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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.

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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October 2, 2016 | A visit to Bury Court to see planting by Oudolf and Bradley Hole

I can never make my mind up whether it is best to thoroughly research a garden before visiting first-time round, clued up and laden with information.  A good tactic but equally so is a full dive in without the background history.  This  can give a more sincere response to site, planting and atmosphere.

Over the years I have seen images of the Front Garden at Bury Court by Christopher Bradley Hole garlanding the glossy magazines.  It’s been on my  hit list.   Bradley Hole is one of the few Chelsea Flower Show exhibitors that pulls off show gardens that make sense, that stretch the eye and the mind with pared down planting.   They are always presented  within his habitual mathematical grids.  His Latin Garden of 1997,  a homage to Virgil is in  my mind as if I am still standing in front of the display.

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August 31, 2016 | Why I did not visit Jupiter Artland

Visitors to the  Edinburgh Festival and its cuckoo offspring, the Fringe, will find themselves beetling about from venue to venue in a mad rush to fit everything in.  In the frantic scurry-about, wearing down shoe-leather, the beauty of Edinburgh’s setting and architecture seeps into the soul.

This year we decided to take in landscapes as well:  Arthurs Seat, Isle of Inchcolm and Jupiter Artland.  The last one for the all the fresh news coverage in the wake of Museum of the Year award.  We bussed out of Edinburgh along a  street lined with supermarkets of the world and  were eventually set down at the  dusty yard of an agricultural wholesaler with a caravan selling butties and Ironbru.  The locals pointed us back up the road.  There had been a bus-stop “vandalised and burnt down”  the man in pink told us. Continue reading Why I did not visit Jupiter Artland

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August 4, 2016 | A Trip to East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens

These gardens have become a bit of a pilgrimage site.  Particularly for those of us who live in the East.  There simply are not many substantial gardens in these parts.  Not the first time I have visited, but a week or two back, I treated myself and two others to the  Full Monty Alan Grey tour with lunch.

I made a mistake.  The two  were poles apart.  Friend one, a textile designer with many years of plying her trade.  Purity and attention to detail are her watchwords.  The other friend has bright pink hair, wears bling and delights to shock.  She in turn had Bernie in tow:  he works for her.  Then of course there was  Alan, looking immaculate in tight trousers and tee shirt with fashionable leather patch.

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