It’s raining again here in Cheshire (will it ever stop?), and I’m gazing through the window at my sodden garden, watching the slugs and snails slithering out from their hiding places (do they really think I can’t spot them?) and willing the sun to come out instead! But when I’m feeling blue, then all I need to do is take a look at my favourite summer flowers (or at least, photos of them) and, you’ve guessed it, they’re blue too!
I thought it might be fun (and it sure beats doing the ironing) to compile a “Top Ten” of summer flowering blues. It’s a tough choice deciding which flowers to include, but here we go, in reverse order: Continue Reading
In 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).
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!
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.
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.
I’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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!