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The Gardening Coach

Catharine Howard is the Gardening Coach. Contact her for gardening advice and visit www.thegardeningcoach.co.uk for more information.

April 20, 2017 | Review of Deckchair Gardening by Anne Wareham

In “The Deckchair Gardener”  Anne and her mischievous and irreverent Gnome make it plain that all of us gardeners out there have been had, utterly had by the gardening nonsense that we have been reading over the years.    What was  gospel truth is taken by the collar  and shaken to show up some crazy ideas being peddled by the experts as advice.

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April 8, 2017 | Dig your soil? Or then again, do not

Earlier this year I went to the Garden Press Event buried in the depths of the  Barbican.  Humming and hawing over whether to go, it seemed a long jump from home.    Wrong wrong wrong.  On arrival, a bright pink cupcake got pressed into my hand and spluttering, I fell into the hands of the soil magicians.  What bliss – how often does the nerdy opportunity to talk soil structure for several hours on end with a range of enthusiasts?

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March 31, 2017 | Why I do not want to plant lilies at all

I do not want to plant lilies at all.  I hate to think how those bright red lily beetles can zone in. Living  in the back of beyond well away from all human contact  they still arrive.  Do they travel about in prototype drones?

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March 9, 2017 | My 10 top tips for a successful PLANTING PLAN

This week I have mostly been spending time on  planting plans and fending off the breath of chaos breathing  down the back of my collar as I juggle with 6 or 7 different projects.  It’s worth sharing some knowledge.

THERMOMETER:  Plant choice is worked out with my customers who can have as little or as much input as they want.  The temperature of the mind’s desire is teased out so I can put expectation together with the strictures of site and soil.  Set up a joint Pinterest Board – really handy in the thermometer department.

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March 6, 2017 | Bulbs - try out the dolly mixture planting style

Bulbs are opportunists.  Most come from the far Eastern end of the Mediterranean, from rocky scree where early  snow melt gives a source of water before summer drought.  The busting into leaf and flower comes from energy suppled by a modified root and shoot system stored in their fleshy cells. Photosynthesis and pollination accomplished, they retreat below ground before a hungry goat munches them.

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February 21, 2017 | Pennisetum Red Buttons runs away with me

I have been having a love-in with Fountain grasses for quite a while.   Pictured here is the one that I have run away with in my not so big garden.  It is Pennisetum massaicum ‘Red Buttons’. First eye-balled it at the Chelsea launch in 2010 on Neil Lucas’s Knoll stand.  Stalked after that,  including  a visit to his Dorset garden, 8 or so plants went into the borders here in Spring 2015.

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February 17, 2017 | How was it for you? 2017 Garden Press Event

How was it for you? I am about to ring my PR mate and ask her about  yesterday’s Garden Press Event.  Actually I tried to call her for directions  as I blundered round windy walkways that skylined past St Giles Cripplegate church, urban lunchers and chunks  of Roman Wall.  The Barbican Exhibition hall was not easy to find. Three people confidently pointed me in completely the wrong direction.

Finally made it and plunged into a horticultural whirlpool; a kind of man-made heaven with  astonishing cupcakes endorsed by the Bosch machinery people.  Heaven because there are all too few places where an enthusiasm for the state of soil can be mulled over and talked about at any length.

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February 9, 2017 | Greening the grey with High Line

Every twenty years or so landscape design puts something truly revolutionary into the public domain.    For instance  The Landschaftspark  in Duisburg-Meiderich, Germany, designed in 1991 by Latz + Partners.  Set in an abandoned  coal and steel production plant, the concept  for this site was to embrace the industrial past and preserve as much of it as possible.  The living green walls of Japan and Paris are another,  as is the climbing-plant-draped massive  pergola of Zurich’s MFO Park.

In the way that the rag trade leaps on a Gualtier  catwalk design and deconstructs and re-sews for shallower pockets, these landscape  influences percolate down.  They affect the way we look at things, the plantings we choose and our approach to nature.  All of us garden makers are moulded by change and it is a good idea to keep a close eye on innovation and  the High Line is my choice of the day.  It has spurred much copycat action and makes wannabe town planners foam at the mouth.

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January 29, 2017 | Do 'water features' set your teeth on edge?

The short dark days of the early year are tailored to armchair gardening, plotting and researching future schemes.  Musings in our house  have turned to the magical quality of  water, to where  to put it in the garden and what the influences and inspiration might be.    I will walk you round the history and psychology of water in the landscape, but for starters,  I am giving rosettes for my three favourites.

The first   goes to Tom Stuart Smith for his understated and covetable weathering steel (Cor-ten) bowls shown in one of his Chelsea show gardens.  Cor-ten has a stable rusty appearance and has become a fashionable hard landscaping material. He used the  colour  to show up interesting bare stems and a plethora of plants from a pale blue and white palette.  The point about the bowls is that they were brimful, water held in a meniscus by surface tension.  The surface wobbled like a jelly.  I could look at this all day.

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November 3, 2016 | The Best Walled Garden in the World in Suffolk

This  year walled garden curiosity has quietly gripped me.  It started on the Isle of Mull in a squall, taking refuge behind the mossy stone of a 4 acre walled garden.  The kind climate of the Gulf Stream had allowed the rarest of shrubs and trees to flourish.  Back in Suffolk, a walk  through sandy onion-filled fields surrounded by creaking pines led to the out buildings of a large estate.  We peered through a tooth-gaped gateway in the walls into an emptiness of  tussock grass and waving brambles.

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