Virtual Chelsea-Possibly an improvement?

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show launched on the BBC last night with a look back at the best of previous years. The RHS has made the hard choice of cancelling their ever-popular flower show and instead, they are putting on a week of virtual events. Normally I watch the first few episodes of the coverage and then lose interest. Last year the BBC gave a massive amount of time over to coverage of the gardens. There were two slots a day and by the third episode you had seen the same footage of the show gardens and it became monotonous fast. Then the various RHS shows took over Gardeners World for a large chunk of the Summer, with episodes filmed from the various shows.

Now, I’m sure if you attend in person it is spectacular. But I am never likely to make it down to experience the wonder of entering the Grand Pavilion and being hit by the scent of all those fabulous flowers. So all I get to experience is the presenters enthusing over how wonderful the displays look and smell. I have a family and the show has been made so it is not family-friendly. Some of the RHS flowers shows have bans on prams due to the lack of space. This combined with the extremely high price means I’m unlikely to ever make it down. Of the people, I know who have visited many enjoy it and I’m sure it is fabulous seeing the spectacle. But, I hear an equal number of people complaining that they couldn’t actually see the gardens through the crowds. They felt jostled. Which is why we have press day. The elite few get invites to see these wonderful gardens without having to mingle with the crowds making it an event for back-patting and celebs. I’m sure if I actually visited I would love it but not an option this year.

The coverage for me has little to do with gardening. The main focus of TV coverage is always the show gardens. These have very little to do with actual gardening for the normal person. You have over-elaborate gardens beyond the cost of most people. Many of the flowers have been artificially brought on or held back to flower together in combinations you couldn’t create in your own garden. It creates unrealistic expectations for what you can create in your own garden. The fashion magazine equivalent of seeing a photoshopped model and thining you can look like them. These gardens are a snapshot in time. They don’t need to plan for succession through the year or for the plants filling out, self-seeding or any other issues. To keep them looking like they do for the show garden week would require an army of gardeners. There always some stunning gardens. I always enjoy the gardens of Chris Beardshaw, Ishihara Kazayuki and Jo Thompson and several others. But these often have elements you can take away that you can do in your own garden. But against this, there are always several ridiculous gardens making statements. Climate Change is the favourite subject currently, probably only challenged for the top spot by mental health, completely ignoring the irony of making a show garden requiring a massive carbon footprint and stress they are to make. The best segments from the TV are almost always from the growers such as the wonderful David Austen roses where you actually receive useful tips on how to grow.

The flower show normally emphasises a divide in gardening between rich and poor. This was exemplified by Martin Parr’s photos in 2018. The show represents a particular picture of gardening for middle England. As mentioned the tickets push visits out of many peoples reach. Then the fact that it is over the week so time off needed for many. While people from all classes garden the show pushes that idea that money is needed to make an amazing garden. I’d rather like to see show gardens on a budget so people could get ideas of what they can achieve themselves. To go with the football analogy we’re looking at the pleasure of seeing your own local team play on the playing field instead of watching overpaid players in an artificial environment. This isn’t an event that I feel encourages people to enter gardening. If anything it discourages people from gardening as they know they can’t create what they see in these show gardens.

The best segments of the TV coverage are almost always from the growers and the people within the horticulture industry. On these segments you see how they nurture the plants, you gain tips from experts. It saddens me that people in the business I’ve come to know online like and won’t get a chance to sell their products. The Indie Plant Guide can link you to many wonder growers who will appreciate the support of sales during these strange times. A few other nursery lists were linked to in a previous article.

Which brings me to this years Virtual Chelsea. The BBC are carrying on there coverage with a mixture of old segments and shots from presenters houses as well as interviews with various industry people. Nicki Chapman will be on BBC One at 3.45pm and Monty Don and Joe Swift on BBC Two at 8pm each day. I’m sure Gardeners World will also discuss the event. The RHS are putting on an exciting schedule of online events other the week through their website. And I actually think it looks better than what I’d normally get to see as a non-attendee. We’ve got advice on growing perennials from Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants. Ishihara Kazayuki will be sharing Japanese gardens with us. The Botanic Nursery are sharing tips on growing foxgloves. Sarah Raven will be taking us on a tour of cut flowers. It’s offering far more practical advice than a normal year and segments people can make use of whatever the size of their garden. There has even been consideration for people with no gardens with a focus on houseplants. As it’s all from the comfort of your own home I think this year Chelsea actually has the potential to engage with more people than ever before. With so many people coming to gardening for the first time during lockdown a practical focus is what is needed. So well done to the RHS for continuing under hard conditions and creating something to suit the times. For more info about the Virtual Chelsea set up listen to the Plant-Based Podcast this week on the event. I hope in future years we see more events done in this way that anyone can access rather than an elite club.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my opinion piece. Share your memories in the comments if you are one of the lucky to attend or your own opinions on what is on offer this year. What are you looking forward to from the virtual line-up?

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Monday Minstrelsy

A little poem to go with a photo of ruined glory in my garden. The early spring flowers are fading readily for summer plants to take over.

The lily’s withered chalice falls
Around its rod of dusty gold,
And from the beech-trees on the wold
The last wood-pigeon coos and calls.

The gaudy leonine sunflower
Hangs black and barren on its stalk,
And down the windy garden walk
The dead leaves scatter, – hour by hour.

Pale privet-petals white as milk
Are blown into a snowy mass:
The roses lie upon the grass
Like little shreds of crimson silk.

Oscar Wilde Le Jardin

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Houseplant subscriptions

I have noticed a spike in my stats for an old blog covering Geo-Fleur plant subscriptions. I guess while all the plant addicts are stuck on lockdown they are craving their hit of plants. So time for some plant pimping. Geo-fleur is no longer operating as Geo-fleur. One of the staff moved onto House of Kojo. This member of staff is no longer with House of Kojo and they have no association with Geo-Fleur anymore. They are still offering interesting plants though but no plant subscription service. Worth taking a gander. So I’m going to cover a few houseplant subscription offers as I felt I should update the previous blog. I haven’t used any of them but I have heard good things about the ones listed. If any want to send me a box to review I am perfectly open to plant bribery.

The idea of a plant subscription is a bit of strange one. You pay to get a mystery plant delivered to you at a set interval. Some do monthly, some every 3 months, etc. Many offer delightful pots to go with the plants. I had three months with geo-fleur and I received several plants I would never have bought myself. A rather nice succulent, a string of hearts and some nice airplants.  All three are still thriving over a year later. It can be a bit of an expensive way to get hold of plants but can make for a nice gift for a special occasion.

Bloombox is one of the more established subscription services. They offer a classic subscription, a larger plant subscription or something special for rarer plants.

Lazy Flora is nice in that they offer garden subscriptions, houseplant subscriptions or veg box subscriptions. With a lot of people struggling to get hold of GYO, I could see this one being useful. There is also the option for buying a combined indoor/outdoor pack.

Plantpetclub seems worth a mention for offering a variety of pet-friendly plants.

A few suggestions for you if you are out there looking for houseplant subscription. If you try any let me know how you get on with them.

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Happy Easter

Happy Easter blessings to all! I hope you’ve all been able to enjoy your Easter weekends within whatever limitations you are facing. We’ve had fun making our plot on a plate and being out in the garden. No giant bunnies for us this year, but maybe next year grandad rabbit will return.

Alice was very excited to see we’d had a visitor in the garden today.

And following the trail.

The traditional metal tins caused much excitement. I think she thought that the whole egg was chocolate.

Gnomes up to no good as normal.

And the end of the trail.

We’ve now got to spread out the chocolate eating over a month to avoid a sugared up child. Hope you’re all keeping well.


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Six on Saturday: 11.4.20

We’ve had a good week in the garden with some nice weather. The GYO is coming on well. The lettuce and radishes seedlings germinated well, the potatoes are planted and the broad beans are almost ready to go in the bed. I’ve found time to help sort a bit of the neighbours garden. One of my blogs is now featured on Haith’s bird food website if you didn’t catch it earlier in the week. My first assignments for the RHS level 2 in horticulture has been submitted. And I also made the press as the rubbish grower of sunflowers. The seeds are progressing well. More of the sunflower seeds saved from my parents have germinated but should have something to show eventually. Anyway on with this weeks six.

1. Plant food maker

Having seen Karen’s blog on the Bokashi composter I fancied getting back into making my own liquid feed. You can do this just in a bucket but it’s a bit pleasanter on the nose if you can have something with a better fitting lid. I found this one for just over a tenner. For the price, it feels pretty solid. It has been set up in the lesser photographed compost corner. It is hidden by the euonymus and rarely features within blogs. I have a few compost bins hidden away, though I used much of the homemade compost on next doors garden. I had a fresh delivery of Dalefoot Compost from my local peat-free nursery ‘The little green plant factory‘. I’m rationing out my compost for my GYO and my dahlias later in the month. I’ve got a good few seedlings on the go but should alright for a little while.

Back to the composter. Inside is a cage to fill with green material. I will probably cut some nettles as they are high in plant nutrients. The composter is then filled with water and the green material allowed to break down. The liquid can then be drained through the tap to then be diluted as a liquid feed. It comes with a convenient storage bottle that slots underneath to keep the concentrate in. It will hopefully give me a convenient, thrifty, sustainable way of creating some extra feed for my plants.

2. Radishes

The raised bed has had its first produce planted. I’m starting with an easy grow with some Cherry Belle radishes that were bought from my work before it closed. Then I’ve sown some globe radish seed direct in the soil. They’ve shown signs of germinating. So should get a harvest of the Cherry Belle radishes followed by the globes. My broad beans are growing in paper pots and they are almost ready to go in as is my lettuce.

3. Tulip alectric

These tulips were planted a couple of years ago and didn’t do much the first year. There were a few last year and then this year they have put on a proper show.

4. Tulip tarda

These were part of a Morrison’s naturalising blend. I’ve tried to shift gradually away from too many bulbs that need replacing each year and looking at bulbs that will naturalise and spread. In part this saves money, but it’s also probably better for the environment not having the transport miles and the wastage in the industry. It’s a very short variety and is getting a bit lost amongst the daffs that are still out. It was listed as flowering late April so it’s growing up under the sealing wax daffodils currently. They may settle into a rhythm next year or they may need moving further forward in the border. They are normally used in rockeries where they will show. I bought the set more for the Muscari and Chinodoxa but these are rather lovely. I’ll be happy if they spread.

5. Toy photography

Not to be outdone by Alice’s photography, Amy is now exploring the world of toy photography. She is looking to take multiple images and stack the photos, so it looks like the tripod and ring flash will be claimed for a while. I quite fancy taking part in the plot on a plate competition from Chelsea Physics garden so that will give her something to photograph. I think Batman on the edge of Alice’s fairy garden works well with the reflection of the blue gems behind.

6. Seagull deterrent

The seagulls seem to be missing their fish and chips during lockdown so they are invading the garden more than normal. I don’t normally mind them eating from the feeders but they’ve broken one and eaten some of my salvia seedlings. So, we are trying to keep them off the patio. They can go on the lawn but don’t want them eating my seedlings before they get a chance to establish.  Alice shouting and armed with a water pistol seems to be working as a good deterrent. The plants also get a bit of water though I can’t get her out of the habit of shooting the flower heads rather than the roots.

I’ve got lots to keep me busy. With the extra time and the mini-greenhouse, a lot of extra seeds have been sown. The weather is meaning the pots all need watering and the less hardy plants still need bringing in on a night. My upcycled seat project needs finishing and still need to keep on top of the rest of the garden. I hope you’re all keeping well.

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Six on Saturday-Alice edition

This week you are getting treated to an additional six as Alice has had her camera out. She would have gone for lots more photos but she ran out of memory on the camera. So here we have six photos from Alice.

1. The windmill

Alice went for the ornaments first. Alice has bought several windmills for the garden over the last few years and they’ve almost all snapped apart from this one which has survived our strong winds so far.

2. Gnomes

We bought two of these tiny plant topper gnomes last month. She is now relocating them on a regular basis, though they mainly return to the fairy house.

3. The fairy garden

The fairy garden has been getting a bit more care lately, though as Alice is playing out a lot of the residents are in the mud kitchen now. Though at the moment I’m glad I sorted out a number of the things she can play with outside last month. She’s making up wonderful stories around her characters. Her imagination is on fire at the moment.

4. Camellia japonica ‘Dr. King’

The camellia is starting to open its flowers. It’s got a lot more blooms on it than last year. Some are looking to have suffered from frost damage. We’ll see how badly before we decide if the space could be used better.

5. Daffodils

She’s still at an age where she is mainly interested in the flowers, no interest in the finer side of foliage but she’ll learn. So here are some daffs.

6. Portrait of the photographer

Then she wanted some photos of herself. Here she is posing with one of the daffs either snapped by the gulls or neighbors cat.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the bonus content. Interesting to see what a 3-year-old considers to be the best parts of the garden. She’s eagerly waiting on her Riding Hood tulips to come into flower. She’s gone with a lot of red flowers so she’s a bit dismissive of many of the flowers currently. But for her favourite colour, we’ve got tulips, sweet peas and salvias on the way. Enjoy your weekends.

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Floral Friday-Supporting Greenfingers

After a downbeat blog on the crisis in Horticulture earlier in the week I wanted to look at doing something more positive today. Today is Floral Friday so we are dressed in our best floral print to raise some awareness for Greenfingers Charity. Greenfingers are a UK charity that supports children and families in hospices. They help to create green spaces to give therapeutic benefits to children with life-limiting conditions. I am very fortunate to have a lovely space to garden in with Alice and we love our time together out in the garden. A beautiful garden space can uplift the spirits like nothing else. At this difficult time any support, no matter how small will be appreciated. This is a time for kindness. Donations can be made through

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