Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Friday, 3 July 2015

Canoodling with the Calendula

The display of Calendula the the Plant Heritage tent at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show

The Plant Heritage tent at RHS Hampton Court is always one of my favourites as it's a fascinating place which offers the chance to learn from the experts.

It was a delight to talk to the Bristol Zoo representatives about the first Dispersed National Plant Collection aka The Bristol Community Plant Collection. According to the exhibit's useful fact sheet, Calendula encompasses 12 species with around 24 accepted botanical taxa. As you can see, they can be quite different looking plants; I've grown too used to seeing the cultivated form to appreciate the diversity on offer.

Most National Plant Collections are usually seen in one location, but instead this one is found all over the city of Bristol. Each flower on the map in the photo shows the different locations involved in the project. They include schools, community groups, gardening clubs, allotment sites, a day care centre and some over 50s residential accommodation. The ages involved range from 2 to 99.

When the zoo's Emma Moore explained the project, it made sense as the different species can be grown on sites most suited to their needs, plus it reduces the risk of cross breeding. Each group involved is trained to grow, maintain and harvest the seed from their allocated species.

I also spoke to Barbara Franco from Shirehampton Community Action Forum, and it was evident she's extremely proud of her involvement in the project. She told me some of the species in the collection are threatened with extinction in their natural habitat due to changes in land use.

Here in the UK we grow our Calendula as annuals, though I've often wondered if they truly are as I've seen so many overwinter in milder years. I found my answer in the Plant Heritage tent - in warmer climates they're short-lived perennials, but the plants tend to become more woody and less attractive with age. It seems we get the best of them in our cooler climate.

Latin Without Tears

According to the Plant Heritage fact sheet, Calendula is from the Latin for the first day of the month kalendae, and refers to the plant's long flowering period. The plants are native to the Mediterranean, North Africa and Macaronesia (which is the group name for the islands forming the Azores, Canaries, Cape Verde, and Madeira off the north-west coast of Africa).

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

GBMD: There is a Garden

Stonework and tile details from the Turkish Paradise Garden at RHS Hampton Court 2015

Stonework, tile and planting detail from the Turkish Paradise Garden I also featured yesterday. I was trying to recall Thomas Campion's poem when I saw the garden. Thank goodness for the power of Google when I got home, so I could feature it on this month's Muse Day :)

Planting detail from the Turkish Paradise Garden at RHS Hampton Court 2015

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Beat the Heat at RHS Hampton Court

Nilufer Danis's opulent Turkish garden of paradise at RHS Hamptonn Court 2015
Nilufa Danis's opulent Turkish Garden of Paradise felt right at home in yesterday's heat 

Phew what a scorcher! Temperatures were in the high 20s at RHS Hampton Court yesterday and are set to soar into the 30s today. Here are my tips to help you enjoy the show, instead of getting a bit grumpy in the heat like I did.

  • Go early and/or stay late - it means you can enjoy the show at the cooler times 
  • It was noticeably cooler under the arbour in Nilufa's garden at 1pm yesterday. There are a lot of trees at Hampton court, some with seats around them, so you can have a long sit down - including a picnic or siesta - in the really hot part of the day
  • Wear your comfiest shoes - the show is huge, so there's a lot of walking involved
  • I hate wearing a hat because I get 'hat hair', but I did wear one yesterday. One with a wide brim will also protect your neck 
  • Wear comfortable, loose clothing including something to protect your neck if your hat doesn't
  • Take plenty of water and linger by the Long Water, where a delightful breeze blows in for the afternoon. The clever creators of paradise gardens like Nilufer's knew that water - especially moving - can bring temperatures down by several degrees
  • Lugging heavy bags around in the heat is a recipe for grumpiness, so buy your plants late, or leave them in the plant creche to collect later
The tented areas like the Floral Marquee may get rather hot today. I noticed there were some large fans installed at the entrances yesterday, which should help keep things more bearable.

NB it's well worth getting a show programme as it's easy to miss the things you'd like to see and there aren't that many maps dotted around the vast show area to help you get around. It'll help cut down any unnecessary walking! 

Monday, 29 June 2015

Things in Unusual Places #15: Turtles

turtle laying eggs at the Laking Garden, RBG Canada

Pity the poor gardener who kindly guided us around the wonderful iris collection in the Laking Garden at The Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) near Toronto. The star attraction at the time was a turtle laying her eggs in the garden's soft fertile earth, so he didn't stand a chance while a gaggle of garden bloggers tried to catch the moment when another egg plopped into the hole.

Apparently this is a regular occurrence in June, which merits a warning on the garden's page on the RBG website. Luckily the turtle was unfazed with her new found stardom and quietly carried on with her business.

A staff member tends the iris collection at the Laking Garden, part of Canada's Royal Botanical Gardens
A staff member tends the collection

Our quest for egg laying pictures sated, it was time to explore the collection of hundreds of irises on display, showcasing cultivars from this and the last century. As you can see, our timing was just right as there was a colourful tapestry of blooms on offer. Most of these are laid out in chronological order, so it's easy to see how breeding has affected the size of blooms, plant height and the variety of colours available.

Many of the blooms are North American bred - I spotted lots of labels originating from Canada and Oregon, so here was a rich supplement to the magnificent displays I enjoyed at this year's Chelsea Flower Show.

The entrance to the Laking Garden
Garden Bloggers at the entrance to the garden - spot the back view of NAH too

The Laking Garden is home to the RBG's perennial collection, which also majors in peonies, grasses and clematis as well as iris. In the above photo you can see the perennial borders and some of my Fling friends rushing to take photos.

I also spotted the start of this year's vegetable patch, which focuses on the heirloom varieties grown in Ontario during the 1800s and early 1900s. It also harks back to the garden's origins as a market garden.

Sadly it was too early in the season to see the patch in full fig and I didn't have time to explore the varieties being grown, or to compare them with those we know and love in the UK. There's an excuse for another visit at a later time of the year ;)
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