Showing posts from May, 2011

The Legacy of Chelsea: Science

So that's another Chelsea done and dusted for this year. The plants have gone, the show gardens are being torn apart and all that bling and razzledazzle is no more. It's easy to focus on these aspects of the show and say they have no relevance to the ordinary gardener like you and me. I'm going to spend a couple of posts this week looking for a different point of view.

For me one of the most important Chelsea moments was a sparsely attended press call last Monday at the new RHS Experience stand. This was the launch of the latest RHS report entitled Gardening matters: Urban gardens.

We all have an idea of how good our gardens are for the environment, but for the first time RHS Scientist Dr Tijana Blanusa (pictured left) has pulled together all the available research evidence on just why this is so. Her report summarises the areas where our gardens have a key role: Moderating temperature (cooling the urban environment and gardens as insulation)Preventing urban floodingProviding…

ABC of Chippenham: Steeleye Span

This Bank Holiday weekend sees Chippenham filled with strangely dressed characters bedecked with ribbons and bells and waving handkerchiefs, sticks or swords at each other.

It can only mean it's time for Chippenham Folk Festival.

As well as a multitude of morris dancing sides and other folk dancers, there's various bands and singers, including Steeleye Span who'll be the headlining act on Monday night. They also played at the first festival in 1971 when they were a relatively unknown band.

The first festival was held in Lacock and the organisers quickly realised its popularity meant making it a dual location event by including Chippenham was needed. Its continued growth led to Chippenham becoming the sole location in 1984, the year we moved into the area.

There's plenty of ceilidhs and performances to enjoy, though I do like just wandering around the High Street watching the morris dancers perform and catching other impromptu performances in a pub or at Monkton Park. …

The Chelsea Garden Made By Bloggers

Two years ago I returned from my first visit to Chelsea with the romantic notion it would be rather wonderful to have a show garden designed and built by bloggers. James soon brought me back down to earth again, so I'm rather pleased to see this year that it's pretty much happened in the shape of the British Heart Foundation's garden, which was commissioned to raise awareness of their Mending Broken Hearts campaign.

It's designed by Ann-Marie Powell (though her blog can be a tad intermittent!), aided and abetted during the planting stage by Helen, Rob, Simon, Owen and Laetitia. I think they and the rest of the team did a fantastic job.

I wasn't sure about the red structures when I first saw the drawing, but in reality it works really well, particularly when viewed from the pictured angle as some of them look heart shaped as well as forming a heartstring motif throughout the garden. I also believe Anne-Marie was wise in choosing a lush green planting palette with j…

Inside the Wonkavator with Diarmuid Gavin

One of the massive highlights of Chelsea for me this year was a personal tour round Diarmuid Gavin's show garden - The Irish Sky Garden - in the company of yer man and Victoria. This happened on the Sunday prior to the show whilst he was making his final preparations and adjustments.

Victoria and I were commenting on how large this garden is (it's the largest show garden ever seen at Chelsea) and just how that was needed to make the bright pink garden structure (nicknamed the Wonkavator) seem in proportion to the rest of the garden, when the man himself stopped by to join us.

We were swiftly invited to take a look around, which entailed climbing over quite a few hosepipes and other pieces of equipment as the many pools making up the water feature were still being installed. The curving paths through the yew and box made our walk a pretty calming one and as it was quite breezy at the time, the grasses whispered and sighed around us.

Diarmuid joined us after seeing to a couple of t…

The Show Garden I Keep Returning To...

... is Nigel Dunnett's RBC 'New Wild Garden'. Don't get me wrong, I love Cleve West's garden to bits and he deservedly won Best in Show. But oh how I wish I'd designed the walls of my own garden to take planting pockets and installed insect shelters just like these. Also, the bright orange Geum 'Prinses Juliana' (for me one of the plants of the show) and rich purples were in direct contrast to some of the more restrained planting palettes seen across on the other side of Main Avenue and made a most refreshing change.

Two years ago, Nigel Dunnett's garden was my favourite: it was more of a demonstration of ideas back then. In this year's show garden they've been refined into a much more cohesive whole. It's also interesting to see how his insect towers of two years ago have been taken up and extended in the B&Q garden at the opposite end of Main Avenue, whilst Nigel is showing something much more sophisticated.

This garden will be moved…

Chelsea in Bloom

The most frequent criticism I've heard about Chelsea's media coverage is the poor showing the plants have compared to the show gardens. Today I'm aiming to redress the balance a little by showing you some of the wonders of the Great Pavilion this year.

My favourite is the amazing clematis arch fashioned by the lovely Raymond Evison. It truly is a wonder to behold and walk through. You can't help but ask the question how on earth did he do that? as the planting is seamless. The base is a mass of the double clematis cultivars rising through single flowered stems and finally topped with more delicate C. viticella varieties. I believe (to my surprise) it's the first time clematis have been displayed in this way and I'm sure it won't be the last.

There now follows a slideshow of a some of the other highlights I found in the Great Pavilion this year...

NB If the slideshow isn't paging through for you, do click on the View All Images button for an alternative vie…

Best in Show at Chelsea

I'm sending my warmest congratulations to Cleve West who's deservedly won Best in Show at this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show. I've been keeping my fingers and toes crossed since I first saw it on Sunday. I love the drama of these columns and the flashes of yellow in the planting. Elsewhere there's a gorgeous rich red Dianthus cruentus - which I believe is an unusual show garden choice - and I can confirm there really are parsnips from Cleve's own allotment tucked away in there!

More from Chelsea to come :)

Bryan's Ground: A Very Different Garden Visit

You know how it is when a song comes on the radio and you have to turn it up to its loudest setting and dance madly round the room, singing along at the top of your voice? Not only that, but you also feel really alive: from the top of your head right down to your toes?

That's exactly how Bryan's Ground made me feel when we went there last Friday. Patient Gardener and Victoria have absolutely no idea that's how I felt, because I was being very British about it all at the time. It's not just loving the garden with both my head and my heart. It goes so much deeper than that, to something more base and instinctive.

I'm not going to analyse why that's so either, because each time I do I have to stop straight away because my head says 'those irises are totally impractical for a long season of interest' and I feel myself beginning to feel deflated. Yet it's precisely the sight of those flowers arranged in their large blocks which made me gasp with astonish…

ABC of Chippenham: Rowden

Rowden is one of the oldest parts of Chippenham and you've visited here before when we looked at Eddie Cochrane for the letter E.

The pictured map shows central Chippenham mainly to the right of the page and Rowden to the bottom left. You'll also see an area called Lowden to the centre and top left of the picture. Rowden and Lowden, together with Sheldon - which would be even further to the left if the map extended that far - are some of the areas of land which originally formed the royal manor of Chippenham.

In the 12th century this was divided into parcels of land and thus the manors of Lowden, Rowden and Sheldon were born. In addition, there was the town of Chippenham, which for some reason was attached to Sheldon Manor despite it being the most westerly of the three. Other parcels of land were granted to religious houses, such as the lands which eventually became Monkton Manor (top right) and Allington (not pictured).

During the middle ages Sheldon Manor was the most prospero…

Oops, I Lied...

... when I announced to my blogging friends at Malvern I wouldn't be buying any plants owing to the hard ground I have in my garden. It seemed to make sense not to have to care for them until the time was right for planting, whenever that might be.

But I'd forgotten about my summer pots and how I'd planned for a double whiff of knock-your socks-off vanilla from those nestled by the patio door. So once I'd bought 2 Nemesia maritana 'Vanilla Lady' my buying duck was well and truly broken. This cultivar is reputed to be even better than the N. 'Wisley Vanilla' I grew last year.

After that it seemed churlish not to add Heuchera 'Blackout' for some dramatic architectural foliage in another pot, plus a more delicate trailing Tiarella 'Appalachian Trails' for this summer's hanging basket.

I then remembered I wanted to replace my Fuchsia 'Garden News' after its demise last winter. This is a hardy double form, but obviously not quite…

GBBD: Papaver Spotlight

Some plants need patience, such as this Papaver orientale 'Beauty of Livermere'. It's its third season here: the first two only yielded a couple of blooms, but this year has seen it really bulk out and begin to perform well in my garden. Each bloom only lasts a few days, but now there are plenty of them queing up to form a succession over the next few weeks. The architectural foliage, almost rude looking buds, plus the seedheads mean the season of interest lasts for much longer than just the flowers.

It's in my sunniest terraced bed and the combination of the light and a single flower like this one is enough to act like a spotlight there without the need for garden lighting. It's just peeping above the wall when I look over from my kitchen window and is in complete contrast to the pink Clematis montana behind it.

The rest of the garden is currently all mauves, blues and pinks where the Alliums, perennial cornflowers and Clematis hold court. I'm so glad I placed m…

Thwarted Plans and No Dig

Oh how nature laughs and thumbs her nose when allotmenteers make their plans for the growing season! No sooner had I published my plot plan for the year and mentioned a few projects, when she decreed we'd have the driest March and April for decades.

The ground became parched and hardened, defeating my spring clearance and digging efforts. So rather than following my lovely plan, I've had to shove things in where I've been able to get any decent tilth at all. Even with over an inch of rain last weekend, cracks are still to be seen and a fair portion of the plot remains undiggable.

Thank goodness I religiously watered my trees during this time, so the prolific spring blossom has resulted in an excellent fruit set on my apples and pears. The juvenile fruits spread beneath the cherry tree warn that the annual 'June Drop' is still to come and that watering may have to continue if early promise is to result in a bumper fruit harvest in the autumn.

A shelved project for t…

ABC of Chippenham: Quaint

Quaint* might not be the word which immediately springs to mind when describing Chippenham to someone unfamiliar with the town. It's grown so much since we moved here and the bulk of the population now live in sprawling new housing estates.

However, an observant walk in the centre of town soon reveals little details like this water fountain I found at the side of a very quaint old building. The latter won't be revealed to you until we get to the letter Y...

Quaintness can be found down much of the High Street and surrounding side streets and alleyways, especially if the modern shop frontages at street level are ignored and the eye wanders upwards to look at the original architecture. It's these details combined with the mellow stone of many of the buildings which prompted visitors to describe Chippenham as 'Little Bath'

This is for ABC Wednesday and forms my 17th themed post about Chippenham.

* = Quaint is defined in my copy of The Penguin English Dictionary as 'a…

The Terracotta Pot Has Spoken...

... and revealed the winners of my fab Easter giveaway:

An Artist's Garden
Gwenfar's Lottie

Congratulations to the winners :)
I'll get your copies of The Garden to Kitchen Expert off to you as soon as I have your addresses...

Guest Post: Fennel and Fern on Garden Photography

When Issy Eyre from Fennel and Fern asked me recently if I'd like a guest post sharing her top tips for taking luscious plant photographs like she has on her blog, I was delighted to say yes...

Plants sit so well for their portraits: I love photographing them. Crouching on slightly damp grass to photograph a shy bulb, or contorting into an odd position to snap the arching stems of a witch hazel has become a bit of an addiction ever since I started blogging in 2008. It's not just about taking a photo of the plant: it is capturing its character and its setting that grips me so.

I taught myself photography with the help of a point-and-shoot Nikon Coolpix, and more recently, a Canon EOS 350d. Most of my favourite shots have come about through a mixture of messing about with the camera and leafing through the work of my favourite garden photographers, including Rachel Warne, Marianne Majerus and blogger Susy Morris.

Far from technical knowledge, I've found the most important ingre…

ABC of Chippenham: Poll

Tomorrow's an historic day as the nation decides via a referendum (the first we've had in over 30 years) whether to stick with the first past the post system for electing its MPs or to try the AV system, where we rank the candidates in order of preference.

I'm not going to go into the fors and againsts with this decision. What's more interesting for ABC Wednesday is that since we've moved to Chippenham, we've had some rather unusual locations in which to mark our ballot papers.

When we moved to Pewsham in 1988, the local school was yet to be built so our polling station was a house in Buckingham Road. We'd register in the kitchen, then move into the lounge for the actual voting. Sadly coffee wasn't served at the time, though it felt like it should be.

Here in Cepen Park North again there's no school, hall or other public building available to host the polling station. When we first moved here the back of the staff area at Safeway (now Morrison'…

Playing With Picture Sizes in Blogger

You may have noticed I've been playing around with the size of the pictures in my blogs lately. It's pretty easy to customise the image size option you choose in Blogger to one more suitable for the size of your blog area if you're happy to do a little bit of editing in HTML.
Blogger gives you the option for small, medium and large images in the old editor, plus extra large in the new one. In the past I've always taken the large option, which displays a picture 400 pixels wide and 300 pixels in height. However, lately I've wanted it to fill the available area so I've scaled up the image size using HTML as the Extra Large option is far too big for the area I have available on my blog.

This is how I do it: Go into New Post Load up the image you want to use into Blogger in the usual way Go into the Edit HTML window if you're in Compose Mode The key text to look for is: height="300" i8="true" src="…

GBMD: The Columbine

Still, still my eye will gaze long fixed on thee,
Till I forget that I am called a man,
And at thy side fast-rooted seem to be,
And the breeze comes my cheek with thine to fan.
Upon this craggy hill our life shall pass,
A life of summer days and summer joys,
Nodding our honey-bells mid pliant grass
In which the bee half hid his time employs;
And here we'll drink with thirsty pores the rain,
And turn dew-sprinkled to the rising sun,
And look when in the flaming west again
His orb across the heaven its path has run;
Here left in darkness on the rocky steep,
My weary eyes shall close like folding flowers in sleep.

Jones Very (1813-1880)

Until recently these honey-bells were 'mid pliant grass' until I freed them to stand tall with my raspberry canes up at the allotment. I've no idea where they came from: they appeared the first year I had my plot, so I don't know whether they are the result of a deliberate act by one of my predecessors or if they self-seede…