May 23rd, 2006


Chelsea Flower Show

I used to go to Chelsea Flower Show every year. Now I sit at home watching it on television and complaining about how bad the coverage is. So far this year though, I have rather enjoyed it.
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A huge improvement is not having to see smug-chops Diarmuid Gavin sticking a finger up at the great viewing public. I can hardly believe the difference this makes. Another change is that the BBC seems to have listened to its many critics. There is much less this year about so-called celebrities and far more coverage of the plants in the Marquee Great Pavilion rather than just looking at the same few gardens over and over again. I was pleased to see someone I know (waves), Neil Lucas of Knoll Gardens
picking up his fifth gold medal in a row.

Yesterday I decided that the gardens I liked best were Chris Beardshaw’s Wormcast Garden, which is based on Boveridge House in Dorset, and Tom Stuart Smith’s stunning garden for The Daily Telegraph. Today I see that both have gold medals and The Telegraph Garden won best in show. You can see the Wormcast Garden here. The planting is beautiful and it all looks so finished and settled, as if you could really walk into it. I do like to see modern gardens at Chelsea but I haven’t see anything as nice as this one, based on planting plans by Gertrude Jekyll. Dorset is well represented as the Jurassic Coast Garden is also inspired by Dorset and the plants were supplied by Abbotsbury.

Garden Africa is interesting because it is so different from everything else and because it shows the incredible luxury we all live in here. I have a large area of fertile soil and adequate rainfall and it’s given over almost entirely to ornamental plants. How lucky is that?

Back to the real world and my privileged little part of it. This morning the sun was shining and I took my sheep shears and slashed to the ground every pulmonaria I could get at. There are several good reason to do this.
Rain is forecast for the rest of the week, which will encourage nice new leaves to grow.
It will stop seeding and I have too many of these plants already.
It will help to stop the plants getting mildew and/or rust later on.
Weeds and snails were hiding under the leaves and have been dealt with.
It adds a good herbaceous layer to the compost heap after the last lot of grass.

I also noticed that the forget-me-nots were getting mildewed already, so I had them out. When I went to put the barrow load on the compost heap I found it steaming: lovely! Our heaps are just that; no fancy boxes, constructions of sleepers or chicken wire; no accelerators. Just a heap, beaten into a roughly rectangular shape and layered as much as possible. At the end of the season it is simply covered with a large tarpaulin weighted with logs and left to cook. By that time, last year’s heap is ready for use. It takes time but it works perfectly well so if anyone offers you ‘rich crumbly compost in just six weeks!’ I should ignore them, especially if they want you to spend a couple of hundred quid on a bin. The whole point about wonderful compost is that it is completely FREE.