A Luvverly Bunch of Sea Urchins

So it is official.

And I even have the badge to prove it: I am now one of the seventeen members of the Council of the Royal Horticultural Society. Thank you to those who voted, your efforts and trouble are greatly appreciated. The voting numbers are not terribly impressive as out of 370,000 members about 3% found the time to fill in the bumpf. efforts are already underway to change that with electronic voting etc being investigated.

So I can tick that off my To Do list.

I now have to work out exactly what is required of me: I have a feeling that the wheels of change move quite slowly so we shall see. In the middle of the AGM I suddenly thought “Oh shit, what have I got myself into now?” as it is all (committees, meetings etc) beyond my sphere of experience. Still, I am there now so better do what I can. Almost all suggestions welcome. As my first duty I sampled the fudge available in the Wisley shop and found it acceptable but a little soft for my taste.

It comes at the end of a long and rather draining week where I have beetled around the place talking to people. I have addressed the unfortunate public six times in seven days: twice at Coton Manor where I did a day course. As always it was jolly and the garden was looking sensational. It is an unashamedly old fashioned garden with the basic layout remaining more or less as it always has been – although they have jiggled rose borders and added new plantings and features on the edges of the original garden (some more effective than others). What makes it special are some very imaginative and subtle plant combinations masterminded by the owner Susie Pasley-Tyler. It is a ‘plantsman’s garden’ par excellence. This is usually a description of which I am extremely suspicious as it is often an excuse for a spineless array of rare plants arranged like cakes upon a doily with little consideration for the dynamics: eccles cake next to cream horn behind caramel chocolate eclair. This avoids that pitfall: it is a garden all about plants but is still primarily a garden.

My third gig was for the Cottesbrooke Plantfinders Fair which, this year, was a triumph – in spite of a bit of an access hiccup when everybody decided to turn up at the same time on Friday. Some excellent nurseries doing good business, my borders looked tip top and Arne Maynard’s new stuff is growing well and will be a real force by next year. I talked in a nice tent organised by the Telegraph, it was full and seemed to go down well even though the renowned critic and belle viveuse , Ms Arabella Sock, snuck out before the beginning.

Number four was in a large shed at Stoneleigh Park for the Horticultural Trades Association at their National Plant Show. This is a sort of plant beauty contest with competitions about the best new plant and lots of wholesale nurseries exhibiting themselves for the benefit of retailers. There were some good new Dianthus and a few horrors: in particular an orange Alstromeria with variegated leaves. I was the last gig of the exhibition so people were a little bushwhacked. I did a plant version of Snog, Marry, Avoid (or Shag, Marry, Kill for the cruder minded readers).

Number Five was a charity gig in a barn in Buckinghamshire. Slight technical problems at the beginning meant the first ten minutes were spent floundering around talking about anything that came into my head. This turned out to be mostly about when I was washer up in a nightclub and we used to drink the left over half drunk cocktails before the glasses went in the machine.Not really a suitably salubrious occupation for a future member of the RHS council but after a few one didn’t really give a damn. The washing up consisted of a constant stream of hot copper saucepans that were thrown at us by irascible French chefs. We cleaned them and burnished them with salt and lemon juice. They then went back to the kitchens, were dirtied very quickly and thrown back again. Not a lot of job satisfaction but it taught me to respect the plongeurs, no matter where they might be..

Number Six was an auction at the Garden Museum. Various eminences planted up largish pots and my job was to auction them to the assembled worthies. There were pots designed by people ranging from Prince Charles’s Gardeners at Highgrove and Arabella Lennox Boyd at the top end to Ann-Marie Powell and Cleve West at the other. Tom Stuart-Smith produced a single vast lemon tree, taller than himself which is quite an achievement as he is at least 8’9″ tall in his heels.  We raised £7500 towards paying for a new intern: the retiring incumbent is a very clever fellow called Ben Dark whose outstanding blog is here.

Oh, and I had to drive to Dorset for a meeting that lasted an hour. So a bit of a running around week. Next up is Hampton Court where I am judging on Monday  while wearing my shiny badge.

On other matters: the roads around Oxfordshire and South Northamptonshire this morning were teeming with cyclists in Lycra. I am sure that there are advantages to lycra as a cycling outfit – the most obvious being the reduction in inter thigh chafing – but it does nothing at all for anybody with even the slightest bulge to their buttocks. Also, and I speak from a position of ignorance here, surely it would be more comfortable and less sweaty to wear something loose and cottony through which the cooling breezes can blow as you freewheel happily down a hill. Baggy shorts and an Aertex shirt perhaps? Oh dear, I am turning into Enid Blyton, hopefully this is not a direct result of the election. If any of you spot me wearing a fair isle jumper please slap me sharply round the face.

I am listening to Crazy Water by Was (Not was).

The picture is of  an Astrantia.