Posts Tagged ‘Alliums’

At the RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Normally I watch the Chelsea Flower Show coverage on the BBC, but this year my wife and I braved the crowds and attended the show.  My impressions are mixed.  It was interesting to be able to see the gardens up close; they actually appear quite different in the flesh, the TV cameras distorting their dimensions quite considerably, usually making the gardens seems bigger than they are. 

The Telegraph Garden by Cleve West

One advantage of being there was that, whereas I can only wonder what a plant might be as the camera pans by during the TV coverage, it was possible to ask what certain flowers were and to get a really look close look at the planting.  A downside was that in order to get up close one had to engage in a quite undignified scrum, deflecting incoming elbows that were determined to shove one out of the way.  I soon realized that waiting patiently for a gap to appear, and expecting others to do the same, was naive as people ducked into the spaces that opened before me.  My wife, who has been to previous shows, was more forthright and succeeded in getting in amongst things better than I.

The Times Kew Garden by Marcus Barnett

The pavilion was equally busy, with certain stands particularly impossible to get a good look at.  The David Austin stand was overflowing with people and was extremely difficult to navigate, so much so that we chose to exit it rather than try and make our way around it through the shoving hoards.  One noticeable thing with many of the stands was that the flowers were already starting to look very tired; roses were wilting and browning and the red Meconopsis (Meconopsis cambrica?) that made an appearance on Tuesday night’s show had lost all its vigour, the petals drooping badly.

Of the various gardens I had some definite favourites.  Of the show gardens I particularly enjoyed the Telegraph Garden designed by Cleve West and the Monaco Garden designed by Sarah Eberle. The Times Kew Garden designed by Marcus Barnett had some lovely planting but I wasn’t totally convinced by the pavillion, though the idea of echoing the cellular structure of plants was a novel and intriguing one.

The Monaco Garden by Sarah Eberle

Seen in the flesh, the Telegraph Garden was more impressive than when viewed on TV, which was not the case with all of the gardens.  The planting had a great freedom and movement about it and a sense of wildness that worked well with the columns and conveyed a sense of nature reclaiming from humanity.

The Monaco Garden managed to seem both exotic and familiar and the colour combination of orange against purple was stunning.  It would be easy to imagine oneself reclining by the pool!

The lavender roof of the Monaco Garden

Diarmuid Gavin’s Irish Sky Garden was very green and very architectural in the way that the plants had been used; the big box balls undulated away and gave a good rythm to the design.  Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to see as much of the garden as can be seen when viewing it on TV.  That isn’t a bad thing as mystery in a garden encourages one to explore it, but with the rope barrier firmly in place I wasn’t going to get that opportunity.  The ‘flying’ pod sat well in its environment but I’m not sure that it was so successful when hoisted; lifting it made it conspicuous and isolated rather than part of the mystery making it altogether less interesting.

The Irish Sky Garden by Diarmuid Gavin

Of the Urban Gardens, I think the judges were spot on, The Winds of Change Garden by Jamie Dunstan winning Best Urban Garden.  The use of the wind turbines was certainly original but for me the contrast between the rich mahogany bark of the Prunus serrula tibetica and the rest of the planting was the real stand out feature. The Power of Nature garden by Olivia Kirk also had some interesting contrasts happening between slate and the planting.

The Winds of Change Garden by Jamie Dunstan

The Artisan Gardens were all little pockets of pleasure but the star of the show for me was the Hae-woo-so Garden by Jihae Hwang.  It was idyllic and tranquil and full of lush green and silver foliage.  It felt solid and sincere, as though it had been growing there for ever rather than only recently constructed.

Hae-woo-so garden by Jihae Hwang

My favourite plant from the Pavillion was a new rose by Harkness Roses called Chandos Beauty which is a must for the autumn.  And there were plenty of Allium varities which will also be finding their way on to the autumn shopping list.

Allium jesdianum 'Early Emperor'


Chandos Beauty by Harkness Roses

Overall I enjoyed my visit but I don’t think I’ll be rushing back next year, it will be back to the TV coverage for me. Check out my wife’s blog for a few more pics and her thoughts on the day.


Rain and colour

Today we witnessed a rare thing: rain. Over the past few weeks there has been little, if any rain to speak of and this morning started warm and only became warmer as the day progressed. Around early afternoon the storm clouds gathered, there were a few mighty crashes of thunder and then the heavens opened, if not for very long. The rain was very welcome and invigorated the colours in the garden, but one wonders whether this was merely a blip in the current pattern of warm, dry weather or if further rain will punctuate the heat and dryness in the days and weeks to come?

The unseasonably warm weather has brought things on; the Wisteria has flowered a couple of weeks earlier than is usual and there are plenty of plants either flowering or well in bud.

Wisteria runs across the front of the house


One of my favourites, the Alliums are looking especially good at the moment, providing some nice colour, shape and texture and sitting nicely with the Campion flowers:

Alliums sitting above other herbaceous perennials

Campion compliments the Alliums

Raised beds, borders, and green seed

As the daylight hours are getting longer I have the opportunity of doing a spot of gardening once I arrive home from work.  Today I had the added bonus of leaving work early and so was able to spend a good couple of hours tackling a job that I started at the weekend: building another raised bed. 

We have 6 large beds and 2 small beds and these are used exclusively by my wife, Katherine (some of you may know her as Florist in the Forest) to grow cut flowers.  At the moment it seems like we can’t build enough beds, or build them fast enough, to ensure that we have the necessary space to plant all of the plants that are growing in pots and seed trays but that will soon need planting out.

Building another raised bed; all the turf lifted by sundown.

Now that the turf is lifted, the next job will be to rotavate the soil, add some more topsoil and compost (this will either be mushroom compost that has been sitting around for quite some time or well rotted horse manure) then get the actual boards in place. 

I’ve also lifted some paving from an area next to the house in order to extend the size of the border that we have there.  I think that Katherine is eyeing up this area for more cut flowers but I am determined to retain this patch for purely ornamental purposes.  The earth here is very compact and is going to require plenty of work and added nutrients before it is fit for planting.

Having lifted a number of paving slabs, I'm looking forward to cultivating the soil and getting in some new plants

We have plenty of primula vulgaris in the garden, and I intend to propagate from this by sowing green seed.  As ever, Carol Klein is the lady to turn to for advice on propagation and green seed should be sown as follows: 

1 Fill a seed tray with good seed compost and firm down.

2 Take off a whole seed pod, starting with the fattest at the base of the flower stem.

3 Carefully open the seed pod from the top using fingernails or a sharp knife.

4 Peel back the capsule covering to expose the green seeds and gently scrape off the seeds on to the surface of the compost.

5 Distribute the seed evenly over the surface. This is sometimes tricky because the seed is sticky.

6 Cover the surface of the compost with sharp grit.

7 Place the tray in a container of shallow water until the surface of the grit becomes wet, then remove and put outside in a shady place.

There are accompanying images which can be viewed by accessing the article (printed way back in 2002) via the Telegraph gardening section.

For me this simple Primrose is the best of them all; I’m not a fan of the various gaudy colours available at garden centres. This Primrose, nestled against the base of a tree trunk, is beauty without ostentation; quite wonderful.

The beautiful primula vulgaris


Finally, and this goes out especially to Dave, Alliums. How do they compare?

Just waiting for those umbels!

So this weekend will be one of hard labour I think; but it will all be worth it come the summer.

A Day of Two Halves, Part 1.

A very mixed day so far.  I woke early to the sound of rain on the skylight which didn’t bode well for the plans I had for getting into the garden.  However, by the time I’d filled up with breakfast the rain had eased so I was able to venture out.  The morning has been spent mainly turning over the earth in the front garden; I have a very handy long handled fork for this sort of work which lets me get around the plants without disrupting them, whilst also allowing me good leverage to really get into the soil and give it a good  airing.  There’s nothing like newly dug earth.

Weeds, which are already suprisingly big, have been removed and I also dug out some small, self sown Digitalis and Pulmonaria.  These will be nurtured and planted out later in the year.  Having done this, and with a break in the cloud, I grabbed the camera and took a few pictures of plants that are starting to sprout and bud. Below are a few of the things I found:

Patty's Plum from above, very lush and healthyA pair of Patty's Plum, can't wait for the flowers!

A pair of Patty's Plum, can't wait for the flowers!

This Aquilegia will have lovely white flowers.

The following shot is of an Allium, of which I’ve planted three varieties this year: Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’, Allium Cristophii and Allium giganteum.

Allium, though not sure which one!

It may not look much at the moment, but I do admire the strenght of the shoots and the coloured tips; in a few weeks the Alliums, poppies, and Delphiniums will form a wonderful display.

I can’t finish without showing a bud from my favourite rose, ‘Munstead Wood’.  The flowers are of course amazing but I also love the rich colour and complexity of the shoot and to know that it holds so much potential!

It's always exciting when the roses start to bud!

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