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.
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
I told you he was a trouble maker !
Sometimes it’s hard to keep your work life balance so when a friend, whom I haven’t seen for some considerable time, suggested a day out it seemed like a very good idea. When she went on to suggest a trip to Cottesbrooke it seemed even better.
For those that don’t know, Cottesbrooke Gardeners’ Fair is held in the grounds of Cottesbrooke Hall in Northamptonshire. I first heard about the fair two years ago, although it is in fact celebrating it’s 5th anniversary this year. Last year there was much talk of horrendous traffic queues along narrow twisty lanes, so much so, that it was agreed that we would meet up at stupid o’clock on Saturday morning and not worry to much about what time we would arrive. In the event the roads were clear and we arrived stupidly early.
First stop was the Know How Tent, to check out who was talking about what. We decided on the second talk of the day by Mark Diacono. This decision was in no way influenced by the lure of free cocktails.
Having booked the talk we had an hour free to do a spot of shopping, starting at the nearest exhibitor which by coincidence was The Otter Farm Stall. Szechuan pepper purchased and banter exchanged* it was time for the traditional day out bacon butty brekky.
Know How Talks
Marc Diacono’s talk was funny, interesting and ultimately challenging. Asking people to look at how and what they grow in their veg patch. Will I go on to grow two vegetables I hate next year, probably not. However I am most definitely looking at perennial veg in a new way and I have ordered some Egyptian Walking onions.
There are plenty of artisans displaying their crafts from wood to willow and steel to stone.
The plus point of this fair is you can break up the shopping by having a meander around the gardens. I did’t want to turn this day out into work so I had done absolutely no research into the house or its gardens. Each area is different but all work and create a pleasant contrast. Lots of lovely plant combinations and some great ideas for you to try at home.
Much has been made of the variety and choice to be found at this fair. We were a little disappointed as many of the stalls seemed to be offering near identical plants. This may be a result of the poor season we have had so far, resulting in nurseries buying in stock. However where this fair excels, is the relatively small number of independent specialist nurseries who who offer a real choice of unusual plants, unavailable at garden centers. SWINES MEADOW NURSERY offer a collection of some super unusuals. DYSONS NURSERY were selling Salvias to make you salivate. MEADOWGATE NURSERY specialise in gorgeous grasses but D’ARCY AND EVEREST shouldn’t be confused with MR D’ARCY’S heritage fruit trees, otherwise you may get an apple when you were expecting an alpine!
Whether you were purchasing the unusual or a more familiar plant, it seemed nearly every stall offered healthy and vigorous plants, no weedy end of display specimens here!
*according to Mr Diacono all plants should be named, so I have called my new Szechuan pepper “Justine Thyme”