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A Painters Palette of Color

Its the most busy time in the gardens right now with new bedding plants and perennials coming out from the glasshouse, tender sub-tropical plants being integrated into the borders and newly sourced rare plants finding a new home. 

Planting time is not just about finding a gap and planting. I always like to look ahead, how will one leaf form look against another, narrow grass like alongside rounded and textured, mid height in the border or low and spreading in the front. I was taught about the ‘Yin and Yang’ principle in design as it follows the course of nature (to further explain would need an entire chapter on its own) Then there are colors, some clashing, some complimentary. Nobody can be the judge or criticize one color scheme against another as everyone has personnel taste just like eating certain foods. How ever, following nature and observing plants in the wild can trigger thoughtful planting. It the tropics the colors seem much more bold and brash and that is what we try to mimic in parts of the garden for the subtropical look. In the woodland the ground cover planting is much more softer with integrating pastel colors. Gardening is just another art form, a painters palette to work all sorts of blended planting schemes throughout the year. Some years they work well, other years its time for a re-think if some colors seemed to clash. But one thing is for sure, it is a ‘living art’ and no one year is the same as the other.

Rhododendron flower power

This year for example has provided the most vivid flower power I have ever seen. The long cool and wet months of winter have given the plants a long dormancy and resting period and we have been blessed with a stunning display.

The more tender Rhododendrons like R. lyi from Vietnam, R. formosum from India and R. Lindleyi from Tibet just happen to be the most sweetly scented and all are bursting with blossom in the ‘secret walk’ part of the woodland garden.


Rhododendron Lindleyi . Native to the Magnolia forests of Tibet and Sikkim.

Life is bursting out everywhere with mallard chicks bobbing along on the pond, young wall lizards scuttling along the Mediterranean bank, and now our Kookaburras have chicks all squawking for food from within the nest box. The sun has decided to show his face at last and the gardens are thriving with visitors with coaches from Germany and Holland. England in early summer is a gardeners paradise and there is nowhere better to experience the skills of Horticulture than a visit to Chelsea flower show. I am lucky enough to get a press day ticket before the crowds, as I am on the Woody plants committee of the RHS. Milling around with Landscape designers, nurseryman, celebrity cooks, celebrity has been, film stars and rock stars, they are all there strutting like peacocks on parade but all in a good cause. Helping to promote a charity garden or product, and helping bring horticulture to the forefront of public awareness is not a bad thing – us gardeners are a dying breed didn’t you know?


Chelsea Flower Show – Background group with Barbara Bach, Ringo Starr, Olivia Harrison, Tommy Walsh. Oh and yours truly in foreground!

There is now great concern that there are not enough young people coming into gardening to manage our Heritage gardens of the future!! Maybe if we had more competitive wages in the industry that reflected our years of knowledge and skill then that might change, hey ho, I better not get on my high horse !!



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