Posts Tagged ‘RHS’

Pollinators and wildflowers: a timely reminder from Sarah Raven

For some time now there has been increasing concern about the plight of the Bumblebee but this extends further to include pollinators in general, wildflowers and the insects that rely on these flowers.  Sarah Raven’s BBC2 programme ‘Bees, Butterflies and Blooms,’ the first episode of which aired last night, is a timely and important reminder of the swathes of wildflower habitats that have been lost in this country during the course of the last century and the detrimental impact that this has had on pollinators and other insects, let alone the survival of wildflower species and the landscape as a whole.

As with so many environmental catastrophes created by mankind, it is only when we are at a state of crisis that we begin to try and repair the damage.  It can only be hoped that campaigns such as Sarah Raven’s and others start to really get into the public consciousness and cause a change in the general attitude towards how we manage our environments, both urban and rural.

It is shocking to think that it is in rural areas where the problem is greatest; monoculture farming, the removal of hedgerows, and the use of pesticides is nothing but destructive and it is time that such practices were addressed more forcefully than they currently are.  We can no longer plead ignorance about their impact.

Of course there needs to be some sort of economic benefit for farmers, otherwise they just won’t get on with planting wildflower strips on the margins of their fields to increase biodiversity (this is a reality that unfortunately can’t be escaped; money seems always to trump any environmental concern); education on the subject, at all levels, doubtless needs to be improved also.

The other despairing thing about the programme was the palpable reluctance of many of the folk of Creaton, Northamptonshire to give over even a small part of the vast village green to wildflowers (should a Parish Council really be able to delay or even completely reject a plan of this kind?).  It seems that unless a TV camera is on-hand such things are easily swept under the carpet.  The old photograph of the green full and alive was far more appealing to my mind than the perfectly clipped state the village green currently exists in.  Hopefully the villagers will now press forward and do more and be a beacon to others to do the same.

So there we have it.  Simple really: learn, campaign and practice what you preach and maybe attitudes and practices will change.  The RHS has developed the ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ label after being approached by Sarah Raven to support her campaign.  A full list of these plants is available as a PDF.

Other sites to look at:

Bumblebee Conservation Trust

National Hedgelaying Society


Article on Biodiversity and Agriculture from Global Food Security


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.

Peat: should it be taxed?

There is an interesting article in today’s Times concerning peat in compost and whether or not a £1 tax should be imposed per average bag of peat.  It would seem that the RHS is in disagreement with conservation and wildlife charities over this matter, arguing that peat-free compost remains inferior when used for some plants and suggesting that gardeners have a right to use small amounts of peat.

This is an interesting subject, especially in light of a recent discussion started by Karen Hall at her Artist’s Garden blog about the cost of gardening.  The price of compost was alluded to – typically £12 for 3 bags; would £15 start to seem like too much?

I’m sure that many of us try and produce our own garden compost and look out for peat free alternatives; however, it often seems that garden centres just don’t stock sufficient peat-free alternatives and, as the RHS argue, when they do these alternative products are not yet up to scratch for use with some plants or with seeds. What needs to happen here is that a product must be developed that successfully reproduces the qualities of peat so that gardeners don’t feel they are sacrificing their ability to cultivate plants. 

It goes without saying that it is important for a gardener not to have a negative impact on the environment, either directly or indirectly.  With only 700 hectares (appx. 1730 acres) of England’s original peat bogs remaining intact, supporting bird and insect species, it is essential that we think carefully about how we garden using peat. 

With retailers missing the target set by Government for “all growing media and soil improvers” to be peat-free by the end of last year (apparently peat-free alternatives accounted for only 60% of the market), it is perhaps down to us, the consumer to press the issue forward and encourage swifter development in this area.

A Good Read and a Useful Tool

There is always too much to read and never enough time to read it.  During winter it is always my intention to make the most of the short, dark days by catching up on my reading.  Gardening books tend to be too large to accompany me on the commute to London; imagine trying to heave the RHS Encycolpedia of Garden Plants out of your bag and on to your lap and you get a picture of quite how absurd it would seem – not to mention adding considerable tonnage to the weight of the bag!

Some of my gardening books ...

Beth Chatto’s Garden Notebook is one of the few exceptions to the rule, being a light and relatively slim hardback; it’s brightening my morning commute no end.  As far as most of the other books are concerned I find that, having failed to plough through them during winter, they sit on the book shelf with their spines a constant reminder of my neglect; I tend to plunge in and out of these at moments of need, searching desperately for the essential nugget of information that will assist me in pruning, propagating, preparing and planting (and p words I’ve missed???).

… and some more.

Beyond reading, I’ve also been on a quest to find a supplier of Lathyrus vernus ‘Alboroseus’.  I was just entering the name into search engines to see what came up but I then popped on to the RHS website and found the Plant Finder tool.  I found this to be a really easy to use tool, I just entered the search criteria and was presented with a list of nurseries in my local area that stock the plant. Happy days indeed!

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