Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Been and Gone

Can't believe it's been a month since the show was on! I must have slept for the last four weeks or so as time gently pattered by. So, in a nutshell, here's how it all went for the garden and me:

- We got the garden finished by the skin of our teeth: I was still tarting up the accessories when the judges came and did their stuff and asked me, politely, to clear off

- BBC filmed us a few times: did the opening of the TV coverage from the roof garden with Rachel De Thame and Joe Swift

- Press loved the garden, so did the photographers!

- Gala night was very wet in true Hampton Court Show style, but the fireworks looked great from the roof garden

- We got a Silver-Gilt Medal! A bit disappointed it wasn't the Gold but the hedge and couple of other bits and pieces let us down

- Visitors loved the garden!

- I spent a bit of time catching the sun on the roof terrace and dodging the rain in the garden room

The garden is all gone now. Going there on breakdown was quite sad and I felt a bit emotional seeing the building reduced to a pile of rubble. All that work and you are left with a flattened building site!

Still, who knows what will happen at next year's show. Watch this space!

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Almost there

The final planting has just about been done today, with only a handful of plants to quickly put into place tomorrow morning (Sunday). Sam has told us to be clear of things by lunchtime, or in his words 'I need the garden for a few hours', to tidy up and finish off the tiniest details. I looked at him slightly despondently: 'don't worry, I'll give you the garden back afterwards.'

I've got a live radio interview on site with Geoff Hodge for BBC Radio Cambridgeshire in the morning and previously to that, a two minute slot with the RHS assessors, a sort of advance party for the judges, to tell them about the garden. They have a written Client's Brief to refer to as well so it's more of a quick blurt about the key points/features and any plant changes. There haven't been any radical ones although some of my perennials I wanted to use are swapped (see earlier blogs!) with others. Essentially, I've created the effect I was aiming for with a slightly different palette of plants but I'm happy with that.

The Homebase team have been fantastic all week, so helpful and enthusiastic about things. On Thursday, I had them washing the three Prunus serula trees to bring out the lovely bark. From late afternoon, the sun shines behind these trees and brings a magical orangey-brown glow to them. Also on Thursday, Ed my gardening supervisor at Brocket Hall (where I'm gardening consultant) came and helped out. He clipped the hornbeam hedge but was told to take his shoes off so as not squash the meadow turf in the process!

Press Day is on Monday and I hope I have few functioning brain cells left to talk sense to journalists! Today I was asked if all the colour in the garden was a response to the cool green of Chelsea's palette. I created my plant list last October- November, not knowing that green was a predominant feature at Chelsea, so my plants were chosen for texture, effect and place and not a knee-jerk reaction to Chelsea's plants. Besides, a herbaceous colour without colour doesn't exist in my gardens!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Willing hands

I'm on a quick visit home (my daughter's school prom!). This week has been manic, but everything is coming together nicely and finally, this garden that's been floating around in my head for the last eight months is coming to life. Days have been long, 12-14 hours and I haven't eaten or slept enough (not much time for either!).

Lots of happy Homebase people are turning up each day and just get on and do as they are told. Their help and that from those yet to come is invaluable: all those little jobs, and some quite large hefty ones, means that Sam and the Scotscape boys and I can focus on our tasks more effectively. A different group turn up each day from various Homebase stores in the country and their team leader Spencer, who is here very day, moves them from task to task. One huge job has been painting the wood on the building - the Forth Road Bridge comes to mind here. Spencer has managed to do quite a large area every day, singing along with the radio in the process. On Monday no sooner had he arrived when I shoved a shopping list in his hand and despatched him off to get various things, ranging from sponges to buckets and lavender plants. From Homebase stores, naturally...

The roof garden has been planted and we are expecting the glass surround to come on Friday. It's still a haven of peace, far away from the madding crowd. Janet, Nick and Siobhan are cracking on with planting up. Today we planted up the first area of meadow turf which meant taking off safety boots so as not to flatten the long grass too much. Some delicious looking veg plants turned up in the afternoon which are now snug in their wooden raised beds.

The weather forecast is not looking too good for the weekend: foul weather gear is packed for my return to the show site!

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Up on the roof

I went up on the roof garden for the first time on Saturday. First impressions? It's like a sanctuary, a haven of peace and tranquility amongst the hustle and bustle of the show site. I keep going up there to soak in the calming atmosphere.

I did a quick radio interview today for BBC Radio Cambridgeshire on Sue Dougan's show and I was asked if the site restrictions, such as wearing dayglo high-vis vests caused any restrictions. 'The main restriction,' I said, 'is that my sun-tan isn't very even in a high-vis vest.' Well, a girl has to get her priorities right...

The building looks so fantastic! The timber cladding started to go on today, even though I'm getting used to the sexy black exterior it's had for a few days (this is just for the spaces between the timbers). Trees are being planted and whoopee, plants are arriving in their droves tomorrow from Crocus and BWP. My wonderful planter-uppers arrived today, itching to get on with things: Janet from Offord Darcy, Nick from Kempston and Siobhan from Welwyn Garden City. A whole host of lovely Homebase people turn up tomorrow as well, it's going to be mayhem, but have written a long list of 'things to do' for them. I live by my lists.

I took Steve Cope, Deputy Show Manager, up to the roof garden today. He was gobsmacked and enjoyed the chance to see the show site on a different level and from a different perspective. 'The media are going to love this' he said.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Herbies go to Hampton

Instructions for use: lean forward to your computer screen (go on, a bit more than that), take a deep breath and inhale the intoxicating aromatic sensual delights of these herbs. Now, don't you feel better for that?

There's a little wholesale nursery near me in Cambridgeshire that has the most fantastic selection of herbs which I collected this morning. The drive home was soooo relaxing, just what I needed as stress levels are hiking up a gear or two. Peter Reason at the nursery also does a superb range of alpines so I stocked up on some chunky semps and sedums. Had to stop myself buying lots of other alpines (do you know a Plantaholics Anonymous group I can got to??).

Mmmm, still no news about the hedge....

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Stairway to heaven

Yesterday I drove practically all the way round the M25. Perhaps not quite my idea of great day out but it had to be done. Another early start saw me queueing (or joining a 'Q' as the motorway signs like to call it) on the Dartford Crossing then off down the M20 to visit a nursery near Ashford to pick up some lean and long Sanguisorba tenuifolia 'Pink Elephant'. I saw these last year at Hampton Show: people kept walking past my show garden with these enormous tall plants stuffed into little carrier bags and I just had to find out what they were. I traced the trail back to Madrona Nursery's stand. These plants really do grow tall but exude a favourable see-through disposure. I spoke to Liam at the nursery a couple of weeks back and he said the plants were about 4ft high; yesterday they were 6ft, taller than me, and it was like standing in an airy jungle as I selected the best of the batch. I didn't take a photo of me stuffing them into my car (it's more like a van with a back seat as I have teenage taxi duties when not plant hunting), but it was probably an amusing sight!

Afterward, onto Crocus for the final plant selection there with Mark Straver. I felt like a judge at a beauty parade: 'not tall enough', 'don't like the colour', 'a bit thin, not meaty enough'. Mark and I de-selected then re-selected only the promising hopefuls for the 'big day' and over lunch Mark made a short list of people to call that afternoon for more plants. After all, only the best plants make it onto the Homebase garden.

Arriving on site late afternoon and wow, the stairs are teetering into position at the side of the building! Phew, at least I won't have to climb that ladder again (I hate heights). Sam is happy as ever and he and the other guys are looking quite sun-tanned. I made a few frantic phone calls about my hedge. It's a long story, with many a sleepless night to accompany it. I haven't actually seen my hedge (have rejected one along the way) but have been assured that I will love it, and it will be perfect. Friday is supposed to be the day when it arrives on the nursery. Watch this space!

As I un-coiled my Sanguisorba from out of the car, someone from an opposite stand came up to me: 'What are those plants?'

Saturday, 21 June 2008


I left home in Cambridgeshire at 5.45am yesterday morning to get down on site for the tree delivery. Thankfully, traffic on the M25 wasn't too bad and I managed to beat Sam there - he'd overslept! The trees from Deepdale turned up just before 9am and took a while to unload, taking all four men and a digger to carefully extract them from the lorry. 'Don't damage the bark!' I yelled as the five Acer davidii were man-handled to the side of the plot.

It was really busy everywhere on site yesterday, lots of people, lots of huge delivery lorries trundling along the temporary trackway. Since my last visit, the building structure has emerged: 'That building isn't going to fall down in a hurry', said Steve Cope, Deputy Show Manager as he walked by. My worries on Tuesday about how the big the plot is were a distant memory as areas where plants and lawn will be are now taken up with piles of wood, paving stone, paint and more wood. All waiting to be created into something else by the boys.