2013 Chelsea flower show.

The 2013 Chelsea flower show has come and gone, but we managed to get tickets for the final Saturday.

It was a long day as we were up early to catch the train down to London and it was late that evening before we arrived back home. As expected the event was busy and trying to get a glimpse of the show gardens took some doing, especially if you wanted a photograph or two.  Despite the crowds the place didn’t make you feel claustrophobic and the day was thoroughly enjoyable. There was plenty to see, from the show gardens to the nurseries in the floral marquee who’s stands were done out like show gardens themselves. There was also array of other exhibitors ranging from those selling garden accessories to garden sculptures.

After being at the show for a few hours it became evident that no-one was actually selling plants.   I found this quite strange, as being in attendance of similar events, the nurseries usually have some stock that they sell.  It is possible that because of the location of the flower show that they cannot do this due to space and accessibility, however this created a massive sense of expectation in the build up to the 16:00 sell off, with everyone wanting to take a little bit of the show home with them.

The build up to the sell off starts well before 16:00. Once the plant you want has been identified you need to stay relatively close by to be in with a chance of obtaining it when the chaos commences. This wait can start at least 30 minutes before the selloff, in fact its long enough to get to know the people waiting next to you and which plant they’re after.  I had decided upon a rose, a new introduction for 2013 by Harkness Roses. A good half an hour before the 16:00 bell, we had to leave their stand and a rope was put up to keep people from re-entering, a bit like a boxing ring and it must have felt like that to the staff who were surrounded by a massive crowd of people.  We along with many others waited nearby not wanting to lose out on our target rose.  As the time came nearer the staff gave out carrier bags and put on their gloves in readiness whilst we got our money out ready.

Suddenly Alan Titchmarsh was on the tanoy and a countdown commenced before the bell was rung. There was a large cheer and the madness started as plants and money exchanged hands quicker than shares on the stock exchange.   It was all very well being at the front of the queue, but trying to get out was a nightmare. With plant raised high above my head I had to push my way through the crowd.

Some of the plants that people buy are madness and it is obvious that they have bought them to try and get on the telly. Tall echiums and delphiniums that will never last the bus or train journey home, at least not intact. Huge bunches of tulips and lilies, or spires of flowering foxgloves that will last out the week if you’re lucky.  I may not have made it on the telly, but my rose will flower year after year and I can say I was there for the 100th Chelsea Flower Show.


An exciting delivery.

This week I arrived home from work one evening to find a package I had been expecting had been left on the front doorstep, or more correctly in a safe place whilst I was out.
I carefully took the box around to the back of the house and removed the tape. This was a first for me and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Inside was a beepol lodge complete with our native British bumblebees. I couldn’t help but take a peek inside the lodge. I lifted the lid carefully and found inside the self contained nest and bumbling bees wandering around.
On following the detailed instructions, I carefully removed the lodge from the box and set it down its allocated spot in the garden and left it for almost an hour for the bees inside to settle back down. I was a little worried at this time as over the last few days the temperature had dropped and we currently had heavy rain. It had been raining continuously since the previous evening.
Thankfully, at about the time I needed to release the bees, the rain had stopped. I opened the lid and broke open the catch on the box inside that contained the nest,  before I had chance to close the lid the bees were already starting to move through the hole and up into the roof of the beepol hive.
About an hour later the first bee was to be seen at the hive door and after a few attempts managed to work out how to get out of the hive. It sat on the ledge, cleaned its wings and took flight. Its first flight was initially clumsy and a little drunk looking, but it managed a lap of the garden before settling on the cherry blossom. It wasn’t long before the first bee was followed by one or two others.
On later inspection of the hive it was noted that in the entrance hole were two bees that appeared to be sitting in the way. I had heard that a bee’s nest was guarded by bees to prevent unwelcome guests entering the hive, but didn’t believe it until I saw it with my own eyes. There they were sat in the hole side by side, like bouncers, with the worker bees having to clamber over them to get in and out.

It wasn’t until the next evening that I actually got to see the bees re-entering the hive. Due to the plastic cat flap idea it takes them a little while to figure it out. I watched as some of the bees took a few minutes wandering around the entrance area before they realised how to obtain access. Hopefully it won’t be long before this becomes second nature to them.

On inspection of the hive last night I spotted one of the bees on the floor next to the hive. It looked dead. I carefully picked up the bee, it was much smaller than the others, and as I gently blew away some of the soil and debris around it, there was some faint movement of its antenna. I quickly went to get some sugary water and placed the bee next to this. It managed a sip and within minutes the bee was back on its feet walking around. I took it back up to the hive and placed it back inside with the others. I am not really sure whether this was the right thing to do or not, but being so small and with the light dropping it wouldn’t have lasted the night outside. Hopefully the little bee will be ok and it will be going about its business as usual today. We will never know.


Spring has finally arrived.

By the third week of April it was really beginning to feel like spring had finally arrived.
The primroses and daffodils put on a great display and the colour of the flowering currant was electric. Even the snowdrops that had looked a little sorry for themselves after the snow had melted put on one last show before going to seed.
The cold spell has probably delayed the seasonal growth in the garden by about 3 weeks, and although no major damage has been done to the shrubs and plants by the weather, the same cannot be said for the blue tits that had been visiting the garden every day. Since the snow fell we have had no sight of them and it is possible that they did not survive.
Things on the gardening front have been busy with plenty to catch up on as the soil starts to warm. The onion sets have finally been planted out, the leeks, spring onions and parsnip seeds have all been directly sown in the vegetable beds. Meanwhile, in the greenhouse , the peas and mangetout have been growing well and it has only been this last week that they have been planted out into their final positions, albeit with some protection from the weather and the birds. Climbing beans have also been sown into module cell trays in the green house and annual flower seeds of cosmos, rudbeckia and verbena bonariensis, as well as some celeriac have been sown in seed trays indoors. These are all now growing away quite well.

Over the May day bank holiday we had a few days away and on our return we found that the shrubs and plants had really come on leaps and bounds. The garden was starting to fill out as the warm weather encouraged the plants to put on some growth, the garden was looking green and fresh. In our absence the cherry tree had started to blossom and the erythroniums, brunnera and clematis were all in full flower.
The tomatoes, peppers and courgettes are growing well and these are now gradually being acclimatised to the greenhouse conditions during the day. A dip in the temperatures over the next few days has been forecast so it may be another few days or so before they can remain in the greenhouse on a more permanent basis, and slightly longer still before the courgettes are planted into their final positions outdoors. Thats British weather for you, it can change at the drop of a hat, and as a gardener it keeps you on your toes.