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50 something Londoner (UK) who is curious about everything. Expect a wide range of topics and a few wood pigeons.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hampton Court Flower Show

The One Show garden
I decided to go to the Hampton Court flower show at the last minute, managing to get both a ticket and a day off work. It was partly to make up for the disappointment of missing the Chelsea flower show. Not only were we going on members' day, but we even had a delightful sit-down lunch to look forward to.  Unfortunately I indulged in oysters at a restaurant the day before and was stricken by food poisoning. So we didn't go.

I left for Hampton Court - 28 miles away - in good time and expected to get there just after the opening time of 10am.

I finally got in at 12.45! Unbelievable.

For the last seven miles it was nose-to-tail, traffic just creeping along a centimetre every 10 mins or so. I was relieved I wasn't with J. because like most men, he has zero tolerance of traffic jams.

By the time I got to the show I was feeling slightly frazzled.

It's vast, and very crowded. I didn't stay long in the flower tent because there were too many people. I took a few pictures of plants that impressed me. - see below, Meanwhile the rose and floral arrangement marquee was very disappponting. I'd anticipated being hit by the scent of hundreds of roses, but it was an olfactory let down.

The rose displays were underwhelming. I realise in July roses are past their past but I still expected more abundance of blooms from professional growers.

I perused some of the show guides and saw that Mary Berry was due to speak at 2.30 in the food theatre. I went over there at 2pm but the queue was already massively long so there was no chance of joining it and being able to get in.
The World War 1 display

On the plus side, the show gardens seemed easier to access than at Chelsea and looked better in real life than they did on TV.  There was a fascinating World War One section with a schools' scarecrow competition and trenches showing how the soldiers grew plants. There were some fabulous stalls for laydeez in the Country Living Magazine marquee. All manner of "tut," from jewellery to clothes and oil paintings.


By 3.30 I decided to confront the traffic again but first called by at some of the vendors selling plants (very good idea to site these near the car park!). I bought a few plants including three salvias, a penstemon, a couple of grasses and a couple more erigeron.

I may well go again next year but definitely by public transport, and with a partner in crime (not a husband....) to make it more fun. And I realised that I really enjoyed last year's Hyde Hall flower show, the nearest RHS garden to us. It may have been modest, with no show gardens, but it was a delight to get around and some of the plants I bought are flourishing. So that's a date for the diary towards the end of July.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

An unlikely star of the garden show

It's Ground Hog Day again. Yes, here's the garden in July.....an annual post!

My little garden will not win favour with those who think we should be painting with flowers and making garden creation an art form.  No, it's crammed full of plants that I love and it's not making any particular statements. I just do the best I can with a clay soil and a north facing plot  (which fortunately gets a few hours of sunshine a day).  The colour palette is primarily pink and white with a few red highlights.

This year's hits are the hollyhocks, seen on the left, by the fence, which started life being so badly mauled by snails I didn't think they would have a chance. They don't look like the usual hollyhocks but have fluffy pink balls of flower, like rosettes.

The unlikely star of the garden is erigeron karvinskianus, a tumbling daisy, part of the aster family, which is pink and white and also grows well in crevices.  I love the way it spills over my sleepers, softening the edges.

I am thrilled that a couple of tender trailing fuchsias from last year lived through the winter and are blooming again.

I have a few delights to follow in late summer:  gladioli, nerines and monarda, all for the first time.

And next week I have a day off work to visit the Hampton Court flower show. This will partly make up for the disappointment of missing Chelsea, when I had to spend the day in bed with food poisoning from oysters.


Salvia Hot Lips

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Snobbery among the petunias

Alan Titchmarsh's comments in today's Telegraph reminded me how much snobbery there is in gardening.

It's not just which plants and styles of gardening are in or out, or whether you are a garden designer or garden creator or just a plain old gardener.

There's a big branch of snobbery among those who trained as horticulturalists, who paid their dues planting matchy-matchy petunias in municipal flower beds and learning the Latin names for everything.

As Titchmarsh said today, somewhat disingenuously, he was not going to hold his successor Monty Don’s “lack of training” against him. Monty Don, you see, may have written 20 books about gardening, and fronted gardening programmes for years, but to Titchmarsh and others who trained at Wisley, he's a presenter and not a gardener.

I could level the reverse accusation at Titchmarsh - he should stick at gardening and not presenting. I can't bear the programmes where he attempts to be a chat show host. 

Titchmarsh's peevish comments follow his demotion by the BBC for Chelsea Flower Show coverage. He was apparently asked to play second fiddle to Monty Don and declined. He was "hurt" by the decision. I'm not sure why. He stood down from the BBC's flagship gardening show Gardeners' World a few years ago and now presents the deplorable "Love Your Garden" on ITV. So why does he believe he should still be the BBC's top choice for Chelsea? He can't have everything.

This year, Titchmarsh has a show garden at Chelsea, his first since 1985. I'm not sure if his decision to have a show garden followed his "axing" by the BBC, but at least it allows him to show off his gardening expertise which Love Your Garden doesn't. And how heartening (I'm being ironic) that he will even allow himself to be interviewed by the BBC this year because "there is no point" in holding on to professional jealousy.

Really, all this gardening snobbery is so parochial and demeaning. The great thing about gardening is that it is highly personal and shouldn't be subjected to the dictats of a few pompous people who think they have a monopoly on taste, style and Latin.  Personally, I'm fed up with prairie planting and the same old "trendy" plants - alliums, agapanthus,irises, cornus and anything that looks like cow parsley. I'd like to see a garden designer at Chelsea brave enough to use unfashionable plants - chrysanths, marigolds, dianthus to name three - and to create the delicate, traditional English cottage garden that seems to be banned from the likes of Chelsea yet is the backbone of Britain's gardens.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The spring garden

As the tulips and narcissus bow to a close, the garden is looking busier than usual at this time of the year and it's all down to my new policy of not digging out the border for winter.

Inspired by some of the gardening writers, who said leave the perennials and enjoy their wintry shapes, plus, do not dig the soil, I left everything untouched. There were a couple of surprises. Two trailing fuchsias, bought last summer and supposedly tender, survived.  The winter casulties included my most prolific duo, a salvia and and a perennial nemesia. I got rid of two phygelius because they had started to become thugs.
The daffodils were stunning this year, particularly "Dick Walden," and the delicate pheasant eye narcissus.

But the tulips didn't float my boat. I'd ordered two red types and the plan was to put them in the border at the front of the house, fringed with muscari and forget-me-nots I'd grown from seed. But when I started planting them, I realised I didn't have enough red bulbs for the space, so I changed plans and put them in the back garden instead. The orange and purple bulbs originally destined for the back went in the front border, and somehow didn't work very well because I'd also had some "free" purple bulbs and a few white ones which were different heights and colours, and it looked messy.

I've decided to treat my tulips as annuals and have a new display every year, which gives me the flexibility of using the containers for more plants during the summer.

Meanwhile, in the back garden, I've put in some new plants - monarda, which can tolerate most conditions, and nerines for a late summer display. I'm hoping that gladioli will be the new showstopper, having decided that dahlias and my garden don't really get on.

The two clematis Montana have been outstanding so I added a third, and I think this may be the year that honeysuckle Serota finally delivers on flowers. I've planted "Rambling Rector" to scramble up the obelisk and was pleasantly surprised to find the perennial sweetpeas all reviving to do the same.

Dicentra "bleeding heart" really went for it this year
The main colour theme is pink and purple with a few white highlights
The hawthorn is also in full flush. It always reminds me of David Hockney, whose exhibition we saw a couple of years ago. It featured lots of paintings of hawthorn, like big curly caterpillars, and apparently he adores it, waits for the flowering and then rushes out into the countryside with his easel.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Don't let the militant atheists take over

My blog is usually a place of insignificant ramblings about....er...rambling, gardening, cycling and the like. But one issue of recent days has stirred me into tackling a controversial subject.

I was pleased to see the religious leaders of the Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus in the UK defending David Cameron's statement that the UK is a Christian country (or group of countries for the pedantic). This came after a bunch of militant atheists decided to spout off in the Telegraph about undermining the rights of others, blah blah blah.

Enough of these politically incorrect buffoons, imposing their secular views on the nation.

The balance provided by religion is essential, in my view, to protect moral standards and ethics. I don't think anyone would disagree that the UK has become a more selfish, self absorbed and uncaring community in recent years. The decline in religious teaching at schools, the way it's become trendy to deride Christians (while enjoying their religious holidays, of course!) and the ways Christians are undermined, has led to a steep decline in moral standards.

Christians have been persecuted for wearing a tiny symbol of the faith, a cross on a chain, by the likes of British Airways. Christmas displays have been banned by over zealous councils and the Red Cross for fear of upsetting other religions.

And every time the other religions rally to say they are not offended. Hooray for common sense.

My rallying cry is for the militant atheists to back down. They are not the majority, despite dwindling church attendances. What we do need is for the The Church of England to put its house in order. Look at the resurgence of the Catholic Church, due entirely to the charisma and goodness of Pope Francis. He eschews all the trappings and engages with ordinary people.

The C of E leaders have largely been intellectuals, occasionally bearded and totally removed from the man in the street. Taking up battles like food banks is not the way to fill the pews. Changes in the tax-free status of the church would show it is putting its money where its mouth is. And the reactionary types in the Synod need to take a reality check. Do they really want to turn the UK into a truly secular state, because they are too blinkered to embrace change?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A cycling mini break in border country

Henry Eckford
We've just returned from a three day cycling break in Shropshire, on the border with North Wales. The weather was fantastic for two of the three days. The highlight was a 25 cycle from our base in Wem (famous for the Eckford sweetpea) to Ellesmere. This ride included miles of gentle, quiet country lanes, a canal bristling with narrowboats and, of course, a damn good lunch courtesy of the Red Lion in Ellesmere.

The third day saw us cycling from Wem to Hodnet, unfortunately getting there too early for lunch and on the wrong day for the Hodnet Hall Gardens. It got progressively colder as we came back.

The distances were all in a day's work for John, who had not only just run the London Marathon (see previous post) but is well used to cycling, occasionally cycling to work (10 miles) and taking part in events like the London to Paris bike ride. But for me it was quite tough. My thighs have still not recovered from the uphill sections on the last day!

We stayed in the Old Rectory Hotel. Highly recommended, as is Byways Breaks who organised the holiday.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

John's Marathon Battle

My husband John ran his 25th marathon last week in London. It was his toughest one to date, not because of the hot weather, which never helps, but because he's been battling injury for over a year.

He damaged his Achilles tendon and running even short distances became impossible. He started a rigorous regime of physiotherapy and would occasionally set off for a run, confident the problem was fixed, but would limp home not long after leaving.

It was with baited breath that he began his winter training for the 2014 London Marathon with a group of friends from the Orion Harriers.

Fortunately all went well and John sailed through the marathon last Sunday, using his new GoPro camera to film an up close and personal account of the event, which you can view here:

If the plug in doesn't work, here's the link:
I was a spectator on the course, lucky to get a great vantage point at one of the elite runners' drinks stations manned by the Orions. One of the drinks belonged to a VIP:

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