Tag Archives: RHS

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!

Whistlestop Wisley


Running early this morning (for once!) on our way to a birthday lunch in Edgware, I had the spontaneous idea of stopping at Wisley for a quick circuit.  As an RHS member I’m allowed to take one adult guest, so it didn’t even cost anything.

It certainly wasn’t a comprehensive visit, but it was a beautiful morning and just lovely to see an old friend.004

Our circuit took us past the Conifer Lawn and then up through the Rock Garden, where I spied this stunning cyclamen, glowing in the low winter sunshine.008

On to the Alpine House, packed full of stunning specimens in pots, set on gravel beds.


From here we walked up to the viewing mound to look towards the glasshouse (which I still think of as new, despite being built in 2007).017

The borders on either side of the path, the Glasshouse Borders, were designed originally by Piet Oudolf around 2005, and mum and I went to an excellent talk by him at Wisley shortly after they’d been planted.  The design features ‘ribbons’ of planting which are easy to see from this elevated position.  There was warmth to the grasses, but proper heat from the Salix ‘Yelverton’.


We didn’t have time for the glasshouse this visit, which was a shame because it’s hosting a display of butterflies until 6th March.026


Turning back towards the entrance we walked through Seven Acres with lake and striking cornus.031



There was more colour from a couple of interesting trees I’d not come across before – Corylus maxima ‘Red Filbert’


and Tilia cordata ‘Winter Orange.’


Thanks Wisley, it was lovely to see you again.

James Wong – growing for flavour and talking for Britain!


Wednesday saw me back at Ventnor Botanic Garden for a talk by James Wong,

The talk was entitled ‘Growing for flavour’ and, bearing in mind the two things I’ve grown following recommendations from him (Electric Daises and Cucamelons from his ‘Homegrown Revolution’ book) I’ve been less than Impressed with, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Well, suffice to say he is my new gardening crush.  Not only was his speech incredibly interesting and informative, but it was well delivered and laugh out loud funny too.

He has recently been writing a book in conjunction with the RHS about growing for flavour, and this talk was based on the research behind his writing.  As he made clear, he is not a hortculturalist, he is a botanist and his whole approach is science and evidence based.

To start with, he debunked the idea that taste is subjective – studies have shown for example that the range of sweetness or saltiness humans like is really very narrow (sugar percentage in the range 8-10%, with the salt percentage even narrower).  We may think we have a ‘sweet tooth’ but the variation really is quite limited.  He also mentioned that brain scans of people eating foods with the ‘holy grail’ 50/50 sugar/fat ratio show pleasure receptors lighting up in a similar fashion to heroin users.  Surely Krispy Kremes have to be safer than that?

Furthermore, something as fundamental as your liking for coriander turns out to be genetic, not ‘taste’.   People with a certain gene (up to 20% of the population depending on ethnicity) taste a mixture of soap and bleach when they eat coriander.  And there was me thinking my nephew was making a fuss!

So, to the growing.  I couldn’t possibly capture everything said, but here are a few points I noted

  • Choose the right varieties.  Genetics is key – however well grown, you cannot make a poor variety taste good, so choose carefully.
  • Leaving foods such as butternut squash, pumpkins, tomatoes and strawberries for a few days before eating (NOT in the fridge), substantially increases sweetness – for strawberries, for example, up to 700% in 4 days.
  • Using dissolved aspirin on plants to makes them think they’re under attack.  The plants produce tastier fruits in the hope they will be able to reproduce.  An example was watering tomatoes with 1/4 to 1/2 an aspirin tablet dissolved in a litre of water, three times during the growing season.  Other studies have suggested for different plants you just need to soak the seeds in the aspirin solution prior to planting, to enjoy the same beneficial effect.
  • Using Methyl jasminate (Jasmine water) to spray on buds has a similar effect
  • Mulching tomatoes and strawberries with red plastic, not black.  The science behind this is all to do with the colour of the reflected light.  Apparently the light reflected off red is actually green, which replicates the light reflected off competing (green) weeds.  Again, this tricks the plants to think they’re under attack when they are not.
  • Growing tomatoes as a single truss.  Apparently this was a method discovered in the UK, exported to Japan and then largely forgotten back in the UK.  Plants are ‘stopped’ after one truss has set fruit by removing all side shoots, as well as the growing tip.  Consequently the plant puts all its energy into ripening the one truss.  There are a number of advantages – you can cram in many more plants in the same area and therefore the yield is similar, but the plants need less attention as there is no staking/tying in/ side shoot pinching to worry about and instead, with all energy focussed on one truss, the flavour of that truss is significantly enhanced.
  • Watering with mollasses.  This has been found to dramatically increase beneficial soil bacteria.  The logic is that plants make their own sugar during photosynthesis, so if you water with a sugar solution early in a plant’s life, it will accelerate their establishment.  James suggested if you’re planting bare root trees, for example, you should dig a square hole, firm the plant in and water with a molasses solution – no stake, no mycorrhizal fungi, no fuss!

Modest chap that he is, James never mentioned the name of the book, nor its publication date, but I, for one, will be at the front of the queue.

And to finish, a few lovely blooms from a sunny, post talk stroll at VBG.