To RHS Wisley today to meet the awfully nice people from Stihl, who are sponsoring this weekend’s Festival of Trees. I’d come to meet Rosie Daly of HROC to talk about Stihl’s new range of Lithium Ion battery tools for the garden, some of which I’ll be reviewing for the blog shortly. The cordless tools are split into three segments: the consumer level Lithium-Ion range of tools with sealed batteries for smaller gardens, the mid-range Lithium-Ion Compact range with removable batteries, and pro-level machines badged as Lithium-Ion Pro. Keep your eyes on Gardens, weeds & words for more in-depth information once I have my hands on some kit.
There was plenty to do, from watching the Stihl Timbersports displays (scarily impressive things with chainsaws), guided tours of the garden’s magnificent trees, forest bathing sessions to tree climbing. I was just pleased to see an emphasis being placed on the tree collection – often when we go to a garden, we spend so long looking down, we forget to look up at the canopy of trees above or around us, creating the shelter for the garden to exist and the microclimate in which the plants can grow. And what apposite timing, with the looming spectre 10,000 sq metres of woodland and 500 trees being compulsory-purchased for the proposed widening of the A3 by Highways England. (Sign the petition to save Wisley’s trees here.)
Entertaining these sobering reflections, it was a particular delight to bump into fellow bloggers and winners of last year’s Garden Media Guild’s Blog of the Year Award, Ade and Sophie from Agents of Field. One of those situations when you find yourself gawping like a lemon at someone before you realise you’ve never actually met them in real life. We spent a good while exchanging blogging chat whilst demolishing a fabulous lunch courtesy of Stihl, who’d given us a password to use at the restaurant tills. I’d tell you, but the Agents would have to kill you (It’s Norbert. Or was it Norman? Shhhh…).
The weekend also saw the start of the academic year for the RHS’s prestigious Master of Horticulture course with a full programme of talks from staff and visiting lecturers to welcome in the new cohort. (You can read more about the MHort here). I managed to persuade Sue Moss and Aimée Plutskin from the Education & Learning team to take time out from their busy day to have a wander around the stalls, where we bumped into this tall Ent-like creature who I’d not seen since Chelsea Flower Show.
Just time for a stroll before going home to attack my own garden (blackberry season over, brambles to tame, bonfires to light). A grey day, with the wind making the grasses dance throughout Tom Stuart Smith’s Glasshouse Landscape planting. Getting some last minute practice in before Strictly.
No rest for the muddy. Off to the Autumn Plant Fair at Great Dixter – always a fantastic day out. I started at the top of the site and worked my way downwards to the field with the nurseries, fascinated by how the garden has changed since I spent the week down the road, wandering in and out every day or so. The topiary has been tightened up having had its summer clip, while the borders have continued to burgeon and are now at the point of going over, flowers going to seed, stems and foliage losing their fulness and gaps beginning to open – though with planting this tightly packed, a gap at Dixter is the merest slither of a gap in another garden. It feels like the garden is drawing breath after summer, but with only three weekends till it closes over the winter there’s still so much to see.
I grabbed some not very artistic shots of sections of the long border, which I’m looking forward to pulling up on screen and dissecting at leisure over the dark evenings to come.
I got to the lower field just in time to hear Asa Gregers-Warg and the team from Beth Chatto’s garden giving a talk on grasses and grass-like plants, how they’re used in the dry garden, and the best ways in which to maintain them through the year, as well as some expert propagation advice. A real bonus of Dixter’s plant fairs is that you get to hear talks from some of the best gardeners and nurseries in the country (and often further afield) – every so often a bell will ring to mark the imminent start of another mini-lecture. They’re worth the price of admission alone.
Plant spot of the day for me was Melanoselinum decipiens on the Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants stall. Rosy Hardy tells me it’s also known as giant black parsley, and I’m sure I recognise it’s angelica-like leaves from the Orchard Garden at Dixter, where it has seeded itself about.
But there are also aralias there, such as the tall Aralia cachemirica, or possibly A. elata, the angelica tree – and I’m now disappearing into an internet black hole into which the complex relationships between the families Apiaceae (the carrot family, including parsley and Melanoselinum) and Araliaceae (the ginseng family, including ivies and aralias) threaten what’s left of my sanity.
Hardy’s are running their own very popular programme of RHS Partnership talks from their site in Hampshire, with booking details available on the website.
This is the final plant fair in the year for many nurseries, and like many nursery owners Colin Moat of Pineview Plants can afford to look chuffed as he considers the prospect of a break from the busy schedule over winter.