Tag Archives: Herb Circle

An Antidote to Chelsea

As the curtain falls on the 2010 Chelsea Flower Show the attention of the horticultural world turns once again to the Alternative Garden Show Awards, known affectionately as the Aggies, awarded to amateur garden designers. While there is no set limit to the money that may be spent, the style of the show is a far cry from the high budget gardens of Chelsea.

This year the show was held for the first time in the tiny French département of Ariège, at the foot of the Pyrenean mountains, a region whose slow pace of living and acceptance of the more natural pleasures of life is perfectly in tune with the show’s ethos.

The full list of awards has yet to be published, but the awards and particularly the judges’ comments give a flavour of this year’s designs.

Designer: Gilly Ginevre
Client: Herbals ‘R Us
Award: Silver Gilt medal

To produce an interesting garden from a limited group of plants, even a group as broad as herbs, is always a challenge and this talented designer has achieved a high standard. The judges were particularly impressed by the central circle with it’s mass planting of chives, nepeta and golden oregano.

Designer: Gilly Jambon
Client: Barn Conversions plc
Award: Silver medal

While much of the planting in this pleasing garden followed a mauve and yellow theme, the failure to maintain the theme throughout compromised the coherence of the garden. The judges appreciated the tendency in the early years of a garden to use the plants one has in order to reduce costs, but felt that a real opportunity had been lost here to produce a garden of true merit. When the hedges surrounding this terrace garden reach maturity and fully enclose the garden the space within will clearly be one of great charm and restfulness.

Designer: Gilly I.N. Trouble
Client: (Name Withheld)
Award: None

The client brief for this garden was for a contemplative space in the style of a maghrébin courtyard, using only cream-coloured flowers. The designer has failed to meet this brief and therefore could not be awarded a medal. A box hedge in a geometric pattern does not constitute an Arab courtyard, nor do a few straggly cream eschscholtzia californica fulfill the colour requirement. In the judge’s opinion the designer has failed so spectacularly to achieve the style requested as to constitute a blatant disregard for the show’s rules. She is therefore banned from entering the competition for a period of five years (please note that the Flavio Briatore gambit will not work here).

Designer: Mother Nature
Client: Gaia
Award: Gold medal and Best In Show

The judges were unanimous in awarding Best In Show to this exceptional example of a natural landscape. The designer’s use of the indiginous lime and hazel trees in the foreground to enclose the view over pasture land and barns to the sparcely planted hillside beyond shows a true understanding of nature and beauty. Mother Nature’s vast experience and her eye for detail and simplicity shines out in this exemplary design.

The judges and organisers would like to thank all the designers and gardeners for their hard work and enthusiasm in making the show once again such a huge success. See you again in 2011.


No! No! No more snow!

Not so much a blog post as a tirade. I have tried to write a rational, reasonable post about recent weather, but, since the weather is being neither rational nor reasonable, why should I be? Thanks also to the weather, there will be no photographs (see note 1 below). If you don’t like rants I suggest you leave now.

Q1: Have I worked in the garden nearly all day, nearly every day for nearly five weeks without a complaint?
A1: Yes, yes, yes … and no.

Q2: Have I cleared all the weeds from Wisley (see note 2)?
A2: Indeed you have.

Q3: Did I split the phlomis into lots of bits and plant it in drifts in the aforementioned Wisley and did it look a treat?
A3: Yes and yes … and yes.

Q4: Did I move loads of lupins from the nursery, even though they were getting a bit big, to self-same Wisley, without killing a single one?
A4: You did indeed, O Wondrous One, although that one on the right doesn’t look too happy.

Q5: Were the honesty, astilbe, verbena bonariensis (AKA as Argentina by The Womble), verbascum, clematis Ernest Markham, flag irises, aquilegia and two rose bushes that I planted growing well or were they not?
A5: Get to the point, woman!

Q6: Did I not drag wheelbarrowsful of manure from the orchard track to give them a good start?
A6: It was only just the other side of the hedge, but yes you did.

Q7: And did I not plant innumerable artemesia babies in drifts throughout the Herb Circle (see Note 3)?
A7: Yup.

Q8: … And water them every evening for days and days and …
A8: Yes!!!

Q9: Which reminds me: didn’t I carry water from the water butt, all through the herb circle and up those steps to Wisley umpteen times for the new plants?
A9: S’pose so. (yawns)

Q10: And didn’t I weed the southern sector of the Herb Circle to within an inch of its chickweedy life then tastefully plant up with swathes of artemesia, solidago, bouillon blanc (verbascum), saponaria, bronze fennel, nepeta, angeli…..
A10: You did, you did, you did. It all looks lovely. What IS your point?

Rant 1: My point, Sir, is that, while I was doing all this work, the weather was getting hotter and hotter and drier and drier and the plants were growing faster and faster in the sun and drooping faster and faster in the drought and the water butts were getting emptier and emptier and it was only blasted April, for crying out loud!

Q11: And do you know what happened then?
A11: Earthquake? Volcanic ash cloud? You broke a nail polishing your halo?

Rant 2: Watch it, Smarty Pants! What happened next was – it snowed. It’s May and it snowed! Ten inches of the horrible stuff. I did all that work in Wisley and the herb circle, and bits in the kitchen terrace, not to mention the potager and all those strawberry plants I transplanted. I’ve got asparagus freezing their tips off, I had lilac blossom for the very first time, my very first apricots just forming, pears ditto, Victoria and Quetsche d’Alsace plums likewise, I have a greenhouse full of plants bursting to be planted. I could go on …
Rantee: (aside) I thought you were.
Ranter: It is just so unfair.
Rantee: No-one …
Ranter: Do not tell me that no-one said life was going to be fair. I know that. I know snow is an insulator. I know most things will be fine, next year if not this year. I know that by July I won’t be able to tell the difference….
Rantee: That’s good …
Ranter: SHUT UP! This is MY blog, MY garden, MY rant and it’s NOT BLOODY FAIR!

End of rant. You can all come out from behind the sofa now.

Ranter: That was quite cathartic.
Rantee: You’ve gone a funny colour.
Ranter: Put the kettle on, there’s a love.
Rantee: There’s some of those custard creams left that Jane sent you, the ones she calls ‘those awful biscuits’.
Ranter: She’s Irish, she doesn’t understand these things.
Rantee: Here’s your tea.
Ranter: Aaa…rrr…hhh.

1. Thanks to the dreadful weather the phone reception is awful and I can’t upload photos.
2. Wisley is an 18m by 12m rectangular garden inspired by, but unfortunately looking nothing like, the long walk at RHS Wisley, the one that goes up the hill to the statue. In reality it is a lawn surrounded by herbaceous borders, but it does look very pretty in summer when it overflows with colour.
3. The Herb Circle is 16m in diameter, comprising a 6m inner circle, a circular path and an outer ring. It is predominantly herbs, although I do cheat a bit occasionally.

4. Please note that no ear-drums were perforated in the making of this blog.