Seen at the Festival of the Tree

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

Friday, 30 May 2014

Shows of Hands: University of Bristol Botanic Garden

Today's Shows of Hands is courtesy of Andy Winfield who kindly emailed me this picture from the University of Bristol Botanic Garden. He says:

"The plant is Osteospermum jucundum in our South African display and the hands belong to various staff and volunteers. I wanted the hands to form a circle around the flowers but with the age of some of the volunteers it would have meant them moving into positions they hadn't taken up for some years (their words not mine)."

I did ponder adding this photo to Monday's Puzzle Corner Special, but I loved the smiley face on one of the hands and I felt this might get lost in a smaller photo. Thanks for a great shot Andy!

I also owe Andy an apology. In my previous post about visiting the garden, I promoted him to the position of Head Gardener. His actual job title in my view is equally grand: Botanical Horticulturalist. Oops - he was subjected to a great deal of teasing as a result of my error, sorry! Andy says he's just "happy to be referred to as one of the gardeners".

Talking of the Puzzle Corner Special, here are the answers:

How did you get on? Award yourself 2 bonus points on offer for the bindweed latin names only if you found both of them and 1 point if you found just one of the names. We can't tell from the photo which one it actually is - this guide is particularly helpful for later on in the year when the weed's in flower, though it does also show the characters to look out for when attempting vegetative identification.

Add an extra brownie point for yourself if you can supply the latin species name for the Clematis. I've puzzled through the RHS Plant Finder and I'm stumped. None of the online catalogues I've found name it either. As both the pittosporum and peony plants are named with and without the species name (depending on where you look), I'm wondering why the clematis is so consistently named without it.

Award yourself a further brownie point if you spotted I forgot to italicise the bindweed's latin names. One day I'll finally get to grips with this plant naming lark. *Sigh*.

All the other Shows of Hands contributions can be found here, plus details of how you can join in.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

From Horatio's Garden With Love

Today's Shows of Hands is particularly special because it was sent to me by Olivia Chapple from Horatio's Garden. She explains in her email:

"I have attached a picture of our hand oak motif carved into a bench by Titus – Horatio's brother. The symbol represents the bringing together of nature and kindness which is the ethos of Horatio’s Garden."

Regular readers will have spotted that I managed to include Cleve West - the garden's designer - in last week's special from Chelsea Flower Show.

For those of you who are reading about Horatio's Garden for the first time, I'm delighted to link to their introductory video again:

Horatio's Garden from Horatio's Garden on Vimeo.

If the embedded video doesn't work, try this link instead.

If you're around Salisbury at the end of next month, you might like to attend their summer drinks party on Friday 27th June in the evening, or their 2nd Food and Plants Fair on Sunday 29th June, 11am to 3pm (there's free entry to the latter event). For further details, check out the What's On section of the Horatio's Garden website.

Thanks Olivia for a simple, beautiful photo :)

Monday, 26 May 2014

Puzzle Corner: Shows of Hands Special

Thanks to everyone who's contributed to Shows of Hands so far - plenty's been happening via blogs, Twitter and email :)

Naturally quite a few of the pictures submitted involve plants, so I've put some of them into a fun picture ID Puzzle Corner special.

There's just 5 plants and flowers for you to name. For pictures 1 to 4, I'd like the latin name please and there's a bonus point for each of the cultivar* names for pictures 2-4. Picture 5 is a pesky usurper weed amongst the lavender, so there's a point for its common name and a bonus 2 points for the latin.

That makes a maximum 10 points available and I'll put up a link to the answers at the end of the week.

* = I've checked the RHS Plant Finder and it looks like they are all cultivars (propagated by cuttings rather than seed) as this part of their names is in quotes and isn't italicised (this article nicely summarises the nomenclature and cultivation differences).

My thanks to @AlanEDown, @BristolGardens and @Willis_Abigail for their tweets and Barbara Segall for her picture via email.

Want to join in with Shows of Hands? My launch post tells you what it's all about and how you can submit your blog post, tweet, facebook or email images.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Salad Days: Groundbreaking Food Gardens

Today's Salad Days is a little different. Have a look at the top middle of the book cover on the right, can you see why that might be? (click to enlarge if needed)

Yes, The 52 Week Salad Challenge has made it into print! It's one of 73 contributions to Niki Jabbour's latest book, Groundbreaking Food Gardens, which is going down a storm.

2 years ago, Niki and I got chatting on Twitter after I mentioned her last book as part of the Challenge. It resulted in her asking if I'd like to contribute a 'plan' to her next book, based on the 52 Week Salad Challenge.

I said yes, but secretly I felt rather daunted. To me, 'plan' meant 'design' and I was only a couple of months into the Challenge at the time. Niki was very persistent though and assured me only a rough drawing would be needed and the book's artist would do the rest.

Still I procrastinated, but by September 2012 I finally felt able to put something together. However, Niki needed it immediately and I was about to go on holiday...

... out came the squared paper and I put together 4 plans, 1 for each season. Each one is based on the area of the 2 cold frames I'm using to grow salads, the idea being that only a small area is needed to grow a year long salad supply as long as some astute juggling with seed trays plus windowsill growing during the cold months are also adopted.

Underneath each plan is a a key to the crops grown with growing notes and named varieties to try. There are also some suggestions for a few extras (aka fixin's) which can be used to supplement the salad greens, such as a pot of nasturtiums or a hanging basket of Tumbler tomatoes.

Niki typed up my written notes I'd scanned and emailed to her, then sent them back with a list of questions. It was clear my hastily scrawled handwriting left something to be desired! She also translated my English into 'American' e.g. rocket became arugula and we spent some time discussing our favourite varieties and homing in on those available on both sides of the pond.

And two years later here's the final transformation - after answering further questions from the editor and a couple of rounds of approving the artwork. I also had to write an author biography for the book's introduction. I'm honoured to be included alongside many of the great and the good of north American garden writing world. It's great to see Emma Cooper and Rachel Mathews batting for this side of the pond, as well as my dear friend Dee representing Oklahoma :)

Niki's done a grand job of pulling the book together and I've loved reading the other contributors' plans. I see them not as an absolute recipe to be followed slavishly, but as a compendium of ideas and starting points which can be adapted and joined together to meet the reader's own requirements. For example, Emma's comfrey tower would sit very well alongside my plan.

Thanks Niki for your persistence and giving me the opportunity to contribute to your book. Am I chuffed to bits with the result? You betcha :)

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Chelsea Flower Show: Unexpected Items in the Bagging Area

This post was inspired by a conversation with Linda Smith of the Waterside Nursery in the Great Pavilion a couple of years ago, but events conspired against me completing the task. Until now...

Waterside Nursery's gold medal display. Linda Smith was a little stressed about her iris
refusing to open when I stopped by, so she deserves an extra medal for chatting to me

Imagine the scene. You're exhibiting your prize plants at Chelsea Flower Show for the first time and you're putting together the equipment you'll need to construct the staging for your stand. Your pots, materials, tools and props are gathered together, but you have a feeling you've overlooked something absolutely vital.

You turn to your experienced colleagues for their advice ~ what useful but unexpected items do they keep in their bagging area?

Waterside Nurseries use this tea strainer to keep their water clear of all the pollen and other bits which drift into the Great Pavilion and settle on the water. They also have a handy supply of bricks - not for using as stands for their plants, but for making sure they don't fall over.

What a marvellous spot which shows even tropical plants need some tlc in the heat of the Great Pavilion. I looked at the Barbados stand on Sunday and sadly they were only using the usual pots and trays, so many thanks to David for letting me embed his tweet.

As you can see the pool helped keep Barbados's plants in tippity top condition for them to achieve a well deserved gold.

Over at the NAFAS exhibit, I was intrigued to find this shaving brush in their toolkit. Apparently it's a much gentler way of dusting off the plants rather than using a paint brush.

Andy McIndoe was a little taken aback by my question because everything in Hillier's toolkit is what's usually there from his point of view. However, he did admit a can of grey spray paint is sometimes used to touch up the odd spot on their gold medal winning display. Not on those foxgloves though! And what a marvellous transformation from my sneak preview :)

And finally I was surprised to find some dog food bags in the Great Pavilion. However, they turned out to contain the pine cones used as a mulch for Sparsholt College's display instead of dog food. Their gold medal winning exhibit is all about recycling so it's good to see them living up to their show's message.

I wonder what else I might find the next time I enter the Great Pavilion...

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Shows of Hands at Chelsea Flower Show

It's great to have the opportunity to connect together both Chelseas:  Flower Show and Fringe via my Shows of Hands project. These photos are designed to give you a slightly different flavour of this year's flower show.

The main picture shows the meticulous plant preparation that goes on before it's even selected to adorn an exhibitor's stand in the Great Pavilion. From top right to bottom left we also have:

  • Part of the quirky bench which greets visitors when they enter the show ground
  • One of the judges refuses to show me how the assessment of the show gardens is progressing
  • Paul Debois shifts his photography kit in preparation for another shot in the Great Pavilion
  • A more unusual view of a Chelsea Pensioner
  • Beatrix Potter makes friends with Peter Rabbit
  • Part of Burgon and Ball's trade stand
  • Cleve West takes yet another phone call

I was especially pleased to see Paul because his work inspired Shows of Hands and I'd wanted to connect up with his Wildlings project for Chelsea Fringe in some way. Job done :)

Don't forget Mr Linky is still open for your Shows of Hands blog contributions. If you'd like to take part but aren't sure how, this link takes you to all the details including Twitter, Facebook and email options if you haven't got a blog.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Views From the Show Gardens

I'm back from a couple of jolly days at Chelsea Flower Show which was hot, steamy and thoroughly enjoyable. I had an extra special treat as I was invited onto a couple of the show gardens. Yay!

The above picture is the view whilst relaxing on the wonderful bench of Positively Stoke on Trent a garden designed to demonstrate city's forward thinking and use of renewable resources to power its future. The children you can see on the left were involved in growing some of the plants for the garden.

The planting started with cool greens and whites then progressed through pinks to the deepest of reds. This represents the heating of the groundwater which Stoke is tapping into for heating schemes in the city. The garden's pool also had satisfying bubbles and ripples rising up to the surface to represent the same theme.

Of course, no garden from Stoke should ignore its pottery heritage, so here's one of the specially commissioned pieces from Moorcroft at the warmer end of the planting. I also learnt ceramics are at the forefront of modern industry in the city, such as its use to deliver controlled doses of life saving drugs over a long period of time.

Two arches carry the water over the garden to represent the recycling of the groundwater. I got rather lost in the dreamy reflections they added to the planting.

Here's a picture from Sunday when Cleve West was putting the final touches for his paradise show garden for M&G investments. Cleve sculpted the central feature which references his discovery of a tortoise when he dug in the garden for the first time as a child. Imagine my delight when I was invited to walk through the garden yesterday. After judging of course!

It was quite a surprise to feel the temperature drop as soon as I stepped into the garden. The central pool with its four rills helped to do that and shows how well the original makers of paradise gardens in the middle east understood the use of water to create a cool oasis.

Here's a plant I first encountered at the Chelsea Fringe launch last week as it was one of the plants used in the Tiny Taxonomy exhibit. Cleve used it as an accent plant in the floor around his water feature. Your help with its ID would be appreciated. NB there's a Shows of Hands Fringe special to come from Chelsea Flower Show too.

I loved how the planting progresses from a dense matrix to a sparser effect in the gravel.

At this point it suddenly smelled just like I was back in the Mediterranean as Cleve's planting had switched to more drought tolerant plants from this region. It was so evocative and another surprise I hadn't expected to encounter at Chelsea.

I feel so lucky to have wandered through both of these gardens at my leisure. My thanks to Cleve and the head of Place Directorate at Stoke City Council for being such generous hosts.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Shows of Hands: Chelsea Fringe 2014 Launch Special

Last Friday saw the official launch of this year's Chelsea Fringe and as you can see I took the opportunity to link it with my Shows of Hands project. Guess which photo is Tim Richardson, the Fringe's founder and Director?

Hmmm... let's see...

... correct - he's in the middle photo on the bottom row. The other photos are:

  • Rosetta Sarah Elkin, the creator of Tiny Taxonomy, a fabulous installation in Belgrave Square, which was chosen the as the event to launch this year's Fringe. More on this project below.
  • Vanessa Berridge points out a cheeky ant addition to one of Tiny Taxonomy's plants
  • Anni Gatti shows me the installation map, because they'd run out before I could nab one
  • Marty Wingate's frou-frou peony peeping out from her goody bag
  • Matthew Wilson who's heavily involved with the Fringe via The Greening of St Pancras International Station and yesterday's recording of Gardeners' Question Time

After a brief introduction to this year's Fringe at Belgraves Hotel, we decamped to Belgrave Square - one of London's famous private squares - and home to (and open for) Tiny Taxonomy for the Fringe's duration.

The plants on display were sourced from Highgate Cemetery and they give an insight into the unexpected biodiversity these often overlooked places harbour. I was reminded of the work over at the St Giles Living Churchyard project not far from here.

The plants were carefully lifted with their associated material and mounted on their metal plinths. Inside these are rammed earth to provide stability with just the top few inches filled with growing media to form the plants' new home. Each plant was identified and its location carefully recorded for the installation map shown in the photo collage above.

Elevating the plants close to eye level allows the viewer to pause, take stock and take in its form and all the tiny details. This is Geranium cinereum, a plant we often overlook but isn't it marvellous when it's allowed to take centre stage?

The changing reflections on the polished metal added another dimension and also ensured this modern looking installation blended in well with its much older surroundings. I loved how the light and metal helped to highlight each plant in turn. And who knew there could be at least three different kinds of moss found in the space of just a few inches?

I can see this approach working well in the smallest of garden spaces and someone like my mum - who's disabled - would be able to look after something like this very easily (...and what about something like this helping to cheer up places like care homes, eh?). Rosetta said her previous installations in Canada have overwintered successfully too.

Tiny Taxonomy is a charming, yet thought provoking piece and perfect for the launch of Chelsea Fringe 2014*.

Here's the link to the launch of  my Shows of Hands for Chelsea Fringe and the Mr Linky for you to add your blog post contributions. Also, thanks to those of you who've emailed in your wonderful photos already - I'll be showing them off on here very soon :)

* = it was brought to Chelsea Fringe by the International Garden Festival with assistance from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and the Canada Council for the Arts and the collaboration of the Québec Government Office in London, Destination Québec and the Canadian Tourism Commission.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Chelsea Fringe 2014: Shows of Hands - Episode I

The gloves NAH used to build the raised bed. The effects are L to R, top to bottom: Original photo, Warhol, HDR, Green tint, B&W, Posterize, Boost, Cross process and Sepia

Welcome to Shows of Hands - my Chelsea Fringe project for 2014! As you can see I've been having a bit of a play around in Pic Monkey for my first contribution. You're welcome to join in between now and 8th June 2014.

The idea behind this year's project is to highlight the tool most precious to a gardener: their hands.

How do I take part?

It's simple. All you need to do is take a photo of hand(s) in a gardening context and then share it via your blog or other social media (such as Twitter or Facebook), then make sure I know you've done so. I've set up Mr Linky below for your blog contributions. The Chelsea Fringe photo on the right sidebar links to this post, so you can easily find it again when you're ready to add your contribution.

If you share your photo on Twitter, the hashtag to use is #showsofhands and my chatty Twitterid is @Malvernmeet. I also have a Facebook Page for Veg Plotting, if you'd like to tag or share via my Page.

But I don't have a blog or social media account

No problem! Email me at vegplotting at gmail dot com with you photo and add Shows of Hands to the subject line. I'll add your contribution to the Fringe posts I've planned for the next couple of weeks - there are some great contributions to show you already.

Is there a fee to take part?

It's free for everyone. All that's needed is your time and a little imagination to decide how you're going to respond to my brief.

Do you need anything else?

Wherever you choose to display your photo, I need to know some brief details on where it was taken, who was involved and what was happening. This is for the clickable Shows of Hands map I'll produce at the end of the project like the garden and cake finder I did for The Bloggers Cut last year.

Also let me know if you're happy for me to use your image in a collage that I'll design to summarise Shows of Hands at the end of the project, or if I can embed your Twitter message here on Veg Plotting if that's how you've shared your contribution. I'll use as many of these as I possibly can.

What kind of photos are you looking for?

The way you choose to present your Shows of Hands is entirely up to you. It can be a single photo, a set of photos, a collage or even a video. It or they can be your hand(s), someone else's or a group - how about a photo of everyone on your community gardening project waving their hands in the air? The hand(s) can be clean, or the muckier the better! They can even be non-human as long as there is a garden context. All are welcome.

Stuck for an idea? Here are some examples to help get your creative juices going...

A few examples - the large picture is NAH hard at work assembling my large raised bed.
Then from top right to bottom left we have: grafting tomatoes, skep making at the Edible Garden Show,
Tom Mitchell and his anemones, a sculpture in the garden at Hatfield House and me doing some pruning

I prefer last year's cake idea

That's OK.You're more than welcome to include cake in your response - as long as there are hand(s) and a garden involved too.

What are you doing for this project?

I created the collages for this post and I'll be taking more photos to show you later. To these I'll add further blog posts to show any contributions you kindly send in via email.

I'll also be tweeting and sharing everyone's contributions via my Twitter and Facebook accounts (using #showsofhands where applicable) and I'll make sure the Chelsea Fringe people are aware of your contributions.

Shows of Hands is due to feature on the main Chelsea Fringe blog at some point. I'll let you know when that happens.

After the 8th of June - the end of this year's Fringe - I'll create a clickable Google Map showing where everyone's contributions came from which will also link to them where possible. Have a look at last year's The Garden and Cake Finder map for an idea of how this works.

I'll also create some final collage(s) using my photos and any you've kindly said it's OK to use in this way. 

Any further questions? Add them to the comments below and I'll answer them there plus change this post if needed.

I look forward to seeing your Shows of Hands!

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Friday, 16 May 2014

Chelsea Sneak Preview: Hillier Nurseries

When I was at Hillier a few weeks ago for their double book launch, I also took them up on the offer to have a look around one of their nursery sites. Here product manager Steve Austin is telling us about some of the plants they've launched at previous Chelsea Flower Shows. With one exception...

... Weigela middendorffiana 'Mango' will be launched at this year's show. Quite a change from the pinks and reds associated with this shrub. If the weather's been kind enough, 2 Cotinus, 'Ruby Glow' and 'Candy Floss' will be also be launched.

This year Hillier are due to reprise a number of the successful features from previous show gardens as part of their 150th birthday celebrations and hopefully garner a 69th consecutive gold medal in the Great Pavilion. There will be a White Garden to echo 1999's Green and White Garden, plus the usual great gathering of rhododendrons and azaleas to echo those which feature so strongly at the Sir Arthur Hillier Gardens at this time of the year.

Another main area in the gardens is Acer Valley, which also featured strongly in Hillier's 2008 exhibit. The picture shows the Acers set aside for this year's Chelsea. They are the exception rather than the rule as we were told most of the plants exhibited are selected from stock, rather than set aside...

... but then seeing the thousands of plants available in the nursery, the ability to select straight from stock became perfectly understandable.

During our garden tour earlier in the day, I discovered this new-to-me-shrub Sophora 'Sun King', named by Hillier in 1960 after they found a chance seedling in the nursery. The bees were loving its long, tubular flowers. It also cropped up during our nursery tour, so I'm expecting to see it again at Chelsea.

It'll be interesting to see how our tour of the glasshouses translates into Hillier's exhibit in the Great Pavilion.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The One Where I Heart Raised Beds Even More

Who knows what will arise from this plastic wrapper on our drive?

The main allotment project for 2014 was to install the mother of all raised beds. I wrote about the smaller ones I built last year and they're marvellous. They may be hard work initially - ensuring a plot free of couch grass where they're to go isn't easy, nor is emptying the compost bins required to start them off - but oh, the delight of weeding through soil the consistency of soft butter, when the rest of my plot is hard clay is a complete joy.

I'd come round to thinking I'd like a really big raised bed, so I could try growing  the more expansive crops like squash and to try my hand at no-dig spuds like Naomi has already. So you can imagine my joy when the cheerful chaps at WoodBlocX gave me an allowance to choose whatever I wanted from their catalogue. No problem, I'd LOVE a 3 metre x 1.125 metre x 2 BlocX high raised bed please :)

The initial 'assembly rehearsal' on our patio

The kit arrived a while back and NAH's eyes lit up at the prospect of assembling a 'lego kit' for adults. Well, he is an engineer after all and who am I to refuse my usually gardening reluctant husband a bit of fun ;)

How glad I am that Mark, Helen and Andy McIndoe blazed and blogged a trail ahead of us. I could see from their posts that assembly could take quite a bit of time and the more level patio in our back garden might be a better place to do it rather than the allotment.

I put this to NAH and he came up with the idea of assembling the kit in several 'chunks' small enough to fit in my car to take up to allotment, yet large enough so he wouldn't need a lot of time for the final assembly there. Here's a video of him in action (click on this link if the embedded video doesn't work).

Note that we decided not to use the wedges which come with the dowels in the kit. This is so we can easily take the raised bed apart again if I decide to give up the allotment. Using the dowels alone to connect the pieces together still gave us a robust finished product which is sufficient for my needs.

There then followed a long interval whilst I dug all the couch grass and other weeds out of the part of the allotment where the raised bed was to go...

Note that NAH does NOT usually wear a cap. It was raining at the time

... then came the joyous day when NAH finally fitted everything together. In the rain, bless him. He found the whole process pretty easy to do, as you can see from the video. Our only gripe was it would have been easier to have the finished diagram at the end of the sequence in the assembly booklet rather than at the beginning.

I then had to empty two compost bins which wasn't quite as easy, but it was worth it and I counteracted that stiff workout by completing the spud planting bit in a matter of minutes.

My thanks to WoodBlocX for supplying such a fantastic piece of kit. Admittedly it's a bit OTT for an allotment - skip diving and recycling are considered the more usual ways of garnering wood to make raised beds - but I'm delighted with my very swanky version which is built to last. I can make up for things by making something useful out of the pallet upon which the raised bed came - I think a vertical salad planter might be just the thing...

... I also seem to have a few spare bits left over. These are going towards making a smaller raised bed to sit alongside its bigger brother and I'll use various bricks I've acquired along the way to make the other sides.

Tah dah! Thanks NAH :) Note this is before I emptied those 2 compost bins into the
hungry tummy that is the middle of my new raised bed

Had I not wanted a humongous raised bed, I'd be tempted to choose a bench cum planter kit for the patio from the website. WoodBlocX's 'lego approach' makes for a most versatile product which brings some quite difficult to do projects within the reach of someone with average DIY skills.

It's not a cheap option (though Getting-A-Man-In for some of these projects would cost even more), but it's a very robust product which looks good. I found communication with the company to be very good (with some additional cheery banter on twitter) and I was also impressed with the company chosen for delivery.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Evolution Plants Open Day

My update this month is slightly different as I'm going to tell you about the nursery's first open day rather than having a chat with Tom. He was rather busy last Saturday, so didn't need me hounding him all the time. As you can see, Evolution Plants has had quite a makeover since our last visit...

... well actually, that's Belcombe Court, a jaw dropping garden just outside Bradford-on-Avon on the road to Avoncliff. I won't take you round the garden in this post, as this is Tom and Evolution Plants' story. What I will say is this garden is very rarely open to the public and part of it was designed by Arne Maynard. If you want a peek, then the only chance you'll have this year is on May 25th, when the garden is open in aid of the Red Cross.

My day started at Belcombe Court because this was the location for Dan Hinkley's talk, a rather juicy part of Tom's arrangements for the open day.

It was the third time I've heard Dan speak and this time it was a fascinating account of his plant hunting travels in Vietnam, China and Myanmar. Quite a lot of the great and the good of the gardening world had turned out for the day and chatting to various people, I was surprised at how far they'd come - from Durham, Wales, Cambridge and Devon at least.

I *may* have eaten a slice of rum and coconut cake too - well, it would have been rude not to.

And so on to the nursery, which was reached via the local golf club and a massive blustery shower of rain. This didn't seem to dampen people's spirits though, as they found the perfect excuse for more cake. I *may* have joined them with a slice of stem ginger cake. Well, I needed reviving after getting soaked.

It was great to see people at the nursery, browsing the plants on display and making their purchases. I overheard Tom say the nursery is now open to the public - from Thursday to Sunday each week until late October, 11am to 6pm.

I think this is a wise move - Evolution Plants is no more difficult to get to than the Botanic Nursery at Atworth and Terry there seems to cope with just as small a car park. There were a couple of people absolutely loaded with plants and discussing the need to return - 'It's OK, he's open Thursdays to Sundays, so we can easily come back'. Here's hoping they and others do.

Here are my purchases. Well, one of them (the Uvularia perfoliata at the back) was in my goody bag at the talk, to which I added a Beesia calthifolia and an Eryngium agavifolium. The first two are destined for my Gardeners' Question Time border makeover and I've always wanted the Eryngium after seeing them at an amazing cafe I visited with Esther a few years ago. The Beesia is a nice link with Saturday as I've since found out it's a Dan Hinkley find reintroduction from his travels in China Japan.

So, a quality garden and talk, catching up with gardening friends, lots of plants and oodles of cake. Pretty much a perfect day in my book, here's hoping it was for Tom too.

My next visit to Evolution Plants will be in July. In the meantime, Tom will be at the Borde Hill Plant Finders Fair on 27-29 June as well as opening the nursery.

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Friday, 9 May 2014

A New Look Malvern

For me, the mark of a good show garden is one which still looks good in the rain.
This is 'Bringing Nature Home' courtesy of the Graduate Gardeners Ltd.

I experienced two 'new looks' at Malvern Spring Show yesterday - the revamped look intended by the organisers, plus my first ever visit to a gardening show where it rained pretty much all day. I still managed to thoroughly enjoy myself, despite the squelchiness underfoot and having to reprogramme my mental map of the show's layout garnered from previous visits.

Views from the Show Gardens - I love that wooden wall in the main picture

The show gardens are in a different spot, so they now have the Malvern Hills as their backdrop which helped to set them off nicely. The Floral Marquee is now by the North entrance so I entered the show straight into horticulture. There's more room inside too, so it made it much easier to see everything and I could see visitors in wheelchairs were able to view the stands in comfort. The foodie side of things has been expanded too and I have to confess making a few purchases, so I didn't need to cook after such a long day.

Inside the Floral Marquee - the auricula display was awarded best exhibit

I leave you with my favourite school garden from the day. These are often the most innovative items on display - I don't think I've ever seen a football used in a water feature before. The Dr Foster Went to Gloucester garden was not only charming (and sans football), it also chimed perfectly with the day's weather.

Blog post extra - Meet at Malvern has a look at THE Plant of This Year's Show?

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Tree Following With Lucy: May

As anticipated in last month's Tree Following post, the scene for May looks very different. As you can see, my ash tree has sprouted plenty of fresh, zingy new leaves. These appeared on April 9th, well ahead of the oak up at the allotment whose buds finally decided to break on April 27th*.

Have you noticed when you start watching something closely, how lots more questions form in your mind? In this instance I'm intrigued how the ash I'm watching from my back bedroom window is much further advanced than the ash tree neighbouring our front garden. The trees are only a few yards from each other and in similar situations, so why has one so much more leaf cover than the other? I shall be watching both trees from now on for clues as to why it might be...

This might be the last time we get to see Mr and Mrs Pigeon canoodling on the branches (click to enlarge the picture if needed) as the leaf cover is beginning to hide them from our sight. No doubt I'll still be able to hear them, so I might try to record them for next month's post.

I also have a lawn crisis - the neighbouring trees means part of the lawn is heavily shaded and so the grass is refusing to grow. Guess which tree affects it the most... yes it's the ash tree. In fact, the tree's shadowy outline in the afternoon almost exactly matches where the lack of grass is on my lawn. I'm at a bit of a loss at what to do about this problem, so your ideas are welcome.

That's it for now - have a look at Lucy's Tree Following page, to see how the other Tree Followers are faring this month.

* = so we need to see if the saying comes true in the next few months. I hope we're not due for a long summer soak! In the link there's speculation that ash might be drought sensitive, so did our incredibly wet winter encourage it into leaf much earlier this year? Ah yes, another question to ponder...

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