My apologies.

I have not blogged and I should have done. To be honest I keep writing bits and then going away and coming back and rewriting it and then doing the same thing again etc etc etc. The post eventually looked like a pair of well darned combinations full of stuff that was more drivelly even than usual. The best blogs are, in my experience, the ones that are written fast and posted quickly.


I have been to various places and done various things but am going to exercise my well documented powers of restraint (i) and am going to limit my comments to a few words about about Tatton Park.

I went to the first ever Tatton Flower Show fourteen years ago and have been there most years ever since. This year I was Chairman of Judges (which, I think you will agree, is ridiculously grown up) and gave a speech to a collection of assembled bigwigs. I have been there in baking heat and torrential rain but what I have never done until this year is visit the gardens of the real Tatton Park.

My goodness, that was a mistake.

Think of the hours I have wasted trying to find some merit in a rough Back to Back when I could have been listening to the water tumble in Joseph Paxton’s Fernery.

As well as gardens there was art. Lord Egerton (who used to own the joint until he handed it over to Cheshire County Council and the National Trust) was quite obsessed with flight so there is an exhibition of air-related art works.There was quite an exciting one where you stood in a shipping container to watch a film about a bloke in a flame retardant suit wandering around a flaming aeroplane.

And there was this which was amusing and beautiful in equal measure.

And the garden is great: blousy yew hedges, a Pineapple house, Edwardian terraces, some good plantings, a  famous Japanese garden and some corking Begonias.

But the Fernery alone is worth the £5.50 toll on the M6 any day of the week.

I also remember promising you a bit of a rundown on the gardens in Moscow.

As to the gardens, they have quite a long way to go before they reach Chelsea standard but, seeing as most of them were put together in a few days and none of them have ever built a show garden before. There were three categories, gardens, balconies and nursery gardens. Most Muscovites are short of space and previously have only really been interested in growing food however, things are on the turn and decorative gardening is about to become extremely popular. This show and others like it will grow: of that I am pretty certain.

Unfortunately I seem to have forgotten to photograph many of the gardens which was a bit foolish but here are a few….

This garden was designed by the Gorky Park superintendent and was very pretty. Verbenas, the new Rosa Gorky Park (short, small flowered and pinky white). Pretty but a bit straightforward consisting of a cross within a circle.

Less straightforward, in fact a bit strange, but  amusing. Pond well built, car interesting (originally made in Ukraine by communists), roses in good health. Amusing is an asset in a show garden.

I didn’t realise until the other day that some people (including the late Steve Jobs) have button phobias – Kompounophobia. So if you suffer from such a thing please look away now. I liked this garden: lots of colour and lightly entertaining. The purists would throw up their arms in horror at many of these gardens but, if you take them in the spirit in which they were intended and regard them as the first steps on an interesting exodus then they were pretty darn good.

Two things of mild interest…

I am extremely over excited by the Olympics. I find myself worrying about missing the semi-finals of the Archery or 50m Rifle Three Positions. I cheered and yelled at cyclists and jumped up and down about rowing. I found myself watching dressage (which I would normally consider very dull: it was rather beautiful – horses dancing) and basketball (which seemed a bit complicated sometimes but thrilling all the same.). I get frothily patriotic at times. I would even kiss Sebastian Coe if he asked nicely: although if given a choice I would prefer Jessica Ennis. Or Clare Balding.

I am oddly fond of those very small jars of jam you get in hotels. Usually enough for a couple of croissants. The size and feel of the jars is very appealing. I mention this as I spent the night in an odd hotel the other day and there were lots of them. Farrow and Ball sample pots have the same effect.

I am listening to Twenty-five years by St Etienne

The picture is of the massed ranks of Begonias at Tatton Park.

This blog took 23minutes 17seconds to write and publish. Outside my PB but shattering Lia Leendertz’s record by six weeks. At least.

(i) Previously unacknowledged

Firstly, thank you for the cavalcade of comments on my last Blog post. In spite of what my friends Chris Young (Dep.Ed) and  Cleve West say, I wasn’t really begging for comments just musing on my reactions and the essence of why people Blog. However, I am grateful for the nice things, thank you.

I played cricket on Saturday: it is much more exhausting that you might expect and I had thighs that ached until Wednesday. It is not something I do very often (once a year) and again escaped without completely disgracing myself (one fine catch on the boundary and ten runs: although I did succeed in running out the renowned actor Hugh Bonneville which has probably knocked me off the Oscars guest list.) Mark Diacono and Joe Swift were also cricketing this week in the Gardeners World v. River Cottage Test. They had better cakes but their outfits were a bit ropey as you can see here (picture shamelessly stolen from Louise Jolley). I know that the person on the right is probably Toby Buckland and not Mark but, as we all know, they are identical twins.

This week has been a week of trains and much travelling. My trusty iPad and I have travelled to Dorset (to see a new client), to Tatton Park (to be royally entertained by the RHS) and to Sussex to show drawings to another client. As a result I can give a report on the state of the railways.


It began badly when I had to stand all the way from Milton Keynes to Waterloo:I rather hoped that some OAP or pregnant woman might give up their seat for me ( I have been on the Telly, you know!) but the modern world is a slough of bad manners nowadays.

The train to Sherborne was comfortable and not too crowded and got a high score. I know this train very well as my parents used to live in Dorset so I would get on this train in order to go and visit them. I remember one visit in about 1977 when I got off the train wearing a red leather dog collar,bronze eyeshadow, PVC trousers, a torn T Shirt printed with some unsavoury slogan and a plastic frog pinned to my lapel. This was not an outfit considered 100% suitable for a weekend in the countryside: I know this firstly, because I narrowly escaped being beaten up in the loos between Tisbury and Gillingham and secondly because the expression on my mother’s face was very telling. This time I was more soberly dressed.


“The train has been cancelled due to vandalism.”

Apparently somebody from the Coventry area had stolen a chunk of cable presumably without electrocuting themselves too badly. Not really a very good start to the day but possibly not as bad as actually being on the train while it was being vandalised .

Eventually a train arrived and very slinky it was: one of Mr Branson’s finest Pendolinos. They are very fast although they do tend to make me feel a little nauseous especially if one is facing the wrong way. I got off at Stockport ( pronounced, according to Helen Yem ‘Stopport’.) And got a cheery taxi to Tatton Park for the RHS Show where we were royally entertained by the RHS. Luncheon was provided and we mooched about the show – the we in this case being my daughter, Stroma, and I: she is very good at working out exactly what does and does not work in a garden.

Parts of it were quite lovely although most of the show gardens were, if you don’t mind my saying, a bit ghastly. Not enough sponsorship and overambitious designs lead to dogs breakfasts. If I had my way then all show garden designers should be forced (at gunpoint if necessary) to simplify their schemes as all decent gardens are based on simple ideas. Of course it is also possible to cock up with some truly dreadful planting: I can’t remember who planted this but it was a very bad idea all round.

Among the highlights was the Euroflowers marquee where there was a sort of floral equivalent of the Eurovision Song Contest. Young Florists (many of them quite camp) from all over Europe were competing. The hot favourite apparently is the Hungarian whose name is Attilla Kiss. We were also keen on the chubby Italian. The arrangements were pleasingly over the top and beautifully assembled.

Matthew Wilson was present. He wore white linen and sleek sunglasses. My heart could not help but skip a beat. Others went a step further: those of you not on Twitter may be interested to see these. This from Mr Mark Diacono and this (more satirical version) from Madame La Sock.

There were a couple of good gardens: the Visionary category included an offering by the always entertaining Tony Smith who found yet another way to create something interesting out of salad: this time involving a stranded alien nestling amongst the Lollo Rosso.


Another train: this is becoming a habit.This time I go through London and out the other side to get myself down to Sussex. It is comfortable but generally uninteresting although any journey that involves stations called Wivelsfield and Plumpton cannot be an altogether bad thing. The latter, which was my eventual destination, is the one of the most charming stations I have ever visited. The window boxes are colourful and healthy, the view of the racecourse and Downs delightful and the waiting room has squashy sofas.

People talk in loud voices on stopping trains. But, rather selfishly, often not loudly enough to satisfy the curiosity. For example the people behind me….there was a conversation containing the words Russian aristocrat, colours, birthday, reincarnation,shipping forecast and a big pink suitcase. Fascinating but I am unsure how they are all connected.

On Inter City trains people are generally silent unless they are on their telephones when they talk loudly about busy and important things. I talk very quietly on the telephone in case somebody hears that I am only talking about topsoil and girly flowers rather than international sales targets. If they realise that I am not negotiating a major takeover then I worry that they might take me to the spacious lavatory and duff me up.

Among other news…. my WordPress incarnation of this Blog has been polished further: indeed it is now so shiny that I do not actually know how to make it work. This situation will soon be amended: bear with me please.

I am going on holiday for a week on Friday – which is also, incidentally, my birthday. I will be a boyish fifty-one years old. I will be back amongst you soon. please behave in my absence.

I am listening to Killing Machine by Let’s Go.

The picture is of a Sussex Down – they are called Downs in spite of the fact that they are very obviously Ups. And quite steep Ups in places. Aah, the intricacies of the English Language (i)

This time last year I was writing about Future Gardens and the filming of the first ever Three Men Went To Mow – the latest version of which, incidentally, was filmed yesterday at The Gibberd Garden in Essex.