Wednesday, 8 July 2009


The Dry Garden at Hyde Hall - this shot taken a few years back. It's even better now.

Well hulloooo! Hurrah! Huzzay! Huzzay! The two big London flower shows are done and dusted - or rather, they are for me. Pressures from other quarters - sick mother in hospital, copy dates and an over-flogged and exhausted blumenlust (if there is such a word) drove me and the Photographer General away just before the gala got going on Monday night. So instead of champaining, roister-doistering and cavorting with bankers and other corporate pillars of society, we spent several happy hours parked on the M25, trying to get to the A1 and home.

I felt rather robbed, I have to say. I had to work so bloody hard moderating all the floral exhibits for the RHS that I had barely a moment in which to view the show gardens. I’m told, however that they were pretty good, on balance.

I should like, at this point, to lob a wordette or two of the gentlest criticism at my fellow, but much more distinguished award winning blogger, James A-S:

In the first place, he was disgracefully late for the Judges Dinner, held at the salubrious, riverside watering hole known, inaccurately as the Kingston Holiday Inn. (It is actually in Surbiton, nestling quaintly amid a cluster of factories, which makes location a little challenging.)

In the second place, those of us who were waiting with bated breath for an airing of the FAMOUS NOO SUIT were bitterly disappointed to find him merely ‘smart casual.’ Hatless, even.

Setting up at Hampton Court.

In the third place, and with a highly reproachable exhibition of triumphant glee, he showed me his new iPhone, which includes A WORKING COMPASS!!!!!!! This made my 6 month old iPhone look as out of date as a 1948 Austin Seven, and made me very sad and envious. To rub it in, he told me that he also has a new Macbook Pro. All I can say to that is ‘remember Barrow in Furness’ – which he will understand, but sadly, the rest of you may not.

And finally, despite working himself far too hard, I have to say that he was looking disgustingly fit, happy and successful. I’m appalled at such wellbeing and think it should be tempered at once with a sobering challenge. We want one of his fabulous gardens at next year’s Chelsea. No ifs, no buts! That will steady the lad up a bit – except that he’d almost certainly win best in show and then none of his hats would fit. And then where would we be?

A helpful, if discouraging sign at Chessington World of Adventures,

Highlight of Hampton Court, for me, were Hyde’s lilies. They absolutely bowled me over with their great mound of fabulously huge blooms, all exuding the most luscious perfume. If you stood near for too long you’d soon be intoxicated and in love.

I was shown a cluster of seedling lilies, as yet unnamed, which the Dutch breeders had reject on grounds of their being the wrong shape and size to cram into nasty supermarket bunches. Instead, these held their blossoms pendulously, with tremendous grace, and were the most subtle, gorgeous pale colours.

May I work backwards from Hampton Court? Thanks!
On Saturday, the PG and I went, with our daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters (6 and 2) to Chessington World of Adventures. I expected a serious degree of naffness and crassness and was not in the slightest bit disappointed. Candy floss, fairground rides, lurid sweeties – all was there. But I was rather impressed by the aquarium, which had some interesting exhibits including jellyfish, superbly lit, in the otherwise dark area. Outside we watched sea lions performing, observed a very charming Sumatran Tiger cub and encountered an engaging and delightful Madagascan beast, known as a Fossa. It's a kind of civet and is related to the mongoose but predates lemurs, rather than snakes.

Last week's excitement was the RHS Annual General Meeting held at the remarkably well organised Hyde Hall Garden, near Chelmsford. Curator Ian Le Gros, resplendent in a fine straw hat – though not a patch on those worn by the AWJ, already mentioned – showed us round, the evening before the event.

Captured jellyfish, beautiful in the right light.

The new visitor centre and car parks are coming on apace and will open later in summer. The gardens are all in tip-top nick and, apart from the gabions – which I hate, loath and despise – in what was once known as Hermione’s Garden, all is looking pretty good.

The Dry Garden is as ravishing as I’ve ever seen and the Australia and New Zealand zone is coming on apace. I predict that this garden will, one day, be bigger, better and brighter than the RHS’s star attraction at Wisley. You mark my words!

Before the AGM, I lunched with the omniscient and bubbly Roy Lancaster, the President of the RHS and Alan and Mrs Titchmarsh. A jolly time was had by all.

The AGM went well and the best and most intelligent question did not concern RHS finances, policy or strategy. It went roughly like this: ‘Could we please have a shelf installed in the ladies’ loo at Hyde Hall? There’s currently nowhere to put one’s handbag.’ Thank goodness some people have got the wit to think of practical, sensible things.

A slumbering Fossa, Cryptoprocta ferox, at Chessington World of Adventures.

I’m listening to Brahms String Sextet Number 2 in G Major.

This weeks film wasn’t. But we’ve been catching episodes of The Onedin Line which, despite wobbly sets and noises off – even in the scenes not at sea – is remarkably good. Onedin’s sister is an absolute dish!

This day in 1984, we arrived at our parish church for my neighbours’ daughter’s wedding when the P G noticed that the Bride’s Mamma was wearing an identical outfit to her own. Red faced, she sprinted home and returned, seconds ahead of the bride, looking radiant, lovely and completely differently dressed. This from the woman who constantly complains of ‘having nothing to wear.’

Toodle ooh!


  1. I need to learn more about this 'dry garden' Nige... My front garden gets hotter than the sun and is illuminated for the best part of the day. I'm struggling to keep anything from becoming crispy!

    Great blog... The iPhone envy can be offset by downloading the free software update that gives you much more to play with.


  2. i love that Brahms sextet. AND hyde hall, which looked totally gorgeous this time last year and actually i must think about going again.

  3. Hampton may have been disappointingly short, but your post was satisfyingly long :)

    I particularly like your helpful sign.

  4. A working compass?? Thats just ridiculous!! I too am extremely envious of this and my Nokia seems like an ancient piece of kit compared to it!

    Great post!


  5. James, I have already downloaded the latest iPhone software which is truly awesome. I keep emailing myself voice memos, now, which is completely narcissistic but very handy for reminders. Inadvertently, I've discovered that the microphone, in the iPhone, is not at all bad, even though the camera is a pile of pants. ( I'll tell you all about dry gardens when we next meet.)

    Ryan - do you think it's time you moved to iPhone country? There is no finer fone, I'm sure.

  6. Interesting post, it is nice to read so many interesting things through Blotanical. I am afraid to say I am finding it of more interest than a certain current gardening program.

  7. Dear Mr Colborn.
    Our client, the AWBJJ (Award winning behatted journalist James), wishes us to point out certain inaccuracies in your post:
    Firstly he was not disgracefully late for the Judges dinner: it is impossible to be disgracefully late for anything if one arrives before the Director General. If we might respectfully suggest that you were, perhaps, too busy snarfing the RHS's vino to notice his discreet arrival.
    Secondly, the suit was worn on Monday for judging (accessorised with a quite spiffy Hermes tie). Our client is most distressed that you failed to notice either it's fine lavender lining or the discreet blue double window pane patterning.
    Thirdly, our client wishes to merely say "Nyaahh, nyaaah! Ha,Ha" about your hopelessly antedeluvian iPhone and suggests (respectfully) that you get hip and down with the kids.
    Fourthly, thanks to your comments (and the fact than he inadvisedly played a quite strenuous game of cricket yesterday) our client is feeling achy and exhausted rather than the picture of health that you describe.
    Fifthly, the AWBJJ is happy to build a Chelsea Flower Show garden if and when he can persuade some farsighted soul to come up with sufficient wedge to finance the operation.
    We trust that you are suitably contrite and will not engage in such slander again.
    Your faithfully
    Snicker, Ferret and Ping

  8. To Snicker &c.
    I am duly contrite and also devastated to know that I was in the same square mile as the Suit, and failed to spot either it or your client on that Monday. I'm also deeply impressed by the cricket and promise to buy a new iPhone, but only when the next generation comes out, in 6 months time. By then, your client's model will be laughably ancient, whereas mine will be able to plan a four-course crop rotation for my kitchen garden, for the next century, and make me a cup of tea at the same time.

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