She Paused, Reluctantly, To Admire The Glockenspiel

Last week saw the launch of the 2011 National Gardens Scheme Yellow Book. This is quite a spiffy affair held in the Festival Hall with a very superior line in canapes after all the presentation stuff is over. The President (His Honour Sir Joe Swift) blithered for a bit, Jane Owen (the Simone Signoret of the Financial Times), Wesley Kerr (he of the booming voice and Royal anecdotes) and I chuntered away for a while about NGS Gardens we have known. Joe then gave away a lot of money (i) (about £2,700,000) and we retired for lunch. The picture is of Joe doing the giant cheque thing with Emma Bridgewater – who makes rather nice NGS Mugs.

Oh, just before we went we gave this very small interview for the new Horticultural Channel. It is about 20mins in – although the rest is worth watching as well (you will notice the the snappiness of our suitings in comparison to the all weather gear sported by the other contributors.) Particularly the bit about the allotment lavatory based around a wheely bin.

Lunch was in the Skylon which, though good, was disappointing because,quite frankly, it was a bit low. Yes, it had nice picture windows overlooking the river but with a name like that I sort of expected something closer to the clouds. You would only bruise yourself if you fell out the window. Ann-Marie Powell was present so, as you can probably guess, it was quite loud. And a bit sweary. And very jolly indeed.

I have also done some work which is a novel change after swanning around South East Asia for weeks doing not much of anything. Have I mentioned the spanking new walled garden I am making ? I know I have on one of  the other parts of the internet that holds my collected drivellings (i). Anyway, the story is that we are building a stone walled garden accessed by three magnificent sets of steps and containing a rather fine greenhouse, lots of cut flowers and a selection of fruit and vegetables chosen and supplied by my learned (ii) friend Mark Diacono. Still a way to go.

I have also overseen the placing of a vast Bhutan pine. It arrived last week and was about the size of the articulated lorry that did the delivering. It was so big that the fork lift truck provided was incapable of moving it further than three feet from the lorry. A new lifting thing had to produced and everything ended happily. Damn thing better not die.

Dr Noel Kingsbury has written a book. This, in itself, is not news as he tends to churn out a couple every month or so: the latest is called Garden Designers At Home and includes various garden designers loafing around in their own gardens: these are generally pretty good, giving the lie to the thing about the “cobblers’ children going unshod”. I am delighted that the picture he has chosen to use of me is quite old and much tauter all round than the real thing although it is not as old as Cleve’s. He looks newly hatched.

Among other pictures: Joe Swift is as pink as a baby’s bottom, Tom Stuart-Smith looks a bit like a mischievous sprite (which not a description that usually pops into the mind), Ulf Nordfell has the air of a holidaying diplomat and James van Sweden is the spitting image Joe Swift’s Dad. That is probably enough personal comments. You can decide for yourself as Noel will be signing this book at this year’s Malvern Show.(iii)

Amongst Other News: the shows season is very nearly upon us…..

Exhausted from worrying about Kate’s dress? or panicking about the quality of cake? worried that you have missed out on the souvenir plates? fear not: distract yourself  by planning a visit to Grand Designs Live. It is almost the first show of the season (from 30th April – 8th May) and happens in the enormous barns at Excel in the Docklands. I have done this show (and it’s sister in Birmingham) a few times now. This year is a bit different as I have a Design Studio. Look, there is even a dedicated page on their website. It is an interesting idea: there will be a rota of garden designers giving out free consultations in half hour segments to visitors to the show. My role, I think, is to hover wisely and add both tone and extra information when required. Rather like a supervising professor (hopefully without the halitosis): my co designers are freshly hatched from the best colleges. As such they are much better qualified than me so I will have to watch my step. Bring along pictures, sketches or imaginative descriptions of your gardens and get some free advice. I will have some spare tickets.

On the last day I am also doing a Three Men Went To Mow Live slot with Joe and Cleve. We will not be doing the Stripper unless things get desperate.

The picture is of a magnificent Hellebore hybrid. I am listening to Johnny Cash (live at Folsom Prison) singing Give My Love To Rose.

(i) Actually, if you are really interested, it is here. My first Crocus post.

(ii) I use that word in the more obscure definition where it means not “scholarly, erudite and cultured” but  “lanky, feckless and a bit scruffy”

(iii) Michelle has already done a preview of this year’s show. You can read it here. More information will be trickling out over the next few weeks.