Saturday, 25 April 2009

Harrogate Spring Flower Show

The day after my trip to Harlow Carr (see previous posting) I went to the Harrogate Spring Flower Show, a visit I haven't been able to make for a few years because of being so busy running my own garden. After winter, it felt fabulous, all those
colours and scents, enthusiasm and contented looking crowds enjoying great weather. There was so much to see that I was there all day, six hours on my feet, so no wonder I got diverted at one point from the plants to buy a pair of shoes from my favourite company, El Natura Lista, a Spanish firm that make amazingly comfortable eco shoes, dyed used plant material. In the exhibition halls there were banks and banks of colour from tulips, daffs, agapanthus, pelargoniums, carnations, lilies, all blowsy and immaculately presented. But it was the softer plants that I really focused on, delicate woodland plants set off amongst moss, dry leaves and wood, and the sumptuous displays of vegetables too. A stand that particularly caught my attention was from Grow with Joe, a company from Leeds, who based their theme around India with a red fabrics and an image of the Taj Mahal in front of which rose tiers of garlic, chillies, aubergines, all full of colour. There was a definite trend towards edible produce, vegetable growing and even soft fruit - Rogers of Pickering, who also displayed bulbs (see photo) created a display of fruit bushes, rhubarb, strawberries, figs, quince, vines etc for the first time at a spring flower show in response to the enormous demand they have recently had for all types of fruit. If you want to read more about fruit and vegetables and the rest of the show, just copy & paste this link on The Journal website if you want to see what I wrote in the newspaper about the show....

I thought there was some tat in the outside stands, obvious imports from China, naff garden figurines and a surprisingly small amount of eco products. I found a system for distributing rainwater round the garden, a producer of beautiful split oak & hazel panels, a seaweed fertiliser from Shetland and one or two other good quality and interesting products but I thought there might have been more. It was inside that really was a delight with stalls such as Nick Hamilton's from Barnsdale Gardens (the late Geoff Hamilton's son who now runs the garden with his wife, Sue). Others were the faultess display by the Alpine Garden Society, euphorbias by Goldensfield, grasses from Eversley Nursery, such variety and too much to squeeze into one blog. More on the Journal website and good luck to anyone going tomorrow when the plants are sold off in late afternoon!!

Friday, 24 April 2009

A spring visit to Harlow Carr garden

On Thursday I joined a Press Briefing Day to the RHS Harlow Carr Garden near Harrogate that was arranged by the Garden Media Guild, a lovely spring day of sunshine and blue skies. I haven't been to the garden for a few years and there have been many developments; the old, small alpine house demolished and a new one built on rising ground looking down into the valley and the woods beyond. It's not quite open yet but we had an early look, the inside being artfully laid out with alpines nestling among rock and gravel beds, the outside ready to be planted with more alpines in two long raised borders. This view shows the new structure seen through the lattice of woven willowwork (Phil Bradley, a willow weaver has done many pieces for the garden including a very popular galleon and several arbours)

Down at the streamside, the planting is being redeveloped; some of the old repetitions are being replaced with more variety and the curious long line of benches all facing the same way like a beachside promenade has gone. It's such a fresh time of year, exemplified by these shuttlecock ferns and skunk cabbage, exuberant, green and lively. In the woodland behind, rhododendrons and camellias were flowering away, rising up against the blue sky. Glades have been opened up in the planting to encourage bats, leaves are left rather than cleared away, all in line with the
policy now of encouraging wildlife. Very few chemicals are used at Harlow Carr, none in the lawns (brilliant, I think!) which are considered green spaces, and 100 birds have been counted with a butterfly survey due to take place this year too.

As part of the awareness of the needs of wildlife, the garden shelters have been clad with interesting materials. This was done by Matthew Wilson (see my previous blog) and this is an example - the sides filled in with timbers and stones amongst
which sedums and ferns have been planted, the roof is planted and a delightful detail is the wooden beam over the door, drilled with holes to encourage insects.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Green flowers and other garden gems

April is a time when, instead of dramatic swathes of tall perennials, there are many beautiful little gems growing in the borders. It's a time for squatting down and looking closely at small plants, admiring their delicate form and colour. I love the curious green 'flowers' of Hacquetia epipactus, a plant that makes a neat clump with yellow flowers amongst lime-green bracts, endearing and unusual. It is grown in our West Wall border, facing east and cool in summer, with leaf mould and moisture.

Nearby companions are the lovely baby-pink, double primrose, 'Sue Jervis', a particular favourite of mine, the shapely bells of Fritillaria pyrenaica which is in bud right now and the serene purity of the extra double flowers of bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis 'Flore Pleno'.
This very beautiful plant has dark red twiggy looking rhizomes and you have to be careful to note where they are in winter so as not to dig them up. Flowers emerge before leaves but these too are attractive, having pretty, scalloped edges and a rather glaucous shade of green. A Japanese wineberry arches over these plants, held back against the wall, its bare stems covered in tiny, red prickles, lovely when the sun shines through them. Later in the season we eat its small, red fruits which are delicious with ice-cream!