Friday, 29 May 2009


I didn't know this before, but apparently it can help in your defence for the crime of putting your mum's dead body in the freezer for twenty years if you keep your garden 'in pristine condition'. 

Thursday, 28 May 2009


So yesterday I participated for the first time in Wordless Wednesday, and I had written three paragraphs of text about the gorgeous Rose 'Albertine' before I realised, ahem, that is not strictly within the rules. So here it is on Wordy Thursday, with apologies to those who prefer their flower pictures un-meditated upon by their author. 

Albertine is a bit of a trashy old madame, she'll basically grow anywhere as far as I can tell. As a bit of a Proustophile myself, I cannot help thinking when I look at her of the female character who appears in the second half of Proust's big book, In Search of Lost Time. 

In the book, Albertine is described as being very pretty, with the 'little pink nose of a cat'; herself a bit flirty, she leads the main character 'Marcel' quite heavily astray, managing to get both a Rolls Royce and a yacht for her troubles despite not actually 'putting out' (as they say in 'Grease: The Movie'). 

Albertine the rose does, however, put out all June long. And then, with a bit of tender care and a once-over with the Felcos, she will do a few more flowers in the later summer, which of course I tend to love much more because there are less of them (the contradictions of a woman's mind, let's put that down to). And she smells good too. 

The character in the book was actually based on Proust's chauffeur, for whom he had a long and unrequited passion. Proust was gay, but obviously when it came to writing A la recherche he changed his annoyingly flirty chauffeur love into a girl, to avoid questions being asked. Honestly what a funny man. It's only after I realised that Proust was funny that I got round to reading the books, as up till then I had imagined they would be too loooonnnnggg and borrrrriiingg. 

But I will always think of the rose and the girl (and possibly the chauffeur too) interchangeably: as Peter Beale says, 'A famous old rambler, with a strong constitution.'

Saturday, 23 May 2009


Of course, I can go to a billion flower shows, but for me, there's never anything quite like the sight of coming home to my own garden. I am not saying it is brilliant, and I still bemoan the day my eccentric Palestinian neighbour painted her house bright orange in some vague reference to her own sense of 'home', but honestly, my own garden makes me go, 'ahhhh' and feel all warm inside. 


This my favourite lady at whole Chelsea Flower Show. I respect her and her whole jug of Pimms. 


So I happened to be driving back from my boyfriend's this afternoon at 4.30pm and had completely forgotten about the bloomin' Chelsea Flower Show... but seeing everyone spilling out with their amazing purchases made me screech to a halt and start taking photos! 

(You can click on these and see them bigger if you are of a nosy persuasion)

It really made me want to go to breakdown next year. 

This lady was my favourite - sorry it's a bit blurred but technically I was supposed to be driving. Look at the delphiniums on that! 

There were people all along the Embankment right the way to Churchill Gardens estate in Pimlico, all clambering back onto their coaches with bags and bags of plants. Several people carrying entire standard fuchsia trees that must have been I think 6 foot tall.... Why wouldn't you take them back to your nursery, if you'd grown them, for next year? I'm amazed. 

Anyway, stuck in traffic on the Embankment, it definitely made my afternoon to see them all strolling by, with the kind of smug expression you see on the face of someone who thinks they have got a very good bargain. 

Friday, 22 May 2009


I have totally forgotten, or er, perhaps been too embarrassed to say, but...

I am doing a talk at the British Museum tomorrow about the Kew India Landscape. 13.15 hours, please drop in. 

No look I would love to see you if you are planning on a big day out shopping up West in posh frocks. 

I also have plans afoot for other socialising in the near future to be unveiled when I have got my act together. Wishing you all a tippety-top weekend, Emma xx

Wednesday, 20 May 2009


Okay, anyway, so look it was a lovely flower show. Flowers, bla bla, plasticene, bla, bla, out of reach of the ordinary person, bla, bla. 

But this year has been a stressful one for the Chelsea organisers, with so many no-shows design-wise. Notwithstanding this year's particular idiosyncrasies, the RHS takes seriously the idea that it should improve its flower shows year-on-year, particularly its flagship show in SW3. For this reason, I have been appointed to a steering committee comprising myself, Amanda Holden, Floella Benjamin, Melvyn Bragg, Will Young and Alain de Botton, intended to consider how Chelsea could move forward into the future. 

At the moment we are only at the stage of filing an interim report, but here are some of our suggestions: 

  • Alan Titchmarsh to sell kisses at a specially adapted stand on Main Avenue thus raising show revenues by an estimated £185,000 per day
  • RHS to begins discussions with Lawn Tennis Club Wimbledon about a possible economy-driven merger -  'Alliums and Cream' theme to be considered
  • Better celebrities to be sought with some urgency. Lumley, Mirren and Bonham-Carter to stay; Young, Holden, Benjamin and Harris are given their marching orders. Younger stars to be sought asap: Lilys Allen and Cole, Peaches Geldof and Frances Bean Cobain for bulb fruit and veg photocall. 
  • Flower arranging pavilion to be replaced by car-park-sized stand selling homemade cake, à la NGS, made and sold by local resident Nigella Lawson
  • All night opening to be applied for to Kensington & Chelsea, including DJ appearances and bands; Martyn Cox to confirm playlist 
  •  Febreeze and Impulse to be available on special SmithKlineBeecham stand for people who have got a bit sweaty in the crush (Committee thanks Emma for suggestion)
  • Madame Tussauds to collaborate with Arabella Sock provide special animatronic waxwork displays of favourite Sock gifs at extra tent admission cost of £37.50 per person; (provisional display to include Sarah Raven pulling out the hair of the Sissinghurst restaurant manager; Toby Buckland and Alys Fowler doing mud wrestling over planting depths). 
  • Miniature Gardens category to be introduced as a matter of some urgency - committee noted that sponsors might much more readily be encouraged to take part if garden planned was confined to a kitchen tray.
  • Lila Das Gupta to present all tv coverage from now on. 
  • Gala Dinner to be replaced by glitzy Serpentine gallery type party with George Clooney. Emma Townshend has volunteered to look after such celebrity guests and the committee thanked her for her selfless offer of service. 

The steering committee is now ready to open the forum to suggestions from you, the public, as to other suitable changes which might be made whilst keeping as we have to the essential spirit and tradition of Chelsea. Please submit your suggestions using the comment form below: 


Monday, 18 May 2009


So in essence I think we can pretty much sum up Chelsea Press Day with this charming epithet. It resulted from me trying to spell Martyn Cox's celebrity BINGO on my phone and repeatedly mistyping, but to be honest, celebrity BINGE is probably more accurate. 

I dunno. I mean, it's extremely good fun. I saw many of my fellow bloggers. I experienced the joy of Chelsea Flower Show Gadgets and Tat:

I even saw some super Chelsea Gorgeous Things I May Copy (yes! that's an actual colander!):

I twittered like mad. I got a grin out of Stephen Fry (looking surprisingly slim and trim actually):

I fell for one of dem fatal flower show offers (and then had to carry a huge green enamel watering can all the way home on the tube): 

I saw a grown and beautiful woman dressed as an, err, bee?

But of course the real joy of the day isn't exactly the gardens, or the plants, or the piles of catalogues I now have to look at, or anything else, it's the people I spent the day with that will make me remember it. 

I had a chat with Marina Christopher, amazing nurserywoman, and Lady Tollemache, distinguished judge, about the way the judging happens. Did you know you can get points deducted for planting something where it couldn't grow in nature (a bronze fennel under a tree in one case)? Or, that you can also get done for 'cramming' - stuffing your flowerbeds too full. Eek. 

I had a chat with David from The Children's Society about what they get out of doing a Chelsea garden, and how they make the numbers add up. They justify their expense by inviting many potential donors to the Gala Reception which can persuade big money to part with large sums. 

I walked round the pavilion with Lara Jewitt, team leader from the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew, talking about what she wants to get at Kew for next year (outdoor pitcher plants) and hearing about her own garden: she lives with two photographers, but she is completely in charge. 

I went to the pub with Alys Fowler who I now just totally love. For her fold-up bike, elegant 1950s fashions, and just, Alysness. She wants to get an allotment. GET ALYS AN ALLOTMENT. 

I had a number of chats with a number of delicious gardening people. And I met some new ones, like the political editor of our paper, with whom I had an in-depth think about growing carrots. Martyn Cox's sage advice: try the round-ended baby ones. 

I had a funny time with the film crew from QVC and I did a bit of stuff about their garden which they might use on their shopping channel. (!) I said it was sexy and the kind of garden I'd like in real life - a fountain and a built-in barbecue. Just put in a Tiki bar and I'll give you a downpayment. 

I waved to Matthew Wilson, who looked as handsome as ever, and had to restrain myself from chasing Joe "He To Whom This Blog is Devoted" Swift down the Main Avenue yelling "I LOVE YOU". 

I saw Victoria, to whom I am also devoted, and moaned enviously about how Jane Perrone and the Guardian had a CAMERAMAN for like FILMING. I am no Fanny Price, suffering my poor relationhood in silence. 

I found out how Which? go about rating compost and growbags, with the deliciously-named Veronica Peerless (from Which?). Extremely intensive testing. 

I kissed Mr James Alexander-Sinclair which is always a pleasure as he is award-winning. 

And as the photo would indicate, I had some more good times with Lila and Cleve. 

Honestly it was a pretty random day. I think I saw some gardens in there, somewhere, too. And if there was just one thing I could have changed about today, it's that I wish all of you could have been there too. 

Sunday, 17 May 2009


I am off tomorrow at six in the morning to press day (though it has this year been revealed to me that actually, all the cool people ask for Sunday tickets...... Sheeeeeesssshhhhh)

One person cool enough to be there today was my friend Tim, who has posted some gorgeous pics on his Flickr. I have totally illegally 'borrowed' one to give you a little taste of his work. Take a look for a vicarious Chelsea preview thrill! 

Photo: Tim Parry, all rights reserved. 

Friday, 15 May 2009


In these thoroughly exciting times of ours, it's rare that gardening makes it onto the front page of the newspaper. Of course there's always a bit of kerfuffle in Chelsea week due to the exciting presence of CELEBRITIES (and for those with a Heat!icultural mentality, go quickly right now and download Martyn Cox's celebrity Chelsea Bingo card). 

But not usually in the political news, no. 

All that has now changed. 

Due to the revelations which have been liderally pouring out of Westminster for the last few days, we now know precisely how much David Cameron had to cough up to have a wisteria removed from his Oxfordshire home (surely such an act would be against local Cotswold bylaws?). 

I thought readers might enjoy a brief selection of all the horticultural costs charged by our esteemed representatives in parliament...

  • Bristol MP Dan Norris got a strimmer 
  • John Gummer £9,000 on gardening including removal of moles from the lawn. Well, they can be pesky creatures. A year, for four years. That's, um, £36 GRAND. 
  • David Heathcote-Armory spent £380 and got hundreds of sacks of horse manure. Now this man I respect. 
  • Nick Clegg - £760 to repair the garden path. Ooh, and he's taking us down it... 
  • Margaret Beckett - £600 on hanging baskets and container plants. In total, she had £6,500 for gardening, including dismantling a rockery. 
  • Lembit Opik sank to a new low - £12,ooo including decking. Ugh. 
  • Douglas Hogg - £2000 to 'clear the moat around his house'! I'm not kidding. 
  • Sir Michael Spicer - £7,000 for maintenance including 'hedge-trimming for a helipad'. He later described the claim for a helipad as a 'family joke'. Oops! 
  • Alan Duncan (oh he really has been naughty - he heads the freaking committee in charge of overseeing expenses) £3,194 on gardening in March 2007. For a gardener to garden 16 hours a week in grounds of less than an acre. £6 an hour, which is criminal in itself, I think, plus £598 to fix the ride-on mower. 

I don't know what you think about all this, but I can't help laughing. 

One thing strikes me though - all these MPs could do with a bit of help. I mean, wisteria is a bit of a challenge, but don't remove it! Learn to prune it properly, and get all the benefits. And Douglas Hogg could simply have consulted Vita Sackville-West.Next time, can we send David Cameron to gardening class? 

Friday, 8 May 2009


Roll some more imaginary, in-your-head, music! 

This time it's Pom, pom, pom, po-po-poppy-poppy-pom

That's the floral dance!

This photo is actually from that regular contributor, 'my mum', who is as usual hanging out at Flora Day. The 8th May is an important event in the calendar of Helston, Cornwall, as all the shops and houses get covered in spring flowers ready for the dancers to come through the streets. It starts at 7am, and my mum likes to get there for the first dance, but she just emailed me this one of the Nationwide Building Society that I rather liked and thought...

what a nice picture for a Friday afternoon. 

Despite what it might look like in the photo, all the flowers are real, these are laurel leaves, I think and bluebells, of course; it's usually a combination of those two with whatever else can be found mixed in. 

Anyway if you're ever down that way for the 8th May, don't miss Flora Day. 

Although, stop press, according to the BBC, they have banned alcohol this year because of an incident last year down by the boating lake. (I told my mum she shouldn't start drinking so early, but she wouldn't listen.)

Thompson and Morgan, I just noticed, are having 50% off all their remaining veg seeds till midnight on the 14th. Get along and order the last few things you were fancying. (I am annoyed as I ordered a packet of Tigerella from them literally yesterday, grr.....)

Wednesday, 6 May 2009


Sorry for the duff photo I just took it quickly on my phone. 
But listen!
These are my seed trays of broad beans and edamame, along with a few Hurst Green Shaft on the (very, very enthusiastic) recommendation of Mark 'Veg Patch' Diacono. 

I just took off the lids because I've been doing it about, as usual, three times a day, to see if anything's sprouted yet (yes, pretty much since about half an hour after I sowed them).

But just now I took the lid off and noticed something I'd never experienced before. PLEASE someone else tell me it's happened to them. 

None of the plants is up yet, but because they've got a lid on them (first year ever) there was trapped underneath, just momentarily, the most fugitive, amazing, delicate smell of peas. 

What about that then? 

Even though they are only seeds just germinating. They still have 'pea-ness'. Oops i hadn't really thought how that might sound out loud. Oh well, opportunity for some more gags on the part of the smutty downmarket section of commenters

I definitely haven't imagined it because I just went back and did it again and I can really smell it. 


(honestly this time of year is like vegetable heaven isn't it?)

Tuesday, 5 May 2009


Friends, you can amuse yourself today, for one day only, by Kewgling yourself. It's the 250th!