The Chelsea Flower Show – add it to your bucket list!
Without mentioning names, *someone* did very well indeed with this year’s Christmas present: A workshop training day run by and taking place at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Garden in Wisley, Surrey (South UK). This place is beautiful and run by knowledgeable staff who are regularly brought in to provide expert advice in the UK’s gardening press and on TV.
The day was called ‘What now?’ and was designed to talk attendees through the different jobs to do in the garden during March/April in Spring. We also got a bit of a tour of the Wisley’s Spring gardens too, which were gorgeous and clearly attended to meticulously.
Below I’ve pasted jpgs of my notes from the day (prepare to get slightly nerdy about Ph levels and fertiliser) – and then the blog post is back on even ground with lots of pretty pictures 🙂
Here are some quick before and after pics of the pruning I carried out in February 2015 of the Etoile Violet and Bill Mackenzie clematis plants in the garden. Bill was cut back to his main stems and looks much tidier. I left the puffs of seed heads on as their charm hasn’t worn off on me yet. Etoile Violet has been cut down to new bud growth 30cm from the ground [planter] so that the plant channels its Spring energy into throwing up extra stems from the base. If you look closely, you can see that that is exactly what it has done within just 2-3 weeks here.
These pics show plants that have been in the ground for about 9 months, planted last June-ish from 9cm pot plants.
**If you are about to prune your clematis plants, be sure to look up what pruning ‘type’ or ‘group’ they belong to first, as different types need different pruning regimes in terms of timing in the year to cut and what, if at all, to cut.**
Today, in addition to a Dutch field’s worth of tulips, I also planted some of these at the tip of the ‘V’ shape plot where my Judas tree is. The ad is a bit contradictory on whether they’ll come up in late winter/early spring or Oct/nov, but whenever they do come up, I’m thinking they’ll look fab 🙂
Here we have it, from hole in the ground to feature tree seat!
I’ve learnt that a ‘standard’ in gardening is basically anything that if it grew naturally by itself then it would be a bush (a shrub). But if every year the lower branches are lopped off it then it can be trained to look, in effect, like a tree.
Here we have a white wisteria standard that is about 5-7 years old. It did flower this spring but unfortunately that was before I got to put it in the ground. It has about 5 foot of clear stem before the branches begin so that when you can sit on the seat under it with a bit of headroom.
Underneath the wisteria I’ve used Spanish white pebbles (large) and we’ve planted 2 albus (white) thyme plants and 2 black dragon ornamental grasses. Over time the thyme will creep over and around the pebbles. So when you tread on it to sit on the bench, you’ll release it’s scent.
The colour of the black dragon grass contrasts nicely with the white thyme and stone. It will provide movement also when there is a breeze. After the wisteria flowers I will have green leaves that will drop during autumn, but hopefully the weeping shape of the branches will hold to catch the frost gracefully in winter. Finally, when the flowers are out in spring time, there’ll be a lovely perfume when you take a seat.
Today is the day for the planting! I had some wonderful people come round and visit my garden to quote on the planting. All were very enthusiastic about the direction it was going in. After quotes and ideas were tendered I took some time to consider a) whether I really wanted to spend money getting a contactor to do the job (doubt is forever present!) and b) who to go with.
I had an expensive quote, a reasonable quote, a quote that never arrived as the contractor had such a lot on and also a contractor that politely declined the job as they felt it was a bit beyond their knowledge level, given that I had quite a defined list of ‘wants’/vision for the garden.
I have to admit that I also did take some time post quotes also to really consider whether this was a job that I could not manage myself. I did a lot of gardening book work and reading to see if I could suss it out … but every time I went to take myself to the nursery to order plants, I found I just had more questions than I did before.
So I went with the contracting. I am so pleased I did! I found that my new and improved plant knowledge meant that I could much more meaningfully engage with my plantsman when agreeing the planting list – which was a wonderful, enjoyable process. We discussed ideas for plants and he made lots of great suggestions before submitting planting lists for me to check through and agree.
It was time spent just going through colours, shapes and textures of plants. A process being coordinated *just for me*. Much as with RTL (the landscaper), this process of bringing in expertise has been a creative one – much like commissioning artists – you want to employ someone you can work with on a practical level (including the ability to have a constructive disagreement), someone you can afford/who is prepared to work to your budget, and also someone who ‘gets you’. Someone who is prepared to work to your style, provide insight and expertly shape your plans along the way.
Today I set an Easter Egg hunt in the shed for my partner. He’s 31. It had a 30 second timer on it prior to a potential lock in. Sounds harsh – but how would it be a realistic zone of the Crystal Maze (aka the popular 90s gameshow with Richard O Brien) otherwise? And besides, he suggested it.
Nb. If you’ve never looked up outtakes of the best contestants from Crystal Maze on YouTube before, then you really should.
But why all this Easter Egg hunting in the shed you ask?
Well, because my friend I recently become drowned in remortgage paperwork to the extent that I couldn’t think straight on the plants lark and consequently there are still no flowers in my garden. So to make me happy, I redecorated and organised the shed instead. A nice achievable bank holiday weekend task. And it IS making me happy!
Previously the shed was piled floor to ceiling with STUFF. I wish I’d taken a picture now but I didn’t. So instead, here is a picture of all the STUFF that was in the shed… piled up outside the shed…
Inside, the shed was bare and the wood hasn’t been treated in years.
Many a deceased shrivelled up spidey was found. There was occasionally a big live one too. And at those points I called him indoors to deal with it for me. Because I’m a wuss, clearly.
Originally there was, in fact, also another shelf in the shed that was higher than the one in the picture. I decided to take that down as it meant you couldn’t use the waist height shelf as a bench, which was useless really.
Next step was painting everything. Just used a cheap tin of coloured woodgrain from wilko. I needed to eek it out toward the end (I.e. Water it down), but all was okay with that.
Next, to decide on storage solutions. Lately I’ve been pretty fed up of not bing able to find the right tool when I needed it. Not all my tools fit inside the tool case I have, which is a jam packed mess, and so I end up having to hunt over a variety of locations. Not as much fun as you might think, given that there is no chocolate at the end.
So I sought out the cheapest of the following that I could find: tins (I had old ones around, but food tins or jam jars would of done it), magnetic knife racks (dunhelm mill is cheapest), twine/string, expandable little curtain pole (99p from wilko), hooks and nails.
I used the string to hold back long garden tools against the shed. I found that you have to make the top line easily detachable, otherwise you will be unable to get the tools out without bashing the ceiling.
I used big hooks at the top to hang hose pipe and electric tools from.
The old top shelf was painted with a tester pot of paint (watered down to manage the job) and rehung underneath the workbench shelf. Luckily I found that an old storage tack of mine fits underneath.
Also put up the little expandable net curtain rod to hold bundles of string and similar things.
Then I used the plastic coated metal twine to create holder loops for the plant tins. I divided up all the random packets of nails and things I had lying around so that I have a tin each for hooks/long screws/short screws/nails/wall plugs/cable tidy tacks, etc. OCD heaven. I might label them yet… [*swoon*]
The magnetic knife racks hold up lots of tools where you can see and reach them easily for use. Top tip: if the exposed metal of your screwdrivers isn’t really enough to hold them up against the magnet then use wire cutters top strip the plastic coating back, so there is more metal exposed.
I used old china plant pots and pretty hooks from a car boot sale to store extra things in, plus my Mum gave me a lovely whimsical picture as she is having a clear out at the mo – and so I’ve found that a happy home. 🙂
And I know you want to see it. .. so here is the pre-easter egg hunt pic. And a nice picture of Richard O’brien. Obviously.
As you know I’ve asked a few plants people and gardeners to come round and provide me with some quotes on the cost of planting up my new garden. They’ve got a great base to work from. Here is the quote spec and some drawings of the garden (overall plan is the one that is to scale) that I’m sharing to pull in the quotes:
Who said planning was boring – or that colouring pencils are for kids?!