Trolley Dash

Actually we didn’t dash, we dawdled, but Trolley Dawdle doesn’t sound quite as good.   The rain was doing its best to scupper all hope of any gardening, so Max’s Dad and myself resorted to Plan B.  B stands for “better”, that is “better shopping”.   This was our first visit of the year to Marwood Hill Gardens and although we only got as far as the plant centre, en route we sneaked glimpses of camellia and magnolia magic.   The trip was a great purchasing success and by the time we reached home most of the seriously bad weather had shifted eastwards.  What is more, we came away with an unusual bonus, but you will have to wait a while to find out exactly what that was …..


All Horts – A very jolly Jolly


An All Horts day out at Marwood Hill Gardens, yipppeeee!  Hosted by yours truly, gulp.  This wonderful garden is located in the badlands of North Devon, with its fearful reputation, and I fretted that the turn out would be meagre.   In an attempt to boost numbers and to give the illusion that I was popular, I paid some resting “actors” to come in disguise as my employers and friends.  A fine pair of Shakespearean actors posed as Lord and Lady Mantle.  In Stratford* they still talk of their sensitive interpretation of Romeo and Juliet.  The role of Max’s Dads was carried off with great aplomb by a fire eating, plate spinning, Harley Davidson riding duo, filling in before the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  I am certain no one would have guessed that Torrington Tina was in fact a Tina Turner tribute act, although I am sure I spotted her practising Nutbush City Limits behind the rhododendrons.  The Edible Ilfracombe gals are usually to found performing the Can Can at the Windmill Theatre, Barnstaple and my other half was ably played by a famous industry** stunt man whose groin strain meant he was available for hire last weekend.

I was also concerned that some may have been put off by my promise of frolics and fun.  This was a wild promise and one I regretted for fear of attracting the wrong kind of visitor.  As it was they came anyway.  Not the wrong sort, the right ones. The usual suspects turned up, on time and full of enthusiasm.  Moo, Didcot Dave, Mr and Mrs Duck, Madame Admin, Hero, the Kernow Kid.   All present and correct. Like a horticultural army we marched from car park to entrance to demand cheap entrance fee.  We were unstoppable.  Until approximately one minute later when we reached the tea room.  Then we stopped and chatted and drank tea and peeked at the garden and fidgeted and then, we were off ………

Round lakes, up hills (I know I didn’t reveal the hill bit previously), gawping, label reading, tree hugging, note taking, more chatting, much laughter, a little sitting.  There were ducklings, champion trees, candelabra primulas like fruit pastilles, a Persian carpet of astilbes, rogersia and inula, there were stewartia, pendulous cercidpyllum, wingnuts and cornus aplenty.

We meandered back up the hill (sorry it is North Devon) for a generous lunch at the wonderful tea room where we sat in the shade of a substantial Magnolia stellata.  A last look around, admiring herbaceous assortments in the walled garden and alpine beds, before winding our way to the Plant Centre.

Of course the visit to the Plant Centre was inevitable and some had succumbed to temptation before the others had reached its hallowed ground.  When this sweet shop of delights had had its fill, it spat us out with bags full of treasure and grins and excuses and tuts and head shakes, according to which person it belonged to.

Thank you everyone who came.  It was fun and there may even been some frolicking.  The sun shone and so did my heart.  It is a joy to spend time with like minded people.  Like minded but individual and all with something to contribute to the mix.  New friendships were made.  Old friendships reinforced.  Here is to next time.  Please make it if you can, you won’t regret it.

*East London pre Olympics
** the pasty tasting industry



IMG_0222Although on the whole I cannot praise my choice of career enough, I have to admit that gardening can sometimes be a lonely pursuit, especially for us jobbing gardeners.  Literally this is often true, the nature of the job means we work alone on a regular basis, but also spiritually – the opportunity to share problems and experiences is scarce.  Social media has gone a long way to alleviate this isolation but the role of horticultural groups and societies should not be ignored, they are often godsends.  I am not a natural “joiner”, as a natural flitter I find it hard to commit to one thing, but I am easily bullied and MM “persuaded” me (it involved a head lock) to join the noble Plant Heritage.  One thing leads to another and before you know it you are in the midst of the local horticultural social whirl.  In the time between winter shut-down and summer mayhem there seems to be a plethora of events.  In the last couple of weeks I have been to three such shindigs involving listening to tales from (Little Dixter), Andy McIndoe (Hilliers) and this weekend a full on Plant Heritage day at Marwood Hill Gardens.  This involved knowledgeable folks educating us on the diverse subjects of plant disease, micropropation and the flora of New Zealand, raffles, garden walks, an evil and sadistic quiz, not to mention a splendid lunch the highlight of which was, and always is, an admirable fruit crumble and custard.  At each event there are familiar faces, warm greetings followed by a quick life précis.  You come away feeling restored, recharged, a little warmer in the heart region.  There is something very heartening in just knowing these people are out there.  They understand what is involved, why it could take an age to weed a m2 of infested soil, why sometimes plants die, why on occasion they thrive,  why you can’t control the weather, why you can’t remember the name of that rose, why some days it just seems too much bother.

This is Magnolia campbellii subsp. mollicomata.  When you stand beneath this magnificent tree, look skyward to the outrageously beautiful blooms and inhale the nectar of the gods, it is all patently clear why you and all your peers bother.