Saturday 26 May 2012

Gardening is for life - not just for Chelsea

The roses are at their best!
Had a great last day at the show. The morning seemed cooler and more pleasant, the afternoon hot and sticky inside, windy and dusty outside. The team have done a great job keeping the display looking good. We try to keep everything as fresh as possible so that Friday and Saturday visitors have as good an experience as those that visit on Monday and Tuesday. When the weather is as hot as it’s been that can be quite a challenge! As few of the rhododendrons and azaleas had been in cold storage and the roses carried more buds than flowers the blooms have become more and more flamboyant as the week has gone on.  Some of the cherries were still in tight bud at the beginning of the week, these were really coming up for being at their best on Friday and will be fabulous on Saturday. When I started doing Chelsea no one considered that the end of the week was worth bothering about: all efforts were for the great and the good at the beginning of the week.  Today every day is equally important.

Our last live fencing demos finished at 11 a.m. followed by some filming for Friday night’s programme with Andy Sturgeon.  I am pleased we got this – I would have been disappointed to leave Chelsea without a mention on the main Chelsea coverage.
By Friday afternoon visitors were wilting and resting on the walls at the front and rear of the exhibit.  I really have not got the heart to move them on.  I join Owen and Rob for a last jug of Pimms in Ranelagh Gardens – the Plane trees are really seeking their revenge, irritating throats and eyes with their dusty, prickly cast offs.  
I manage a few goodbyes and make my way through the crowds towards the London Gate. I wish I had another day, another week, but then maybe there’s another year.  This has been a great Chelsea in many ways. I loved the exhibit; I love what we’ve achieved.
I resist buying another Panama from my friend Mark, then cheer myself up with a little retail therapy on Sloane Square. Once again Planet Chelsea fades into the distance and my real garden appears on the horizon: long grass, plenty of weeds, fading tulips and a million jobs to do. After all gardening is for life – not just for Chelsea.

Friday 25 May 2012

Fighting for Survival

 My last day at Chelsea always feels the same: I am sorry to be leaving, can’t bear the fact that it’s all over, but there’s also a sense of relief.  I am tired and emotional; not helped by the consumption of a few Pimms and glasses of fizz no doubt. I’ve met up with so many friends during the week; old and new. Twitter buddies, friends from school and university, fellow horticulturists, lovely ladies I’ve been to speak to and garden lovers that have visited my garden.  I suppose that’s what I love about Chelsea; the variety of plants and people.

Our young fencers from The British Fencing team have been awesome, a delight to have on the exhibit and they have been so popular with the visitors.  Visitors from Beazley, specialist insurers, our partners who sponsor the British Fencing team, have been a delight to welcome to the show. I am particularly pleased that we have welcomed many new people to Planet Chelsea this year. Those that have not visited the show before, but who are now captivated by its magic and look forward to making it part of their year, and who are inspired by a new interest in plants and gardens.
As ever I have particularly enjoyed meeting and working with keen young horticulturists who see horticulture as a career. Chelsea rekindles ones hopes for the future of British Gardening and no year needed that more. The sunshine has helped, it always does. Some of the media, especially those responsible for the main coverage of the show seem to have missed the fact that the garden industry has had a disastrous spring – life threatening in many cases.  We all talk tritely about how difficult it’s been to get things ready for the show. This misses the fact that plant and gardening sales have been half of last year through April and May – the biggest months of the year. Can I just clarify how difficult that makes it to justify spending huge amounts of money on Chelsea – will we all be here next year?  Told you I was tired and emotional............................
What happens next? Early on Sunday morning, very early, Duel and the Crown will be torn apart. The show plants will head back to the nursery for R&R. Some of the other plants will be sold off on site, the rest head back to Sunningdale for our annual Chelsea sale.  There will be some salvage, and the rest of the foundations of the garden will be scrapped. Duel and the Crown will live on in pictures and in the memories of those that worked on the garden and hopefully visitors to the show. Many say it’s our best Chelsea exhibit ever; but they say that every year. What do I think? – I’ll tell you in a couple of weeks time.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Show Time

It’s just impossible to keep up with blog posts, twitter, facebook and all other communication through the transition from build-up to show time. We finished the exhibit by early afternoon on Sunday, said our farewells to the build up team and then headed back to the apartments in reasonable time for showers, early evening drinks and an early dinner at Benitos.  Sunday night is always a mix of exhaustion, relief, deflation, satisfaction and the realisation that this is only the beginning. Monday is press day, Royal visit, Gala night, celebration dinner followed by an early start on Tuesday when the show visitors arrive.

Sunday evening took a dangerous turn when we settled down in the back room at the restaurant, a quiet group of ten tired Hillier people. Just as we had ordered the doors burst open and ten large, merry and loud Irish folk arrived having missed their flight home after rugby at Twickenham. Determined to have a good time the singing commenced. Two choices: have a disturbed evening or join in – what would you have done? I think I’ve performed Sweet Caroline better, but I did manage to keep my shirt on. This was no mean achievement as the Irish boys seemed to have acquired a taste for Desigual!

Monday – Press Day. Better weather but cool and breezy. The exhibit looked great and a small hitch with the electrics had been resolved – thanks Paul. Our two fab fencers arrived: Alex and James. They would be with us right through the royal visit.  We had an amazing press call and I must say the whole thing looked dazzlingly photogenic.  The lads are tall, slim and elegant, and struck an arresting pose amidst the flowers and foliage.  There were certainly plenty of cameras around – no BBC main coverage but Hillier are accustomed to that. Perhaps corgis made from chrysanthemum heads are more appealing to the population than 3500 trees, shrubs and perennials in peak condition and live dynamic fencers that will probably be part of Team GB London 2012?

Great Press Launch – lots of people – sparkling Rose soon disappears; both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Somewhere along the line we have been judged; fingers crossed for the result. 3.30 comes around very quickly and it’s time to turn attention the Royal visit. We know that Her Majesty will be visiting Hillier and that she will meet the Fencers. I brief them on what I think will be the course of events but we all know that things can change very rapidly at the last moment. The red carpet is rolled out and everyone takes their places. We seem to stand for ages; the temperature has risen and it looks like a nice evening is on its way.  Eventually The Duke of Edinburgh arrives with entourage; there is lots of hand shaking, and the fencers have been asked to fence during his arrival.  It takes several minutes to get to Hillier, and then the Duke watches and chats.  I do feel for the lads; they will certainly be pretty warm and exhausted by the time Her Majesty arrives.

We wait again and there are several false starts. Eventually the moment comes, fencing commences and Her Majesty comes around the corner.  John and I greet her and I explain the exhibit and tell her about James and Alex and invite her to meet them.  I call an end to the fencing, they raise their masks and Her Majesty approaches, a fantastic moment.   They are clearly awestruck, as everyone is. Her Majesty is charming, chatty, interested; she asks them where they train, when Olympic team selection happens and although its only minutes it seems as if she has been with us for a long time.  This was a fantastic moment for all of us and I think one we will all remember always. Meeting Her Majesty in her Diamond Jubilee Year, and talking about what we do and what we are passionate about, whether its sport or gardening.

Other Royal parties follow: Prince Michael of Kent chats to the fencers, also Princess Michael.

After the visit there is a short hiatus before Gala Night. Our two fencers for the evening arrive: Anthony and Alex, and James and Alex stay on.  They get stuck into the canap├ęs, and the two retiring fencers down a well-deserved glass of champagne before the Beazley Guests arrive. Soon afterwards the Beazley party assemble. For many of them it’s their first visit to Chelsea. We are treated to a fencing demonstration and I have the pleasure of showing our guests around the exhibit. Monday was a really pleasant evening: appreciative, interested charming guests, many of whom stayed with us for most of the evening. Our fencing lads had a good time and I have to say it was such a pleasure having them along.  Every Chelsea brings a new experience; the opportunity to see a little of someone else’s world: Chelsea 2012 has been one of the best!

Sunday 20 May 2012

Sabres on Sunday

Yesterday was a good day - all went relatively smoothly and we finished in reasonable time. We left with a little planting still to do and plenty of labels still to write.  This has been a relatively sensible Chelsea -no hooligan nights and hungover days. Perhaps the cool temperatures have been something to do with it.

By Sunday late morning the planting is finished. The polythene lifted and its clean up time.  Its always amazing just how much there is to do in those last few hours, stone and gravel to move, deserted pallets, remaining foliage - the poor misfortunate rejected plant specimens that the staging team have left on the sidelines.  The boards that cover the ground around the exhibit have to be lifted and removed, the grass raked, the paths swept, again, and again, and again.  I am always amazed by Neil and Nigel's stamina - they just keep going until he job is finished. We pause to take a few pics - but other than that its all go.

Alex and Josh are our Sunday fencers. They fence with Sabres - rather more violent than the delicate blade work of epee. A rose is beheaded, a piece of acer flies throough the air and I fear for my sculpture.  Our lovely clean paving is soon marked with footprints and looking distinctly lived in. 

We are keen to get the minibus off early - most of the guys and girls are back to their day jobs tomorrow. Chelsea won last night and there is to be a Victory parade - not good news on Chelsea Sunday. We get them on the road before 3 - not bad. Team Chelsea 2012 has been fantastic - A group of people from different areas of the company and some friends old and new from the industry. This seems to create a dynamism and determination to create something amazing! I hate it when the team split up at he end of the day; its always an emotional moment.

I always have dreams of leaving early on Sunday afternoon and shopping, having a nap and then heading off for dinner. Needless to say it does not happen - we leave late afternoon. 

Saturday 19 May 2012

Lights cameras action...

Saturday morning starts with recording for the official Chelsea DVD - As ever the Pavilion is hectically noisy but filming doesn't take long - charming crew as ever.  Our deadline today is 2p.m. -  That's when our fencers arrive for photography.

By lunchtime the two areas at the front of the exhibit are completed and all that remains is to sweep up and take up the polythene to reveal the paving.  Tim cracks on with some of the photography - we are determined to get ahead of schedule - but we are every year.

The morning passes swiftly and the gaps in the planting soon get filled. A team make a start on decorating the RHS exhibit and Quist – one of our regular favourites.  Right the way through the morning it seems like we are ahead – but gradually time creeps up on us.
Neil and Nigel unpack the small bronze sculpture by Sue Freeborough and it takes its place on the plinth. It really is truly stunning and has such impact for a piece of its stature.  I want it instantly.
By 2p.m. a camera crew from Australia arrive with our friend Graham Ross from Melbourne telly; he’s a Chelsea regular.  They’ve come to see our two lovely young lady fencers demonstrate their art on the piste for the first time.  The polythene that covers the path is ripped up and the pathway is revealed – transformation.  It’s just as if someone turned the lights on!
Another camera crew arrive and a crowd quickly gathers – the fencing commences and the exhibit really bursts into life – this is going to be good.  It’s easy to see what a draw this will be when the show is open.

Friday 18 May 2012

Frantic Friday

Friday always is the BIG staging day.  Its amazing how the time disappears and the plants vanish into the group.  At the beginning of the day there seems to be so much to do and progrss seems slow.  But as another three lorry loads of plants everyone gets second wind and by lunchtime the exhibit suddenly morphs into a garden.

Sreve and Mark have been labelling all day.  The exhibit requires around 800 labels. Up until now those labels have been written by hand - this year we've gone tehno. Labels using the laptop and a fantastic Brother labeller - they look relly good!

Tim has been posing around with the camera capturing some of the action and getting pics of all the team members. We also discuss tomorrow's photography when we will be shooting the key vistas for our Chelsea Live magazine.  I'm praying for a bright ay tomorrow - I have to say today has been rather gloomy at times.  We still have the RHS xperience to plant tomorrow - and Quist.  It will be nice to get outside and escape from the Pavilion for a while - that is if the the sun shines.

Our guest team members Paul and Owen have been enjoying themselves on the Piste with Pip and Dan.  My sharp spiky scheme reflecting the sport of fencing has been in danger of becoming pink and rather "girly" at times - but the finished result is fabulous!

Can't believe its Saturday tomorrow. Where did that week go.  Every year I imagine that I'm going to have loads of time to go and buy that shirt, chat to friends go to the gym - who am I trying to kid!

Thursday 17 May 2012

Painting with plants

By Wednesday evening every single plant on site is in place - we are tidy, watered and ready to go back to base earlier than usual - luxury. Already plants are leading the colour combinations in the exhibit. I think my golden tunnel of Hederas is going to look really good.  It's a real contrast to the softer hues and sharper shapes at the other end of the group.
Thursday morning the next contingent of the staging team arrive along with another three lorry loads of plants. In addition to the Hillier crew we welcome Paul and Owen - two self confessed plant nuts and fellow Tweeps. Quickly everyone settles into areas and plants are painted on the canvas created by the hard landscaping crew earlier in the week - As you can see I'm starting to wax a little lyrical - but that's what this thing does to you.  I rally find it helps to brief crew members as they arrive - oddly enough that gives me ideas.  I was talking to Owen about the pool I planned to be green and white. I soon find myself telling him that I'm going to introduce a little blue because its inspired by Chinese willow pattern - where did that come from. 
Of course its not all plain sailing - there are moments when the team lose the plot - well they do in my opinion.  It doesn't pay to be too sensitive working on the Hillier team - some say I can be quite direct in my description of their efforts - what do you think?

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Plants, Plants, Plants

Plants start to arrive at the Show thick and fast from Tuesday onwards. Tuesday sees the arrival of more trees and some large shrub material along with a mass of trees for other exhibits at the show.  I like to get as many of the trees for our exhibit into place as they arrive as I possibly can. As 3 more lorries of plants arrive on Wednesday the trees become more and more difficult to manoever into place as the week progresses.
The construction team, Neil, Nigel, Steve and Luke have clearly made themselves at home here over the past few days. A corner of the exhibit has become their rest room with full catering facilities - well almost.  Armed with fat sandwiches and dangerous looking pastries from the cafe they find a few moments to relax over lunch and grab the odd cuppa mid morning and afternoon.  Build up seems pleasantly relaxed here on Planet Chelsea and so far, so good

Wednesday and the first installment of the staging team arrive on site excited to be away from the Shire and in the big, bad city - sorry lads there's the small matter of a rather large exhibit to build first! Plants great and small arrive on 3 lorries.  Rick has had a real cherry fest this year - and they look as if they are going to be absolutely perfect.  The large umbrella Prunus 'Tai Haku looked fantastic last year but sadly they peaked too early, This year looks like they will be bang on.  They certainly need to be worth the effort manoevring them into place is no mean feat!
By the end of wednesday the hard landscaping is complete and every plant that's been delivered is in place. The site is clean and tidy and we are all ready for tomorrow's major onslaught. I try not to think that we've never been this far ahead - that would be dangerous.  Sufficeth to say I am delighted with our progress - The A team are really puling out all the stops. What do I think of the exhibit? Not telling... 

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Made In Chelsea

Made In Chelsea

Day 3 on site, Pip and I arrived in style, wet and dishevelled, through Sloane square, envious of the yummy mummies escorting their little darlings to school dry and immaculate. This is “Made in Chelsea”! Arriving in the showground we met a very wet Tom Hoblyn bemoaning our dry position in the pavilion. Alex, show manager, gave a clue to the outside temperature as she was elegantly dressed in a bath mat and tea cosy.

I changed my trousers in the secluded gazebo and completely forgot to get re-dressed in my high vis, a beating from tea cosy lady ensued! Pip, having come up specially to take pictures had forgotten just one item – her camera! Women – they just can’t multitask! Armed with my camera she has prowled the exhibit taking candid shots. I must remember to confiscate that memory card.

Onto the serious business of the day and the biggest trees have settled in from Saturday and their foliage is adjusting to its new position, and temperature.
The team have installed the fencing silhouettes at the front of the exhibit. Perhaps more importantly they have improvised guards for the fencers’ swords so that we don’t lose any of the staging team at this early stage!

The first lorry of the day has arrived with trees on board. We think of them as the small trees but in reality they are 5 metre high monsters in 80 and 200 litre pots – mostly a four man lift!

Neil has been really busy with the forklift threading his way expertly round the exhibit helping to get these big trees as near as possible to their eventual homes. Once they are in place there is a lot of tweaking to make sure each one is showing its best face to the public on show day.

The danger at this point is that someone unloads a tree and puts it down for a moment on the exhibit and gets distracted and never puts it in its real position. It does sometimes happen and can cause chaos at a later stage.
The golden arches also came up today as I want to see how they look in situ and plan the position of the other trees round them. One of the arches may not make it as there is a crisis back at the glasshouse – I may be able to “tweet” good news tomorrow on that score.A bit of time for lights and makeup when we shoot some videos for today’s blog. Although I’m a natural, Pip definitely needs a course in film production. She assures me that this “raw” filming look is really trendy – I think she’s making it up and it is just wobbly filming!

I’m now heading off to the Hurlingham Club talking about guess what? Yes Chelsea!

Monday 14 May 2012

Monday Magic....

Monday dawned bright and frosty here in Hampshire but since then the clouds have gathered and we're back to normal - cold and wet! However spirits are high here and in London. Neil and Nigel are celebrating their 20th anniversary of doing Chelsea. They look quite good on it don't they?

On site the guys are going well: edging moving swiftly into place with the M&M timber team. The organicstone boys are pointing the paving and will have it all finished by the end of the day - its going to look great!  Steve and Luke have laid the two areas of cream paving on the sides of the exhibit and are now on the harlequin paving at the front. All  good so far and we're on schedule.

We had our staging meeting here for the planting team.  We welcome Luke and Tom from the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Paul Hervey Brookes - fresh from Malvern and comng over from show gardens to The Dark Side at Chelsea - Had a tweet from Owen Rogers who may join us staging.  After the meeting went for a look round with Ricky - glasshouse - looks good. Only a few reluctant rhododendrons. Roses looking great Englands Rose - wonderful cerise colour, just what I'm looking for to team with silver in front of the fencing piste.  There are also some large Syringa x josiflexa 'Bellicent', pretty and fluffy; they will look great alongside the fencer silhouettes. 

Then a visit to the cold store; almost warmer than outside.  This dreary building is a treasure chest just crammed with jewels.  The cherries are going to be stonking - including the parasols.  No pictures of these you will have to wait and see!  Amelanchiers for the first time ever! Roses, ceanothus, rhododendrons and the Viburnum plicatum 'Mariesii' are just mouthwatering.

I'm starting to get inspired............On site tomorrow to welcome the next load of trees. Duel and the Crown - here we come!

Sunday 13 May 2012

Taking shape...

The team on site, Neil, Nigel, Steve and Luke have worked wonders this weekend.  The pathway is pretty well laid, the gazebo complete (thanks to the lads from M&M timber) the big trees are in position and by now the lads are thinking about the other areas of paving, the pools and then the edging.  They've cetainly worked swiftly and I feel a lot happier about the overall effect.  I think the organicstone path is really stunning - one of the nicest we've done.  The cedar fits in perfectly alongside the gazebo, and I am really pleased I took the short, stocky Prunus lusitanica - I think they give the monument focus a wonderfully classical, rather formal feel.

Back in Hampshire I've been catching up in the garden. Its been a lovely morning although a lot cloudier now.  Haven't dared look at the forecast again - hopefully its improved a bit since my last visit to BBC weather.  I should imagine the outside boys have been mighty relieved to get a couple of completely dry days in even if it means putting up with dust from the roads and the wretched Chelsea Plane trees which shed choking pollen atv this time of the year condemnig all on sit to the lovely Chelsea cough and tall eyes.

Less Twitter activity today - RHS tweeted that Diarmuds pyramid is as tall as Battersea power station. Hmm...I did reply and they retweeted.  Wes Fleming has come alive on the Twitter front after a long silence - look forward to catching up with him next week. Perhaps more news later - keep watching...

Friday 11 May 2012

Here we go again..............

Friday 11th May. The day started well with some sunshine, almost warm enough to wear a Beazley British Fencing polo shirt – and I did, admittedly it was under a fleece by the time I reached Winchester station.  Neil, Nigel, Steve and Luke left early and were on site ready to offload the lorry from Hillier and receive the rest of the materials delivered direct to site: paving, sand, blocks cement, ballast etc.  At this stage we hardly need to discuss tactics – everyone knows the ropes as long as everything runs as usual. Once everything is off the lorries it’s time to cover the site in black polythene – we can then mark out the plan on the ground. 
The main priority today is to get main pathway marked out and under construction; ramps have to be built to cope with the monument plinth.  The standard of construction has to be A1; a lot of feet will pass along our yellow brick road during the show and we can’t have rocky slabs and an uneven surface. The stone for the path has been designed and made by organicstone and Brian arrives on site to supervise its installation.
We also need to get the base for the  M&M Timber gazebo down ASAP – this is being constructed in less than 24 hours time so we want it as firm as possible before the M&M crew start work.  The big trees also arrive on site on Saturday.  We have to get these into position before the pathway is completed otherwise the paving would be damaged. 
My priority on day 1 on site is to plan the positions of these trees – one they are placed they have to stay put. It’s not easy moving a 600 litre tree that’s as high as the monument so it is essential that they are put in the right place when they arrive.
It is funny – however negative I feel about doing yet another Chelsea when I arrive on site and meet up with a few members of the Chelsea family I feel quite different. It’s good to be home – back on Planet Chelsea. This is a virtual world far from reality – so here we go again – beam me up......

Thursday 10 May 2012

Fencers and Fridges - Loading day

A dull, damp thursday. My best efforts encouraging fellow twitters (peeps, tweetsters or whatever else you like to call them) to smile to make the sun shine only raised an early morning glimmer. The rest of the day has been bathed in drizzle - but that's enough about the weather.  Today has been loading day and Nigel started filling up the lorry with all our landscape goodies early this morning. Tools, barrows, bark, stone pond liners, polythene, pots.  The sand, cement, paving and blocks make their way directly to site and we'll meet them in London in the morning.
Sandwiched inbetween everthing else my precious fencer silhouettes will make their journety to the Chelsea piste.  They are surprisingly heavy but still quite fragile. I haven't seen them naked yet - they are still swathed but I am starting to bond with them.  They look a little stark and industrial at present but will hopefully soon be softened by a sea of planting. Nigel also made sure he had the essential fridge on board.  This will ensure that the bubbly for Monday week's Press Day launch stays above freezing - only joking the sun will be scorching by then! Once the exhibit starts to take shape there should be plenty to smile about - and that surely will bring the sun out.
See you in London..............................................................

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Sue gets potting.......

After a brief appearance yesterday the sun retreated behind the clouds again, and down came the rain. Nigel has been with us today getting together the kit ready for loading tomorrow.  Barrows, hosepipes, drills, screws - all the general paraphenalia. My silhouette fencers have arrived and their modesty is currently preserved beneath layers of bubble wrap.  I think they will be OK - What I mean is I hope they will be terrific - Not sure what I mean really.  Sue Freeborough's 'Fencing' bronze is being collected next week - kindly loaned by Tasburgh House Hotel, Bath.  Its a lovely piece - small in stature - big in presence. But more of that later.

Sue's creative aura got to grips with the pots today. Permanent planting combinations created by grouping pots together - one of my favourite topics. We've tried to create groups for sun and shade in similar colourways to give visitors ideas.  Nothing too large - Just lovely pots that will fit into any garden. 

I find I look at things differently in pots.  For example I probably wouldn't choose Pieris 'Carnaval' with its rather bold rhubarb coloured new foliage.  However teamed up with the crushy strawberry tissue paper foliage of Acer 'Beni - 'Maiko' its quite stunning, and takes the pewter and mauve spiky leaves of Astelia 'Westland' to a different level.  Maybe, just maybe, the Chelsea magic has started.

Ricky of course had to have his say in the scheme - Sue diplomatic as ever agreed but took absolutely no notice whatsoever - no further comment!

Monday 7 May 2012

Where are the leaves?

Spent yesterday at Bishops Waltham Plant Fair - an annual plant fest in aid of St John's Ambulance.  My fourth year as resident "Expert". Cold day - new venue and not a cheery start. But the mood soon lifted, despite the lack of sun as gardeners sought little potted treasures, caught up with friends and talked plants. I thought it might be rather a slow day with gardening questions - but quite the opposite. Questions came thick and fast and the enthusiasm soon raised temperatures and spirits.  I found a rather nice Philadelphus 'Innocence', the one with the soft creamy suffused leaves. I've had one in the garden for a few years that came back from an early garden tour to Normandy.  Its swamped by an over enthusiastic Lonicera 'Baggessen's Gold' so I'm please to have another.
Late yesterday afternoon the sun came out and the temperatures rose briefly - if only it could have stayed like that through Bank holiday Monday.  This morning started well but now cold, dark and very damp - not condusvive to a day in the garden - Oh dear!                                                                                  Have been thinking about when to pick out trees with Ricky.  As the big ones move onto site next Saturday we need to get on with that pretty soon.  I am concerned about the quality of leaf canopy - In my garden things are slow. At The Plant Fair yesterday - in the grounds of Wintershill, Durley, a beautiful mature garden with azaleas, rhododendrons and pieris some things are in ull leaf, others barely showing signs of life.
Only a week to go - so time is running out - maybe this year it willl be a Winter Garden after all!

Saturday 5 May 2012

May or February?

Its certainly a hideously cold start to May. The Bank holiday weekend is set to bring more rain, low temperatures and frost - nice! Of course the Hillier Chelsea plants are mostly under glass or polythene. However the big trees are vulnerable - they are outside and a sharp overnight frost can do considerable damage to new leaves.
Probably the biggest challenge will be getting things into flower.  This time last year rhodos, azaleas, even roses were in cold storage to hold them back.  This year many of the same plants are in tight bud. We need warmer temperatures and some decent daylight. Light levels even effect the foliage plants such as the Japanese maples.  At the moment their leaves are thin and soft and lack intensity of colour and weight - sunshine would change that.
I can't believe we start on site on Friday - it seems ar too early. I think the way I feel about Chelsea is the same as gardeners are feeling everywhere. We all think its February and far to early to get going with veggies and summer bedding - but if we don't start soon the season will soon be over!
I do pity the poor folks on those outside gardens. One has visions of creating something wonderful out in the sunshine - not shivering in the rain and mud with temperatures in the single figures.  At least we will be dry in the Pavilion - but I will certainly pack my thermals!