Category Archives: Flower Shows

Hampton Court


The last time I was at the Hampton Court Flower Show I was pregnant with my daughter, you know, the one who’s just finished her first year at uni.  And even then I didn’t ‘do’ the show, instead I took my mother on the Gala Evening, the night before the opening as a birthday treat.

Roll forward 19 years and I admit it, I approached Hampton Court all wrong.  As with Chelsea, I’d bought a late ticket (which started at 3pm) but then due to work commitments in the morning ended up not getting there until 4pm, and taking another half hour finding the OH who was apparently deaf to his mobile.  It wasn’t a good start.  Add to that a general irritation with carrying my overnight bag, feeling generally hot and bothered as well as overwhelmed and bewildered by the size of the site, and I was in a right old grump.

However, a restorative marmalade ice cream from Purbeck ice cream and a greenery immersion in the Floral Marquee, and I soon started to perk up.  And, of course, having spoken of my relative abstention on the plant purchasing front last week, it soon went all wrong to the extent the OH had to buy a trolley to carry everything back to the Isle of Wight!

The first purchases were two Mandevilla ‘Sundaville Pink’.  This was actually prompted by seeing Clematis ‘Princess Diana’ looking really good on another display and reminding me that the two I have growing in rectangular planters on the decking (with the lipstick pink Pelargonium ‘Surcouf’) really don’t look good and clearly aren’t happy.  The plan now is to move the Clematis out and replace with the Mandevilla.  Apparently the Mandevillas quite like being restricted so I was instructed to plant them into a larger round pot and then place that in the planter.  It also makes it easier to bring them in for the winter, although I somehow doubt that will ever happen…


Number two was this gorgeous Sanguisorba obtusa, shown off beautifully here in front of a black back drop.  I’m hoping I can find a dark hedge to achieve the same effect, but whether I can also provide the moist soil conditions they prefer is another question.IMG_1181

The OH also treated me to a packet of ‘Just Jenny’ sweet peas, but I’m not sure I’m that keen!IMG_1183

Other plants which caught my eye (but not my wallet) were Nicotiana mutablis.  I’ve just planted this out all round the back of the Swing Beds, so good to note I still like it


This Digitalis illumination ‘Cherry Brandy’ was a stunning colour, but, like D. mertonensis I was moaning about recently, it was really quite short, and I do like a Digitalis to ‘tower’.IMG_1187

Although I’m generally uncomfortable with plants the ‘wrong’ colour, I was rather taken with this Delphinium ‘Red Caroline’, but then I felt bad about it!


I loved this Coreopsis ‘Mercury Rising’.  It reminded me of Chocolate Cosmos but I assume would be a whole lot easier to grow.IMG_1167

I also loved this double Lychnis coronaria ‘Gardeners’ World’,


talking of which, guess who I spied close by.  I loved your frock, Carol!IMG_1192

Inspired by the stunning circular Hosta bed at Whalton Manor, I’m considering planting up a round metal bath I have, solely with Hostas, and a couple took my fancy, firstly H. ‘Mrs Minky’IMG_1176

and also diminutive H. ‘Slim and Trim.’IMG_1175

A last foliage plant to catch my eye was this Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’.  I’m a sucker for a lime coloured leaf.IMG_1185

Oh and the OH liked this, Allium ‘Forelock’.  Yes really.IMG_1168

Back outside I made very limited progress with viewing all the show gardens.  I did however, enjoy the Dog’s Trust garden, particularly the relaxed, relaxing planting.IMG_1194


and I also liked the sunken ‘All the World’s a stage’ garden

with some unusual planting combinations.IMG_1201

I think this was part of the World Gardens, which demonstrated a really effective contrast between the lush planting and the arid hard landscaping.IMG_1212

And these little succulents growing amongst the pebbles in the gabions on this Kent ‘Feel Good Front Gardens’ exhibit were inspired.IMG_1202

And to finish, a special mention for this Conceptual Garden, the ‘Red Thread.’  Not only was it designed by Robert Barker, an ex student of my Capel Manor tutor, John Gilbert, but a couple of my class mates helped with the planting.  I was delighted to see it won gold.



Watching the coverage on the BBC last night made it clear I had missed some real treats, so apologies for such an incomplete post, but it does beg the question whether this is one show best enjoyed from the sofa!

Chelsea Flower Show 2017


Terribly late again with this year’s Chelsea post but I don’t seem to have been at home much since my very chilly visit on Wednesday evening.

If you want detailed, beautiful blog coverage I’d heartily recommend the Frustrated Gardener, who has not only shared multiple posts on this year’s Chelsea, but also seems to share my opinions on this year’s gardens to an almost spooky degree!

The garden above is Nick Bailey’s Winton Beauty of Mathematics garden, and definitely one of my favourites.  Looking back at my first Chelsea post in 2014 I noted that there was no orange in any of the show gardens, and yet two years later it was everywhere.  Here, the Geum ‘Mai Tai’ picks up on the wonderful sweep of etched copper. Nick is head gardener at the Chelsea Physic Garden and I recently purchased his book, 365 days of colour in your garden, which, as you might imagine from this assured yet stimulating planting, is an absolute treat.

More bronzy orange in the Garden of Mindful Living garden, which pulled off hard lines softened by planting in a limited palette but with lots of calming, soft green.  The one thing I didn’t like was the (to me) rather cheesy photo.IMG_0733IMG_0736

And of course another garden making use of orange, was Best in Show, Andy Sturgeon’s garden for The Telegraph.  Here the magnificent Isoplexis canariensis picked up the colour of the flames in the fire pit.

I feel I admired this garden rather more than loved it, prefering my gardens softer. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s pulled off a striking, thought provoking design, I just don’t think I’d want to live with it.IMG_0739


Below, Cleve West’s M&G design, was inspired by his Exmoor childhood and provided a beautifully calming understated scene.  The perimeter oaks were surprisingly dainty and whilst a little frustrating in the way they blocked visitors’ views, they really added to the atmosphere of the space.IMG_0721


The LG Smart Garden had some gorgeous soft planting, in both colour and form.  No challenging brights or sharp lines here, but enough contrast to keep it interesting. Definitely a garden to retreat to after a hard day at the coal face!IMG_0727

The planting at the Support the Husqvama Garden, to me didn’t work as well, but then I’m never comfortable mixing white flowers with dark as they have here.IMG_0731

Into the Grand Marquee for more orange in the form of Geum ‘Scarlet Tempest’ (doesn’t look very scarlet to me) which came second in the RHS Plant of the Year competition,IMG_0765

a lovely combination on the Daisy Roots stand,IMG_0796

new introduction, Rosa ‘Roald Dahl’ from David Austin roses (I forgot to upload the photo) as well as these extraordinary blooms, Scadoxus multiflorus from Jacques Amand.IMG_0788

Elsewhere a stunning display from Bowdens Nursery included a train carriage, but perhaps even more impressive, endless unnibbled hostas,IMG_0774

and gorgeous alpines from Rotherview Nursery.


And to finish, my favourite Artisan garden, the Senri-Sentei – Garage Garden.IMG_0802

and look, I’m not the only one enjoying it!IMG_0806


RHS Early Spring Plant Fair


Like the Frustrated Gardener I too went on a rather rushed vist to the RHS Early Spring Plant Fair at the Royal Horticultural Halls in Westminster last week.

There’s something rather naughty about abandoning work to immerse yourself in a large, airy hall suffused with the very un-City smells of foliage, soil and lovely winter flowering shrubs.

As well as numerous Tete a Tete Narcissus, I just loved this N. Spoirot on the Broadleigh Gardens stand.111

Making a stunning contrast to the Narcissi (and rather thin on the ground Galanthus) the bold Anemone coronaria from John Cullen Gardens.054

More bulbs in the form of gorgeous Irises, including some new ones as yet unamed.

And a witty display from D’Arcy and Everest.071073

Over in the Lindley Hall a mystery solved – the name of a stunning climbing I’d seen as a proud purchase rather overwhelming a departing visitor as I was arriving – Hardenbergia violacea ‘Happy Wanderer’.  A little Googling tells me this is a native of Australia and hardy down to -5C.  I think if there had been a second one for sale I would have been very tempted.


At the back of the hall we were treated to a sneak preview of a number of this year’s Chelsea gardens – the ones which took my fancy are by (clockwise) Cloudy Jongstra, Nick Bailey, Hay Joung Hwang, Cleve West and Chris Beardshaw.

A fascinating exhibition for someone who spent a large slug of their Saturday completing their fourth assignment of the Planting Design course!

Thanks RHS for a lovely oasis in what turned out to be a pretty tricky work week!

Chelsea Flower Show 2015 – the Grand Pavilion


As I said last year, I enjoy the Grand Pavilion more and more.  Once upon a time (and I have been coming to Chelsea for a good 20 years) I really couldn’t see the attraction.  All that peering at new introductions and admiring stiff rows of tulips or delphiniums.  And now?  I’m peering with the best of them, and loving it.

The dahlia above was new on me – Dahlia coccinea ‘Great Dixter’, what a fabulous pink with a good sized blooms (ie not too big) and darkish foliage.

Another dahlia I admired was Dahlia Twynings Revel, below.IMG_7402

Of the bulbs, I liked Tulip Havran,IMG_7430

Tulip Sky High Scarlet (didn’t look very scarlet to me, and all the better for it)IMG_7456

and on the beautiful Avon Bulbs stand, this gorgeous Ixia, Ixia Mabel.IMG_7434

There were two Verbascums which caught my eye, with a view to adding them to the Bronze Bed – Verbascum Clementine                      IMG_7419

and new on the Hardy’s stand, the rather peachier Verbascum Firedance.IMG_7470

The OH is always trying to persuade me to grow the blue Meconopsis but think if I was going to go to the effort, it would be this one I’d try – Meconopsis punicea ‘Sichuan Silk.’  Great name too!


Another exotic bloom was provided by this Leucospermum – L. lineare x glabrum ‘Tango’.  IMG_7424

There were two climbers to share from the Tynings stand – this one, Actinidia kolomikta I hadn’t seen since I visited a garden over 10 years ago and I saw it growing with a perfectly matched pink clematis growing through it.  Now where’s a spare wall where I could recreate that?IMG_7428

And this fabulous coloured Black Eyed Susan, Thunbergia ‘Orange and Red’IMG_7429

This Anthyllis, was also a wonderful firey colourIMG_7416

Another plant with local Duver wild relatives, was this super coloured thrift, Armeria pseudoarmeria ‘Joystick Red’.IMG_7418

The only shrub that stood out for me was this one, Indigo himalayensis ‘Silk Road’, with dainty pink pea flowers.IMG_7452

And to finish, three plants from the RHS Plant of the Year.  Whilst the winner, Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Kilimajaro Sunrise’, was lovely, my two picks were the fabulously scented Harkness rose, Rosa SusieIMG_7494

and the gorgeous coloured, salvia from Dyson’s, Salvia ‘Love and Wishes’, which was placed third.



Yet another plant to add to the shopping list I fear!

Chelsea Flower Show 2015 – show gardens


So, very late to the Chelsea blogging party, and, whilst I very nearly didn’t post at all, I was spurred on by the number of times I’ve referenced last year’s two posts (here and here) myself, to source plant or nursery names.  Consequently, if I’m the only one who reads this, so be it!

I attended this year on Tuesday, after work, and as always, the show was fascinating, but for me, not quite as impressive as last year.

Two Artisan Gardens stood out for me – the Breast Cancer Haven Garden, which won Peoples’ Choice and a Gold medal, and IMG_7268

Edo no Niwa – Edo Garden, by Ishiihara Kazuyuki Design.  Again the moss took centre stage and, like last year, I found his design fresh and beguiling.IMG_7272

In the main show gardens, whilst I hugely admired Dan Pearson’s Chatsworth garden, to me it’s not what Chelsea’s about.  It was undoubtedly beautiful, moving and completed ‘owned’ its triangular plot, but I like a Chelsea Garden to inform my own gardening and leave me with dreams and ideas about what I could do back home; on the basis that I’m not about to start craning in huge rocks and I’d rather admire wild flowers on the Duver, for me it was brilliant but not inspiring.  Does that make any sense?




And, whilst the Sentabale Hope in Vulnerability Garden, also wasn’t exactly relevant to a garden on the Isle of Wight, I somehow completely forgave it.  Partly, I think, because it was for charity, and partly because I just loved all the wooden construction and how evocative it was, even in the gloom, of the colours of Africa.IMG_7319IMG_7320


The second garden related to breast cancer, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, was also striking, particularly the contrast between the hard landscaping and the softness of the planting.  I also found the sculpture, by Rick Kirby, really moving.  It is designed to symbolise the ‘courage and dignity of all those fighting the disease’.IMG_7400

I think my favourite planting was at the Morgan Stanley Healthy Cities Garden, designed by Chris Beardshaw.   After the show, the garden will be transferred almost entirely to form the centrepiece of a new community project that is being launched by Morgan Stanley in East London.IMG_7364

Much of the planting used the sort of ‘bruised’ colours I’m trying to bring together in my Mid Century Bed at home.  I particularly liked the Lupin Masterpiece andIMG_7375

and Verbascum Merlin.                                 IMG_7371

Another garden where I enjoyed both the planting and the design, was the Pure Land Foundation Garden.  There was something so fresh about the organic white walls and the warm oranges and yellows of the planting.  Plenty of inspiration for my new Bronze bed here.




I wasn’t looking forward to the Telegraph Garden as I’m not a big fan of straight lines in gardens, and I also felt that a Mondrian inspired garden, when he used no green, seemed a strange basis for the planting, but actually I warmed to the garden as I looked more closely. There were definitely some issues with plants not yet flowering, but there were some stunning combinations including the Tulips Couleur Cardinal and poppies, growing through the grasses.



The Brewin Dolphin Garden I’d seen on the early BBC coverage, (I still haven’t seen any coverage since Monday) and I thought the slate looked overwhelming.  In real life that wasn’t the case at all, and although the slate made a fantastic feature, it seemed to recede against the planting.IMG_7302

In the Fresh Gardens, I liked the Dark Matter Garden, with all it was trying to convey.  And whilst the concept of dark matter is rather challenging, enjoying the shapes and colours of the steel – together with the matching verbascum – was easy.IMG_7390


More curvilinear shapes at the Royal Bank of Canada garden designed by Matthew Wilson.  The bench here definitely won my ‘structure of the show’ award.  Just stunning.

And what’s even more exciting is that the garden is being moved to the Earl Mountbatten Hospice on the Isle of Wight after the show.



As you can see from the photo above, the storm clouds were gathering, and indeed, the heavens opened.  Time to head to the Grand Pavilion…IMG_7420

New England round up


Whilst I was away, I still enjoyed keeping up with my various blogging friends, and was much entertained by Chloris’ Taste in flowers post on 21st July, where amongst other species, she named certain ‘over-hybridised and vulgar’ Hemerocallis amongst her dislikes.

Fast forward five days, and we were getting ready to move from Boston to a rental house in Rockport, Massachusetts for our second week.  Whilst Boston had been great fun, I’d been missing a proper flower fix and so was looking for a garden to visit.  I came across the Tower Hill Botanic Garden online, and decided that should be the one.  

There was a small issue persuading the attendant family members that it really was a good idea to go due west to a garden, when we needed to travel north east to get to Rockport, but they’re an indulgent lot (well they were that day) and off we set.

And what did we find?  Not only a garden heavy (vulgar? ;-)) on daylilies, but we had also stumbled upon the annual ‘New England Daylily Show’.  Chloris, where were you?

IMG_4126 (2)

I’ll restrict myself to showing two, which demonstrate the kinds I like and dislike.

Can’t say I like this one (Hemerocallis ‘Looking Rosy’).  Petals too ‘fat’ and starting not to look like a daylily at all.IMG_4078

but I do quite like this one (Hemerocallis ‘Rocket Man’), much more spidery petals, and it reminds me of a Crocosmia.  (And has a name definitely superior to ‘Droopy Drawers!)


Moving on from the daylilies, there were plenty of other plants to admire.  These Mallows were new to me (I thought Mallows were Lavatera, but apparently not here) –  Purple Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe involucrata) and Bush Mallow (Callirhoe bushii)


and this climber, the Violet Tube Flower, Iochroma cyaneum ‘Royal Blue’ was stunning.  What a colour!  Not royal blue at all, very much the deep purple shown in the photograph.


In addition there were some lovely drifts of more common RudbeckiaIMG_4088

and Echinacea.IMG_4115 (2)

So after our detour we arrived at the rental house, where what the details described as a ‘lush yard’, turned out to be a really attractive, good sized gardenIMG_4207



with some fabulous potsIMG_4208


and a pretty, little, impressively flowery pond.IMG_4192


Other than enjoying the garden, the only other flowery outing was a trip to the very tranquil Halibut Point State Park.  There weren’t a great deal of flowers to admire, but I loved the sun on these berries (what are they?)IMG_4306

and this Vetch with an Atlantic viewIMG_4314

And one last photo – no flowers at all, but it makes me smile.IMG_4174 (4)


Chelsea 2014, better late than never, #1


So all in all a great Chelsea.  Compared to last year, I found far more I wanted to photograph in the show gardens, and my appreciation and enjoyment of the marquee intensifies year on year with my increased knowledge – and quest for yet more knowledge – regarding particular plants.

The Artisan Gardens were their usual triumph of how much you can fit in to a tiny space and, like the judges, I loved the Kazuyuki Ishihara ‘A paradise on earth’ garden which won Gold and Best Artisan Garden.  According to the RHS website the garden was ‘inspired by the fable of Togenkyo, a place of beautiful scenery that can help people to forget their troubles and strife, but that once visited cannot be revisited.’  Although I definitely come to Chelsea for a ‘flower fix’ there was something incredibly beautiful and serene about this garden, which was almost entirely foliage and textures:


I also loved the Gold winning, DialaFlight ‘Potter’s Garden’ which includes a fabulous brick kiln together with mad, cottage-style planting, supposed to evoke a garden abandoned on the break out of war in 1914.  The garden was designed by ‘Nature Redesigned’.IMG_2508

From the Fresh Gardens, the ‘Reachout’ Gold Winning garden, designed by John Everiss, was incredibly powerful, and, of all the gardens, gave the most emphatic message.  However, in some ways the success of the message made the garden quite uncomfortable to look at and whilst  I admired it enormously, I struggled to like it.


The fresh garden I did like was the Silver Gilt winning ‘Wellchild’ garden designed by Olivia Kirk which was created to ‘highlight the important role gardens and outside spaces play in supporting seriously ill children and young people‘.  Happily, after the show, the garden is being re-located to The Brook Special Primary School in Tottenham, London.

Whilst the sculpture in the ‘Reachout’ garden above was almost distressing, the one here, by Caro Sweet, was totally heartwarming.


On to the show gardens.  Whilst I’ve been to Chelsea at least twenty times, this year for the first time I’d had time to watch quite a lot of the BBC coverage and what surprised me about all the gardens was how small they were.  Clearly they’re no smaller than any other year, but for some reason watching them on TV had given an impression of size that just isn’t justified.  Interesting.  Is this the same phenomenon which puts ’20 pounds’ on actresses?

Coming from the main entrance, the first garden was Cleve West’s Gold winning M&G Investments garden.  I actually liked it less in real life than I had on TV.  Whilst I did like the blue and white planting around the sunken central fountain, the planting at the front of the garden although horticulturally more interesting, I found rather bitty.  Sorry Cleve!


The garden that did win Best Show Garden was the Laurent Perrier, Luciano Giubbilei designed garden. which had been my favourite from the TV coverage, however,IMG_2537

in real life I preferred the elegance of the Gold winning Telegraph garden by Del Buono Gazerwitz.  Tim Richardson wrote in the Saturday Telegraph gardening section before the show ‘some may wonder whether this design, with its low domes of box balls set in a lawn, will be too understated to win outright’.  Sadly Tim was right, it didn’t win outright, but its understatement was a significant part of its success.  I loved it.IMG_2525


I particularly liked the combination of the popping blue anchusa and the euphorbias and fennel.IMG_2529

Another garden I admired was the ‘Garden for First Touch at St George’s’ built on the rock bank site.  This was a garden ‘inspired by the strength and determination shown by premature babies and their families on their journeys, which can be long and difficult’.

I particularly liked the steps which were so much more effective, interesting and ‘difficult’ being asymmetric.IMG_2562

By this stage, however, I was getting a little weary of the blue, purple and white palette that seemed to feature in all of the gardens, so it came as a huge joy to come across the Silver Gilt winning ‘Positively Stoke’ garden.   And whilst I wasn’t entirely sure about the design, I adored the superabundant ‘bruised’ palette of the planting.  Now here was my proper show garden ‘flower fix.





The only colour not seen anywhere was orange.  Thankfully this young lady obliged.IMG_2545

Time to head to the marquee……