Monday, 3 June 2019


There comes a point in every man's life, that when he is faced with the ridiculous variety of shaving options available, he must take matters back into his own hands!

Nice and simple.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Chelsea Flower Show

We went to members day at the Chelsea Flower Show. I must admit to not being very impressed with it. Give me Hampton Court any day. The show gardens generally are becoming very similar, with not really any new and exciting and innovative ideas in garden design. There were over twenty, and not one really deserved a champagne toast.

Rebecca's favourite, 'Facebook, Beyond The Screen'

My main complaint was that it didn't feel very 'gardeny'. Most of the designers themselves were not present, presumably because the prizes had already been handed out, and so it wasn't possible to talk with any of them about their thoughts etc. The retail outlets were far too numerous, and the emphasis seemed to be on clawing as much money from the visitors as possible.

The main overall theme appeared to come from the events sponsor, M&G Investments, and on attempting to find a quiet grassy area to enjoy our picnic, were directed along a path that ended in Raymond Blanc's rather elitist restaurant, 'Jardin Blanc'. In my personal opinion, rather vulgar.

I felt like a grumpy old moaner, and my ever loving wife and gardening partner Amanda, very carefully and graciously may I say, pointed out that just as with all of the other RHS flower shows, and more importantly this one in particular, the focus was on the commercial side of horticulture, and not on hooking up with other green fingered work horses to talk about the benefits of using Salvia superba over Lavender 'Hidcote'. 

She was correct, of course, and it reminded me of something else that's always bothered both of us.

In a day and age when just the private retail side of horticulture alone brings into this country a staggering £7.5 billion a year in revenue, why is horticulture not taken more seriously as an industry? On most official forms, such as vat registration (and every other  similarly official document), horticulture is not an option as profession, whereas laundry and animal care etc is.. Agriculture.....yes,.but anything horticultural must be entered under 'other profession'. Those who work in gardens are still occasionally referred to as 'just gardeners', when it is a profession that requires sustained and ongoing learning and training, far more so than any other profession. 

There is a book by Caroline Kline titled 'The Victorian Gardener', which partly supports the expert and varied knowledge that most career gardeners were required to have even in those times.

My favourite, the 'Dubai Majlis Garden'

There is a kind of revolution taking place on the garden maintenance front, and as a company we are one of the few taking risks to change things, so that every area of horticulture is taken seriously as a profession. It appears to be paying off.

We always find a corner for champers!

If horticulture is considered a profession not even worthy of being on most official forms, then why is there not a Chelsea equivalent for plumbing, the legal profession, building, or dare I say laundry? In a nutshell, it's because nothing matters more to the human psyche than gardening, but the powers that be refuse to recognize it. Also, big events for these other trades would be so boring!

So, my lovely wife has reminded me that if I want/need some garden time, then a visit to Heligan or East Ruston Old Vicarage are the way to go. When it's business, then the big horticultural shows. Cheers!

Rebecca, the day after Chelsea!

Monday, 22 April 2019

Gotten Manor

"Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it"

May is nearly upon us, and work is, as usual at this time of year, about to get very hard. Everything is on the move at once, grass, hedges, weeds, feed applications and that ever increasing pain, paperwork.

Cowslips and English bluebells under the apple tree.

We have decided to take a few days serious R and R to get ready, and wanting to be away from the madding crowd, and yes, the ever intrusive home phone, while also not wanting to travel far, we have come to the Isle of Wight. 

Always visible from most of the places we are fortunate to garden at, we have both only been a few times before.

We are at Gotten Manor, a gloriously tranquil, quiet and beautiful place in the middle of nowhere, at the end of a dodgy lane to the south of the island.

Upon arrival we were greeted by the owner Caroline. A lovely lady who made us feel welcome at once. She showed us the garden that we were welcome to use whenever we wished, which is a sunken walled pleasure, with an old and rather beautiful apple tree in the centre of lush grass, and other fruit bushes either espaliered or fan trained around the walls. All rather wild, but very appropriate for the setting.

There has been a dwelling here since the Domesday book, and the present house appears in records in around 1300. There really is a grounded and secure feel about the place, especially as the surrounding plant life seem to embrace the entire building.

Caroline showed us to our room. Vaulted ceiling, old beams, heavy and crisp bedding and towels, a big wooden bed that was like a giant marshmallow to sleep in, and an iron rolled top bath next to it. This whole setting was going to give us some much needed head space.

I am personally someone who craves peace and stillness of mind for a number of reasons, but am also of a restless nature, which doesn't bode well. It was Blaise Pascal who once wrote:

'All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.'

I agree, and feel my own inability to shut out all of the unnecessary 'stuff' such as troublesome people, work issues and such like. It's rare for me to get that head space, but on those occasions when I can, such as here, it's such a blessing.

I have laid on the grass in the sunken garden, and fallen asleep stroking the grass, picturing in my mind how as a living thing, it's linked to all of the other plants in that space via microscopic fungus, and chemical and electrical sensors. You treat one plant well, and the next one really does feel it! I was surrounded. I once wrote about it here.

We are doing other things whilst here. Visiting gardens, collecting sea glass, and falling asleep in various places, but the manor is where the real mind clearing is happening. We have just returned to our room after an alfresco supper in the sunken garden. Good red wine, and a hot bath scented with Geranium oil is next.

Breakfasts are sumptuous. Cooked breakfasts made with the best local ingredients. All types of warm bread accompanied by Carolines own seemingly endless supply of homemade jams and marmalades. Smoked salmon and scambled eggs. Perfect!

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Blooming Malta

There aren't really any gardens of note on Malta. There are a couple of grand houses with pleasantly designed outdoor spaces, but nothing that cannot wait for another visit. The island was once described to me as a 'sunny Portland' (in Dorset UK for any Americans out there). I see where the statement came from, but do feel it to be a little harsh.

The east coast of the island is very developed, and probably best avoided, but the west is wonderfully wild. It's a small island, that can take only a day to drive around, but the scenery can be breathtaking, with everything being covered in wild flowers.

Even early in the year plant life is colourful and lush, one just has to venture out and see with open eyes. Some of the roads though can be a little challenging as you can see.

However, not as challenging as driving to the airport during a cyclone!

Friday, 4 January 2019


Yesterday, Amanda announced to me that we were off to Coverack Cove for a few days, that we were leaving today, and that I must pack some things.

It's no secret in my family that I love glass in all it's forms, and I love beach combing for it in small pieces, and mud larking for it in larger and more industrial bits. I also magnet fish and metal detect, and have found all manner of interesting artefacts. 

I make things with what I find, and along with the glass I also find small pieces of pottery, and just recently came across a bronze port hole surround from a ship. 

So far, I have been playing with clear epoxy resin, and have made my own version of a coloured window.

The pieces of tile and porcelain I make into tiles, which I find are a nice way to display them. I wonder with each piece who bought them when they were a new teacup, plate or such like, and why did they end up broken on a beach, sometimes up to 150 years later?

Some of my latest pieces of glass, found near Hurst Castle and Poole Quay are going to cover a pair of glass light domes like this one. I may even put up a picture if it works well.

As for now, we have just returned from a sumptuous meal out, have returned to our hotel, and are going to hunt for sea glass in Coverack Cove and other such places tomorrow. It's my birthday in a few days, and my lovely wife has brought me here for two entire glorious days of self indulgence on the beach combing front, hopefully returning home with plenty of material to work with.