RHS Chelsea 2014 – Talking Points

RNIB Minds Eye Garden

Fresh garden – RNIB Minds Eye Garden

We visited Chelsea last wednesday, having dithered over the ticket order we were only able to purchase an afternoon ticket. Its worth buying the kings ransom all day ticket though as there is so much to see and negotiating crowds takes time.

The Fresh gardens, were better presented this year, still located on the far side but in their own area, rather than stuffed in amongst trade stands. The 10 very individual Fresh gardens were the gems of the show. RHS blurb…”we are challenging designers to be brave and step outside the perceived Chelsea garden”.

I wear glasses and have done since a child, my sight is my most important sense, each year the prescription is strengthened and now varifocals. The RNIB Minds Eye Garden was a sensory experience, designed to stimulate ones imagination or minds eye, the point being that non sighted or partially sighted could enjoy this garden too. Centred around a glass box with water running down the sides, standing inside the box, the view for a fully sighted person was blurred. The fabulous planting became a muddle. Enclosed in the stands goodie bag a glasses shaped cloudy dark spotted piece of plastic, looking through gave an idea of what it would be like to have diabetes affected sight.

RNIB Minds Eye  Iris 'Kent Pride'

RNIB Minds Eye
Iris ‘Kent Pride’ (My favourite plant of the show)

The Garden Museum sponsored the ‘Cave Pavilion’

'Cave Pavilion' in partnership with the Garden Museum

‘Cave Pavilion’ in partnership with the Garden Museum

Look closely and the planting is contained within a large industrial container with only one viewing point and bench to sit and look. The plants were all collected by modern day plant hunters Sue and Bleddyn Wynn-Jones of Crug Farm Plants. The plants are all wild origin and used in their natural uncultivated form. The blurb says this raises ideas of exploration, discovery and imagination and yes it filled the brief – Brilliant.

Oak Processionary Moth Garden

Oak Processionary Moth Garden

A garden with an important biosecurity message, the oak trees at one end of the garden were wrapped in fabric to symbolise the the impact of this devastating moth. Its native to mainland Europe and was imported accidentally into the UK in 2006, caterpillars strip the tree bare leaving the Oak vulnerable to other pests and diseases and less able to withstand extreme weather. Why are we still importing Oak trees, any trees for that matter.

Reachout garden

Reachout garden

The Reachout garden was inspired by young people in Lancashire and depicts a girl leaning against a slate wall and the journey faced by young people on the way to adulthood. I really, really like these symbolic gardens with thought and purpose.

Gaura 'Freefolk Rosy' Shortlisted for RHS Plant of the Year from Hardys

Gaura ‘Freefolk Rosy’
Shortlisted in the top 20 for RHS Plant of the Year from Hardys

The great Pavillion hosts a brilliant selection of nurseries from the UK and across the world, amongst the displays the RHS Plant of the Year 2014 top 20. The Gaura did not win but would of been my choice.

Artisan gardens, 7 this year, the RHS blurb…”Designers are challenged to use an artisan approach”

Tour de Yorkshire garden

Tour de Yorkshire garden

My husband a very keen cyclist, me less good, in fact rubbish at speedy cycling, but we both loved the Tour de Yorkshire garden. The tour de France is kicking off in Yorkshire this year, hence the link. The beautiful York stone wall incorporated recycled bike wheels.

The Best in Show Artisan garden Togenkyo (A Paradise on Earth) was beyond exceptional in its execution, the attention to detail staggeringly good. My only comment, someone had booked a rockabilly band to play in the adjoining food court area, the volume control knob was missing and a sound so out of context to this stunning garden ensued. I am very sure the designer Kazuyuki Ishihara did not like the music either.

Togenkyo (A Paradise on earth) Best in Show Artisan garden

Togenkyo (A Paradise on earth) Best in Show Artisan garden

My favourite garden – the Potters garden, depicting a pottery, where the workers went off to the first world war and thankfully all survived, coming back to resume their work in the Pottery. This was one of three gardens at Chelsea this year reflecting war.

The Potters Garden

The Potters Garden

Aquilegia 'Green Apples' on the Artisan category Norse Garden

Aquilegia ‘Green Apples’ on the Artisan category Norse Garden

I understand Mr Titchmarsh now retired from presenting Chelsea came into a bit of flak for the safeness of his garden. It was jolly, I liked it. Bringing attention to the RHS Britain in Bloom initiative and isn’t that about being jolly, being inspired and bringing a bit of cheer to some of our dingier landscapes.

Alan Titchmarsh Britain in Bloom garden

Celebrating 50 years in horticulture for Alan Titchmarsh and Kate Gould’s Britain in Bloom garden

The Show gardens, 15 this year, including one, the Cape Cod garden, which I could not find at all. A free map would be handy thrown in with the very pricey ticket.

Asphodeline lutea, Centurea ‘Black Ball’,  Cerinthe purpurescens, Cleve West Contemporary Paradise Garden

Asphodeline lutea, Centurea ‘Black Ball’, Cerinthe purpurescens, Cleve West Contemporary Paradise Garden

Laurent Perrier Garden - best in show

Laurent Perrier Garden – best in show

Can anyone identify this for me, on the very beautiful Laurent Perrier Garden, but missing from the plant list.

P.S. This afternoon (28.5.14) Neil from Avon Bulbs contacted me and identified this really beautiful plant for me, he could because they grew these for the Laurent Perrier garden, its Gladiolus tristis and available to order. I had not appreciated that its also wonderfully scented in the evenings.

Phlox divaricata, Orlaya Grandiflora, Lupinus Cashmere Cream, Deschampsia flexuosa Laurent Perrier Gold and Best in show

Phlox divaricata, Orlaya Grandiflora, Lupinus Cashmere Cream, Deschampsia flexuosa
Laurent Perrier Gold and Best in show

I loved the planting on the laurent Perrier garden, I have tried to grow Lupins and the wonderfully scented Phlox divaricata, both need more shelter than I can offer, I am growing the hardy annual Orlaya grandiflora for the first time this year, with seed I bought at Chelsea last year from Hardys. I have high hopes.

Orlaya grandiflora

Orlaya grandiflora

Our afternoon ticket only gave us 4.5 hours, not enough time to visit the greatest flower show on earth. And now no more time to blog, I have potting up to do. One last thought, I miss Diarmuid Gavin and his crazy outrageous but above all memorable gardens, there were many large very tasteful show gardens this year that in looking through 500 odd photos I can’t assign to any particular one with ease.

RHS Malvern Spring Festival May 2014

The Malvern show held at the Three Counties Show ground in Malvern, Worcestershire is a couple of hours drive from home, after the long motorway drive I spilled out onto glorious countryside, the sun shone, although the forecast was ghastly and my hopes were up for a my first ever visit.

Bringing Nature Home

‘Bringing Nature Home’ Gold and Best in Show

Parking was easy, entry good and then where to first. I am not sure if it was a me, but the layout was chaotic and the complete lack of any recognisable or understandable signage meant the first two hours were spent getting my bearings. I heard a man on a loud speaker telling us where to find the show gardens, I still did not find them all and there were only 9. The garden which had won best in show was a lovely concept, one half formal with elegant planting divided by simple wooden screens and the other half wild, the photo above shows the wilder half and the photo below the formal half. I liked it, especially the use of Luzula nivea grass in the formal part, I love this little grass and if pushed to choose this one is my favourite ever grass.

Bringing Nature Home Gold - Best in show

‘Bringing Nature Home’
Gold – Best in show

There wasn’t a route as such more a higgedly layout, so no sense of what to look at next, but a look at me garden was the ‘En su Casa en la Playa’ (At home on the Beach).

En su Casa en la Playa (At Home on the Beach) Gold

‘En su Casa en la Playa’ (At Home on the Beach) Gold

Depicting a setting on a beach in the Balearic islands of a family home, complete with a little Paella shop. I am guessing this would be even more lovely had it been a warm late spring day, instead of the 22 mile an hour winds and the decreasing temperature drop, even so, this is a place I would like to visit. I could imagine a moment sitting on the loungers and a good book for company.

Nearby was a lady on her own, with another garden, which at first I was not sure if it was a show garden, such was the higgledy layout. Not my choice but I appreciated the work that went into its concept and creation. Apparently it symbolised the path led after death entitled “Oooh…it makes me wonder”.

Ooh...I wonder whats comes next - Silver

‘Oooh…it makes me wonder’ – Silver

Shears and Chardonnay another garden, with bits I would like such as the wonderful back habitat wall built of logs and complete with a living roof along the top of the wall.

Shears and Chardonnay - Silver Gilt

Shears and Chardonnay – Silver Gilt

And the last two I found, one not for me, was ‘Blush’ the blurb describes the colour scheme as soothing and the garden somewhere to relax, this garden also came with a long strip of Fuchsia pink gravel.

Blush - Silver Gilt

Blush – Silver Gilt

And lastly although I did not spot any fruit in this garden, despite its title, I would quite like a little sunken seating area and outside oven at home, I may then once in a while sit down.

'A Fruity Story' Silver Gilt

‘A Fruity Story’ Silver Gilt

The show has lots of stalls outside selling plants and sundries, I failed to find anything on my list, mostly Penstemons and Irises, and headed off to the marquees, with no clue as to what was inside any of them.

In one I found the very best stall Avon bulbs, lots of people crowded around, I think business was good!

Avon Bulbs Gold winning stand

Avon Bulbs Gold winning stand

In another I found the The East of Eden Geum Nursery and very nearly made an impulse purchase and thought long and hard, deliberated and dithered about where this Geum could go. And then asked could I buy one, nope the early bird gets the worm and it was sold out.

Geum 'East of Eden' From East of Eden Nursery

Geum ‘East of Eden’ introduced in 2013
From East of Eden Nursery

The Alpine Society were at Malvern and after a couple of hours wandering I finally found them in a massive farm building. Hurrah! Actually not that far from where I had started. Its was so chilly and windy at Malvern that wooly hats were being worn.

Another Alpine society show bench

One of the Alpine society show benches

One of the Alpine society show benches

Alpine society show benches

Pleione vesuvius 'tawny owl'

Pleione vesuvius ‘tawny owl’

Cypripedium gisela

Cypripedium gisela

Isn’t this a wonderful world, and isn’t mother nature brilliant to bring us such amazing plants, I can’t look at the Cypripedium gisela without thinking of the Queen of Hearts from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland.

With the decreasing temperatures and blackening skies, I decided to head home after one last purchase a 5 metre long natural slug and snail barrier seed tape from Simple Sowing and a lovely chat with a very nice man from the Rare Breeds group.

I would go again, but with a compass and a long piece of string.

Visiting the RHS London Alpine Garden Show

We visited the RHS London Alpine Show last Sunday, its a busy time of year for me and a whole day out in London was an extravagance of time but I am so very glad we went. A whole new world was opened up. The show was not like the two other RHS London shows I have visited this year. Occupying one hall at first it seemed small but less is more and what was on offer was both interesting and stimulating. Ranging from the weird to the wonderful there were lots of plants and displays.

Saxifraga pubescens snowcap Alan and Janet Cook 1st

Saxifraga pubescens snowcap Alan and Janet Cook 1st

Asarum maximum

The unusual Asarum maximum

The four talks were aimed at folk who really know their plants and for Alpine novices like me, there were lots of helpful people to answer questions. There was no frenzied furore but a more relaxed atmosphere.

Four Nurseries were exhibiting. Evolution plants who had a wide range of exciting plants I was not familiar with including their labelled Paeonia ‘Bai He Wo Xue’ I have spent much time since trying to research this and now wished I had asked more, however, here she is.

Paeonia 'Bai He Wo Xue' Evolution Plants

Paeonia ‘Bai He Wo Xue’
Evolution Plants

Zanthoxylum Evolution Plants

Evolution Plants

Keith Wiley from Wildside Nursery in Devon was exhibiting, the show opened from 11, we arrived at 12ish and he had already sold a lot of stock, Steven Lacey wrote an article in the Telegraph a few years ago about Keith’s Devon garden and nursery “Wiley concocted naturalistic planting schemes of a breadth, richness and complexity that took even seasoned garden visitors by surprise.” Jacques Amand were there too but with a much broader range of plants than I had seen from them before and a lovely stand by Trewidden Nursery from Cornwall.

Erica cerinthoides Trewidden Nursery

Erica cerinthoides
Trewidden Nursery

There were several exhibitors long benches and it was incredibly relaxing to wander along each show bench slowly studying the plants and certificates, my husband (not a gardener) switched from very busy demanding job mode to this is lovely and so relaxing mode.

One of the Alpine Exhibitors Benches

One of the Alpine Exhibitors Benches

Cypripedium fargesii a 1st for Colin and Elaine Barr

Cypripedium fargesii Colin and Elaine Barr 1st

Helen and her blog thepatientgardener is very involved with the Alpine Society and she helped at the London Alpine show, her blog gives an excellent overview of the whole event. Like Helen I was also smitten by the plant and presentation of an Androsace vandellii.

Androsace vandellii

Androsace vandellii

Helen has encouraged me to join the alpinegardensociety and it turns out I have a local group only a few miles from me, where I hope to learn much more. The website gives details of forthcoming events and local groups.

This is the first RHS London Alpine show, I hope they host more, on the day the RHS linked up with the Garden Museum a 20 minute walk away, offering a combined ticket to the Garden Museum Spring fair. I would thoroughly recommend a visit to this little museum, a great chilled atmosphere and an oasis of a garden, plus a really nice cafe!

RHS Great London Plant Fair April 2014 and a visit to The Garden Museum


Hardys Cottage Garden Plants Geum 'Totally Tangerine'

Hardys Cottage Garden Plants Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’

I made a visit on the second day to The RHS Great London Plant Fair held in the Lindley and Lawrence Halls, Westminster. In very mild April temperatures and in contrast to last years show in late March when there was a biting chill and some snow still on the ground. With so much early Spring blossom already in full flow throughout the country purchases were easy to make rather than a what will I do with them whilst the ground thaws out worry.

 Hardys Cottage Garden Plants always have a lovely stand, this year the most spectacular display of Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ en masse, underplanted with Geranium pyreniacum ‘Isparta’ and against the zingy green of a Euphorbia.  This Geum is totally gorgeous!

Ranunculus montanus Double form

Ranunculus montanus Double form

Another that went onto my wish list was Hardys Ranunculus montanus Double form. I need to find a more creative place to plant these small Ranunculus, away from large dog paws. This led me to D’Arcy & Everest and their stand of Alpine troughs, something to consider.

D'Arcy & Everest Alpine and Sempervivum troughs

D’Arcy & Everest Alpine troughs

D'Arcy & Everest Alpine & Sempervivum troughs

D’Arcy & Everest  Sempervivum troughs


Across from Hardys in the Lawrence Hall the lovely W & S Lockyer stand, was full of Spring joy.

W & S Lockyer from Surrey

W & S Lockyer from Surrey

Amongst the Daffodils this Primula Gilded Gold, a real little stunner and on my wish list.

W & S Lockyer Primula Gilded Gold

W & S Lockyer Primula Gilded Gold

Finally I was able to buy the Tunnel supports from Plant Belles (they had sold out at the last RHS show) and are now installed on my veg plot, after an interesting journey home on the train.

Plant Belles Stand

Plant Belles Stand


Plant Belles Tunnel support










The display of Tulips from H.W Hyde & son was still looking fresh despite two warm show days. The Lingerie Tulip was eye catching, too sugary for me to grow at home, but really very pretty.

H.W Hyde & son Lingerie

H.W Hyde & son Lingerie

After a visit to the Lindley Hall and distracted by the talks and some seed purchases from Beans and Herbs, I headed over to visit the Garden Museum, having read the blog of digwithdorris and her visit. Its a 20 minute walk from The Horticultural halls, crossing the Lambeth Bridge and sited next to Lambeth Palace on the South Bank of the Thames.

The Garden Museum

The Garden Museum – Dan Pearson designed the long border

The Garden Museum

The Garden Museum

The Garden Museum was set up in 1977 in St Mary’s church, once abandoned and now lively and home to a wealth of information, check their website out for a whole list of interesting eye openers, as Dorris reports they are currently holding an Exhibition – Gardens and Fashions, which is running until Sunday April 27th. The RHS are holding a new show this year – the Alpine Show, also on April 27th. A combined ticket for both shows through the RHS is just £4 for members £9 for non members. The Garden Museum are holding their Spring Plant Sale on the same day, choose to go there and miss the RHS show and entry is £5 for everyone, including the Garden and Fashion exhibition. Bargain!

Hatfield House and the National Garden Scheme (NGS)


Daffodils in the Woodland garden

Daffodils in the Woodland garden at Hatfield House

On Saturday in glorious sunshine I made a visit to Hatfield House in Hatfield Hertfordshire, where most of the garden was open in aid of the National Garden Scheme.

The NGS is a charity raising funds for specific Nursing and Caring charities through the opening of hundreds of small and large private gardens throughout the country. Born from an idea in 1926 to raise funds to support and train nurses, since then the NGS has donated nearly 43 million pounds including in the past ten years 23 million pounds to these charities, Macmillan Cancer support, Marie Curie Cancer care, Help the Hospices, Carers Trust, The Queens Nursing Institute, Perennial (Gardeners Royal Benevolent Society) and from 2010 an annual guest charity, for 2014 it is Parkinsons UK. Additionally small gardens have given over 4 million pounds directly to local charities of their choice.

Hatfield House is the Jacobean home of the Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury, Lady Salisbury manages the gardens together with a small team of gardeners. The garden open only on Saturday in aid of NGS will be fully open to the public from April 5th until September 28th 2014.

The old Palace garden

The old Palace garden

Elizabeth the 1st is said to have received the news of her accession at Hatfield House and an Oak has been planted on the spot, I did not find that Oak on Saturday but would like to when I visit again.

Bare bones of the Pleached Lime Walk

Bare bones of the Pleached Lime Walk

The Pleached Lime walk, when in leaf must be a magnificent sight, pruned and ready to go in late March it was still beautiful.


Cydonia Oblonga and the almost naked borders

West Garden

West Garden

The borders were stirring and showing signs of the promise to come. The path leads through to the Woodland Garden, which on Saturday was the star of the show.

When the garden opens fully, the East Garden is open only on a Wednesday and is on the private side of Hatfield House.


The West garden surrounded by the Pleached Lime Walk.





Nineteenth century Rhododendron in the Woodland garden

Nineteenth century Rhododendron in the Woodland garden

In the Spring the woodland garden has lots of bluebells which were not yet out but in a few weeks I expect it will be a gorgeous sight.






Prunus Yedoensis

Prunus Yedoensis

Prunus Yedoensis







Prunus Yedoensis in the Woodland garden, I wasn’t the only one enjoying the blossom. The bee took me by surprise, I had my head right in the middle of the blossom, studying the stamens.


Independent to the gardens but adjoined are the very civilised looking Stable yard shops and Coach House restaurant, I can’t vouch for their tea, it was so warm I was on bottles of water, but it was packed with visitors so guessing it was good.


Woburn Abbey Gardens – through the seasons



Early July long border

Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire, the beautiful home of the Duke and Duchess of Bedford  first opened to the public in 1955. The gardens in one form or another date back 400 years and amazingly just nine staff currently manage the grounds. The garden as it is now spreads across nearly 30 acres and is set against the magnificent back drop of the house and the surrounding deer park from which the garden is separated by a haha. Since 2004 many areas of the garden have been redeveloped and work is underway for further restoration and development work, drawing on the visions of Woburn’s historic designers. Its a garden I visit regularly, through all of the seasons and I wanted to share my highlights of this past gardening year.

Deer park

Deer park, which supports nine species of Deer

From the gate house a 2 mile serpentine drive winds through the 3,000 acre Deer park which allows some spectacular views of the many magnificent historic trees, passing the private entrance and finally reaching the car park and public entrance to the house and gardens. There are designated public footpaths leading through the Deer park, which can also link to the nearby 40 mile long Greensand Ridge walk.

Early Spring – As well as the huge number of trees to metaphorically hug, admire from afar or get up close to in the woodland area, there were an increasing number of Snowdrop drifts this year and the now restored Camellia House to shelter in and swoon over.


Camellia House Mimosa in central bed


Camellias clothe the walls








Late Spring – my favourite time here and the borders are just beginning to flourish, an exciting time to see how Woburn encourages their bio-diversity areas. Swathes of grass behind the formal borders and throughout the gardens are left long and are awash with wildflowers. This works really well and shows how even the most splendid of borders do not need a manicured lawn to show them off.

Wildflowers in the long grass

Wildflowers in the long grass

Bio diversity areas

Mid June – Orchids and other wildflowers in the bio-diversity areas

Beyond the most formal parts of the garden the grass is also extensively left long for the thriving wildflowers and mown pathways lead the way through to the furthest parts of the garden.

Kitchen garden

Kitchen Garden in June




Early Summer – The Kitchen garden is relatively small and is a recreation of part of the main 4 acre Kitchen garden which is half a mile from the house, this recreation was completed in 2011 and is bordered on three sides by walls and a clipped Yew hedge. Its lovely but I would really like to visit the full working Kitchen garden.


The historic Cedar of Lebanon tree is the pride and joy of the Woburn gardeners, planted over two centuries ago and its pretty spectacular!

Cedar of Lebanon

Cedar of Lebanon in early July

The new borders added two years ago are either side of a wide gravel path which lead towards the Lake, Cone House and Hornbeam maze.


New borders in July

Folly with Rambling rector rose

The Folly entrance – the Folly was restored in 2005

High Summer and The Folly, a design by Humphry Repton who was commissioned in 1805 by the 6th Duke of Bedford to make improvements to the existing landscape and “Pleasure Grounds” surrounding Woburn Abbey, Repton produced a series of Red Books, containing the views he saw in the form of paintings and then an overlay of how he would change and improve these views. Woburn has an exhibition room dedicated to Repton, for those interested in Garden Design history.




Inside The Folly

Inside The Folly, the walls encrusted with shells


The Folly and children’s garden had fallen into complete disrepair, but are now restored and the children’s garden replanted. Apparently the nanny would read to children inside the folly.



Autumn – In October we joined Head Gardener Andrew Stout on a guided tour of the gardens, these tours are free and take place once a month on the same day as the  “come and grow” events. It was quite exciting to go behind the scenes and look inside the normally locked Chinese Dairy. Designed by Henry Holland and built in 1794  to house the 5th Dukes collection of oriental porcelain, the Dairy was originally connected to the house. This building too is now restored and if you get the chance a behind the scenes tour is recommended.


Originally designed by Henry Holland, the now restored Chinese Dairy

The long borders were still looking good in October.


October borders

The Bog Garden was also looking good in October. Opened in 2007 and is sited on a natural spring, the water encourages many dragonflies in the summer.


The Bog garden in October

Winter – Woburn is not known for its winter planting or mass displays of early spring bulbs, but it has the most fantastic trees, my photos do not do them justice, but if trees are your thing a winter visit is well worth the time.

Winter Oak

Winter Oak



Some of the many spectacular Woburn Trees








Woburn is an easy garden to visit, thoughtfully signed, helpful staff and good paths to walk on. A decent cup of Tea too. Currently open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and from April 11th 2014 the gardens are open daily.

RHS London Plant and Design Show February 2014

The RHS London Plant and Design Show, took place over 2 days, Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd February and spanned both the Lawrence and Lindley Horticultural Halls, in Westminster, London.


The exhibitors included some 29 nurseries and plant growers, 15 trade stands, 3 garden design colleges and two stands occupied by NAFAS – the National association of flower arrangement societies. Throughout the two days there were several Design talks taking place as well as demonstrations and workshops.

Avon plants gold winning display

Avon plants gold winning display

This years show also included the RHS Potato day and Pennard Plants had a huge display of their very good seeds and apparently 75 types of potato. There were also a series of Potato talks and workshops. I bought some, but not wanting to carry masses home from London limited myself to just 10 organic Setana seed potatoes, plus some Grandiflora ‘Senator’ Sweet Pea seeds.

Pennards seeds with trugs of seed potatoes for sale too.

Pennards seeds with trugs of seed potatoes for sale too.

I did not arrive until Saturday lunchtime – dogs to walk ect.., but managed to catch two of the talks, Chris Pennards Chitting workshop and later Andrew Wilsons garden design talk, both of which were very good.

The Stands were full of gorgeous Spring cheer and in the Lawrence Hall Hardys Plants were displaying amongst many beautiful plants a really lovely Hellebore ‘Anemone Picotee’

Helleborus x hybridus 'Anemone Picotee'

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Anemone Picotee’

Another favourite from Hardys plants with a lovely citrus scent.

Coronilla subsp. glauca Citrina

Coronilla subsp. glauca Citrina

Broadleigh Gardens had one particular Iris that went straight to the top of my wish list, and I am told just a few cut flowers will fill a room with its beautiful scent.

Iris Tuberosa

The very lovely Iris Tuberosa

One of the four stands awarded gold – Trewidden Nursery were displaying a very pretty Erica discolor, which needs protection from severe frost.

Erica discolor

Erica discolor

A short walk across to Lindley Hall, where one of my favourite trade stands – Plant Belles were displaying some very nice rusted and galvanised plant supports. An overdue purchase for my veg garden was very nearly made – had I got there 30 minutes earlier, sadly for me they had just sold out of rusted support hoops. Next time.

Plant Belles

Plant Belles

Just one of the many gorgeous Irises from the Jacques Amand gold winning stand

Iris Alida

Iris Alida

Roll on Springtime!

Tapeley Park nr Bideford Devon

During our brief trip to North Devon we made time to visit Tapeley Park. Overlooking the River Torridge and with views across to Saunton Sands, Tapeley occupies a great spot. Its an easy garden to visit with four areas, The Italian Terraces, Woodland, Walled Kitchen Garden and the main reason for our visit the Permaculture Garden. Its a quirky place, with classical borders filled with English perennial planting and a large Stately home walled vegetable garden, juxtaposed with compost loos, eco friendly initiatives, dogs are allowed (virtually unheard of) and a permaculture garden. The owner Hector Christie has an interesting philosophy, his mission statement, blog and website all make fascinating and open insightful reading


Italian terrace

English perennial planting

English perennial planting

The Italian terraces are formal in style and some years ago were renovated with the help of Mary Keen and Carol Klein. There are lots of very English perennial planting and enormous sub tropical trees.


Peony bed

The Dairy lawn is flanked at one end by a colourful display of peonies.

We walked through to the The Walled Kitchen Garden and met the Head Gardener, who had worked at Tapeley for 25 years, he explained the long cold spring has really held back the growth and was hoeing areas that were waist high with sweetcorn last year but this year were still little more than seedlings. Elsewhere, the raspberries were just starting to surge forward.

Walled Kitchen Garden

Walled Kitchen Garden


Greenhouse running the length of the Walled Kitchen Garden

The curved roof greenhouses spanning the width of the Kitchen garden were full of Sweetpeas and Tomatoes and despite this years Spring the promise could be seen. There are plans to make the greenhouse heating eco friendly.

The Kitchen garden is to the east of the Italian Terraces, we traversed back across to the west side past the “under renovation” children’s area, which is currently closed and onto the Permaculture Garden.


In brief, permaculture is planting a permanent scheme of plants – trees, shrubs, perennial vegetables, fruits and flowers, without using any chemicals. Its both a practical and philosophical method of gardening.

The name Permaculture is amalgamated from the name PERMAnent and agriCULTURE

The aim is to create a woodland garden, with its own eco system ‘where many different species of plants and animals can live together in a harmony that benefits the entire system’

From Tapeley’s website this explains things better than I can. “Many layers of plants are skilfully placed to support and nourish each other. Firstly a tree canopy of, for example hazels, apples, sea buckthorn and willow; a shrub layer of blackcurrants, red currants and blueberries; a herbaceous layer of globe artichoke, rhubarb and seakale followed by a ground cover layer of strawberries, herbs and wild salad leaves. A vertical layer of climbers such as grapes, kiwi, and brambles increases the growing space by utilizing the vertical dimension. Many of the plants in Tapeley Garden are primarily perennial, that is to say they come back year after year without the need to re sow the seed. Plants that are not (like annual herbs and vegetables) are encouraged to self-seed.”

Permaculture planting

Permaculture planting

We visited to try and understand what permaculture is all about and now think in a small way its achievable in most gardens, the wild areas we are all encouraged to foster, to benefit the dwindling bee population could also be a productive and sustainable place for our own home food growing. Like Tapeley (but on a very small scale) I will try this alongside my satisfyingly organised vegetable plot. Maybe in a few years it will be as accepted as organic gardening is now.

Tapeley Park is open 10a.m to 5 p.m Sunday to Friday and from the end of March to October 31st. There is a small cafe and shop and really spectacular views.