Sunday, 29 May 2011


It's been the week of the Chelsea Flower Show, and some will have been excited and inspired, and no doubt others pummelled into the land of depression, as we all take stock of our own little gardens of Eden. For me, it was once again inspirational, and to top everything off, my favourite garden designer, Diarmuid Gavin, has at last won a gold medal for his suspended garden.


Through my work, via customers and other gardeners and landscapers, I have over the years heard many, many adverse comments regarding this, and other shows like it, along the lines of the designs on show being far too grand and expensive (Diarmuid's gold winner costing in the region of £250,000), for the general person to even contemplate copying in any way. His 2004 Lollipop design came under all sorts of critisism for it's irrelevence in an actual garden structure.

I personally prefer the Hampton Court Flower Show over Chelsea, and have myself found some designs that really work well (again, for my own personal choice), and others that at the time seemed completely wrong, impractical, or just plain ugly.


What I think we should all take away from shows such as these though, is first and foremost inspiration, because although we couldn't in fact copy these designs, we can all select various features that work, and try to replicate them in our own gardens. Instead of having a vast swathe of 10ft high lollipops, why not have a cluster of six or so, at six feet high, amongst a predominantly evergreen planting scheme? Coloured glass balls have been used in Bavaria and Austria for decades, and I have one very nice blue glass one in my own garden, which raises above any snowfall and draws the eye to it's colour on the gloomiest of days.

This all leads me to our own garden, for although we haven't yet reached the time for Hampton Court, the Chelsea Flower Show gave us both a kick up the backside regarding our plants. Unfortunately, because of my own work being somewhat on the crazy side this year, and Amanda's time being taken up almost entirely with studying, our garden has been totally, and I do mean TOTALLY neglected since last November 2010. No pruning, no weeding, no removal of anything that's died, no replanting of any shrubs, herbaceous perennials, fruit, veg or annuals............nothing!!!.....Zilch! Top this off with no rain for the last two months. absolute nightmare that must be eradicated. Can you believe that some garden centres actually sell this as a rockery plant.

And so the time has come to try to give it all some sort of kiss of life. The first job was to go through all of the dozens of pots, seeing what was alive and what had gone to meet it's maker. Wall baskets of what were once sumptuous strawberries cascading down, were now showing just tufts of crispy brown, and so completely emptied. Our large red pot, usually highlighting a rhubarb plant that last year gave us enough rhubarb to freeze, now had just one dead leaf on top, and so a top up of compost ready for some serious watering, as the core of the plant seems ok. There used to be eighteen varieties of herbs, all in terracotta pots, that kept us supplied throughout the year, but alas now only a chive seems to have survived. But eventually we did get to sort them all out, and have clustered all of the empty pots together, ready for the new stuff to arrive.

Dead herbs removed, and new herb bed cleared and ready.

Patio pots having a sort out.
Next.........the garden borders.....and some serious head scratching went on here. Firstly, how do we get into them through the overgrowth and undergrowth, without crushing and breaking it all? And so it was that whilst Amanda started to water the whole garden at one end, I ventured in, secateurs in one hand, and rubbish bag in the other. Hobie, our ginger tomcat was of course always close at hand. He's the really sociable one out of our two cats, Misty can usually be found asleep indoors, whereas Hobie needs no excuse to add some company outside, be it a barbecue, a lounge about with a book in the sun, or as was in this case gardening, just standing a few feet away, not caring that some of Amandas watering was raining down on him.

Some very large weeds were pulled!

On cutting my way in, it became apparent very quickly that lot's had suffered. We had throughout the borders sunk big pots of large dahlias, to add colour at the height of the summer season, but none of these showed any signs of growth at all. I'm hoping that it was just that they had been shaded too much by the overgrowth, and so have chopped down last years dead stuff and left them in place.

Sambucus plumosa Aurea, usually kept lower as a large shrub. Too late now and so legged up to form a small tree for this year.
Since planting a small clump of Houttynia cordata 'Chameleon', we have had to annually keep it in check as it's very invasive. This clump now covered an area of about four square yards, and so took the whole lot out, resulting in hands that had the characteristic cats wee smell all over them. Not one of Houttynias best features! The Phygelius 'African Queen', usually having been painstakingly dead headed and nipped out in previous years, was now three feet high and a total disaster, and so the decision was made to cut it right down and try to get some regenerative growth back. Can I take this opportunity to confess that this is totally the wrong time to have done this, but needs must and all that!


Phygelius before.............


 ..........and after!

As for the Boston Ivy and Hydrangea petiolaris, well that's growing over the roof now and will have to be trimmed next week. Please note that the gap half way up is in fact our bathroom window!

The list of neglect is endless, and even includes our allotment, and so I bring this confession to all of you, hoping for your forgiveness, and ask you to please not call the plant police just yet. We aren't really bad plant parents, and are in fact now bestowing our love on them finally. And so with regular watering from Amanda.......


..........some more regular formative nipping and pruning from me...........

.......and plenty of bucks spent at our favourite garden centre!

We are now ready to start this years replanting.....WATCH THIS SPACE FOR THE RESULT!


  1. I don't know about forgiveness - you've just made me feel better, because we're in exactly the same state between allotment and (small) garden at home!

  2. Gary I love the excitement of going to the garden center and starting to replant. Haven't done it for a few years now as we've just been letting everything that's already there grow and have someone else come and do the pruning. Right now we have the beautiful, incredible, scent of dama de noche (Cestrum Nocturnum) wafting through our house every evening. My favourite evening scented flower along with jasminum officinale. Good luck with planting.

  3. Hi Linda,
    lol......Glad to help!

  4. Hi Sharon,
    I havent seen a Cestrum nocturnum in a long time. Had one in the glasshouses at Compton Acres. The scent in your house must be fantastic! I'm quite jealous, do you need a lodger/gardener?

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    1. Hi Anonymous, (who are you?).
      Glad to have been helpful. Do you have a garden?