An Instagram retrospective of May 2017
The month began damp and dull overhead, though this provided ideal lighting conditions for the bluebells that have found their way into the garden to shine out from the darker corners. No native ones here, sadly, so action will have to be taken.
Under a glowering sky, the gardens at local Penshurst Place were looking fabulous, in spite of my timing.
A quick jaunt to Penshurst Place today, local posh house with a marvellous walled garden stuffed to the wotsits with fruit trees. Miles of yew hedging, countless garden rooms, fountains and topiary, a double border and the longest paeony border you could wish for. With impeccable timing, I'd missed most of the blossom, and was too early for the border and the paeonies. But it's a wonderful place to wander at any time of year. #mystoryoflight #olympusuk #peninpractice #tostandandstare
There’s a more detailed blog post about the visit here.
I had a New Glove Day, always something to celebrate. I get through gloves at quite a rate, even these wonderful ones from Gold Leaf Gloves, though I did notice that my last pair survived particularly well over the dry winter.
A bittersweet visit to Wisely, to say au revoir to the very excellent Sarah Cathcart, Head of Education and Learning at the RHS until the end of the month, and now departed to be Vice Principal of Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, a huge loss for us and a massive gain for our American friends, though the two organisations will continue to work together I’m sure. Tea with pasteis de nata, farewells and then a wander through the gardens to admire emerging umbellifers and stripy planting schemes.
I love umbellifers in the garden – that group of plants whose flowers are arranged to look like the spokes of an umbrella. From carrots and parsley, to enormous things like fennel. Here's one of my favourites, angelica, in the cottage garden section at #rhswisley. Everything looking very green, as it does in May. #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare
There's just one spot you can stand to look at this planting combo at Wisley where you see it as MULTICOLOURED STRIPES! Otherwise the groups of plants have a more organic feel. Clever stuff. Ligularia 'Desdamona' in the foreground, then Geum 'Totally Tangerine' (the national flower of Essex), then a line of blue camassias in front of the bright green tones of the new leaves on the hedge. I WANT TO PLANT STRIPES! #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare
The dahlias have been bulking up nicely, although to avoid getting whacked by a late frost I held off planting them out until the end of the month. That didn’t mean I couldn’t give them a little attention though, and indulged in a spot of pinching out.
Allo me beauties! All those #dahlia divisions I potted up in March are growing away nicely in this sunny porch. Last night's slight frost reminds us that early May is still too early to plant them out in the garden though, so they'll stay under cover for a couple of weeks. Nothing to stop me pinching out the tops though, which will help make nice bushy plants. #iphoneography
There’s a wonderful, deep red rose on my garden shed, and I watched the buds grow and swell with eager anticipation throughout the early part of the month, until rewarded with the most enormous blooms.
Back in the house, though, Em’s keen to green things up a bit. Sadly, I’m the grim reaper when it comes to house plants. I’ve even killed a spider plant through neglect, which is basically advanced houseplant homicide. So I’m not really allowed near her growing collection and, as a result, it continues to grow.
The weeds also continue to grow throughout May. It’s something I’ve written about here, though admittedly it’s not a look everyone can get behind. I love it – in the right place, of course.
Here they come! #theweedsofmay It might be a bit of a job to keep on top of your garden at this time of year, but I just love how everything is now growing with such an irrepressible spirit. Never fails to fill me with hope and encouragement, whatever else might be going on in the world. Here we have bramble, burdock, goosegrass, nettle and dandelion and dock, all wearing this season's shade of greenery. @miranda_jan #pantone2017 #tostandandstare #iphoneography #signsofspring #tfispring
So enthused by the weeds and wildflowers looking at their best, I took it upon myself to style a selection for a mini Instagram shoot, and learned that, once cut, they don’t half wilt quickly.
Weedy stuff. And an opportunity to feature one of the beautiful diamond polished porcelain churns made by the wonderful @eb_ceramics, whose birthday it is today. It's bang in the middle, almost hidden by wild garlic, red valerian, lady's mantle, forget-me-nots, green alkanet and a perennial cornflower. But it still manages to quietly steal the show. A bit like Lizzie – happy birthday, missus, wishing you happiness and cake! 🍰🎂😃 #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk
Being a gardener, I spend a lot of my time in the company of weeds. Our natural wildflowers, for the most part – they were rightfully upon the land before we appeared and decided to plonk our gardens down, and don't we wish the plants we buy would grow as well? And when they look as good as this, it almost makes you wonder why we grow anything else. Almost. 🌹 #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #weeds #gothictonic
It’s good to see some of the strong blues in this selection from the Pentaglottis and the forget-me-nots. For a softer, greyer blue, I’ve been pleased to encounter Amsonia tabernaemontana var. salicifolia, both at Wisley and also a few weeks later at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
What a smashing, slightly strange grey blue the willow-leaved eastern bluestar is! Native to the good ol' US of A, the amsonias have a slightly irritant milky sap which helps keep the slugs off! Amsonia tabernaemontana var. salicifolia – which doesn't really trip of the tongue – growing in popularity (and availability) here. Which reminds me, I must get some for the garden. #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk
I was privileged to be part of Team Fibrex at Chelsea again this year – I just get to come along and bungle about in good company and in the presence of wonderful plants, but they’ve done all the hard work of propagating and tending these fantastic specimens, transporting them around the country to a punishing schedule of plant shows (a very small gap between Malvern and Chelsea, for example), and running a flourishing mail order business. Hats off to Richard and Heather and their team, as well as sister and Chief Pellie Fluffer Fran, down from Scottish parts for the duration. (photos)
The highlight of the display was the rare and long awaited yellow pellie, Pelargonium zonartic ‘Rushmoor Amazon’.
The very beautiful yellow pellie, Pelargonium zonartic 'Rushmoor Amazon'. I've had a fantastic day working with @fibrex_nurseries at #RHSChelsea today, and. seeing this wonderful new plant was one of the highlights. It's up for the Plant of the Year award, winner to be announced on Monday. There was a lot of interest in it today! Back again tomorrow, can't wait! #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare
I even wrote a piece about how it came to be in the Chelsea special edition of Rakes Progress magazine.
There was – to me at least – surprising controversy and strength of feeling among the general public (emotions always run high within the show community) over the garden awarded ‘Best in Show’. While I admired it, it wasn’t my favourite, though I found myself defending it to all and sundry on social media.
All gardens need to delight us, but a great show garden probably needs to challenge us too. This one from James Basson at #rhschelsea2017 managed to do both, drawing inspiration from a disused stone quarry in Malta. Nature reclaiming her space. I enjoyed it, and can see why it won Best in Show. -- Click on the link in my bio for a blog post with my highlights from the Chelsea show gardens this year. -- #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare
And right at the end of the show, the terrorist atrocity at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester caused us all to pause, take stock, and flounder for a while for an appropriate response. Do you post pictures of flowers online and blog about gardens at such times? Do you interrupt normal service and aim for something sombre and respectful, that can only at best seem trite and platitudinous? The words came to mind from a friend who has worked with material dealing with the very darkest corners of human experience – “keep sharing the beauty” – and I realised that not only was it okay for us gardeners to carry on doing what we do, but somehow, it was our duty.
Up with the lark to make a start on #rhschelsea2017 blogging, but all I can think about is Manchester and the poor people caught up in that attack. My heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones, or are still waiting for news. As a friend regularly advises, in the face of bad and frightening news, we can and must "keep sharing the beauty". So I shall. This shot from Chris Beardshaw's wonderful Morgan Stanley garden, one of my show favourites. #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare
Of course people go to the RHS shows for the show gardens and the plants in the pavilion, but the standard of planting on the trade stands has been improving year upon year.
It can be all to easy at Chelsea to charge around consuming the show gardens and the nurseries, and miss the trade stands. That's a shame, as they're becoming more informative and increasingly beautifully planted with every passing year. Take this one, from Oak Leaf Gates - wildflowers and timber. What's not to like? #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare
There was a definite orange and purple colour theme throughout the show, and I loved it.
The whole modern contemporary vibe is so far from my comfort zone, but I've been wallowing in my photos of Kate Gould's City Living garden since seeing it at #rhsChelsea. Partly it's the lush planting, partly the level of detail everywhere. And a major part is the use of secondary colours – of course green, but also notably orange (the whopping anglepoise lamps, the seating), and there are purple salvias here too for the full house. It's all kind of clean and minimal, but then hit with a massive splurge of FUN! There, how's that for an articulate description? Hmmm… 🌿 More details of this garden and other highlights on the blog, link in my bio.🌿 #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #aplacetosit
But for me, the gardening month ended as it had begun, with black and gold, and with my hands in supreme comfort. Deservedly so, I think, given the battering they take every day. Well, that’s my excuse.
I know it's a bit soon for another #newgloveday, and my last pair are still going strong, I'm sure you'll be glad to hear. But having bumped into the wonderful Kelly of @goldleafgloves at #rhschelsea, I was suddenly the proud owner of a new pair of their Soft Touch gardening gloves, which she gifted to me thinking they might be even better for me than the Dry Touch due to the added dexterity. And I love them! Fantastic soft but really strong leather as you'd expect, and really good with my slightly dodgy hand. So pleased! 🌿👐#iphoneography #mystoryoflight
How was April in your garden? Let me know on twitter, or in the comments below.