Showing posts from May, 2015

Going Local With Peat-Free Compost

Like many gardeners I try to be peat-free. It's not always successful - for instance I still have to get it right with seed composts - but on the whole my results have been OK so far. Sadly a couple of years ago I found the gardeners' usual peat-free of choice - New Horizon - had become less consistent and more twiggy in its constitution. Boo hoo.

So last year I was pleased to find a new product on the market - SylvaGrow® - which is produced locally by Melcourt Industries Ltd just outside Tetbury. Naturally I invited myself along to see for myself, where their Technical Director, Catherine Dawson kindly showed me around.

It turns out this is the product many peat-free nurseries have used for years and was the source of their bewilderment when ordinary gardeners like me admitted their struggle to go peat-free. Some nurseries had begun to sell-on the product they used as customers had cottoned on they had access to a better product not yet available to the public. Melcourt resp…

The Legacy of Chelsea: It IS Rocket Science!

I was pleased to see science had a strong showing at this year's Chelsea Flower Show, with 2 amazing gold-winning show gardens in the Fresh category which took the subject outside of the Great Pavilion for a change.

However, it was an exhibit inside which I really liked as it chimed with the experimental side of my gardening. The picture shows part of the Rocket Science exhibit which told the story of how man will have to find ways of growing food in space if our exploration is to go to Mars and beyond.

I've left the cast on my photograph as it illustrates the special LED lighting needed to maximise plant growth. There's also a special hydroponic system set up to squeeze as many plants as possible in a small space and to ensure they have all the nutrients and water they need within the closed growing system.

What made this exhibit most exciting for me is it's tied in with an inspirational experiment schools are invited to join. 2 kilos of rocket seed are set to be sen…

Separated at Birth? Surreal Pillars of Mexico

Just like last year's Unexpected Items in the Bagging Area, time spent in the Great Pavilion on the last day of this year's build provided a neat insight into how Chelsea happens. Here we have the original design drawings and the execution of the National Dahlia Collection's Surreal Pillars of Mexico exhibit.

This gives a nod to the south American origins of the late-summer blooms I love. I always marvel how so many bright show-grade flowers can be produced so early in the season. This was one of the largest exhibits in the Great Pavilion and deservedly won Gold.


When I heard Dan Pearson was returning to Chelsea after an absence of 11 years, I got very excited. Then when I learned his design would be based on the famous rock garden at Chatsworth, I was both excited and afraid.

Why the fear? Well, I've usually been disappointed when designers talk about using a particular garden as their inspiration. I either fail to see the connection between reality and the show, or to my untrained eye it's a pastiche.

In this case I needn't have worried. Dan Pearson's show garden is a triumph and even more remarkable because it's on the show's notoriously difficult Triangle plot. It deservedly won Best in Show and was the buzz of the gardening press on Monday. His sense of place and attention to detail made it seem like it had been there forever. It promises to be one of the gardens talked about for many years to come.

Why the excitement? There's a deep resonance with this garden, both for me and the RHS. Chatsworth is owned by t…

Singing in the Rain

Previously I've experienced plenty of gales, strident heat and shivering coolness at Chelsea Flower Show, so I suppose a trot around in the rain was long overdue. Luckily Monday's weather turned out to be a good thing...

Raindrops add an extra dimension, especially if you're using your client's signature black water like John Warland did for World Vision's Fresh garden. Dark shadows add intrigue too - for once I wasn't annoyed by someone getting into the shot either. The zingy lime greens and yellows, plus the attractive 'windows' into the world below provided contrast. I revisited this garden a number of times.

It illustrates World Vision's vital work in Cambodia. I'm pleased to see they also have a key project in Nepal at the moment - something close to my heart now I have a Nepalese allotment neighbour. You might also like to note they're having a Floral Friday on July 10th to highlight children living in fear - something for us to join in…

Postcard From Chelsea Flower Show

The Chelsea Flower Show is always full of surprises, but I didn't expect my first at 7.15am yesterday when I found Prince Harry at the show garden which highlights his Sentebale charity. He'd arrived well ahead of the rest of the royal party for a conducted tour by Matt Keightley, the garden's designer.

It's a fantastic show this year. If you've got tickets, then you're in for a treat. There's more from me to come...

Tulip Time at West Green House Garden

I chose the best day to visit West Green House Garden last week - glorious sunshine, fresh green growth and the jewel-like tulips in the walled garden and potager was most uplifting.

Marylyn Abbott - the garden's lessee* - was my guide and it was great to have her insight into the garden's creation and what it was like when she arrived 10 years ago. It's unbelievable to think there was once a huge thickets of bramble where now there is beauty.

Hers is a constantly changing creation as she tries out new ideas and plants. There were hints of glories to come too - the mass planting of 'streams' of irises were just starting to pop and they must be a spectacular sight when in full bloom.

I love moongates, so it was wonderful to peer through this one into the water garden and up to the Nymphaem. There's a quotation from Pope up there, which will sneak itself into Muse Day quite soon.

Here be dragons in the garden. There are all kinds of interesting and fun structure…

GBBD: First-time Wallflowers

Unlike most gardeners, I've never grown spring-flowering wallflowers before - there's always a first time for everything! I was given a mixed bunch of plants after my visit to T&M's trials ground last year, which was handy as they're biennials.

Mixed bunches of plants are always a bit of a shot in the dark as you're never sure what you're going to get. Most of my pots have turned out to contain just the burnt-orange version, but to my surprise I prefer my truly mixed pot with its contrasting cooler tones of lemon and apricot.

This pot is close to the patio doors and my seat at the kitchen table so I've had time to observe the subtle changes in colour from emerging bloom to mature flower, and also spot the scrawled veination across each petal. Their scent is wonderful too.

Until now I've preferred their perennial cousin Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve', which is also in bloom this month. If it stays true to form it'll remain so for the rest of th…

Plant Profile: Petunias - Surfinias and Tumbelinas

It's almost time for summer hanging baskets. Mine's resting in the cold frame at the moment, getting its last shot of hardening off before it goes up at the end of the month.

My needs are simple: a large willow basket stuffed with scented annuals ready to greet our visitors when they reach the front door. There are all kinds of fancier options available, but I find the use of trailing plants works well. I think of it as a horticultural 'horn of plenty'.

I used to plant ordinary petunias, but as you know they don't really like our English weather, particularly rain. I discovered petunia's descendants, Surfinia 'Purple Vein' and Tumbelina 'Priscilla' (the double variety you can see) not long after we moved here and they've been my plants of choice ever since.

Lots of people like to ring the changes every year, but I'm happy with the cool look of these scented beauties. What's your choice for 2015?

Cultivation Notes
My choices are only…

Mediterranean Malvern

Malvern spring show always has a few surprises up its sleeve, but I never expected to be transported back to my time in Mallorca. This street scene put together so expertly by Villagio Verde may be rooted in Andalucia and particularly the wonderful patios of Cordoba, but I was transported back to a street in Puerto Pollensa instead.

My final job of each stint out there was to find the local ceramic shop to buy a present for Margalida, the most temperamental of cooks with the biggest of hearts. Our team's woeful performance in washing lettuce properly and the preparation of the potatoes for the lunchtime tortilla would all be forgotten instantly on the production of a jug or bowl of the local design.

Here the ceramics are characteristic of Granada and were imported specially for this magical show garden. Other terracotta pots were painted and colour co-ordinated around each door in the street. This is a proud neighbourhood, with each owner keen to show off their pots overflowing w…

Tree Following With Lucy: Green Shoots of Recovery

You may remember my previous Tree Following post last December was rather dramatic as most of the ash tree on the public land next door was removed by tree surgeons. It left us with the view of a tall stump from our bedroom window and a shady-no-more side border in the garden to have a think about.

In that post I wondered if the stump would resprout as the tree surgeon said it would and I'm delighted to report he was right. Our spring stirrings have included the pictured three green shoots of recovery.

I nearly posted last month that I thought it would happen. You may remember I showed you a 'stealth seedling' which had crept up unnoticed at VP Gardens until I spotted it last June.

I couldn't chop it down completely as by then there were too many other plants in the way, then in late March I spotted the remaining stump was beginning to sprout.

However, I didn't post about it last month as when I came to take the photograph of a tiny twig against a brick wall, it w…

GBMD: Even if...