Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

What a fantastic city

Walk to work talking to Mark Stephens my mate who’s defending Assange. A green woodpecker flies up across the path.
Along the canal a heron pecks at a sandwich surrounded by a flock of seagulls.
The gardeners in Queen Mary’s garden are pruning but will not let me take one of the rose buds which looks like antique silk

FT’s office party. Buses chug us along the Thames, South Bank lights twinkling in the water, to a nightclub overlooking Regent’s Street. Wembley lighting up the sky in one direction, millennium wheel in another. Cranes everywhere. A magnificent Egyptian frieze around the top of the building opposite.

Walk home past bling Christmas lights where Kentish Town Road crosses Regents canal..two man-sized snowmen, flashing multi-coloured lights    

Erotic Talk

Lusciously lean James Alexander Sinclair has been in touch to tell me about The Guardian’s sexy gardens piece yesterday. Garden filth is a particular favourite of mine. Contact me if you’d like to come to one of the Erotic Gardens talks I’m giving, for charity, in Oxford and London.    

Chelsea saint

Come across Paul Stone, Eden Project garden’s designer surrounded by some of the prisoners and homeless people who are creating this show garden. This is the stage where every designer is tired, anxious and bad tempered but, as one of his gardening ingénues, drags a hose pipe across about 100 plants, cracking stems as he does so, Paul breaks our conversation for a moment, says a gentle ‘excuse me’ to the miscreant and moves the hose away from the plants.
This pic shows Dean Stalham the ex prisoner turned poet who wrote on Eden’s wood henge.    

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.


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.


Kim Wilkie: heaven and picturesque hell

Teetered in from the official opening of Kim Wilkie’s new landscape ‘Orpheus’, dripping mud and rain across rolling floorboards at Boughton House, Northamptonshire. Orpheus is an elegant turf pit (above, behind Kim) representing the eponymous hero’s journey into the underworld – in landscaping terms a 21st century answer to the neighbouring eighteenth century Olympian Mount (below).

A tempest lashed around us while we inspected Kim’s elegant pit and a band of early musicians, I Fagiolini, plunged down towards Hades to play a few bars until the rain drove us all indoors.
I wonder how many times this scene has played out through the ages with seventeenth and eighteenth century guests rattling up from London for a garden party only to be rained on.

Feel that Orpheus, who sang so sweetly that he scared away the Sirens while he was being a Greek hero, should have been able to have scared away the rain. When he descended into the underworld to rescue his wife, and then bogged up the mission by breaking a promise, I wonder if it occurred to him that he would be remembered as a verdant pit – or a romping ENO operetta.

Either way the place is worth visiting. The hellish new landscape is heavenly (although I’m not convinced by the Fibonacci curve at the top of the pit pictured at the top of this page) and the surrounding old landscape is magnificent. The rest of the garden’s brimming with plant and design interest. And the house stuffed full of beautiful, ancient, unusual paintings (including an unusual one of Henry VIII and his three children); Venetian chests, gorgeous ceilings and grand/cosy four posters.

All still lived in by the man who commissioned the landscape, the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry (pictured here using the music stand as an umbrella) and his large family.

Chelsea Cough

Chelsea Cough’s been worse than ever this year. Plane trees dominate the site and chuck down pollen that sandpapers eyes and makes victims cough and choke. It’s blocked the filters on James Wong’s Canary Islands garden. Mind you, The Cough is nothing beside the other complaints brought on by Chelsea. Quilted Velvet Gardener Tony Smith’s back’s gone(that’s him lolling about in the Lolling About area in the pic). Tom Hoblyn (redwood curves against the chemical yellow pitcher plants pictured below) is so exhausted he can barely speak. Designers, builders, horticulturists and plant checkers are wandering about in a state of sleep deprivation. Paul Stone of the Eden Project’s Key garden looked as if he was about to expire. Welcome to Chelsea or, as Chelsea widows and widowers sometimes call it, The Marriage Breaker.