Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Sunday, 29 May 2016

National Walking Month: How was it for me?

My walking kit for National Walking Month
My daily walking kit: I've had some strange looks along the way, but who cares?
I feel comfortable and I feel good in my special gear, and that's what counts. 

I have a confession: taking the #Try20 challenge for National Walking Month is one of the best things I've done in ages.

Confession number 2: I haven't quite managed a 20 minute walk every day. There was one rainy day which put me off, but that's OK because I went for an hour's walk the day after.

About a week in, I realised I wasn't taking my camera with me, which is strange because I usually take it everywhere I go. Pondering this fact on my walk, I decided it's actually quite nice to have a portion of the day without some kind of screen in tow, and to have a more mindful approach to my walk.

May has taken me from a thick fleece-needed wintry feel complete with dancing daffodils at the start, through to the brink of a t-shirt summer today with frothy cow parsley in the remnant hedgerows on the estate. There was the surprise find of English bluebells, along with joyful birdsong and some rocky outcrops reminiscent of Cleve West's show garden at Chelsea. No wonder that garden had so much resonance for me.

I've oft bemoaned the lack of view when stepping out of our front door; I'd still prefer to have a mountain or sea view to hand, but this month I've learned to appreciate the quieter riches of the here and now. I'm remarkably lucky to live in a place which is more like a park than a housing estate where there's a 1.4 mile route to trace, which is mainly off-road, and with the perfect combination of one third each of flat, puffy uphill, and warm-down downhill stretches.

My route's stuffed with the most amazing trees, comprising those preserved from the original farmland (including some mighty oaks), supplemented by lots of enlightened choice additions. Blossom time was particularly beautiful.

And so, as the end of the month draws near, I find I'm reluctant to let go of this precious time of the day. When I commuted to Bristol, I walked to the station every day and years on from that time, I find I've missed the walk that was so easily built into my daily routine.

I'm sure it's no surprise to you I'm going to keep going into June and beyond.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Resonance Revisited

Like Dan Pearson's show garden last year, I've found plenty with a personal resonance at this year's Chelsea Flower Show...

Cleve West's show garden at Chelsea Flower Show
I immediately wanted to go for a walk in this garden 

Cleve West also chose to evoke a landscape this year, with his homage to the Exmoor of his childhood. It was beautifully planted and executed, with a contemporary feel rather than trying to replicate an exact slice of Exmoor. Its atmosphere took me back to geology field trips and many happy woodland walks.

Heucheraholics Haven at Chelsea Flower Show
You can always rely on Heucheraholics to bring some cheer to the Great Pavilion

Sean and Jooles's Heucheraholics Haven, brought back happy memories of childhood holidays in Bournemouth. They've excelled themselves this year and I'm delighted they won gold, especially as I always get a huge welcome whenever I see them.

Gods Own Country show garden at Chelsea Flower Show
Matthew Wilson puts the finishing touches to York Minster inspired God's Own County - A Garden for Yorkshire

My first trip to York was on the day my O Level results came out, along with the confirmation I wasn't going to fulfil my 10-year held dream and make it to medical school. Later that day, York Minster's atmosphere and its amazing stained glass windows helped calm me down and start thinking of a new way forward in life.

NAH is familiar with the city as he went to school there, so it's a special place for him too. We're off on holiday to Yorkshire soon, with at least one trip to York pencilled in for our stay.

Forever Freefolk show garden at Chelsea Flower Show
Rosy Hardy's Forever Freefolk for Brewin Dolphin

My Master's dissertation involved research into salmon and trout populations in chalk streams, so it's pleasing to see this special and precious environment discussed via a show garden.

It also highlighted no matter how deeply you study a subject there's always something else to learn. Until Monday I didn't know the UK - southern England in particular - has 160 out of the world's 200 chalk streams.

One of the microscopes in Birmingham's exhibit at Chelsea Flower Show
What was seen down each microscope also formed a giant-sized feature on Birmingham's exhibit

My change of direction which started at York ended up with me peering down one of these for hours at a time for a decade or so. I viewed exciting miniature versions of the giant coccoliths Rosy Hardy had in her show garden, plus all manner of tiny creatures and plants which form the base layer of the food chain.

I never expected to find them at Chelsea, nor to peer down them to find the tiniest of sculptures set in the eye of a needle on Birmingham's exhibit in the Great Pavilion. I walked past King's Heath nursery every day on the way to school, so I'm proud to see Birmingham do so well with gold again at Chelsea this year.

The Winton Beauty of Mathematics show garden at Chelsea Flower Show
There's also much to glean from The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden re water-saving and exotic gardening

My Master's research involved some quite complicated algorithms to explain the relationship between environmental factors and fish populations, so I was pleased to see Nick Bailey's beautiful celebration of maths and its relationships in nature. This gorgeous copper water feature was my must-have from the show.

I'm no mathematician, so luckily I could use a complicated spreadsheet to do the hard work needed with the equations and hundreds of variables. Here Nick showed nature itself can play around with maths to great effect.

Much as I loved Andy Sturgeon's and Cleve West's show gardens, it's this one that's stayed in my mind now I'm back home from Chelsea.

Senri-Sentei Artisan garden at Chelsea Flower Show
Sadly I didn't give my Mini the spot it deserved like the one on the Senri-Sentei - Garage Garden had

Finally, what could be more evocative than seeing the exact make, model and colour of your first car? My Mini was slightly younger than this one, but it was still like seeing an old friend.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Abstract Chelsea

Collage of 4 abstract images from Chelsea Flower Show
Views from: Senri-Sentei Garage Garden, Antithesis of Sarcophagi, Rosa tunnel & Senri-Sentei Garage Garden

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