Thursday, 24 May 2012

RHS Chelsea Flower Show: Part 3

As to be expected, the Chelsea gardens were awash with great features and ideas to take home.  This post will highlight a few of my personal favourites.

The above image shows Jo Thompson's caravan 'Doris' which was a true hit at the show.  Doris, although vintage, is incredibly modern with her shiny exterior and works so well as an alternative to a garden room or shed. Jo's 'Celebration of Caravanning' for The Caravan Club also included a gorgeous little wooden dog kennel (just visible on the left of the above image) with a green roof that included Alpine Strawberries.  The kennel had it's own down-pipe that harvests rainwater, which then flows in to a dog bowl.  A brilliant idea.
The hammock, pictured above, is again taken from Jo Thompson's garden 'Celebration of Caravanning' .  Created by Carmel Meade, this hammock is beautifully crafted and positioned to avoid the heat of the day.  A place to read or snooze perhaps?
Not strictly a garden item as such, but Georgie Newberry's beautiful button holes were out of this world and I wore mine with pride on press day.  Georgie, who runs Common Farm Flowers, also provided the cut flowers for Jo Thompson's garden.
Jo Swift's: 'Homebase Teenage Cancer Trust Garden' had several features that I adored and this stone water feature (above) was my favourite.  I like how the water rises up through the stone and flows rather informally along its surface before trickling over in to the rusty edged pool.
Another chunky stone water feature could be found in the Veolia Water 'Naturally Dry' garden, designed by Vicky Harris Garden Design.  This really is a dream-worthy feature for me and something I would take home in an instant.  I loved the way that water is collected in the stone trough after trickling down the rusty chains attached to the roof.  Not a new feature but it really works well.
A garden that attracted a lot of attention was the 'Satoyama Life' garden from the Ishihara Kazuyuki Design Laboratory.  Moss balls were a constant feature throughout the garden but I loved the use of it on the garden shed/room.
Vertical pillars made of pudding stone and planted with ferns looked splendid in 'The Renault Garden' by James Basson.  One of the new "Fresh" gardens, Basson utilised recycled materials and used fantastic informal lighting to weave in between upright planting.
Titled 'Glamourlands: a Techno-Folly' this RHS sponsored garden with Heywood & Condie certainly stood out.  I loved the pure fantasy that this garden portrayed and the bejewelled sculpture that had a distinct octopus-like quality.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

RHS Chelsea Flower Show: Part 2

Meconopsis punicea
Show gardens, celebrities, designers and who got what medal are the main headlines during Chelsea week but we all know that the plants are the true stars of the show.

As I wandered through the gardens and stands I kept a keen look out for individual plants that I liked or hadn’t seen before and I’ve dedicated this post to just a handful of them.
Meconopsis x cookie ‘Old Rose’
Meconopsis on the Harperley Hall Farm Nurseries display really grabbed my attention.  Meconopsis are fast becoming a love of mine.  Meconopsis cambrica is looking great in my garden at present and I wouldn’t mind adding Meconopsis punicea and Meconopsis x cookie ‘Old Rose’ to the collection.
Aquilegia viridiflora ‘Chocolate Soldier’ with Geum ‘Marmalade’ in the background
Aquilegias are everywhere at Chelsea this year but one particular cultivar stood out for me.  Much more subtle than most with small chocolate brown and lime green hues, Aquilegia viridiflora ‘Chocolate Soldier’ looked splendid mixed with Geum ‘Marmalade’ at the ‘APCO Garden’.
Trifolium repens ‘Dragon’s Blood’
Trifolium repens ‘Dragon’s Blood’ was a surprise find from Edulis Nursery.  I loved the green and cream leaves with dark red veining down the centre, the dragons blood.   I could see me using this in containers as it would certainly add interest and brighten the display.
Peony ‘Clair de Lune’
And finally, my last pick comes from Andy Sturgeon’s: ‘The M&G Garden’.  Peony ‘Clair de Lune’, referred to as the fried egg flower by one onlooker at the show, stood out amongst a sea of smaller flowering plants.  This Peony has creamy-white petals contrasted by a yolky centre of stamens and dark red stems.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

RHS Chelsea Flower Show: Part 1

After one rather long train ride and an uncertain tube journey, I found myself in a slightly grubby, if not generous guesthouse, with views to the London Eye and Big Ben.  I had made my pilgrimage to London for the annual RHS Chelsea Flower Show – the pinnacle of the UK gardening calendar.

A quick walk was all it took to get to the show yesterday morning and after collecting my pass and meeting up with the delightful Emma Bond I made my way in to the show.  

I must add at this point that I’m a complete Chelsea virgin.  I have seen bits and bobs on TV and followed the progress of many a fellow tweeter or blogger but attending the show in person was a completely new experience and one that had fostered much excitement and expectation.

I rushed past the big show gardens on the way to find the press tent so that I could drop off my now shoulder destroying luggage.  On my mad dash through I noticed that everything looked rather splendid, although final touches were still being made.  There was a lot of light coloured stone on show and rather similar planting schemes and colours but at this early point nothing on the main avenue immediately caught my eye.  Of course, there was one rather unmissable structure - 'The Westland Magical Garden' by Diarmuid Gavin (pictured above), which from the screams of people coming down the slide and the large queue, appeared to be a great deal of fun.
On leaving the press tent Jihae Hwang’s: ‘Quiet Time: Korean DMZ Forbidden Garden’ (pictured above), really grabbed my attention.  For a very “quiet” and somewhat subdued garden, in the shadow of Diarmuid’s giant pyramidal erection, it really managed to not only grab me but hold me.  I returned to this garden at least three or four times throughout the day.  Each time I saw more and more detail and found more and more meaning.  The Chelsea hum and chaos didn’t exist here.
The idea behind this garden, in Jihae Whang's own words, was to "demonstrate nature’s versatility and resilience in a place that was once full of destruction. The main theme being the healing and restoring power of nature and circulation of life".  "The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula that serves a buffer zone between North and South Korea ... The disturbance to this ecosystem, during the Korean War (1950-1953) was great and came to an end with the Armistice Agreement of July 27.  60 years on, this area has become a natural sanctuary for rare birds and endangered plants" (Jihae Hwang, 2012).
This was a garden with depth, intensity and heart.  It had no real gimmicks, it certainly didn’t conform to others around it and it successfully conveyed the message it set out to send.  The degree of detail was astounding.  From the dog tags commemorating war veterans and victims on the garden bench, to the stream that defies any human barriers, the letters from separated families in bottles along the rusty barbed wire fence and the perfectly placed planting -this garden was a triumph and possibly my favourite.
On a purely aesthetic level, Joe Swift’s: 'Homebase Teenage Cancer Trust Garden' (pictured above) was also very enjoyable.  With it’s rusty colour palette and cedar wood frames it felt like a complete garden that was both functional and great to look at.  I really liked the use of water and rock, although I did joke somewhat about the rather large sacrifical slab at the very front of the garden, which I now know is in fact an ‘oversized horizontally-sliced boulder’.
In many of the show gardens the colour scheme appeared quite muted and similar but I did enjoy the use of red in Cleve West’s: 'Brewin Dolphin Garden' (above).  Although limited, the use of Ladybird poppies really did lift the garden along with the zingy greens of the Euphorbias.
In the Artisan Garden category I really enjoyed Willmott White's: The APCO Garden.  This garden was created as a space for discussion and decision-making and it’s enclosed seating area was just great with its boundaries made from recycled Italian stone.  I really like the planting scheme, especially the Aquilegia viridiflora ‘Chocolate Soldier’ which was set off beautifully by Geum ‘Marmalade’.

My day started slow as I tried to make sense of the mass of gardens and information competing for my attention. As the day progressed and I found the time to digest things away from the many distractions I started to find my way slightly.  The gardens above are just a few that caught my attention with Jihae Hwang’s: ‘Quiet Time: Korean DMZ Forbidden Garden’ being the star of the show and Willmott White's: 'The APCO Garden' standing out as a garden I could see being used in an urban setting and offering some inspiration for my garden at home.

There's still more to come on my Chelsea adventures so keep an eye on the blog for future posts and don't forget to enter my latest competition in association with Sarah Raven's Kitchen Garden.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Looking forward to Chelsea

Next week we see the unveiling of the Chelsea Flower Show, the cherry on the top of the RHS cake.  All the great and the good will be displaying their wares, wandering around the site casting a beady eye on what’s on show and celebrating the big event.

As a first timer to the show I really have no idea of what to expect.  Of course, I’ve seen Chelsea on the TV many a time and visited other shows but a show of this scale and prestige really is a different beast.

I’m particularly excited to see the show gardens and I'm eager to get some good design ideas.  I’m hoping to see something new and exciting that will get the cogs turning and possibly initiate some action on my part.  The Fresh Show Garden category sounds like this could just be the ticket although every garden has potential to wow.  Little has happened in my garden or at the allotment since I last posted as work really has dominated my days but I have a feeling that with a newfound motivation things are about to change.

I'm hoping that the Great Pavillion will also inspire and that I'll be able to find some new plants and dual purpose plants that are both decorative and edible.  I'll also be looking to see what's new and get a few tips from the growers.

Here's to Chelsea 2012!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Ryan's Garden Competition: Win Sarah Raven Chrysanthemums

Image: Jonathan Buckley
It's been a while since the last competition ended but this one is a real corker.  With most of the bad weather behind us, fingers crossed, it's the perfect time for planting and looking forward to Summer.

Sarah Raven plants are known for their quality, beauty and are of course tried and tested and I couldn't be more pleased to be able to offer one reader the chance to win a selection of Chrysanthemums, which when in flower are perfect for cutting.  The Abundant Collection (12 cutting) is the my choice of prize and I hope you love the selection as much as I do.

To be in with a chance of winning just answer the question below:

'Where does Sarah trial her seeds, bulbs and plants?

When you think you know the answer to the above question, leave a comment in the comments box at the bottom of this post.  You can gain additional entries to the competition by retweeting @ryansgarden promoting the offer on twitter or by sharing a link from the Ryan’s Garden Facebook page (you must like the page to share the link).  The number of entries will not increase if you retweet or share links more than once.

Good luck and don’t forget to subscribe to the Ryan’s Garden blog to ensure you don’t miss out on future competitions and posts.

Terms and conditions: This competition closes at 23.59 on 31.05.2012. Any entries received after this time will not be counted. If for any reason the particular prize is out of stock then an appropriate alternative will be sought.
 Entrants must be UK residents aged 18 years or older to enter.  By entering this competition you agree and consent to your name being published and by taking part in the competition, entrants are deemed to have read, understood and accepted all of the Terms and Conditions and agreed to be bound by them. The winner will be selected at random and will be announced here on the blog.  

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Today I tasted Summer

Today I tasted a little bit of Summer.  Sat on the edge of one of my allotment raised beds with the sun on my back just watching my hens.  Several Bumbles buzzed by on their way to the fruit bushes that line my plot, a cabbage white, harlequin ladybird and peacock butterfly are all sunning themselves on the leaves of my rhubarb and not a sound is to be heard.  This tiny little plot that holds little meaning for anyone who walks on by but its heaven for me in that moment.

Looking over the broad beans and leeks, watching the girls go about their pecking, scratching and preening I honestly think I could have lost hours.  Of course, I didn't as my iPhone was in my pocket and as usual it completely ruined everything.  I'm back to reality with a bump.

For over a week or so I've been glued to a computer screen.  Creating and updating spreadsheets, writing articles and arguing with lots of different service providers.  I've recently entered the world of self-employment, creating a new business with my partner and it's meant little time for gardening.  Of course, the rain and howling winds had also put pay to this, but having endured quite some time with eyes glued to my computer I needed a little time alone at the plot.
I seized the moment today as after what seemed like an eternal monsoon had passed the sun came out.  I have a broody hen at the plot and so I planned on visiting her and giving her a few golfballs to sit on until I can provide her with some fertilised eggs, which are currently resting in my kitchen having been posted from deepest, darkest England.  That done, I inspected all the crops and went about my jobs.  Everything appeared perfect.

To say I've been feeling a little apathetic about gardens and gardening lately is an understatement.  My mind has been solely on the business.  I didn't go to RHS Cardiff, although I'm not sure I missed a great deal, I've done little at the allotment and I've done absolutely nothing in the garden.  I've found myself yawning and nodding off during Gardeners' World and I don't think I've read a handful of blog posts, which I usually consume quicker than cake.  But that little moment at the allotment may have just given me that little spark I needed!  We'll see.

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