Friday 27 April 2012

Dutch Delights

I couldn't resist the temptation to call this post Dutch Delights - on the ferry last weekend from Dover to Calais the coach in front of us was advertising their tour: "Dutch Delights" - the mind boggles!  Our tour - A Hillier Gardening Club holiday - headed off last Friday for Venlo, the venue for this year's Floriade. The Floriade is a mega show staged in the Netherlands every 10 years.  Last time it was quite close to Amsterdam - this year on the far side of Holland near the German border.  The Floriade showcases horticulture, gardening, environment, the Dutch flower trade and the whole industry in the broadest possible sense.  The style is very European, a far cry from the cosy British flower show; it stretches the mind and the imagination.

The journey to Venlo is a long one and by coach from Hampshire is a day's travelling. We took two coaches and passed the time with gardening questions, tales from Chelsea and lots of my thoughts on plants and gardens and lots of Sue's thoughts on houseplant growing and trends in Europe.  Our Floriade day, Saturday was mostly cool but dry with some watery sunshine, a chilly wind and the odd downpour - for this season not bad!

The Floriade covers 66 hectares complete with cable car and the obligatory motorway separating the car park from the show. The entrance is a fusion of modern and futuristic flavoured with the obligatory Dutch barrel organ.  Inside futuristic insect characters roam the park and baffle the arriving visitors expecting to be greeted by flowers and gardens instead of domes, screens, glass and space.  We made our way straight to Villa Flora - a huge glass palace housing a futuristic display of floral art, orchids, new varieties and fabulous house plants.  This is mind blowingly extravagant and very impressive. 
We then made our way through whistering woods to the area that's all about the senses - the power of plants and gardens, wellbeing etc. Some good stuff here, although every detail eclipsed by the fire breathing dragon and smoking stones - tasteful, imaginative and set in probably the least sympathetic garden in the whole show.
Tasting salad sprouts and radishes dipped in chocolate and yellow cherry tomatoes in the Haus of Smaak - (or something like that) was a highlight. Then onto the World Stage - Afghanistan lived up to expectations as did Tunisia - based on a package 2 star hotel I presumed!  The celts living in an orchard cooking their own food and weaving itchy blankets looked happier with their take away hamburgers. Yes, its all there.

For me the highlight was a performance on the amazing stage by the lake.  Probably the most unlikely, camp, Benny Hill does Tiller Girls, Cabaret, Sound of Music and Pirates of Penzance I have ever seen. Defies description - but great fun seeing burly sweating youths throwing Amazonian strapping girls around to good old oom pah music!  Yes, Floriade is the Eurovision of the Gardening World.

Would I recommend it - yes - as long as you are not expecting a trad. flower show its brilliant, fun, whacky, imaginative, ridiculous, brilliant - you wake the next day wondering if it all really happened. Would love to see it again later in the year - needs to mature a bit.  Would you get me on the cable car again? Not b..... likely!

Saturday 7 April 2012

Pots and plants

Easter weekend already. The disaster mongers have been promising snow, gales and anything they can think of to challenge gardeners already depressed by the thought of hosepipe bans and fuel shortages.  Anyway so far in the tropical south the weather this weekend has been OK.  Plenty of sunshine yesterday, although pretty cold out of the sun.  Today cloudier and warmer and generally a good gardening day.  I actually managed to plant a few things that have been sitting around in anticipation since last year. 

I still have not planted the little species clematis I bought at the Plant Fair two years ago.  It's a typical yogurt pot purchase so its destined to hang around in a half full moss covered pot for a few years. 
The frost has done some damage in the garden.  Today I noticed my Epimedium 'Fire Dragon' has been frosted. Bit of a sense of humour failure at that point.  I went through one of my "what's the point of these pathetic little plants if they can't cope with a few degrees of frost?" moments.
Managed a Chelsea meeting with the construction crew this week - all very positive.  Steve's son is working with us on the team this year which will be excellent. Neil and Nigel organised and on good form a ever.
I have made quite a few decisions this week on paint colours, timber edging quantities, pots and so on.  My pots arrived from Apta - part of their RHS range of glazed pots.  I've planted a few up and this weekend managed to get some decent pictures. although they are rather smaller than I would like they certainly have presence and will prove popular with visitors at Chelsea and in the Garden Centres.

The terrace looks quite colourful at the moment as a few tulips start to bloom.  I have to say the best performing plant is undoubtedly Photinia 'Little Red Robin' - stunning coloured foliage and frost resistant - give me that instead of a pieris any day!

The Cornus controversa 'Variegata' is just coing into leaf in the garden. I love this plant, its a favourite at Chelsea too.  I just wish that mine would grow like that one at Rosemoor.  I guess that's what you get if you have fertile soil and more rainfall.  My light dry sand does have its advantages, but they are quite hard to pinpoint at present. 
I was looking through a few pictures of Rosemoor getting some ideas for planting combinations.  I must say that garden is one of the best for creative use of foliage.  I would love to be able to pop in there on a regular basis.
Did  mention that I had found another fencing sculpture? Have to check it out, then I'll tell you about it next time. I have a feeling its rather good!