Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Review: Elementum

I happened upon this new journal a couple of weeks ago and was immediately very interested in  Elementum.
The journal describes itself as a 'journal of nature and story'.  It features thoughtful and superbly written pieces exploring nature, art and our connections with both.

By chance I was staying in the same place as the editor Jay Armstrong.  When I saw this journal I knew I had to buy it but I did not tell Jay I was going to do this.  I cautiously purchased just the first edition to begin with as it is £15 an edition.  Before you all faint, it is published twice a year so not ridiculous when you look at it as a monthly price.  I have now bought a subscription as I enjoyed it so much.

I found reading the journal that rare experience of actually reading it.  I did not flip through the pages as I tend to do with magazines just looking at the pictures but knowing what the articles say pretty much at a glance.  I made time to read it, making sure I could read it properly and not be disturbed.  In doing so I allowed myself to completely absorb the articles, though I am not sure that article is the right word, I think they are more rightly essays.  I found myself lost in its pages in a delightful mix of enjoyment and knowledge.

Each edition has a theme, the first edition is based on a theme of 'Calling' and the second one is based on 'Gap'.  If you wonder if it is for you then on the website there is a section of 'Nature Journals'.  The writing gives a flavour of what you can expect in the journal.  I enjoyed all the essays, but if I had to highlight any I would give a special mention to the linked pieces around the Whale, I loved how they were distinct in themselves and yet have a strong voice together.

I am looking forward to the second edition arriving and its future publications.  There is something rather special about this type of independent journal that I really like.  There is a passion behind its construction and contents and that shines out of it.  I wish Elementum every success in the future and whole-heartedly recommend it to you.

The journal can be bought here http://www.elementumjournal.com/ 

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Irritating Plant of the Month - The Wrong Rose

I had no hesitation this month when thinking about which plant was irritating me the most.  For there it is, flowering away in the front border, the wrong rose.

Let me explain.

I give you exhibit A
What is wrong with it? I hear you say.  Well nothing as such, except it is meant to be 'New Dawn', now it might be many things, but it is not New Dawn.  So why I have I got it?  I bought it a good eight/nine years ago from a magazine offer.  The Gertrude Jekyll was not Gertrude Jeykll (it is a dark red rose, not unpleasant and it does not irritate as much as this one) and the New Dawn was this, not New Dawn.

I have a few genuine Gertrude Jekylls but I still do not have a New Dawn, which I could remedy if I chose to do so.  The wrong rose annoys because half the time I do not really mind it.  I convince myself I even quite like it a bit.  Then a day comes like the day when I looked at it recently and I think 'why do I allow you in the garden when I do not like you?'  I am rather hard-hearted with most plants I just do not like.  I just remove them, so why do I not remove this one?

I don't know, but I suspect it has something to do with that it is planted where I want a rose to be and it is not a good idea to plant a new rose in an old rose's place.  Yes it can be done, but that involves more work than I am prepared to put in.  So the decision is:  a) not have a rose here and plant something else, b) remove and faff about and plant a new rose, c) buy a New Dawn and put it somewhere else and just get over it or d) just get over it.

Currently I am at e) when you do not know what to do, do nothing, the answer will become clear at some point.

Time will tell.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

RHS Chelsea Flower Show - Show and Artisan Gardens and a sprinkling of people

In my previous post I covered the feature gardens and some of the show gardens.  I will look at some highlights from other gardens at the show here.

The first garden I saw when I entered the site was actually the Welcome to Yorkshire Garden by Tracy Foster.  Some of you who know the layout will think this odd as it is not the natural first garden on the route, but there were TV cameras blocking the main route when I arrived so I had to detour.  It is actually a great garden to start with as it is calming and straightforward but brilliantly planted.

I loved the detailed planting.  I have recently returned from a trip to Yorkshire so it also raised happy memories.  It received silver medal, which is no mean feat.

The Darwin Property Investment Management: Breaking Ground by Andrew Wilson and Gavin McWilliam is an interesting and in some ways it felt like the most complicated garden to actually get my head around. 

I am going to have to quote from the website to explain the concept behind this garden: "An elegant depiction of the learning and thought process in education using metal, open frameworks to represent the overcoming of barriers to learning. A colourful meadow area contains waves of purple salvias to reflect lateral thinking while umbels signify sudden thoughts and ideas"  It was definitely elegant and the planting worked well around the structures.  It received a gold medal and so it should, it was very well executed.

Moving on now into the other gardens.  The Artisan Gardens are ones I always enjoy, they are quite small and yet they pack a lot into their space.  The ones I want to give particular mention to are:

The World Horse Welfare Garden designed by Adam Woolcott and Jonathan Smith.  The horse sculpture was a scene stealer but spend a little time looking at the details.  This wall has had wild flowers and grass stuck into it so that it looks properly aged.  It received a gold medal and with this level of detail I am not surprised.

Then there is the Seedlip Garden by Dr Catherine MacDonald. which features an outdoor apothecary and is set around with copper tubing and still like sculptures.

The garden's inspiration, a very old book on distillation, is by the garden in a see through case.  It is also a gold medal winner and it was extremely well put together and planted.

The Viking Cruises' Garden of Inspiration by Sarah Eberle is a masterpiece of Gaudi inspired mosaic.

The sun was getting really hot by this point of the day and this garden looked hot and sunny.  It also is a worthy gold medal winner.

My favourite favourite Fresh Garden was Inland Homes: Beneath a Mexican Sky by Manoj Malde.

The garden is inspired by the Mexican Modernist architect Luis Barragan and I love the use of colour.   I was surprised it only received a silver-gilt medal as I thought it was rather special.  

In the Floral Pavilion Birmingham City Council continue their series of show-stopping displays.  This one had it all, there was colour and movement.

The garden celebrates the work of Rowland Emett, a name I know well as I grew up in Nottingham and in the Victoria Centre there is the fantastic Emett clock.

I love the Floral Pavilion, it is just full of colour and scent.

In the show grounds themselves you see all sorts of things, 
glittery horses.
two men carrying a heavy looking wardian case,
the wonderful driftwood sculptures,
Proud fairies wearing tutus with wonderful hats showing off their fairy gardens,
that are being sold through the gardening charity Perennial, always a good cause.
There were walking trees, which I found a bit scarey, 
and these two very fine looking ladies.

I did a bit of obligatory celeb spotting

I found the rather floral Michael Perry, Mr Plant Geek lounging nonchalantly on the staircase.
This is the very talented garden designer (and my pal) Arit Anderson talking with Joe Swift just before doing some telly stuff. 
Then before you could say 'life's too short to turf a giraffe',
it was time to wave goodbye and head for home.
I paused to admire the amazing installation around the gates.
and this rather wonderful elephant I had to walk past to get to the tube station.

I really enjoyed this year at the Chelsea Flower Show.  I have shown you a mere fraction of what there is to see.  But no time to hang my camera up for a rest, next stop:  RHS Chatsworth.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show - Less can be more

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

RHS Chelsea Flower Show - Less can be more

RHS Chelsea Flower is one of my favourite events of the year.  This year though, even as I travelled up to London on a very early train, I already knew that it would not be like other years.  I had read a couple of articles and watched the first of the BBC coverage and it was clear that this year's show was not the same as usual and that Brexit was getting the blame.

When the show brochure arrived a few days ago the show map at the back confirmed that this show looked different.  There are fewer show gardens and it also seemed like fewer artisan gardens as well.  There were also several 'feature' gardens, that were not included in the judging.  Clearly the RHS were looking at ways to fill the space and whilst one could be cynical about this, in reality it seemed to me that they had done a good job.  They had had to think imaginatively; for starters there are more places to sit.  There are some nice picnic areas where usually there are none.  Regular visitors will know that at certain times in the day finding a place to sit can be quite hard, so this was a good thing.

That the RHS have not been able to host the same amount of show gardens as usual is clearly a concern, but the unexpected consequence of this has been the creation of breathing space.  This might not be economically welcome in terms of revenue, but for the busy crowds that visit I think it will be appreciated as moments of respite.
The Feel Good Gardens are a good thing.  They are a suite of gardens to celebrate Radio 2's 50th anniversary that are based on the five senses.  These gardens are really good, they have good planting and, had they not have been commissioned by the RHS and therefore not included in the judging, they are indeed worthy of being judged.
The Zoe Ball Listening Garden, designed by James Alexander Sinclair, throbs.  People say to you when you are near by, go and put your foot on the gravel, feel it.  It is a brilliant concept.
The Chris Evans Taste Garden designed by Jon Wheatley was superbly planted. If vegetables are your thing, this garden is for you.
The Jeremy Vine Texture Garden, designed by Matt Keightley might have been my favourite.  It was hard to decide, the planting is exquisite.
But then the Jo Wiley Scent Garden designed by Tamara Bridge and Kate Savill was very close in terms of superb planting and the feature curved stone bench is a delight.
The Anneka Rice Colour Cutting Garden designed by Sarah Raven, is also incredibly well done.  The colour and spectacle drew great admiration.
Whilst talking about the feature gardens I have to also mention Professor Nigel Dunnett's Greening Grey Britain garden which apparently includes the first street art in an RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden, was very special.  This is despite me making a pillock of myself by mis-describing Sambucus nigra as angelica (you know when your mouth starts to say something and you know its wrong - that).
The man himself - Prof Nigel Dunnett
In terms of show gardens, there might not be many, but they cover a wide spectrum in style.  The judging, which let's face it is sometimes a bit contentious, has again delivered some surprising results.

The M&G Garden by James Basson won a gold medal.  It oozed gold, there was no way this garden was not going to get gold.  It is a stunning garden that impacts on the senses in terms of how high it is and also how in contrast how flat it is.  The concept is the botanical flora in a disused lime quarry in Malta and it is a very different landscape to what you might usually expect to see.  It is beautiful and skillfully planted.  You are unlikely to rush home and copy the planting in your gardens but that is not what Chelsea is always about.  This garden is more akin to living art and works brilliantly.  I liked it a lot.  Interestingly it is one of those gardens that when I look back on the photographs they do not give the sense of the garden that seeing it in reality does.  You can put that down to my poor photography skills.

The Morgan Stanley Garden by Chris Beardshaw received Silver-Gilt, now I think that Mr Beardshaw could rightly feel a bit miffed by this.  It is a brilliantly planted garden and is a total contrast to the James Basson garden above in that it is more accessible as planting styles you can copy.  There is great use of topiary and the space flows.  I have to suggest that this garden must be a strong contender for the People's Choice.

An equal contender, if people can find it (and make sure you do if you visit), is the Linklater's Garden for Maggie's by Darren Hawkes.  The garden is hidden behind high hedges that you peak through or look down upon.  It is a delight to discover and needs time to look at as there are many clever details in the brilliant planting.  I stood looking at it for quite a while.  It won a gold medal and so it should.

The Royal Bank of Canada Garden by Charlotte Harris is also a gold medal winner.  Again rightly so, I liked this garden a lot.  It has great use of colour and of pines.  I have moved from being a general conifer disliker (apart from gingkos whom I adore) to a pine lover.

Lupins are the plant of the show, and used to great effect in the 500 Years of Covent Garden: The Sir Simon Milton Foundation Garden in partnership with Capco by Lee Bestall which surprisingly (to me) received a silver medal.  I thought it a good garden, it demonstrated the history of Covent Garden well with its use of apple trees from its orchard origins.  

Finally for this post I will mention the Silk Road Garden, Chengdu, China by Laurie Chetwood and Patrick Collins.  This garden occupies a huge space and it very brightly coloured.  You have to take a moment to look beyond the colourful structure and actually look at the planting.  I know I partly liked this garden as many years ago I bought a set of three silk handbags (as you do) and they were shades of the red used in the garden.

I have not covered all the show gardens in this post (I have to save some for later!) and also the artisan gardens and the always wonderful Floral Pavilion.  I end by remarking on how warm it was and is due to be this week.  The sun came out, I had to buy hat as I had forgotten mine and I considered how nice it is when it is a little 'otter.
(if the otter is still there tomorrow when I go back I might have to buy it).