Thursday, July 29, 2010

Waddesdon Manor- Take 2

Visiting Waddesdon Manor today was a first for A, but I had been once before with a friend. 
We began by buying our timed entrance tickets, which gave us plenty of time to walk down to the Stables for coffee. This time A took the audio tour and I took some photographs, albeit without flash as that is not allowed. We saw all the lovely artefacts that make up the vast Rothschild collections and A was very taken with the enormous billiard room in the Bachelor Wing.

This visit I was keen to see the beautiful gardens that we had glimpsed through the windows of the Manor. So soon we were outside again and walking around the house to find the famous Aviary. On the way we came across the impressive three-dimensional planting in the shape of some birds. The idea behind the Aviary was for it to be a gateway into the pleasure grounds, which included colourful raised bedding, a deer park, a collection of specimen trees, sculptures and fabulous views over the landscape. The Aviary is very pretty, painted turquoise with gold details. Inside there is plenty of foliage for the exotic birds to hide in, so we had to look carefully to spot them. Apparently the birds recognised Ferdinand Rothschild’s voice and would come to the front of the enclosures so he could feed them fruit and nuts. These days the Keeper of the Aviary has a successful breeding programme in place that contributes to the preservation of endangered species.
Walking on we came to the beautiful Parterre with its formal planting around the central fountain. We discovered that it takes two days to plant the latest design, which is made on a computer in a grid format; each square of the grid representing a tray of plants. The trays can then be placed as if in a jigsaw puzzle to complete the planting scheme. It works, as the beds were looking wonderfully colourful.

Venturing further into the grounds we found various statues, A Couple of Differnces between Thinking and Feeling by Angus Fairhurst (2002); Ficus Elastica (the rubber tree) by Ann Carrington; Perceval by Sara Lucas. We had seen Jeff Koons’ Cracked Egg(blue) But no pictures are allowed.
At last it was time to wander back to the car, parked along the driveway up to the house as all the car parks were full when we arrived. That is amazing as we never felt that the place was overcrowded. We came passed the urns unplanted in the middle of planting and at the end we found the heraldic beasts topiary. It had been a wonderful visit and we would still like to go back again. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Visiting RHS Garden Hyde Hall

It was a lovely summer’s day and so we set out to visit the garden that the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) have in Essex, Hyde Hall. It is some 20 minutes from the centre of Chelmsford between Rettendon and Woodham Ferrers. It is also the newest addition to the portfolio of gardens that belong to the RHS, being donated by the Robinson family in 1993.

We parked the car and then walked to the new entrance, which opened in August 2009. This is an attractive modern building that incorporates the shop, café and plant centre as well as the entrance. The building is heated by a ground source heat pump and the water harvested from it goes to a reservoir which provides the garden with all its irrigation needs. We entered the garden armed with a map and our first stop was to look along Millennium Avenue. This is an avenue of ash and oak trees planted in an ancient manner – swales and mounds - where the topsoil is dug out to form the swales which is then placed to form a mound into which the trees are planted. As the area here is poor clay soil, the young trees are held in the mounds of better topsoil until their roots are mature enough the cope with the heavy conditions. In between the two rows of trees is a green sweep of turf stretching to the distance on either side. We strolled through the meadows where some harvesting was taking place and gradually the path took us up the slope to the famous dry garden. This garden was begun in the winter of 2000. The gardeners have created a sandy free draining area that is home to some 400 or more species of  plants from areas with low summer rainfall such as South Africa, South America, Australia and of course, The Mediterranean. It was looking wonderful when we visited. The plants really enjoy the conditions and we will probably need to take advice from these gardeners when global warming means we cannot grow our English country garden plants any more.

At the top we came to the Hilltop Garden and walked under the pergola which is covered in wisteria in the spring. This brought us to the Hilltop Terrace with its lily pond, known as Upper Pond. The planting around it is lovely and led us on to explore the whole of the area with its sloping lawns and flower beds that extend down to Lower Pond with its moorhens; then following the Rose Rope Walk, we came back up to the terrace again.
Time for a short rest before further exploration, and we entered the farmhouse area where there is a café in one of the barns. Here there are some meals and sandwiches for sale as well as drinks and snacks. We had freshly made sandwiches and lemonade which we ate in the courtyard under sun umbrellas. 

Suitably refreshed, we then explored the rest of the garden which included a walk round a meadow where we found Constable’s hay wane resting by an old tree. At the entrance to the meadow there are several beehives that appear to be thriving. The meadow is being used to experiment with wildflower meadow planting. There are plenty of benches scattered across the whole garden, so if you’re feeling tired, or you just want to contemplate the lovely vistas, that’s not a problem. To make our way back to the entrance, we followed the path down into the Queen Mother’s Garden. I didn’t know, but each RHS Garden has a part dedicated to The Queen Mother who was a great supporter of the RHS. Here there are grassy avenues lined with mixed borders and trees giving dappled shade. Views across the countryside are lovely. Just through an archway in the yew hedge we found the Australia and New Zealand Garden full of plants from those areas including eucalyptus, bottle brush, phormium, tree ferns and kangaroo paw. 

At last we came to the sweeping borders of Clover Hill. Here the perennials are planted in drifts with grasses swaying gracefully between. You can take rest in the gazebo that overlooks this area and beyond, before making your way down to the Plant Centre. Here we found lots to tempt us, had we got a large garden, but lack of space prevented that. The Plant Centre has a great range of plants, many of those found at Hyde Hall itself. The shop is also full of beautiful gifts and the café beyond provided us with a welcome cup of tea before we set off back home. It was really a wonderful day spent in beautiful surroundings.
Hyde Hall is free to RHS Members, and costs £7 for adults and £2.50 for children 6 – 16 years. For more information go to

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2010

Don't forget that at this flower show there are loads of exhibitors with their trade stands tempting you to buy every imaginable garden supply from simple garden gloves and shoes to the most complicated gadgetry. So everyone was there with red hot credit cards and some with the bane of the show - those plastic boxes on wheels that catch you out at every turn, taking up precious space in the marquees as well as tripping you up as people stop and hang their wheelies out, just where you are about to walk. They also make a terrible noise on the metal walkways!
But, the stands all looked beautiful and some of the sculptures and garden sheds are so impressive, only a country estate or town council would have the space to use them. Expert sales people talked endlessly to prospective buyers and  a small forest of leaflets must have been handed out for perusal in the comfort of their own homes. How much tea, coffee, cakes, burgers and ice cream was consumed is unknown to me and of course, all those pitchers of Pimms by the Long Water just made many people's day. Some had booked leisurely lunches in one of the prestigious restaurants, with champagne to celebrate the day.
In fact, Hampton Court Palace Flower Show celebrated its 21st birthday in style; one of the largest flower shows in the world and definitely one of the highlights of the gardening year.

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2010

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2010

The RHS had a fantastic area called Home Grown, where volunteers and Garden experts were on hand to discuss all aspects of growing your own from fields of sunflowers to the perfect market garden, polytunnels, orchards with ducks and chickens and so much more. This was massively popular and there were times when one could hardly turn round for the number of enthusiastic visitors.
On the other side of the Long Water we found the Floral Marquee. This year it is one long structure - think I heard it was the longest marquee ever in Europe but can't find any confirmation of this. There were 95 exhibitors listed in the area who put on the most stunning displays including about ten featuring the "Summer Picnic" theme. (A lot of teddy bears starred here.)
There was also a fabulous display of fruit, flowers, veggies and plants all mixed together as well as beautiful specialist single species displays.
And we mustn't forget the Midsummer's Rose Festival and Plant Heritage Marquee that was very crowded later in the day when I got the chance to visit.

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2010

Friday, July 09, 2010

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2010

The Gardens in this slide show are from the last two Garden categories at the Flower Show. They are the Shakespeare's Comedies Gardens and the Small Gardens. The best Shakespeare Garden was The Merchant of Venice Garden that  Capel Manor College designed and made; and the best Small Garden was Food 4 Thought that was designed and made by Hadlow College.

Small Garden Awards

Gold Food 4 Thought (judged the best)
Gold Urban Serenity
Gold Konpira-san

Silver-Gilt An Artist's Garden
Silver-Gilt Food for Thought
Silver-Gilt It's Only Natural
Silver-Gilt The Garden Lounge

Silver The Fire Pit Garden

Bronze Out of This World
Bronze A Lost Loved Garden
Bronze Skrik
Bronze The Yoga Garden
Bronze Snow White's Slumber
Bronze Shakespeare's Allotment

Shakespeare's Comedies Gardens Awards

Gold As You Like It
Gold The Merchant of Venice (judged the best)

Silver-Gilt Much Ado About Nothing

Silver A Midsummer Night's Dream
Silver The Taming of the Shrew

Bronze Twelfth Night

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show
Capel Manor
Hadlow College

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Wisley in July

We visited RHS Garden Wisley with some friends on a lovely July day. We saw beautiful water lillies in the Canal; the delphiniums and sweet peas in the Trails field; summer herbaceous plants; weird willow sculptures; veggies in the kitchen garden; and lots more besides.

We also spotted these mating damsel flies

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2010

Just beside the Show Gardens there was an area for this year's Conceptual Gardens. These are gardens designed outside the usually accepted boundaries of gardens - so lots of concrete and rusty metal and symbolism. The stories behind the finished gardens are very interesting as most of these gardens need explaining. The Pansy Project was judged the best and is a memorial against homophobic hate crime.
Just beside these gardens was a small area where the Girl Guides had their Ultimate Adventure Balconies, celebrating 100 years of UK G Guiding.
Another group of small gardens is the sustainable garden category  with their themes relating to the environment and this year's buzz word - biodiversity. The Best of these gardens was judged to be Together Again - the D-shape Garden with a sculpture made from D-Shape recycled artificial stone.
And a really small garden category is the Inspiring Spaces group. Only 4metres square, they provide inspiration to brighten up small spaces using pre-planted containers and structures. Tales from the Riverbank was judged to be the best.
Dotted up and down the Long Water were the Girl Guides recycled container gardens. All great fun, but I only took one photo! This is the 1st Bray Guides ‘Guide Camp Kitchen’ that won second prize.
Lots of information about the Gardens and Awards can be found on the RHS website's Hampton Court Palace Flower Show pages

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2010

This year HCPFS was on from 6th July until 11th July and the weather was lovely. I volunteered for recruiting new members on Tuesday, which although it is dubbed a 'Members' Day' still could attract many non-members as members' guests. This means that I start early and take photographs of gardens etc. before the public flood the showground. Arriving by train, it's just a short walk along the river to the Thames entrance and at this time in the morning the boatmen haven't started their ferry service up and down the river. There are just the fishermen and waterbirds , and all the other people starting a long day's work at the flower show.

The Show Gardens are all situated along Garden Walk and this year the judges awarded one gold award to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) & Eva Airways Garden, Reflections of Thailand. It was also judged Best in Show. It represented a typical Bangkok riverside home with all the exotic plants you would expect to find there. Other awards were:
Silver-Gilt  Astellas Pharma Ltd - 'A Matter of Urgency' Campaign 
Silver-Gilt  The Copella Bee Garden 
Silver-Gilt  Girlguiding UK Centenary Garden
Silver-Gilt  Sadolin Refresh and Revive Garden
Silver-Gilt  Tyrrells Harvest Celebration 

Silver  Emmaus with Bill Butterworth An Uprising of Kindness
Silver  Hambrooks Garden Design & Landscaping Living Room
Silver  Independent Gardening Ltd / Fi Boyle Combat Stress Therapeutic Garden
Silver  Jack Dunckley Birchfield Garden
Silver  Legoland Windsor Pirates Landing

Bronze  Landscapes Unlimited in association with NPB Design Work Rest Play
Bronze  Richard Golding Garden Design / Manor Landscapes The Urban Retreat
Bronze  Southend-on-Sea Borough Council Playful Garden

Information about the Gardens and Awards can be found on the RHS website's Hampton Court Palace Flower Show pages