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ThinkinGardens in the Coach and Horses

The Coach and Horses is an innocuous name for the Soho pub where reputations and livelihoods are regularly made and destroyed. Jeffrey Barnard was regularly unwell here along with Francis Bacon, Dylan Thomas and Brendan Behan. And then there were the Private Eye lunches.

Which is why Andrew Fisher Tomlin chose the pub for last night’s ThinkinGardens‘s first salon/debate. I was expecting the C&H’s usual informed debate involving F words, flying fists and alcohol-sodden bodies being loaded into taxis. I imagined Ian Hodgson, illustrious editor of The Garden, being removed by the police after outraging Soho with his views on hardy plants.
Chairman Stephen Anderton, whip in hand, kept everyone well disciplined: frisson without the fighting.
The Question:
Is it possible to have a garden without plants?


Women of the Year

Annie Lennox and the Home Secretary got together to big up SING, an AIDS charity Listen and be moved.
Camila Batmanghelidjh said she would rather be facing a teenager with a knife than us lot after lunch. Her work with homeless, troubled teenagers is being threatened by a funding cut. This is insanity. Which billionaire with a brain will step up to this particular plate? Please?,
As always the lunch was packed with women doing boggling stuff – witness this site:

And Shara Brice and the East End kids she turned into a troupe of world class cheer leaders…can’t wait to see the film that Hollywood is making about them.    


So the Garden Monkey has an infallible Champagne Tracker Device too – just like the Hort Week team. Why wasn’t s/he at the Future Gardens Laurent-Perrier trough yesterday? Maybe s/he was.    

Hats off to Chelsea

Tom Hoblyn’s Iris and pitcher plants
Prowling round the gardens after hours on Wednesday with Lila Das Gupta, the Royal Horticultural Society’s Hayley Monkton (who appears looking blonde and gorgeous on the RHS Chelsea website), Bob Sweet and other luminaries I fell back in love with the show.
What a way to show off or w***** wave as a learned friend put it.
But this year the Big Budget Boys had some worthy shoestring rivals like Sarah Eberle’s four gardens at £15, 000 all in. And Marshalls’ excellent down-to-earth gardens by Ian Dexter – ditto Mark Gregory’s.
Showing off doesn’t have to be expensive although Chelsea still needs the really swanky stuff – like Tom Hoblyn’s Foreign and Colonial Investments garden and Laurent-Perrier’s sublime creation…and Ulf’s. But it’s great to see that lot swirled in with a bit of bite and irony from Sarah Eberle, the Plastercine garden and the Quilted Velvet Garden.

As darkness fell we moved into the pavilion and came across late night voodoo from the floral art people – flower arrangers – who are doing Flamboyant Hats. Some had driven down from the north after spending days weaving pansies, Strelitzia, bamboo, lilies into headpieces worthy of Ladies’ Day at Ascot or the Amazonian rainforest.
The whole thing’s barmy and brilliant and I love it.

Above:Dean Stalham who write the poem for the Eden Project garden.

Below: Yet another luscious garden by Jekka

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.

Wayne Hemingway

First up is Wayne Hemingway What a star. Why isn’t he better listened to? If local authorities and the government gave his housing scheme designs the attention they deserve we’d have a happier little island and far less crime and grimness. His methods are proven and, frankly, you don’t need to be a social scientist to work out why. His schemes give people lovely places to live with outside space where action and community spirit thrive alongside the plants and trees. It’s a no brainer given to us by someone with burgeoning grey matter and conviction.    

Future Gardens

Tony Heywood’s thing. Some people were comparing it to Niki de Saint Phalle’s stuff. No way.

Bruno Marmiroli’s tree through coal.Followed by: classic Ivan Hicks; golden dog turds (odd, even for FG);sitting hole in Hugo Bugg & Maren Hallenga’s modestly named Narratives of Nature; Peter Thomas’ Metamorphosis and the beehive bogs.


James May love gardens but it doesn’t show. Plus Monkey

Clever RHS – taking on the Plastercine garden with all the attendant publicity driven by Top Gear Presenter James May And then justifying the otherwise unjustifiably non-living garden by awarding a Plastercine medal. Just one criticism of the otherwise unimpeachable RHS: why bang on about getting children into gardening and then ban small children from Chelsea? I suppose they leave the under fives to enjoy the hooligan tendencies of the Hampton Court Flower Show.

I feel that this is an issue Garden Monkey … htmlshould address. S/he was in the Gardening Matters tent when James are I were (in theory) in charge. Still don’t know who it is. Guesses in the comment box please. In the meantime I will try to persuade The Monkey, who is too busy to do much of his/her blogging s/he says, to guest blog here.