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

Two Styles Of English Garden: Cottage and Formal

Yellow, apricot and blue cottage garden

If every garden (and every human) was the same, the world would be a pitiful place. These very different gardens seem to suit their respective home perfectly. Viewed together, each accentuates the other’s beauty.

The first, a private cottage garden in the grounds of Dorothy Clive Gardens, is super colourful, flower-filled and just a little laissez-faire. Flowers in shades of apricot, yellow and blue gaily tumble over each other above the unifying green, partly obscuring the view from the home and creating a feeling of privacy.

Formal garden with topiary cones

The second garden, Levels Hall in The Lake District, is grand, formal and manicured. Mullioned windows of a centuries-old stately home overlook topiary cones, tall yew hedges and garden benches. A stone urn acts as a centrepiece above a circle of bedding plants. Gravel makes the area pleasant for visitors to stroll through and continues along the same neutral vein as the benches and stone building. Our eyes, naturally alert to colour and variation, find interest in the different greens while noting the feeling of harmony and restraint.   Continue reading

Pebble Mosaic Garden Paving At Gresgarth Hall, Lancashire

Part of the joy of visiting Gresgarth Hall Garden is the chance to admire so many well-sourced, premium quality garden accessories – all the bits and bats as we say up North. Each thoughtful touch beautifully enhances the space, from the frog decorated tap (faucet), to garden benches, gates, cloches, terracotta planters, greenhouses – even the plant labels. The lady of the house, Lady Arabella Lennox-Boyd, includes five gold medal-winning Chelsea Flower Show gardens amongst her credits as a landscape designer. So the stone mosaic walkways in Gresgarth’s Zodiac Garden are par for the course: superb modern interpretations of an ancient art.

Pebble paving design: lion and sun motif

The Zodiac Garden’s hand-made pebble mosaic pathway features astrological signs (in this case, Leo) representing family members.

Knowing that pebble floor designs of ancient Greece, Rome and Mesopotamia still exist today makes me wonder how many centuries these designs will live on the garden pathway.  Continue reading

March Squares And Circles

Round water bowl with blue mosaic design

Becky’s March challenge asks us to share some circles within squares. I’ve enjoyed watching others take part and decided to contribute a few of my own. This blue water bowl was part of a collection of garden ornaments waiting their turn to be rolled out to a client by a garden design company. My landscape architect friend Rick Griffin believes that every garden should have all four elements, earth, air, water and fire, in real or symbolic form. Even empty, I think he’d agree the blue mosaic bowl does a great job of representing the idea of water.

View of a vegetable garden through a round hole

My second image shows a glimpse through a porthole shaped hole in the fence into a kitchen garden that is looking very green, bathed in sunlight.  Continue reading

Summer gardens from the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show: Final5 Retreat Garden

Final5 Retreat Garden

The small show gardens are a great way to see how plots of land diverge when each is dressed in carefully chosen colours, features and accessories to create a designer’s idea of gardening heaven.

I’ve only recently arrived back in the UK and this year’s show is all over but for the shouting. Undeterred, I’m determined to get into the spirit by giving a shout out to the Final5 Retreat Garden from last year. If you’re concerned that these pictures are old hat now, as styles have moved on to quarries and such-like in 2017, I won’t be hurt if you give this a miss and search The Reader for Hampton Court Flower Show instead. But if you’re still with me, here goes!   Continue reading

The Healing Urban Garden

Healing Urban Garden, Hampton Court

I’ve been meaning to share this picture of the HUG (the Healing Urban Garden) designed by Rae Wilkinson for the Hampton Court Flower Show. The garden looks much more open viewed from the front, but from this angle, it’s easier to see the style of the planting, which is densely packed and surprisingly linear. That’s the part of the garden that fascinates me.

It’s an interesting, textural effect, reminding me of the rows commonly used in crop gardens, such as cutting gardens or kitchen gardens. I wonder if for some people, the sense of order and rhythm underpinning the design makes it more relaxing? If asked beforehand, I’d have said I preferred plants to mingle together naturally, but something in my pattern-loving nature responds to the technique, especially as it’s not rigidly applied.

The plants included lots of aromatic perennials and healing herbs, such as lavender, artemisia, thyme, stachys, rosemary, salvia, allium, eryngium and nepeta. The calming, subtle colour palette of silver, blue and green was lifted by purple, the bronzy foliage of head-high, multi-stemmed trees and lavender, the latter carried through to the walls and accessories.  Continue reading

RHS Tatton Park Flower Show: The Outside-In Shed

The outside view of the Outside-In shed

At first glance, this might seem like quite a normal shed. Yes, there’s a tree growing out of the roof: I’ll give you that. And the fine collection of antique tools does seem to be overspilling in a surprisingly orderly fashion – it’s regimented, even, as if it were intended to be there. And is that just decking, or could it be the wooden floor of the shed, laid around the ground on the outside?

The Outside-In Shed was part of the Garden Hideaway section of the Tatton Park Flower Show. Talking to the designer, Carolin, we learned that a few days earlier it had been a brand new shed, and had been specially distressed for the show. Her term was ‘shabbyed’.

The garden was a 21st century designer’s version of the 17th century poets’ conceit. As The Poetry Foundation puts it:

a poetic conceit is an often unconventional, logically complex, or surprising metaphor whose delights are more intellectual than sensual.

Except that when plants are involved, you’re never that far away from the sensual. The twist was that the inside of the shed had been turned into “a peaceful garden made as a retreat from busy gardening”, to use Carolin’s words.

Peering inside, curious visitors found a hideaway of a different kind from that they might have been expecting: a wooden chair underneath the tree, surrounded by a miniature woodland garden of shade-tolerant plants. Variegated hosta, ferns, thick green moss, foxgloves, alchemilla mollis and carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’’ carpeted the floor, while a musky scented rambling rose, Rosa ‘Snow Goose’ had begun to climb up a trellis fastened to the wall. On another trellis, a young Trachelospermum jasminoides (star jasmine) added its sweet, heady scent to the mix.   Continue reading

Young Designers at the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show: Coastal Garden

Coastal Retreat

The Royal Horticultural Society is working hard to encourage young talent into the gardening profession and it’s great to see their efforts paying off. The gardens that caught my eye at this year’s RHS Tatton Park Flower Show were created by designers under the age of 28, competing in two newly launched categories that extend the RHS’s influential Young Designer Competition.  Continue reading

City Twitchers’ Garden

Hampton Court City Twitchers

The post inspired by this week’s photo challenge (circle) has been hatching for some time – since July’s RHS Hampton Court Flower Show to be precise!

When I first saw the garden, the snug dimensions of the globe wicker structure puzzled me until I realised it was a bird hide, woven by willow sculptor Carole Beavis. I must have been experiencing sensory overload at the time (Hampton Court can be like that) or you would have thought the bird houses on the walls, the log pile to attract insects and the wildlife-friendly flowers might have been a clue that this is an urban bird watchers’ garden. Even the cushion covers inside the hide have birds on them!  Continue reading