Saturday 25 February 2012

Designers Block

Primroses are at their best now. They will get clobbered by frost but on the kitchen windowsill and a pot on the doorstep they are a real spring fillip - and I feel I need one!
Really struggling to put pencil to paper this week (and last, and the one before etc.)and decide on design and layout of the exhibit. I think I need quiet thinking time - but when I have it I can't do it.  Tweeted earlier in the week: "Should I go for the same route for the path or change it?" Had 2 replies - 1 from Alex, Show Manager saying change it. Great - but how?  If I don't have a path running from Embankment end to Hospital end I will miss out on main flow of visitors through the Pavilion.  If I put in a separate fencing piste, rather than using pathway and temporarily closing off the exhibit, I'm losing more planting space.  Everyone comes up with really helpful advice (he says sarcastically), but no solution.  But then again if I didn't want opinion why did I ask the question!
Anyway, on the positive side there are lots of features underway - my electrician has surfaced - relief.  Fencing sculptures and two fantastic pieces from Tom Stogdon decided on. Building decided on.............
But that poses another problem.  Have gone for open building - no lockup, nowhere to hide. Will that work? what's more M&M Timber have some really nice contemporary containers and panels that would look great with spiky plants - but they do not go with the paving or the look I planned - can I incorporate them?
Need a decision on the positions of the cross bracing in the Pavilion before I can plan - is this an excuse.  I know alex is frantically busy so unlikely to reply - relief - I can still use the excuse!
So that's Chelsea - sort of. Inbetween desperation bouts have been to London - another fun slot on Alan Titchmarsh. Been to Banbury - "Take the Backache out of Gardening" - great fun and a great audience.  Chris Wilde is raffling himself for Garden re-Leaf - will buy a ticket - lots of work to do here and no time. Have a knee injury too - but that's another story.
Been to Scotsdales at Cambridge talking 'Grow Your Own' - so really feel I need to do something with my veg. plot this weekend.
On the positive side I fell in love with Pieris 'Katsura'. Have admired the new growth on this pieris since it first appeared on the scene, but I had not really seen it in flower. The sprays, or should I say recemes of urn-shaped flowers are bruised pink and truly spectacular.  I photographed it against Hebe 'Red Edge' - nice!
The very talented Paul Hervey-Brooks, a Chelsea designer (note I did not say another Chelsea designer) looks like he has a spectacular project at Hampton Court. Thrilled for him - and green with envy. 
Tulips starting to push through the compost in pots around the house and on patio. Fortunately winter containers still look great.  Photinia 'Little Red Robin' really is a good plant for a pot. It looks really good next to Cornus 'Midwinter Fire' in a container. I wouldn't use the Cornus as a long-term container plant but its useful to have over winter and then plant into open ground in spring.
Designing this weekend (practical designing that is) with camouflage netting and rope - don't ask - I might include some pics next time!

Friday 17 February 2012

Talking Gardening

Chelsea has been on the backburner this week - but gardening certainly has not. I was delighted to be a guest expert on The Alan Titchmarsh  Show - and look forward to doing it again next week.  Another lively open day on the nursery - my last for this year (well this month at least!). Chris Beardshaw came over with Peter from Furzey Gardens to sort out trees for their exhibit and on Monday night I had dinner with Wes Fleming and the Aussie crew who were on a plant finding mission for their Chelsea gardens in 2012 and 2013. - Wes was saying what a wonderful world we all work in - "lucky to be in horticulture" - I agree wholeheartedly with him. 

Then on Thursday Sunningdale Garden Centre for one of our programme of talks"Take the backache out of Gardening". These talks are always fun to do and the Sunningdale crowd are a great audience.  Diane - Coffee Shop Supervisor -created some wonderful canapes, all from foods that are certain to help with aches and pains.  Certainly they were very well recieved and set the tone for a lively and positive morning.  That's what I love about gardeners they are positive people - always looking to the future.

By midday yesterday the heavens had brightened up, it was a mild day anyway, so I could not resist the opportunity to take a trip up the road from Sunningdale to Savill Garden.  This is one of my favourite gardens at any time of the year and I particularly wanted to take a look at the Winter Beds which were redesigned and replanted relatively recently. Being half term there were loads of cars in the car park but Savill was as serene as ever.  The colours from the winter stems were spectacular and early bulbs such as snowdrops, dwarf iris and the bright yellow Narcissus bulbocodium were a welcome sight.  I was particularly taken by Cornus sanguinea Anny's Orange (without the golden yellow of Midwinter Fire) and Hedera 'Sulphur Heart' planted as groundcover studded with a sapphire blue dwarf iris.  Winter flowers such as hamamelis and sarcococca were showing the effects of last weeks frost but they still perfumed the air.  Snow seems an age ago but in places there were still patches on the ground. 
The Hillier Gardening club summer magazine - also in part the Chelsea Live magazine is now well underway.  The exhibit design............well that's another story!

Friday 10 February 2012

Golden Moments

Another great week - welcomed more of our Garden Centre wholesale customers to the nursery. Visited others and spent some time at My Garden School experimenting with exciting video developments.  Basically I've had a great time talking plants - rounded off today at Chewton Glen hotel with a lovely group of people talking Feel Good about Gardening - and having a delicious lunch!           Today started snowy - and its been a pretty cold week, but we have seen the sun and some of the plants have added to it.  One of the great delights at this time of year is the crop of Acacia 'Gaulois Astier'. this is a superb variety of the florist's mimosa which flowers freely as a young plant, producing abundant fluffy yellow marzipan-scented flowers.  In the vast cold glasshouse on the nursery the scent hangs on the air; it whispers spring to all that enter.  I've brought one home and put it in the conservatory ready to photograph this weekend - it looks quite amazing against the white snowy backdrop of the garden.
Choisya 'Aztec Gold' our new plant for Chelsea this year looks set to be a real winner. This great plant has Choisya 'Aztec Pearl' in its parentage. Launched 30 years ago this has proved to be an outstanding garden plant with great flower power and wonderful foliage.  The same can be said of 'Aztec Gold'  What i like about this plant is its light, airy habit and the fact that it is rich gold at the ends of the branches and green in the heart of the plant.  This quality makes it a better mixer than the rather solid 'Sundance'.   Now you may wonder what I've done towards  the Chelsea exhibit this week.  Well, I had a find! At a trade show I came across some rather splendid arches clad in Hedera 'Sulphur Heart'. Usually these ivy arches are rather thin and underclothed - but these are rather splendid and I bought 5 of them.  Hopefully by now they are back on the nursery ready for rick to work his magic.  I'm hoping with a bit of TLC they will make a golden arbour that I can run a river of Choisya 'Aztec Gold' beneath - I see it fading out into plain green leaves - a shaft of sunlight through the undergrowth.
Also think I'm making headway on my fencer silhouettes - did I tell you about that? Maybe next time... 

Sunday 5 February 2012

Fencing the Halls

A hectic week - Open days - then The Garden Media day in London at the RHS Hall last Thursday. Sophie and Chrystalle, two lovely lady British fencers came along and gave a demonstration on the stage at The Garden Media Event. They were brilliant, and went down well with the asembled company of writers, photographers and broadcasters.  One or two had a go afterwards - but most made a bee-line for the Beazley foam swords "A present for my children" - of course it is!  The Garden Media Event is an annual gathering at the beginning of the season - well organised, popular and what is more it raises a lot of money for the Greenfingers Charity.
We made The Evening Standard on Thursday evening Fencing on the nursery feature with pictures taken at the Open Days - great to see one of our young British Fencers reading The Hillier Gardening Club magazine in print.  Ben Peggs was obviously quite excited about his day in a different world - he had tweeted about it.  Follow him on Twitter to see if he becomes a keen gardener - actually I think he might have other things on his mind at the moment.
A freezing cold weekend has folllowed and I know many have had snow - hope we've sold a few sledges!
Here in Romsey we escaped with little more than a sprinkling that disappeared by morning.  I've spent much of the weekend writing the Summer/Chelsea Magazine - rather therapeutic.  I wonder if the exhibit will bear any resemblance to the way I've described it?

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Open Doors...........

It's been Open Day week on the wholesale nursery and we've welcomed lots of our wholesale customers to come and see what we are up to in 2012.  Street Party theme - long tables, lunch and a great get-together.  The big bonus - the sun has shone and temperatures have been almost balmy - under glass! Outside it's been freezing.  These occasions are always rewarding, and it's great to get feedback from customers and have the opportunity to talk plants.  Yesterday we were joined by Ben and Mrcus from the Beazley British Fencing Team - They gave a great demo, and then there was the chance to get in there and have a go.  A few of us could not resist - Maybe we are not quite up to their standards - but give it time.  Was very happy with my lunge yesterday, but knee not too good today - can't be anything to do with age?
Tomorrow - Garden Media day at The RHS halls - another fencing demo and the launch of our Chelsea team and Choisya 'Aztec Gold' - Looks like a cold start to the day but things should warm up! More later...