One Perfect Rose

Perfect rose at a flower show arranged against foliage

The exquisite bud-within-a-flower form of this rose makes it a winner on the show bench. Labelled Rosa ‘Dr. John Dickman’, this flower only has a hint of the mauve colour I’ve seen in other pictures – perhaps that’s the effect of the light level in the marquee, or it may be that the flower will develop more pronounced mauve tones as it matures. It’s a miniflora rose, which means that the leaves and flowers are larger than a miniature rose but smaller than a floribunda.  Continue reading

Virtual Streptocarpus Collection

Purple flowers with creamy lower petals

Streptocarpus ‘Gold Dust’

Although I have never grown a streptocarpus, I do collect these generous plants after a fashion, by taking pictures of them and sharing my virtual collection here. Much of my material comes from Dibleys Nurseries’ award-winning displays at the major UK flower shows that attract me like a bee to honey. Their plants always look in wonderful condition, each flower jostling with its neighbour for our attention. Add in the variety of colours, patterns and forms and you have a flower photographer’s treat.  Continue reading

RHS Hampton Court Flower Show’s Twilight Zone

Cross-sections of a boulder fitted together to make a path

A 8ft meteor has fallen to earth, coming to rest in a garden. The impact has blackened the fencing, scorched vegetation and reduced trees and shrubs to charred branches.

The path is miraculously unscathed: not quite so old as the meteor, it has been made from a Caledonian boulder formed millions of years ago. Smaller boulders lie around, giving the floor added dimension and creating a lovely backdrop for the silhouettes of low growing plants and twisted embers of wood.

Charred, twisted branches amongst foliage and flowers

The dark planting scheme glows red hot in places: the chocolate-red cosmos and orange-red helenium firing up the green and pewter foliage, the burnt wood and the futuristic lilacs. This is the Elements Mystique Garden from RHS Hampton Court Flower Show 2018, but the setting would not be out of place in an episode of The Twilight Zone.  Continue reading

My Top Twelve Picks from the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show

  1. Award-winning fruit (and veggies)
Basket of cherries, gooseberries and currants

Andrew Baggaley’s first prize winning basket of cherries, gooseberries and currants

2. Bees for Manchester

3. The Young Designer Competition

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the competition, five finalists have been invited to create gardens rather than the usual three. This is always one of my favourite parts of RHS Tatton Park Flower Show.

Calm in Chaos Garden was designed by Max Harriman to be like a woodland trail

Continue reading

Gate leading into wildflower field with foxgloves

Hay Time In The Dales: People’s Choice Award Winner At RHS Chatsworth

Chris Myers and I were chuffed to bits by the turn of events at The RHS Chatsworth Flower Show last week. We both had good reason. After a slow start (the judges’ Silver Medal theoretically rated it worst in show), the garden he’d designed was validated by the popular vote, being named the one the public loved most. Me? I’d been rooting for it!

Foxgloves and wildflowers growing beside a cottage

Naturalistic plantings were a theme of this year’s show, but his garden was a hymn in praise of wildflowers (or more of a folksong). I enjoyed lingering awhile, listening to the sighs of pleasure as people glimpsed Hay Time In The Dales for the first time and felt its emotional pull. I knew this garden would haunt me, and it already is.

I thought of it when our evening walk took us past a flower-rich hay meadow between Edgworth and the Wayoh Reservoir. Around its peak now, the wildflowers include buttercups, yellow rattle, meadow vetchling, red clover, wild blue lupins, and a blend of grasses. A public information sign beside the meadow explains this patch of land represents what is now one of the rarest habitats in the UK.

It all seems so normal, and that’s part of the problem.    Continue reading

Six on Saturday From The RHS Chatsworth Flower Show

I’m joining in with The Propagator to share my six favourite plants from the ongoing UK flower show that runs until Sunday 10th June. It’s a good discipline to be just allowed six, but you should know there was a small battle for every one of these slots. I hope I’ll not be the only one this week to share pictures from Chatsworth, as I’d love to see other people’s highlights. Here goes:

  1. Digitalis ‘Foxlight Rose Ivory’

Pink foxglove flowers with speckled, cream throat

Looking this up online, the first search result is a data card for trade sellers, saying: ‘…bold novelty colors boost retail appeal and drive impulse sales’. I’m sure they will! I had thought this foxglove was part of the Illumination series, but was puzzled by the pointed lip, so was pleased to find I’d photographed the label. This doesn’t always happen, especially if I am over-excited to see the plant.

2. Polemonium ‘Northern Lights’

Polemonium cultivar with blue backed flowers, lighter inside

I’ve always had a soft spot for polemoniums. This cultivar has a radiance because the lighter centres of the flowers are displayed against lavender blue petal reverses. The yellowy-orange stamens help too.

3. Gaura ‘Rosy Jane’

White gaura flowers with a pronounced pink edge

I love gaura (butterfly bush), even though it does much better in my sweetheart’s Mississippi garden than it ever did in my own tiny Lancashire one. Continue reading

Highlights of the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show 2018

Model in white dress and flowery hat

Model with flowery hat at the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show

As we wound around Derbyshire’s beautiful but narrow Peak District roads towards our sneak preview of the Chatsworth Flower Show yesterday, knowing how limestone has shaped the environment, making the ground glitter in places, I thought of one of my favourite poems: W.H. Auden’s ‘In Praise Of Limestone’.

I love the poem’s conversational style, but its abrupt changes of tone and subject matter might not suit everyone. Just as we can only read a poem from within the landscape of our own mind, we can only ever experience a flower show from our own perspective. My idea of tasty flowers and planting schemes might not be yours.

Labrador dog in a show garden at RHS Chatsworth Flower Show

‘The Great Outdoors’ by Phil Hurst won Chatsworth Gold…

This year’s Best in Show award, for example, went to an attractive display with a lot of interesting elements, including the characterful wooden arbour, bench and water feature. Continue reading

Four Floral Designs From Flower Shows

A floral design with wool, twigs, small leaves and yellow pom poms

Variegated geranium leaves, yellow pompons, wool swizzles and twigs make up one of my favourite designs I’ve seen at a flower show. Yes, it’s tiny and the florist hasn’t spent a fortune on flowers, but it wows me with its colours, poise and confidence.

The judges’ card noted some fault or other – from memory, it lacked flowers or content. I could quote a poem that is equally brief and perfect, but I’ll forbear. The brief might have been ‘Pack ‘Em In’, for all I know, in which case, this would have been highly commended:

Dish of flower buds and orchids for a wedding

Ivory, pink and hints of green lift a white floral centrepiece that would be perfect for a traditional summer wedding. Orchids, rosebuds, peony buds, chrysanthemums and lisianthus feature, with tiny sprigs of gypsophila and hebe, at a guess. I think the clusters of flowers and tiny green buds are Kalanchoe ‘Calandiva White’. Silver-grey mohair yarn trails delicately over. I enjoy the expertise shown here: the ability to create such an even height and the tapestry effect that prevents open ‘black holes’ that can appear when floral designs are photographed.  Continue reading

Rose Bloom With Raindrops (And Did I Meet A Queen?)

Rose bloom with raindrops

I’ve hesitated to share this picture of a rose, even though it’s one of my favourites. The colour, though attractive, is not typical, which is why I’ve not provided the variety name on the picture file. It may seem like a harsh assessment of a flower, but this one is too apricot. This variety is supposed to be pink, though admittedly with a good hint of apricot. This one is apricot with the merest touch of pink.

I would hope most people are at this point thinking – ‘Why on earth would anyone prevaricate about whether a rose is pink, apricot or somewhere in the middle? It’s a very nice looking rose. I’d be happy to have it in my garden. Just let it be’. Quite. But for many gardeners (and brides), the shade does matter. They want a white rose to be white, not cream, and a red rose to be red, not pink. Simples, as the meerkats would say. Continue reading