I am on annual leave this week using up the last of my leave allowance and enjoying the late summer sunshine. It has been a strange week and dominated by visits to two very different gardens.
As some of you may have picked up a group of 25 of us UK garden bloggers/twitters visited Prince Charles’ garden at Highgrove yesterday. Due to security no cameras etc were allowed so I can’t entertain you with photos. It was fascinating to see the reactions of a group of knowledgeable gardeners and particularly fascinating as I had visited the garden two years ago with a very different group. On my previous visit I had felt frustrated as no one was really engaging with the garden apart from in the ‘isn’t that nice’, ‘what’s that plant’ way. I felt strongly about some aspects that I didn’t like but was a lone voice so had to just shut up so to speak. Yesterday with a very lively group who weren’t afraid of saying what they thought I discovered that my impressions from two years before where shared by others which was nice. We had a lovely day, very entertaining and fun and no doubt there will be future trips.
In complete contrast the day before I visited a small local garden – Picton Gardens. This garden is well known for housing the national collection of Michaelmas Daisies and only really opens for visitors from mid August to mid October. The garden is only 10 minutes drive from my house and despite living in Malvern for 10 years I am ashamed to say I have never got there. So as I had some spare time and I wanted some Asters for my bank I decided to go and see what it was like. To be honest my visit was several weeks too early as the majority of the flowers were still in bud. They are after all called Michaelmas Daisies because they open around Michaelmas Day at the end of September! However there were some open along with Echineacea, Solidago and Heleniums. The garden also has a lot of grasses, bamboos, acers amongst other shrubs and it was interesting to see how these worked with the perennials. There was one small area which really jarred for me – the Centenary Garden. This included a lot of clipped purple berberis and I don’t know whether it was the colours of the berberis or the fact that I am not keen on topiary and low clipped hedges but I really didn’t like it.
The garden is not that big and doesn’t take long to go round and I spent nearly as long in the nursery selecting my Asters. I don’t think I have ever seen so many in one area at the same time. The nursery does a mail order service and I presume the vast quantities are to accommodate this. I selected a Sanguisorba canadensis, I know that’s not an Aster but it is fab looking plant and will add height to the border. I bought three Asters as a starting point – Sonia, St Micheal and Umbellatus, hopefully they will do well and I can add to them in the future.
Unlike the merriment of visiting Highgrove I visited the Picton Gardens on my own and I always find that these solo visits are much quicker as there is no one to say ‘What do you think of that?’ etc to. However, my primary reason for visiting Picton was to buy Asters so going on my own was fine but I am so glad that I spent yesterday with the group I did as I havent laughed so much in ages. Thank you all – you know who you are!
When I did my end of month view a couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I had a few projects lined up for the coming year which I would keep a diary of during the year. However, there have been exciting goings on since then as VP and I have been hatching plans for the http://malvernmeet.blogspot.com/ event. I think initially we both thought that we would be meeting up with a handful of UK bloggers that we already knew and who normally go to the Malvern show. Not so, the event has taken on a life of its own as you will see if you visit the blog VP has set up for the event. Not only do we have UK bloggers coming but also Yolanda for the Netherlands and today Frances and Gail have confirmed that they will be popping over the pond from the US to join in the fun. We had anticipated that some people may stay overnight and we might decide to have a meal out on one of the evenings but with the amazing amount of interest we have had we are now in the situation where we have between 10-20 attending the evening event on both Friday and Saturday. Now Malvern is a small provincial town and so there aren’t many eating establishments that can cope with these sorts of numbers. In a moment of complete madness I merrily said to VP, “Well if it comes to it everyone can come round to mine for a party”. Oh dear. On current numbers I have around 14 confirmed as coming to my house on the Friday evening and about 10 additional possibles!!!!!
Consequently, I have now become completely panic-stricken. Not about all these people in my house (luckily I had a new kitchen and bathroom installed last year), nor about feeding them all (whilst we haven’t a great choice of restaurants in Malvern we do have a lot of take aways). No I am panic-stricken about my garden. There will be a bunch of very discerning gardeners visiting. I won’t be able to hide the areas that don’t appear on the blog from them. Some of them will be garden designers by profession – I haven’t got a clue about design and it shows. Argh!!! So my couple of projects have become more pressing and on top of them I have to address the front garden once and for all.
I am one of those people who doesn’t enjoy gardening in my front garden. Since I moved here I have planted a Laurel and Beech hedge to get some privacy and also some trees but apart from them there is a lack of cohesion, design or anything else desirable. I tend to park the car and go straight in the front door without a second look at the garden but this will be the first impression my gardening gurus will have. So I have been looking out of the upstairs window to try to decide what to do. I think the shape of the lawn (see above) is OK – I just need to sort out the planting. According to the countdown on Meet@Malvern I have 88 days to sort things – better get going.
As I live in Malvern the RHS Malvern Spring show is my local show (literally its 5 mins drive from my house and I can hear the announcements from my garden if the wind is in the right direction). I have been going for some years with my sons but last Spring I met up with Anna from Green Tapestry. Although we hadn’t met before it was amazing how well we got on and the enjoyment we got from exploring the Plant Marquee together.
We then met up with VegPlotting and admired the gardens of Deb and Claire and watched James being a presenter par excellence. Whilst I have been to the show for many years with my sons, going with like-minded folk made such a big difference and it was such fun to meet people I had exchanged comments and emails with. You can read about our day out here and my visit to the show in 2008 here.
VP and I mused at the time that maybe we should follow our US bloggers lead and set up a ‘Spring Fling’ for UK bloggers at the Malvern show. To be honest I had forgotten about this but VP hasnt and has set the ball running with vengeance. There is a blog specially dedicated to the meet up and you can get updates via Twitter if you follow #Malvernmeet
As the show is celebrating its 25th anniversary it should be even better than ever – there will be some special anniversary show gardens, which I believe Claire is involved with
VP is heading up the organising panel with me as the ‘(wo)man on the ground’. As a local I am happy to point bloggers in the direction of B&Bs etc and to recommend various restaurants/pubs for an evening out.
So come on you UK bloggers (and those of you from elsewhere who are adventurous) come and meet up with us at the Malvern Spring Show. The show is over 4 days and we are trying to get a an idea of what days people prefer so we can set up a meeting point and maybe also organise an evening out. If you are interested, even if you aren’t 100% sure, register your interest on the blog page in the comments box.