RHS Tatton Park – 2012

Although I had a vague plan in mind to go to Tatton this year, that is how it had remained, just a hazy thought, milling around with all the other thoughts and plans. I hadn’t got as far as pinning the thought down and would possibly not have organised a Tatton Trip. So it was lucky for me that the lovely James Alexander-Sinclair tweeted asking if any body would like a ticket. Well it seemed downright churlish not to respond with anything other than a “yes please”.

A few days later an envelope arrived containing not one, but two tickets for Tatton. Who could I take at such short notice, a fellow designer, an old friend or even Penrod “Penry” Pooch “mild-mannered” police station janitor, nope none other than Mr Batkin. Although to be fair Hong Kong Phooey may have been slightly less subversive than Mr B, but probably not half as much fun.

Much discussion had gone on before hand about the weather to expect in Cheshire. Indeed the forecast was for a full day of rain including a rather nasty thunderstorm between 12 and 2 o’clock. So we duly packed the wet-weather gear including his ‘n’ her snorkels and a rather fetching orange inflatable dinghy. Now this may come as a shock to some of you but it turns out the weather forecasters got it slightly wrong as the rain stopped at junction 18 of the M6.

So hopelessly over dressed we set out to enjoy the show. We still had a way to go to be dressed as nattily as this Exhibitor though.

Wonderful World of Growing

Tatton is a fantastically friendly show with some great exhibitors and gardens, however this year I was left with the feeling that some of the show-gardens were not quite as good as they had been in the past. I’ve said before that when looking at a garden that it is a matter of the head and the heart, however this year only a few of the gardens made an impact on either. It’s quite subjective but I did feel that a number of the gardens seemed quite flat, following the “Centrifuge School of Design”, with each garden having been popped in a giant salad spinner so all the planting flew out to the edge.

Now that’s not to say that out of the many show gardens and exhibits that there isn’t a design and plant combination that catches your eye. Materials used in a new way that make you sit up and think hmm thats clever. The planting in many gardens was absolutely delightful with some beautiful combinations.


We both particularly liked the The Orchestra Gardens with “The science of Strings” being our absolute favorite.

“The garden is inspired by the science behind the sound produced by a stringed instrument. The key features are undulating lawns replicating sound-waves. Concentric circles, radiate outwards some planted, and some used as rills. Differing lengths of stainless steel wires connect to an archway to replicate the way a sound is created from altering the tension of the string. Planting is mainly grasses to replicate strings and the purple flowers of the Lavender suggest dancing notes.”

The planting in the “Time & Tide: Caldwell’s & Canute” was a calming and relaxed combination of agapanthus, phlomis and sisyrinchium to name a few. Many of the plants  were supplied by Bluebell Cottage Nursery who could also be found in the floral Marquee

“Planting on the enclosing bank reflects the coastal setting, with delicate flowers of blues and whites giving soft, flowing movement in the centre”.

Thought provoking and well executed “World without Torture” sponsored by Q-CAT (Quaker Concern for the Abolition of Torture) used many white varieties of plants collected by quaker botanists

“The front of the garden depicts an idealised World without Torture, with a deep, still pool and horizontal concrete posts that have been trodden underfoot. The planting features white cultivars of plants first introduced by Quakers. A stone figure releases a dove, with further doves depicted in wire embroidery taking flight across the chain link fence”.

Clever planting in “A Taste of Ness” garden where the planting followed the colour wheel.

“Planting is a key factor in any garden and is central to Ness Botanic Gardens. Here the planting sweeps around the plot, featuring bold colours and attractive flowers”.

The World Skills Gardens, where the landscapers worked in pairs to create four gardens as part of the WorldSkills Leipzig 2013 Squad UK Selection Competition for Landscape Gardening. The standard was exceptionally high especially considering the competitors ages range from 18 – 23.

“The UK garden highlights traditional skills that still thrive in the countryside today, in particular dry stone walling – a dry stone wall meanders through the garden. The wall creates a backdrop for a naturalistic style of planting that challenges the competitors”



The Back to Back Gardens are unique to Tatton and show how much you can achieve in a small space. Some are quirky, some have a very serious underlying message but  the thing that impressed us the most was the attention to detail and quality of their construction. Plus some even show you what to do if you cant make it to the Bottle Bank.

Students from Clusius College in the Netherlands designed the “Second Chance” garden, built from materials and plants that have been thrown away.

Given the aim of the RHS, that where possible materials and plants and materials should be ethically procured and hopefully recycled at the end of each show this garden seemed especially pertinent. I particularly liked the idea of re-using plants given the amount of energy and recourses used to grow them.



And lastly here we have another of Mr B’s favourites

Countryside Contained

I told you he was a trouble maker !





Hampton Court Flower Show – From the Head and the Heart

I was lucky enough to have a press pass for Hampton Court Flower Show and attended the launch of ” The Hort Aid Mowerthon” an epic fundraising venture between Perennial, Landscape Juice and Etesia.

I also intended to use the opportunity to write a blog post about the gardens, immediately, upon my return. However when I sat down to write, I realised that  I am first and foremost a lover of gardens and design but at no point in my life have I ever aspired to be a writer, so this has taken longer than I expected.

First and foremost when I go to a garden or a show, be it an RHS Show, an NGS Open Garden or a Botanical Garden I feel just like anybody who loves gardens and plants in all their amazing varieties. So for me, the initial response to any show-garden is an instant one, from the heart and not the head.

Secondly as a designer, I can look at the overall design and its execution and can appreciate the man hours taken and the attention to detail displayed within a garden. Plant choices can sometimes be a revelation showcasing new or unusual species or varieties. Even familiar plants can feel exciting again if you see them used in a new way.

So for me the the Best Show-Garden was ‘Light at the End of the Tunnel’ designed by  Matthew Childs. Descibed as a “garden about hope and recovery which has been inspired by Matthew’s experiences after being injured in the 7 July 2005 bombing at Edgware Road station.”

This garden worked for me both in terms of my head and my heart. The finish and attention to detail were excellent. From the transformation of the materials along the length of the tunnel, to the water dripping from the roof of the tunnel, giving it an uncomfortable cavernous feel.

The planting moves from the shade loving Aspleniums, Dryopteris and Euphorbia within the tunnel to a lighter more etherial planting style including Gaura, Geranium, Salvia and Stipas.

Included in the mix was Gypsophila paniculata, which I last saw several years ago at Chelsea, so long ago in fact the photograph of it, is exactly that, a photograph not a digital image.


I am a bit of a devil for photographs (thank goodness for the advent of digital pics) so later in the day, when the photographers had thinned out, I returned to the garden and was offered a leaflet by a lovely gentleman.

Now, it’s not always easy to know if the person offering you a leaflet at a show is the Designer, Landscaper or Sponsor and this chap seemed rather nervous, we had a brief chat during which it transpired he had been involved with the build, in a hole digging capacity and that he was just pleased to help. When I said he must be very pleased with the garden and admitted to him that it was a favorite of mine, a lovely smile spread slowly across his face and he said “I am, It’s my Sons’ Garden”

So you see, Matthew Childs  got my Head but it was his Dad, Peter, who got my Heart.

Hampton Court Flower Show – Perennial and Landscape Juice Launch Mowathon

Press day at Hampton Court Flower Show, saw the launch of an epic fundraising venture between Perennial, Landscape Juice and Etesia.

Left to Right – Anita Bates of Perennial (GRBS) Phil Voice (LJN) Les Malin of Etesia

The Monumental Mowerthon will be taking place in the autumn and will cover 1250 miles. Phil Voice of Landscape Juice Network will be driving an Etesia H124 Mower from Bergerac in France to John O’Groats in Scotland.

Talking with Les Malin of Etesia, they will be working hard to keep Phil on course to complete the epic journey on time. The H124 Mower will have a top speed of 20 miles and hour and will also have the addition of a cab to keep Mr Voice dry as our traditional Summer continues to be the wettest since records began.

Another nifty feature that Les may be included on the mower, is a tracking device. This will show you where, in real time, Phil has got to. So no cutting corners unless they’re grass!

We wish Phil and Perennial all the best with this Mad Cap Mowathon. If you would like to find out more and add your support for a charity which supports those in the horticultural industries please click on the Hort Aid link.

Brook Farm, Berrington

So what do you do when trying to organise a trip out to satisfy three generations of one family with ages ranging from 70 to 2 ?

Well if its up to me, you have a scout round for gardens to visit! Happily in this instance Twitter came to my rescue, in the form of @nicelittleplace who’s gardens at Brook Farm in Berrington would be open for the NGS

The His ’n’ Hers guide to the garden, given on arrival, is a lovely idea and shows a sense of fun, which, as you go around is evident.


Sarah and Willy talk you through their garden and it becomes apparent that this is a garden where space is negotiated between the couple and plans evolve, in other words a real garden.

The glimpses of the brook (from which I assume the house gets it’s name) and surrounding fields through the garden add an extra special element.



At Brook Farm the plants chosen by Sarah and Willy really are the stars, happily you never get the sense of ‘Garden Rooms’. Instead they have used the planting to give each part of the garden a subtly different feel, which has created a quintessentially English Country Garden.




NB if you carry on through the garden to to ‘The Ride’ look out for the Gunnera. At this time of year it is surrounded by flowering grasses and quite literally stopped me in my tracks.