Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Yet another Chelsea roundup

I thoroughly enjoyed the show gardens on Main Avenue and at the risk of repeating anything you've already read about them on other blogs, here's my opinion of a few of them.

Firstly, the M&G Centenary garden 'Windows through Time' by Roger Platts. Probably winner of the 'show garden I could most live with'. Beautiful plantings with a great variety of textures. Described in the accompanying brochure as: 'a garden designed to capture what every visitor to Chelsea, whether in 1913 or 2013, would love to take home with them.'  Roger easily achieved this by including what seemed to be every single plant in existence in the garden. I've never seen such a plant list – it covers 5 pages of the brochure. Loads of fabulous specimens though, from huge foxglove spires, to spreading Cornus kousa in flower, and the world's favourite daisy: Erigeron karvinskianus. Not pictured below, but there was a drift of what looked like Achillea 'Moonshine' towards the front of the garden. A bit acid for me, if I'm honest. It was possibly a replacement as the printed plant list showed Achillea 'Summerwine', which I couldn't see at all. A special mention has to go to the M&G bag – so capacious, I got a second one to carry all my plant swag home on the Saturday.

On to the B&Q/Sentebale 'Forget-Me-Not' garden by Jinny Blom, otherwise known as 'Prince Harry's Garden'. A tranquil affair overall with some lovely lumpy planting of Leptinella squalida 'Platts Black', Selaginella helvetica, and pale blue Forget-me-nots in flower. The willow pollards lining one side added a lovely structural, yet airy feel, and gave me the sense of open landscape rather than enclosed garden. Cool grey curving steps led up to what looked like Stoke's missing pottery kiln and the less said about the clay ashtray in the middle, the better. It reminded me of the waltzers, back when the fair came to the village common every Easter and all the 5th year girls tried to get off with the bloke in charge of the bumper cars.

The Delancey East Village Garden by Michael Balston and Marie-Louise Agius was a wonderful representation of public planting inspired by the redevelopment of the Olympic Park into residential areas. While the plant choices themselves aren't my particular cup of garden tea (Zantedeschias and rhododendrons),  I loved the shapes and spaces they'd created and think that the stepped watercourse could be recreated in even the most modest suburban garden.

The Telegraph garden by Christopher Bradley-Hole: I so want to like this garden and indeed feel that I may be judged harshly by the gardening elite for not doing so. It is elegant, considered, in proportion, well-planned and expertly constructed – all the things a good garden should be. But it includes monastic cloisters (who doesn't have those?) and the whole premise of the garden is that it is to be viewed from that cloistered area. Yes, that's right, from the bit that the general public can't gain access to. And Christopher, you complained about the Best in Show being awarded to the Australians. Whatever balanced way you do that and however validated your points are by others in the gardening media, it's always going to sound like sour grapes. On the plus side you did include Tulipa sprengeri, even if you did make me search for them.

So finally, to the Arthritis Research Garden designed by Chris Beardshaw. Simply beautiful. A very personal and heartfelt design and a well deserved People's Choice Winner.

Monday, May 20, 2013

It's that Chelsea

Yes, it's here again. Love it or hate it, The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is going to be filling the tv schedules, newspapers and websites, your twitter feed, instagram and most gardening blogs you care to read for the next 7 days. Whether you're an avid attendee, lapping up the show gardens, zipping round the Great Pavilion and downing Pimms as fast as the rain falls or a conscientious objector wincing at the sight of celebs on Press Day who probably wouldn't know one end of a trowel from another and tut-tutting at the sheer cost of it all in these times of national austerity – it's happening whether you like it or not.

I will happily admit I fall into the former category. A relative newcomer (my first Chelsea was 2010), I love the mass coming together of all things horticultural: from new garden plants to new gardening products, concept gardens to heirloom seeds.

I was at the Chelsea site on Saturday morning and managed to take a few snaps on the whistlestop tour we were given. Needless to say it looked like the world's biggest hi-vis vest convention...

This was how Stoke-on-Trent's Transformation garden was looking. I wonder if the cement mixer will be part of the final display?

On the left in the next picture is, I think, Scape Design's After The Fire garden in the Fresh category. The concept from this French designer is the dramatic regeneration after forest fires in Mediterranean areas.

Here's a sneaky top half preview of the sculpture commissioned by the RHS for the occasion of the 100 year centenary of the Chelsea Flower Show. This was created by Marc Quinn famed for his 'Alison Lapper pregnant' piece that featured on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square and more recently as an inflatable installation as the finale to the Paralympic Games opening ceremony.

Work was going well down at the Cloudy Bay Discovery Garden. Phew, they'll be needing a nice chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc after all that heavy work.

Almost cut off on the left is the concept studio structure in rusted corten steel of the Trailfinders Australian garden - but the focus of this pic was really the champagne tent in the middle. *notes location for future reference*

And finally the Great Pavilion, which was a hive of buzzing activity, forklift trucks and shouting. This will be my home for 3 days this week where I'll be an RHS 'Showmaker', helping visitors navigate to their favourite nursery exhibit, find that desirable new plant or simply direct them to the nearest toilets!
If you're heading to Chelsea this week, I hope you have a fabulous day!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tulips on parade and under review

Well, they were a long time coming, but finally my tulips flowered! This year is my first for spring bulbs and I'm so pleased with them that I'll definitely be planting them again come the winter. The photos below are all from bulbs very kindly supplied gratis to me by Spalding Bulbs in return for blogging about them. They were all planted into pots in late November and you can read that post here.

I found they really needed no special care over the winter, save for the occasional picking out of little weeds that grew through the gravel mulch and by February, they'd all started to peek out at the surface.

Firstly the White Triumphator tulips – these were planted in an existing container of black lily grass and as planned they look very dramatic as a colour contrast. About 70% of the bulbs came up from those planted. They are said to grow to 60cm tall and did look a little lanky and floppy in my pot. That could have been because they weren't planted quite as deeply as recommended – due to the difficulties trying to interplant them into a shallow pot of  dense plants. The flowers are very elegant in shape and I am planning to thin out the grass and add a few more of the bulbs in the wintertime.

Parrot tulips have never been a particular favourite of mine but these ones may have changed my mind somewhat. I don't really like to see them in the ground as I think they look 'too cultivated' in a garden situation. But in pots I am happier to see them as part of a seasonal display. These are a compact height, flowered as a mix of white, red, yellow and purple and seem to be very popular with the bees!

And finally the Darwin hybrids – in a mix of yellow and red. 60cm of perfectly formed tulip with the classic bowl-shaped flower. About as perfect as nature (with man's intervention) can produce. Despite their relative tall stature, these have stood up well to the high winds of late.

There was a 4th variety in my package – Candy Kisses – but these I potted up and gave to a friend so I will have to check these out on my next visit.

Although I am not commenting on pricing of the bulbs or delivery charges, I can summarise that as far as delivery packaging and quality of bulbs received go I think Spalding score highly on all counts. I know some gardeners prefer to buy their tulips as single variety or colours but if I was looking for a mixture for a pot, I think I'd certainly pay their website a visit.

My bulb care instructions from now on are to deadhead them as they go over and give a liquid feed once a week for a month. I'm undecided between leaving them in the pots to flower again next year or emptying them out, drying the bulbs carefully and potting up again in winter. Does anyone have any recommendations on that front? Please though, no suggestions for planting them in the ground – I have no available space that the chickens do not have access to so they wouldn't stay in the ground for very long...

Monday, May 6, 2013

No shortage of blossom

Is it just me or has anyone else got blossom-overloaded cherry trees? This is a 3 year old Maynard Mini Stem cherry in a pot, from which we had 3 cherries in year 1, none in year 2, and so far, this is year 3...

If pollination is successful, will I really have this many cherries?? If so, I feel a rather large cherry clafoutis coming on sometime in early July.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Where potatoes and peas are planted out

So the spring that we've been waiting for through a cold and frosty March and a chilly and wet April has finally arrived. My Apache potatoes were planted out a week ago – over a month past their planned planting date. The extra time chitting indoors did mean that the shoots were particularly well developed by the time they went in the ground. Apache potatoes are maincrop types so should be ready for harvest 18–20 weeks after planting. That will give me an August harvest for these and they should be good for storing for a while as well.

I've been taking advantage of the nicer weather this last week by hardening off my peas that were germinated in pots in the greenhouse. I'm growing Kelevedon Wonder and Meteor peas this year, both of which are early varieties. I have, however, already lost the labels off a couple of the pots so the peas are being planted out together. I wonder if I'll see any difference in the plants or flowers as they develop? My pea harvest in the early part of 2012 was fantastic – I froze lots of bags and used them in risottos over the winter. I'm really hopeful they do well for me again this year.