Our ground, so hardfaced and unyielding in summer, now saturated, heaving and groaning. Water sits in swales, or oozes from ponds and trickles down ancient holloways under gun metal skies. Even now though, in the dull eye of this very modern winter, nature offers the promise of spring. Honeybees are flying quick circuits of the field, pausing at winter flowering willow, spidery witch hazel and yellow cob catkin. Windblown and mud spattered Hellebores another flash of colour as the sun’s flat light breaks through cloud. Things are moving on again.
These 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.
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. They 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.
Another bee on a flower picture – sorry. Hellebores do really well on our heavy soil, and we’ve got all sorts of varieties now. They seem easy to grow and actually need some shade. I still most love the simplicity of H. niger, the Christmas Rose, or the white H. orientalis, which the bees seem to prefer too. I’ve never seen anyone selling them as bee plants – sigh – but their white pollen is really helpful for honeybees and emerging queen bumbles on an early Spring day like today; apart from the crocuses and Goat Willow there’s nothing much else around for them. I’m kicking myself for not getting over to Cleeve Nursery for their Hellebore and Primrose week to get properly up to speed on them – oh well, there’s always next year. Related Posts:HoneybeesBulbs for Bees