Celebrating The Southport Flower Show’s 90th Birthday

Southport Flower Show Poster from 1929

Southport Flower Show poster from 1929

Remember the days when the Town Hall was the place to go if you wanted ‘further particulars’ about an event? How life has changed since then! At this year’s Southport Flower Show, we had no horse leaping events, but we did have heritage animals, courtesy of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, including a pig that was more rare than a giant panda (and much the same size).

The cultivars may have changed over the last 90 years, but gladioli like those shown on the 1929 poster were on display in 2019, together with just about every August flowering plant you could hope for.

Perfect pink Japanese anemone flower with gold stamens

A serenely beautiful Japanese anemone

Amongst so many choice plants, this solitary, perfect, innocent-looking, pink Japanese anemone caught my eye. Continue reading

1 in 10 Garden by Charlie Hartigan

Flowers in the 1 in 10 Garden at Tatton Park Flower Show

I always look forward to seeing the finalists in the annual Young Designer competition at the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show. This is a detail of Charlie Hartigan’s 1 in 10 garden, voted the People’s Choice for the Best Large Garden. I loved the colour combination and the abundance of traditional cottage garden plants in a contemporary space.   Continue reading

Blue Flowers

Blue poppies at RHS Harlow Carr Garden

Blue poppies

Regular readers will know of my fascination with blue poppies (meconopsis). My timing has been out and I’ve only seen the odd one or two this year so here’s a picture from Harlow Carr last year.

Blue delphiniums in the Jungle Fever Garden, Tatton Park Flower Show

Blue delphiniums

Sightings of delphiniums are always very welcome too, be they stocky little spires or towering ones. The lovely folk word ‘bee’ describes the petals at centre of each floret. The stocky delphiniums above have white bees and the ones below, lavender-blue ones.

Tall blue delphiniums at RHS Garden Rosemoor

Tall blue delphiniums at RHS Garden Rosemoor

This year hasn’t been a flower dearth – far from it. Rosemoor provided me with as many flowers as I could hope for, even setting aside the roses I shared a fortnight ago. and even though my capacity to hope for flowers is huge. Continue reading

White and Chalky Pastel Flower Palette from the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show

Alcea rosea 'The Bride' - white double hollyhock

Alcea rosea ‘The Bride’

It’s just my personal taste, but while white flowers such as this double hollyhock entrance me, I’m rarely convinced by white borders. I take in the overall effect, think “Ooh! A classic white border. Perhaps it will be better at its peak?”, then move on.

This year’s Tatton Park Flower Show gave me an insight into what twist a white border might have that would truly inspire me: chalky pastels.

Rosa 'Kew Gardens'

Rosa ‘Kew Gardens’

Imagine this recipe: take pure white flowers, sully the mix with flowers that have creamy, ivory or white backgrounds decorated with streaks or blotches of pink, peach, yellow, lavender and green, then add a good helping of pure, pale pastel flowers. Use colours as soft as you dare to create a dreamy effect – I’m thinking of Edinburgh rock colours.

Lilium 'Colosseum'

Lilium ‘Colosseum’

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Highlights of the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show 2019

RHS floral logo with Chatsworth House in the background

RHS green floral letters

The grounds of Chatsworth House make a wonderful setting for the youngest of the major UK flower shows. I hope you’ll find something of interest in my personal picks from the show.

1. Seasonal Cut Flowers

Freddie’s Flowers had packed a breathtaking array of seasonal cut flowers in shades of lavender, cream and pink in the back of a truck to advertise their bouquet by post service. Continue reading

The Dorothy Clive Garden in Laburnum Arch Season

Metal arch supporting racemes of yellow laburnum flowers

I am usually drawn back to my favourite gardens at least once each year, timing my visit when they are at, or around, their peak of flowering. That can be a challenge. Seasons vary. Enlightened gardens work hard to make sure there is always something to tempt visitors during their open season, which makes ‘their peak’ relative, depending on which flower combinations delight you most.

I’m inclined to blame the tulips and spring bulbs for beguiling me in the past. Whether or not their rainbow glory can truly be faulted, I’ve always missed seeing the Dorothy Clive’s laburnum arch in full flower by just a few weeks or so (mere days in 2015). This year, as you see, I’ve been more fortunate. Continue reading

The Arbor Gate, Tomball, Texas

I’ve met many horticulture people I love, admire or both, but few I admire more than Beverly Welch who, together with her husband, Max, owns The Arbor Gate. No matter how many times I visit, I’m always taken by her hospitality, kindness and composure even on one of the busiest days in her calendar.

My sweetheart lectures there, so I don’t claim to be impartial. I’m a fan. It’s my favourite plant centre outside the UK and I suspect there aren’t many better ones in the world. I love wandering around, admiring the plants and marvelling at the garden art while trying to avoid being taken off guard by the Texan sun.

He’s actually lecturing at The Arbor Gate as I write, while I’m back in England, feeling nostalgic and making up for not being there by sharing a much overdue gallery of pictures from my visits over the last few years.

Colourful bank of petunias and annuals

Petunias and other bedding plants help give visitors a cheery welcome

One the plant front, visitors can expect to find roses, perennials, annuals, succulents, trees, shrubs, vines and a big collection of herbs.

Continue reading

Auricula Gallery from the Northern Section’s Cheadle Show 2019

Flowers with yellow eye, white ring, black feathering and green edge

Green edged Primula auricula

After writing my last post it occurred to me that I might have the chance to realise my long-held ambition and go to an auricula show. It was a timely thought: the N.A.P.S.’s Northern Section’s auricula show was held at Kingsway School in Cheadle on Saturday. Visitors were ‘warmly welcomed’ from 2 o’clock onwards, so I headed on down. Bargain hunters may like to note there was no admission fee and a whole table of cakes were being offered at the knockdown price of £1 per slice.

In the hall, people were peering at rows of circus plants with button shaped flowers in bright, bold colours decorated with rings, stripes, powder, and fancy edges.

Neat cluster of grey edged auricula flowers

Edged show auricula ‘Sea Peep’

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Primula Auricula ‘Old Irish Scented’

Yellow flower with white ring around the eye

There’s something alluring to me about auricula primulas, the racing pigs of the plant world. 19th century Lancashire working men collected these little darlings to bond over, lavish care upon, and to compete with against each other for the grand prize of a copper kettle. Today’s society helps give us an impression of how things were, back then: Continue reading

Six on Saturday From Arley Hall Gardens

Cluster of white and yellow flowers above botched leaves

Erythronium ‘White Beauty’

1 – This drift of Erythronium ‘White Beauty’ is calling out for a collective noun. An exhortation of trout lilies? (as these seem to be encouraging me to get out into the sunshine and stop writing) or perhaps we need a water connection – a splash of trout lilies? The marbled foliage is enough to send me into raptures, as some of you may remember, so you can imagine my satisfaction when they are all topped with flowers.

Plant with white-edged leaves and white four petalled flowers

White honesty (Lunaria annua var. albiflora ‘Alba Variegata’)

2 – Honesty is at its prime in my neighbourhood. It’s one of my favourite biennials, my fascination dating back to childhood when I loved to wonder over its flat, translucent seed disks. Lunaria annua var. albiflora ‘Alba Variegata’ with the white edging on its heart shaped leaves is an unusual form. Continue reading