Showing posts from May, 2016

National Walking Month: How was it for me?

I have a confession: taking the #Try20 challenge for National Walking Month is one of the best things I've done in ages.

Confession number 2: I haven't quite managed a 20 minute walk every day. There was one rainy day which put me off, but that's OK because I went for an hour's walk the day after.

About a week in, I realised I wasn't taking my camera with me, which is strange because I usually take it everywhere I go. Pondering this fact on my walk, I decided it's actually quite nice to have a portion of the day without some kind of screen in tow, and to have a more mindful approach to my walk.

May has taken me from a thick fleece-needed wintry feel complete with dancing daffodils at the start, through to the brink of a t-shirt summer today with frothy cow parsley in the remnant hedgerows on the estate. There was the surprise find of English bluebells, along with joyful birdsong and some rocky outcrops reminiscent of Cleve West's show garden at Chelsea. No…

Resonance Revisited

Like Dan Pearson's show garden last year, I've found plenty with a personal resonance at this year's Chelsea Flower Show...

Cleve West also chose to evoke a landscape this year, with his homage to the Exmoor of his childhood. It was beautifully planted and executed, with a contemporary feel rather than trying to replicate an exact slice of Exmoor. Its atmosphere took me back to geology field trips and many happy woodland walks.

Sean and Jooles's Heucheraholics Haven, brought back happy memories of childhood holidays in Bournemouth. They've excelled themselves this year and I'm delighted they won gold, especially as I always get a huge welcome whenever I see them.

My first trip to York was on the day my O Level results came out, along with the confirmation I wasn't going to fulfil my 10-year held dream and make it to medical school. Later that day, York Minster's atmosphere and its amazing stained glass windows helped calm me down and start thinking of a…

Wordless Wednesday: Abstract Chelsea


Postcard from Chelsea Flower Show

I've just got back from a wonderful day at this year's Chelsea Flower Show where there was so much to take in, so I'm still sorting through in my mind which stories I'm going to bring you this year.

I couldn't resist showing you the 'grand reveal' of the New Covent Garden Flower Market's debut in the Great Pavilion which I previewed on Sunday. It was getting a lot of attention yesterday and I was delighted to receive a replica brooch of the Queen's head part of the design from Ming Veevers Carter herself.

There was a huge buzz around this design, and I had the joy of discussing it with Carol Kirkwood, who thought it was 'just fabulous'. We wondered who'd manage to bring THE shot of the show - the above picture with a Chelsea Pensioner in the frame. Sadly I missed the opportunity by a few seconds, though I'm sure it'll crop up at some point this week.

More from Chelsea to come...

Stop Press
I've just heard this scooped a gold…

RHS Chelsea Sneak Preview: Away from Main Avenue

It makes a nice change to highlight some of the features set to grace RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year which aren't show gardens. They'll still bring a strong floral theme to the show, and I look forward to seeing them tomorrow...

Judging by what I saw RHS Malvern earlier this month, poppies are set to be the flower of the year, probably inspired by Paul Cummins's famed installation at the Tower of London in 2014 and its continued tour.

A parallel strand of remembrance was the 5,000 Poppies project in Australia, which started as a humble bid to crochet 120 poppies for a memorial in Melbourne, and culminated in Phillip Johnson's design for the centenary of Anzac commemorations using almost 300,000 hand-crafted poppies donated from around the world.

As you can see from the above, Phillip's design is set to grace RHS Chelsea, and will be reformatted to provide a poignant link between the showground and the Royal Hospital. NB Phillip is no stranger to Chelsea;…

All Aboard for the Chelsea Fringe

A couple of weeks ago I went to the launch of the Bristol based slice of this year's Chelsea Fringe. It was great to visit the University of Bristol Botanic Garden again, as well as hearing about the plans for the festival.

Chelsea Fringe is now in its fifth year and Bristol has been involved from the start. It's great to see the Botanic Garden is joining in whole heartedly this year - you may remember Andy and the team joined in with my Shows of Hands online event 2 years ago.

Their events include the launch of 2016's Floating Ballast Seed Garden in Castle Park this Saturday, plus a wall plaque workshop and oil tasting events on 28th May at the garden. There's also a photography exhibition by Howard Sooley in the garden's cafe throughout the festival.

My favourite event from the launch was the giant watering can which now graces the check-in area at Bristol airport for the next 3 weeks. Bristol street artist Damien Jeffery sprayed the design and it'll be join…

The Lost World of Capability Brown

Keen garden historians are spoilt for choice this year with plenty of events lined up to celebrate 300 years since Capability Brown's birth. With around 250 commissions over his extremely busy lifetime, there are plenty of his landscapes to view around the country.

Instead, I've learnt recently about the intriguing 'lost world' of Capability Brown, as not everything he did has been preserved. I have a sense of irony here as he did exactly the same with many of his commissions. It's quite hard to find any gardens which pre-date Brown and his contemporaries as they swept away the past so they could fulfil their vision of what landscapes should be.

As mentioned previously, Lacock Abbey was one of Brown's commissions here in Wiltshire, so I was keen to learn more by visiting the Elements of Capability exhibition last week. However, to my surprise Lacock Abbey is part of that lost world; the team at Lacock know Brown was employed there, but not what he did.

Instead …

GBBD: Clematis Surprise

I declare the clematis season is open with today's surprise discovery of my Clematis 'Frances Rivis' at the bottom of the garden. It's a surprise because I cut it back hard late last year when I was tidying up that part of the garden and I thought I'd sacrificed the spring display in the process.

It shows what a tough clematis this is despite its delicate good looks. This is no doubt due to its mountainous heritage and it thoroughly deserves its alpina species name. The Clematis genus name is appropriate too as this comes from the Greek meaning climbing plant.

C. 'Frances Rivis' is one of my favourites of the many I have here at VP Gardens. It's an older clematis, dating back to around 1900 and is named after the Suffolk gardener who raised it from seed.  Elsewhere in the garden there are lots of fat buds showing promise of a wonderful clematis season this year. Thank goodness when I cut back those Darling Buds of MarchI did no harm and I now have the…

In and Out the Spanish Bluebells

One of the surprise finds on my daily walk this month are the ribbons of English bluebells threading their way through the remains of the old hedgerows on our estate. They're a joy to behold and I'd say we're currently at peak bluebell in this corner of the world.

Their presence has spurred me on to grub out the remaining Spanish bluebells I accidentally planted a few years ago. The packet was labelled as English, but as you can see from the above picture on the right they're clearly not.

My friend Helen posted on her Facebook page a few days ago urging her friends to take out any Spanish bluebells they find. Most people agreed, but someone said "Why? They're pretty!"

She has a point, though I'd say the delicacy of the English ones makes them much more beautiful, especially when viewed en masse in an ancient wood. Their heavenly scent and resemblance to a lake amongst the trees makes them one of the best sights of spring.

The gummy sap from English b…

Plant Profiles: Perennial Nemesias

It was wonderful at the weekend to be able to sit out on the patio without the need for fleece and gloves, at last. I drank plenty of coffee, had the odd ice cream or three, and took some time to see how the spring garden is coming on.

Then I detected the unmistakable scent of the nearest Nemesia 'Wisley Vanilla', remarkable because there are currently just a couple of stems in bloom after its late winter haircut. This was also one of my surprise plants in bloom for last December's Blooms Day.

I have a pair in bright blue pots either side of the patio doors, and their distinctive warm scent makes my nostrils crinkle with pleasure. They also remind me of happy times spent with Threadspider, so she still has a friendly presence in my garden now she lives so far away. NAH mistakenly calls them Amnesia.

Inspection of the other pot revealed its plant has succumbed to root rot over the winter, about the only problem with this plant. It was no surprise really as that pot's b…

In Praise of the Festival Theatre

The RHS Malvern Spring Show is stuffed full of delight this year -  there's a nice relaxed vibe, plus possibly the best weather in over 10 years of visits. I had a jolly time there this week.

Amongst the usual goodies are: show gardens worthy of Chelsea...tick; amazing plants in the floral marquee... tick; plenty of shopping... you bet;  best setting for a garden show... oh yes. Other bloggers have covered these aspects and I'll round them all up as usual over at my Meet at Malvern blog.

What really blew me away this year was the Festival Theatre. The team at TCAS always invite back a successful designer to provide the theatre's stage. They've excelled themselves by choosing local designer Hannah Genders, who in turn has used the pictured bespoke sculptures by Matt Sanderson.

There's always a fantastic programme of speakers, which alone are worth making the journey for. This year is no exception, but for me my absolute star of the show is that amazing backdrop.

It's National Walking Month

I'm trying something a bit different for May, by starting each day with a 20 minute walk. It's something I've thought of doing for a while, then I found out it's National Walking Month. It's time to stop thinking and start doing!

There's a nice leafy little route through our estate which takes around 25 minutes, so I have the daily satisfaction of beating my 20 minute target*. Around a third of the way is uphill, so it'll be interesting to see how puffed out I get at the end of the month, compared to now.

It may be a familiar route, but I've found some surprises along the way. There are English bluebells along the line of one of the old hedgerows, and I can see a bright red stripy Big Top over at Allington Farm from the top of the hill.

To help ring the changes from my regular route, I've also got details of the National Trust's Stonehenge and Avebury Walking Challenge. This is a series of 8 walks, ranging from 2 to just over 6 miles, or a tota…

GBMD: And the day came...

With the cold winds and frosty nights we've had lately, I've had to have words with my apples. I've told them their blossom should stay snug and warm for a little while longer.

It seems I've given them the more painful option.

Fingers crossed for the apple harvest...

How's spring faring in your neighbourhood?