Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Promises, promises and a quick visit to Chelsea Flower Show

I have started the summer planting, honestly I have. The ones I have done mainly involve plants which were desperate - I had a whole trayful of Lathyrus sativus 'Tutankhamun' which had knitted together horribly and gone a bit yellow at the base. I decided to mix these in with some other plants and I will wait until they have recovered a little before I photograph them. I hope they will recover because they have gorgeous almost turquoise blue flowers with pink veining... Sorry, you'll just have to wait a while.

Alpines beginning to overflow
Remember that alpine planting I did a while ago and then it got knocked over? The plants are romping away now - I can see that I'll soon have to remove or split a few of the plants as it is going beyond luxuriance and becoming shapeless now.

Allium cristophii and Pansy 'Can-can'
Allium cristophii's metallic flowers are gleaming in the stockyard pots. The beds in the courtyard garden are well stocked with Allium 'Globemaster' and the delphiniums are beginning to come out, bursting through cushions of Phuopsis stylosa and geraniums. The overflowing flowerbeds take over from the pots a little now, which gives me a bit of breathing space for replanting the pots.

Mood music
It's at this time of year that the staff linger outside for as long as possible over break and lunch. On Thursday Simon (one of our throwers) brought his new guitar in and we persuaded him to play outside, making the garden even more idyllic.

Ladies and Gentlemen please welcome Mr Simon Day and his 12 strings
Change of tempo
Jim Keeling with his Golden Cypress
I have just come back from a much less peaceful scene - Chelsea Flower Show. Yesterday morning I joined the London commuters on the 6.15 from Moreton-in-Marsh; we aren't exhibitors this year but Hillier has used Jim's latest sculpture, the Golden Cypress, on their huge stand in the marquee, and I was offered a spare ticket for Press Day.

Jim's extraordinary creation is so large and complex that it involved just about everyone at the pottery, firing, spraying, hand-gilding, manoeuvring and packing it for its journey. Now it gleams from amongst Hillier's wonderful collection of trees and shrubs.

Today (Tuesday) we have learnt that for the 62nd year in a row Hillier has achieved a gold medal. Well done everyone!

I left Jim to talk to possible customers and went to inspect this year's crop of gardens and exhibits.

Do I know you?
Press day is also celeb day so I was distracted to a certain extent because I kept seeing people I thought I knew. Some, such as Ringo Starr, attracted swarms of photographers, others managed to be more discreet. I suddenly realised I was standing next to Dame Maggie Smith while we both scrutinised Andy McIndoe's planting on the Hillier exhibit. A photographer thanked her for allowing him to snap her, "Well I didn't have any alternative" was her slightly acerbic response.

Even though she obviously had a book to plug I couldn't help feeling slightly sorry for Gwyneth Paltrow as she was pushed out to walk across  the B&Q garden towards an army of paperazzi (standing on chairs they'd pinched from the exhibitors' restaurant). She did look a bit sheepish.

Gwyneth Paltrow runs the gauntlet

I bet she's looking forward to her shower.

Many other gardens opted for living sculptures with slightly lower profile. Having decorative people in your garden may make for entertaining photos but it does rather distract from the garden. In some cases I suppose it did make up for a genuine lack of interest but in many I thought it was a shame that even keen gardeners like me were being distracted from the plants and design by all the shenanigans. The fiercest competition at Chelsea is for the prize of publicity, however, so the gloves and sometimes a lot of other clothing, are off.
A little t'ai chi in the garden?

There was some clever planting. I always enjoy Cleve West's gardens so I wasn't surprised to find myself drawn to his even before I knew who had designed it. His gardens always seem warm-hearted and useable, whereas some Chelsea show gardens can be stylish but cold.

Cleve West's garden at Chelsea. Gold, Best in Show.

 I also enjoyed the blend of colours in Luciano Giubbilei's garden, a designer I don't remember seeing before.

Planting by Luciano Giubbilei Gold Medal

Planting by Tom Hoblyn
The colour combinations in Tom Hoblyn's planting were fresh and clean and not often seen at Chelsea. There was beautiful stonework and woodwork in all of these gardens and many more but I'm afraid I naturally get more excited about the soft landscaping than the hard landscaping - and, by the way, I saw no exciting container planting at all. Can't help thinking we should do a garden some time!

So it follows that I usually spend more time inside the marquee than outside. I was very pleased to see that Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants had chosen to exhibit their beautiful Anemone 'Wild Swan' in a Whichford pot. We learned this morning that this has been voted Plant of the Year. I'd like to think the pot helped...

Anemone 'Wild Swan' in a Kitchen Garden pot
Plant of the Year
Anemone 'Wild Swan'

So if you visit Chelsea this week please have a look at the Whichford contributions - and enjoy the show.

Your chance to gather some more ideas
By the way Andy McIndoe - who masterminded the spectacular Hillier stand - is coming to the pottery on Saturday June 11th to talk on "Form, Foliage and Flowers", tickets are still available so why not take the chance to hear from someone with a phenomenal track record of growing and exhibiting plants?

I'll be talking the next day (June 12th) on "Pots for Special Occasions" so I really hope to see some of you there - I hope to be able to give you some inspiration for summer plantings. Just call the Pottery on 01608 684416 or see the website for details.
The Golden Cypress
Hillier gold medal-winning exhibit, Chelsea Flower Show

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