Tag Archives: Euphorbia

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……



Magnificent Manrique

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As Gaudi proved in Barcelona, an individual can change the landscape of an area for all time, and in Lanzarote, where I spent last week, César Manrique was such an individual.

Looking through over a hundred photos I’d taken in four different venues he’d created, I was struggling to find one which I felt captured what makes him special, and ultimately I settled on the one above.  Although not ideal, as other visitors have intruded on the shot and there aren’t many plants, I feel it demonstrates a certain rule breaking mentality, as well as a keen sense of humour.

The photo was taken in the ‘Jardin de Cactus,’ created by Manrique together with botanist Estanislao González Ferrer, largely in the 1980’s.  It is located in a disused quarry towards the north of the island, which not only gives an impressive amphitheatre effect, but also ensures the garden is protected from Lanzarote’s fierce winds (which, during our visit, never ceased to blow).  

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The garden contains more than 7,200 cactus plants, illustrating more than 1,100 different species, and have been sourced from countries such as Peru, Mexico, Chile, United States, Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar and Morocco as well as the Canary Islands.  They were planted in soil which was then ‘top dressed’ with the local black volcanic ‘dust.’  To be honest, I generally found the island’s black landscape quite depressing, but here in the cactus garden, Manrique has made it a real asset.

The following three plants from the garden are hardly recognisable as Euphorbia, but are as follows: E. Stenoclada, (from Madagascar), E. Polyacantha (Ethiopia) and E. Abyssinica (also Ethiopia).

Unfortunately many of the other plants in the garden were unnamed and my cactus knowledge is  far too poor to be able to identify them, so I’ve just grouped them according to “pink,”

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and, of course, “spiky.”

Singing the blues


The garden here is quite pink.  Not because I’m a huge fan, although it has definitely grown on me, but because I’ve inherited a lot of good pink plants, particularly roses, and I’ve gone with it as I find a limited palette easier on the eye.

However, today we’re celebrating ‘the blues’ (including purple plants as well as glaucous leaves), partly because of the endless wet weather, but also because it’s time to prune the wisteria.  The picture above shows my wisteria flowering in May last year.  It’s grown significantly in the years we’ve been here and is now happily colonising next door.  I’d like to think my dutiful following of the RHS’s pruning tips has been part of that success, but it probably has a lot more to do with the climate!

The RHS makes it clear wisterias should be pruned twice a year – firstly in July or August after flowering to cut back the ‘whippy green shoots’ and then again in January/February.  At this time of year the idea is to cut the growth back further and to tidy the plant up when it’s leafless and easier to see the structure of the plant.  You cut back to two or three buds so that all the growth is quite close to the main stems and this should help both stimulate flowering, but also ensure the flowers aren’t obscured by the leaves.  Please see skeletal ‘after’ shot below:

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I’ve made life slightly more complicated for myself this year as I planted a Cobaea scandens to grow amongst the wisteria and to provide some flower and leaf once the wisteria had finished flowering.  What’s been interesting is the fact that because it’s been so mild here this winter, the Cobaea is still going strong, and so I’ve had to tip toe around it whilst chopping away at the wisteria.  Anyway, job done, and we’ll see later in the spring  how effective it’s been.

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The second activity this week was prompted by my volunteering visit to Ventnor Botanic Gardens.  Following the Volunteer Fair a week ago I turned up on Wednesday to be given my task.  And although I didn’t work on clearing the dead agapanthus heads (one of the tasks), it reminded me of some seed I’d saved from a new agapanthus (A. Peter Pan) I’d bought at the Palm Centre last year and hadn’t yet planted.  I decided to plant some today (to replicate the conditions of the ones which had seeded themselves at Ventnor) and some later in the spring (as suggested on the RHS website) and see which fares better.

The plants shown below (in 9cm pots) are agapanthus seedlings grown from seed saved from another agapanthus species (not sure which one) over two years ago.  I know growing agapanthus from seed requires patience, but I really don’t see these flowering any time soon….

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Next a few more blues flowering or in leaf now.  The Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis prostratus) is a favourite which cascades over a wall near the front gate and, as you can see, is flowering away now.  The second one is a Teucrium (Teucrium fructicans) also flowering now, which seems brave for something Mediterranean.  And below these, three lovely Euphorbia.  The first, E Wulfenii characias has self seeded in a large pot containing an olive tree, the second, E Myrsinites, I grew from seed a couple of years ago, and the last, E ‘Grey Hedgehog’ is a new one on me – a diminutive, prickly looking thing, bought from Sarah Raven last year and still awaiting a permanent home.

Lastly, my lovely Melianthus major.  I had to take a photo and share it as every year so far it’s got to about January and then the frost has wiped it out to a sludgy mess.  It’s looking magnificent now, well over a metre high, and yet I hear the cold weather’s coming.  Fingers crossed.

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