Archives for May 2011

My Chelsea experience

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Alys Fowler Alys Fowler | 07:00 UK time, Monday, 30 May 2011

I went to Chelsea with Italy still wafting about me. I had Ischia sea salt in my hair and what Henry James called 'the ghostly confessions' of ancient gardens swimming around my thoughts. I'd also picked up one of my oldest friends from New York along the way. He was having a brief spell in London. Before that he'd been in Japan covering the tsunami as a photojournalist. I wanted to see Chelsea with new eyes and thought his lens might allow a different view.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2011

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2011 (Photo: Jake Price)

The truth is I could barely move for seeing old colleagues and friends. I wrote two lines down in my notebook. It said motorway verges, meadows, roadsides, Mediterranean and C.W. nice use of yellow umbels (they turned out to be parsnips in flower) and clever Dianthus.

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Both useful and beautiful

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Marcus Barnett Marcus Barnett | 07:00 UK time, Saturday, 28 May 2011

Marcus Barnett's Times Eureka Garden

 

The Times Eureka Garden, in association with the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, aims to illustrate the significance of plants to science and society.

Often a client’s design brief for their garden will require that the approach to planting is dictated by a certain ‘theme'.  A cottage garden style is a good example, or a site might require shade-tolerant or boggy planting.  Perhaps, a client has a particular love of all things grassy.  Or, in our case, it has been crucial to find and use plants that have utility – commercial, industrial, nutritional and medicinal.

In this particular instance, two problems have presented themselves: availability and aesthetics.

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The highs and lows of Chelsea

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Ann-marie Powell Ann-marie Powell | 09:54 UK time, Friday, 27 May 2011

Building a garden at Chelsea is madness. Noise, filth and traffic surround your plot at all hours of the day, whilst you endeavour to keep a clear head and a sound grasp on realising the vision that you've nurtured in your head for almost a year.

British Heart Foundation Garden

Ann-Marie Powell's British Heart Foundation Garden

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Where history meets gardening

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Nigel Dunnett Nigel Dunnett | 15:20 UK time, Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) New Wild Garden

"Our garden building - a converted shipping container that has been around the world"

The RBC ‘New Wild Garden’ at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2011 takes its lead from the ideas of pioneering horticulturist and gardener, William Robinson (1838-1935). 

Robinson has had a huge influence on the way we garden in the UK. He popularized the use of perennials, virtually invented the herbaceous border, and made ‘natural gardening’ respectable. And yet his name is virtually forgotten, certainly compared with his friend and colleague, Gertrude Jekyll.

So why turn back to the ideas of someone who was at his peak in the 1800s? How can there be any relevance to today?

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'Everyone needs a bit of luck'

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Sally Nex Sally Nex | 19:30 UK time, Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Sometimes the only difference between a garden that wins Best in Show at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, and one which 'only' wins a gold medal is a hefty dollop of good luck. That, and the talent and skill to make the most of it.

The Daily Telegraph Garden

Certainly Cleve West, winner of this year's top accolade and possibly the most coveted crystal decanter in existence (Cleve says he's going to fill his with olive oil) with his garden for the Daily Telegraph, puts much of his success down to being 'very lucky'.

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A Chelsea Show Garden - press day

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Tom Hoblyn Tom Hoblyn | 07:00 UK time, Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Yesterday was Press Day at Chelsea. I sat in the pavilion reflecting on the whirlwind that has been the last few days. It has been frantic since my last blog. At 9pm on Sunday I finally declared the garden finished and the contractors practically wept with relief. They have done a fantastic job.

I was back on site at 6am doing some last minute deadheading and cleaning of the pool. Gusty winds have been whipping through Chelsea in the last few days leaving a trail of debris in their wake and my pool has suffered the consequences.

Tom Hoblyn's Chelsea Show Garden 2011

(Photo: Jon Enoch)

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Elegance, art and Italy

Seeing my second garden for Laurent-Perrier come together at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a real personal achievement, and it has made me reflect on the journey I have taken to reach this point.

Luciano Giubbilei's Chelsea Flower Show 2011 Show Garden

I was lucky enough to have grown up in the picturesque landscape of Tuscany. The theatrical effect of the planting in the landscape and the raw connection to the land that I experienced was naturally very influential, and as a young man I enjoyed learning about the horticulture.

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Bringing clematis to Chelsea

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Raymond Evison Raymond Evison | 07:00 UK time, Sunday, 22 May 2011

Many gardeners are unaware of what is needed to create or develop a brand new plant.

At the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, people can see up to fifty new plants launched each year, and it can seem as if these new plants just roll off some nursery conveyor belt. 

But the real story behind these newly-launched plants is quite different. For us, a new clematis is at least 10 years in the making. 

Clematis Josephine™ Evijohill(N)

Clematis Josephine™ Evijohill(N)

Occasionally we are lucky in finding a “sport” - an off-shoot of a plant that is quite different to the rest of it. Some are poor, but some are outstanding. Clematis Josephine™ Evijohill(N), for example, is an exciting mauve-pink, double-flowered cultivar. It was found, completely by accident, by an amateur gardener called Josephine Hill as an unlabeled plant in a 7cm pot on a fruit and vegetable stand. 

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Garden news

In the news...

Garden-lovers everywhere are about to lose their hearts to the year's horticultural high point: the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, opening on Monday with an invitation-only, celebrity-packed press day and a visit from the Queen.

Chelsea Flower Show Friday 20th May 2011

There are 17 show gardens this year, with welcome returns from top designers like previous best-in-show winner Sarah Eberle, minimalist Italian Luciano Giubbilei, multiple gold medal winner Cleve West and natural gardening pioneer Nigel Dunnett.

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A Chelsea Show Garden - planting week

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Tom Hoblyn Tom Hoblyn | 07:00 UK time, Friday, 20 May 2011

Tom Hoblyn's RHS Chelsea Flower Show Garden 2011

 

We are racing towards the finish line. It is the last few days of the build process and we are in the thick of planting-up the garden. Trolleys of perennials surround me; at first glance it would appear that I have drastically over-ordered. I am desperate to get them planted as many of the other show gardens appear much more advanced than ours. But I have a terrible habit of finding 'much more important things' to do rather than getting stuck in, as I know this is the element that can make or break the garden.

In the past, I have been known to rush and maybe over-stuff the garden a little, but this year I am keen to conduct this duty in a calm and controlled manner. I am feeling psyched. I have worked out a plan of action in my head and I am ready to begin in earnest.

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Taking tea at Chelsea

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Jekka McVicar Jekka McVicar | 07:00 UK time, Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Angelica archangelica

Angelica archangelica

Running a herb farm in the run‐up to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is all about multi‐tasking.

My Royal Wedding last month was a brief glimpse of the new Duchess of Cambridge, looking stunning as she walked up the aisle, in between watering the angelica (Angelica archangelica) and borage (Borago officinalis). The borage we’re growing for Bunny Guinness’s M&G Investment Garden at Chelsea this year, as well as Marney Hall’s Skyshades Garden, and Patrick Collins’ B&Q Garden. Then I was dashing inside to catch a glimpse of the Royal Wedding procession in between blending herbs for the herbal teas I'm launching this year at the show.

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I'm turning into my mother

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Alys Fowler Alys Fowler | 07:00 UK time, Monday, 16 May 2011

Alys Fowler and her mum

The other habit my mother has given me, staring at the ground for lost orchids.

Argh! I'm turning into my mother. Specifically I seem to have, in the last two years, adopted her stance on holidays. That is to say you're not allowed one between the 1st of April and the 2nd of October because that would mean leaving things GROWING ON THEIR OWN.

My mother is of the opinion that it is madness to leave England when the weather is so fine (that in her mind merely means it's just not cold and windy, she seems impervious to rain). So she put a ban on any holidays throughout the summer saying all she needed was her garden. And here I am 20 years later agreeing with her.

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Marvellous Malvern

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Sally Nex Sally Nex | 07:00 UK time, Saturday, 14 May 2011

You know spring is really here when the RHS Malvern Spring Gardening Show opens its gates. The Worcestershire show is celebrated for its 'local' feel, and this year is a particularly fine vintage: a record number of gold medals, half a dozen nurseries fighting it out for top spot in the floral marquee, and a winning garden described as worthy of Chelsea gold.

Southfield Cacti win the Lyn Downes Award for the Best Floral Marquee Exhibit

Southfield Cacti win the Lyn Downes Award for the Best Floral Marquee Exhibit

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A Chelsea Show Garden - build week

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Tom Hoblyn Tom Hoblyn | 07:00 UK time, Friday, 13 May 2011

It's week two of Chelsea build up and I've relocated from Suffolk to the RHS Chelsea showground for the duration. It is not because I have become intolerable at home or am not wanted in my posh barn conversion office that overlooks an orchard and wildflower meadow....well, that's not strictly true. I haven't moved down here because my contractors need pushing.

Far from it; they are getting on splendidly and are bang on schedule and I would even go so far to say, they would probably prefer it if I wasn't here. No, I am here because there is nowhere else to go. As with all the designers here, I am living and breathing Chelsea and certainly, no good to man nor beast elsewhere. This is my baby, a year in the making, and I want to be here to see each stone put in place, each sheet of glass craned into position and each barrow load of soil removed.

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Talking about the weather

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Michael Fish Michael Fish | 07:00 UK time, Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Michael Fish

 

I am not really a gardener.

I potter and act on instructions from the ‘Boss’. I get sent to buy the plants, but am not allowed to suggest where to plant them.

Mind you, with only a ‘postage’ stamp size garden it’s not too difficult. I have, however, in the last couple of years been promoted and honoured with the task of looking after my daughter’s allotment, as she says she no longer has the time (or is too lazy!)

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Recycled energy

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Jim McColl Jim McColl | 07:00 UK time, Monday, 9 May 2011

glasshouse

Part of my personal story includes being involved in a malt whisky company! Back in the late seventies, while I was employed by the North of Scotland College of Agriculture as an area Adviser and in charge of the small experimental unit at the College’s Craibstone campus, I took a call from the production director of a well known malt whisky firm. Could waste heat from a distilling process be used to heat a commercial glasshouse?

The whisky man was fighting rising fuel costs following the oil crisis in the early seventies. The distillery was working as efficiently as possible but somehow or other he had to squeeze more return from the money invested. At the same time, the traditional glasshouse industry in the Clyde valley was in serious decline for a similar reason - rising fuel costs but coupled with inefficient old glasshouses and an ageing population of growers.

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Garden news

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Sally Nex Sally Nex | 07:00 UK time, Saturday, 7 May 2011

In the news...

It's official: this April was the warmest, and the11th driest, in a century, adding to the growing din of climatic records shattering. Recent years have seen the coldest December, second-warmest winter (2006), and two wettest summers (2008 and 2009).

For gardeners, of course, long dry springs spell disaster for newly-transplanted seedlings, to say nothing of shoulders aching from all those watering cans. But that's nothing compared to the disaster wrought on the scenic beauty of the Brecon Beacons, Berkshire, Lancashire, the Scottish Highlands and elsewhere by fire. That long-awaited bubble of low pressure, arriving about now on the coasts of Wales, will be very welcome indeed.

Orchid © Keith Alexander

© Keith Alexander

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Drought conditions

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Bob Flowerdew Bob Flowerdew | 07:00 UK time, Thursday, 5 May 2011

May has come, and it’s still a drought. Wonderful weather, azure blue skies and bright sun make it glorious, but it’s so hard on the newly sown and freshly planted. The established perennials have their roots down and so are flourishing, but the new stuff is having difficulty and I’m forced to water the more important plants daily.

watering seedlings

 

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On safari in the garden

earthworm

“Mum, worms have special powers!” trilled the voice of my four-year-old.

“Mmmmm,” I replied – distracted because I was trying to remember which part of the allotment I grew the potatoes in last year.

“I just chopped a worm in half with my spade and both halves are still alive! It's amazing!”

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Systemic acquired resistance

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Alys Fowler Alys Fowler | 07:00 UK time, Sunday, 1 May 2011

soil

 

I can only just bear to tear myself away from Hepp Solzer's book on permaculture. It's such a funny mixture of a book - a revelation, a memoir, another way of life, a new way of life. It's one of those exciting reads where lots of ideas and observations that I often wondered about, but never found a reference for, all suddenly explode onto the page.

There's a lot about hugelkultur, which is a very old German/Austrian way of making raised beds using logs and other large bits of material. These are buried into the soil and more bulky material is added in, then turf or sods laid on top and finally topsoil on that. The bulky logs and material slowly rots down creating a moisture and food trap that the roots of your vegetables, fruit trees and bushes can tap into whenever they need.

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