How does your garden grow? Full of spontaneous plant purchases? Despite not having my own garden at the moment, I’m still dabbling with plants and produce in my poor parents’ outdoor space. They’re inundated with plant pots, and I’ve only gone and picked up even […]
Picture the scene: rolling hills in various shades of green, embracing a soft valley as its river gently meanders through. Trees stand here and there as sentinels at their various posts. Their charge? A magnificent golden edifice hundreds of years old.
The location? Chatsworth House, Derbyshire. It’s a place I always slightly took for granted when younger, not growing up all that far from it. I could never quite understand the reverence shown around the rest of the nation.
Strolling into its grounds on June 7th 2017, I now comprehended. At the building’s feet lay the bubbling spring of attendees to the inaugural RHS Chatsworth Flower Show, and boy was I overjoyed to finally have another RHS show happening “up north”. I took Matt along with me to experience the spectacle.
The idea behind the show was pioneers in design, reflected in the modern day interpretation of Joseph Paxton’s long-gone Great Conservatory (the centrepiece of the show, if Chatsworth House didn’t completely steal the limelight) and embedded in the naturalistic landscape crafted by Capability Brown. Along from the show’s entrance gates were the extraordinary and somewhat extravagant free form gardens. I have to confess myself not au fait with these; I like my designs more traditional and down to earth, like my architecture. I rarely like to analyse a garden, preferring simply to soak in its beauty. The studded dinosaur skull I really did not get. More a failing on my part, I suppose.
The show gardens, though few in number and for the most part smaller in dimension than Chelsea, were much more up my street. The IQ Quarry Garden, designed by Paul Harvey-Brooke’s, won Best Show Garden and a Gold medal, although it was not my favourite. I loved the more planted up end of the space, but am no great fan of metal objets d’art or walls. Sorry.
I liked the whimsy and wildness of the Belmont Enchanted Gardens, but did not echo the judges’ sentiment of it warranting a Gold medal, and the wooden spiral staircase in its centre was a design piece too far for me. Pointless and rather distracting, and I overheard quite a few others say the same.
I didn’t much love the Moveable Feast garden either, yet have to admit that I felt the concept was inspiring and important. It was the grey plastic planters that just didn’t float my boat. Sadly, I found the inflatable Great Conservatory a letdown as well. It all appeared a bit giant-kids’-party-setup to me… Maybe the central “paddling pool” didn’t help…
My top three gardens on display were right next to one another. The Cruse Bereavement Care ‘A Time for Everything garden’ had an eye catching range of foliage colours and forms, flowing around the central stone wall and water seating area. Next up was ‘Just Add Water’ by Jackie Sutton (or is it Knight? I’m a little confused). Rockeries aren’t my cup of tea, but the addition of water to enliven the sandstone and naturalistic perennials to soften the construction really won me over. Thirdly was the ‘Experience Peak District & Derbyshire’ garden designed by Lee Bestall: a brilliant amalgam of the region surrounding Chatsworth, comprising its cattle, trees and wildflowers, haa-haas and neoclassical elements of Derbyshire stately homes’ cultivated corners. It also played with perspective subtly yet cleverly – you had to see from both ends to really appreciate the design.
We passed Adam Frost and Joe Swift on a couple of occasions outside, and we then headed on over the blossom-bedecked temporary bridge to seek out the floral marquees and perhaps Carol Klein.
Well we found the marquees – and they did not disappoint – although sadly Carol was nowhere to be seen. No time to dwell on this anyway, as there was simply so much to take in undercover and time was swiftly slipping away. I was determined to leave with something, and my plant of choice was the Dahlia ‘Karma Irene’, whose magnificent, flamboyant colour on the display stand just drew me in immediately. No flowers as yet in my specimens, however!
I could easily have spent a second day dawdling around the event, but it was not to be. I can say without a word of a lie that the show seemed a roaring success, and I’d urge you to get your tickets to 2018 if you get the chance (on sale from early August). Hopefully I’ll make it again!
I read on the Pentreath & Hall Inspiration blog earlier this year how the author, Ben Pentreath, was aiming to do one new thing every weekend. Unintentionally I have been doing much the same thing.This weekend just passed was a much more sedate affair, but […]
Way back in May I had the pleasure of staying in Boston USA for three nights with my boyfriend. As a teenager I read some Buffy the Vampire Slayer novels (The Gatekeeper Trilogy) which had been set there mostly, and I could picture the streets and houses. From that moment it became one of the only two American cities I was really bothered about visiting.
We stayed in the Hyatt Regency Boston Harbor hotel – a fortuitous change. We were originally meant to be staying in the Marriot in the downtown. Better for shops, but certainly not better for views and experience. Every day involved overlooking the ever-changing harbour as we went up and down in the lifts, and we travelled over to the city centre several times by the water taxi (easily ordered through the reception). The inside of the hotel was nicely decorated too, and while we never ate or drank in there, it was certainly appealing, overlooking the waters outside.
We ate our first evening meal in an Italian restaurant which I was informed Lady Gaga had even eaten at: Italian Express Pizzeria. Insanely, Matt and myself were ravenous and ended up ordering a pizza each, much to the owner's surprise. We soon found out why. Each pizza was huge, and we barely fit them onto our table!
Day two was wet, windy and chilly. We headed into the city by subway, and started out our day with a Duck tour. I'm not entirely convinced the tour guide gave us all that much insight into the place, but he was a laugh (at him as much as with him), and it was a fantastic way to see the city. It even involved a splash down into the Charles River and half-an-hour bobbing along in the re-purposed amphibious vehicle.
We also indulged in tickets for a baseball game with the Red Sox. I had no idea what was going on – and am not sporty in the slightest – but it was strangely mesmerising, and the atmosphere positive in comparison with many British sporting events. There was the slight issue of us buying cheaper tickets at the last minute from a guy in the street, and it turned out (after we purchased beers) that we were sat in the family no-drinking zone, and had to leave our seats to keep possession of our alcohol. Buyer beware! Sometimes during the trip (my first to the USA) I found them rather rigorous with rules; moreso than us Brits, which I was not expecting in the least.
Despite the intrigue of the game, the freezing weather got to us, and we retreated from the stadium after just over an hour to the warmth of a Cheesecake Factory nearby for some hearty food and a cocktail or two.
We broke up the days in Boston with a car rental (wow, Americans are crazy drivers! I think they give the Italians a run for their money) and a drive out to Salem. Matt was eager for a palm reading, which never happened, but we indulged in a witch museum. Very clichéd! And to be honest, tacky and disappointing, with a tour guide who, bless her, had learnt the script parrot-fashion and dim moving mannequin displays that led me to anticipate being murdered and encased in wax at any second…
On the other hand, Salem also has a less well known maritime history to read about at the visitors' centre, as well as the wonderful House of Seven Gables where an extremely enthusiastic lady walked us through its rooms and its past. It turns out it was the inspiration for a Victorian novel which was the equivalent to the Harry Potter series in its day. Much more worthwhile than the occult side of the town, as was our next call before taking back the rented vehicle…
…which was the sleepy little seaside town of Marblehead. We both agreed we wished we'd known more about it and spent more of the day there. When we arrived all shops and cafés were closed and there was barely a soul around, apart from a kerb-crawling realtor (i.e. estate agent) who was eager to give us his card and urge us to consider a home there. Perhaps one day…
The last couple of days involved walks along the Freedom Trail around Boston, in the glorious heat and sunshine that appeared. Guided tours are available, with Bostonians in historical costume, but we opted for a trusty guidebook and enjoyed the route nonetheless for it. We found we had to break the walk down into two days due to the length and the warmth, and the fact we wanted to actually get something to eat on the first leg of it. That said, it would be doable in one day, as we set out later after a thoroughly enjoyable (for those of us who don't suffer seasickness!) whalewatching trip out towards Provincetown. We saw no whales, but my tan got topped up and I enjoyed a Guinness on the top deck with the glint of the waves below. I bet seeing whales is spectacular, but if you don't have such luck (like we didn't), the company offers a free ticket to return within the next 10 years to try again!
Our last activities of the holiday were to climb the 200+ steps of the Bunker Hill Monument (definitely to be avoided for those with breathing and cardiac problems…) to see the fantastic views, and to look around the museum of the USS Constitution. Sadly we were too early for going onboard the docked USS Constitution itself, docked alongside, but hey, we managed to lie in a hammock and hoist a bleating goat (don't worry – not real!).
One last note on visiting Boston: save plenty of dollars and head to the Italian North End for a magnificent meal and atmosphere in the evening (be warned – condos nearby go for $2 million or more, so these restaurants can afford to hike their prices).