On My Oasis – Scented Plants and New Reads

photo 2 (15)

A quick and easy windowbox thanks to an old Hi-Fi speaker

Sometimes, the weather’s so foul that getting out in the garden isn’t really possible. I don’t mind the deep winter; crackling ice, deep frosts, the opportunity to work up some heat amidst the snowy garden by clearing and cutting back. However, constant rain is not very conducive to work. Though grey outside there’s some colour in the bleakness – the kettle pot I planted up a few weeks ago has really come into its own and looks wonderful. I also popped some pansies, violas and lavender into an old Hi-Fi speaker and they too have done really well. Need a windowbox? Well, there you go; an old speaker and you’re sorted.

However, with so much wet weather, I haven’t been able to do much in the garden other than a bit of snipping here and there. Luckily, I was sent a copy of the Royal Horticultural RHS Companion to Scented Plants lrSociety’s new ‘Companion to Scented Plants’ by Stephen Lacey. Published by Frances Lincoln (@Frances_Lincoln), it’s been filling me with the delights of new planting possibilities. Perfume’s often an element that many people forget about when they’re selecting plants. I know that I find I’m so enthused by a nursery’s plants, I often forget there’s that scented opportunity here. The Companion to Scented Plants is a great reminder of the vast array of plants you can have. I remember, several years ago until I lost them during the hard winter, I had a winter jasmine and small, pink dianthus outside my backdoor. The even scent from them was incredible. Another year I grew nicotiana and, again, the sweet evening smell was gorgeous.

Organised into easily digestible chapters, Stephen Lacey’s book is separated into sections such as “Planting with Trees and Shrubs”, “Alpine, Trough and Water Gardens”, and “Herb Gardens”. It means that whatever space you’re thinking of, you can delve quickly amongst the pages and discover if there are any delightful species to give you more than just form and colour. Also, for any book lover like me, it’s a beautiful, large and hardback tome as well; a perfect addition to your gardening shelves and something I’ll probably leaf through in a quiet moment when I’m not even looking for new planting inspiration.

photo 1 (14)

A great read if you’re looking for new and interesting scented plant inspiration.

Retailing at £25, I’ve been allowed to offer you a little discount if you buy directly. To order RHS Companion to Scented Plants at the discounted price of £20.00 including p&p (UK ONLY – Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas), telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG238. Alternatively, head to Amazon for pre-ordering (it comes out on October 16th)!

Become a Wisley gardener for the day

As you may have read on my blog before, RHS Wisley are having a ‘pansy plant-in‘  on October 2nd, 2012. With the autumn weather definitely starting to show its face, and the RHS wanting to bring some colour to their autumnal and winter gardens, it’s the ideal time to get those overwintering pansy into the ground. And, now YOU have the chance to a Wisley gardener for the day.

The good folks over at the RHS are offering members of the public the chance to not only help with the plant-in, but to get behind the scenes at the start of the day and enjoy a container and basket workshop run by Wisley staff. The day starts at 9:30am, and the lucky few will be able to get great tips on container planting from top notch gardening experts. After the workshop is complete, you’ll then be able to participate in the ‘pansy plant-in’, filling beds, borders and containers around the stunning Wisley gardens with a huge array of pansies and violas. You’ll even get lunch thrown in too!



Tickets for this fantastic opportunity are available on a first come, first served basis. You need to be free on October 2nd, and able to get to RHS Wisley for 9:30am. If you want to participate, then simply email trials@rhs.org.uk. Remember, get in quick so you don’t miss out!!

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

This week I had the joy of attending the RHS’s Hampton Court Palace Garden Show; a delectable treat of shopping and show gardens. I’ve been once before and perhaps was slightly disappointed, probably due to the lack of show gardens. However, this was partly because I’m a huge fan of the Chelsea Flower Show and all it has to offer, and was comparing the two shows alongside each other. However, in retrospect this is highly unfair because the two are nothing alike. Chelsea is like the trendy bar in town, where you have to be seen, you have to visit, but where you really can’t afford to buy more than one drink. Hampton however is the opposite; it’s the quiet countryside pub where the food is divine, where you spend time watching the world drift by and whilst just as chic, doesn’t have the frenzied ‘posh’ pace that Chelsea does.

There seemed to be a predominant colour at Hampton this year; purple. Purple is of course a fantastic garden colour which is a brilliant contrast plant and therefore its unsurprising that it makes itself known year after year. However, it’s nice to see something breaking with the general trend and the LOROS Hospice Garden of Light and Reflection, whist still utilising some purple, also pushed vibrant pinks and oranges to stunning effect.

Vibrant oranges and pinks in the Garden of Light and Reflection

As a lover of the cottage garden effect and the slight rambling nature than such gardens taken on I was blown away by the Stockman’s Retreat Garden, which combined the rustic stone cottage complete with green roof alongside an incredible planting structure.

Incredible planting in the Stockman’s Retreat Garden

Meanwhile, there were some pretty innovative ideas too. ‘Landscaped Obscured’ is a mushroom garden planted underground with views by way of mirrored turrets so you can see the fungi. The WWF garden included a huge plughole; symbolising the precious commodity of water. Meanwhile, the Astellas Pharma Ltd – “A Matter of Urgency” Campaign garden also highlighted the importance of water and had a very cool ‘floating’ tap, whilst Cube Lighting’s ‘night garden’ was pretty inspired and is definitely worth a walk through.

‘A Matter of Urgency’ incorporates this ‘floating’ tap

As always, there is PLENTY of opportunity to buy plants, though whilst there are dozens of different nursery stands, much of the flora is similar. Achillea’s, grasses, dahlias, clematis, hostas…the list goes on, and if you’re out to get some great specimens you’re in for a treat. Unfortunately, being a plant hoarder, I already have many of the varieties on offer though I did buy my third sarracenia and a deep mauve coloured knautia.  And even though the rain made its presence known, Hampton Court was a thoroughly enjoyable day out and, if you can, I encourage you to go.

More pictures at the Facebook Page.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show

The last week of May is host to a number of things, my upcoming 29th, the beginnings of BBC’s feathery, fluttery Springwatch, the drama of Roland Garros with next stop Wimbledon. But above all it is when all horticultural eyes of the world turn to possibly the globe’s best and most prestigious garden event, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The one time of year when grubby fingered gardeners come face to face with high society, when trugs and trowels are acceptably mixed with champers and celebrities, it remains my favourite show of the year.

I think I’m in love with Heuchera’s

Whilst an expensive jaunt into central London, for those not attending the final day, it is time to simply stroll around stunning showgardens and inspirational displays. With very few plants on sale the scene is far more aspirational, offering stunning ideas and concepts that gardeners can take home and implement in their own gardens. Of course, being such a prestigious and high class event, plants are peak condition and are often grown ahead in hot houses, or held back in cold stores to  ensure flowering at Chelsea’s crucial time. Therefore many of the displays are simply one week only spectacles, not ever envisaged to work in a normal, everyday garden. But the basics are there….gorgeous plants, structural ideas, planting possibilities, everything a gardener needs to spark a good idea.

Fennel and Tulips make an inspirational display

Without the scrum of the final day 4 o’clock bell (a moment when even the most elegant of ladies will turn into a shrieking, jostling and formidable force to simply get her hands on that Iris specimen or scented rose) Tuesday members day was balmy, breezy and filled with pimms, scones and tea. A David Austen rose (Lady of Shalott)  for Leonora and a White Trumpet Sarracenia for me and our spending was over. But Chelsea really isn’t the garden centre of shows, its the inspirational retreat for both garden design and new plants. M&G Investment‘s quintessentially English Garden was a dream and possibly my favourite of the show. Meanwhile Andy Sturgeon’s showcase (apart from structural items which looked like upended shelves) was truly gorgeous, especially the three planters of bearded iris. Elsewhere both The Urban Plantaholic’s Kitchen Garden and The University of Worcester Garden’s had some beautiful planting schemes to take home and try with the latter’s mix of Astrantia and Heuchera’s to die for.

A stunning Astrantia and Heuchera mix

With a Chelsea bounce in a my step and idea’s collecting like a snowball in my mind my little garden may not know what hit it, and my clients may find that I’ve had to extend my vision into their green patches. So whilst I go about planting and pruning, enjoy the year’s best garden show, and if you’re going on Saturday…prepare for the 4pm bell, get ready to shove, and mind you don’t get trampled as a sea of stilettos and loafers descend into horticultural madness.

Rain Stops Play

London is awash. Droplets of life falling on seedlings, winding their way down panes of glass, forming rivers in the street. And whilst life’s exilir is welcomed, especially by me due to my belief that I must’ve once lived as an amphibian or other aquatic gem, the constant dribbling has all but stopped play. One can happily prune and cutback to a certain extent in downpours, but mowing (which plays a pretty big role in any garden maintanance firm) is out of commission, and working with the soil in such weather can result in the natural structure simply breaking down to form a muddy slush.

Another resident enjoying the climate

However, as I sit in bed listening to the glorious sound of a falling sky, there are still gardening things to be getting on with. Any gardener knows that to be successful it takes time, experience, and a whole load of natural wonders. Where’d we be without our birds, our frogs,  or bustling hedgehogs? Knee deep in snails for starters. And as our urban landscape becomes more hostile towards our garden friends, I, along with millions of others, will be doing my best to help out where I can.

Launching a huge biodiversity drive, the RHS are doing their part with a Chelsea biodiversity garden and loads of information on how to encourage wildlife into the garden. As you may have seen, my bee retreat proved highly successful with a group of female mason bee’s last year, and the RHS have a fantastic plan on how to construct your own. Half way through my own I realised I didn’t have enough larger stemmed rods, and with imminent grey clouds I’ve put off a scavenging expedition to Epping Forest. And whilst we await the emergence of our spidery friends and red ladies, now is an ideal time to make your bee’s welcome, throw down a few logs, let that little patch of nettles grown on a little, and plan to incorporate a few more nectar delights in your patch of green this year. And, with parts of Britain expecting snow later this week, continue pampering you’re feathered friends, they’ll return the favour with a glorious dawn chorus.

Welcome to The Guide to Gay Gardening!

Meet Geoff Wakeling