The trials and tribulations of
An independent designer.
An independent designer.
o, last month I went to Chelsea flower show…
It coincides with a friend’s birthday and attending has become a bit of a tradition. Over the years we’ve developed a well-oiled routine which consists of tea, and or coffee, cake, plants, Pimms, then more plants and on until they shut the gates and we float out. This year it was just as fantastical; crackling with colour, dazzling fashion, scarlet Chelsea Pensioners, and that subliminal, background, hum of insects taking advantage of the sudden appearance of all those flowers; oblivious to the riotous circus that accompanies them. All set against an avenue of huge, plane trees, full of chattering parakeet; swaying and whispering in the breeze, seemingly breathing in and out like huge lungs, distributing their silent, barbed, seeds down onto a sea of sneezing and coughing people. So, just as bonkers, just as fragrant; just as magical.
In previous years, I would have had a long shopping list, more often than not, yet another impossibly blue Delphinium from Blackmore & Langdon, which, upon receipt, I would instantly feed to the slugs. And nearly always, a Hosta from Bowden’s nursery… because, you just can’t have enough of those. This year I found myself on their stand looking at some rather frivolous ferns and before I knew it, money was changing hands and plants were ordered, this time, curtesy of my friend. Whilst we were taking a break; soaking up the ambiance, I found myself wondering, what on earth it is about gardening that draws us all there year after year? Why are we so passionate about plants? and it can’t just be about the Pimms, although, I’m sure thaathelptzsz. I suppose like many things; the answer is slightly different for every person. I grew up gardening with my dad and it’s something I’ve always done. I didn’t think about it much when I had a garden, but now I’m living in a flat; suspended; separated from the ground, the desire to re-connect with it has become all consuming. My son keeps saying to me, as he catches me smuggling just one more pot onto the balcony, “Mum please don’t spend any more money on plants, we really can’t afford it at the moment” He’s right of course; isn’t it annoying when your child is more grown up than you? I try hard to explain to him why it’s important, but I’m failing, I’m not sure I really know myself. So, I thought I would try and explain it here and then maybe he will read it one day, or maybe he won’t because, it’s my job to show understanding and listen to him, and his job? is to do the absolute opposite; and that’s how it should be… but for what it’s worth? here goes:
I often feel that people emit a kind of energy, frequency if you will. You will meet someone and you might say, “We’re on the same wave length”, another will, “give you a bad feeling” and I think the same is true of things and places. Some places make you feel “At peace” others jar and fill you with unease. But if you’re lucky, maybe once in a life time, you will find a place that resonates at the same frequency as you, and you cancel each other out; then? there is silence; ground zero. Such a place was my garden.
Now my world is often full of clatter and noise, the cacophony of other peoples’ lives but while I’m working around plants, I can bring this down to a dull hum. Of course, I’m privileged, really privileged, to still have access to this greater environment, and it wraps itself around me like an old familiar coat. But each day when I leave, I must hang it at the gate, often forgetting, it’s no longer mine…and the noise begins.
And that’s it really, for me? Gardening brings calm. Growing things grounds you and resets your perspective when there is none to be had. I think it’s also humbling to be part of something that’s far bigger than you. In a way, gardeners are horticultural Time Lords, reaching into the future, then watching while the future comes to them. Bringing plants to our balcony is, for now anyway, fulfilling this need.
So how is that balcony?
Well, as far as the planting has gone, it’s early days, but on the whole, I’m pleased with the results. Conscious of the weight distribution, I’ve kept the planting to the edges and corners, leaving space for an extreeemely small table and chairs; which I’m saving up for. I’ve discovered that it’s getting more sun than I was expecting, and have expanded the planting a little to take advantage of this. I estimate that by the summer equinox, on 21st June, the sun will be on 1/2 of it for about 6 hours a day. And on this day, table or no table, we must rush out and spend all day eating creams teas and/or drinking champagne because, on the 22nd? It’s all downhill. In hindsight, I was perhaps a little optimistic about how far the rose would grow in a season, but have planted a couple of things that should fill the gaps. I was also wildly optimistic about my carpentry skills; I should never get involved with carpentry, it never ends well. I’d seen a planting tower in a garden centre, but it was heavy and I couldn’t justify the cost, so thought, as I often do...” I will make one, how hard can that be”? I asked someone If they would cut me 3 small shelves but, misunderstanding their purpose, he cut them out of MDF...the single, most absorbent substance known to mankind and, if nailed into horizontally…has the architectural properties of a bag of dust. I spent days priming, undercoating and painting them so they would be able to cope with moister, but I needn’t have worried because, the first time I put a pot on them one of the legs developed a nasty bow; they are going to give up waaay before the MDF has a chance to disintegrate. I’ve given my drawings to a real carpenter now. I’ve also decided that the corner where the planting tower is/will be, is very dark. so, added a handful of Mediterranean tiles. This has given the area a visual lift, it also plays with perspective a little, squaring what is, in the end, a deep, narrow, space. I’ve complimented this by using blue and white Spode plates underneath the pots. I’ve got to be honest, it’s beginning to look like the Isle of Capri in that corner.
So, ask me “why”? In a green and white planting scheme, I’ve chosen to introduce Mediterranean blue...go on ask me…. I’m not going to tell you, you’ll have to wait until next month.
Early days yet...
(On order) Bowden’s Nursery.
These will replace the hostas as
they will require more space to flower.
Mediterranean Tiles: Seville Persian Blue.
Porcelain Super Store.
I’m having to be mindful of weight here, but they are a mixture of my own, pots gifted to me from the Victorian glass house at work, and this company.
Available from most garden centres, but I bought them, the hanging baskets, and the mixed planting, from Aylett’s Nursey.
Impossibly blue Delphiniums:
Blackmore & Langdon’s
I haven’t got any of these, but you have to take a look.
Spode plates and any mixed china:
Charity shops and far, far too much time on ebay.