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Qui vivat atque floreat ad plurimos annos

The eagle-nosed garden god and spelling bee champion James Alexander Sinclair (pictured here swapping ears with Ann-Marie Powell) has jiggled and joggled his ASCII-to-hex chart, primped and preened his sprocket retainer bolts and come up with an even shiner website. The blog’s good, too witty, erudite, timely, apt. So maybe this is what comes of hitting the half century. Happy almost birthday for the 30th oh illustrious one.    

Chelsea Monday

Long chat with Ulf Nordfell on Monday as he tweaked and tickled his iris, stachys and pinkly scented Rosa X odorata ‘Mutabilis’ hours before his garden was awarded best in show. It’s the simplicity of his and all the other award winning gardens this year that appeals. But his inspiration is complex: English, Swedish, modernist (he talks about Hidcote in terms of its modernism) Renaissance and, more specifically Boticelli. It’s the latter’s exquisite paintings which prompted Ulf to plant against a dark background. Hence his jewelled grass. Mmmm    

Fashion rap

Professor Caroline Evans from Central St Martins brought a whole new angle to the party. She enjoys pursuing gardens – catching up with them as they change. Like the Pursuit of Happiness I suppose. She presented us with Plant-free Garden equivalents from her world. Apparently one fashion collection had no clothes – nothing.
On an equally surreal note Stephen wondered if it were possible to make a garden by wrapping the whole of the RHS Council and leaving the resulting bundle outside.


Snow magic

Virgin snow in Regent’s Park and along the Regent’s canal.Freezing wind chilling my cheeks and shaking the last red leaves off the Metasequoia glyptostroboides. A pool of red spread around the tree and across part of the lake beside. Scent of pine wafting across the path.
Puzzled ducks wander about on the ice. So few people are walking to work in this beautiful sunshine. Why? Especially on Monday when, once again, the tube strike hit. I came into Paddington and walked across Hyde Park and St James Park (my fave) to work at the FT on Southwark Bridge.
What a wonderful start to the day.
This evening I walked back across the Millennium Bridge. St Paul’s was floodlit in red. It looked magnificent. Then onto Salt Yard for Tapas with Barbara de Lacey and finally a number 24 bus through the snow back to Camden.

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.    

Heroic rosearian

Sir Hardy Amies, the Rosa Mundi nutter, war hero and Queen’s couturier would have been 100 last Friday and, in celebration, David Freeman had a lunch at Hardy’s Gloucestershire garden where the last of the Rosa mundi are just going over. His garden looks lovelier than ever now that its corsets have been slightly loosened. And I so approve of loose corsets.    


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.    

Flying high

Was the evening becoming tired and emotional when OE artist/ceramicist Jonathan Garratt suggested planting up either side of airport runways to make ‘accelerated gardens’? These are gardens designed to be viewed at twenty miles an hour or whatever it takes for a Ryanair jet to crawl into the sky.



Out here in Taiwan looking at the Floral Expo and stuff has started to kick off with the Baka people in Cameroon. I think I’m on the wrong continent. Damn.    

Chelsea Ulf Nordfell

Ulf Nordfell, this year’s king of Chelsea, strolls in with a posse of sleek-looking Swedes. They are staying at the Swedish Embassy which sounds swish until he tells me that it’s full of Ikea furniture. I wonder if our diplomatic outposts are furnished from Homebase.
Tricky moment when sound man tries to clip a mike to Ulf’s new black leather Armani jacket but GP James smoothes ruffled foliage with an even smoother introduction for Ulf’s ‘conversation’ with me as his bit of the afternoon is billed.