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Showing posts from May, 2014

Shows of Hands: University of Bristol Botanic Garden

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Today's Shows of Hands is courtesy of Andy Winfield who kindly emailed me this picture from the University of Bristol Botanic Garden. He says:

"The plant is Osteospermum jucundum in our South African display and the hands belong to various staff and volunteers. I wanted the hands to form a circle around the flowers but with the age of some of the volunteers it would have meant them moving into positions they hadn't taken up for some years (their words not mine)."

I did ponder adding this photo to Monday's Puzzle Corner Special, but I loved the smiley face on one of the hands and I felt this might get lost in a smaller photo. Thanks for a great shot Andy!

I also owe Andy an apology. In my previous post about visiting the garden, I promoted him to the position of Head Gardener. His actual job title in my view is equally grand: Botanical Horticulturalist. Oops - he was subjected to a great deal of teasing as a result of my error, sorry! Andy says he's just "…

From Horatio's Garden With Love

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Today's Shows of Handsis particularly special because it was sent to me by Olivia Chapple from Horatio's Garden. She explains in her email:

"I have attached a picture of our hand oak motif carved into a bench by Titus – Horatio's brother. The symbol represents the bringing together of nature and kindness which is the ethos of Horatio’s Garden."

Regular readers will have spotted that I managed to include Cleve West - the garden's designer - in last week's special from Chelsea Flower Show.

For those of you who are reading about Horatio's Garden for the first time, I'm delighted to link to their introductory video again:


Horatio's Garden from Horatio's Garden on Vimeo.

If the embedded video doesn't work, try this link instead.

If you're around Salisbury at the end of next month, you might like to attend their summer drinks party on Friday 27th June in the evening, or their 2nd Food and Plants Fair on Sunday 29th June, 11am to 3pm (ther…

Puzzle Corner: Shows of Hands Special

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Thanks to everyone who's contributed to Shows of Hands so far - plenty's been happening via blogs, Twitter and email :)

Naturally quite a few of the pictures submitted involve plants, so I've put some of them into a fun picture ID Puzzle Corner special.

There's just 5 plants and flowers for you to name. For pictures 1 to 4, I'd like the latin name please and there's a bonus point for each of the cultivar* names for pictures 2-4. Picture 5 is a pesky usurper weed amongst the lavender, so there's a point for its common name and a bonus 2 points for the latin.

That makes a maximum 10 points available and I'll put up a link to the answers at the end of the week.

* = I've checked the RHS Plant Finder and it looks like they are all cultivars (propagated by cuttings rather than seed) as this part of their names is in quotes and isn't italicised (this article nicely summarises the nomenclature and cultivation differences).

My thanks to @AlanEDown, @Bri…

Salad Days: Groundbreaking Food Gardens

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Today's Salad Days is a little different. Have a look at the top middle of the book cover on the right, can you see why that might be? (click to enlarge if needed)

Yes, The 52 Week Salad Challenge has made it into print! It's one of 73 contributions to Niki Jabbour's latest book, Groundbreaking Food Gardens, which is going down a storm.

2 years ago, Niki and I got chatting on Twitter after I mentioned her last book as part of the Challenge. It resulted in her asking if I'd like to contribute a 'plan' to her next book, based on the 52 Week Salad Challenge.

I said yes, but secretly I felt rather daunted. To me, 'plan' meant 'design' and I was only a couple of months into the Challenge at the time. Niki was very persistent though and assured me only a rough drawing would be needed and the book's artist would do the rest.

Still I procrastinated, but by September 2012 I finally felt able to put something together. However, Niki needed it immediat…

Chelsea Flower Show: Unexpected Items in the Bagging Area

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This post was inspired by a conversation with Linda Smith of the Waterside Nursery in the Great Pavilion a couple of years ago, but events conspired against me completing the task. Until now...


Imagine the scene. You're exhibiting your prize plants at Chelsea Flower Show for the first time and you're putting together the equipment you'll need to construct the staging for your stand. Your pots, materials, tools and props are gathered together, but you have a feeling you've overlooked something absolutely vital.

You turn to your experienced colleagues for their advice ~ what useful but unexpected items do they keep in their bagging area?


Waterside Nurseries use this tea strainer to keep their water clear of all the pollen and other bits which drift into the Great Pavilion and settle on the water. They also have a handy supply of bricks - not for using as stands for their plants, but for making sure they don't fall over.

How the Barbados team are keeping things hydrat…

Shows of Hands at Chelsea Flower Show

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It's great to have the opportunity to connect together both Chelseas:  Flower Show and Fringe via my Shows of Hands project. These photos are designed to give you a slightly different flavour of this year's flower show.

The main picture shows the meticulous plant preparation that goes on before it's even selected to adorn an exhibitor's stand in the Great Pavilion. From top right to bottom left we also have:

Part of the quirky bench which greets visitors when they enter the show groundOne of the judges refuses to show me how the assessment of the show gardens is progressingPaul Debois shifts his photography kit in preparation for another shot in the Great PavilionA more unusual view of a Chelsea PensionerBeatrix Potter makes friends with Peter RabbitPart of Burgon and Ball's trade standCleve West takes yet another phone call
I was especially pleased to see Paul because his work inspired Shows of Hands and I'd wanted to connect up with his Wildlingsproject for C…

Views From the Show Gardens

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I'm back from a couple of jolly days at Chelsea Flower Show which was hot, steamy and thoroughly enjoyable. I had an extra special treat as I was invited onto a couple of the show gardens. Yay!

The above picture is the view whilst relaxing on the wonderful bench of Positively Stoke on Trent a garden designed to demonstrate city's forward thinking and use of renewable resources to power its future. The children you can see on the left were involved in growing some of the plants for the garden.


The planting started with cool greens and whites then progressed through pinks to the deepest of reds. This represents the heating of the groundwater which Stoke is tapping into for heating schemes in the city. The garden's pool also had satisfying bubbles and ripples rising up to the surface to represent the same theme.


Of course, no garden from Stoke should ignore its pottery heritage, so here's one of the specially commissioned pieces from Moorcroft at the warmer end of the pl…

Shows of Hands: Chelsea Fringe 2014 Launch Special

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Last Friday saw the official launch of this year's Chelsea Fringe and as you can see I took the opportunity to link it with my Shows of Hands project. Guess which photo is Tim Richardson, the Fringe's founder and Director?

Hmmm... let's see...

... correct - he's in the middle photo on the bottom row. The other photos are:

Rosetta Sarah Elkin, the creator of Tiny Taxonomy, a fabulous installation in Belgrave Square, which was chosen the as the event to launch this year's Fringe. More on this project below.Vanessa Berridge points out a cheeky ant addition to one of Tiny Taxonomy's plantsAnni Gatti shows me the installation map, because they'd run out before I could nab oneMarty Wingate's frou-frou peony peeping out from her goody bagMatthew Wilson who's heavily involved with the Fringe via The Greening of St Pancras International Station and yesterday's recording of Gardeners' Question Time

After a brief introduction to this year's Fring…

Chelsea Fringe 2014: Shows of Hands - Episode I

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Welcome to Shows of Hands- my Chelsea Fringe project for 2014! As you can see I've been having a bit of a play around in Pic Monkey for my first contribution. You're welcome to join in between now and 8th June 2014.

The idea behind this year's project is to highlight the tool most precious to a gardener: their hands.

How do I take part?

It's simple. All you need to do is take a photo of hand(s) in a gardening context and then share it via your blog or other social media (such as Twitter or Facebook), then make sure I know you've done so. I've set up Mr Linky below for your blog contributions. The Chelsea Fringe photo on the right sidebar links to this post, so you can easily find it again when you're ready to add your contribution.

If you share your photo on Twitter, the hashtag to use is #showsofhands and my chatty Twitterid is @Malvernmeet. I also have a Facebook Page for Veg Plotting, if you'd like to tag or share via my Page.

But I don't have a b…

Chelsea Sneak Preview: Hillier Nurseries

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When I was at Hillier a few weeks ago for their double book launch, I also took them up on the offer to have a look around one of their nursery sites. Here product manager Steve Austin is telling us about some of the plants they've launched at previous Chelsea Flower Shows. With one exception...


... Weigela middendorffiana 'Mango' will be launched at this year's show. Quite a change from the pinks and reds associated with this shrub. If the weather's been kind enough, 2 Cotinus, 'Ruby Glow' and 'Candy Floss' will be also be launched.

This year Hillier are due to reprise a number of the successful features from previous show gardens as part of their 150th birthday celebrations and hopefully garner a 69th consecutive gold medal in the Great Pavilion. There will be a White Garden to echo 1999's Green and White Garden, plus the usual great gathering of rhododendrons and azaleas to echo those which feature so strongly at the Sir Arthur Hillier Garde…

The One Where I Heart Raised Beds Even More

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The main allotment project for 2014 was to install the mother of all raised beds. I wrote about the smaller ones I built last year and they're marvellous. They may be hard work initially - ensuring a plot free of couch grass where they're to go isn't easy, nor is emptying the compost bins required to start them off - but oh, the delight of weeding through soil the consistency of soft butter, when the rest of my plot is hard clay is a complete joy.

I'd come round to thinking I'd like a really big raised bed, so I could try growing  the more expansive crops like squash and to try my hand at no-dig spuds like Naomi has already. So you can imagine my joy when the cheerful chaps at WoodBlocX gave me an allowance to choose whatever I wanted from their catalogue. No problem, I'd LOVE a 3 metre x 1.125 metre x 2 BlocX high raised bed please :)


The kit arrived a while back and NAH's eyes lit up at the prospect of assembling a 'lego kit' for adults. Well, he…

Evolution Plants Open Day

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My update this month is slightly different as I'm going to tell you about the nursery's first open day rather than having a chat with Tom. He was rather busy last Saturday, so didn't need me hounding him all the time. As you can see, Evolution Plants has had quite a makeover since our last visit...

... well actually, that's Belcombe Court, a jaw dropping garden just outside Bradford-on-Avon on the road to Avoncliff. I won't take you round the garden in this post, as this is Tom and Evolution Plants' story. What I will say is this garden is very rarely open to the public and part of it was designed by Arne Maynard. If you want a peek, then the only chance you'll have this year is on May 25th, when the garden is open in aid of the Red Cross.

My day started at Belcombe Court because this was the location for Dan Hinkley's talk, a rather juicy part of Tom's arrangements for the open day.

It was the third time I've heard Dan speak and this time it w…

A New Look Malvern

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I experienced two 'new looks' at Malvern Spring Show yesterday - the revamped look intended by the organisers, plus my first ever visit to a gardening show where it rained pretty much all day. I still managed to thoroughly enjoy myself, despite the squelchiness underfoot and having to reprogramme my mental map of the show's layout garnered from previous visits.


The show gardens are in a different spot, so they now have the Malvern Hills as their backdrop which helped to set them off nicely. The Floral Marquee is now by the North entrance so I entered the show straight into horticulture. There's more room inside too, so it made it much easier to see everything and I could see visitors in wheelchairs were able to view the stands in comfort. The foodie side of things has been expanded too and I have to confess making a few purchases, so I didn't need to cook after such a long day.


I leave you with my favourite school garden from the day. These are often the most inno…

Tree Following With Lucy: May

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As anticipated in last month's Tree Following post, the scene for May looks very different. As you can see, my ash tree has sprouted plenty of fresh, zingy new leaves. These appeared on April 9th, well ahead of the oak up at the allotment whose buds finally decided to break on April 27th*.

Have you noticed when you start watching something closely, how lots more questions form in your mind? In this instance I'm intrigued how the ash I'm watching from my back bedroom window is much further advanced than the ash tree neighbouring our front garden. The trees are only a few yards from each other and in similar situations, so why has one so much more leaf cover than the other? I shall be watching both trees from now on for clues as to why it might be...

This might be the last time we get to see Mr and Mrs Pigeon canoodling on the branches (click to enlarge the picture if needed) as the leaf cover is beginning to hide them from our sight. No doubt I'll still be able to hear…