Sunday, 31 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 are really 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 Gardens Illustrated magazine has an extensive preview. It's also World Environment Day today.

10-14: Gardeners' World Live at the NEC. The big gardening festivals just keep rolling on - you can read about my lovely visit last year here.

19th (tbc): The Hoppings - Europe's largest funfair with roots going back to 1721 on 40 acres in the heart of the city of Newcastle upon Tyne, continuing to the end of June/beginning of July. As a student this was the perfect antidote to the stress of exams!

20th: National Winking Day - Can you wink? I can, but only with my right eye ;)

21st: Summer Solstice. A time when the druids and other assorted folk stay up all night - well it is the shortest one - and celebrate the dawn of the longest day at Stonehenge.

24th - Midsummer's Day aka St John's Day. I've always struggled with this one as summer's only just got going in my view. Have a look here for more information on the the traditions associated with this day and also the entire month.

26th - Sing for Water. Unlike last year, we won't be going to London as our choirmaster and WaterAid are organising an event for the South-West instead. 800 people will be gathering at Bristol's Harbourside and I'll give you more details re timing etc. later should you wish to come and hear us.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

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 every day or you've noticed on your travels
  • Choose an example near you and find out about the people responsible for designing, building or maintaining it
  • Write about a particular issue or trend you'd like to explore which fits this meme e.g. Britain in Bloom (or another community project), vandalism (and how it can be minimised), vertical gardens, or something else...
  • Anything else that takes your fancy - you may like to have a look at the post I wrote when I introduced my public planting series to see how I'm defining it for my own use this year: it may help you to focus in on a particular topic you'd like to write about
So when to post? It's up to you. I'm keeping this topic open from now and during the whole of June. However, I'm not going to put Mr Linky up for you to add your links at the moment because there was an update recently, so I'm wary of using it until I know for sure there aren't any problems. In the meantime, do leave me a comment here with your link and I'll make sure your post is added when Mr Linky goes up. Don't worry if you've nothing to contribute for June as there'll be further opportunities to take part in September and December.
See you soon, Out on the Streets!

Friday, 29 May 2009

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 problem, except for a lot of the front border as it's on a steep bank.

Both front and back gardens are geared towards a winter/spring spectacle. Bulbs are in abundance - this is where the bulk of my snowdrops are, plus winter aconites and daffodils of course. In the back garden I have a winter flowering honeysuckle - Lonicera purpusii 'Winter Beauty' which adds a fragrant touch to a dreary time of the year. After bulbtime I have a mass planting of Dicentra spectabilis which has the neat trick of hiding a lot of the dying daffodil foliage. Pulmonaria is in flower from December through to April and they make a good combination with both daffodils and Dicentra, plus their speckled foliage is an added bonus. I also have a sprinkling of Anemone sylvestris and Convalaria majalis as their white flowers brighten up the oncoming gloom in April. After that the accent falls on foliage - Hostas and Houttuynia 'Chameleon' are both good doers. The latter can spread a bit further than needed, but can be kept in bounds easily enough. Of course, my ever trusty Heucheras can't be ignored as a choice for shade - 'Green Spice' does particularly well in this situation. Our native foxglove, Digitalis purpurea pokes through the gloom in June/July and two roses 'New Dawn and 'Rambling Rector' still manage to bloom in profusion and form a neat incentive for prying children not to climb the fence into our garden!

Apart from the bulbs, the front shady border is totally different to the back. This is where children play football (soccer), so I have chosen shrubs that are tough as old boots to withstand anything that comes their way. The builders planted an irregular, massive row of Cornus 'Elegantissima' which I relocated to the bottom of the bank (see picture). This Cornus may not have the best red bark in winter, but an annual prune keeps the stems at their brightest. It comes into its own during the summer as its variegated foliage brightens up the gloom beneath the trees. My own choice of shrubs includes Weigela florida and Potentilla 'Manchu' both having white flowers which lifts this area considerably. I've also found Kerria japonica 'Flore pleno' does well beneath my silver birch tree, often flowering from December through to May. I'm using the prolific Cotoneaster dammeri for bank stabilisation - it's tiny white flowers in spring echo the Potentilla and its red berries in Autumn are attractive as well as being a good food source for the birds. In places it's interplanted with Sedums and Euonymus as you can see in the picture on the right.

The Hardy Plant Society stand at Chelsea last week had much to inspire on the shady plant front which I also included in my Great Pavilion slideshow. I fell in love with Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty', a moisture loving shade plant. Graham Rice has lots more information on his Transatlantic Plantsman blog. The same stand revealed Cornus canadensis as ground cover candidate in the more lightly shaded areas, plus the spectacularly striped Convalaria majalis 'Albostriata'.

So I suppose my basic 'rules' for shady gardening can be summed up as: make use of the less shaded times of the year for a flowering spectacle; use lots of interesting foliage for the rest of the year; and use white (flower or leaf) to brighten the area at any time. If you bear these 3 simple things in mind, your tricky shady area should always have something of interest and those pitying looks from your fellow gardeners will turn into smiles of pleasure.

Garden Bloggers' Design Workshop is hosted by Gardening Gone Wild.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

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.

So that's what we did :D

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

ABC Wednesday 4: S is For...

...Snails

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.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

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 little cameos. As we walked round, I kept on saying to myself, oh so that's where that pot is or here's the pond - with fully working pump Petoskystone will be glad to hear. Victoria has cleverly created lots of nooks and crannies in her garden, so everything still comes as a surprise as you wander around no matter how closely you've been paying attention on her blog.

However, she hasn't told you all about the sounds. I always associate London with traffic noise and the constant droning of planes overhead. Victoria's Backyard is a haven from all of this owing to the vast number of birds in and around her garden. It's simply a lovely place to be.

Dinner with Victoria's family was great and then I had a real treat: settling down to watch Monday's Chelsea coverage with someone who enjoys watching it too. I'm always left to my own devices at home and it's just not the same as sharing it with someone, especially as Victoria was chipping in with juicy snippets from her Press Day visit.

Of course no visit can be made without mentioning the delightful Pushkin. He made an early appearance in proceedings and seemed to warm to his unusual visitor. He came into my room for a cuddle at 5am - I was awake already as the unfamiliar sound of parakeets in the dawn chorus had woken me up! We snuggled down for a snooze together until it was time to get up and get ready to go to Chelsea.

Thanks Victoria for doing so much to make my first visit to Chelsea such a special one :D

Monday, 25 May 2009

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 see everything ahead of all the posh ladies in frocks tottering along.
No matter how hard you plan and try, you will still miss seeing something. For instance, how on earth did I manage to miss the Auricula theatre in the Great Pavilion?
Most of the TV gardening personalities are surprisingly small. Bear that in mind when you step back after taking a photograph like the one above, else you may flatten one of them like I almost did with Bunny Guinness in Sloane Square.
If you want to play Chelsea Celebrity Bingo follow the TV cameras: if you want to see the exhibits in more comfortable surroundings, do the opposite.
The people are the show's real highlights - so arrange to meet up with as many blogging buddies as possible and don't be shy about talking to any of the designers or exhibitors. The nursery owners are much more relaxed and chatty at Chelsea as they're not being pestered by people wanting to buy plants and asking how to look after them.
The RHS may have banned gnomes, but it doesn't mean bad taste can't be found at Chelsea. Each to his own I suppose and watch out for a prime example for this week's ABC Wednesday.
Buying a programme pre-Chelsea can be very useful if you know you're going to be pushed for time and/or it's your first visit. However, if you're sharing it with your friend(s), do make sure you photocopy enough copies of the maps beforehand. You will lose them (your friends that is) at some point and the Great Pavilion in particular can be most disorientating without a map.
If you are early for the show and you retire to a bench in the temporary car park over the road, DO NOT pick up the folder that looks like it's abandoned there, UNLESS you want a lot of attention from the security guard wondering why you're so interested in his security procedures.
The TV coverage is great, but there's nothing like being there for real.
Pretentious? Yes. Overblown? Sometimes. But here's the thing: when I watch Chelsea on the telly, I get so dissatisfied with my garden and want to rip it out completely and start again. I've come back from the show full of enthusiasm and completely energised. Chelsea has something for everyone, even me. It's up to you to go and find it for yourselves.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

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 against a mauve background. Runner up: Daily Telegraph for its combination of white planting with light coloured stone

Bernard Leach: Most pleasing and tactile shape - Pottering in Cumbria for their 'onion' pots

BOGOF*: Lots of gardens and ideas for the price - Marshalls Living Street

The Mogadon: The most somniferous garden - a hotly contested category this one because the Laurent Perrier (pictured) and The Telegraph gardens were very well executed, but I felt they had nothing fresh to say. However, the late group entry made by a consortium of leading Courtyard gardens just has the edge as they were exquisite but a number of them were very similar in style

The Queen's Award For Innovation: The Children's Society Garden for its foldaway washing line. Now you see it, now you don't...

Mott the Hoople: Roll Away the Stone (sha la la la push push) - Cancer Research UK

Poundstretcher Special Award: Sarah Eberle for her Credit Crunch triumvirate

The One That Got Away: I realised when I got home I hadn't seen it (sorry Claire) - Dawn Chorus

Do have a look at my Showtime slideshow for pictures of most of these gardens: the BBC and RHS websites have lots more details, planting plans etc etc.
* = Buy One Get One Free

Saturday, 23 May 2009

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 maintenance, naturalistic planting of both perennials and wildflower meadows plus plenty of insect towers and bug boxes providing both food and shelter for the garden's insect life. Whilst it's not a conventional garden, the design and detail were incredible and there was lots of ideas to take away for both my own garden and public planting. I saw something completely different each time I looked at it.

Then came the real icing on the cake. I've come across Dr. Nigel Dunnett's (pictured) work whilst researching public planting, so I was very keen to talk to him about how I can lobby my council to adopt some of his ideas. I posed my question and got invited to onto the garden to sit and have a long chat. Can you imagine how excited I was about that! That's not me in the picture BTW, but my predecessor on the garden. H didn't have her camera with her so didn't record my top Chelsea highlight. Dr. Dunnett agreed it's hard work and most councils don't really 'get it' until they see his work for real. There's a seminar at Sheffield University on 5th August that I and anyone from my council (if I can persuade anyone to come) are most welcome to attend. Rest assured I'll be there at least.

Another garden deserving a more detailed mention is Eden Project's The Key. This garden looked a mess on paper, but the real thing was much better. What made this garden so special was the collaboration between so many organisations and people to make this garden happen. Homeless people and prisoners were involved in the design, growing and build of this garden which represents a journey from a bleak place to a more tranquil sanctuary. There's 10,000 plants, so you can imagine how many people it took for the grow your own aspect of the garden alone. I seriously covet the tomato tower in the vegetable garden. Several of the ex-prisoners and homeless were on hand to talk about the garden and their involvement which was very moving and another special feature of this garden. It was great to see them chatting (and being listened to for once) with 'very nice people'* - I wonder who benefited most from the exchange?

* = I'm trying not to sound patronising here and failing dismally, but it really was like class barriers were being breached in a big way simply through a shared interest in gardening. It was a very open and honest exchange and I loved it.

BTW did you notice the mention of public planting on the BBC's Chelsea coverage on Thursday? It turns out the Cancer Research UK garden is inspired by the fantastic Portuguese pavement designs and plantings in Rio de Janeiro. In addition, Joe Swift suggested the Perfume Garden would be perfect for public planting, possibly a roundabout. I'm not quite sure what the designers of such a meticulously researched garden would make of that suggestion, but I for one am pleased that the need for better public planting was recognised on national TV, no matter how briefly :)

Friday, 22 May 2009

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 time to have a natter with the exhibitors.

I needed to visit Raymond Evison not only because I'd buy his whole stand if I won the lottery, but also because I wanted to thank him for my Clematis 'Crystal Fountain'. He's such a gentleman. I had a very long chat with Jekka McVicar and found out she reads this blog! How chuffed am I? :D We discussed her final Chelsea, the gnome controversy and the future of the RHS. There's 957 plants on her largest exhibit ever and her first water feature - designed by her husband. A passer-by asked 957, why didn't you go for 1,000? Jekka simply smiled graciously and said - Because it only needed 957.

A call at Writhlington School's Orchid Project exhibit was a must because I met one of the exhibitors on the train to London. It's a fascinating project and they're now seeking to reintroduce an extremely rare orchid back into the wild in Sikkim, India. They're having problems in getting a permit to do so - do you know of anything that could help them? I was also told that gnomes aren't the only banned article from RHS shows: flags are too, so they had to 're-brand' the prayer flags sent from the school they're twinned with in India as 'prayer banners' ;)

Other highlights were the exhibits from the Caribbean, the native flora of Kirstenbosch and the amazing vegetable creations from Jersey Growers. The spirit of Medwyn Williams at Chelsea is alive and well as he advised them on the staging of the latter exhibition. I resisted ordering everything off Solva's Heuchera stand, though a friendly chat with them yielded my very own Heucheraholics pen and fridge magnet - something reserved for very special bloggers :) I thought the floral art would leave me cold, but the demonstration of how to put elegant posies and bouquets together was fascinating. My absolute favourite though was Winchester Growers' Dahlias. It was an incredible stand cram packed with what must have been 1000s of blooms which don't usually flower until at least July. Have a look here for more information on how they did it - it was touch and go on whether they'd actually make it to Chelsea.

What a fun and inspirational place. Tomorrow, I'll reveal my favourite show garden.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

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's on view - and we frequently wondered why a garden had received a particular award. All the Best in Show gardens are here, but I've not showed you my favourite one yet - that deserves a delicious post all to itself.
As I said yesterday, some of the gardens failed to live up to the promise I thought they had on paper: I felt this was particularly true of The Cancer Research UK Garden - the ball focal point was utterly awful - bring back Cleve West's version from last year please! Conversely I couldn't make sense of the the back of fag packet like sketch for the Foreign and Colonial Garden, but I was pleasantly surprised by the real thing. I was also struck by how the TV changes perspective - there the large show gardens seem smaller and the courtyard/urban gardens larger somehow. The amount of information available for each garden also differed: from a small page not really giving much more than the garden's title and the designer's name, to the paving slab of information handed out by Marshalls. The designers of one of the gardens had a couple of very nice recipes specially concocted for the show - I'll leave you to guess which one that was.
We'll take a stroll round the Great Pavilion tomorrow :)
* = for those of you who don't know, the awards are gold, silver gilt, silver, bronze and no award. The garden is judged by its delivery according to the designer's own brief, plus the standard of construction and planting. Thus the garden competes against itself rather than against all the other gardens in its category: if all gardens are at gold standard (unlikely), then all the gardens will achieve gold and so on. The only 'competitive' element is the award for Best Show Garden, plus Best Courtyard and Best Urban Garden. This year there were also awards for Most Creative garden in the Show and Urban garden categories - I'm not sure if these have been awarded before - does anyone know? And BTW what's happened to the Chic garden category?

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

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's days like yesterday have slightly fewer tickets allocated. It was easy to see the all the show gardens, except the Courtyard ones, but we members of the good natured crowd (about 3 deep) patiently waited until a convenient gap was found to nip in for a good look. I've been in much more crowded floral marquees too, such as Gardeners' World Live last year, though I don't know whether this was due to fewer exhibitors. We didn't get to see everything, but we did get to see all we planned to see and more, plus there was plenty of time for a chat with exhibitors, designers and some blogging buddies: unfortunately I didn't get to see all of you (especially Little Green Fingers and Constant Gardener whom I knew would be there) - I'm so sorry - next time perhaps?

Some of the gardens were much better in real life than on paper and vice versa - more on that later. There seemed to be more issues-led gardens than usual, though it could be the fewer gardens this year made them stand out a bit more. On the whole I thought a lot of the planting was quite restrained and quite blocky in nature. There wasn't a riot of colour and my overall impression was of white. The plants I noticed most were Libertia, Eremurus, Aquilegias (often in contrasting dark purple and white combinations), Angelica and white Alliums. Whilst most of the gardens were great and thought provoking, none of them made my jaw drop this time.

It was in the Great Pavilion where I was blown away. There was possibly the widest number of flowering months represented in one show for a long time, ranging from Daffodils to Dahlias. I would love to know more about how the growers perform the apparent miracle of stopping and starting growth and flowering in preparation for the show. If the outside was lacking in colour, then here it was in abundance: the exuberance of the Caribbean, the native flora of South Africa, perfect vegetables and a host of flowers of every hue. Some of the exhibits must have been larger than some of the show gardens: the Hilliers stand was absolutely huge for instance.

On my way to London on Monday I was worried I'd be disappointed with my visit. I needn't have: a chance encounter with an exhibitor on the train, plus meeting (and staying) with the lovely Victoria beforehand added to my excitement. The journey home wasn't a let down either as we took an open top bus (or broken bus as I used to call them) from the show to Victoria station. Then on the train home a rather vocal woman (probably having had a few Pimms too many) kept the whole carriage hugely entertained with her opinions of the show, needlepoint, the MP's expenses scandal and private education for her darling Hugo and Sebastian. I got home just after midnight and was so abuzz with everything I'd seen I didn't get to sleep until well after two a.m. this morning. So I'm afraid that's all I can manage for now: there's much, much more to come over the next few days :D

For more Ravishing posts on the letter R, do visit the ABC Wednesday blog.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

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:

...you 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 several to choose from. Here's the full schedule for you to drool over.

See you there?

Monday, 18 May 2009

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, so I think it's about time to experience Chelsea for myself.

So what am I looking forward to? There's quite a bit on public planting this year with Nigel Dunnett's Future Nature and Marshall's Living Street show gardens. I'm particularly hoping to talk to Nigel as I believe as his kind of planting is just what Chippenham needs. I haven't been able to resist having a snigger at one of the show gardens being sponsored by a brand of loo paper, so I'm curious to see how this one turns out. A plasticine show garden is bound to set the tongues wagging too. In The Great Pavilion I'm hoping to bump into Jekka McVicar and the lovely Raymond Evison. Birmingham City Council also have a stand in there and seeing I walked past the parks department providing this display every day for 7 years on the way to school, I'm intrigued to see what they'll come up with. Blogging buddies are set to be there both in official and visiting capacities, so I'm hoping to meet up with some of them too.

As Malvern showed so well, one of the great strengths of blogging is the immediate and very different perspectives presented by several people, thus giving us a much more rounded coverage of the event. It's no different with the build-up to Chelsea. So far Graham Rice has previewed most of the plants to be launched at the show; Victoria has looked at some of the show gardens; Cleve West tells of his experiences of the build-up sans show garden for a change, Claire Potter shares her first experience of a Chelsea show garden build and James has a pot pourri of predictions. The RHS and the BBC websites also have extensive coverage. No doubt we'll also get lots of reports from the show itself over the next few days.

For those of you visiting Chelsea or glued to the coverage on the telly, Martyn Cox has thoughtfully provided a celebrity bingo card for some fun and games this week. I suspect the TV watchers will have an easier time of it, but I'll be looking out for some paparazzi style photo opportunities to go with mine plus my reports from the show ;)

Sunday, 17 May 2009

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 years ago and was keen to make her reacquaintance. I love her photographs, but she had a way of making the ordinary seem slightly disturbing and the extraordinary even more so. An exhibition about Darwin's time in Wales, mouthwatering ceramics, paintings by Monet (including studies of Venice and those famous water lilies) and a walk round Rodin's The Kiss meant we found far more culture than we'd bargained for.

Cardiff is full of little shopping arcades stuffed with tiny boutiques, vintage clothing, designer jewellers (at very reasonable prices) and cafes. This is where Madame Fromage is to be found (do click on the link to have a look) - a family run deli, proud of its Welsh heritage and visited by a Welsh rugby player (so H tells me) at the table next to us. Their Cawl is to die for, though you need to starve for a week beforehand to do it justice. As a result we needed to walk round the shops afterwards, where we found some public planting for me to show you soon. We also chanced upon an exhibition by local artists in the old library: H bought a painting and I liked the play of light from the window. All this and the lilting sound of Welsh speakers rounded off our day spent 'abroad' perfectly.

Friday, 15 May 2009

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 them stay steadfastly shut with the buds getting fatter by the day. There's now the odd lift of their skirts to to tantalise us with a petal here and there of blue, mauve or pink. The only ones fully in their glory are the C. montana doing its best to make my back fence less boring and the ever early C. 'Guernsey Cream'. There'll be a need for another interim Blooms Day post when they're fully out in a few days time methinks ;)

This month's finalists for the collage are - from top left to right, line by line: Anemone sylvestris, Tulipa 'Queen of Night', Tulipa 'Spring Green', Centaurea montana, Dicentra spectabilis (an amazingly lush show of them this year), May blossom aka Crataegus monogyna, Centaurea montana and Allium aflatunense, Weigela florida, Clematis montana var. Rubens 'Elizabeth', Petunia Tumbellina (TM) 'Priscilla', Potentilla 'Manchu', Geranium himalayense, T. 'Queen of Night', self-sown Aquilegia, a Saxifrage, Clematis 'Guernsey Cream'

Garden Bloggers Blooms Day is hosted by Carol: who won't be dreaming this month over at May Dreams Gardens.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

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 giggles. For those of you across the pond there are real prizes at stake: for everyone else there's pride to contend for!

Hurry, hurry, hurry - both of them close on Sunday the 17th of May...

* = Image courtesy of The Garden Monkey - all rights reserved.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

ABC Wednesday 4: Q is For...

...Questions

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 ferry
  • Park Keeper Custard Rhubarb Joke
  • Car Rally Peas Holiday Weekend
  • Where is Monty Don

Sadly 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 called Question Time. I'm afraid it won't be as expert or learned as radio's Gardeners' Question Time, but I'll do my best to provide answers to some of the things I've found in my site statistics 'postbag'. I'll also say if I don't know, but of course someone out there will, and with any luck will leave their pearls of wisdom in the comments. And Chester, if you're reading this anything you'd care to add is most welcome ;) Here goes for the first batch of five questions:

Will we have a hot summer this year?

I do hope so and the Met Office seems to think we will. I have of course made arrangements to maximise the likelihood of this happening.

Does forced rhubarb die?

It depends. If you're digging up rhubarb to do 'proper' forcing indoors, then this will weaken the plant sufficiently for it not to be worth continuing with after cropping. If you leave it where it is - which is really blanching, not forcing - and it's been well established for a couple of years, you give it a good mulch of manure in February and you only blanch part of the plant, then all should be tickety boo.

Eradicate Spanish Bluebells

Either spend lots of time digging every scrap of them up, swearing an awful lot and find they still come up next spring, OR try the method I saw on The Guardian blog recently, which is to trample them down. That's what I've done this year.

What do earthworms do for the allotment?

Well, they effectively dig and aerate the soil for you by moving through it bit by bit. And compost would take a lot longer to make if they weren't in there. That'll be quite a lot then.

Can you plant raspberry and asparagus together?

Seeing my 'Autumn Bliss' raspberries seem to be on a mission to spread through the rest of my plot and asparagus needs a weed free area, I'm going to say no to this one.

BTW if you're a little disappointed I'm being a bit serious for once and providing a real service for my readers [Shorely shome mishtake - Ed.], I must point you in the direction of my sister 'publication' - You Ask, We Answer - aka YAWA - where the usual fun and mayhem reigns supreme.

For other Quintessential articles on the letter Q, do have a look at the ABC Wednesday blog.

Update: I had further questions in the comments on flowering but beanless broad beans and when to prune ornamental quince (Chaenomeles).

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

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?

Monday, 11 May 2009

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 your own special fragrance ;)

Sunday, 10 May 2009

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 sigh from the audience: as I suspected I'll have to grow mine under fleece this year.

After that, things got strangely surreal as the next item was a fashion show. These were peppered liberally in the schedule as the show garden theme for Malvern this year was Handbags and Gladrags which was also used by local students to make costumes inspired by the garden designs. James was joined on stage by Sabrina Duncan International whose opening line was an extremely camp cry of I know nothing about gardening, but I dooooo know all about fashion! At this point I was giggling hysterically - do have a look at Arabella's post to see why.

Luckily I was outside at the time and I was able to regain composure by having a long chat with Claire by her show garden which was entered for the Chris Beardshaw Mentorship. Sadly she didn't win, but I loved her Dancing With The Trees entry. Wisely she had framed her garden with willow, which did a lot to filter the extremely gusty winds which had flattened some of the plants in other gardens. The planting was lovely and floaty and topped with chestnut poles inscribed with a poem by Yeats. I must have a go at making some more willow weaving for my garden this year, inspired by this garden.

After that we had a quick whizz around the outdoor stands and the massive floral marquee. Helen tried very hard to get me to buy something, but alas what was on offer didn't match my wants list that well (Echinacea, Papaver and Thalictrum), so for once I didn't open my purse, though exquisite stands like this one from Avon Bulbs very nearly got me to do so. In spite of that and having to dodge a couple of showers, it was a magical day. Malvern has a great feel to it: so relaxed and friendly, plus the standard and number of show gardens has increased terrifically since my last visit a couple of years ago. Meeting Anna for the first time, catching up with Helen again, a couple of chats with James, plus a chance meeting with Terry Walton when I visited the Gardeners Click stand (who treat their members very well when they turn up BTW and Terry is charming) nicely rounded off a delightful day.

Next year, Helen and I are contemplating having a bloggers get together on one of the show days. We're thinking along the lines of having plenty of time to go around the show on your own or in small groups, but with a couple of opportunities to have a much bigger meet up for coffee and possibly a meal out together afterwards. So if you're interested, mark 6-9th May 2010 in your diaries now :)

Saturday, 9 May 2009

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:
  1. Blogging - now there's a surprise
  2. Gardening - ditto
  3. Chocolate - though NAH's enforced diet is helping to wean me off this one
  4. Choir - there's nothing better for lifting a bad mood
  5. Friends - especially NAH, plus all my real life ones and blogging buddies

Nothing 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't have blogs, but I always use any award I'm given to say thank you and as you've enhanced my blog so much by what you've said, I still think this award's appropriate for you too. You're also most welcome to leave a list of addictions and even nominations for this award in the Comments below, though as ever with any award I hand out, there's absolutely no obligation for you to do so.

BTW I'm at Stourhead today singing at The Festival of the Voice. Click here if you'd like to hear us at our final rehearsal last Tuesday in Bradford on Avon. You can definitely hear me singing the descant in Give Me Wings!

Have a good weekend everyone :)

Friday, 8 May 2009

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 thousands of plants.

Towns famed for their floral displays will still pay homage to the art, like I saw at Weymouth last year and some places also have giant 'plant sculptures' usually formed from thousands of Sedums and Sempervivums. I've seen them in nearby Bath and Salisbury, so I'll keep an eye out for this year's designs. I wonder if many of the towns and cities continuing with this style of bedding source their plants from here.

I've driven past Chippenham's example many times and I've been quite surprised to find one in the town, especially as it's a more labour intensive form of planting compared to the other ones I've shown you. On closer inspection to take the picture for this article I realised that compromises have been made: only the coat of arms and words are actual plants - Sedums and Sempervivums for the coat of arms and a rather poorly looking small leaved Euonymus for the letters - the rest of it is that red mulch again. For once I feel the mulch has added to the decorative effect. All the plants chosen are relatively slow growing (and cheap), so it requires little ongoing maintenance.

Whilst it doesn't match the floral art of past times or towns with a much larger budget for public planting, I think this is a much better effort for Chippenham than usual. There's hope for us yet.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

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 sunning herself on our patio or sitting on the Dahlia duvet. I fear for the Dahlias - if they weren't got by last winter's cold snap - as she's a bit of a pudding.

I think it's only a matter of time before she adopts us completely.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

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.

Blogging

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.

Garden

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 the RHS Show in London, the back fence will no longer have any vertical gardening as it isn't strong enough. Instead I've invested in a couple of pots to add the vertical interest and as you can see from the picture, the Clematis on the fence is making great strides.

The patio strawberry bed to herb/salad conversion is now going to house the asparagus bed instead as I've decided I can't get my allotment space weed free enough in time. The salad succession project has transferred to a tray and pot system and the herbs have been transferred to bigger pots. I've also started an extra project: growing potatoes in compost bags.

Final decisions are still to be made on what to do with the conifers and the lawn area, though NAH seems to be rather taken with the idea of making an extra couple of beds out of part of the lawn. In the meantime I've revamped one of the terrace beds to include poppies, Echinops, Euphorbias and more Echinacea. A couple of miracles have occurred: I've remembered to stake the plants that need it before they flop over and there's less plants in the nursery area than at the start of the year in spite of my recent purchasing activities :0

Allotment

Progress has been slow here as my back/calf injury slowed things down just at the time when most of the work needed to be done. Consequently the gooseberries are still there and covered with lots of fruit, the replacement apple arches and cordons haven't been started and the weeds have gained the upper hand again! This is where my main activities will be focused over the next month or so.

How do you think I'm doing so far?

For other Perfect P Posts, do visit the ABC Wednesday blog.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

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 create a permanent fog in the cabs of some of the drivers; plus the biggest assortment of wild and luxuriant facial hair I've ever seen. The day was rounded off by a display of exotic insects in the show ring. As this was the size of 3 football pitches and they were hand sized, we had to rely on the commentary to tell us all about the giant spider and stick insect being paraded around. Classic stuff.

Monday, 4 May 2009

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 the town's outskirts. These have already been tried out to good effect on roundabouts in Gloucester and Telford. Whilst there would be some start-up costs for replanting them in Chippenham, I'm sure this would be offset by the reduced mowing needed. I've just noticed in Gardens Illustrated's Chelsea preview this month that Nigel Dunnett has a show garden there this year, so I'm hoping I can get to chat with him in a couple of weeks time.

So who knows, perhaps Chippenham's roundabouts will soon be topped with daisies, dandelions and other wildflower goodies soon.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

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 pots
  • A 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 Begonia 'Bonfire' arrived yesterday - Martyn Cox is to blame for this really as he posted a rather tasty picture of them recently - and some bare root roses arrived today along with the pictured Geraniums, which rather amused me: I'm imagining the plants ran the London Marathon last weekend or something to make them so tired*
On Friday I'm off to Malvern Show - I suspect some more plants may hop off the stands and into my arms whilst I'm not looking, don't you?
* = I think it actually means I might have got them free of charge as they did look rather tired and emotional when I potted them up

Friday, 1 May 2009

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 Day. This link takes you to the place on her website where you can hear this haunting song, though I defy you not to mishear the chorus lyrics We bring a garland gay as We weave a garden gate!
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