My Favourite Photos from Chelsea 2016

These are the plants and gardens that caught my attention at Chelsea this year. 

I love these purple beech mounds. A masterclass in planting by Jo Thompson. I am not using box, because of blight. I’m experimenting with yew and ilex green gem, and will now add beech to the list to try out. 

I’m not going to pull up my wild geraniums after all. I love the woodland edge planting by Cleve West, inspired by his childhood memories of Exmoor National Park. 

Step over fruit and the most glorious herbs in Jekka McVicar’s Modern Apothecary garden. 

I would love to grow more clematis plants 

More amaryllis for the greenhouse 

Peonies do well in my garden. They can be grown in shade, and don’t mind cold, windswept conditions.

Such a beautiful colour. Coral Charm.

More tulips are on my shopping list for this Autumn. 

Mum grows begonias like this. Some are five or six years old. She just dries them out over the winter, and starts them back into growth in spring.

Delphiniums and begonias from Blackmore and Langdons. This beautiful pale lilac and  blue one is called Spindrift. 

A few more fuchsias. This was the Roualeyn Fuchsias display, from Conwy, North Wales.

New pelargonium from Fibrex Nursery, a family run business from Stratford on Avon,UK. Holders of national collections of pelargoniums and hedera. 

The scent from these violas was just amazing. From Wildegoose Nursery,

I lingered by these sweet peas for quite some time. This is a display by Eagle sweet peas, from Stafford. 

What a colour!

Foxgloves higher than me from The Botanic Nursery, Wiltshire . 

These caught my eye. A new strawberry called Cupid for a late cropping. From Ken Muir. 

Hardy’s nursery new white Cirsium Frosted Magic. 

Hardy’s gorgeous white Centurea Montana Alba.

Hard to miss this Geum Scarlett Tempest. New for Hardy’s. 

Thyme path -A Modern Apothecary by Jekka’s Herb Farm.  This garden will be relocated to St John’s Hospice in London.  

More potatoes – a display by the James Hutton Institute, Dundee.

A bouquet for the Queen. I was lucky enough to watch this being created. 

Container heaven.

And finally. Where can I fit one of these in my garden. I’m sure I’ve got a space- somewhere…..

What were your favourites this year?

Chelsea Flower Show Highlights

Here’s my photo highlights of Chelsea 2016. If you have limited time and energy to see everything at Chelsea. Just follow this route to see my favourites.

Start at Diarmuid Gavin’s Harrod’s British Eccentrics Garden. You have to see it really. You just can’t go home without spying those twirling bay trees. And remember that while we are all worrying about box blight, Diarmiud has got mechanical failure to contend with. He’s got no one to blame but himself. 

You can’t hide in there, Mr Gavin. Diarmuid heads for the potting shed as the judges inspect his creation. 

Just along the Main Avenue is Ann-Marie Powell’s Greening Grey Britain garden, sponsored by the RHS.The  planting is a glorious combination of pink and orange. Wins my award for most cheerful garden at Chelsea, and there are lots of ideas to “borrow.” I love the edible planting in pots, the scaffolding pergola swathed in climbing Westerland Rose, and the seating where you can relax and watch the wildlife. It’s a  welcome change to be allowed to walk through a garden at Chelsea. That’s what we do in real life- we don’t stand at a barrier and just look into a garden.

Cross over the Main Avenue – and be transported to Provence. James Basson’s L’Occitane garden makes you feel as if you are standing right on the edge of a lavender field in sunnier climes. The scent is something you’ll remember long after the show. Wins my award for most relaxing garden at Chelsea. I needed to stand there for quite some time after battling my way on the train and underground.

Also on Main Avenue, The Telegraph Garden by Andy Sturgeon takes you to the semi-arid foothills of the Andes in Chile. I love the orange isoplexis. Beautifully captures the spirit of the place. I stood in wonder.

Virtually next door on the Main Avenue is Cleve West’s M&G Garden, inspired by the ancient oak woodland of Exmoor National Park. I love the woodland-edge planting and the little pools of water in the rocks. 

Don’t  miss Rosy Hardy’s first show garden, on Main Avenue, the Brewin Dolphin Garden- Forever Freefolk. A reminder of the fragility of beautiful chalk streams- and a plea to value and protect them.

Turn the corner onto Royal Hospital Way and find Jekka McVicar’s first show garden, created for St John’s Hospice- called A Modern Apothecary. This is the garden  I most wanted to transport home. A place of calm in the midst of all the busy chaos.

And finally, on the Rock Garden Bank is Matthew Wilson’s triumph- A Garden for Yorkshire. It really is a sight to behold. Inspired by the Great East Window at York Minster, it simply transports you to God’s Own County. 

What are your highlights of Chelsea 2016? Let me know what you think of this year’s gardens. 

 Chelsea Flower Show 2016

The words Fun and Happiness sum up Chelsea 2016- for me.

Diarmuid Gavin, as always, provides the fun. And Ann-Marie Powell has the word Happiness written in 10 different languages all through her paving. 

The moment I set eyes on those words, I thought Ann-Marie  had perfectly summed up the mood for this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

For the first time, it’s not all about how much money you’ve got to spend- it’s about making the best of what you’ve got- and just enjoying gardening.

Ann-Marie’s garden- commissioned by the RHS – perfectly captures the message that gardening is good for you. It’s good for mental and physical health. And it’s not all about big budgets. Or big spaces.  The rose covered pergola -is made from recycled scaffolding poles. And the potting shed roof is packed with containers growing fruit and veg. I even spotted a beehive up there.

As for the planting-it’s a joyous riot of pink and orange. It shouldn’t work- but somehow it does. Maybe because the pink is lychnis flos-cuculi- a wild flower that has such happy childhood memories for me. I grew up on a farm with water meadows- waist high in those pink flowers, commonly known as Ragged Robin,combined with bright yellow buttercups. Ann-Marie has partnered the wild flowers with orange geums which give the same bright meadow look- mixed in with lots of grasses. 

It’s a sight guaranteed to lift the spirits- and sets the scene for the rest of the flower show. If you are heading to Chelsea this week, Ann-Marie’s garden is located directly in front of the new-look RHS Hub. But to be honest- you really can’t miss it.

Cheerful combination of pink Ragged Robin with Orange Geum Prinses Juliana and tufted hair grass Deschampsia cespitosa. The bird feeders are made by blacksmith Alex Moore,  @MooreDesignsUK. The benches are also made by Alex. If you are like me, and notice beautiful small details, you can also spot his work on the Jekka McVicar garden. The pretty rose arch and twisty metal border edging is by Alex.

Ann-Marie working on the planting on Sunday. The flowers include alliums, lupins,salvia, geraniums and aquilegia. This is a garden to walk through,rather than just look at from a distance. 

I loved this bright pink geranium (possibly palmatum) waiting to be planted on Sunday. How do they get it to look so perfect by Monday.

All finished by Monday-and still smiling. Ann-Marie Powell in front of the scaffolding pergola with climbing rose Westerland. The garden was commissioned to promote the RHS Greening Grey Britain campaign. I think it succeeded. 

And finally- a photo of Diarmuid Gavin’s British Eccentrics Garden, inspired by the cartoons of William Heath Robinson. It’s wacky, a bit  bonkers, and mesmerising for 10 minutes. But don’t take it too seriously. Go on- smile! It’s good for you! 

A Visit to Easton Walled Gardens

After  a visit to Easton Walled Gardens, I return to my own little patch, and feel like anything is possible- I can take on any challenge. 

Easton’s  Ursula Cholmeley has approached her major restoration project with so much courage and determination, spending a few hours in her company is all that’s needed to boost my enthusiasm.

Easton was lost under tree saplings and brambles until Ursula started work on the garden 16 years ago. The decline started when Easton Hall, the mansion house that used to stand on the site, was requisitioned at the start of the Second World War. The soldiers stationed there caused so much damage that restoration was not a viable option. There was talk of gunfire being heard in the house and grenades thrown into the greenhouses. 

As a result, the house was literally bulldozed down in 1951, and some of the stonework and debris has been left along one bank to show what conditions were like when Ursula took on the garden. Poignantly, only the gatehouse remains- and that only survived because the bulldozer broke down. It’s a tantalising glimpse of what glories have been lost. Photographs of the old house show magnificent tall glass windows and an orangery overlooking the terraces.

If you visit Easton, you can walk up the flight of stone steps and stand on the spot where there is just the ruins of a bay window left. Standing there, you can survey the scene, and imagine what it would have been like to live there.

Now, thanks to Ursula’s vision and hard work,  you can see a reconstruction of the gardens. Looking out from the terrace, you see the walled gardens in the distance with fruit trees and roses planted through a meadow. Mown paths represent the original paving. 

The terraced banks are full of wild flowers. They are yellow with cowslips today, and we think we spotted orchids.  We stood and watched the swallows, seemingly flying just a few inches above the terraces. Such a sight- and sound. That twittering noise has followed me home!  

A patch of blue Centaurea Montana shines out amongst the yellow cowslips. 

  Camassia bulbs are planted in the Cedar Meadow- taking over from the tulip and narcissi display. 

I particularly like this pale blue camassia in the Cedar Meadow. It looks like Camassia Cusickii 

Maybe I won’t pull up all those dandelions and cow parsley in my garden, after all. A lovely setting for the Meadow Retreat summerhouse. 

Phacelia tanacetifolia. Loved by bees. I’ve grown this as a green manure crop, and forgotten to turn it over in time. Such a happy accident. 
Records show  there has been a house here since 1592. What changes the gardeners must have seen over the past 400 years. 

Easton Walled Gardens  is just off the A1 near Grantham in Lincolnshire. Open from 2nd March to 30 October, and also for snowdrops. See the website for opening times and special events Follow on Twitter @EWGardens and on Facebook. 

Are there any gardens that you visit for inspiration? 

A visit to Coton Manor

My car could probably drive itself to Coton Manor. The route is so familiar. I’ve been  visiting  the garden for about 20 years. And each time I learn something new. I  take a pen and paper to make a note of planting combinations. I always have to walk around the garden in the same direction. First, the top terrace, by the garden school, where there’s beautiful terracotta pots of seasonal plants. Tulips today, mass planted in a single colour. Then on through the rose and lavender garden. Through the arch to the top woodland walk. Down the slope, following the stream, watching the ferns unfurling, spotting a patch of erythronium dogs tooth violets and some maroon tipped trilliums. Crossing over the  rill, we walk through the wildflower meadow- full of cowslips and camassias.  Not horticultural matters, I know, but the little speckled bantams that live at the bottom of the stream garden are such a delight to see. We chuckle over their  fluffy feathered legs, and their funny little ways. Today, one spots a fly, and zigzags crazily through the orchard, neck outstretched to catch the tasty morsel. There’s flamingoes. Puzzling when first encountered.  But a treat to look forward to on every subsequent visit. They are seemingly colour-coordinated with the orange pink tulips along the stream bank. Today we walked through the bluebell woods.  We stood still and just gazed. A sea of blue, set against the smooth grey beech trees. And then, the scent. We store up such glory- to last the whole year. Until next time.  

Coton Manor’s five acre bluebell wood- open until 15th May 12 noon to 5.30

I am always drawn to houses built with the warm honey coloured Northamptonshire stone.  The original Manor House was destroyed during the Civil War and rebuilt in 1662, using  stone salvaged from nearby Holdenby House.  The current owner’s grandparents moved to Coton in 1926, extended the house and created the bones of the current 10 acre garden. A history of the house and gardens has been written by Ann Benson, available through the Coton manor website 


We always hope to be in time for the wisteria flowering. Such a glorious scent.


The lavender-edged terrace garden has Tulip Elegant Lady and double late peony flowered Black Hero. Soon there will be geraniums, erysimum and heucheras to cover the bulb foliage. The garden school is on the right. Courses still available (at time of publication) this summer are by Sarah Price, Tom Duncan,Johnathan and Peter Gooch, Martyn Rix, Brian Ellis, Rosy Hardy and the owner Susie Pasley-Tyler.

Tulip Black Hero- a double peony flowering form   

I always find plenty of inspiration for container planting. This is my favourite at Coton, the copper urn and Spring Green Tulips.


Tulip Yellow Spring Green. New to me and something I will try this year.   
ELegant Lady Tulip. Reliable and  lives up to its name.

fringed Blue Heron tulip. Such a colour!

Honesty (Lunaria annua) An unusual bi coloured form.

iris – possibly Plum Tart. 
Plants, seeds and bulbs can be purchased at the nursery. The garden opens Tuesday to Saturday 12 noon to 5.30  from 25th March to 1st October. Mum and I have bought season tickets, which means we can visit the garden through the changing seasons and obtain lots of planting inspiration. 

Do you have a favourite garden that you like to visit? What planting inspiration have you found?  Please leave a comment so that I know I’m not talking to myself here.