Chelsea 0 – Hampton 1

Fanfare! Fanfare! Yes…the impossible has happened. I’m actually sitting down and writing some news for you all to see!

First things first. The countdown timer has changed from showing the date of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, to showing the date of the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. Why is this you ask?! Well, some of you already know!

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Let’s pick up where we left off with the last post, the one with the rusty television sets in it…

So, I submitted a design for the Fresh Garden category at Chelsea 2012, and was awaiting news as to whether the RHS would accept it or not; here’s the original design as a reminder:

Do Not Adjust Your Set #1

Well to cut a long story short, the design was very well received by the RHS, but they decided not to accept it for Chelsea..which although was disappointing to hear…was fully understandable. I’ve always said that the RHS are very supportive of me and my sometimes hare-brained schemes, and this time was no exception. They felt that this was more of a ‘conceptual’ piece and would lose the impact it deserved due to the intended size and location at Chelsea.

What the RHS proposed was that I revise the design, look at making it bigger, and resubmit for The Conceptual Garden area for the Hampton Court Show, or the Visionary Gardens at Tatton Park. All their comments made perfect sense, and I always respect their judgement in terms of steering me in the right direction – and so I set about revising the above design.

It was when I attended an RHS seminar late last year at The NEC that it all started to come together in a viagra soft tabs slightly different fashion. All I can say is that they gave me the most incredible feedback and encouragement; reiterating how much the RHS love my ideas, and how they want to see me produce something on a larger scale; spread my wings at another show; and if successful, sit down and discuss the future…it was all very promising stuff.

Funnily enough, they didn’t tell me off for polluting their twitter feeds with swearing and nonsense (that’s another story!)…hmmm….at least the #rhschelsea feed is back on their site…anyway…

So…bigger eh? Time to stop thinking on a small manageable scale Mr. GH…if you’re going to resubmit for Hampton Court or Tatton Park, then make it worthy of being there! Hampton Court was my preferred choice, i’m not one to shy away from a challenge, and the intended revision of the ‘Do Not Adjust Your Set’ idea was perfect for this particular show.

With no time to waste (I had a very tight deadline for resubmission), I set about redesigning – a complete departure from the above – but keeping the essence of the idea. And instead of a 3m diameter cirele – I opted for an 8 metre x 6 metre plot…a slightly bigger task..but an exciting prospect!

“I wanted a garden of two ‘layers’ I suppose, a calm basis…
ready to bash to bits with a large hammer of chaos -
in the form of a single giant television set
crash landing and spilling its colourful contents.”

The whole ‘idea’ of this garden was about Television Sets ‘spilling’ their colour onto a monochrome landscape, and looking back at the above, there’s perhaps little distinction between the two areas. This would have been addressed at planting stage, I had a vivid mental image as to how the original garden would have appeared…but that’s irrelevant now.

I started to look at black and white test card patterns, the strips of greys, whites, blacks, the circular areas they sometimes exhibit; and loosely used this as a base for the revised garden. I wanted a really organised structure to this base, clearly defined strips and circular areas of planting, linked together with granite paving and utilising some mirror pools to give some deep black areas, give it some weight if you like.

Structured yes, but not overly busy or fussy – I wanted a garden of two ‘layers’ I suppose, a calm basis…ready to bash to bits with a large hammer of chaos – in the form of a single giant television set crash landing and spilling its colourful contents, completely ruining the peaceful monochromatic landscape beneath!

So this is how the revised design ended up…

And guess what…it got accepted! Hampton…erm…caught!

And so once again begins the daily routine of veering between panic and excitement, waking up in the middle of the night with a Eureka moment…then dissecting it and realising it was no good after all…etc etc…basically, the fun begins again, and I reckon this year is going to be even more fun than last year’s trip to GW Live!

I hope you’ll all join me on this journey to Hampton – and before you ask…yes, that large television set, I will be building it in my front room.



Do Not Adjust Your Set

Every time I come to write a new post for this site, I seem to start off apologising for not having done one sooner! And this time is no exception! I’m absolutely rubbish at finding the time to write, but that is no excuse for not keeping you informed of my latest crazy ideas….

So, what’s been happening since GW Live? Not a great deal really, but I look back on the time spent at the NEC and miss it sorely. It truly was one of the most enjoyable times i’ve had, the medal was the icing on the cake, but the whole experience was something I wish everyone could be a part of, and experience I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. The people you meet, the friendships you make, the build, the joy, the bad weather…wouldn’t swap it for anything. And I can’t wait to do it all again….

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Which brings me to my latest submission. RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2012. Yep, I was going to, then I wasn’t (that’s another story), but I decided that a kick up the arse was required. This is my passion, this is what I want to do…inflict another of my hare-brained schemes on the unsuspecting public, win, lose or draw; I’d kick myself if I didn’t even apply for space at another show. But Chelsea?

Well, Chelsea is truly the jewel in the crown when it comes to RHS shows; and it’s not an easy task to get space there. But when the RHS announced the new ‘Fresh’ Garden category, smaller modular plots which could theoretically be affordable without sponsorship (obviously depending on how many modules you choose!) then I thought ‘Why Not?’ – I have lofty ambitions as you all know, but it would be stupid of me to think I could waltz in there with a 22m x 10m ordering real viagra from canada Main Avenue design…and expect it to happen. That’s next year obviously! Haha

“Taking part in Chelsea has long been my dream, and this seemed the perfect way to get started on that very tall ladder towards Main Avenue.”

A small ‘fresh’ plot was just the answer. Logistically, Chelsea is the most difficult in terms of access, build space, storage etc…so why not submit a design for a small area, easy to handle in terms of access and storage, but at the same time get a feel for everything else as it happens – experience counts for many things at these shows; and to witness first hand how the larger gardens are coped with would surely be incredibly beneficial. Taking part in Chelsea has long been my dream, and this seemed the perfect way to get started on that very tall ladder towards Main Avenue.

Let’s not get away from the fact that i’m still very inexperienced, I never hide that fact, but I’ve said it before, i’m confident in my ability to deliver what I promise. Confident in the skills I do have. And no, I can’t think of any of them right now! So…what have I submitted this time?

You may be surprised to hear there’s no giant earthworms this time! But don’t worry, I have plans for them another time :)

Anyway…here we go…picture this. I had an idea many moons ago…and always thought it could be interpreted rather nicely in a small plot. It was linked to nothing in particular, but the idea of a television being dropped from a height onto monochrome planting (well, black and silver) and its ‘colour contents’ leaking out over the surrounding area..just seemed impossible to ignore. A potential for some striking sculpture…. some striking colour combinations in terms of planting…yeah, let’s pursue it.

Now, this idea had been rattling around in my head since before the GW Live one, but with a week to go for application deadline I wasn’t confident that I could put something together that I would be happy to submit. So I doodled…..

I knew I wanted something circular to balance the hard shapes of the ‘television sets’ so that’s where the circular nature of the perimeter came from. and in all honesty, it was beginning to work for me. So i doodled a bit more….

I wanted predominantly low planting, scandent/carpeting plants…to give the impression of the colour ‘seeping’ into the surrounding monotone planting, but that would have been boring – ; so some height had to be added; as if the colour areas had come to life and grown upwards. Not everywhere I hasten to add…some highs and lows were needed to retain the overall structure of the design; but those television sets…spilling out their contents…

So easy to picture in my mind, but difficult to realise? Hmm…. The original idea was to use actual televisions, but that just wouldn’t have worked. I wanted something sculptural, representative, something that worked with the colours of the planting, something that worked ‘against’ the softness of the proposed scheme. So the intention is to make the televisions out of weathering or CORTEN steel, giving that beautiful rusted patina, a complete juxtaposition to the curves and colours of the perimeter and the plants contained within. (And no, they haven’t been built yet!)

Time to draw it up properly…deadline approaching!

Okay, i’m happy with that…it’s looking pretty much as I had imagined. Time to colour it in! Originally I was going to use a limited palette of hellishly vibrant reds, blues, and greens; and nothing else; apart from the monochrome areas, but I felt this would have been far too overpowering for any viewer, in such a small isolated space. So I decided to look at a far softer palette, some earthier tones amidst subtler reds and blues. Ideally I would have like to put a lot more detail in this; for example the masses of low pastel pink and blue areas are  ideally going to be Thymus cultivars, but I really didn’t have time to draw masses of tiny flowers…this had to be submitted in a matter of hours!!

Anyway, the submission is in; safely received by the RHS, with decisions to be made early November as to which they accept for this new category. I’m sure they’ll have lots of questions to ask me about the design, and perhaps some tweaks will need to be made, but fingers crossed it goes ahead; to be a part of Chelsea in 2012 would quite simply be awesome,  even with such a small submission. The real difficulty i’ll probably have is convincing people that this is ‘not’ a commentary on the digital age in which we live, an age in which the once ubiquitous CRT television sets have been discarded; or a metaphor for the link between gardening and television; it’s purely and simply a bit of fun, a way of expressing a splash of colour onto a monochrome landscape. Or is it?  Am I trying too hard to avoid being representational? Am I subconsciously dreaming up ways of metaphorically presenting things? Who knows….

Btw…I have no idea as to the other entries in this ‘Fresh’ category, how other people have interpreted the application guidelines, I doubt even the RHS knew what to expect when they created this new area….but i’m looking forward to finding out even if it doesn’t happen.

Let’s wait and see eh?



Honey….I Shrunk the Shed…and had a great time doing it!

Well, as per usual it’s taken me a while to find the time to post anything since my return from Gardeners’ World Live! It’s old news now, and all forgotten about with the RHS Hampton Show looming, but I thought i’d just recap on my first attempt at a show.

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I have to admit, putting a countdown timer on my site wasn’t the greatest idea i’ve ever had! In fact, when I first put it on there, it read 111 days until NEC build…which was fine…but then as I looked at the site over the next weeks, it seemed to almost immediately drop to 7 days until NEC Build…and the panic really set in!

It wasn’t real panic, i’d been pretty organised over the time since I knew I was going to exhibit, ensuring I had the plants I needed and that they were growing as hoped (almost), but i’d admittedly, as is my usual habit, left a few things until the last minute. The now infamous earthworm still had to be finished, and the paving slabs that had to be cast….erm…had to be cast!

Here’s the original design (just in case you’ve forgotten!) as shown on the flier I handed out, and it was pretty touch and go whether the final result would end up remotely similar!

Anyway, everything came together quite nicely for my little adventure, and the van was loaded in preparation for the journey south to Birmingham NEC. Three days to build…no problem!

Van packed and ready to go!

We arrived on the Friday evening, dropped everything off at the Hotel, and proceeded to relax at the Hotel for a couple, *ahem* a few hours…in preparation for the next morning! The first day of the build went very well, laying all the grasses in position prior to any digging, and they all looked beautiful, standing proud in the Birmingham sunshine. The height, the textures and the colours all merged together as I had imagined, and the soft Hakonechloa I used as a surround was quite magical when a gentle breeze took hold and rippled through the planting. After a good day’s work planning, laying slabs, planting and okay, mostly chatting to neighbouring exhibitors, we packed up and headed back to the hotel, eager to start another productive day on the Sunday.

The empty plot awaiting grasses and a giant worm!

“The height, the textures and the colours all merged together as I had imagined,
and the soft Hakonechloa I used as a surround was quite magical
when a gentle breeze took hold and rippled through the planting.”

Paving slabs laid, and grasses in place!

So Sunday….no sun, just high wind and heavy rain. A bit of a disappointment after the previous day in terms of how much we achieved, but the garden was still taking shape. The grasses had pretty much been battered overnight by the weather, the Hakonechloa looking a bit…well…flattened, a world apart from their light and billowing appearance just the day before. Added to this, my giant earthworm suffered an accident, almost splitting in half, so emergency repair was also required for him on this day of disaster! Still, although soaked to the skin and squelching with every step, the garden was a step closer to being completed. One day left.

“As usual, my lovely Twitter friends rallied, giving me words of encouragement;
the weather  was a good omen, there to settle everything in
and perk everything up just in time for judging day.”

Battered…but not beaten!

I admit, I was pretty despondent after this day, and thoughts of simply getting the job done took over, a worrying contrast to the anticipation and excitement of the months leading up to this time. As usual, my lovely Twitter friends rallied, giving me words of encouragement, the weather  was a good omen, there to settle everything in and perk everything up just in time for judging day. They knew how much i’d looked forward to this, how much work had been put in, and I in turn knew how much support and encouragement they had given me in the time leading up to this, and you know what…it was at this time that they really helped, and they were also correct…

I got back to the NEC bright and early on Monday morning to see how everything was looking, and to my surprise everything was looking good. The grasses had indeed perked up, the worm was happy (although a bit wet) and I suddenly felt far more optimistic. So optimistic in fact, that I obviously felt it necessary to chat to everyone else excitedly, and share our experience so far, and after three hours had passed I realised I had managed to plant the total of 5 Ophiopogon and 3 Heuchera. Hmmm…best knuckle down I thought! I had though, in those 3 hours, had to wander off to the Floral Marquee to visit the lovely Jooles and Sean from Heucheraholics, who kindly supplied me with the Heuchera cultivars that I needed, so it wasn’t all unproductive!

So…I did indeed knuckle down, planted everything else, and put the finishing touches to the garden by dropping on the chosen aggregate, some LECA, or Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate….perfect for giving the impression of giant soil particles!

But when all was finished…and I was happy with the end result….one question remained…..would the judges ‘get it’? It’s not every day you see a 20-foot long earthworm and a Playmobil figure at the NEC i’m sure, so in my eyes the whole ‘story’ could go either way when it came to judging; the plants looked great, I was confident of the selection and the combination, but topped off with a giant earthworm? I’d have to wait and see….

Mini GH and The Giant Earthworm (Thanks to Charles Hawes for the pic!)

Judging Day! 7am sharp at the plot, checking it over, making sure it was as good as I could get it…and at 9am myself and the fellow Birmingham Border exhibitors made ourselves scarce, so the RHS judging panel could do their thing.

“Of course, it goes through your mind about your chances of winning a medal, and if you did, what colour it would be;
i’m sure everybody does that. My expectations were low…I was confident in my ability to design,
but how successful would I be in bringing that design to life in terms of it being viewed by fresh eyes, when i’d been so close to it for months?

It’s a funny feeling, as some of my more experienced Twitter friends will agree with, waiting to be judged, even at this starting level. I didn’t have the opportunity to speak with the judges and explain my concept, but I hoped my brief was all I needed to bring the story and the garden together. I’d had some great feedback from fellow exhibitors throughout the build, they all thought I was going to do really well, but I wasn’t so sure. Being my first time, I just had no idea of what to expect; and although it’s easy to say, just being a part of the whole exhibition and experience, the build, the banter…I was there, I was part of Gardeners’ World Live, I had successfully built my first, albeit small, show garden. So..I was a very happy man.

Of course, it goes through your mind about your chances of winning a medal, and if you did, what colour it would be; i’m sure everybody does that. My expectations were low…I was confident in my ability to design, but how successful would I be in bringing that design to life in terms of it being viewed by fresh eyes, when i’d been so close to it for months?

I won’t bore you with the details regarding the late result, and the fact that I had to wait until Wednesday morning to find out…suffice to say that my Twitter feed was going a bit crazy, asking if i’d found out, wonderful Twitter friends waiting as impatiently as myself!

So I did find out eventually….us Birmingham Border exhibitors sat on Picnic Hill, spied an RHS person placing cards on the edge of our gardens. “Shall we go and have a look?” we all asked each other. What a silly question! Strolling nonchalantly (!) across to our plots, we were happy to see that every single one received a medal. And when I saw mine? I almost fainted! The lovely Sandra, who was on the plot behind me said later, “Your little face when you saw what you’d got…” and she was right. Not about me having a little face, but the look on it.

A Silver-Gilt. How the bloody hell did I manage to get that?! I was gobsmacked! Overjoyed, amazed, and grinning like a chsehire cat, I was in total disbelief. I had difficulty convincing myself that I would get any kind of medal, let alone that one!

The judges ‘got it’. They appreciated the plants, the planting, the brief, the worm, the way it all came together….and they appreciated my sense of humour! What more could I have asked for? Apart from anything else, it was just so refreshing to know that my slightly bonkers idea was rewarded with appreciation and encouragement from both the RHS, and the visiting public.

I’d always said that my ambition was to put a smile on people’s faces, cause them to scratch their head, point and wonder who on earth would come up with such an idea, and that’s exactly what happened over the course of the next few days when Gardeners’ infopharm.com World Live was open to the public. Crowds gathered, the majority of people looked at the garden, then looked at the brief, then nodded and smiled in appreciation. How fascinating it was to stand and listen to people talk about something you’ve created, and talk to them about it.

I’ll end this rather long and probably not very entertaining post by saying thanks to all of you, you all encouraged me, supported me, congratulated me, forced me to drink champagne, admired my worm in person, put up with my incessant babbling about the whole adventure, and…if you’ve made it this far…have read this! Haha.

As you can gather, you’ll know especially if you were following me through the week, I had an absolutely amazing time at the NEC, and would do it again tomorrow. Although someone else will have to pay for it next time! But what next? You’ll have to wait and see…..



One Man Went to Show

So what’s happened since I last posted? Well, you may notice there’s a little countdown timer on this site now, so you should be able to deduce that my Birmingham Border design was accepted by the RHS, which has made me a very happy person indeed!

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Honey...I Shrunk the Shed!

It was a tense, nailbiting time waiting for the confirmation; the RHS Show Team teasing me with their cryptic tweets, but giving nothing away; and I was itching to get started on the planning, sourcing and preparation, but hey, there was plenty of time left before June….

And now I glance at the countdown timer….last time I looked there were over a hundred days to go before the build, and now….PANIC STATIONS!

“I can only imagine how designers of higher profile show gardens must feel! I salute you all!”

Well, not quite, but the days are going fast, and the planning is well underway, and I thought you might like to see what i’ve been up to over the past 6 weeks…

Firstly, I would like to tell you what an experience this has been so far; i’ve been veering between excitement and panic constantly since it began; so I can only imagine how designers of higher profile show gardens must feel! I salute you all! Fitting everything around my full time job has been a slight challenge, but I have enjoyed every single moment of it so far, and the more it comes together, the more excited I feel about the whole experience. June will be here before I know it; and nothing will stop me now!!

So where to start? Well…what’s in the design, and what did I have to consider? Budget for one thing!

As you can see, I decided it would be rather nice to plonk a massive earthworm in the middle of this, but where to find one? I’m financing this myself, so my budget is VERY limited, and I wasn’t going to be able to stretch to having a worm fabricated out of corten steel as i’d have loved to! (although I did get a price for this….earmarked for the future) I need something as a ‘core’ for the earthworm, something flexible I could build over, so I eventually settled on two things; some flexible ducting with some natural fibre rope wrapped around it.

The smallest part of the worm!

The flexible ducting is amazing stuff, and as you can see from the pic is certainly worm-like in its texture already, so this was a step in the right direction. And yes, that is part of a full-size planting plan it’s sat upon! In terms of scale, this pic shows the smallest piece of the worm, and is about 1 metre long. The largest piece is about 4 metres in length, so there’s fun times ahead!

Worm base…sorted.

Now on to the rope….hmmmm…how much would I need? Well, not too much I would have thought! But let’s do this properly – ducting has a diameter of 200mm, therefore a circumference of  around 630mm. Rope 100mm diameter, total length of worm pieces approx 7 metres….so that’s 700 revolutions of rope, at 0.63m per revolution – total length of rope required…..441 metres!!

So….I bought some rope! Quite a lot of it in fact! First of all though, I wanted to see how difficult it would be to dye it a worm colour; so I tried a few pieces in the washing machine with some fabric dye….hmmmm……

Pink foam in the washing machine!

The actual dyeing experiment was a partial success (in terms of colouring the rope quite nicely), but the washing machine didn’t agree, and decided to unwind the pieces of rope into a mess of coir fibres, which took me forever to remove from the bloody thing. Undaunted, I changed tactics. With 500 metres of rope waiting to be dyed, I invested in some cold water dye and a dustbin…and hey presto, it worked!

Different shades of worm coloured rope

Next step…wind the rope around the ducting! That’s this weekend’s task :)

Now, I hadn’t forgotten about the most important part of the design, the plants themselves. I took a trip to visit the incredibly helpful and knowledgable Mark Straver at Crocus, who managed to find time in his busy schedule to show me round the nurseries there, and discuss what I needed. Unfortunately for me, at this time of year, the majority of nursery space is devoted to ensuring the Chelsea plants are looked after, which meant that I wouldn’t be able to leave any plants I required in the capable hands of Crocus to get into tip-top condition; I would have to keep a close eye on them myself…more of that later…

While looking around, I did get to see Cleve West’s and Luciano Giubbilei’s Chelsea plants all coming along nicely (2 gardens i’m looking forward to seeing this year) and Mark and I had a brief discussion about how naughty Ann-Marie Powell is (I can’t for the life of me remember how that conversation started! – but Ann-Marie’s 2011 Chelsea garden is another I can’t wait to see) and off I went back home, feeling greatly encouraged by the visit, and Mark’s generous advice.

The majority of plants ended up being bought from Crocus, items that they didn’t have I managed to source online, and arranged for all the plants to be delivered to my incredibly SMALL back yard in Saltaire for looking after. Now we come to the fun part…

Suffice to say I don’t live in the largest of houses, and the outside space is pretty limited…but that wasn’t going to put me off!

Ooh look…some plants have arrived!

Ooh look…here’s some more!

And here’s some in my front room!

And here’s some unpacked in the back yard

So I had all my plants. Brilliant! But realistically, I didn’t have enough room to keep them there until June, as much as I wanted to; so I decided to seek help from my RHS tutor and his friend, who have a rather large (almost empty) greenhouse not too far away which would offer the kind of environment I needed for some of the grasses to get up to speed for showing at the NEC. Plenty of light, plenty of warmth, someone to keep an eye on them and water/feed them, and a Peacock and a Goat.

A Peacock and a Goat?!

Jamie the Peacock!

Alf the Evil Goat!

So that’s about all the news up to now. Some of the plants are happily settled in their new home, being watched over by Jamie and Alf, while the rest are in my back yard, being tended to on a daily basis.

As my excitement builds, it seems that there are others who are quite looking forward to seeing this happen too…I just hope it works as I envisage it to!

I’m hoping to get round to finishing some worm pieces this coming weekend, so if i do…you’ll know about it!

And just in case you want to see some viagra for sale cheap incredibly unexciting video clips of me wittering on about plants, and a guest appearance from Jamie the Peacock, then here you are:




NE….C you in June?

So…i’ve been thinking…quite a lot in fact…hmmmm…see there I go again!

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Back in November, the RHS invited me to attend a New Exhibitor Seminar in Malvern, probably to stop me from pestering them at every opportunity; and a very insightful and informative day it was. It consisted of a series of presentations by the RHS Show Teams, Designers and the RHS Judging Panel; covering everything to do with staging an exhibit at one of the RHS Shows.

Now, those unlucky peeps who follow me on Twitter, and have looked at this website know all about my plans for a Chelsea Garden in 2012. Well, after talking with the RHS, and curbing my enthusiastic nature (only slightly) for a moment, I decided I would like to try something this year; just something small. Realistically it’s a more sensible idea, dip my toe in the water as it were. But what to do…..and where to do it?

I remembered the Birmingham Borders at last year’s Gardeners’ World Live at Birmingham NEC. Small but popular plots, 3m x 3m or 6m x 1.5m, and eligible for RHS medals. A great space to start with I thought, but was I too late, and would one of my often insane ideas be received favourably and taken seriously?

Well…my sense of humour, enthusiasm and creativity tend to lead me astray in terms of what can be realistically achieved, so I usually think big, then work backwards to refine an idea. Take the ‘Giant Rotating Pooing Barbie Dog‘ Garden or the ‘It was Landscape Man with a 25 Tonne Digger‘ Cluedo Garden (there were worse titles for that particular one – Toby Buckland and his cucumber was one option!) – only a bit of fun, crudely drawn, and resulting out of jovial conversations; but completely indicative of my thinking and approach. If you haven’t seen them…then here they are for your amusement:

The ‘Giant Rotating Pooing Barbie Dog’ Garden

The ‘It was Landscape viagra pharmacy Man with a 25 Tonne Digger’ Cluedo Garden

Now, as I’ve said; these ‘designs’ are completely daft, with a distinct lack of plants – well, to be honest, when you have a 10 foot tall spinning dog in the garden, what else would you need?!?

Anyway…back to reality for a moment…Birmingham Borders. In all seriousness, I’d always had an urge to create something that was a magnified area of something bigger, but representative of the whole. Plus, i’ve always wanted an excuse to build a giant earthworm! don’t ask me why, perhaps it’s my old fine art background coming through slightly. Plus…it would just be great fun to utilise something like that in a B-Movie style. So that’s where the idea began, and that’s where the title of this particular design originated….‘Honey…I Shrunk the Shed!’

Indulge me for a second if you will…and here’s the story…

As he closed the door behind him, he knew instantly that something was different,
as if the garden he knew had grown massively around him in an instant.
Droplets of rainwater on the paving around him were now puddles,
and the rumbling beneath was followed by an eruption of earth in front of him.
As terror tightened its grip, the realization suddenly dawned upon him.
“HONEY!” he cried. “I SHRUNK THE SHED!”

And the design? Well, the original design started with some scribbling, doodling, scratching of head, red wine…but basically I knew what I wanted to achieve, a corner of a lawn where it meets some paving, blown up to gigantic proportions, held together by a sculptural earthworm. And here is where it started:

Earthworm Doodles

Originally, I wanted a corner of an immaculate, green mowed lawn, very neat but essentially very flat, and would have meant some drastic trimming of some tall grasses to achieve the ‘flat-top’ which didn’t sit well with me. Tall grasses are beautiful plants, and I certainly didn’t want to compromise their natural effect by taking a hedge trimmer to them. So…what I decided to go for was a metaphor of a lawn, made from a variety of grasses, and in keeping with the theme, something of a jungle from the viewpoint of the poor shed-shrinker. The initial layout of the plot was essentially very simple, the corner of lawn, the edge of paving, and a small strip of ‘bare earth’ in between the two, all straight sides, needing to be offset with some softness….so the planting plan began…and the 28th January deadline was looming!

A section of the Planting Plan

Now, I’m something of a traditionalist when it comes to designs like this, I like to hand draw everything first, to scale, then scan it in and work over the top in an illustration package such as Illustrator or Freehand. Yep, simple really…but transforming my scribbles of different plants into something relatively realistic was far more time consuming than I first thought! So I hand drew (onscreen) individual plants that I wanted to use, and drop them into place to give the impression I was after. My berating Ophiopogon Planiscapus Nigrescens because it wouldn’t look like how I imagined caused much frustration I can tell you!

Anyway, after staring at a screen for many hours, and almost going blind after drawing millions of lines of grass, here’s what the finished result looked like, with added scared figure; the visual I subsequently sent to the RHS for consideration.

And so the application was sent, just in time! But what would the RHS make of it, and would it be accepted? Would I then have to get everything into motion to finally build my giant earthworm?!


I haven’t found out yet whether it’s happening, but initial feedback was positive…but by no means an indication of whether it will go ahead.

I’m due to hear next week whether i’m successful or not; but in the meantime i’ve been planning just in case…and please forgive me for harping on about ‘my’ design; i’m just really excited at the prospect of getting close to a first time show exhibit, and if it works as I think it will, it should put a smile on someone’s face, which is good enough for me. So i’m keeping my fingers crossed!


Oh…and before I forget…remember this chap?

Well, he’s doing quite well this week!

Ta ta for now!


Guess the Smell with The RHS

Ooh, it’s been a while hasn’t it? It’s been a busy time lately, and I still need to get into the habit of this blogging lark, instead of saving all my stories up for one long unintelligible natter.

So, here’s a list of contents for this particular post to either whet your appetite, or give you the chance to escape while you can!

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• Guess the Smell with the RHS (and Anne Wareham)
• Gardeners Whirled
• Fun at Malvern
• Fun with Friends
• A Change of Plan
• Giant Earthworm vs Playmobil

Guess the Smell with The RHS

This was an amusing little thing that happened on Twitter quite a while back. It was a question from The RHS posted on Twitter..something along the lines of ‘RHS Harlow Carr on ITV tonight. Tell us what the scent of the smelly tree is and win a prize!’ So, always on the lookout for a freebie, I decided to play along. I was not alone however…the delightful Anne Wareham had spotted it too…!

Anne began to bombard the RHS Twitter feed, first with an answer even before the programme in question had aired, and then subsequent tweets asking where her prize was…and the fact that the RHS weren’t answering just made the day more and more amusing… just a small example below:

Anne was of course correct with her answer…Cercidiphyllum japonicum….Japanese Judas Tree or Katsura Tree…but it wasn’t the name of the tree that was asked for, it was the scent. So…me being me :) ….used Anne’s knowledge to my cheeky advantage, waited for the programme to air, and immediately tweeted the RHS the answer of ‘burnt toffee’…and hey presto, won the prize! Hoorah! (In all honesty, Anne wouldn’t have seen the programme, it was Calendar, so a local generic viagra buy usa piece only)

Anne kept pestering the RHS to see if she’d won, so I felt it only polite to tell her that it was me, and in recognition of her assistance, I would obviously share the prize with her; which happened to be a pair of tickets to attend a chat by the one and only Toby Buckland at RHS Harlow Carr. Now this would have been quite difficult for the lovely anne to attend, so I promised her that I would get her a lovely present…and of course I did just that!

I have to say, if you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Buckland, if you get the chance, do it. He’s not only an incredibly knowledgeable gardening chap, he’s a terrific bloke, inspiring, helpful; and definitely up for a laugh. And…because he’s a regular Twitter user, he’d seen some of the online banter between Anne and myself, and had no hesitation in helping with Anne’s present…a lovely signed photo ‘To Anne, my favourite and greatest fan!’

And there you have it…a small but (hopefully to you too) amusing escapade, and an example of the fun and friendship that can be had on Twitter. Because of Twitter, and instances like this, I’ve become friends with Anne and her husband Charles, and been able to pester poor Toby at every opportunity. And….we all got to see where the signed photo ended up.

I’ve now decided that my original blog post intention would take about 6 years to read, so i’m going to be kind and post it in sections…part 2 to follow later :)



A Massive Pinch of Salt

So…where was I? Oh yes, still questioning my sanity about fully intending to enter the Chelsea Flower Show in 2012….being a novice when it comes to Show Garden design!

Perhaps I should explain a little more…

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People ask me…Who?

Well, although i’m a mere  Soleirolia soleirolii amongst the multitude of talented garden designers and horticultural experts out there, all of whom have my utmost respect and appreciation, I would like to think that I can bring something to the proverbial garden table. (btw…i don’t mean that i mind my own business…i’m small – in the scheme of things –  but I get everywhere – and am perfectly complementary to many things!) I’ve mentioned before that i’m a designer by trade, many many years have been spent applying my eye to a multitude of projects, and I do feel that I can take those existing skills and apply them to an area where my passion has grown rapidly over the past couple of years, an area where that passion will stay. My plant knowledge is still growing, but hey, does anyone ever stop learning? I’ve been hindered by cancelled RHS courses over the past couple of years, but the perseverance and support of my truly inspirational RHS tutor has done wonders for my enthusiasm; he’s one person that is fully aware of my capabilities, and is also convinced that I should follow and fulfil this particular goal I have.

People ask me…Why?

Simply..why not? Okay, i’m not here to show the world that ‘anybody’ can produce a show garden…quite the opposite in fact. It’s a serious business, some real planning involved, some logistical nightmares to overcome, and some bartering skills will definitely have to come into play along the line. I purely and simply love the idea of designing something, building something that will hopefully bring a smile to others, not to mention (due to the idea I intend to pursue) giving them something that they can implement in their own garden. And..forgive me… I would have a huge smile just by taking part in the Chelsea Flower Show. To me it represents, out of all the shows, the complete intersection of horticultural knowledge, design, construction, technique and finesse; and if I were to get accepted to exhibit there, then I would be well and truly beaming. So if you see a big beaming thing in 2012 in amongst the shrubbery, that is either me, or..erm…a torch..possibly.

I’ll admit, often ‘Show’ Gardens tread over that line that separates ‘garden’ from art installation or contrived metaphor, and Chelsea is certainly guilty of promoting the use of a ‘theme’ when it comes to exhibiting…but I would say it’s up to the designer to interpret that theme…and maintain the fact that it is a garden, and outdoor living space… albeit one for ‘show’.

I’m digressing, that’s a discussion for another day (Anne?)…but I want to create something small and realistically achievable within the ‘theme’ I have set myself; and make it as cheap as possible to create, without formal sponsorship. Madness!

People ask me…How?

Hmm…well the whole idea came about because of my day-to-day work, combined with the ever-increasing interest in horticulture. I’ve mentioned it before, but to recap; my employer is a large mobility product manufacturer, and the initial idea was to create a garden based on mobility difficulties; an attractive proposition, in terms of both a brief for myself, and visibility and media coverage for said employer as a sponsor. All good in theory, but I began thinking more about what I wanted to achieve, in terms of my great passion but limited experience; I don’t want to exhibit at somewhere like Chelsea ‘purely’ because of financial backing…I want to get there because of my ideas, and my willingness to make them a reality.

People ask me…What?

The clue is in the name of the garden. ‘A Pinch of Salt‘. Again, i’ve mentioned this in an earlier post….I live in Saltaire, West Yorkshire; a model village which is now a World Heritage Site, conceived and created by Sir Titus Salt close to the River Aire. Rows of terraced houses…ENORMOUS gardens…haha…see below for a clue to where i’m going with this:

The enormous gardens of Saltaire

I’ll quote from an earlier post of mine:

“Which brings me to the second idea I had, a self-financed smaller show garden reflecting the place I live, Saltaire. A World Heritage site, Saltaire was founded in 1853, by Sir Titus Salt; a leading industrialist in the Yorkshire woollen industry. Salt built neat stone houses for his workers, and it is in one of these houses that I live. The streets of Saltaire consist of neatly arranged terraces of these houses, with the streets named after members of Salt’s family. All the smaller terraced houses are essentially the same, with similar back yard areas; consisting of a paved area, low surrounding stone walls, and outhouses.

While there are some residents of Saltaire that have transformed their outside areas, the majority remain pretty bare, save for a couple of pots here and there. While there are limitations on what can be achieved in a small space such as this, in a World Heritage Site, I wanted to explore the possibilities of the typical Saltaire back yard, with traditional materials…and bring ‘A Pinch of Salt’ to The Chelsea Flower Show.”

As you can see from the pic above, the back yards are pretty much just that…yards…with walls around them. But look at that nice little view in the background. This picture isn’t the best, it shows a back alley and a load of wheelie bins, but Saltaire is a beautiful little place with some incredible old buildings (and stone lions from Trafalgar Square!) and many features to grab inspiration and ideas from.

Think about it, what does Saltaire have? And what could be used in a show garden to capture the essence of it? Terracing, textile/woollen mills, cobbled streets, a working funicular railway, a canal, heathland, stone lions, millstone grit, rock formations, wrought iron, cats….and a couple of Californian Redwoods in the church garden!

So there we have it…a Californian Redwood surrounded by cobbles. Perfect! Seriously though, there’s a lot in terms of inspiration for hard landscaping buy viagra no prescription required materials; as for the planting – well, that’s mainly going to depend on the chosen aspect; but in terms of colour and texture, there has to be that perfect complement to the millstone grit construction, and a softening of the confined area and limitations underfoot.

It’s up to me now, The RHS have stated their preference that I pursue one of the small Artisan garden plots, 5m x 4m – perfect for this idea. Now it’s time to sharpen the pencils and start planning.

So there you have it, the beginnings of an idea, an intention, a goal to see through to the end. It’s not going to change the world, but… it just might change mine.


RHS Autumn Show, 3 Men Went 2 Mow…and Topiary Scotty Dogs!

Well, it’s been a while since i’ve posted anything! It’s been a busy time, so not really had the chance to jot down my thoughts and recent escapades until now…

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Where to begin?!

Firstly I took a trip down to London recently, to visit the delightful RHS Autumn Show at the Royal Horticultural Halls. I’d arranged to meet up with some fellow horticultural cheapest viagra canada tweeps at the show; with a view to also visiting some other London highlights, particularly the Garden Museum or The Rooftop Gardens in Kensington. Hmmm…all did not go quite as planned, due to my extraordinary ability to remain disorganised at all times outside of the workplace! More of that later…

The show itself was relatively small, but was crammed full of some beautiful exhibits; and some ludicrously sized vegetables! Particular favourites of mine (apart from the Bonsai display) included the range of Aeoniums, and the grasses. Now, i’ve never really been excited by grasses, possibly because my cat likes to use them as a catalyst for vomiting (especially my Imperata Cylindrica ‘Rubra’)  but I have been thinking differently of late, and there were a couple that really caught my attention.

Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’

Stipa (Calamagrostis) brachytricha (the one at the back!)

Anyway, as I said earlier, I was also at the show to meet up with some very nice tweeps; I didn’t see them at all while I was wandering about, and having spectacularly failed to save any of their phone numbers (yes, yes, i’m rubbish), combined with being unable to trawl through my email archive, resigned myself to the fact that it was not to be, so began traipsing towards the River Thames to continue my day out alone.

Luckily, the wonderful @LazyTrollop was far more organised than my useless self, and phoned me to find out where I was hiding. @LazyTrollop, @MichTWheeler, @robstacewicz, and @HelenReeley had planted themselves (geddit?!) in a public house close to the RHS Halls, planning their next move, and so I made my way back to actually meet them after weeks of virtual conversation.

And what wonderful people they are! It was so lovely to finally meet a bunch of warm, friendly, very talented people that I had been conversing with via Twitter; but what we had failed to take into account was the fact that consuming alcohol early afternoon would disrupt further sightseeing! A mutual agreement was made, we would stay where we were, which was fine by me!

From left: Lazy Trollop (Barbara!) , HelenReeley , Rob Stacewicz ,  Michelle Wheeler

I’m sure you’ll agree, a lovely bunch of people! So… what else has been happening? Well, I also went to a talk by the talented trio of Joe Swift, James Alexander-Sinclair and Cleve West, collectively known as the hilarious Three Men Went to Mow. This took place at the beautiful RHS Harlow Carr in Harrogate (although it was night-time so I couldn’t see any of the gardens), in the new and shiny Bramall Learning Centre. You may have seen these three previously in my gallery of Garden Heroes, so I couldn’t resist the chance to go along and join in the fun!

The madness is about to begin!

Three Men Went to Mow gave a thoroughly entertaining and lighthearted talk about their gardening experiences, and involved the assembled audience at every opportunity with humorous games and witty banter. What made the evening for me though was the chance to briefly talk to these fine gentlemen; I must thank them all for the words of encouragement they gave me, and also for gracefully accepting my gift of official #trainclub flapjack! If you get the chance to see them, then I highly recommend you do!

On another note, I started reading a rather interesting book on small gardens called ‘The City Garden’, and it contained some rather interesting information on achieving stunning results in small spaces. In amongst the little gems of information was something that every garden should have…and surely needs!

Every garden should have one!

That’s all to report today, but i’ll be back very soon with some news on my real ambition…which is slowly taking shape. I might even give you an update on Monty the Monstera if you’re lucky!


The Monstera Files (Say Cheese) – Part 4

Yes, I know you’ve all been sat glued to your monitors awaiting the next instalment of this incredible story, so I thought i’d post a quick update! Monty the Monstera has at last produced a nice shiny brand new thing, which although reminiscent of an alien from War of the Worlds, is in fact a leaf!

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It appears that the resurrected philodendron is moving viagra for her forward at a healthy in his quest to find gigantic split-leaf happiness like his luckier siblings, but still has a long way to go…although I can see the beginnings of the next chapter forming already….

Monty’s impression of the Loch Ness Monster

It looks like the end of close-up photography for Monty as he grows larger; and I’m hoping to see a hint of a split in his next leaf!

Keep an eye out for the next instalment of this science fiction thriller set to rival ‘Day of the Triffids’ as the most exciting plant serial in existence!


Bleating from the Back Yard

I’ve discovered recently that many gardening people I talk to have a similar obsession to me; I suppose a quite obvious one really; a wilful desire to a) buy seed (however obscure) and grow them, and b) a tendency to replace the fact that a plant isn’t ‘needed’ but with a need to ‘want’ a particular plant in the garden. Why is this? Because, quite simply, we can!

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In some cases, no real problem, many people have the space and equipment necessary to facilitate the correct germinating/growing conditions…for others (myself included)…ah, so what?! I’ve spoken about viagra pills where I live before, and the idea it gave me for a possible show garden. Exterior ground space need not limit the imagination when it comes to creating a pleasing environment and place to grow/nurture; yes, you might have to adapt and improvise, but do just that…and look upwards too.

I’m veering off at a slight tangent (again) i’m afraid; that’ll probably be the shiraz. Where was I…space, yes, my back yard. That’s it….it’s small. I couldn’t swing a miniature cat in it, let alone the one I have sat staring at me right now. Space however….that’s not the problem. It’s not mine. I’m renting the place while I plan my next move.

I have grand ideas for the yard; in fact I had grand ideas for my last back yard until I was unceremoniously ousted by the owner, who wished to move back in, I tended to her plants lovingly, even told her how to care for them once I left; brought her buxus back to life (!) and divided her plum pudding rather nicely if I do say so myself.

Grand ideas…renting…growing and propagating anything I can…there’s probably more than one post here, but I wanted to jot this down when I ‘mistakenly’ brought some Thunbergia seeds online this afternoon. Basically, I don’t have room to grow them! but I WILL FIND ROOM. That’s the point. I like them, therefore I will grow them. I have about 75 pots in my back yard, with an incredibly daft selection of plants. There’s no colour co-ordination, no real scheme, just things I like. Now don’t get me wrong; i’m a designer by trade, have been for the best part of 16 years, but unfortunately my interest in horticulture, and transferring my design knowledge to that area only began a few years ago; and in that time i’ve been constantly on the move. Hence the little bit of chaos that follows me, that snowball of a plant collection, that rolls with me and continues to grow. For goodness sake…I have a Californian Redwood in a pot, and a Titan Arum on my kitchen windowsill!

Look! A baby Sequoia! A VERY small selection of the plants i’ve collected

I know what should go where, I know about colour, space, texture, form, focus etc…but I also know that this home I have may be with me temporary. I’m slightly hesitant to invest time and money into someone else’s property; but if it benefits me, then why not? Like I said earlier, it’s a case of  adapting. I have 2 choices, sit here and let time tick by, thinking I might have to move at any time; or be optimistic and make it the best place it can be. Besides, there’s always the possibility that I could end up buying this house; so why not start to make a difference now?

There’s concrete paving underfoot, but water runs off nicely to the drain. There’s plenty of wallspace that gets the sun all day; and there’s a nice storage area; well, there’s two, but one is locked and I don’t have the key! I’ve been (mostly) collecting plants that I know will grow well in such a place as a typical Saltaire back yard; and i’ve been keeping them in pots until such a time comes that i’m able to give them a more permanent home, where they can flourish to the best of their abilities. So i’m going to settle on a compromise. I’m going to build some raised, possibly staged beds all around the yard, create a green roof on top of the outhouse (it’s a great space), and let my newly purchased Vitis coignetiae and Abutilon megapotamicum grow nicely against the sunny walls, while my Prunus cerasus sits happily trained against the shadier wall of the outhouse.

It’s going to be fun, and hopefully not as convoluted as this blog post. And at the end? It will feel like home.