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Showing posts from May, 2017

On the Iris Trail

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It was bearded iris time on our recent trip to France; also at last week's Chelsea Flower Show; and judging by my peeps into social media, it's currently iris time for many of you too.

I must admit I'm late to warm to these flowers. The earlier blooming Iris reticulata, then elegant Iris sibirica are usually my species of choice, but seeing so many fine bearded irises whilst away along with the steady drip feed of your photos finally got me thinking differently.

Then yesterday whilst sorting through my things, I found a leaflet from Cayeux nursery (which I picked up at Chelsea last week), which has answered all my doubts...



Doubt #1: They don't bloom for very long

Cayeux says: "If you select a mixture of small, intermediate and tall varieties you can have irises in flower from mid April until early June... And even after the flowering season the stiff fan of leaves is attractive for much of the year."

Update: my friend Helen commented there are some varieties w…

The Great Green Wall Hunt: At Chelsea Flower Show

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I came across the concept of green walls (aka living walls) at my first visit to Chelsea Flower Show in 2009 - you can see some of them here. It was interesting to see how they're displayed this time and how they've developed over the past few years.


Green walls were a must-have for Nigel Dunnett's garden for Greening Grey Britain, so it was no surprise there were two of them incorporated into his design. The one which interested me most was found at the back, enlivened by Jo Peel's street art.

This turned out to be a new-to-me type of green wall; low(er) in cost and lightweight, and designed to hang in order to hide ugly facades or fences. The wall contains a seed mix of fescue and wildflowers and was started around 4 weeks ago ready for the show. Unlike most green walls, this one is usually hung just after seeding and would initially be brown.

Like other walls of this type it has an irrigation system at the top which could be run off a rainwater harvesting system. I…

Wordless Wednesday: Is that Groot or an Ent?

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Say it with flowers

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I was all geared up to bring news from this year's Chelsea Flower Show, but after I'd heard the dreadful news from Manchester this morning, it seemed crass and too flippant to do so.

Then I remembered Interflora's Stories of Emotion exhibit whilst I was up at the plot this afternoon. The arrangements and their accompanying stories stopped me in my tracks yesterday, just as today's news has stopped me again.

My heart goes out to the victims and their families. I've decided to show a snippet from the exhibit as a reminder that a glimpse of beauty can always overcome adversity.

Chaumont First Timer

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I've heard loads about Chaumont International Garden Festival previously, but I never thought I'd actually get to go there. You can imagine I gave a quick hop and skip of delight when I found it was a must-see on our itinerary for France.

If you ever get the chance to go, do - it's quite unlike any garden show in the UK*. For starters the Festival lasts several months rather than days (from 20th April to 5th November this year), and each garden is surrounded by a beech hedge, housed in a permanent site which set aside from the rest of Chaumont's extensive grounds.

It also pays to put any preconceptions to one side as applications are drawn from a much wider circle of potential candidates than usual with around 20 to 30 gardens selected from a pool of hundreds of applications. Artists are well represented as well as those from the world of gardening and landscape design.

I could imagine RHS judges tutting behind me at the standard of each garden's finish, but that …

Garden Bloggers Blooms Day: Meet 'Daniel Deronda'

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I bought this clematis at my first visit to Malvern show (before I started blogging) for the princely sum of £2, because its extra-large blooms caught my eye - the diameter of each is about the size of my hand's span. It's one of the earliest clematis to flower, but until now it's been a little shy for me. This year is proving to be different, with many buds lined up below the three flowers you can see.

It's reputed to have both double and single blooms, with the doubles appearing first followed by the singles later in summer. This is because it can flower on old and new wood, though mine has always been single flowered, even when I forget to prune it like I've done this year (it's pruning group 2, in case you were wondering).

It was bred by Charles Noble in 1882, possibly a cross between C. lanuginosa (discovered by Robert Fortune in China) and a seedling of 'Fortunei' × patens. It's long servitude makes it a 'good doer' in my view, though…

Weekend Wandering: Let's start with a map

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Further to Wednesday's cri de coeur about where to start,I've created a Google Map to summarise our trip and to start to get my head around my amazing time in France. You can get the full interactive map experience here (NB do take the link, the map on display here is just a jpeg image). When you're in the map, click on each place on the map itself or on the list at the side, and you'll find some initial thoughts on each place we visited, stayed or ate at, plus a summary photo or two to set the scene.

Looking at the map, it's clear that in/near Rouen, Chartres and Tours would make ideal bases for various parts of the trip if you wish to see for yourself. Dieppe is a suitable alternative entry point for those of you in the south-east (from Newhaven), instead of our Portsmouth/Le Havre combo. We completed our tour in 5 days at full steam ahead, bookended by overnight cabins on the ferry. I'd recommend at least double that to enjoy and explore each place more ful…

Wordless Wednesday: Where to Start?

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Postcard from France

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I'm just about back from a few days in France with Naomi, where we visited 15 gardens in 5 days - 18 if you include those at our accommodation and a restaurant.

The gardens of Normandy and the Loire are so varied it's proved too difficult to select one scene for my customary postcard, so I've chosen a photograph of Notre Dame cathedral at Chartres instead, where we visited the astonishing Chartres en Lumières half way through our stay.

This festival of light has 24 walkable sites in the city, with three of them at the cathedral. This one tells the story of the cathedral builders and was an animation which lasted about 10 minutes. I'll reveal more from this amazing light show once I've edited the video I took. Now in its 14th year, Chartres en Lumières takes place nightly until 8th October 2017, with free entry.

Chartres is a beautiful city, with lots to see and do. You can see the towers of the cathedral from many miles away, and this plus our approach to the city…

Unusual Front Gardens #26: Wellies and Watering Cans

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British Land are adding a corporate touch to my Unusual Front Gardens strand with their colour co-ordinated narrowboat moored at the Paddington Basin, aka the Paddington Arm of the Grand Junction Canal.

NAH and I had a pleasant walk to here along the Regent's Canal from Camden Lock recently, taking in Regent's Park, London Zoo, elegant houses, boat owners' gardens and Little Venice along the way. It an easy escape from the hustle and bustle of London for two and a half miles. Here are some photos from our walk:


The boat owners' gardens also count as Unusual Front Gardens, especially where they spilled over and across the towpath.


Finally, back at Paddington Basin, we find the corporate watering cans. Don't be fooled by the grass, it's artificial!


GBMD: The perfect excuse for more strawberries

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According to the British Summer Fruits website, today's the first day of the summer berry season - hurrah!

English strawberries found in the supermarket today will probably be polytunnel grown due to the vagaries of our British weather. I've had good results with 'Mae' and 'Christine' grown outdoors on the allotment in previous years if you're looking for a good early variety to grow for 2018. They have a sweet flavour and high yields.

I can't guarantee strawberries for May 1st, especially after the recent cold weather - mid to late May is a much better bet. I have some frost-blown flowers on the allotment, but with plenty of unscathed ones showing promise. Stand by with the fleece if more frosts are forecast down your way and you should avoid flowers with the dreaded black middles.