Planners permitting (!) there’s going to be a fair amount of water knocking about around our new house, and I couldn’t wait to get started with the three mini-ponds (around 1.5m across) we wanted which don’t need permission. I think it was Pond Conservation’s recent pond digging day that got me charging out into the field armed with my spade before the recent rain. Regular readers of this blog will know I just LOVE ponds – their look, their flora and fauna- they’re fascinating, and I have no idea why everyone doesn’t have one. They’re so easy to make too; I had my three mini-ponds done and dusted in an afternoon. We’re lucky because we’re on solid clay, so I didn’t even have to line one of them.
So far as I understand there are a few golden rules to my sort of pond:
1. Don’t dig them too deep. The one without the liner I’ve dug down to about 1/2 metre at its deepest because the top 20cm of soil won’t hold water.
2. Don’t fill them with tap water.
3. No fish – they’ll eat everything.
4. Be careful what and how you plant. I will only plant natives in my ponds, and very selectively – i.e. nothing that’s going to take over. A purist would say wait until the local flora blows in, but I’m an impatient type and like to have some control over how the pond will look – I’ve got my favourite plants. The aquatic and marginal plants we sell on the website are widely distributed throughout the UK, so you can’t go wrong with them. I also include a boggy area in any pond I dig, which enables me to include plants like Ragged Robin – some of the most beautiful wildflowers we have enjoy the wet. People seem to get in to a pickle when trying to plant on a liner. I don’t like pots, so either chuck in some subsoil to use as a growing medium (i.e. nothing nutrient rich), which covers the liner too, or for bigger ponds you could use our pre-planted coir mats. Having seen Bentomat used for larger pond projects I’d swear by it rather than using a more traditional liner, by the way. One of the reasons I like it so much is that it is so easy to plant on.
For a better guide please look at the Freshwater Habitats Trust site, which also offers advice on pond problems. It will also help explain what the mini-beasts are which mysteriously start to arrive in your mini-pond within hours of the first rain falling…

Hampton Court Show

Floral Marquee, Hampton Court showThese days I upset myself by spoiling perfectly nice events by plunging into a familiar kind of off-putting eco censoriousness, which is as tedious for me as it must be for the people who are subjected to it. So if you want to miss the tedious bits of last week’s day-I-messed-up at the Hampton Court Flower Show, then skip straight to the picture of the Eryngium.

How can I explain what upset me? It wasn’t so much the “garden centre” element, although the Country Living Magazine Pavilion, as a symptom of it, was enormous – and furnished me with three pairs of very good value stripy socks, so I shouldn’t complain. Each to his own, it’s a free world, commercial pressure, etc. etc.. No, I think what upset me are the missed opportunities these shows represent.

Regretting that second pint

Some examples. There was an enormous gushing Magritte like pink penis – sorry – tap – which was my favourite design feature of the show gardens (along with the Falmouth College garden), apparently raising awareness of overactive bladder syndrome. There were a lot of other water features too, and according to the catalogue no less than 17 water feature suppliers’ stands, pitched on the straw coloured grass. Was there a single supplier of water butts or water saving devices there? No. Grey water irrigation systems? No. Reed beds? What about green roofs? You’re having a laugh. Holiday Inn (“implementing sound environmental practices”) sponsored an interesting but modest area called Sustainable Gardens, to “showcase themes relating to the environment and biodiversity”. I guess the other show gardens didn’t? Er…well, now you come to mention it… Certainly the Legoland garden wasn’t a very helpful advert in the International Year of Biodiversity. Of course there has to be a commercial logic to all of this, and it’s absolutely critical not to take the fun out of gardening, but PLEASE can the RHS not treat “the environment and biodiversity” as somehow seperate issues to mainstream gardening, and fully embrace and promote them. It needs to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk. HoneybeeThey could at least start by vetting exhibitors and managing a tiered rate system according to how “eco friendly” they were. They might even actively solicit certain types of exhibitor. I wondered if biodiversity was a consideration in judging the show gardens (I loved the Bradstone Garden at Chelsea, for example, which showed how it can be done)? Does anyone think about the overall impression the show might create? Organisations like the RHS are the kind of opinion formers who need to be at the vanguard of a new paradigm shift.
Right, that’s that off my chest. It was lovely to see all sorts of people at the show. The BBKA were there, and honey bees from their demo hive were much in evidence in (some) parts of the Show, although I wonder how many punters noticed there were no butterflies about. Anywhere.

My main pleasure as a non-designer is to wander around the small nurseries, who can be a delight. Downderry Nursery’s stand in the Floral marquee – top – was lovely. We hope to be selling lavender supplied by them soon. Owners Simon and Dawn Charlesworth are very much on side when it comes to bees; I bumped into Simon originally at LASI, with whom he’s trialling different types of lavender. I also hope to start selling Hellebores from Harvey’s Garden Plants, who also look like just the sort of folk we ought to be promoting. More anon. Jekka’s Herb stand was lovely too – and rather more swamped in bees than the Copella Bee Garden.


It was nice to meet Jake Hobson, one of our suppliers, who imports Japanese ladders and tools and sold me the most beautiful pair of secateurs. I had a nice chat too with the man at Clear Water Revival, who nearly sold us a swimming pond when I was affluent. Lovely company, great product. It would be good to supply them with native aquatic plants. Talking of which, I loved the locally based Dorset Water Lilly company, and other favourites included the Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight. I hope you all had a good show. As to the folk selling bronze butterflies on wires, good luck to you too – soon they’ll be the only butterflies your customers will see.