May 252013
 
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The Brewin Dolphin garden

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).

The Telegraph Garden

The Telegraph Garden

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.

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The Homebase 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.

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Un Garreg (One Stone) garden

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.

Get Well Soon garden

Get Well Soon garden

The pebble path in the Healing Garden was designed to be walked on barefoot, stimulating reflexology pressure points.

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Get Well Soon garden

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.

NSPCC Garden of Magical Childhood

NSPCC Garden of Magical Childhood

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.

So there you have it. This time next year I may be the proud owner of a garden that contains some multi-stemmed trees, blocks of box and yew, some meadowy planting, lots of edibles, a pond and a reflexology path. And a treehouse, obviously.
Dec 082012
 

Fondation Cartier, Paris

I only ended up going to the Fondation Cartier because my Parisian pal Esther needed to order some curtains that were on sale in a shop nearby, but I’m really glad we went. It’s a very interesting space, all steel and glass, designed by the architect Jean Nouvel. As soon as you draw near you can tell that the garden is pretty special too.

It’s designed by an artist, Lothar Baumgarten, and is inspired by the idea of a Theatrum Botanicum, an inventory of medicinal plants and herbs kept by mediaeval monks. Like mediaeval gardens it is enclosed, but by a wall of glass, so you can see it from the street. It has curved terraces and an ingenious sunken area.

It wasn’t the best time of year to visit, but the garden is home to 35 tree species and 200 native French plants, including fig trees, mint, violets and lily of the valley. It also has wildflower meadows which are quite a sight in summer.

I was pleased to see that there were none of the usual signs telling people to keep off the grass. But as I left, I spotted a sign that said ‘No picnics’…

Sep 282012
 

St Albans

I went back to my hometown of St Albans the other day and nearly fell off my bike when I saw this annual mix on a roundabout.

It would have made an impact if I’d been sailing past it in a car, but at close quarters it really was something. Cosmos, calendula, nigella, poppies, mallows and nicotiana were all doing their thing perfectly.

A notice next to the roundabout explains that St Albans Council has replaced some of its bedding schemes with annual seed mixes as they’re more sustainable, wildlife-friendly and (ahem) drought tolerant. The schemes have won two Anglia in Bloom awards recently.

If anecdotal evidence is anything to go by, the mixes have gone down well with the locals. My sister’s friend Nina likes the scheme in Clarence Park so much she wants to sow one in her own garden, and my friend Jo, not known for her plant knowledge, mentioned in passing that the roundabout by the Cricketers pub is looking different this year.

Meadow-style planting is certainly having a moment, thanks in part to the planting at the Olympic Park, and sales of ‘wild’ flowers are apparently at an all-time high. I really hope St Albans Council (and other councils around the country) continue planting annual mixes – they’ve got to be more exciting than boring old coleus and begonias.