Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bloom - Episode 2

The second week of judging and the weather stayed dry for all but Friday morning when we got wet!  Not bad for a British summer. Lots more driving up into Derbyshire and east to Lincolnshire - Wainright eat your heart out! Now recovering having driven 699 miles over the last two weeks,  shaken hundreds of hands, posed for the press on 12 occasions, given three radio interviews, eaten 12 buffet lunches and tried to smile on all occasions! It was a little like a roller coaster ride!  Once again a few more pictures of the highlights.

The town choir welcomes us at Belper

Buxton allotment

Baskets at Buxton

Well co-ordinated front garden in Buxton

Beautiful pub garden in Ilkeston

Barrier boxes in Ilkeston

Tiny back garden in Ilkeston
Well dressing in Belper

My namesake in Belper!
School garden Boston

Peace Garden in Buxton

Retirement Homes in Buxton

Gainsborough Old Hall

Herbaceous border in Ilkeston

The town crier announces us in Belper

Sculpture in Ilkeston
Memorial gardens in Boston

Boots at a Boston school - every child has them!

Boston West Academy

Tree sculpture in Buxton
Tussy Mussies made for us in Gainsborough

Wonderful annual meadow in Gainsborough

Baskets in Spalding

Colourful pub garden in Spalding
Once again , we've seen the good, bad and indifferent of British towns,  although I have to say there has been very little bad and a lot of good. Indifferent really doesn't feature, as all the towns we've visited have been full of  people passionate about their local community and environment. We've met some wonderful people, seen some great gardens and beautiful flowers and been amused on a number of occasions. Now these poor guys have to wait till September to find out what award we have given them!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Bloom - Episode 1

Well folks its that busy time of the year again and I am tearing around the countryside judging East Midlands in Bloom. This year I have been promoted! Last year I was doing Small Villages, which had their own charm but this year I am judging Large Towns. Have to wear a tie! In two weeks we have  twelve towns to visit and each visit takes between 2.5 and 3.75 hours, depending on the entry. Our patch is fairly diverse and we are going as far north as Buxton and then all the way down to Boston in  Lincolnshire. Fortunately we have no entries in Northants! Obviously I can't comment on the results or even our opinions  until the results are announced much later in the year, although its fair to say we've seen some great sights so far in this first week. Here are just a few of the things we've seen.

Lovely mixed colours in Long Eaton

The stunning Library gardens in Long Eaton

Rose Garden in Market Harborough

School garden in Market Harborough

Innovative Greenhouse from recycled drinks bottles in Melton Mowbray
The Polish War Graves in Newark

This elder tree growing out of an old wall in Melton Mowbray - fascinating!

Pretty little front garden in Newark

A fallen tree with timber sculpture - interesting!

Private Garden in Sleaford -  lovely!
Market Harborough - city centre planters - sunflowers grown by Beavers
That's it for today - a busy week ahead but I'll try and post some pictures when we've finished!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Improving on nature!

Now I'm not a great fan of Tesco.  When I shop in the UK, I am shopping for one but Tesco's pricing policy is heavily loaded against pensioners and single people. And yes - I officially became an Old Age Pensioner as from last week. I'm talking of course about the multi-save deals. 'Get three for the price of two' and so on. Now whilst three packs of ham might be good for a family of four, I simply cannot eat three before at least one has gone bad. So I either waste food or I buy a single pack and pay the full price. A double looser! I guess the other big supermarkets have similar policies loaded against pensioners!

Anyway today's little rant is about the flower stand which caught my eye this morning. Initially I saw these decidedly hideous Sansevierias with multicoloured flock tips - of course nothing much more than rooted cuttings. And at £8! Who in their right mind would want such a hideous adornment in their house? I then walked around the stand and was horrified to see how many of their bunches of otherwise good quality flower had been tampered with in some ludicrous way. Dyed flowers never look right and certainly not natural. If you want blue flowers why not delphineums or scabious rather than blue chrysanthemums? And why on earth would anyone want flowers sprinkled with glitter. 

Not terribly clear but its glitter not dew!

Of course over the years gardeners and plant breeders have worked persistently to improve on nature and give us many wonderful garden plants but these offerings are hideous!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Successes and Serendipity

I'm a sucker for new plants and to keep my garden fresh, always buy a few new plants each year, often not having any idea where I am going to put them when I bring them home. So a quick review of new and previously enjoyed (as they say in the jargon) plants. Firstly this year's new ones. I have long been an admirer of the David Austin English roses and with my current need to fill my garden with permanent plants, I recently bought a bush of 'Summer Song' which has just given me its first blooms. As with all these roses, the blooms are lovely old blowsy roses but the colour is a little more salmon, rather than the orange that the label showed. As the first blooms opened, it rained and the weak nursery stems drooped but its is still a lovely plant and will I hope settle down and make some sturdy growth. 

At the same time, I also bought a Salvia 'Wendy's Wish' which had lovely muted smoky mauve buds. It has since opened to produce vivid cerise flowers, a bit brighter than expected but certainly colourful. If the mature plant is as floriferous as the promotional picture below, then it looks set to be a real cracker!

My plant of the salvia
Promtional picture in full bloom - wow!

I also recently made an impulse purchase of an Olearia 'Moondance', a variegated form of the New Zealand native O. arborescens. Apparently variegated plants do not sell well in New Zealand so it has not been introduced there. It is said to be hardy to -5C but time will tell! As yet I have no idea where I am going to plant this so am enjoying in a pot.

Last year I purchased two small plants for specific spots in my front garden and both have settled in well. Lonicera 'Little Honey' has softened the corner between my front step and the rather ugly concrete path I share with my neighbour and is now flowering freely at less than 5cm tall.  I recall from last year that it does have a scent, if you happened to be laying flat on the ground! Nearby Euonymus 'Goldy has made a chunky little plant softening the other corner of the steps.

My Schizophragma 'Moonlight' planted a couple of years ago, is working its way nicely up the brickwork next to the front door and is just coming in to flower for the first time. Despite facing north, I think the spot is rather too dry for it, as the older leaves are yellowing - must remember to water! Last time I blogged on Photinia 'Pink Marble' I was a bit cautious (scathing?) and felt it had a bad habit with rather wayward branches. Since then, with a little judicious pruning and some sharp words, it has settled down and is now behaving nicely making a well shaped upright shrub.

My older planting of Weigelia loymansii 'Aurea' with Berberis 'Orange Rocket' is well established, although still not quite as spectacular as the group I originally saw in a friend's garden. Aralia 'Sun King' planted last year has also established well with glowing limey green leaves.

Occasionally fun things happen in gardens purely by chance and I haven't the heart to remove this lovely little ivy that has attached itself to my Trachycarpus. I know all the risks of ivy on any trees but will enjoy this mix, monitor and prune when needed. Long live serendipity!