May has been a bit May-ish really, quite warm at times and also rather rainy. This has resulted in huge amounts of growth, the garden is looking very Billy Bouffant.
As I have now admitted to having a neglected driveway, I thought I would do a quick update on how it looks now.
Well, it looks much the same, you might detect a slight yellowing as the glyphosate starts to kill the nettles and brambles that are my side of the invisible fence that is there really. Yes I know it is dreadful stuff to use, but needs must sometimes.
Going into the front garden the side lawn is looking rather good. The edge of lavender is on the verge of flowering and the roses and self-sown aquilegias are coming on well.
The Knot Garden is recovering from the late frost and in serious need of a cut! But it is not Derby Day so it has to wait a little longer, rules are rules.
The lilac did not flower this year, I must have pruned out the flowering growth last year. The climbing Rosa Gertrude Jekyll by the front door is just a delight, the scent from it is wonderful and it has grown fantastically well this year.
The Gravel Garden is looking quite good too. A lot of it is self-sown against a backdrop of rosemary, it is a nice little patch now.
These are the precious pots. Well, the posts are not that precious but the contents are. These are all tender little souls that need to live in the greenhouse over winter, there are a couple of gingers, a begonia or two and the chinese foxglove that donates its babies to live and flower in the borders but is kept safe as the mother-plant over the cold months. There is also the newly aquired Iris confusa and the two tree dahlia plants. These tree dahlias are cossetted beyond cossetting. I grew them from seed last year and would hate to lose them. Whether they will ever flower is anyone's guess, but I am chuffed to little mint-balls to have kept them going over the winter.
This is the view from the path to the pergola. I rather like it, the Rosa Hyde Hall hedge to the left and the Manx Rose to the right frame the view. The Manx Rose is getting rather large and I now think it might be too big for its current position, it might have to move in the Autumn. We will see.
The Coal Bunker Border is home to many aquilegia, I remove many but always many remain. I do like them (thankfully).
The Courtyard is dominated by the scent of the Rhodondron Luteum and the brightness of the red azalea. It is quite a good patch of colour at the moment.
The Conservatory Border has roses, oriental and welsh poppies and lots of aquilegia too. It is looking good at the moment and still has lots yet to perform.
The Pond Border is also looking very blousy, much is growing. The nigella in the foreground is getting a bit out of hand but is useful for weed suppressing. I remove it by the handful to create space when I want to plant something out.
The somniferum poppies are on their way up.
The extended Spring Border is looking a little sparse in the new bit at the front, but it will fill up soon. I have already added some divisions from existing plants into it and of course a couple of poppies have popped up as well.
The foxgloves are growing well this year on this side of the Pond Border and the pink alliums in the foreground are threatening to keep spreading. The white hesperis winding through the Rosa Winchester Cathedral makes me rather happy.
The Prairie Borders are putting on lots of new growth. For some reason there are very few verbascum coming up this year, maybe I over-weeded.
The Tree Lupin Border is full of woad and Eschscholzia californica, I have planted out some cannas and dahlias in the last week and now I just trying to keep the slugs from eating them all.
The view from the Tree Lupin Border, across the Dancing Lawn to the Prairie Borders looks good at the moment. The Rosa Wild Edric is winding up the apple tree, though I am worrying about the apple tree I think its days are numbered. A crack has appeared part way up the main trunk and I think I am going to have to cut it back hard before it falls.
The Bog Garden and Woodland Borders are looking very good. I am very pleased with them. Yes you can see a hosta, I did not plant it but I have allowed it to remain as long as it behaves itself. The ferns and trollius are doing very well this year.
I like the view from the top of the garden looking down the Wild Garden, over the Dancing Lawn from the other side towards the the Tree Lupin Border. The grass in the Wild Garden is rather long, the soil is clearly very rich.
The Four Sisters are growing well. The Carol Klein acer took a bit of a battering from the late frost but has recovered well.
The Edgeworthia also took a battering from the frost and has been slugged a bit. It is putting out some lovely healthy leaves though and it is still alive, this is a great achievement in my view.
The view along the Long Shoot makes me happy.
The Rosa Hyde Hall hedge gets a little bit more hedgy all the time and is coming into flower. Last year it flowered until the frosts stopped it, what a great rose.
The veg beds are coming on slowly this year, I have planted out some of the peas and courgettes and there are still beans and sweetcorn getting ready to come out. I rather like this garlic and wall-flower combination.
In the greenhouse there is lots going on, there are lots of seedlings waiting to be pricked out, potted on and eventually planted out.
The greenhouse now has a supervisor, watching over all the proceedings and keeping the seedlings safe. Or sleeping, depending on how you view it. Bruce has only been living here a couple of months, but he knows what he likes and the greenhouse is his favourite place.
I end as ever on the pond. It is wonderfully full as we have had lots of rain. It is full of tadpoles and damsel-flies have been emerging on the warmer days. I am very pleased that the flag-irises are flowering well this year. I am very unhappy about the amount of parrot weed though, I thought I had removed most of it - clearly not!
Yes there is a dark side to Chelsea Flower Show, there are things there that disturb and chill the soul. Sometimes deliberately, sometimes I am not so sure.
These sculptures by John O' Connor were beautiful and thought provoking.
This one seemed to me to be standing and enjoying the sun,
This one is darker in nature, I really liked it and thought it worked very well in this setting. It felt claustrophic to me, something I understand very well.
This sculpture on the John Everiss 'Reachout' Fresh Garden also felt sad and alone to me, it was something I could definitely find space for in my garden as it has a real disquieting beauty about it.
There are often many horse sculptures at Chelsea. I am not a great fan of riding horses (they are rather big and have big teeth and hooves, scary). I do think they are very beautiful creatures though and this stylised horse sculpture I really liked.
This warhorse on the Heucherholics stand in the Grand Pavilion was equally striking. It was a great stand in general, it was very well designed and planted.
This poppy water feature in the Grand Pavilion was very effective. Poppies were quite evident at Chelsea this year in commemoration of the start of the Great War in 1914. There can be no darker side than the loss of so many people and the destruction of so many lives all in the name of war.
I found the missing scene from Alien, the pods/eggs are hanging from the ceiling of the Rock Bank Tunnel and I expected them to twitch or pulse as I walked past. I liked it, but it was quite extra-terrestrial and a little dark.
However I finish with the darkest of dark.
The Singing Ringing Tree, oh yes, that is what this is. It might look beautiful, it might make wonderful water-splishy-sploshy noises, but to us of a certain age there is that darkness we still remember even though we were hiding behind the sofa for much of the time.
The Singing Ringing Tree was a children's television programme broadcast in the UK certainly in the late 1960s/early 1970s. It was voiced-over into English which made it seem even more weird than it was already as the actor's mouths did not move in time with the words. As a child this series terrified me and to this day I have never watched it to the end.
I will never look at these sculptures in quite the same way again.
I have spent the last few years sharing my garden with you, but there is one part of the garden I have never shown, I am not sure I have ever even alluded to it either, the driveway.
The driveway has been growing wild for as long as I have lived here, and to be honest I think as long as anyone else has lived here too. It is mainly blackberries, the odd wild rose and very tall nettles. There is a conifer at the end near the lane and various self sown hawthorns and sycamores. When I first moved in I planted a few crocii and snowdrops which still flower merrily away now, but otherwise I had the garden to deal with, the driveway could wait.
It has waited, very patiently, but suddenly I have been spurred into action. The brambles that lead up to the lane have suddenly developed a gap in them. This is not a huge worry really, but people could use it as a cut through and I realised I was worrying about it. Life is to short to worry about things, so I decided I had to sort it out.
I had some mesh fencing left over from sorting out the side boundary of the back garden last Autumn, I wasn't sure how much I had but I knew it was enough to at least fill that gap. I also knew the timing was not great, the brambles and nettles are on their way up now so it would be a painful job. I ordered some fence posts and waited for their arrived.
I spent a happy day getting ripped to shreds sorting out the gap and then fencing along as far as I could. I found the remains of the original fence which I used as a guide. I managed to fence along with about 6 metres to go when I ran out of fencing and posts. This was annoying but it was tiring work and I was badly scratched and nettle stung by that point so a rest seemed good.
As I fenced along though I was thinking. I have known that this area needed attention and now seems the perfect time to get planning. I cannot plant much really until Autumn as I am thinking mainly wild roses and some trees. Be certain this planting will include a larch, I have been hankering after a larch for sometime but there is no space in the back garden, the front drive way is perfect for one. The first tree has actually been bought for the new planting. Yes it is a bit premature and not a good time of year for planting trees either as said above, but I was on a tour of Bluebell Arboretum and Nursery and this Pin Oak accidently demanded to be purchased. It is so beautiful I could not refuse.
So, watch this space, there will be developments but not in a hurry, this is a long term project. I have started to clear the nettles and brambles but this will take a while. I have thoughts of planting mop-head hydrangeas along the sides. There is plenty of time to change my mind several times though before I can really start planting.
and yes, the shed needs painting and re-roofing, that is also on the sooner rather than later list!
People always like to talk about the trends at Chelsea Flower Show, they tell you the in-colour is purple, that there are lots of poppies, that oh, you know, etc etc. I shall present to you the three trends I noted in the show gardens.
Number 1 - arid
There was a lot (well, maybe not a lot, but quite a bit) of sandy, arid looking conditions around.
This is the Massachusetts Garden designed by Susannah Hunter and Catherine MacDonald. It won a silver which was probably about right in my view. It was well planted and I think it did what it set out to do but I have to say I could not get away from the painted backgrounds.
For me they did not work, I kept thinking of Andy Pandy.
Cleve West's garden, the M & G Garden, is based on Persian gardens so the aridness again was warranted. This garden won a gold medal and it was beautifully done......
the central foundation and rills were impressive,
and on Monday when it was really hot it felt very apt; and yet and yet something about it did not quite sing to me. Cannot explain it, it just did not ring my bell.
Yes, arid was a definite trend.
Number 2 - lupins
Lupins were not everywhere, but where they were they made a real statement. I love lupins.
Luciano Giubbilei used them to great effect,
The Massachusetts Garden used them also incredibly well,
as did Marilyn Abbot in the Topiarist Garden (probably the best Artisan Garden in my opinion by the way). This garden won a silver-gilt medal, I have not seen why it did not get gold and I fully appreciate the medals are not just about a garden looking good or being well planted, yet it still seems a shame.
Number 3 - irises
Irises were everywhere, often red or muddy brown, but no one, no one used them as well as Hugo Bugg in the RBC Waterscape Garden.
It is a masterclass in iris planting and shows how en masse planting can give a real wow factor. This garden did get a gold medal and it was definitely deserved. It was noticeable that people just stood and stared at the river of irises, that's the sign of something a bit special.
Anyway, enough of trends, the next (and I think final) post on Chelsea Flower Show will look at a different aspect I think as there is more going on than just gardens.