Beach Huts for Birds

Rows of colourful bird houses

These colourful birdhouses from the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show made me think of beach huts, each painted slightly differently to their neighbours, but all in keeping with the spirit of the place. I need to rein in my imagination at this point before I start twittering about birds emerging from their huts in swimming costumes, clutching beach towels, ready for a few hours in the sun… followed by a refreshing sand bath… see what I mean?  Continue reading

Flowers From The Farm: Locally Grown and Eco-Friendly

Roses, mallows, sweet peas, and antirrhinums with foliage

The topic of flower miles is one of the secrets in the closet of the cut flower industry. I travel a good few miles myself so can’t be too judgemental. It’s easier to grow big blousy roses in cool mountains, near to the equator where the days and nights don’t vary in length that much during the year – places like Kenya and Colombia. The supply chains that bring the roses from overseas farms to our homes are longer and more complicated than most people would think.

I remember watching a flower auction in Japan – most flowers we buy in Europe come through a similar auction hub in Holland. If you know how much care, thought and anxiety go into producing flowers in any part of the world, it’s chastening to see them reduced to commodities.

Boxed up flowers are opened briefly on stage and shown to assembled buyers in a room laid out like a lecture theatre. Models trying not to wilt after a long distance flight without water would seem a good analogy, but the flowers had better not be wilting at this point as they have many more miles to travel. Buyers hold their nerves as the price ticks down like a clock. The quicker they press, the more they’ll pay per box. If someone else snaps them up first, it’s game over.

White mallow flowers

You might have noticed by now that some of the flowers illustrated simply can’t be transported that way. They have been grown by Flowers From The Farm’s members for their display at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show. The society promotes British grown flowers that don’t accrue air miles, being sold as locally as possible.  Continue reading

Rosa ‘Scepter’d Isle’ at Bodnant Garden

Pink rose with chalice shaped blooms

Rosa ‘Scepter’d Isle’ caught my eye during our visit to Bodnant Garden in Wales this week. The garden opens until 8 o’clock in the evening some Wednesdays during the summer (please check details online before visiting) so we could arrive fashionably late and still enjoy a (very) warm evening stroll.

We had planned to go a week or so earlier – given the choice, I prefer to catch the roses slightly before their peak when they are at their freshest, before the garden has time to need dead-heading. Winds gusting at 35-40mph put paid to that idea. Although the rose garden was a touch further on, it was still looking lovely, with rambling roses in flower on the many pergolas.   Continue reading

Sunlight Attack

Mossy bank with wild geranium leaf backlit by sun

Usually there are plenty of opportunities to pick an overcast day if we’re planning to visit a garden or, if not, at least chances to wait for a cloud. But this year is different. Unrelenting sunshine is not usually a big issue in northern England but Texan-style blue skies (with not a cloud in sight all day long) are all the rage.   Continue reading

Stone Angel

Angel's face

As a Doctor Who fan, I really ought not to like stone angels as much as I do. My sweetheart loves to visit cemeteries in his quest for tough plants (‘flowers even dead people can grow’). We often see cherubs but the more characterful angels, like this one holding out a lily in remembrance, are rare.  Continue reading

Crafts Style Wrought Iron Tree Gate

House gate with ginkgo shaped leaf pattern

Our landscape architect friend, Rick Griffin, says that the best way to add personality to a house is by doing something a bit special at the entrance. I like visiting Shrewsbury – I’ve written about it before – but of all the wonderful places there, the one I’d most like to receive an invite to is this private house. I know nothing at all about the people who live there, but by looking at their gate (plus a few peeks over their garden wall) I’ve formed an impression about them.  Continue reading

Geranium x oxonianum

Pale pink geranium with purple lace pattern

I’m a big fan of hardy geraniums and keep promising myself the luxury of a post to share some of the pictures I have gathered of them. The trouble is, they are so rarely labelled. I think this dainty beauty is G. x oxonianum ‘Lace Time’ (or similar). It’s hard to be certain as there are so many named varieties of these hardy geraniums, and often considerable colour variation even within the same clump, as you see.

Setting the difficulties of identification aside, I like the contrast between the flowers in this little cluster. The one on the right looks particularly radiant.  Continue reading