Thursday, 31 May 2007


I have a couple of friends who have a job that some would see as ideal. About ten years ago they gave up a very successful arts and crafts shop to enter into the world of estate management. Their job at the moment is to look after two houses, one country house in the Midlands in England and one in central London. An Australian business person owns the houses. He and his family only turn up to the houses about three times a year when he has meetings in the country. This leaves the couple free to run things as they see fit. They have their own house that comes with the job, the use of a brand new seven series BMW and Range Rover and they get a good wage between them as well. There is no cooking or touching of forelocks when the family come over either as they cater for themselves. One of the jobs that they look forward to at this time of the year is to head on down to the annual Chelsea Flower Show, which just happens to be very close to the house in London. Every year they are given a budget to go and buy some new plants and trees for the gardens and to pick up ideas for improvements to the designs that they can implement throughout the year.

I watched the highlights of the show last week on the telly. I must say there were some very innovative designs this year. The amount of work and money that goes into the affair is staggering and I must confess it made me feel a bit of a novice when it came to the design and planting of gardens.

We here in Inishowen have a few practical factors to take into consideration when we plan our own plot, two of those being the salty air and of course the wind! I would like to see some of the fine structures the designers put into their plots after a year on the Donegal coast. This year there were some designers who managed to blend plants and structures beautifully and again the use of water features was extraordinary. A good water feature can make a garden, partly because of the movement but mainly because of the gentle noise that can calm the nerves so well. Lighting is another feature that was very well utilised this year. I complain sometimes when gardeners use full power lights to illuminate features. Too many of them make the garden look like a runway for a plane to land on and you spend all year never seeing any stars as the light blocks them from view. Soft lighting such as the type given out by solar lamps is ideal for most gardens and these can highlight your best features really well, whilst softening hard areas. The show is criticised a lot for being old fashioned and stuffy. The judges seem to be allowing more offbeat designs into the show. Dermott Morgan came up with a garden that included thousands of brightly coloured steel balls. It looked like an advertisement for the lottery but was full of innovative ideas. (06) Dermott won a silver award and the Chelsea flower show got loads of hip publicity. There was even a series made of Dermott getting the idea from a scribble on a piece of paper to being made into a reality. I haven’t spoken to my friends since they went to the show but no doubt they will come away with lots of new ideas for their gardens and the Range Rover will be full of exotic plants from around the word which they will be eager to put into place!

Who needs the Chelsea Flower Show? Especially when we have the Swilly gardening club to go to every month! This month the evening will be held on the 21st of June. I thought I would give you plenty of notice this month, mainly because I forgot to mention the May meeting. This month will see a plant sale. As far as I know anyone can come with plants, shrubs and trees to sell on the evening. I haven’t got all of the details yet but you have nearly three weeks to get your plants tidied or potted up for sale on the night. I promise there won’t be any of the judges from the Chelsea Flower show to examine your stock!

The gardening club have set up an e-mail service to give you more information it’s


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