Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Beat the Heat at RHS Hampton Court

Nilufer Danis's opulent Turkish garden of paradise at RHS Hamptonn Court 2015
Nilufa Danis's opulent Turkish Garden of Paradise felt right at home in yesterday's heat 

Phew what a scorcher! Temperatures were in the high 20s at RHS Hampton Court yesterday and are set to soar into the 30s today. Here are my tips to help you enjoy the show, instead of getting a bit grumpy in the heat like I did.

  • Go early and/or stay late - it means you can enjoy the show at the cooler times 
  • It was noticeably cooler under the arbour in Nilufa's garden at 1pm yesterday. There are a lot of trees at Hampton court, some with seats around them, so you can have a long sit down - including a picnic or siesta - in the really hot part of the day
  • Wear your comfiest shoes - the show is huge, so there's a lot of walking involved
  • I hate wearing a hat because I get 'hat hair', but I did wear one yesterday. One with a wide brim will also protect your neck 
  • Wear comfortable, loose clothing including something to protect your neck if your hat doesn't
  • Take plenty of water and linger by the Long Water, where a delightful breeze blows in for the afternoon. The clever creators of paradise gardens like Nilufer's knew that water - especially moving - can bring temperatures down by several degrees
  • Lugging heavy bags around in the heat is a recipe for grumpiness, so buy your plants late, or leave them in the plant creche to collect later
The tented areas like the Floral Marquee may get rather hot today. I noticed there were some large fans installed at the entrances yesterday, which should help keep things more bearable.

NB it's well worth getting a show programme as it's easy to miss the things you'd like to see and there aren't that many maps dotted around the vast show area to help you get around. It'll help cut down any unnecessary walking! 

Monday, 29 June 2015

Things in Unusual Places #15: Turtles

turtle laying eggs at the Laking Garden, RBG Canada

Pity the poor gardener who kindly guided us around the wonderful iris collection in the Laking Garden at The Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) near Toronto. The star attraction at the time was a turtle laying her eggs in the garden's soft fertile earth, so he didn't stand a chance while a gaggle of garden bloggers tried to catch the moment when another egg plopped into the hole.

Apparently this is a regular occurrence in June, which merits a warning on the garden's page on the RBG website. Luckily the turtle was unfazed with her new found stardom and quietly carried on with her business.

A staff member tends the iris collection at the Laking Garden, part of Canada's Royal Botanical Gardens
A staff member tends the collection

Our quest for egg laying pictures sated, it was time to explore the collection of hundreds of irises on display, showcasing cultivars from this and the last century. As you can see, our timing was just right as there was a colourful tapestry of blooms on offer. Most of these are laid out in chronological order, so it's easy to see how breeding has affected the size of blooms, plant height and the variety of colours available.

Many of the blooms are North American bred - I spotted lots of labels originating from Canada and Oregon, so here was a rich supplement to the magnificent displays I enjoyed at this year's Chelsea Flower Show.

The entrance to the Laking Garden
Garden Bloggers at the entrance to the garden - spot the back view of NAH too

The Laking Garden is home to the RBG's perennial collection, which also majors in peonies, grasses and clematis as well as iris. In the above photo you can see the perennial borders and some of my Fling friends rushing to take photos.

I also spotted the start of this year's vegetable patch, which focuses on the heirloom varieties grown in Ontario during the 1800s and early 1900s. It also harks back to the garden's origins as a market garden.

Sadly it was too early in the season to see the patch in full fig and I didn't have time to explore the varieties being grown, or to compare them with those we know and love in the UK. There's an excuse for another visit at a later time of the year ;)

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Postcard From Canada


Toronto's iconic building: the CN Tower

I've just got back from a fab holiday in Canada, where Victoria and I joined 70 other bloggers from the USA and Canada for several days of varied garden visits and fun during the Garden Bloggers Fling in Toronto. As well as catching up with lots of friends I met in Seattle and Portland, it was great to meet Amanda and Susan at last.

NAH came over with me and as you can see he whisked me up the CN Tower for a sunset visit, plus the opportunity to conquer my fear of heights by walking me across the glass floor in that big bulgy bit you can see in the picture. A further opportunity presented itself during the Fling... more on that later.

Post-Fling, NAH and I toured part of Ontario to the north of Toronto. The friendliness of the Canadians makes it a wonderful place to visit. We had so many interesting conversations with complete strangers and now we're back home it feels odd to no longer be greeting everyone with a smile, a hello and a how's it going?

I'll be telling you more over the next few weeks...

Friday, 19 June 2015

Unusual Front Gardens #23: Cambridge Gate


Most building work is usually screened by an ordinary hoarding. However, when it's right opposite Regent's Park, something a little more in keeping with the neighbourhood is required. Cambridge Gate itself has an interesting entry in London Gardens Online.

Monday, 15 June 2015

GBBD: Garlic Mustard

Garlic mustard growing in my front side garden.
Garlic mustard (centre and right), showing leaves, flowers and seed pods
I went to a fascinating talk on foraging with Liz Knight at Malvern last month. Most of it was about the possibilities using cultivated plants*, with a brief nod towards edible weeds like hairy bittercress** which also calls many a garden home.

One of the featured weeds was garlic mustard, which I've since found has taken up residence in a couple of shady spots in our front side garden. Its flowers show it's one of the brassica family and its leaves are a simpler form of the oriental mustards I grow for salad.

This is usually more of a plant to feature for May's Blooms Day, but our cooler weather this year means it's hung on into June.

First taste is of garlic and then the mustard kicks in. If you use it in salads, pick absolutely fresh as it wilts very quickly. It's a good candidate for my Universal Pesto recipe. Those seed pods pack quite a fiery punch and deserve to be made into a mayonnaise, so this weed doesn't spread too far in the garden.

American readers in particular should take note as this plant is a notorious invasive. This website says the plant "exudes antifungal chemicals into the soil that disrupt associations between mycorrhizal fungi and native plants, suppressing native plant growth". In botany, this is known as allelopathy.

Garden Bloggers Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

* = the cocktail she made with gin, fizzy water and lilac syrup was a revelation

** = I'm pleased to say my constant vigilance is working

Update 21st June: I'm just back from a fab holiday and this year's Garden Bloggers Fling in Canada. Whilst there we visited High Park in Toronto to learn about the restoration of the native black oak habitat. They have a huge problem with invasive garlic mustard so be warned! Their solution is to weed it out rather than eat it, and it's an ongoing task usually undertaken by their volunteers.

It looks like I have another weed which deserves constant vigilance combined with a spot of home foraging...

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Latin without tears


Garlic mustard is native to Europe (including Britain), western and central Asia, and northwestern Africa and has the Latin name Alliaria petiolata. According to Wikipedia, Alliaria means 'resembling allium', which probably refers to the initial garlic-like odour and taste when the leaves are crushed.

I've found 2 versions of petiolata: the RHS's Latin for Gardeners says 'with a leaf stalk', whereas my Plant Names Explained goes a bit further and says 'with a (long) leaf stalk (petiole)'.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Love the Plot You've Got


I came across the Love the Plot You've Got initiative at the Edible Garden Show*  earlier this year. It's designed to inspire gardeners to make the most of their plot, no matter the size and vertical gardening is just one way to get more out of the tiniest of spaces.

It reminded me I'd failed to use the funky herb planter I bought last year and with the demise of the Clematis montana var. Rubens 'Elizabeth' which clothed the 'boring fence project', I decided it was time to put it to good use.  I also came home with three herbs plants from the show, so I already had everything I needed to put my small project into effect.

The pockets are fairly small, so I've used three herbs which hail from warmer climes (oregano, thyme and prostrate rosemary) which should stand up to the harsh treatment I tend to give my potted plants. I've also 'planted' a pierced yoghurt pot in the soil next to each plant, which should help with keeping them well watered. The felt-like pockets are lined with a waterproof material, with no drainage holes, so this should also be borne in mind.

Each pocket is joined to the others by a couple of hooks. These can be a bit fiddly to use, and luckily the spot I'd chosen to hang them was over some relatively thin trellis which was slim enough to accommodate the top hooks. Heavier plants will need a more robust hanging spot than mine and anything thicker will need a wider hook or something added to the top.

Overall, I'm pleased with the result, which I've hung above some self-sown lemon balm to make a cheerful herbal spot in the garden. At the end of the season I expect I'll find these plants a more permanent home, especially the prostrate rosemary, which I've allowed to grow to a huge dominant shrub in the past.

Next year, I expect I'll use my planter for some trailing nasturtiums, or as a salad bar. Time will tell whether it continues to look as good as it does now. For instance I had to be quite careful not to get any compost over all that funky red and who knows whether it'll fade over time.

What ways have you used to get the most out of your plot, or do you have a particular project you've embarked on this year?

* = which I'm pleased to see returns to Stoneleigh next year, after its 2-year foray into Ally Pally.

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Whitehall Garden Centre logo
This post is sponsored by Whitehall Garden Centre in lieu of their regular Plant Profiles spot. The Love the Plot You've Got roadshow comes to their Lacock store from 26th to 28th June. It goes on to visit Stratford on Avon, Cheshire and Aberdeen afterwards.

Note to readers:
Sponsorship goes towards my blogging costs; the words are my own :)
There are no cookies or affiliate links associated with this post.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Late Spring Surprises

Rodgersia pinnata 'Chocolate Wing'

I'd begun to think my Rodgersia pinnata 'Chocolate Wing' hadn't survived the winter, and had even planned its replacement, but then on the very last day of May there it was looking all green and perky. That greenness is a bit worrying as the foliage is meant to be brown (as indeed it was last year), but hey I'll take green foliage over no foliage any day.

I've decided to add a lot more interesting foliage to my garden this year, and I'm investigating the possibilities ferns might bring to the shady parts of VP Gardens courtesy of Richie Steffen and Sue Olsen's new Plant Lover's Guide.

Other plants raising themselves like Lazarus are my beloved Salvia 'Amistad' and loads of blowsy begonias. Keep your fingers crossed that the lovely Salvia 'Hadspen' isn't that far behind them.

What surprises has your plot brought you this year?

Monday, 1 June 2015

GBMD: The Life That I Have


For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.


Leo Marks - The Life That I Have (1943)

Can you see the man hiding? I missed him completely until I got home. I was concentrating on getting the light in the right place on the stained glass window when I took the photo.

The Evaders Garden was an evocative Artisan showpiece at Chelsea. It's based on the true story of the designer's RAF serving father, who was shot down over France in 1943 and evaded capture via the help of the local people.

My Muse Day piece shows the last 3 lines of the poem carved on the tablet you can see on the left. This was issued to Violette Szabo, whose WWII bravery formed the central story in Carve Her Name With Pride.

Helen Gazeley over at Weeding the Web has posed an interesting question re the Artisan category at Chelsea using this garden as an example. Must these gardens tell a story, or should we demand more gardening and plantsmanship as far as this category is concerned?
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