Friday, 25 July 2008


In the light of today's news about the dubious legality of telling lies about people on the internet, I'd just like to say with respect to Matthew Wilson that I take it all back about the organic swimming pool, the Playboy mansion, the DNA testing and the health farm visits. I did in fact make all that stuff up. 

I'd also like to state for the record that I really like Peter Seabrook and I admire his challenging and spunky attitude. 

However, having said all this, I can reveal that, despite his reputation for being Britain's hunkiest gardener, it is absolute gospel fact that Matthew Wilson's most played tune on his I-Pod at the moment is soppy girl's blouse tunester Michael Bublé, "Home", and that Mateus recently attended the live concert by Bublé at the O2. 

Wilson was overheard in the foyer saying "I'm just here for a friend, really," before later being seen getting a programme signed by Bublé inscribed "to Cleo."

The Coalition says: Hmm, Wilson, that's no excuse. 

Thursday, 24 July 2008


Jane Austen lovers, I have a piece in the Times today. About a super 8 film festival. 

What has this to do with our great heroine, I hear you ask?

Hmm. Well for today only, for just 70p you get Claire Tomalin's masterly biography of Jane herself, in that really nice Penguin edition, FREEEE with the paper. HURRAY!!!

I actually forgot I had a piece in the paper - I bought it for the free book and only remembered I had something in there when my sister rang just now, while I was happily eating an egg sandwich and reading about Jane's childhood. 

Meanwhile, in other Jane news, Petworth are doing a Jane Austen Regency Thing this coming weekend, with Redcoats (Lydia will be pleased), archery and smugglers (er, isn't that Daphne Du Maurier?) Regency dancing! Yay!

Monday, 21 July 2008


Captions for the following masterly snapshot taken by mon amour on the weekend? Oh my god, so many possibilities....

Friday, 18 July 2008


Salpiglossis sinuata "Bolero"

OOPS! I completely forgot to mention my trip to Wales. But as I have just realised that there is no Gardeners' World, again, I don't suppose I'll actually get in trouble for posting a few pix of a very nice garden visit. 

Now, okay, it does take a little while to get there. (And while people are prepared to troll down to Cornwall for Eden, they seem to be much less willing to tackle the M4 for the BGOW.)

But on the upside, it's a long straight road the entire way, apart from the last mile. And you pass M&S services along almost the entire route. And it has some spectacular infrastructure to gawp at- come on, admit it.

Bold Lucifer - just to prove it's not Eden (geddit?)

It's surprising to find a botanic garden that eschews neat rows of plants, but Wales just isn't like that. First, they took us to see a medicinal garden that included herbs written about in Druidical ceremonies (a certain Gold medal-winning garden designer took copious notes about that - perhaps considering a Getafix-style potion as a good luck charm for Chelsea 2009?). 

A beautiful, softly-planted order bed garden shows off the latest taxonomic knowledge without losing any elegance. Drifts of agapanthus, allium and kniphofia in the Monocot beds, all blending so cleverly.

In another bed, hot oranges and yellows from Alstroemerias and daylilies. 

And here, palms (they're monocots too) provide an exotic backdrop for turk's head lilies and others I don't recognise! 

A swoopingly stylish pond in lead in their tropical house.

Outdoors, a chain of eighteenth-century ponds finish in this deftly-balanced bog garden, with stately gunnera poised above many different leaves. Look how well the silvery willow works above, too. 

Then we came to the most beautiful meadows (where is Stag Beetle Boy when you want him?) overlooking the land that falls away towards a 500 acre organically-managed farm, now being set aside as working nature reserve.

Look at the variety of things growing in here - Lychnis, Oenothera, Verbascum - even peonies in spring. When they divide the herbaceous borders, they put whatever they don't need in the meadow. It works very, very well, as everywhere you look there are surprising dots of colour. 

And best of all? You get to go round by CHIP FAT POWERED comical train!!!!

Oh - with all that meadowing about, did I forget to mention there's a Norman Foster glasshouse? 

With South African-y, Mediterranean-y floras from around the world? (These are proteas.) 

And what about this totally James Bond quarry? The scale of the indoor space is something else. 

All in all, I thought it was a beautiful, modest, natural, tawny meadowy sort of a place, with great big ancient oak trees and stuff you'd never get in the wild clay pits of St Austell. It's not brash and bold like Eden, but I like that. Subtle, gentle, unostentatious. Anyway - if you fancy a real proper trip, this is a good one. 


It's lunchtime so as far as I'm concerned  it's the bloody weekend. 

Well it's nice to know that my Slightly Homemade Gardeners' World isn't the only botch job around our gorgeous earth. I'm pretty happy that my homemade baby just has to facilitate me in my task of compiling some random snippets of gardening "news", rather than having to serve while I cruise the Pacific Ocean trying to evade the coastguard and smuggle several hundred kilos of the fine Columbian down Mexico way.

Speaking of growing your own, Lady Greenthumb found an unexpected crop  in her flowerbed this week. She claims she "has no idea where it could have come from." Her dad also professed to be "mystified." She blames some students who live down the road and who seem to laugh a lot. Hmmmm.....


"It's July, and autumn is unfortunately, ever pressing nearer."

No, don't say that! Don't even think that! 

And while you're at it, tell this Rowan tree I saw in Brixton High Street that it's way too early for bright red berries, 'n' all. 


You may have read reports this week of my continued attempts to charm Joe into the Gardeners' World hotseat. 

I have tried several kinds of fish-related hexes on Andy Sturgeon, but that just ended up with him presenting the entire programme this week. Sigh. 

I'm not saying I'm as incompetent as some, but my attempts to stymie the career of Toby Buckland definitely aren't working, and I couldn't get anywhere near Cleve's place due to all the garlic. 

So my new tactic is just to concentrate on protecting Joe from the untoward magic of others, using powers granted to me after a long perusal at Chelsea this year of Jekka's Magical Stand. According to Grand Sorceress Jekka, Valerian can definitely deflect evil intentions, but Angelica is generally considered to be the best defence against witchcraft. 

As opposed to Angelina, who I think might actually genuinely be a witch. 


If you live in the Cotswolds, or indeed Charlton Mackrell, you may imagine that the metropolis is a rubbish place to garden. 

You might even give a little and concede that that there are civilised places to do gardening in the capital: like Chelsea, Hampstead, Greenwich and Kew. 

But though I'd defend my own borough to the hilt (Queen of the Suburbs, don't you know) even I was slightly surprised going through South London to a wedding at the weekend to spot a really good plant stand on a market outside Streatham Odeon. Perovskia, £4 mate. It had me leaning out the window of the car trying to see what else they were selling. (Sorry about the photo, it looked to most of the other people in the traffic jam like I was perving over that girl's legs, but it was actually the perovskia I was after.)

I also very much admired a whole selection of street flowers, like this gorgeous deep pink perchunia against the dark blue of BetFred the bookies. 

However if you really want to see the honour of the Sarf London gardener defended you are going to have to make it to Victoria's garden opening on the 31st August. I will remind you again nearer the time, but write it in your diary now so that you don't inadvertently accept a ticket to the Reading Festival or something. 

Another of V's friends opens their garden simultaneously in Tooting, so you can get two cake-eating opportunities in one afternoon. However my personal goal for the day is just to persuade Victoria to let me use the loo, so I can check she hasn't really got a vintage avocado bathroom. 


Now I know I said last week I was against cut flowers as a rule, but honestly, not if Stevie tells me to send them. 

In the last few days I've been listening again to me and my sister's favourite album of 1979, Stevie Wonder's Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants. 

I had completely forgotten, or maybe never known, that this album was a soundtrack to a documentary about the weirdness of plants. (Featuring hours and hours of timelapse, my absolute favourite thing in the whole world.) Relive the last dying breath of the seventies, right now! The whole thing is available to watch at the marvellous carnival fairground sideshow that is Youtube.  


I absolutely love a virtual nose round somebody else's garden. Particularly if they are from some totally faraway part of the world whose garden conventions will bemuse me. 

This is the LA garden of Pavia Bhatia, a fairly jumbled and eclectic little spot, but such good fun to check out

Out of all of it, I would get rid of quite a lot, but keep the saltwater swimming pool for sure. However I can't help feeling that a giant statue of his own head containing a working filtration system isn't exactly what the Buddha was imagining when he said "With a mind like a clear pool, such is the virtuous man."

Thursday, 17 July 2008


Anonymous garden bloggers and rock'n'roll's Ronnie Wood were revealed to have one important thing in common this evening: they both find it hard to give up the forbidden fruit. 

I had just been beginning to think myself that life had got awfully boring since I gave up the unnameable "sauce", plus I am drearily sickerella of Hamptons akimbo.

I am wondering whether we have now entered into the summer media doldrums. I am desperately hoping that some modicum of jolly frivolity may be restored when James A-S returns from holiday in the next few days. (He even locked his comments before leaving, so I can't even moan about him being away.)

In the meantime, I suggest that those gardeners with substance problems that have become unmanageable check themselves into Felley, MichelhamHodsock or Ardchattan

Wednesday, 16 July 2008


Can I just draw your attention to Alex's hilarious survey which I've only just noticed, and which only has 24 hours to go. 

He's asking about "your shedworking status". A bit personal, I'd have said, but I guess participation is optional. 

You can choose from:
"I shedwork"
"I plan to shedwork"
"I don't plan to shedwork"

or my favourite
"I just like sheds".

Hurray! I just like sheds!

(it's the Daily Mail shed, by the way)


Reliable? Trouble-free? Don't make me laugh, Pascoe! 

Arabella's a minx! 

I'll treat her to a thorough drenching on your recommendation, though. 

Tuesday, 15 July 2008


Check this out! I just found it on a design blog, via yet another design blog. Apparently it's in Christchurch, New Zealand, and it shows the complete Lord's Prayer.

They are box, btw.

What would you like to have written in box at the bottom of the garden?

Original photos by Andrew Budge

Monday, 14 July 2008


So Victoria and I were just having a cup of tea, a piece of lemon cake and a bit of a chat in one of the marquees. Up comes this bloke who goes, "Oy, off my table!" in a cheery manner. 

Basically us two naughties from the Global Warming Newsletter had accidentally strayed into Seabrook Territory. So we had to get off the table for the man from the Sun. (It wasn't Peter himself, but one of his minions.)

Anyway then this woman comes up. "Hi Val," says the minion. 

"Val??!?!?!?" I sputter. "Not she of the fuchsia fame? I saw you in the paper yesterday! Why don't you come on over, Valerie, and all that?" 

Val looked at me strangely, trying to force a smile onto her face. 

"Yes," she eventually managed to bring herself to say. "That's me."

"I bet loads of people are going to be saying that to you today! Ha ha. Am I first? I bet lots of other people will do it too," I cheerfully burbled. 

She fixed me with a stern glazed expression. 
"I do hope not," she enunciated firmly, before walking off.

Sunday, 13 July 2008


I got really excited about an hour ago because I heard the Mail (bless their beloved Marquee) were giving away Pride and Prejudice on DVD, with part 2 to follow tomorrow! 

I drove around endless corner shops and petrol stations and finally got my hands on a copy of the precious paper. However, on getting back into the car, I suddenly noticed that today's giveaway was not a glorious Darcyfest but was actually Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits.* 

I couldn't have felt any more cheated about this. Bitterness and bile had spread throughout my entire worldview. 

In a blue fug I put on my newly acquired and totally unwanted Manilow CD and slowly... 

felt strangely cheered.

 Mandy. Copacabana. Bermuda Triangle.

I feel these songs bring me a keen reminder that this blog has recently lost its way. 

We were founded to follow one cause, one leader. 

But recently, - and I admit the fault is entirely mine - we have been distracted by a morass of technical issues to do with incipient general Wilsonism. 

I have just one thing to say. 

I never realised how happy you made me. You came and you gave without taking. But I sent you away. I need you today. Oh Joe.  

We have been lost in a Baklava Triangle of our own making. but from today, with the help of this beautiful unexpected music, we are back on course.**

*Pride and Prejudice was yesterday, dammit. Sheesh. 
**Though I might still buy part 2 of P&P tomorrow.

Friday, 11 July 2008


I'm starting the weekend early this week due to general misery. 

I went to Wales yesterday, of which more next week. But I stopped at a service station on the way where I really saw in practice how ineffective so-called "organic" gardening practices can be. 

The service station had carefully designed and planted a stunningly attractive display of  our best winter-interest plants such as pyracantha and berberis as ground-cover. However, forced by fashion and pure whimsy to garden organically, they were unable to keep weeds under control by proper spraying regimes. Consequently, a veritable plague of wild orchids was developing, intruding and completely detracting from the neat greenery. 

You really just have to look at my picture for a moment to see that these awful native weeds are gaining a foothold amongst the delicate ground-cover plants and will soon be returning the whole place to a horrible "natural" look unless we are careful. 

Why, oh why, must we persist with the folly of so-called eco-gardening? 

Anyway, enough of my own personal bugbears. 

This week we are lucky enough to have an interview with Marryella Wristslap, which should be fascinating, and we also have a great round-up of all the TV from Hampton Court. But first, some breaking news from the relatively new yet already completely cut-throat world of car-centred gardening. 


Alarming reports are just coming into the Baklava news desk that the designers of the Porsche garden actually paid to arrange this week's horrendous weather, so that the technical side of the hard landscaping that makes up much of their controversial display plot would be tested to the full. 

Hampton Court visitors were in general disgusted by the revelations of such unabashed and cynical calculation on the part of the Germans. "It's like Jurgen Klinsmann and his diving all over again," said one disgruntled RHS member. 

An insider commented:  "Porsche were pretty pleased with the performance of their hard surfaces as the whole point of their garden was to test new ways of providing parking places that can still absorb heavy run-off. Plus, everyone knows the rain is sexy." Apparently one of the main inspirations of the design was Justin Timberlake's famously erotic 2003 video.

The Coalition says: Ooh, Justin in the garden in the rain. I need a cold shower. Oh, conveniently here comes one now. 


Well, the BBC surpassed themselves with the TV coverage last night. 

Garden Monkey wins their own bet by predicting that Rachella would mention building a garden at Chelsea and how hard it was. (Though if GM works for the Beeb, the little monkey could just possibly have cheated on that one.) Fast forward to 22:06.

All those children who won't eat parsnips need a slap.

Loveable Joe Swift looks skinny to me - has all that weeding taken it out of him? 

That tree of ears in the Windex garden takes me back to Nam. And not in a good way. The horror.

Joe calls Porsche garden "a one-trick pony." Ha ha. 

Chris strokes his ball. "Looking into the future... I see... Nooooo!!!!! Joe Swift in charge at Berryfields!"

Joe and Yellow Riding Hood rightfully confronted the silver-giltiness of the Traveller's Garden. Rachella was miffed. So were me, Veep and Zoe. 

Dougie Howser  SGD, I think I can live without. Although he was quite funny when RdT sent him shopping.  

Darce went off to France, and managed to find a wood pile even taller than himself, which I think is going some. I actually really want that woodpile. I wonder if I could build that at the end of my garden. And if I used oak, could I get more stag beetles? Sorry, I'm talking to myself now. 

Back on track:
The head of Chaumont said some stuff in French. 
                           "Chaumont n'est pas déliberamment provocateur."

translation: At Chaumont we would never deliberately wear lacy underwear. 

She clarified later: We are French, we just do that kind of thing instinctively.

They sent Beardie out to get some ideas. I wasn't that impressed. I did get one good idea from the TV coverage, though:



Met Office predictions for gardening in a period of climate change include the following good news about slugs. I'm over the moon, because less slugs really will go a long way towards making up for all those children in the third world starving to death and drowning and things. 


My boyfriend always says my bag has too much stuff in it. But he couldn't actually be right, could he?

I was taken aback when even the Guerilla Gardeners went, "Oh my god, what have you got in there? Soil?"

I decided to see what exactly it was that weighed me down all the way round Hampton Court. 

Two cameras
USB cables for cameras
a pair of plimsolls for before 12pm (not allowed open-toed shoes till midday)
waterproof coat
hi-vis vest saying "Aviation Defence International" to throw officials off the scent
sore feet cream
Kew security pass
free Sunflower seeds from Guerilla Gardeners
"Unbearable Lightness of Being", Milan Kundera
"The Philosopher's Dog", Raimond Gaita
two cashmere jumpers
3 pounds of press material
two Oyster cards
spare contact lenses
spare memory card
spare camera battery 
socks for wearing with wellies
30 mg Valium
memory stick
Beauty Flash Balm
£5 note
38mm hand lens
napkins from sandwich shop
pink nail varnish
a tiny weeny little potato from the allotment

The question I put to you, dear readers, is: how much of this can I possibly bear to part with? How will I manage in the jungle of London life without all these handy things? How does everyone else manage without all the handy things? I mean - what if you don't want to read fiction - you have to have a choice of book, right? But then, I really would like to learn to walk tall. 
Well at least I know why I'm standing so badly in the photo of James A-S's to which I objected. 

One positive finding of this research: my dad really did teach me to be a good packer. 


I've always really hated being given flowers because of the death, dead and dying thing. Well, I always thought it was cos of the death thing. But actually this year I have discovered the great pleasure of growing my own flowers and somehow I don't mind cutting them. So maybe it was actually to do with cost, and air fares, and non-lastingness all along. 

Anyway there's one kind of flower delivery I don't mind finding on my doorstep. Which is this kind, the kind that comes with "Crocus" or similar written on the packing tape. Three guesses what was in the box?

Ah yes my friends, you know me so well. That is correct.


Britain's search to find the literary figure most closely identifiable with celebrity playboy gardener Matthew Wilson continues into its nineteenth week with arguments currently centering on whether the top cropping sexpot is more like Darcy, Rochester or Heathcliff.

We asked distinguished literary critic Mariemma Townstrup to comment on the books debate that's taking the horticultural world by storm. 

"I can see what they are getting at," said Townstrup, speaking huskily from her study earlier today. "But I think there's something missing from all three comparisons. Heathcliff is a particuarly bad choice. After all, think of Emily Bronte's description of the Wuthering Heights garden - 'the grass grows up between the flags, and cattle are the only hedge-cutters.' This seems just plain inaccurate, as we know Matthew loves nothing better than nipping out with his chainsaw for a bit of hedge action." 

"Plus Heathcliff is renowned for having a vast dog collection including two sheepdogs ('Gnasher' and 'Wolf'), a pointer ('Juno'), plus assorted puppies. That would hardly sit well with the Wilson prediliction, which is fundamentally feline."

So which literary figure would Townstrup prefer instead?

"I've given this a lot of thought. I'm going for a character from Anna Karenina. But not that hopeless twat Vronsky. My choice is Constantin Levin, a man who spends most of the book thinking about where to plant trees, dig ponds and spread manure."

"Levin is a lush meadow fan, just like our Darce - in fact world literature's most gorgeous moment of mowing occurs when Lev goes out with a scythe to join his workers for the day. And he also experiences a transcendent vision of love for the world after sleeping the night in a field, a scene that always manages to make me cry." 

"The only fly in the ointment is Levin's faithful hound Laska. But then - as Dostoevsky always used to say - you can't win 'em all."

Tuesday, 8 July 2008


Shee-eet, guys. Three strikes and I'm soooo out.


You say you saw a woman wearing a pink dahlia? Are you sure? Over in what, that direction? Hmm. Which way is the emergency exit?

Monday, 7 July 2008


It was amazing being with people while their gardens were being judged. Some wanted to run away as far as possible (Send a Cow!). Some stood casually by and talked in a loud voice (Pulsations!). One lady veteran gave a newcomer advice: "Just don't stay anywhere near them while they're doing your garden. Don't break your own heart trying to listen." 

But what if the judges say something good? I wondered. 

"But if they do say something good, then you fix on that, you just get fixed on that. You don't want to hear either way, I promise you," she told me firmly. 

So here's my best image from Hampton Court this year: this is poor Jill Foxley, stressing herself through her garden being judged. 

When I read that she got inspiration for her "Spirits' Garden" by connecting with "the other side" I immediately had to go and see it. It turned out to be very sweet, and she was extremely nice. 

She had gone to seances and slept in haunted houses to seek inspiration for the garden. But I loved this image, which is her husband Simon (who also did all the landscaping...) giving her a hug while they wait for the judging to be finished. A thoroughly real moment with a touch of the kind of love and tenderness everybody wishes for. 

I exploit people for my own gain, do you see, invading their personal moments and broadcasting them on the internet!


I got a message for Fat Rascal. 

Do you know what this is my friend?

Yes. It is the leaf of the Peach Flambé. 

You know, the one it is impossible to buy in France. 


Here's the proof. 

I'm not going to tell you where to get it, though. 

That information is going to remain just out of your reach, good sir.

 I want just one thing from you. 

I want the Swiss-Yorkshire recipe for the rascals, fruited scone or not! Hand it over! 


I really liked the small gardens over by the Country Living Pavilion. It would easily be possible not to have bothered to walk over there, so let me persuade you a bit. This is the Samaritans garden, D8. I thought it was gorgeous: really peaceful for a show garden, and I really liked the planting. The first of many white birches of the day. 

This is the Freemasons' Garden, D4. I was really impressed they managed to do a garden for Hampton Court at the same time as having such a huge dance anthem in the clubs. For truly they are Renaissance men. 

This one really struck me when I came round the corner and saw it, with those soft green turf ripples. I was totally rapt until I noticed the slogan on the ball: No more genista? No more genetic modification? No, a rather heavy-handed "No more Genocide". I don't know. It made it all a bit school art show, and that's being cheeky to school art. Sigh.

Très très handsome Guerilla Gardener Richard Reynolds (B34) has an apple juice whilst contemplating the garden he and friends made with plants that other exhibitors at the show had thrown away. Don't choke on your dinner, but even Peter Seabrook liked it.

I normally don't fall in love with this kind of quasi-UK-Barraganism, but in the case of the Thai typhoon that fell on East Molesey today, I'm prepared to make an exception, because this pink really cheered me up.

The Traveller's Garden, with Bradstone, GW2. I really loved the structural quality of this one. There were many "nice" show gardens, but this one had a bit of toughness and integrity. Maybe just those massive wooden fence panels to the right.

Be wary buying one of these cool woodpiles if you live anywhere near Wilson; he'll have his stag beetle collection moved in there sharpish. (D14 English Heritage Gardens.)

Don't get me started.