Category Archives: Uncategorized

Julian Dowle, Lila and the missing Ann-Marie

Julian Dowle, Chelsea veteran, judge and winner of countless gold medals with Lila Das Guptas, BBC Chelsea star and I crept into this hut to escape the razzmatazz outside.

I wish Ann-Marie Powell had been able to join us but Gilbert Bundy prevented her appearance at Chelsea and, at a few days old, he would not have been allowed in the showground. Yet another reason that the RHS should reconsider its under-fives ban.



This weekend marks the first Cottesbrooke plant fair in Northamptonshire. Cleve West, James Alexander Sinclair, Camilla Swift and Phillippa May snuffling around the stalls. A lot of Chlesea Flower Show refusnics are exhibiting. High quality stuff. Chiltern Seeds …heavenly unusual plants. Woottens whose catalogue alone is swoonable. Odds swing seats, hats and pretty fabrics. Good food and an amble through James’ excellent double herbaceous border behind the garden monkey statue…which makes me think, once again, that James is the GM. He swears he isn’t.    

Savoy muffin

Odd things always happens after time spent at the Savoy. Once, many years ago, the concierge found me my first husband. Another time Adam Faith picked me up in the American bar on the night I launched the Daily Express’ first colour magazine. And then there was the Botham incident, again in the American bar.
Tonight I went to a small pre-opening party to have a look at the renovations which have taken nearly three years. All very lovely.
Outside, just beyond the only street in the UK where you have to drive on the right I gave a hand to a man in a wheelchair. Ten minutes later I was in at the Royal Opera House listening to an audience with Sir Jonathan Miller talking about.. opera. All thanks to my mystery new friend – don’t even know his name,
As I left, slightly early, I lost my way and landed up in the staff canteen where I found a pile of chocolate muffins. I hate the things but bought a couple for my colleague Tom Robbins, the FT’s travel editor. That was the deal – I represented him at the Savoy so long as I ‘brought back muffins from the Savoy’. Has anyone else ever seen muffins at The Savoy? Well I haven’t and even the super soaraway new Savoy had little parcels of raw tuna, tankers of champagne, teeny spring rolls etc etc but no muffins.
So the muffin issue was resolved by the Royal Opera House.
And if my mystery friend reads this: thank you so much.

Cardinal Vaughan

The Cardinal reminds me of Blake’s Sick Rose picture

Not that this tree peony star he is sick. He started waving his finery around just before Chelsea after six years twiddling his thumbs and refusing to flower much despite sitting in a pot of my finest Chateau Owen compost.

Chelsea at sea with the Cayman Islands

The clear picture shows the Cayman Islands’ gold winning exhibit of an undersea garden. The blob shows my uncategorized underwater photograph of a Cayman Reef.

This is the Cayman Islands’ second ever garden at Chelsea so the gold is not at all bad. In fact it’s a miracle they agreed to come back at all after last year when Dutch customs officials confiscated the Cayman Islands’ rare ghost orchids in transit to the UK. Remember this if you come across a bloke down a dark alley offering you, ‘Genuine ghost orchids. honest gov’.


Challenge: how would you define ‘garden’?

Ian came up with some definitions of a garden. Which is brave because no one has managed a decent definition- ever. And it’s been a while since Adam and Eve started the garden business.
Adam and Eve were too busy eating apples to define where they were but we British should have come up with a definition by now. Even the OED definition (“enclosed piece of ground devoted to the cultivation of flowers, fruit or vegetables”) was deemed inadequate. Last year, in the High Court, Lord Justice Moses said, ‘That definition is clearly now too narrow, as the current fashion for wild gardens and meadow areas amply demonstrates.
‘The reality is that no description will categorically establish whether a piece of land is a garden or not. It is incumbent on the fact finder to determine its use.
‘It is important to look at the relationship between the owner and the land, and the history and character of the land and space.’

Is the true definition: ‘the only place where the British feel able to express themselves’?
Your thoughts here, please.


Most popular Chelsea designer?

Biggest numbers by far, with some having to watch on the monitors outside the Gardening Matters forum tent, were for Sarah Eberle’s talk. Sarah is the pixie-like star of Hampton Court and Chelsea with the energy of a nuclear reactor. This year, with six week’s notice, she built three gardens on £15,000. Peanuts. Larger Chelsea gardens can cost up to half a million.    

Erotic garden talks

I’ll be talking about Erotic Gardens on Friday February 5th at Middle Temple (all proceeds to Malawi Dream, tickets from and March 12 and 19 in Oxford. The Oxford gigs are also fund raisers, one for a new homeless charity working with the Burford Garden Company. Probably easiest to buy tickets from me. Watch this space for updates about the charities etc!