End of Month View: March 2017

The front garden is beginning to come into its own with the small narcissus and Euphorbia flowers bringing some real zing to the border.  You may recall that last month I said I was thinking of filling the bigger border with small narcissus. Well I am rethinking this as if you look very carefully you will see that the narcissus are all facing away from the house which means I am looking at the back of the flowers.  If I fill the big border with narcissus then the only person who might see the flowers properly would be the postman!

I have finally dug over the whole of the front garden and moved the original perennials forward that were being dwarfed by the Grevillea.  I have also top dressed the whole space with green waste from the local waste dump.

There isn’t that much to see in the big border at the moment as the perennials and grasses have been cut down and are just leafing up now.  I’m thinking that camassias or alliums might look good in this space next year to give interest before the asters come into their own.

Anyway, that’s the front garden at the end of March just under a year since we lifted the front lawn.  I’m thrilled with how good the space is already looking and it will be interesting to see how the perennials develop through the year.

All are welcome to join in with the End of Month meme.  You can use it how you like all I ask is that you add a link to your post in the comment box below and is possible it would be great if you could link to this post from your post.

RHS Malvern Spring Festival Show Gardens – Some Highlights

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I have been attending RHS Malvern Spring Festival, as it is now known, for 15 years and over this time there has been a slow increase in the quality and number of show gardens.  It is often touted as a show that attracts those garden designers who are putting their toe in the show garden water and I think this year there was a distinct improvement in the quality of planting and design on previous years.  It wasn’t many years ago when I used to flinch at the planting which had bare soil showing, completely out of line with the squeeze them in abundant planting that is required of a good show garden.

My favourite garden was Constraining Nature by Kate Durr Garden Design.  She won the Best Festival Garden award and a gold medal, not bad for a first showing.  The Festival Gardens are designed by new comers who receive a £3000 bursary to support the build and advice from various experts.  I loved the textures in her planting (top photo) particularly the shady area at the back of the garden.

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I like the movement of the tufts of grass, not sure which it is, and the box balls.  For someone who isn’t keen on topiary I was interested to see quite a few of the gardens using them to provide structure and then in filling with seasonal interest.  Definitely an idea I think I will take forward.

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As per the last few years the show garden by Villaggio Verde stole the show and you have to admire the ambition of the designer.  This isn’t just a frontage with scaffolding or the like behind it but a garden you can walk around the outside of and peer through a wrought iron gate to see the baskets of pelargoniums hanging on the wall.  The only down side was the grey skies which threatened rain all day and dispelled the idea we were somewhere in Andulusia. Unsurprisingly this garden won Best Show Garden.

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This garden, As Mad as a Hatter, by Gary Bristow was quite appealing.  However although I loved the textures I would have preferred a bit of cross over between the two areas.  I think a few oranges in the purple side would have lifted it and vice versa but I am sure there is some theme idea behind it.

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I quite liked the planting and the clean lines of Out of Darkness by Lisa Burchill and Robin Ideson which won a silver. I suspect the dead moss square seats may have had something to do with the silver. However, as someone who has a preference for foliage over flowers I like the combinations of not only leaf shape but also the shades of greens, yellow and purple in the variegation.

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I was surprised at how many ideas I came away with this year.  In the past at Malvern the show gardens have some interesting plants but I rarely feel inspired by the planting combinations and never about any sort of landscaping/structure.  But this year, the Cornerstone garden, by Pip Probert and Gareth Wilson, showed a renewed interest in alpines and presented them in such a way that I can see being possible to recreate even in the most modern urban garden – so a rockery is no longer needed to grow these delights. Again I think this is something I might try to replicate in a future garden.

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The garden is not all just alpine troughs but on the other side there is this delightful cottage style garden – a real winner from my perspective.

I really enjoyed the show gardens this year and it is good to see so much good quality planting. I hope the standard continues to improve and maybe one year soon Malvern will start to get the same excellent reputation for its show gardens as it already does for its nurseries.

The RHS Malvern Spring Festival runs from 7th – 10th May – its a good day out, why not go

A Trophy and too many Camassias

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I have never ever won any trophy for anything so you can imagine how thrilled I am at winning the trophy above.  It is  even better given that the trophy is a wooden bowl when you consider my eldest son is a wood turner so we have a passion for wood in my house.

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I won the trophy at the Alpine Garden Society Malvern show which was held today at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival.  Like the other AGS shows it is a one day competition with competitors entering from around the country.  The plants above are in the Open section which a mere novice such as myself can only dream of aspiring to.  Many of the plants have been grown and cosseted for many years so the amount of commitment and dedication from the top exhibitors is to be admired.  This is my second national AGS show; I entered my first one last July when I got the bug for showing alpines.

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I entered six classes in the novice section and I have to admit some of the plants I nearly didn’t bother entering but then I am my own worst critic.  I achieved three firsts – 3 pans of rock plants (Semiaquilegia, Saxifraga fortunei and Arisarum proboscideum); 1 rock plant grown from seed (Erinus alpinus); and 1 Sempervivum as well as a second for a Saxifraga and two thirds for a Rhodohypoxis and the other for a Primula marginata in the foliage category. Having staged my plant at 7:30 this morning I returned just before 10 to get the results. Thrilled at my awards I went off to spend the day working for Avon Bulbs at their stand.

Grevillea Mount Tamboritha
Grevillea Mount Tamboritha

I knew we would be busy in the floral marquee; Avon Bulbs are always popular and I have queued many a time to buy one of their treasures, but the stream of customers for the six hours I was on duty seemed endless. I sold so many Camassias and Gladiolus byzantinus that I will be happy not to see any for some time as well as Scilla peruviana which we  ran out of around lunchtime.  We also had regular demands for Lunaria annua Chedglow which had been featured on Gardeners World yesterday evening.  I loved every minute of it. I learnt lots of stuff from Chris (the boss) and also the customers themselves. I enjoyed sharing the excitement of customers at finding a plant they had been looking for, their indecision as to whether or not to splash out on another plant and the general sense of fun they were having.

Cypripedium calceolus
Cypripedium calceolus

Suddenly during the middle of the afternoon one of my fellow AGS members, Pauline, appeared in front of me.  She had come over especially to tell me I had won the Hartside Trophy for the most points in the novice section but I had missed the trophy presentation.  I have to say it hadn’t occurred to me to even look to see when the trophy presentation was as I didn’t think I would do that well.  But at least I missed having to go up in front of lots of people to receive the award!

Androsace bulleyana
Androsace bulleyana

As I said I have never won a trophy and I have to admit to feeling quite excited at the prospect as I made my way back to the AGS show at the end of my shift for Avon Bulbs.  It is a rather lovely trophy I think you will agree and is on my mantlepiece in pride of place.

Sadly, my camera is over exposing pictures at the moment so the photos on this post were taken with my son’s phone when he came to help me collect up my plants.  The plants I have featured are ones that caught my eye in the last 15 minutes which I would like to acquire – my love of red shows.

So I will now be seeing what I have that might be up to show standard for the next show I can get to in July.  I think I need 10 firsts before I can go up to intermediate but I’m not in a rush.  Talking to Pauline who was a novice last year she found the step up challenging as her plants had not yet bulked up enough and the number of exhibitors was greater.

All in all a full on, tiring but satisfying day.