Last week I somewhat reluctantly took the train to London for a second day in a row to attend the late afternoon RHS press briefing for Chelsea 2015. Don’t get me wrong – I was interested – it was the prospect of a two hour journey home on a crowded commuter train that put me off. I’M SO GLAD I WENT. Not only did we hear about the many tasty gardens that designers will be serving up this year, we also got to listen to Sir Paul Smith talking about how his annual visit to Chelsea is an important source of inspiration in his work. He was fascinating and described his working methods in a very straightforward way that we non-fashionistas had no trouble following. He showed us slides to demonstrate how he interprets what he has seen and I was struck by the way that anything and everything he sees feeds his creativity. I’m pretty sure that I barely glanced at a display of chrysanthemums in the Grand Pavilion, but Sir Paul registered the colours and used them for stripy socks (apologies for the poor photo). Red, yellow, blue and pink flowers in a multi-coloured border were individually used for a range of sharp suits. He told us that although the brightest shades sell in far smaller numbers than the less adventurous tones, they are what catch the attention and keep the business at the forefront of fashion. It’s a bit like gardens really – splashes of colour keep things interesting but green is essential moderating influence that pulls it all together. In the world of fashion it is navy blue.
Our tree was fading fast from glossy green to grey green – it was time for it to go. The decorations and the lights were packed away and the tree was carried outdoors where it was swiftly reduced to a pile of branches and its central stem thanks to the Christmas Tree Slayer/Sleigher (I didn’t save the sleeve and can’t remember the spelling) loppers sent to me by the good folk at Burgon & Ball. Investigating their website, I think this was a clever bit of seasonal repackaging of their Mini Bypass Lopper, but whatever it is called it worked a treat. TIP: I keep some of the individual branches to cover vulnerable plants in case very cold weather or heavy snow is forecast. I also shred some to use as a mulch on the strawberries in the spring.
The crisp bright days over the holidays have ensured that I have been in the garden whenever possible and it feels good to be on top of tasks such as tying in climbing roses, removing old leaves from the hellebores and cutting back collapsed perennials. Most of the time I’m happy to just listen to the sounds around me, but like many podcast enthusiasts I’m currently absorbed in ‘Serial’ from This American Life, so it has been my companion for the past few days. I don’t have ears of the right shape for earphones and headphones get in the way, but a pouch hung round my neck and tucked it inside my jumper proved a good alternative. It was perfectly audible to me, but left everyone else undisturbed. Two episodes to go…………
Some years we get little or no frost in the garden, but this year we have already had a few and there are more to come in the next few days – and no doubt more uncertain weather for the next few months. This is great news for the general health of the garden, but less so for some of the more tender plants. Four years ago we had frost and snow that hung around for some time and the agapanthus in large pots have only just recovered from being frozen – and then covered in snow for several days. This caused the crowns to rot and although I rescued them that spring by cutting away the rotted areas, they have barely flowered in the intervening three years, so I decided that some preventative measures were required.
Whenever possible I prefer to use dry bracken and wire netting as it is unobtrusive, but most of the bracken has yet to die back so I have resorted to using fleece plant covers. They do look decidedly odd and definitely lack aesthetic appeal, but they are quite easy to whip on and off, so once this current cold spell has passed I may remove them. On the other hand they are insurance against any unexpected freezes, so they may stay in place. The great advantage of a walled garden is that it’s less aesthetic moments are hidden from view.