Thursday, 23 May 2013

Chelsea Flower Show - the hot colour for 2013

Something feisty and demanding has infiltrated the Chelsea Flower Show this year. From paving to plants, it has given a warm glow to the event. It may have been a surprisingly subtle return for a loud colour, but orange is most definitely back.

Paul Hervey-Brookes uses Geum 'Prinses Juliana' and Carex flagellifera 'Auburn Cascade' in his design for Brand Alley (above), picking out the colour in the wall. He isn't the only designer to embrace the warmth; the WaterAid artisan garden is ablaze with marigolds.

Elsewhere, orange is used in a more understated way. Here, in Ulf Nordfjell's garden for Laurent-Perrier, the warm colour of the travertine stone is picked up in Lilium 'Orange Marmalade' and Iris 'Beverly Sills'. 

In Chris Beardshaw's garden for Arthritis Research UK,  Eschscholzia californica unfurl alongside Iris 'Supreme Sultan' (which will soon be showing its true colours - deep orange and purple). 

Stoke-on-Trent's show garden has a palette focussing on orange, apricot and copper.

In Scape Design's garden, After the Fire, the contrast between the orange pool, terracotta seats, the vivid green new leaves and the charred tree trunks is striking.

Even that 1970's must-have orange toy, the Space Hopper, made a comeback   (I spotted two) - this one is in the NSPCC garden.

Orange can be a difficult colour to use in the garden because it clashes so readily with other colours and is so demanding of our attention. Some people find this quality stimulating; others find it too challenging. Used well, it can link plants, hard landscaping and buildings together. Its propensity to clash with other colours such as strong, hot pinks can be exciting, yet it can be used more subtly to enhance bronze foliage. 

Chris Beardshaw's Arthritis Research UK garden
It may be challenging, but a twist of orange really can lift a planting scheme. It certainly worked its magic at Chelsea this year. 

Friday, 3 May 2013

Swishing for Gardeners and a Garlic Bath

A pillar of the community recently invited me to a swishing party. Not wishing to admit that I was ignorant to the ways of swishers, I mumbled something about diaries and hurried home for a restorative cup of tea and a spot of research. 

Phlox divaricata 'Clouds of Perfume' in the farmhouse garden* 
Although a swishing party sounds like a questionable form of entertainment for a pillar of the community, it is in fact a social event where guests swap clothes they no longer wear. Clearly this is an alien concept for someone who possesses two categories of clothes: Going Out and Gardening. In my wardrobe, all new clothes join the first category until I ruin them by accidentally wearing them to garden, after which they naturally transfer to the Gardening category, where they reside until they disintegrate completely. Everything gets worn (all at once if it's cold enough).

Gardeners have been swapping seeds, plants and produce for centuries, so we might argue that we already have our own form of swishing. Reusing and recycling are at the heart of much of what we do and waste products become valuable resources such as compost, well-rotted manure and leafmould. 

As a gardener who likes to uphold the traditions of reusing and recycling, I was delighted to stumble upon this marvellous vat of history lurking in our redundant piggeries.

If you think it looks like three-hundred-year-old dung porridge, you may be right, for this is daub; a delightful combination of whatever happened to be available at the time, like clay, straw, hair and dung. In our seventeenth-century barn, some daub was crumbling beyond repair, so it was soaked in water for a few days, then mixed to a paste with an oversized whisk, before being reapplied to the walls. The builder who stewed the daub assures me that he does the cooking at home. Looking at his brilliant handiwork, I think he should branch out into icing cakes. 

When we were clearing out the barn, we found an old tin bath and with it, the answer to a niggling problem. A combination of poor weather and heavy soil had been conspiring against my ability to grow garlic until the discovery of the bath. Feeling confident that we would be installing twenty-first-century plumbing in the barn, I pierced drainage holes in the bath and spring-planted a hardneck garlic called 'Edenrose'.  

So far, the garlic seems happy - or at least happier than it would have been in our cold, heavy soil. I just hope that I am not being over-optimistic about the plumbing, although if push comes to shove (and only once the garlic has been harvested), I can suspend the pierced bath from a beam and call it a shower. 

* Phlox divaricata 'Clouds of Perfume' has nothing to do with researching swishing, beyond the fact that I stopped to enjoy its scent en route to my laptop. It's a small Phlox - just 30cm high; pollinating insects love it; and it is flowering its socks off in the farmhouse garden at the moment.