagining they all have a subversive competition every showtime to see who can outwit the RHS by hiding the largest and most tasteless object on their stand and not get caught. Shall we play a game next time and see what we can find?
It's great to go with someone to compare notes. It's even better when that person produces a packet of biscuits at just the right moment.
Lots of ordinary mortals like me go to Chelsea and if you wear your usual comfortable gear, you can nip in and se…

The Alternative Chelsea Awards

The real awards have been handed out and the People have also made their choice. Now it's time for me to consider the more sought after obscure prizes for this year's show gardens at Chelsea. Ladies and Gentlemen, please don your tuxedos, tiaras and gladrags for the most exclusive awards ceremony of them all. Beamed live into your home from Chippenham at a mere click of a mouse, please welcome the inaugural lighthearted Vivacious Perennial Prizes. Note: the gardens highlighted in yesterday's post are excluded from these awards as I've already written about them in some detail.
The Barbara Cartland: Most creative use of a single pink cultivar - Quilted Velvet for their 1000s of Busy Lizzies (Impatiens)
Fork to Fork: Best display of vegetables in a show garden - Freshly Prepared by Aralia, especially for their yummy kitchen splashback living wall
Hide and Seek: Worst plant:hardscaping combination - The Japanese Tranquil Garden for their innovative use of mauve alliums again…

Chelsea: My Favourite Show Garden

If you read my Anticipating Chelsea post, I expect you're not surprised that Future Nature was my favourite show garden. It doesn't look much like a conventional garden does it? But it's much more than just a garden: it's packed with lots of research (15 years worth) and ideas on how to tackle our really big gardening issues like climate change, coping with periods of flash flooding and drought, gardening for wildlife etc. etc.
Whilst the garden's rectangular in shape, within that there's a spiral design which deals with water entering the garden just like it drains out of your bath's plughole. At the top of the garden are areas representing green rooves which soak up the rainfall like a sponge, below that are planters and water pools which take up any runoff from the roof. Thus periods of intense rainfall can be coped with without overloading our drains and the water can be stored away to be used during times of drought. Everywhere there's a low maint…

Chelsea's Great Pavilion

Come with me for a wander around the Great Pavilion at Chelsea in just 34 slides. Such wonders and colours are there to behold and people to meet, but sadly I can't waft the scent at you which was wonderful. Except for the roses, surprisingly - did anyone else find the vast stands of them were curiously lacking in scent?

I'm a useless pap though. Whilst I managed to capture Jekka McVicar, Chris Beardshaw (especially for Arabella) and Christine Walkden, I totally failed to with the very orange Alan Titchmarsh, plus James, Lila das Gupta, Bunny Guinness, James Wong and Wayne Hemingway :( James as usual was a delight though I did tease him rather about his new role as TV's royal commentator. My friend H now calls me a garden tart because I was forever going off and chatting to people, but that's the best bit of the show! I was expecting to be disappointed at not being able to buy plants, but in reality I found the stands were much calmer places than usual with plenty of ti…

It's Chelsea Showtime!

It's showtime and what better way is there than a slideshow to give you the feeling of wandering past most of the show gardens at this year's Chelsea Flower Show. There's 25 images and I've set the change to slow so you can take it all in. If you feel you need more time, then just hover your mouse over the image to stop the pages turning. I've mixed the larger show gardens with the smaller, more intimate courtyard and urban gardens because we also dotted about a bit during our viewing.
I've not included all of the gardens as some are saved for future posts or I don't have a decent image to show you. All the gardens can be viewed here, together with planting plans, interviews with some of the designers and a whole lot more. I've deliberately not given you the awards* either - it's up to you to make up your minds. H and I often differed - one of the great things about going to a show with someone else is the intense discussions you have about what&#…

ABC Wednesday 4: R is For...

... RHS Chelsea Flower Show
You'll have to forgive me if I'm a bit scatterbrained today, but my head's still in a whirl after yesterday's wonderful visit to Chelsea with my friend H. This post will be about random thoughts and first impressions. I've got lots of individual cameos and stories to tell you later and unlike other RHS events, there's no way Chelsea can be confined to just one post. I've decided to start with a picture of Luciano Giubbilei's gold medal winning Laurent Perrier garden, not because it's my favourite - it isn't, nor did it win best in show - but I need to look at one of my more tranquil scenes in order to start to make a sense of things.

I can't tell you whether this is a vintage Chelsea or not because this was my first visit and it wouldn't be fair to compare the real thing with my impressions gleaned from TV programmes. I expected it to be far more crowded than it was: tickets were sold out, but I believe member&#…

Take Your Cue For Kew

Whilst I'm happily going around Chelsea today, I thought it would be a good time for you to get your diaries out for another great day out. As you may know already, Kew is 250 this year and there is a shedload of events being held in celebration. Our roving volunteer Kew guide, Emmat has exposed a shocking lack of take-up for some of the unique behind the scenes tours being held from now and all through the summer. She says: can check out the DNA sequencers used to reclassify plants into different genus (boo) see the labs where they classify pollen for the police (oooh) and have a nose around the work they are doing to create anti-oxidant gardens for people affected by HIV in South Africa (hurray).

Having organised volunteer weekends in the Herbarium in the past, I know behind the scenes tours round Kew are fascinating: as if going round the gardens themselves isn't a tippity top day out to begin with. The tours are free (though general admission isn't) and there are …

Anticipating Chelsea

Chelsea might be pruned and credit crunched but I'm still going for my first taste of the big one with my friend H tomorrow. I've been poring over the catalogue the past few days to make sure we get the best out of our day. If this is a smaller Chelsea, I dread to think what a 'full' one must be like, it looks huge as it is. I believe we're going to have to run round in order to see it all.
Now Chelsea does have its detractors and I agree with a lot of what's been said, but I also have to say it's pretty much the only time when gardening gets plenty of coverage and makes headline news. Yes, the amounts spent on some of the show gardens can be obscene, but I was impressed at how Cleve West's show garden last year helped to raise awareness of Alzheimer's and dementia, a subject that's now rather painfully close to my heart as is the lack of decent gardens at most care homes. I've also nicked used a few ideas from the show gardens over the years…

Abroad For The Day

Yesterday found me 'abroad' in Wales for the day as my friend H (of GNO fame) suggested we take a train trip to Cardiff to take in the Sisley exhibition at the National Museum and Gallery of Wales. She also suggested we have lunch at Madame Fromage, a marvellous chance discovery we'd made when we went to the RHS Cardiff Show last year. A combination I couldn't resist.
It was another day of chance discoveries. The National Museum is a magnificent place, built at the beginning of the Art Deco era, so is full of clean lines and elegant details. I didn't know Sisley had spent part of his final years in Wales painting the area around Langland Bay on the Gower Peninsula. Many of my childhood holidays were spent at this very spot as we often visited my aunt and uncle in Swansea, so I was able to play back some of my very early memories through a painter's eyes.
Another surprise was the Diane Arbus exhibition. I'd studied her at A level photography classes a few yea…

GBBD: In The Merry, Merry Month of May

I always think of May as a transition month: not quite summer yet, but something more than spring somehow. The garden's in transition too: from the shouty yellow of the daffodils - much needed in March after winter's drabness - to the quieter, varied shades of mauve for early summer. This Blooms Day I'm surprised how much white and very pale pink there is to show you: enough to put them as alternating photographs in my collage (click to enlarge if needed). I'm surprised there's tulips too, as they're usually well over by now. The last vestiges are there in my north facing front garden. If only I'd partnered my pictured T. 'Spring Green' with T. 'Queen of Night' in my mirror beds either side of the bay window. They're both blooming now, but alas I chose T. 'Purissima' for my white, which has long gone.
I thought I'd be showing you a kaleidoscope of Clematis this Blooms Day, but the cooler weather of the past few weeks has seen…

Bloggity Blog Fun

I was musing to myself recently on how the blogosphere has lost a lot of its fun and mayhem without the frequent presence of The Garden Monkey, when up pops GM just in the nick of time to put that right. Fanfare please, we have the second Fork 'n Monkey Awards * - so I guess we can call it a tradition and an annual event now, hurrah!
The standard of nominations thus far is extremely high, so I'm rather relieved my queen of bad poetry crown is safe for another year as there isn't an equivalent award this time around.

However new nominations and votes for the latest set of quirky categories are most welcome - go and vote now people!
And whilst we're talking about bloggity blog fun, why haven't you entered Kate, The Manic Gardener's amusing compost competition? What's that - you don't think compost can be amusing? You haven't reckoned with Kate's take on the subject - nor GM's for that matter - just reading her categories will give you the giggle…

ABC Wednesday 4: Q is For...


The questions that hit our blogs are often unintentionally hilarious: it's their juxtaposition with our particular sites which make them so funny. Take these latest examples from Veg Plotting's statistics:
I want to go to the Isle of Wight on Monday, where do I go and what time is the ferryPark Keeper Custard Rhubarb JokeCar Rally Peas Holiday WeekendWhere is Monty DonSadly I don't think anyone found what they were looking for on here, but a near neighbour blogger at least knew the answer to where Monty Don is a couple of weeks ago as she was standing next to him at a Bob Dylan concert. And whilst I'm often amused, I must admit I do feel guilty when I find perfectly good questions on my site's hits which weren't answered for the person who pitched up on here. My inner imp also wishes Chester Hunt could be a regular contributor just to liven things up a bit.Well, I'm going to feel guilty no longer as I'm introducing a new occasional theme call…

Things In Unusual Places #1: The Earthworm

I found an earthworm in my sink on Saturday morning just after breakfast. I didn't see it glide across the kitchen floor, this isn't where stuff from the garden or allotment gets washed and it seems an awfully long way for it to have climbed up the plumbing.

So, how on earth did it get there? And whilst we're at it, how do they get into my water butt on the allotment after it's been filled from the nearest standpipe?

In An English Country Garden - Revisited

On Saturday Stourhead was filled with the sound of 1,000 voices singing their socks off and our choir provided 100 of them! Can you think of a more perfect setting than these world class gardens? ... No, I thought not.
It's the second time we've performed at The Festival of the Voice and it was just as enjoyable as the first. It was raining when we arrived and a little chilly for our first performance at the pictured Bristol Cross. However, the sun stayed out for the rest of the day so we were able to have a good walk around the lake, have a leisurely picnic and listen to some of the other 34 choirs performing. The rhododendrons were at their best and our second performance by the lake at Copper Beech was accompanied by the intoxicating fragrance of Rhododendron luteum.
Our dress rehearsal's still available online if you'd like a taste of Saturday's experience. However, I'm afraid the lack of an aromatic facility on the interweb means you'll have to provide …

Magical Malvern

All wasn't magical at first on Friday as heavy weather over the Cotswolds saw us (SUP and I) battling through gusty winds, snow, hail and a dramatic sight of Mammatus clouds - this link will take you to some pictures of what we saw and this one explains what they are - as we headed out of the storm towards Malvern, bathed in sunshine at last. I worried if similar weather had wreaked havoc with Lola, the main focus of Deb's show garden, but as you can see she was calm and serene on our arrival. Later on, gusty winds managed to lift some metal fencing bodily and dump it on nearby cars just a few yards away, but her lovely feathers remained unruffled. Well done Deb, your silver was very well deserved.

I met up with Helen (Patient Gardener) and Anna from Green Tapestry at the Design For Living Theatre where James was holding court with Terry Walton, who was much taller than I imagined from the radio. I asked a question about leek moth on our allotments, which elicited a sympathetic…

An Award From Aunt Debbi

Eek - Deb gave me this award months ago and it's taken me absolutely aaaaages to do anything about it. Deb, it doesn't mean I don't appreciate the award, I really do :)

As part of my acceptance speech I should list 5 things I'm addicted to, so here goes: Blogging - now there's a surpriseGardening - dittoChocolate - though NAH's enforced diet is helping to wean me off this oneChoir - there's nothing better for lifting a bad moodFriends - especially NAH, plus all my real life ones and blogging buddiesNothing unusual or quirky there then. I'm saving that for another time ;)Deb had a great idea of choosing her 5 most recent commenters for her award passalong as they're the lifeblood of her blog. I'd like to copy and modify her idea slightly and nominate a couple of people who comment regularly on my blog too. So thank you Sylvia and Petoskystone for your regular contributions on here. I know it's a bit strange me giving you this award as you don&#…

Chippenham's Carpet Bedding

Chippenham Town Council must be rather proud of this public planting as it's at the top of their latest newsletter. The logo in the middle is the town's coat of arms and the lettering reads:

Improving the quality of town life Chippenham Town Council
It's an example of carpet bedding - a floral art which came to prominence in Victorian times when public planting schemes would have intricate designs composed of thousands of plants - usually colourful annuals - and there'd also be bizarre objects like floral clocks which did actually tell the time (Edinburgh still has one) and pictures made up entirely from plants. It's a dying form in most places as it's expensive to do: for both the initial outlay on plants and labour and it also needs a lot of ongoing maintenance. The plants need to kept from growing out too much, else the designs lose their sharp outlines. Another factor in its decline has been the decrease in corporation greenhouse facilities for growing thousan…

I Think We're Up For Adoption

Let me introduce you to Moly, our neighbours' cat. She had her nose severely put out of joint when they adopted a lovely collie dog last year and is refusing to enter their house unless she really has to. Most of the time she's sat on our other neighbour's front garden bench when it's sunny and under our garage overhang when it's raining. Why our garage is preferable to her real home's more sheltered front porch is a bit of a mystery.

A couple of months ago I spotted she'd moved to sitting on our back garden bench irrespective of the weather. As the cover was on it was rather funny to see a cat shaped lump at one end. Jess and Skimble are a bit miffed but appear to tolerate her as long as she keeps out of their way. Last week the sunny weather finally made me remove the cover and whilst I was shaking it to get rid of the giant puddle which had gathered in one of the folds, out popped Moly looking rather disgusted at being so disturbed. She's now taken to…

ABC Wednesday 4: P is For...

... Project Update
How time flies! We're about a third of the way through the year, so I thought it would be good to review my list of projects for 2009 to see how things are going.
Public Planting - lots of posts plus lots from you! Thanks for your contributions thus far and don't forget the next episode of the Out on the Streets meme is due next month.
Front garden quirkiness - to follow and 3 gardens found thus far - I have a steam engine (which also featured briefly in How Britain Got the Gardening Bug if you watched it), a garden of car hub caps plus one with every conceivable solar powered lamp. If you know of any others, do let me know.
I've mulched the garden and cleared about a third of the bottom bed for its makeover. Progress has been slowed by the amount of ivy that's crept in from the public land that needs ripping out, plus Clematis 'Francis Rivis' is looking so lovely at the moment I can't bear to cut it back.
After taking advice at…

News Hot Off the Press: Guardian Blog Guest Post

In celebration of Compost Awareness Week, The Guardian Gardening Blog is publishing a post every day. It's my turn to feature today - do hop on over there to find out what Johanna's doing in my garden.

Am I chuffed or what :)

Abbey Hill Steam Rally

May Bank Holiday weekend and at last NAH and I found time to spend a whole day together yesterday. We didn't find any traditional maypole or morris dancing, but we did visit a new event for us: Abbey Hill Steam Rally and Country Fair at Yeovil Showground. It's the kind of show we love and all the usual elements were there: classic tractors, cars and motorcycles; displays of vast collections of tools, salt & pepper pots, oil cans and tractor seats - though sadly we failed to find E.M Boobyer's collection of Women's Land Army memorabilia; models galore and of course lots of steam traction engines and wagons.
We also found many new quirky things to giggle over: unusual signage abounded and I was particularly taken with the pictured one I saw on a Sentinel steam wagon. NAH found a collection of vintage valve radios to keep him happy; there were twin boys with matching dogs like black floor mops; an excess of foam in the stationary engine displays; enough steam to crea…

Greetings From Dorset: Sylvia's Roundabout

Sylvia kindly emailed me the other day with this picture of a roundabout she sees on her daily journey in Dorset. She likes the simplicity of the daisies and a week or so ago they were contrasting with bright yellow dandelions. Is it me or does anyone else think dandelions are particularly prolific this year?
Sylvia's e-mail was most timely as I'd been musing on dandelions and daisies too. The roadside verges around here are awash with them, topped by frothy cow parsley (now renamed Cow Mumble after Happy Mouffetard's recent post) which came into flower a couple of weeks ago. It's less so with our roundabouts, which seem to have the same kind of grass care as a back garden lawn: I can't really fathom why they need to be so neatly manicured.
I've also been reading about Nigel Dunnett's work at Sheffield University on the use of annual seed mixes in public planting and it struck me that this would be perfect for Chippenham's roundabouts, particularly on th…

I Confess: I've Bought a Few Plants

Of course I completely ignored my own advice and have been merrily buying and ordering plants like I'm designing my garden from scratch rather than the odd border tweak here and there. The damage thus far: The usual weekly trips to Franks Plants - luckily for me the choice and quality hasn't been as good as it used to be, so the temptation hasn't been too great and I've managed to keep to just the things I need for my summer potsA trip to the absolutely enormous West Kington Nurseries last weekend - well they're local and it was for charity, so it would be churlish not to. I bought some very nice Cosmos 'Chocomocha' (meant to smell even more of chocolate), Papaver 'Patty's Plum, Helianthus 'Lemon Queen' and Dahlia 'Dark Star'Some boxed plants on special offer from Homebase - Monarda 'Cambridge Scarlet', Echinacea purpurea and Echinops 'Blue Globe'I can never resist the Parkers catalogue as the plants are so cheap. 12

GBMD - The Mummers' Dance

When in the springtime of the year When the trees are crowned with leaves When the ash and oak, and the birch and yew Are dressed in ribbons fair
When owls call the breathless moon In the blue veil of the night The shadows of the trees appear Amidst the lantern light
We've been rambling all the night And some time of this day Now returning back again We bring a garland gay
Who will go down to those shady groves And summon the shadows there And tie a ribbon on those sheltering arms In the springtime of the year

The songs of birds seem to fill the wood
That when the fiddler plays All their voices can be heard Long past their woodland days

And so they linked their hands and danced
Round in circles and in rows And so the journey of the night descends When all the shades are gone

"A garland gay we bring you here
And at your door we stand It is a sprout well budded out The work of Our Lord's hand"

Loreena McKennit - 1997

This is my favourite song by Loreena McKennit and it seems appropriate for May Da…