Covid had meant the cancellation of the Chelsea Flower Show since the last one was held in May 2019 but this September over a week the organisers managed to stage it . Organised by the Royal Horticultural Show in London every May since 1912 and known formally as the Great Spring Show it was the first time since it’s beginning in 1912 apart from the two World Wars that it wasn’t held in May .
It was a different Chelsea experience of course with a totally different palette of plants from what is normally available in May and only a small number of show gardens , half of the normal amount , but great to see it back after the damage Covid has done to every industry .
The focus this year was on water and wild gardening and as Chelsea is all about the magic of gardening and creating illusion there is very little on the practicalities such as slugs and the drudge of weeding but of course in the world of Chelsea one has “ chaps ” to do the weeding !
The saying a weed “ is a plant in the wrong place ” while true doesen’t answer the question how do you know a weed and that you are not digging out a perfectly good plant ?
Experience is the only answer I can give and that takes a few years to accumulate … yes it does take years … and by then hopefully you will be able to recognise the sly weeds like the creeping butter cup which disguises itself to look like a geranium and the plant does this of course for survival . The new water area I dug out last March is killing me with weeds but if I don’t get a grip on it now in it’s first year of planting it will just get totally over run . I also garden in Croatia and for the past four years have been planting up a new area and it is only now I am beginning to recognise the weeds there and distinguish the bad weeds from wild flowers but there are plenty I thought were “ good weeds ” only to discover after they had taken hold that they had tap roots a metre long and almost impossible to get all of the root out of the soil .
Because of the extreme heat in the summer months in the Mediterranean / Adriatic ground cover is not as we know it here in the more temperate Ireland /UK climate so in Croatia I tend to use the low growing prostrate form of rosemary as ground cover and it is easier to keep the ground weed free as the sun scorches everything and you can just hoe away any weeds or spray for weed control although we don’t do that because of the danger of sprays leeching into the roots of the olive trees and eventually tainting the olives themselves … to be honest I would have no problem using spray carefully but Snezana is dead against it and as the olive is in her culture due to her Macedonian heritage I defer on that one .
I planted up three nice terracotta pots in Croatia in early September which we came across in a local supermarket and as it is the end of the season we got them on sale as a job lot . Planting pots that will tolerate the extreme summer heat is a careful exercise but I choose trandescantia , the blue variety and a cream version both of which are fairly drought resistant .
I know in gardening terms this is a fault of mine but once a shrub or a plant does well for me I am slow to cut it back or prune unless absolutely necessary and I suppose this is a legacy over a lifetime of gardening where I built four gardens in that I never had good soil and certainly not the perfect soil you see on Gardener’s World . I have always had to make do with heavy clayey water retentive soil and that was the case this week where I had seen for the past year or so that the pampas grass in the front garden , the summer flowering Christophe variety, which I really love throughout the garden but here it had outgrown it’s structure and had become floppy and generally took away from the entrance to the house .
I knew it had gone past it’s sell by date and something had to be done yet I kept putting it off so when I came out one morning this week and Snezana said that in her view the pampas grass had to go and that it would free up the ideal space to plant a new tree she had fallen in love with the previous day in Clonmel Garden Centre … I said we would get the digger to take it out next time it was on site but she opted to tackle it herself and over the course of two days spent hacking away she got most of it out and yes it does improve the view of the front garden and will open up a mulberry tree just inside the front gate which has grown steadily away since we first planted it fifteen years ago … not a great looking tree , the mulberry , but it does have a nice shape with strong structured leaves and it gives great fruit every September. The mulberry was another choice of Snezana’s and although not a favourite of mine I have grown to like the tree over the years .
Having cleared the area we dug in a huge amount of shredded branches and paid a trip to Clonmel Garden Centre for a selection of plants … some ferns , dianthus sweet william and a pennesetum grass , undeplanted with spring flowering bulbs , all low growing to surround the new tree Snezana had fallen for , a sciadopitys , a Japanese conifer known as the Japanese umbrella pine which I had never heard of but which looks lovely but which is extremely slow growing so the other planting cannot swamp it during it’s first few years of growth .
The RHS describes it as “ an unusual conifer best known for it’s attractive spirally arranged foliage , a native of the mountainous regions of Japan where it is known as “”koyamaki”. It is known as a living fossil with records dating back over 200 million years, Sciadopitys is becoming a very popular garden plant, suitable for most gardens thanks to its slow growth rate, suits as a centrepiece in a large pot, or in the largest of herbaceous borders, A well deserved addition to any garden ” .
The finished bed , Front Garden . 30th September 2021
I am still adding plants to the new water area and of course the choice here is as always what the deer won’t eat so lots of Bergenia and this week I am adding hellebores , the silver leaf variety which will further thicken up the ground cover and have bought in a selection of daffodils , crocus and some aliums which will be spread around the entire area and peep up through the geraniums and ferns for a natural look and the beauty of these spring flowering bulbs is that they are reliable every year and you can forget about them , no after care needed and when they have finished flowering the idea is that the top growth will just vanish back under the ground cover .
Normally I don’t plant spring bulbs until November but Brexit has meant a lot of things are in short supply and last year there were hardly any bulbs available after the first weeks in October so this year when the spring bulbs arrived in September I bought my selection and got them all in the ground by the end of the month .
When trawling through the spring bulbs on the shelves you occasionally come across some gems that you don’t see for another few years and this year I was able to buy some daffodils of the variety Winston Churchill , a lovely pink double flower daff which I last got about ten years ago … another find was the crocus , tomassianus , a blue silver leaf variety , the easiest crocus to grow , native to the UK which unlike the modern hybrid crocus will naturalise in the ground .
I always make a point when planting bulbs in the main areas to pop a clump in an out of the way location so that it will surprise when you come upon it and this is the case here with a small clump of autumn flowering cyclamen that lit up this dark spot and brought great pleasure whenever I came across it this month .
Regular readers will know how I feel about the deer that come through the garden and the damage they do and this is a pot in the new water area that I placed and planted back in March … this is the THIRD planting and yes the bambi bastards ate the first two groups of plants and hopefully they will ignore this new grouping of ferns … the deer normally ignore ferns so fingers crossed !
Grannies bonnet or alchemis mollis is a favourite plant of mine with lovely evergreen leaves that holds glistening pools of morning dew on it’s leaves , gorgeous sprays of yellow flowers but it can become invasive so you need to be cruel to contain it and by September the entire plant droops with its spent flower sprays and you need to cut back hard … but alchemis mollis will forgive you and after a few weeks will bounce back with new top growth .
Visitors to the garden