Thursday, 26 March 2015

Preview of RHS Malvern Spring Show Festival gardens

Towards the end of last year I wrote a post about a crowd funded garden that was being proposed for the RHS Malvern Spring Festival.  I am pleased to say that the garden reached its funding target and will now happen.  I have already decided I am going to visit the Festival this year so I thought I would look ahead to what some of the gardens would be like.  The Festival has show gardens and also what I am previewing here, the Festival gardens aimed at inspiring new gardeners.  I will preview the show gardens in another post.
Firstly I am going to mention the Genetic Conservation Garden by Tessa and Caitlin Mclaughlin, partly because it is the first on the RHS information page about the gardens, but also because it is the one I have written about previously mentioned above.  So I am not going to say much more about it here other than I am really looking forward to seeing it.
Next to catch my eye was this garden, 'Mad as a Hatter' designed by Gary Birstow.  It caught my eye as Alice in Wonderland is one of my favourite books (probably only beaten by Through the Looking Glass), but this garden is more about hatters than Alice, it is particularly referencing the 'madness' that hatters appeared to have from inhaling mercury fumes.  This is something I knew nothing about so it was a good interesting fact.  The plants used are inspired by Frome Valley so I think it will be a good garden to see.
Still on an Alice in Wonderland theme is the 'Alice in Wonderland' garden by Lorna Davies.  This is to commemorate 150 years since the book was published.  The planting aims to show the colours of the book such as the reds and whites of the Queens.  I do have to comment that the plan could be seen to not compare well against the other garden plans as it is less pictorial.  One thing to remember with the Malvern Gardens is that the designers often do not have the vast resources that Chelsea Flower Show designers can attract, so the garden design quality cannot be judged by the look of the brochure plan.  
The next garden is 'Still Beating the Blues' designed by Emily Sharpe which is based on a painting by Swarez.  I confess to having to google Swarez.  The garden aims to be a retreat from hectic urban life.  It looks minimalistic and calming and will be interesting to see.
The above garden is called 'Mindfulness' and is designed by Contained Gardens.  It looks a very contained space is inspired by the words from a young male suffering from depression.  "The garden is comforting and solid yet transparent providing a safe space with easy escape routes" is how it is described in the blurb.  Like many of the plans (both for this show and Chelsea) I find the plans often do not help me really visualise the space.  I will be interested to see how this looks in reality.
This garden, 'Lets Get you Home' designed by Stacey Gibson, intrigues me as the tree dominates so completely.  This is not a bad thing, I love a good tree and I am looking forward to finding out what type of tree it is.  The garden is about the journey from when someone finds out they have a terminal illness, through to their treatment and to the help Marie Curie provides in supporting the person.
Finally there is 'Nature' designed by Kate Durr.  This plan is riot of greens and looks really vibrant and interesting.  It is dominated by three Cor-ten steel panels. Yes I had to google Cor-ten, it is a steel that weathers (rusts) in a stable way that means it does not need painting.  The words senuous and sultry are used in the description, apparently the planting flirts with us from behind its Cor-ten steel boundaries, would it be wrong to be thinking 50 shades of green?........

I am really looking forward to my visit, the gardens will be top of my agenda to visit on the day and I shall write about the realities on my return.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Butterfly Conservation - new membership offer

Now that Spring is definitely upon us the insects are starting to emerge in the garden.  Looking out for the first butterfly is always an exciting time.  I have been asked by the Butterfly Conservation people to let you know that they have a new membership offer this year that is valid until 31st May 2015. 

The details can be found here:

Butterflies are more than just pretty fluttery things, they are an important part of the eco-system and a key quality of life indicator in our natural habitats.  More information on this can be found here:

The offer includes:
-Their member only gardening book written by Kate Bradbury 
-A welcome pack with membership card, set of collectable postcards and useful information
-Butterfly magazine three times a year, packed with fascinating features and stunning photos
-Essential advice on gardening for butterflies and moths
-Regular e-newsletters with the latest news, info and offers
-Membership of your local branch, with regular newsletters 
-Invitations to local guided walks, talks, conservation action days and social events

The all important promotional code to use is:  GARDEN1550

Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Quince Hedge (again)

I have given a couple of updates already on my quince hedge which is made up of Chaenomeles x superba 'Crimson and Gold'.  The first update is here in 2011 when it had been planted for about three years and then again here in 2014 when it was starting to look a bit more hedgy.
The hedge has come on quite well in the last year.  It is hard to see well in this picture (gawd knows why I went for slanty pictures again) but it is thickening up fairly well now.  I now am gently trimming it so that it is not going about the height that I want.  When the top growth reaches the windowsill I level it off.  I am also trimming the side shoots so they are not going over the path.  I am hoping that this will encourage it to thicken up further.
This year it has been flowering for weeks.  It first started to flower before Christmas and it has given some very welcome colour.
Now the bees are starting to buzz around on the warmer days I am hopeful I will get a few quinces this year.  I have had a few little ones in the past and I hope I get more.  Unlike the quince tree in the back garden, chaenomeles fruit much more quickly and easily.

I shall report back next year on how it has progressed.  It remains work in progress, as does the garden in general.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

I was tempted

The past couple of weeks have been a little busy, I am holding off from seed sowing as it is still a bit early but there has been some plant buying.  Well it was hard not to, I was tempted (that is my excuse and I am sticking to it).

Firstly I see an offer for bargain hellebores from Thompson and Morgan.  I am a member of the trial panel for Thompson and Morgan but I am also a paying customer the same as anyone else.  When bargains like this land in my email inbox it would be churlish to refuse.
They arrived looking healthy and in really good condition.  They may not flower for a year or two but I can wait, that is part of the joy of hellebores, it is delayed gratification.

The other day I went to a talk by Tom Mitchell of Evolution Plants at the Nottingham group of the Hardy Plant Society  I have been going to their meetings for a few months now and they have had some interesting talks and some good plant buying opportunities.  Tom gave a very interesting talk about his plant hunting habits and plants that he collects and then afterwards there were plants from his nursery to buy.
This Helleborus occidentalis waved encouragingly at me and pleaded to be bought.  Well how could I refuse?  I do have a lot of hellebores, some named varieties and some that are hybrid seedlings.  They are a key part of my spring border and I have many in various parts of the garden.  This little beauty is a very welcome addition.

The next day I went to a talk by Brian Ellis of Avondale Nursery hosted by the East Midlands Group of Plant Heritage.  I have visited this nursery on a couple of occasions and already have plans to go again the near future.  The opportunity to hear Brian give a talk and buy a plant or two was too much to miss.  The talk was interesting and took us through the three national plant collections that Brian hosts.  So many tempting photographs were put before us, it was a visual shopping list.

Brian had bought many plants with him and I left with two of them:
Peony tenufolia, which is the pot that might on first glance look empty but there is a lovely fat bud growing.  I have been after one of these peonies for a while so it was not something I could walk away from.

The other plant is Veratrum album.  A plant I have not been looking for as long, but it is on the list of buy when you see it.
The leaves alone are wonderful, which is a good thing as it may be a year or three before I see a flower.

I know there will be more plant buying in the year, but Spring plant buying always seems special.  It is acknowledging that the growing season is about to really get going.  Let the fun commence!

Sunday, 15 March 2015

The snowdrop odyssey ends at home

I have made a few snowdrop visits this year and I have thoroughly enjoyed my travels.  I am very fond of snowdrops as they are a sign of winter coming to an end.  They are also just cheerful little flowers.  To be honest the snowdrops were probably more an excuse to get out and go for a walk, have a good chat and find cake.  It made the darkest weeks of winter go by much more easily than usual.

So I finish this snowdrop odyssey with a look around my own garden.  When I first moved into this house there was one small clump of snowdrops by the gate that divides the front garden to the back.
There were just a few when I first moved here, since then I have had to divide them as they were getting congested and I think they might get spread out a bit further again this year.
I bought some snowdrops in my first winter here and planted a few in the driveway, this little clump has bulked up quite well and will also be divided soon.  When I first bought snowdrops for this garden I bought 200 or so a year of dried bulbs.  As I write this I can hear people sighing and even sniggering as they will not be surprised to hear that probably only 50% of these ever started to grow.  This is immensely disappointing when it happens and it was only from reading various garden magazines that I realised that buying 'in the green' was the best way forward.  I now only buy in the green and it is far more satisfactory.
I largely plant snowdrops around the edges of the Wild Garden.  Some are forming some nice clumps now, almost a little drift, a driftini?
This little planting is mainly from last year's snowdrop purchase and whilst they are not clumpy, they are growing and next year I expect to see more.
I am in the habit of buying snowdrops every time I visit a snowdrop garden.  Just a little pot, usually spending no more than £3 or £4.  I plant them in specific places like these three by the medlar tree and note where I have planted them in my garden journal.  If I re-visit a garden then I will plant further purchases nearby so it becomes that particular area.
I am so pleased I will be dividing clumps this year as well as buying another 200 (in the green).  It is not quite a snowdrop garden yet....
but check back in about ten years and I reckon it could be by then.

Posts written about snowdrops visited this year:

Hodsock Priory

Little Ponton Hall

Easton Walled Gardens


Launde Abbey

Calke Abbey and Dimminsdale