It’s hard to find good pots for the garden. I loved these handmade ones, made by the aunt of the designer. (I loved the tree stump seats, too!).
What I like doing best at Chelsea is looking for ideas that I could replicate in my own garden one day. And as I may finally have one (fingers crossed – it’s all going through at the moment), this was a year when I could actually walk around noting ideas that I could actually put into practice. Hurrah!
There were quite a few roses around this year, and I liked the informal, lax habit of the Rosa rugosa in the Brewin Dolphin garden (above).
I liked Christopher Bradley-Hole’s garden but felt I’d seen many elements of it before – the multi-stemmed trees, blocks of box and yew, the meadowy planting, the cow parsley… Not only in previous Chelsea gardens but also at the Canal House in Amsterdam last year. That said, I love a multi-stemmed tree, neatly clipped box, and a bit of meadowy planting, and would definitely like to include them in my own garden.
I also the loved the way that edible and ornamental plants were mingled together in Adam Frost’s ‘Sowing the Seeds of Change’ garden for Homebase. I will definitely be doing this – I want to cram in as many edibles as possible.
I loved this simple oak bench in the Un Garreg (One Stone) garden. It may look simple but I bet it cost a small fortune.
The pebble path in the Healing Garden was designed to be walked on barefoot, stimulating reflexology pressure points.
Ponds scare me. They look complicated to get right, and I’ve seen a lot of bad ones. But this looks really doable – it’s shallow (so not too much digging) and the pebbles cover a multitude of sins.
And for sheer flight of fancy, who could resist this kids’ treehouse in the NSPCC garden? I think it made everyone want to be a kid again.
I was going to take this picture of Steve’s pond from a completely different angle, but an incident worthy of a You’ve Been Framed appearance put paid to that.
Steve is a colleague, and we were in his garden to take some shots of his greenhouse. While we were waiting for the photographer we did a quick tour of the garden, coffee cups in hand.
The garden is deceptively large and cleverly laid out, and home to this very large pond, which pre-dates the house. It’s overlooked by a pergola-covered deck, framed by wisteria and lined with colourful begonias.
Just after the pergola is a short, decking slope that leads to a path around the pond. As we stepped onto it, Steve pointed out that the slope was a bit slippery. He cheerily added, ‘We haven’t lost anyone yet!’. And then I slipped, landed on my bum and started sliding at a rather alarming rate towards the pond.
Everything then went into slow motion. My first thought was: ‘I’m going to fall into the pond. This is going to be embarrassing’. My second was: ‘Even more embarrassing, I’m going to be the first person ever to fall into the pond’. My third was: ‘I must hang on to this coffee’ and my fourth was: ‘Oh no, I’m going to crash into Steve.’ And that’s exactly what I did. I took poor Steve’s legs clean out from under him, leaving us both in a slime- and coffee-covered heap. Strangely, we were both still clutching our empty coffee cups.
I didn’t dare venture down the slope again, so I took this pic from the safety of the pergola. It doesn’t quite convey the Giverny-style scene I was aiming for, but hopefully you can get an idea of how charming it is.
I’ve been on quite a few work awaydays over the years, and one – a day trip to Ghent, Belgium, for the Floralies in 2010 – will be forever etched into the memory of those involved. Sadly I can’t divulge what happened (what happened in Ghent, stays in Ghent) but let’s just say that it’s strictly UK-only trips from now on.
This year we went to Buckinghamshire (nothing bad ever happens in Buckinghamshire) for a brainstorming session. We discussed the schedule for 2014 (that’s how far ahead gardening magazines work) and then we visited Mary Berry’s garden.
As you can see, it’s rather large. The highlight is most definitely the pond, designed with the help of the former head gardener at Longstock Park Water Garden (Mary has friends in all the right places). It also has a rose walk, tennis court, meadow, lots of herbaceous borders and, not surprisingly, a large kitchen garden. Mary is a knowledgeable gardener and highly recommends Rose ‘Chandos Beauty’ (below) for scent, disease-resistance and flowers until November. I had a sniff and wasn’t disappointed.
And yes, there was cake. Mary was going to give us tea in the conservatory but as it was so cold and wet, she invited us into her kitchen for a cup of tea and a chat. She’s got the biggest Aga I’ve ever seen and the biggest teapot, too.
Apart from us cleaning Mary out of lemon drizzle and chocolate cakes (both delicious, of course), I’m pleased to say that the afternoon passed without incident. Clearly the new awayday policy of venturing no further than 30 minutes from London with no need for foreign currency/a working knowledge of Flemish/valid passports/train tickets/tram tickets/timetables/maps/ash cloud diversions has paid off.
‘I don’t think there’s much to see there,’ said the taxi driver when he dropped me off at Longstock Park Water Garden. That proved to be something of an understatement.
The International Water Lily Society once called Longstock Park the ‘finest water garden in the world’ and I’d go along with that. Two and a half acres of lake, fed by the River Test, are interspersed with islands linked by little wooden bridges. The garden is expertly planted with aquatic and moisture loving plants and it’s immaculate: the entire garden is weeded once a week and two and a half miles worth of lawn edging is perfectly clipped. The hostas are entirely untouched by slugs, thanks to the ducks who munch on their eggs.
On a rainy day, the garden was overwhelmingly green thanks to the lawns and lush new growth, set to explode into colour any day now. It was also incredibly tranquil. For a few minutes I sat in the thatched summerhouse, watching the rain falling softly into the lake and ignoring my phone, which was gently beeping at me.
On the train back, I read that John Spedan Lewis (of John Lewis fame – the garden is owned by the John Lewis Partnership) had a phone installed in the summerhouse so that he could work there and enjoy the view. If he was still around today he would no doubt be sitting there with his Blackberry.