Monday, July 25, 2011

A cause for celebration and congratulations!

There's nothing more rewarding, as a garden designer, to get a photo from your client marveling at all your hard work and rejoicing in the splendor that is their unique palate of rare and highly unusual plants.

Himalayan Poppies with friends

Here's a blog post about this project. Part 1 and Part 2

My co-hort who co-designed this landscape and project, Clayton Morgan of C.E.M. Design, who I profiled awhile back (see here), tied the knot with his girlfriend, Jamie.

My congrats and thanks for the wedding invite! I owe the bride a dance

Jamie Riz Clayton

Chelsea 2011: Plant of the Year nominee I adored.

Like I mentioned, I wasn't all that thrilled with the new plant selections up for "Plant of the Year", but the winner, Anemone 'Wild Swan', was quite nice; but one that I just about salivated over was a FRAGRANT tuberous begonia dubbed 'Fragrant Apricot Falls'.

So, there have been fragrant tuberous begonias introduced into the market such as the "Scentiment" series, but from what I heard, the scent was quite faint and often exaggerated. So when I saw this begonia, I was impressed by it's color, size, floriferous bloom and habit, but kind of scoffed that it'd be all that scented. Once they made the claim that you could detect the sweet scent from a few paces away, I actually approached the plant and buried my nose into it and...

W O W !!!!!!

Begonia Apricot Fragrant Falls habit

With hints of citrus, rose, and honeysuckle, I was so enamored by the plant and wanted so badly to bring it home with me.

Yes, it's not hardy and has to be protected and overwintered indoors, but THIS IS SUCH AN EXQUISITE TREAT! I hope they offer it soon!

Begonia Apricot Fragrant Falls

Chelsea 2011 Plant of the Year! Anemone 'Wild Swan'

It was pretty exciting tagging along John Grimshaw and getting to sneak into an RHR Committee meeting to select and vote on the Chelsea Plant of the Year for 2011.

While most of the selections were kind of bleh, the winner was quite exquisite and a few others caught my attention enough to want to import them in at some point in the near future!

The winner was a soft and delicate, but seemingly hardy and vigorous Anemone called 'Wild Swan'. Supposedly a complex hybrid between several different species (sort of reminds me of the coloration of A. rivularis and A. leveillei) and selected about 10 years ago from a batch of seedlings.

If the claims are correct, it will flower from May to November (provided it get adequate moisture and fertilizer), but with its close resemblance to A. japonica, I'm worried about it running and becoming a problem as this fall blooming species can be a thug. I find the seemingly tidy habit attractive (as a container plant as well) and the coloration is really quite exquisite.

Here's why it got its name:

Anemone 'Wild Swan' with reverse


Me with the 2011 Chelsea Plant of the Year during the first member's day at the Chelsea Flower Show.



Sunday, July 10, 2011

CHELSEA 2011 REPORT - Part Four: The Main Marquee PART 2

There was certainly a lot more to see.

Crug Farm StandOne of my favorite stands was actually one of the smallest, but the plant palate was remarkable and highly exciting. I've been emailing Sue Wynn-Jones and getting to meet her was such a delight and kind of tense as she was a bit of a nervous wreck minutes just before judging of their first ever display at the Chelsea Flower Show. Along with her husband, Bleddyn, they run Crug Farm Plants in Wales (which I had a chance to visit...stay tuned for that blog post!). They travel extensively around the world, often with Dan Hinkley, seeking out the coolest, rarest, and most exciting plants to introduce into horticulture. They are known for many Asian plants and spearheaded the interest in hardy Araliaceae such as Schefflera, which were in prominent display. Not only did their display earn them Chelsea Gold, they also won the RHS President's Award!

Crug Farm Display Buddha

One of the most iconic images of Chelsea and the Grand Marquee is the Blackmore and Langdon display of the largest, most exquisite Tuberous Begonias you'll ever see and a soldier line-up of blue Delphiniums in the background. It's the same freakin' display each year it seems like, but it always wins Gold Medals!
Blackmore and Langon Display

Another common sight are the ever colorful and delightfully fragrant selection of carefully arranged Sweet Peas!
Sweet Peas

I've become quite fond of Lupines during my visit to England and the assortment of colors is just astounding!

What makes Chelsea dubbed as "The World's Greatest Flower Show" is its international participants:

South Africa
South African Proteas

Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago fruit displays

Edible Gardening will not be left unmentioned as there were several stands that showcased wonderful produce!

The most spectacularly delicious and fragrant was Ken Muir and their fabulous towers of juicy strawberries staged to perfection.
Ken Muir Strawberry Display

Combined with the English Roses behind, that section of the marquee smelled so heavenly, it was hard not to just stand there and soak in that scent of summer!!
Ken Muir strawberries

This stand had a most incredible cottage garden with amazing brassicas (cabbages, kales, etc.) and lovely leeks, again, grown to perfection:
Veggie Garden observed by young couple

Clematis are very popular in England and this extraordinary tunnel was quite a sight!
Clematis tunnel

Clematis Display

CHELSEA 2011 REPORT - Part Four: The Main Marquee

Ok, time for another post of Chelsea Flower Show Highlights.

One of the most spectacular aspects of Chelsea is the incredible floral and horticultural displays inside the main marquee.

Talk about FLOWER SHOW, OMFG, it was remarkable. Some of the stands were small than I had envisioned, but to see the array of displays and the meticulous detail exhibitors showcase in their stands is really first rate.

Main Marquee crowds.
The crowds were insane! Even during press day and then the first members day, the show grounds and the marquee were jammed packed full of enthusiastic plant lovers trying to catch a glimpse of every display. It was wall-to-wall old lady after old lady sprinkled in a mix of men: supportive husbands, hardcore plantsmen, gay couples and even young children which I always seem to look out for.

Kids being interviewedSpeaking of children, one of the highlights of the marquee for me wasn't a botanical display, but a pair of young garden enthusiast who I enjoyed chatting with as they shared information about the display they helped put together. I asked them questions about what their favorite plants were and to get a response like, "Oh, how could I choose. I love them all! THE GERBERAS! I'd have to say the Gerbera daisies because they add so much colour" the young 8 year old boy stated. What 8-year old freakin' knows what a gerbera is?!!! It was awesome!

Bulbs were in full display and are well represented in Chelsea:

Allium and misc bulbs
I've become fonder and fonder of Flowering Onions (Allium) and the assortment on display was remarkable.

Daffodil display prep (2)
Daffodils in late May are an extraordinary sight and getting these varieties to flower all at the same time is no easy feat!

Bloms Tulips
Tulips as well; getting these to flower all at the same time is exceedingly difficult, but when you do it each year, you've got it down, but often nature can easily throw a curve-ball at you and something you had originally wanted to showcase calls for a change in plans:

So, this remarkable tulip is called 'Wow'. No, seriously, that's what it's called simply because when anyone sees it, they think "HOLY MOTHER OF....., WHAT IS THAT??!"

Tulipa 'Wow' Tulipa Wow profile

You just can't help but think about just how bizarre and exotic this is! Sadly the quality of the flowers and stems weren't up to the quality of the overall exhibit so they nixed these and I had to ask the exhibitor to sneak behind the prep area to snap a photo!

A flower show experience would not be complete without me getting to see and experience the wonderful world of Lilium and, boy, was I in for a treat:

Lily displayLilies have always had a place in a show like this and for good reason. The extravagant flowers are eye-catching and the fragrance of many of them just draws you in and makes you fall in love with them. Again, a huge challenge to get them to flower all at the same time, these arrangements showcases mostly cut flowers varieties which are long lasting both in the vase and out in the garden. And another display really showcases the diversity of Lilies and how far they've come in just the last few years in recent developments in breeding for new and exciting varieties.
HW Hyde and Son Lilies 1
This display was remarkable in that it represented lilies that normally would bloom at different times during the summer. From early Asiatics to the late-blooming Orientals (varieties like the common 'Stargazer' or 'Casablanca' to the hybrids between them. It was outstanding!

Introduced last year and certainly still making waves is a lily that I'm DYING to get on this side of the pond based on the raves and reviews I've heard about this most special hybrid:

Let me introduce Lilium 'Kushi Maya':

Lilium Kushi Maya

Bred from the rare and exotic Lilium nepelense, this hybrid combines the coloration and bloom placement of the species with the flower size and vigor of a modern day hybrid (in this case, an oriental x trumpet cross). The scent is enchanting and absolutely remarkable and I'm dying to secure a few bulbs this fall.

I have never seen carnivorous plants the way I admired them at Chelsea because they were quite prominent and each display was simply outrageous!

Borneo Exotics 1
Nepenthes and other exotics were in full display.

Carnivorous plant portrait 2
As are pitcher plants and fly traps!

Preparing Carnivorous Plant Display
And, again, no detail is overlooked! Not a strand of moss missplaced!

Ok, overwhelmed yet?? I'll stop for now and give you some time to process this...haaha



Friday, July 1, 2011

CHELSEA 2011 REPORT - Part Three: More Press Day Antics

Sorry for the delay. It's been quite busy on my end with never-ending projects and tasks at this time of year.

So, press day wouldn't be complete without a few "behind the scenes" images and photos only the public could see on the papers the next day. Like I said, the amount of press and media attention this show garners is quite remarkable.

One of the images I will never forget was entering the press tent to collect some press release, literature, and, most importantly, find an outlet so I could charge my camera battery.

Little chance I had witnessing this as I hid in the corner to snap this photo.

Press Tent crazy busy

It was such an interesting experience attending this event. Here in Seattle, I'm so used to recognizing people I knew and I immediately feel welcomed, ready to schmooze, and set to take notes, photographs, and run into people left and right and it's all one party of plant folks, garden writers, and prominent names in the field. In Chelsea, I felt like a nobody.I took it as an opportunity to really push myself to speak to growers and just really observe and soak up the whole experience.

Show tapingCamera crews swarmed the grounds of the Royal Hospital with interviews left and right, evening news reporters, gardening personalities doing demonstrations in the show gardens. It was all quite fascinating to watch behind the cameras. To give me some more insight on all the happenings at Chelsea, I ran into a well-known plantsman by the name of Dr. John Grimshaw. He helped pen a fabulous reference on new trees and a book on Snowdrops, one of his passions. John Grimshaw's Garden Diary and we happened to have crossed paths on Facebook. During press day, he spotted me and introduced himself and I asked if I could tag along as he previewed the displays, scrutinized the plant materials and shared his take on UK Horticulture and gardening in general.

John Grimshaw and Riz with Digitalis
Here we are looking at a stand of Digitalis or Foxgloves. I inquired as to why such a common and weedy plant deserved its own stand. He says that they've always, traditionally, been popular with show goers and they're remarkably easy to have blooming in time for the late May show. So there you go! We're actually standing next to a cool cultivar called 'Pam's Split' with a rare split in the fused corolla, which is white with a red spotted throat.

Hanging with John turned out quite to be a blessing as a colleague of his invited me to stay after the 3PM cut off time for press to vacate the show grounds for the Evening Gala to begin. This meant seeing more of the show, learning which entry won "Chelsea Plant of the Year", and, perhaps, a celebrity citing. While I missed out on seeing Ringo Starr, Gweneth Paltrow, and all these other names listed on the press release of potential celebrity visitors, I did manage to have the honor of seeing her:

HRH Queen Elizabeth II at Chelsea
Again, I asked myself, "Why don't we have any real celebrities make appearances to our flower shows that could potentially draw a bigger crowd?!"

Celebrity with Rose 1
So, I took this picture not knowing who this lady was until a colleague of mine gasped and asked if it was Vanessa Redgrave. I later learned that it WAS her launching a new rose in honor of her daughter, actress Natasha Richardson, who passed a way tragically. The 'Natasha Richardson' rose will be available to the public with proceeds from its sale going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a charity that Natasha Richardson supported. Looks to be a top notch selection. Read about it here.

William and Kate rose close upSpeaking of rose lauches, the infamous David Austin unveiled the brand new "Will and Kate" rose at this year's Chelsea! Meh. It looked to be quite a strong bloomer, but the flowers weren't anything special. It had a light scent. It was white. It was kind of short. It was white. Bleh...I don't need it. Cool to be able to honor people through a plant though, that's pretty damn awesome.

Here are more missed photo opps that I didn't get a chance to shoot, from the Daily Telegraph.

So, the grounds and the main marquee, which I'll cover in the next installment, began to be filled with catering staff, more press and cameramen, and dolled up models in the show gardens and exhibits where not only did they garner the attention, plants and flowers were the focus as they both shared the stage.


Models with David Austin Roses

BBC film crew with Carnivorous plants

Violinist in Deaf Trust Garden

Orchid Wedding

After a long day, John introduced me to a English favorite, rum and raisin ice cream!

Rum and Raisin Ice Cream