Finding [urban] Nature | RHS Tatton Park’s F[u]N Garden

If you’re the kind of person who smiles to see plants growing in cracks in (someone else’s) walls and pavements, puzzles over vines emerging from nowhere and loves the summer weeks when Buddleias with masses of arching, lilac-like flowers cling on to ‘seemingly every derelict building‘, this one’s for you.

Community garden on a brownfield site with deckchairs and bunting

I spoke to Roy Lancaster (a lovely fellow) at the Chelsea Flower Show years ago. Identifying me as a fellow Lancastrian by my accent, he told me how a local quarry’s unusual and diverse range of plants were brought to light when a schoolchild took a bunch of flowers to school for a nature project.

An abandoned area of disturbed land where people rarely tread is as good a home, if you happen to be a rare orchid, as anywhere else. Nature doesn’t have any concept of location, location, location – or at least not in the human way, where a house is worth ten times more in one place than in another.

Plants poking through layer of broken bricks and concrete

Plants flower where the seeds happen to fall, if they can. We’ve all seen a tangling of nature and building debris like this: we just don’t expect to see it faithfully recreated and offered up for our consideration at a flower show. Eds Higgins’ Finding [urban] Nature garden (hereafter, the F[u]N garden, following the designer’s styling) imagined a brownfield community garden as part of the RHS Young Designer Competition. 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

Verbascum ‘Caribbean Crush’

Verbascum 'Caribbean Crush'

This summer, you’ll be much more likely to see me out trying to capture different forms of verbascums on my iPhone than to see me playing Pokémon Go.

I added this one, Verbascum ‘Caribbean Crush’, to my virtual collection at the recent RHS Tatton Park Flower Show. The flowers open upwards as the sturdy spire lengthens, starting off a soft, peachy yellow, gradually deepening to a burgundy copper as they age. The effect is of two cultivars in one: very striking.

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