Corned Beef and Sculpted Florettes of Baby Tomato

I threatened last time to write more fullsomely about Cottesbrooke so, just on the off chance that somebody is monitoring this blog for truth and honesty, I had better do just that.

But first I wish to talk briefly about jam sandwiches. I sat opposite a man on a train the other day (when I was trundling off to Sussex to meet a tree surgeon if you want the full story) who was eating  his lunch. Neatly wrapped in greaseproof paper were two rounds of strawberry jam sandwiches on white sliced bread. It is not something we see very much anymore in these days of wholegrain Ciabatta and exotic hams but it used to be a staple of the British diet. In Scotland it was called (and I know this from a childhood spent with Oor Wullie in the Sunday Post) a “jeely piece” and it was a staple of the packed lunch – before we started feeding our children on crudites and taramasalata (1).

I was particularly fond of marmalade sandwiches especially if they also involved the use of the crust of a Mothers Pride sliced loaf. I ate them in the bath after playing football. With Frank Coopers Oxford Marmalade: none of that Golden Shred stuff and nonsense.

And one more thing before I get to the point…(ii)

You know those people who send you emails pretending to be bankers/diplomats from exotic African countries? The ones who have suddenly got their hands on piles of cash and trunkloads of bullion. Why do they come up with such ridiculously enormous numbers? $30,000,000 is my latest offer from Dr Dangov Mukah in Burkina Faso. Surely if they say something a bit more realistic like $250,000 then more people are likely to tumble into their trap? $30,000,000 is so large as to only fool the very, very stupid or the very,very greedy and they might be two nearly identical groups. I feel that someone is missing a trick here: I may have to contact Dr Mukah with my suggestions.

Right, I was going to talk about Cottesbrooke.

Those of you with long memories or unfulfilling social lives will remember me writing about planting borders there way back in 2006. They have come on rather well as I mentioned in my previous post: there is also some interesting work by Arne Maynard – Cottesbrooke has always had a tradition of employing different designers  and has stuff by Geoffrey Jellicoe, Robert Weir Schulz and Sylvia Crowe. So, three years ago the first Cottesbrooke Plantfinders Fair was launched: masterminded by James Gladwin and Therese Lang (who set up the Westonbirt Festival and they sadly shortlived Future Gardens. The model is Le Domaine de Courson in France where they have been having regular festivals for a number of years. This is everything one could want from a plant fair. The setting is sublime, the nurseries and sundriesmen have been vetted for excellence by Therese. The owner is enthusiastic. The gardens look delightful and it will never be too crowded.

I think that these sort of fairs should be disseminated throughout the country. We have a lot of very pretty country houses with good gardens that could easily host this kind of event. In fact, if you own such a place please give me a yell. They are an antidote to the RHS Shows: don’t get me wrong, I adore Chelsea, Malvern, Hampton Court etc but it is good to have an alternative. Some days you want the full English, other days a bowl of fine museli and a banana will hit the spot.

If you see what I mean.

I have auctioned again this week. This time in aid of the Garden Museum. The aim was to raise £6000 towards the cost of an intern – who will look after the Museum garden as well as doing work experience with the like of Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter, helping Tom Stuart-Smith at Chelsea etc etc. The current intern, Matt Collins, has a blog here We raised £8000 in the end by auctioning off pots designed and planted by various eminences – including Andy Sturgeon, Mary Keen, Tom Stuart-Smith,Cleve West and Andrew Wilson (whose pot contained everything you need to make a Lancashire hotpot – excluding lamb chops which were to be sent under separate cover). Some were full and vibrant while others were minimal – the pots, not the eminences. This is Joe Swift’s which was particularly sparse and meaningful.

Things have overtaken me again as I now find myself having just returned from judging at a hot and sunny Hampton Court

I had a very jolly time and saw some excellent gardens – the Conceptual category was particularly spanking this year and we gave three Gold Medals out of six gardens. There was a really impressive student effort from Falmouth: all the more poignant as the excellent course there is about to close. This is a really annoying as it is a course that habitually produces good designers and is run by two excellent tutors, Richard Sneesby and Matt James.

Sometimes the axe falls on the wrong necks.

I also met a charming designer called Jill Foxley who reads this Blog. So…Hello and congratulations on your Silver-Gilt medal and designing the only garden at Hampton Court that contained a vast pink tap which exactly matched the colour of my shirt.

I am also very proud of my fine friend Sadie May Stowell also one a Silver-Gilt medal for her bee garden for Coppella  (apple juice people and nothing to do with Fabio). Sadie works in a garden I designed in Gloucestershire and I first met her years ago when she was very young and I was co-presenting (with Mr Beardshaw and the luscious A-M Powell) a Channel 4 daytime programme called The Great Garden Challenge. She won the competition with a series of darned fabulous gardens. This her second, and most successful, Hampton Court Garden.

I am aware that my blog reading/commenting record has been less than attentive over the past couple of months: I apologise but things have been a tiddly bit frantic recently. My show duties are now pretty much over for the season so hopefully I will have more time to sit a twiddle my thumbs, read blogs and generally procrastinate with the best of you.

I am listening to Nick Cave and the Bad seeds singing Midnight Man. The picture is of the sunflower field designed and planted by Jon Wheatly at Hampton Court.