Yesterday was rather momentous for us I was checking my emails when an alert came in telling me the blog was five years old. Well howdee down doodee and Happy Birthday I thought to myself. It must have taken me a day to get my head round this new technology back in 2012 as I didn’t actually publish anything until the 1st of February so today is officially the blog’s 5th Birthday.
So how to celebrate this most momentous of days, well cake would be a good start, most five year olds like cake. And yet I feel it should be marked with something more and as luck would have it I know just the thing. More than cake, I know, it sounds hard to beat but I hope you’ll agree with me that finally being able to say to all and sundry
‘Ive designed a Show Garden for the new RHS Show at Chatsworth’ is better than cake.
It’s all been a bit of a secret, firstly when the design went in we didn’t say anything, who knew if it would be accepted. Secondly when it was accepted you have to keep it hush hush until after The RHS Chatsworth press release.
I’m thrilled to have this opportunity and also extremely grateful to have been advised and encouraged along the way by a fabulous mentor, thank you Paul, but beyond that the concept of this garden is something I feel passionate about. So apologies in advance but having kept quiet for so long you may, just, get sick of hearing about it.
Have you noticed that everything’s a journey these days especially on the tellybox, everybody’s at it from butchers, bakers and garden makers
Well my lovely reader, not being one to shy away from the trend I too have been on a journey, both a personal one and a professional one. However as this is not “The Only Way is Gardening” you’ll be pleased to know that there will be no extended periods of navel gazing just lots of pictures of plants and gardens. Mostly mine in this post, but then again this is my blog so I think its allowed. There will be a more balanced approach in further posts I promise.
As some of you may know I was one of five designers from England chosen to have a design in The International Residential Garden Show held in the grounds of Huisten Bosh Nagasaki home of The Gardening World Cup.
There were lots of times during this trip I wish I’d had my camera to hand, not least the journey from the airport to my hotel. Traveling through the streets of Nagasaki by bus gives you an excellent view into gardens, which for a nosey Garden Designer was a treat. Lots of allotment style gardens with black loamy soil growing some plants I recognised and others which although I have grown before such as Colocasia or Elephants Ears I had never though of as edible (further research has lead me to believe they are) and lots of cloud pruning.
Further out of Nagasaki the landscape changed to take in fewer houses and more fields. Now being from a farming county fields are a common sight in Herefordshire, these however were paddy fields of a most glorious acid green and not surrounded by hedges but swathes of crimson Lycoris radiata also known as the hurricane lily. The sides of the hills were terraced with more paddy fields cutting onto forests populated by huge bamboos… stunning.
So far, so verbose, so it must be time for some pictures.
Nothing prepares you for Huis Ten Bosh, the scale of the place is epic as is the legendary piped music. You walk past the train station and over the bridge and bam, goodbye Japan
and hello Holland. It’s not often my journey to work takes me past windmills and canals.
And so to the grounds surrounding a replica dutch palace where my garden was starting to take shape….
…..and working with the ever cheerful Mr Ichinose and the ever resourceful Mr Masaki together we turned and empty plot into a little slice of England.
The irony of recreating a traditional British cottage garden in a replica Dutch town in Japan was not lost on me lovely reader.
We had everything you could need in this type of garden…..
……including naughty invisible chickens laying eggs in random places……
…..borders stuffed to the gunnels with a feast for the eyes, nose and stomach…….
…..so stuffed in fact the garden overflowed under the fence……
…..but in all the hustle and bustle of jostling plants my favourite spot…..
….somewhere quiet to take time out, and reflect on the garden and its visitors…..
Hide and seek seemed a popular game amongst the four and two legged visitors to the garden and I’ll leave you with perhaps my favourite picture, a little boy playing in the garden with his Mum.
I was having a chat with a friend today (who’s also a designer). They were just back from Tatton and as I can’t go they were filling me in on the gardens. The conversation got round to spacing plants, mostly because today I’ve been wrestling with a Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum and she’d been looking at show gardens.
I haven’t literally been wrestling with a shrub – well not yet! More wrestling with the problem of what to do with a semi mature shrub which is too big to successfully move and will eventually have a height and spread of anything up to 5m.
Why would that be a problem I hear you ask. Well, at a guess I’d say it was planted about ten years ago and still has some growing to do. That wouldn’t be a problem, if it hadn’t been planted about 30 cm from the edge of the path. So its either curtains or a severe hair cut.
The plant itself doesn’t seem to be bothered by its position and continues to grow happily and was most floriferous this spring. It is as shapely a shrub as you could wish for, just in completely the wrong place.
That’s where the conversation had got to, why would you plant a shrub that was ultimately going to get that big, right by a path?
If you knew it was going to get that big you wouldn’t – would you?
At that point we got back to show gardens and spacing. If for instance you didn’t know how big your plants would grow you might very well do this in your garden.
The problem is, as a Garden Designer I space my plants out. I fill the resulting gaps with annuals or biennials and bulbs to give it a full feeling with space to fill out. However as a Show Designer I am as guilty as the next in creating an unrealistic floral display.
So there’s the question, is space the final frontier for show gardens?
The brief for Malvern Spring Show is to depict a painting, photograph, or view in plants.
So, having decided on the Painting, “The Equatorial Jungle” by Henri Rousseau, and the type of plants, (shade lovers), I also thought it would be good to use as many British native plants as possible.
That was the plan, but to quote Robert Burns,
“ The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, Gang aft a-gley”
The batteries on my Chrystal Ball were obviously flat and I failed to foresee that this would be a very strange Stop-Start Spring.
The Aquilegias I had planned for the border flowered weeks ago (and very pretty they were too). Substitutes have proven to be elusive, however, I have discovered three plants in my own garden. They are the progeny of a rather delicate pink columbine, but I fear given the promiscuous nature of Aquilegia they may not take after their mother.
Only time will tell and I am fast running out of that at present.
My Chrystal Ball also failed point out that one of the nurseries would let me down at the last minute. Not a huge problem in itself, and all those plants, bar one, have now been sourced from other suppliers. The problem is when you look at the painting not having a white foxglove is a bit of an issue!
My plants are in various locations around the County, some I am growing here in the Teme-Valley. The rest are at Wychbold and Pershore, so happily everything has been sourced from Worcestershire. It has become a real home grown effort and I am hugely grateful to my local suppliers for their help and advice.
Back in November 2011, while attending an RHS seminar, I met the Show organisers from Malvern Show and they asked if I would be interested in their new project called “Painting with Plants”.
“Painting with Plants” is new to the Malvern Spring Show. The idea behind it is to provide 10 borders, each measuring two square meters, in which to represent a painting, photograph or local landscape. Each of the 10 borders will be raising the profile of a chosen charity, with three of the borders being awarded a £1000 prize for their charity.
Choosing which painting was slightly more difficult. I looked at paintings by Van Gough, Monet and Cezanne, but none of them were quite right. Then I remembered a painting by Henri Rousseau painted in 1891 called by some “Surprise!” and others “Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised!)”. Although I loved this painting for the movement and atmosphere, to be absolutely honest I couldn’t quite see how to represent the tiger in plants!
After several days of trawling the internet and scouring the pages of art books in the library I finally decided on another painting by Henri Rousseau, “The Equatorial Jungle”.
Image from From Wikipedia
The plants in Rousseau’s painting seem to be inspired by his visits to the Botanical Gardens in Paris, and while some of them are quite recognisable others are pure fantasy.
So what came next was to think of the best way to recreate the painting with plants that would give that same jungle feel at a show in May.
I want to link the planting with the way Thrive and Perennial help those people who find themselves in difficult situations. So thinking in terms of gardens, most people will struggle to find plants for a shady situation, so that is where I decided to start my search. Most of the plants I am going to use are those that will tolerate theses shady places. I hope to link the painting, the planting and the work the charities do, to achieve a lush leafy border.