Sarah Cook’s collection of the subtly beautiful Cedric Morris irises took my breath away and the way they were presented was inspired – Cedric Morris would have been thrilled – it almost felt like he was!
I had hoped to get all my tomatoes planted in the greenhouse before Chelsea, but as only two of the plants have produced flower trusses so far, they are the only ones that are in their final positions. I’ve stood the others in position in their Grow Pots but the actual planting will have to wait until after Chelsea. With Grow Pots you water into the outer ring and feed into the base of the plant – this encourages a far more extensive root system and (hopefully) a larger crop. This year I’m experimenting with planting the tomatoes into the borders rather than in growbags to see how they fare. I haven’t planted them into the border for several years.
I do love the Malvern Show, especially now that the showground has been revamped so that the Hills create a wonderful backdrop to the show gardens. In the past the Hills were at your back when you looked at the gardens – a basic no-no of garden design which always encourages use of the ‘borrowed view’. The only photo I have of this is a hill just visible over the Villagio Verde garden.
As ever, there was far more to see than I had the time or the energy to cover but I do have a few highlights which I can recommend to anyone who gets there today.
Luscious Lupins – I do wish I could grow them but woolly aphids and snails always reduce them to a shredded, stunted mess. Sometimes it’s good to know that you just can’t grow something and just take pleasure in seeing them so well grown by Sarah Conibear’s West Country Nurseries.
Gorgeous Gardens – there were two that were the undoubted stars of the show -Villagio Verde’s ‘An Andalusian Moment’ which was is an extraordinarily detailed and wonderful recreation of the central square of an Andalusian village with venerable olives and pines, the local store, a café, a side street with walls covered with Cordoban-style pots of geraniums – and Spanish radio playing over a loudspeaker. Even the dusty, gritty ground looked entirely authentic. It is fabulous, best seen when the sun is out to feel truly transported to southern Spain.
On a smaller scale, but equally eye catching was Kate Durr’s ‘Constraining Nature’ which was packed with loveliness in a very small space. Lush dense planting surrounded a seating area that was backed by a rill and elegant panels of corten steel featuring a fern pattern. Clever stuff.
Gardenalia – anyone who likes to furnish their gardens with vintage stuff would be very happy to find Van der Wouwer Deco and Sutton & Sons Antiques, two stands alongside one another, each with a vast quantity of garden brocante at very good prices including dolly tubs for £40 and some very tempting wire harvest baskets for £15. The Belgian dealer doesn’t have a shop, while Sutton & Sons who are based in Norfolk work with www.amorosa.co.uk in Newark.
I was at the show well before it opened and got a glimpse into the transportation solutions of one company – thebeautifulbirdhouse.co.uk!
Stylish Succulents – I don’t usually pay much attention to displays of cacti and succulents, bit I totally loved the way Craig House Cacti displayed their plants. I’m puzzled that the judges didn’t agree with me – I think contemporary styling can draw in an entirely new audience and the quality of the plants look first rate to me.
What I bought at Malvern – Anyone who watched The Gardener’s World coverage of Malvern and heard Monty Don mention that he was off to buy Clematis ‘Elgar’ – here’s what it looks like as it awaits planting in my garden. It is a gorgeous large flowered macropetala-type clematis in a lovely dusky hue from Priorswood Clematis and Monty and I weren’t the only ones seduced by its charms – the nursery couldn’t restock the stand fast enough. My other purchase was three huge ornithogalum bulbs that will grow into metre high plants topped with the characteristic star of Bethlehem flowers – on steroids!
It’s been a vintage year for tulips I’ve picked up some useful tips, ideas and new varieties
· Tulip bulbs may contain everything they need to grow and flower but in a dry spring like this one it is essential to water them if they are planted in containers; they will grow taller, stronger and flower for longer
· At Woolbeding garden to ensure the very best of displays, they grow every one of their 2000+ tulips in individual long tom pots and then plant them out when they are growing well – a policy of perfection, but worth emulating on a smaller scale if you have a special display
· I’ve long admired the pale apricot species tulips in the Barn Garden at Great Dixter and finally tracked them down last autumn; they are tulip batalinii ‘Apricot Jewel’ a variety that naturalises well in a sun baked spot; I’ve planted them in shallow troughs and look forward to many happy returns
· I visited the tulip festival at Pashley Manor and talked to the head gardener about how to look after my container grown tulips to get the best chance of them repeat flowering in future years if I plant them in the garden; his advice was to pick off the seedpods immediately after the petals have fallen and to liquid feed for 4-6 weeks
· Bloms Bulbs supply all the bulbs for the Pashley festival where they have a marquee with the tulips in vases and their names so that you can make a note of your favourites and even order them if you are feeling very organised; I couldn’t quite get my head around ordering next year’s tulips while this years are still in full bloom, but I loved Exotic Emperor and will certainly order it quite soon.
· Another tip from the Pashley Manor head gardener was that – contrary to received advice – tulips are best planted as soon as they arrive rather than stored in less than ideal conditions; their 25,000 bulbs are stored in a chiller by Bloms until the gardeners are ready to plant them – a service not available to the rest of us; if they must be stored net bags or open paper bags in a cool, dark, dry place is the best option