Showing posts with label RHS shows. Show all posts
Showing posts with label RHS shows. Show all posts

1 Apr 2016

Extravaganza! The RHS Spring Plant and Orchid Show

I have a thing for automata and this one was on show at the RHS halls in February

While I often hanker for the country life, living in London does have its occasional perks. One such is coming up over the next two days with the second of the RHS spring shows - this one is billed as a Spring Plant Extravaganza and includes the RHS Orchid show. There will be talks throughout both days and there's also a sneak peek at the show garden being built for RHS Tatton Park by the Young Designer of the Year. Wowzer!

It's wonderful that the RHS puts on these shows because, no matter what the weather outside, visitors can be cozy and warm indoors, drooling over a selection of the most beautiful plants and getting advice from experienced nurseries and growers. Not to be missed, especially if you have a bit of cash to spend.

This is not to say that non-London folk will be overlooked as it's only a couple of weeks before the RHS spring show in Cardiff, followed by Malvern at the beginning of May and Chelsea (whoop whoop) just three weeks after that. * By which time it will be almost summer.  So, plenty to entertain us while waiting for our seeds to grow.

I can't get to this weekend's show (gardening deadlines to meet) but I did make it to the earlier show in February. I went because I knew that Pennard Plants would, as usual, be there with their enormous A-Z selection of seed potatoes plus I needed some more Polka raspberries from them - and why pay postage? I also wanted to pick up some baby chilli plants from the very reliable Sea Spring Seeds; my home-sown chilli plants matured very late last year, giving me just the one fruit, and then died overwinter. I knew that I could pick up healthy little plants at the show and these are now growing steadily on my kitchen windowsill - sorted! Sea Spring also sell an awesome selection of seeds if you want to grow your own salad leaves, tomatoes and chillies, including the infamous Dorset Naga, one of the hottest chillies available - but I think I'll stick to the salad leaves.

Having made my purchases (including some Heritage tomato seeds, again from Pennard, and some more gardening gloves), I was free to wander around the show drinking in the buzz and excitement of gardeners embracing a new gardening year. It's part of the fun, knowing you're among like-minded passionate gardeners and there were plenty of impromptu chats among visitors. There were the usual award winning displays of snowdrops, primulas, hepaticas and iris reticulata (all heart-stoppingly beautiful) but, hey, that was February, we've moved on since then.  For a taste of what might be found in today's show,  photos in the collage below were taken at last year's spring show.

With so many nurseries and trade stands here, there's always the possibility of picking up a really exciting new plant.  I bought the glorious Geum 'Totally Tangerine' from Hardy's Garden Plants here a couple of years ago, the same plant that was all over Chelsea flower show that year. Hardy's are fantastic at putting together stunning and inspirational plant combinations in their exhibit - in fact, Rosy Hardy has a show garden at Chelsea this year.  How do I know that?  The RHS had put on a large display of the drawings and plans for this year's Chelsea gardens in one of the halls and it looks like it's going to be a corker.  More about this in a later post.

So please go along to the show if you can - I want to read about it! The show is on today and tomorrow (1st + 2nd April,  10-5 pm).  Venue is the RHS Halls in Westminster (Victoria or Pimlico tube stations) and there's a cafĂ© on site.

Totally Tangerine - how could I resist?

* The Harlow Carr flower show is in June, Tatton Park in July and Hyde Hall is in August.  Check out the RHS Events page for more info.

21 May 2015

The rain of weightless happiness - Press Day at RHS Chelsea flower show

If you're at all interested in gardening, you can't have failed to see coverage of this year's Chelsea Flower Show in all the media. I expect many readers will be almost as familiar with the gardens as those that were lucky enough to be there in person.  I was one of those fortunate folk on Press Day, the Monday before the show opens its gates to RHS members and the public.

It was raining; did I care? Not a bit, the persistent rain really did have a silver lining.  This time, it kept the crowds at bay (or at least in the Great Pavilion) giving unfettered views of the gardens to those in stout shoes and waterproof coats, including me.  And, actually, the rain presented a softer light for taking photographs than hot sunshine (although my hands wouldn't have been so cold in the sun!).

It's impossible to be restrained surrounded by acres of inspirations so I took nearly 300 photographs. I've been going through those over the past couple of days and can see how similar the plant choices were in the show gardens. Dan Pearson's garden for M+G was the beautiful naturalistic exception to this with some unusual plant choices. His design drew inspiration from the rockery and trout stream of Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, the stately home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and included Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata), Primula japonica, Gunnera, Hesperis matronalis (Sweet Rocket), Martagon lilies and salsify (Tragopogon crucifolius). There were huge willow trees planted near giant boulders which had been transported from Chatsworth to Chelsea for the show - and which will be returned at the end of the week. His garden filled the triangle at the southern end of the site; a difficult spot to design for and yet Dan's garden looked as though it had been there for years. Less manicured, more natural; I loved it.

As someone who loves tramping the wilder parts of Hampstead Heath, and lived for a short while close to the Yorkshire Moors, this garden makes my heart sing and very deservedly won both a gold medal and Best in Show. I overheard a journalist asking Dan for a quote about the garden; he smiled gently and said "I'm very happy with it."  An understated response, surely.

Dan was happy to chat to anyone who approached, whether it was about the garden or dishing out advice about plants. When it was my turn for a chat I asked what he'd enjoyed most about being back at Chelsea. His response was to give credit to the whole of the Crocus team, adding how likeable they all are which made the build process very enjoyable. Nice. Good choice of coffee cup too, holding another warming brew.

From then on, I was on a bit of a roll.  Having been armed with a hi-vis jacket declaring me to be 'RHS Press', I wandered around chatting to the designers and taking their photos. (Yes, I did give the jacket back afterwards.)

The show gardens lived up to, and occasionally exceeded, expectations - but there's been ample coverage of those. Here are a few of my personal favourites:

Top: A Time Inbetween - designer Charlie Albone uses this space as an allegory of his life and feelings since his father died; Sean Murray of the Great Chelsea Garden Challenge uses Ajuga reptans, saxifrage and violas to green up a driveway
Middle: Andrew Wilson's Living Legacy garden commemorates the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo;
The Beauty of Islam garden - the minimal cool green planting in the simulated courtyard really appealed to me.
Bottom: A Perfumer's Garden in Grasse (James Basson) was a space I would dearly love to spend time in;
The Retreat - Jo Thompson's beautiful planting surrounded a natural pond with synchronised swimmers on the day.

An area that I thought was hugely improved from last year was the Fresh section.  These small conceptual gardens aim to convey a message and, in the past, haven't really done it for me but, excitingly, this year managed to be entertaining, interesting and beautiful as well. This Japanese garden attracted my attention,; there's a lot going on in a very small space: moss balls, water, pebbles and wonderful planting combined with a clean Japanese aesthetic.  The waterfall cascaded through a circle in the perspex roof.  Dramatic. I also now really want to know how to make moss balls.

'Beyond our Borders', another Fresh garden, gave food for thought with a very quirky representation of the way plant diseases can spread across continents - and illustrated the whole point of plant passports. Initially I wondered about those rainbow slinkies but it all made perfect sense once the concept of the garden - and the important message behind it - was explained.

And I was mesmerised by this garden. The artist was completely still as he carefully positioned one stone atop another in an unbelievably improbable balancing act.  I tried to video him but his movements were so slight and precise that it looked like a very long still photo. I took the liberty of asking how had he come to this chosen career?  The balancer had spent years balancing small pebbles on the beach before working up to the big stuff.  So there you have it: time spent loafing on the beach is merely preparation for greater things to come. Who'da thought it?

The show offers so much for each individual visitor, whether looking for design inspiration, advice on flowers and shrubs from the nurserymen, or just a jolly good day out, but I can't leave without a backwards glance at what, for me, is the highlight of the show ... the flowers.  Although the growers can work magic in bringing together a palette of plants that would otherwise be in bloom before or after Chelsea week, I'm always fascinated to see how these plants are used. It's breathtaking and beautiful.  So I regretfully turn my back on Chelsea until next year with a reminder of a few of my favourites ...

Aquilegia; orange Verbascum, Lysimachia, bronze fennel, Astrantia; Eremurus with Orlaya grandiflora.
Digitalis (foxglove), Geranium, pink Verbascum with Camassia leichtlinii.
Nectaroscordum allium , purple Aquilegia with lupins, flag Iris with ferns and Primula japonica.

22 Feb 2014

Design, Plant and Spud - it's the RHS Spring Show!

There was such a great vibe at the RHS Plant and Design Show yesterday in its new time slot of early weekend rather than midweek, as in previous years. The sun was shining outside and, as we've come to expect,  beautiful plants on show within. This year there was the added incentives of a programme of design talks and a potato extravaganza!  A jacket potato tasting bench offered the chance to compare texture and taste, a nice touch.

Pennard Plants had set out 75 different varieties of chitting potatoes at only 22p a tuber as well as displays in both halls.  It's a brilliant system that allows the buyer to 'pick n mix' the spuds they want to grow.  If I had the space, I'd grow one of each variety for the ultimate taste test but, having done a small scale test last year, I knew which tuber to choose: Arran Victory. Let's see how it does for me this year.

I was keen to have a good look round so left all buying until the end.  I really only wanted some potatoes to chit and a set of beautiful cloche frames that I'd seen last year from Plant Belles:

The larger hoop straddling the smaller ones is this year's new size - a 4ft hoop! 
The reality is that the displays of plants are just too tempting for eyes hungry for colour after the winter sojourn. Hellebores, snowdrops and narcissus abounded although there was no particular stand that stood out above the others. I was slightly disappointed not to see a rival for last year's spectacular iris and snowdrop displays but Cornwall's Trewidden Nursery put on a great show of exotics that was awarded a gold medal.

With my garden designer head on, I totally fell for the 'grasses' - this is Elegia equisetacea in close up:

Beautiful.  In my humble opinion.  ;)

Cath's Garden Plants caught my eye with this lovely yellow combination of spring planting.  Yellow is such a joy in early spring but, for me, can be too much of a good thing come March.  This combo was wonderfully subtle, supported as it was by the 'evergreen' Carex testacea.

Or how about this Narcissus cyclamineus from Broadleigh Gardens: I hadn't come across this particular tiny flower before and thought it both delightful and unusual.

This, above, is Correa pulchella 'Pink Mist' on display at Fibrex Nurseries; a small evergreen shrub hailing originally from NSW Australia - looks like it would fit perfectly into an English garden! This is a plant that I'll bookmark (for any future clients!). What's not to love about its elongated bell-shaped flowers? (I was going to write 'campanulate' but that would just be showing off.)  I'm already looking for the flower fairies to appear!

For me, the show is a wonderful chance to see a range of plants and this Lathyrus vernus 'Cyaneus' didn't disappoint - reminiscent of violets but quite definitely flowering in the sweet pea family with lovely light green paired leaves.

 It was displayed next to Dicentra formosa, ferns and snowdrops which suggests that it's a good woodland edge plant.

I was very pleased to say hello again to Joy at Sea Spring Seeds.  A renowned grower of chillies (including Dorset Naga, the hottest variety - plug plants for sale at the show), she's exhibiting a visual feast of salad leaves which earned her a silver medal.  I'd already bought my chilli seeds from Joy at the RHS autumn show but with thoughts of summer salads in mind, I bought packets of salad leaves. Who wouldn't be tempted by these beautiful leaves?

Joy is a passionate gardener and, very helpfully, nipped off leaves of her delicious plants for me to taste.  Cue purchase of many packets of seeds and module trays which will be sown today.

Having wandered, looked, chatted, got some amazing advice from the growers and from Writtle College (good conversation about environmental psychology), I'll be going back today to take in a couple of the design lectures on offer.  Whew - a lot to cover that, personally, I couldn't have managed in one day - but that's where membership of the RHS will stand me in good stead - the show is free entry for members.

The show is open today, Saturday, until 5 pm (Victoria and Pimlico tube stations within an easy walk). Well worth going if you can get there.

More about the show from Alternative Eden and Down on the Allotment.

PS.  I haven't got my cloche covers yet because I was loaded up with violas, a scented leaved pelargonium, canes of Polka raspberry and module trays for starting off my seed sowing! Very restrained, under the circumstances. ;)

21 May 2013

Chelsea Girl: my visit to The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2013

It could only be Chelsea!
As my first year of garden design training draws to a close, I was determined to visit Chelsea Flower Show.  It was an extraordinary new experience - I'm as passionate about ornamental plants as the next person, even though I focus on growing edibles - and Chelsea is deservedly the flagship show of the RHS.

Comprehensive media coverage is fantastic for those that can't get to the show but the real thrill is to be there and experience the plants and gardens up close - and to have the time to linger and think, something a television show can't do.

The weather can make a huge difference to enjoyment of the show and I struck lucky with a dry day of mild temperatures. The designers must have been relieved as the gardens were shown to perfection and interviews in-situ were easier for not being rained on.  It would have been possible to dash into the Grand Marquee, should the need arise, but that area was humming with people who'd come to see the exuberant plant displays.

It was fun trying to match the designer to the show gardens; Christopher Bradley-Hole's style was very recognisable in his clever and subtle interpretation of the English countryside, as was Jinny Blom's innovative planting in the Sentebale Forget-Me-Not garden and Roger Platt's romantic cottage garden style. I wasn't expecting to see Homebase at the show (given their propensity for killing off plants in their garden centres) but Adam Frost had created a realistic and achievable edible garden for them; full of good ideas for incorporating edible plants into an ornamental garden, there was plenty to take away from here for the home gardener.  Chris Beardshaw's garden for Arthritis Research was beautifully layered in telling the journey of an arthritis sufferer and worthy of a longer look. It deservedly won the People's Choice award.

Top left, clockwise: Chris Beardshaw, Adam Frost, Christopher Bradley-Hole, Jinny Blom

Roger Platt for M+G

The garden that I would award 'Most thought-provoking' to would be Jo Thompson's Stop The Spread; with half the space allocated to an avenue of dead trees, it's been designed to highlight the spread of pests and diseases that are destroying plants and trees in the UK. The contrast between the two areas of the garden certainly provoked comment - and, hopefully, further thought.

'Stop The Spread' by Jo Thompson

Looking for somewhere to sit for lunch, I wandered on into the Artisan Gardens, tucked into the woodland area.  Each tiny garden told a story: a glimpse back into the magic of childhood for the NSPCC, a Hebridean weaver's cottage, the Yorkshire Tour de France, a physician's healing garden …

Clockwise from top left: Yorkshire garden, Hebridean weaver's garden, physic garden, NSPCC garden.

But out of all this extraordinarily beautiful and inspired planting, one garden that I had to see was 'Bird Columny', the Fresh Talent creation of three very talented students on my course at Capel Manor.  The 'Fresh' area is where cutting edge designers can be showcased.  The garden spaces are set around three laser cut columns and it was one of these that the Capel team were given to plant up.

Thankfully my allegiances weren't tested as 'Bird Columny' (their exhibit) was a brilliant naturalistic salute to UK hedgerow plants and their benefit to wildlife. At the end of Press Day judging, the RHS agreed and the team - JAM garden design - was awarded with a Fresh Talent Gold. I know that the team, and Capel Manor who trained them, were thrilled with this achievement.

As this was the first time of visiting the Chelsea Flower Show, I can't measure it against previous years, suffice to say that I found it enthralling. Talking afterwards to gardeners and media folk, I could tell that opinions were diverse. It was interesting to see how people's reactions to the show varied but I'm definitely good for a few more years of visiting this wonderful show.

… And I haven't even mentioned the retail therapy! 

26 Feb 2013

RHS Plant and Design Show - a good day out

Stop Press!  Free Day Friday: if you're interested in visiting any of the four RHS gardens, have a look at this link. It would appear that entry is free this Friday, 1st March.

Primula belarina
~ Primula belarina Cobalt Blue ~
If asked, I'd say that I dislike shopping but last Tuesday at the RHS show was my kind of shopping. I'd taken the time off work to attend the RHS Plant and Design Show in Victoria (first time I've been) and, as a bonus, the weather that day was fantastic - warm sunshine and no wind.  I couldn't resist spending most of the day outdoors in an unscheduled bout of gardening, getting jobs done including putting together a new protective cloche to house my plants as bitterly cold temperatures were forecast.  As we had flurries of tiny snow at the weekend, this turned out to be a good move.

So the day was already a success when I tore myself away mid-afternoon to head off to the show. It was open until 7 so I thought I'd left myself enough time for a browse round... and, naively, I thought I'd get away with just window shopping!  (Several carrier bags on the tube home disproved that theory.)

Traders selling their wares don't overlook the opportunity to introduce the public to more unusual cultivars and planting. I bought an Ugni molinae Flambeau, or Chilean Guava, having been told that it has white flowers in the summer, aromatic leaves (make tea with these) and red edible strawberry-flavoured berries in winter. A perfect addition to the veg patch. The fruit was apparently Queen Victoria's favourite and, if you could buy it, would retail at about £9 a punnet.  Apart from anything else, it's small, edible and rather pretty.

Snowdrop display
Displays of bright blue primulas and iris had me hovering, snowdrops planted up with honesty and black Lily Turf (Ophiopogon planiscarpus) were visually inspirational, a row of winter stems from the Sir Harold Hillier gardens reminded me to add a visit there to my Bucket List and I didn't dare stop at the second-hand bookstall, gardening books being a particular weakness of mine. I bought a trio of agapanthus for my mother's garden from Hoyland Plants, the holder of the national agapanthus collection, as they were able to give good advice as to soil, flowering, hardiness, etc of each cultivar. I took these down at the weekend; Mum was thrilled as she's wanted Agapanthus in her garden for ages.

My downfall though was Pennard Plants.  Plates of heritage potato tubers set among vintage garden paraphernalia first grabbed my attention - and then I saw the trays of heritage and heirloom flower and veg seeds.  I think I may have even trembled with excitement.

Veg seed tray

A jolly conversation ensued; Pennards people were so helpful with their advice that, despite best intentions of keeping my growing list simple this year, I came away with a paper bag full of seed packets. (And the aforementioned Ugni plant.)  I'm particularly excited at having found red flowered broad beans and a short/cold season sweet corn which has a pretty good chance of maturing even in a bad summer. Pennards will be at the Garden Museum's Potato Day on 10th March, by which time I'll have chosen which tubers I want to buy from them.

The "design" part of the show was held in the second Horticultural Hall; I didn't leave myself enough time to fully appreciate all the displays but, for my resource book, I made a note of the makers of this very stylish cloche.  Possibly a thing of beauty for my own garden one day ...


But the most useful discovery was Oxford Green Roofs, a husband and wife team who are passionate about sustainable living and displayed a variety of green roof possibilities on their stand. I'd love to introduce their ideas into my garden designs.  I thought the Pocket Habitat was especially brilliant, see it here transforming the urban landscape of the Ove Arup offices in London.

Pocket Habitat
The Pocket Habitat: a felted pebble pocket made of recycled materials
and filled with bio-diverse plants - good for the environment on all counts!
As a member of the RHS, entry to the show was free for me and, on the following day, I could have taken a guest in with me, also free.  As with Chelsea, any remaining plants are sold off on the final day.

I was recommended to join the RHS by Jekka McVicar, mainly because the membership fees fund research into plants, pests and diseases.  It's proved to be a wise move representing very good value as I've more than recouped the cost of my membership in garden visits to Wisley and various shows (free or discounted), as well as the extremely readable and informative RHS 'The Garden' magazine which members receive every month. There's free seeds as well if I order before 31st March.

Upcoming shows that I plan to visit are the 'Grow Your Own' weekend at Wisley on 23/24th March, the Great London Plant Fair on 26th March in Victoria and the Spring Craft Fair on the 2nd - 6th May at Wisley - and, of course, Chelsea and Hampton Court shows. More information on the RHS website, here.

Pennards Plants
~ Jovial conversation with the team at Pennards Plants.
He even pointed out the RHS bigwigs and television scouts! ~
P.S.  Read more about the show at Out of my Shed blog, here.

17 Feb 2013

More haste, less weed

There's an alarming trend in my life where I sit down in front of the laptop for a 'quick look at my emails', I get distracted and suddenly a large chunk of my day has disappeared. You all know what I'm talking about. The weather over the weekend has been dry, mild and perfect for gardening ... then yesterday my washing machine decided it wasn't going to spin properly anymore. I can't be upset as it's done 10 years of sterling laundry servitude but it has meant going online to do some extensive research into a  new best buy. (I never make "big" purchases without a lot of thinking beforehand!) I've just finalised the deal, a new machine will be delivered on Wednesday, but it's now lunchtime on Sunday and I'm going straight down into the garden, and sunshine, without further ado. My heart and soul are singing already.

Life is good

Just before that though, two lovely things to tell:  Naomi Schillinger of Outofmyshed blog has kindly sent me a copy of her new book 'Veg Street - Grow Your Own Community', published 7th March.  What should have been a quick flick through on Friday evening almost made me late for my Girls Night Out;  it's really that good, even for an gardening obsessive like me.  I want to give it a proper review post in a day or two but (as I'm heading outdoors now) will say it's beautifully written, extremely well laid out, visually tempting and stuffed full of excellent advice.  Have I whetted your appetite? More soon.

Secondly, my tickets for the RHS shows are booked and the first has arrived.  I've taken Tuesday off work to pop down to the Horticultural Halls in Victoria, SW1 to visit the RHS Plant and Design Fair. It's my first time but I'm anticipating a good day out!  

But for now my garden awaits and I have two cheap mini-cloches from Morrisons to sow lettuce and spinach under.  Gotta go! 

Oh, and the pink gloves in the photo?  New weed and seed gloves bought from Capital Gardens online; they're a tad too big for my hands but the supplier hasn't responded to my calls or emails for an exchange or a return.  I used London-based Capital Gardens as they have a garden centre up the road in Highgate which I thought would make life easier. Apparently not.  After 2 weeks of one-sided communication, I'm going to give up and use Big Gloves.  Naughty Capital Gardens.  London readers have been warned.
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