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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 http://www.thinkingardens.co.uk/mission.html‘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?

    

Chelsea collision

Now I am shattered. First day of the Chelsea Gardening Matters forum. It started three years ago and I’ve chaired every year. This year the Royal Horticultural Society’s Bob Sweet has put two of us in per day to chair it. Today I am with Wesley Kerr.

The first time we met was in 2004 when I was presenting BBC2′s Gardens Through Time. We were filming at Chelsea. My director had told me to walk and talk in one direction, his director had told him to walk and talk in….a collision course. Neither of us saw the other coming and BANG we crashed.
This time we find a more collaborative way to work one on stage and the other cheer leading from the floor.

    

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.
    

Cool thoughts

although I am too hot to think. Writing about no-chemical swimming pools is heating instead of cooling my brain. And I cannot remember the name of this plant.

I’m told that it seeds everywhere. I was told that about Nicotiana sylvestris and I can’t manage to get it to flower let alone seed.
Then there’s the enigma of the Monkey ‘C’.    

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
    

Patrick Blanc and the plant that nearly decapitated Tim

Run away to the Athenaeum Hotel on Piccadilly http://www.athenaeumhotel.com/ to drink champagne with one of my garden heros, Patrick Blanc http://www.verticalgardenpatrickblanc.com/ and watch as Tim Richardson is nearly decapitated by a flying plant. It has been dislodged from the top Patrick’s stunning new planting on the outside walls of this otherwise lumpen building. Well, there’s a high wind. Tim, showing sang froid worthy of Queen Victoria, simply picks up the plant tries to replant it in the hotel’s window box. I bring Patrick over and tell him what’s just happened. Patrick is alarmed and says to Tim:

‘Be careful – that is a very special plant.’

Patrick is a consummate plantsman
.

    

Taiwan

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.    

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 http://www.topgear.com/us/the_show/bios/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. http://www.rhs.org.uk/whatson/shows/hamptoncourt2009/.

I feel that this is an issue Garden Monkey http://thegardenmonkey.blogspot.com/200 … 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.

    

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.