Flowers, Gardening, Guest Posts, Lisa

Poppies from the Malvern Spring Show

Student's Garden at Malvern Spring ShowIn May I went to the Malvern Spring Show along with my lovely husband and his parents. There was so much to see at the show, I’m not sure I managed to get round to everything. The show gardens were lovely and they gave you a real sense of what can be created with a great deal of knowledge and in some cases thousands of pounds worth of olive trees! I have to say though that of all the gardens, my favourites were the ones created by schools. Local schools had got pupils together to have a go at making their own creations and they were stunning. The main show gardens were clever and classic but the children’s ones outshone them with their sheer inventiveness. They used popular children’s books to help them plan what should go in the garden. They were really beautiful and a real credit to the pupils and the teachers involved (in case you’re wondering, no, my children don’t go to any of the schools).
Painted Tyres in Malvern Student Garden

A lot of the stalls at the show had similar plants to each other – there must be some flower fashion show somewhere that sets the trends for the season! I bought a few things while I was there, some very pretty alpines including a few beautiful blue gentians. I’m going to plant them all together so I can make sure the drainage is right for all of them. I also bought some blackcurrants and a redcurrant, so I’ve popped them in the front garden, always hoping for more fruit. I’m just not sure you can have too much! I also bought a few grasses to help soften an area at the bottom of the garden that I’m intending to sort out soon.

I found a lovely ladybird poppy whose flower is bright red with black spots. I love poppies; I find their tenacity really encouraging, it makes me feel like no matter how many plants I manage to kill there’s always hope for me with poppies. I just bought one of the ladybird poppies thinking that I could harvest the seed myself. It had 2 plump heads on it, getting ready to open out. At home I planted it in the front garden right where the children would see it every morning on their way out but the next morning I came out to find the birds had eaten both heads straight off!
Lisa's Poppy Plant
I was gutted. The birds are having a go at everything at the moment – some fennel plants that were just poking through the earth have been taken completely out! I think I’m turning into Father Jack (from Father Ted) muttering about the birds and being forever persecuted by them.
Poor ravaged poppy.
Lisa's Ladybird Poppies
I’m quite pleased the birds made a snack of it as the plant responded by producing lots more flowers and they’re all opening out beautifully. The children love this plant and keep counting the spots on each flower to see how old they are!

All in all though it was a lovely show at Malvern particularly as it didn’t rain a drop and we actually saw sunshine. For some of the day I was just in a T-shirt! It’s spurred me on and I’m looking forward to putting a few plans I have for the garden into practice, such as planting a bathful of strawberries, getting a greenhouse to replace my very small very ‘make do’ plastic zip-up one.

Blue PoppiesI’ve also planted out a blue poppy this year. I’ve had it in a pot for the past 2 years and it stayed alive but wouldn’t flower at all. So I decided to take a risk and planted it in the front garden. It’s now producing lots of lovely blue poppies and I’m over the moon.
Beautiful blue poppy heads
In January I was out for a walk with a friend and found a load of poppy seed heads so I took one to sprinkle around the place and they’re all starting to come out now. I’m looking forward to finding out what they look like. With all these different poppies I’m going to have to be organised about harvesting the seeds but then again, maybe I’ll just throw them all over the place and be happily surprised when they come up next year.

Lisa

Flowers, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Guest Posts, Nicole

Sunshine, Apples, and Stawberries

Isn’t it amazing how a dash of sunshine and a splash of rain can really kick-start the garden into ‘growing mode’? Taking advantage of the sliver of sunshine yesterday, I ventured into the garden to see how things were coming along.
Pink Hyacinths close up
The hyacinths are open, brightening up some pots with their gorgeous colours not to mention smelling divine. The weeds are romping away (much to my displeasure) but alas!
Purple hyacinths close up
My fruit trees are doing well; I must admit that due to the late frosts and heavy rain I was worried that none of them would start developing fruit after the blossom was so savagely ravaged but hey, I’m in the Scottish Borders and Scottish weather is usually wet and unpredictable, to say the least.

My dwarf apple trees are developing the odd couple of fruits; the one planted into the ground is doing much better than the other in a pot and for the first year ever my cherry tree has cherries growing on it! Needless to say, my boys and I are looking forward to tasting them once ripe. Though, my laid-back approach to the birds might have to go, as they’ve already been eyeing up my potential harvest! I’m thinking of trying bird netting — does anyone have any tips on how to deter birds without actually frightening them from the garden?

My strawberry plant has suffered quite a bit and after the fruits ripen I think I’ll have to replace it, poor thing is only in its second year but it hasn’t done well with the erratic weather at all so any suggestions on strawberry varieties suited to Scottish weather would be greatly appreciated. I hope we all get some decent weather soon!

Take care, Nicole 🙂

Charlotte, Events, Flowers, Gardening, Guest Posts

Hampton Court Flower Show Preview

I was thrilled last week to receive an invite to the hottest event of the month. Was it the Wimbledon finals, or men’s Olympic relay? No! While both of these would have been welcomed, instead it was something to delight the gardener in me: VIP tickets to the preview evening of the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

Hampton Court Swiss Alpine Garden
Swiss Alpine Garden

World of gardens

Perhaps in honour of the Olympics and the many international visitors who will be flooding to London this summer, this year’s show featured four gardens designed to transport guests to faraway lands without leaving the palace grounds.

From Russia to the Azores I wandered, discovering Jordan along the way, finally reaching my favourite of the four, the Swiss Alpine Garden. Designed by Sadie May Stowell, and winner of a Silver Gilt medal, the garden includes a traditional Swiss chalet and glacial lake. The stark contrast between craggy rocks and delicate planting represents a Swiss mountainside, whilst the beautiful wild flowers whisked me away to an alpine meadow.

Conceptual Gardens

Hampton Court Light at the end of the tunnel garden
Light at the End of the Tunnel

Of the Conceptual Gardens, I most enjoyed Light at the End of the Tunnel. Designed by Matthew Childs, a survivor of the 7/7 London Bombings, the garden was crowned ‘Best Conceptual Garden’ and awarded a Gold medal. A one-way system directs visitors through the tunnel-like garden which at first is dark, confined and sparsely planted. Moving along the path the tunnel opens up becoming lighter and revealing, at the end, more voluptuous planting. The journey through the garden depicts the road to recovery taken by the designer following his ordeal in the 2005 bombings, showing how something positive can come from a negative.

Sustainability

Whilst browsing the gardens I was interested to see how many incorporated sustainability into their designs. I was pleased to see a number of environmentally conscious concepts within the displays.

Insect house in Old and New Garden at Hampton Court
Insect house in Old and New Garden, designed by Imogen Cox Associates
Charlotte surrounded by Ecover’s sugar cane field
Charlotte surrounded by Ecover’s sugar cane field

The headline sponsor of this year’s flower show was Ecover whose show feature, designed by Tony Smith, was by far the most ecologically conscious. The display of renewable Arundo donax represented a tropical sugar cane field, inspired by Ecover’s new product packaging. Made entirely from sugar cane the ‘Plant-astic’ packaging offers a sustainable alternative to petrochemical derived plastic bottles. Many trees around the show could be spotted ‘fruiting’ the 100% plant material bottles, demonstrating that packaging really can grow on trees.

The Butterfly Jungles Transitions, designed by Paul Allen, Lucy Hughesdon & Lydia Harvey was another highlight for me. It aims to raise awareness of the worldwide decline in butterflies. There has been a significant lack of butterflies in my own garden this year so I was interested to learn what plant varieties would attract and support them. How do you lure these beautiful creatures to your surroundings? ‘Butterfly Jungles’ incorporates butterfly friendly planting ranging from wildflowers to exotic vegetation. The climax is the tropical greenhouse which is home to a striking selection of butterflies. Wing your way over to the display and you may be lucky enough to spot some of the common UK butterfly species which will be released during the show.

Romantic Roses

I spent a considerable amount of time in the Romance & Roses Marquee, enjoying the sight and fragrance of the hundreds of rose varieties on show. I was determined to find the perfect gift for my grandparents’ forthcoming Diamond Wedding Anniversary. There were a number of aptly named roses but none of the blooms seemed special enough to mark an incredible 60 years of marriage. If you know of a glorious ‘diamond’ rose, I’d be delighted to hear about it.

Being a romantic at heart, the flower which stood out for me was ‘William & Catherine’ a delicate lace-like variety reminiscent of the stunning dress worn by Miss Middleton at her marriage to Prince William last year. Another personal favourite was ‘Champagne Cocktail’, with gorgeous variegated pink and yellow petals.

William & Catherine white roses at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show
Rose ‘William & Catherine’

Champagne Cocktail yellow and red variegated rose
Rose ‘Champagne Cocktail’

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
It was whilst viewing these beauties that I was dragged from the marquee to enjoy a cocktail of my own at a reception with delightful musical accompaniment. This was followed by a sumptuous 4-course dinner in the Allium restaurant, with panoramic views over the show. The evening closed with a breathtaking fireworks display over the Long Water, my enjoyment of which was not hampered by the persistent rain.

If you’re heading to Hampton Court this year you’re guaranteed to discover a few delights and I look forward to hearing your highlights. If I have any advice to offer it would be to check the weather forecast- Take it from me, open-toed wedges and muddy walkways are not a great combination! Secondly, allow yourself plenty of time to explore. Although it’s a privilege to be among the first to view the show, the preview evening was a little too short to enable me to see everything I’d hoped. However this does give me a reason to return for a second viewing. Encore!

– Charlotte

Children in the garden, Flowers, Gardening, Guest Posts, Make over, Mrs P

Mrs. P the Mama Bird’s Story, Part 3

Good morning Saturday! Blue sky and billowy trees and (as yet) no rain. Although I quite liked rain last weekend, (sorry Jubillee-ers) because it meant I didn’t have to cut the hedge 🙂 It’s 200 feet of rampant, scratchy green stuff that not only needs cut but cleared and bagged up and, I’m sorry, that’s nearly as bad as recurring villain ‘ironing’. And because it looks like it’ll be bright, I’ll have no excuses today. Still, it would be way too rude to get out the noisy machine at the moment (7am) so I will contemplate nature’s changes before I drift out with a cup of coffee and see what’s occurring.

That’s what, as a new new ‘gardener’ I’m kind of getting to like: in the five days of Welsh wind and torrential rain, the garden will have changed without me having set foot in it. Last weekend my first ever carnation opened in the new raised beds. And I know it’s survived this week as I can see it from the living room window. Looks a tad lonely, but hopefully some friends are due to arrive fairly soon.
Mrs P - First Carnation - Raised Bed and Solar Light
When I took the picture I didn’t realise first friend would be the Olympic slug!

I put plenty in, I just don’t have any idea what the full bloom effect will look like. Well, I sort of do… There will be pink carnations sitting beside multi-coloured lupins (which will always make me smile because my Mum had them in the gravely bit between her and next door and I did a project about them in school). There are some other things planted at equal space on the other side with quite big velvety leaves but I can’t remember what they are. I know they are not hostas because I’m steering clear of them after one of them decided to eat my front garden. If my kids had grown that quickly they’d have been in the Guinness Book of World Records. I’m afraid I don’t like plants that are so confident they dominate your garden in a couple of seasons but I suppose once I get to grips with what plants are what (!) and how I’m supposed to tame them, I might change my mind.

Anyway, the mixed arrangement next to the carnation plant is likely to be a splendid multi coloured surprise given my inability to retain things like plant names, but still, much better than the riot of weeds, brambles and horrible things that were there last year. It is going to look mega fab when the gravel goes down there. Hopefully this weekend or next depending on whether I eat my Weetabix, and get myself down to order the stuff. I’ve got an aerial pre gravel picture so you can see what you think when I get it done.
Mrs P - Aerial Shot

My garden renovation is coming along well. The only dilemma is ‘Rhu’. The garden was sparkly splendid after lots of rain. Clearly I hadn’t knocked enough holes in some of the planters and I had to de-waterlog the one with honeysuckle in. Everything else looks charmingly healthy, bursting with enthusiasm after the right royal rain. Indeed the hedge, who will not be given an affectionate name because I still begrudge the achy hours of cutting it, looks perkier than ever and perfectly pleased at growing so quickly in such a short time. Grrr.
Mrs P - 'Rhu' the Rhubarb
And Rhu was today’s big smile: I moved Rhu in the great liberation of the far back in the first sunshine of this spring. Rhu was not too charmed as she was already producing chunky stems of fruit, but no, she couldn’t stay so she got uprooted to a new home approximately six feet away. At first she looked ok but then had a major wilt and I was quite worried about her. Thankfully though, she has enjoyed the weather and there are eight or nine shoots that weren’t there last week. Lucky she delivered actually, because the six foot move wasn’t properly thought out and I did consider further relocation. New shoots, she wins, no hard feelings.

I’m sorry– I didn’t cut the hedge. It rained again. And I this is all so much fun … Jasmine, the newest addition to the newly emerging garden has obviously been planted in exactly the right place… two plants, one either side of the best branch wigwam in the west. Made by my niece and nephew from the rudest, hardest to cut, balance on whatever you can balance on to reach the branch, branch (and hedges shouldn’t even have branches, should they?) The wigwam was built by the three of us in the last light of a Saturday afternoon. It seemed like a properly aunt-y thing to do, especially as they never know what to expect with me (which means they are rarely disappointed). I wanted to keep the wigwam because, for me, it’s a kind of spontaneous art feature.

Mrs P's Twig Teepee
There isn’t a lot of wiggle space in it which is a bit disappointing but I want it to be around for a while as a happy memory. It looks crooked and wonky as natural things should. And Jasmine just loves it! She has started sprouting new shoots which she is starting to wrap round the legs of it. I added a small string of dragonfly solar lights and it does exactly what I wanted, makes me smile 🙂

Mrs P.