Telegraph Posts

The High Line comes to London

Monday, October 8th, 2012No Comments

I know that it’s not go much to do with Chelsea but I spent a couple of fascinating days at the Garden Museum listening to Joshua David, Robert Hammond and Piet Oudolf talking about the High Line.  It was incredibly inspirational and makes you realise what a few individuals can do in the face of considerable public and government resistance. The result is amazing and must be on your list of places to visit if you are going to New York. Here is a link to the Garden Museum website but there is lots of stuff on the internet about it.

High Line letterbox

There was also a really good article in the Telegraph on Saturday about it.

The Landscape Institute has run a competition to find similar ideas for London. The short list of 20 are on display at the Museum.

ps. I am a Trustee of the Garden Museum – so I am a bit biased, but I assure you it was wonderful.

Christopher Bradley-Hole returns to Chelsea

Saturday, September 29th, 2012No Comments

The Daily Telegraph have asked Christopher Bradley-Hole to design their garden for next year’s Chelsea Flower Show.  Christopher and I last worked at Chelsea together in 1997 when he created the  Latin Garden, again for the Telegraph, which won Best in Show. Many viewed that garden as a ‘game changer’ in the way that Chelsea gardens were designed. Since then Christopher has exhibited at Chelsea several times, winning four Gold Medals. His last garden was in 2005 so we are really lucky to have him back at the Show, especially in such an important year as the Centenary. Christopher and Peter Clay have been going round Europe tagging trees and shrubs for the garden. It may seem a long way off until May next year, but the months tick by quite quickly so it’s important to get the main structural plants organised now. Also, it’s better to see the plants now whilst they still have their leaves on rather than in the depths of winter.

The Jubilee Team Sheet

Friday, June 15th, 20121 Comment

We have had some many calls asking about who was involved in the Royal Barge. We have also heard lots of rumours about people claiming to be involved! So we thought that we would list out the people who really did the work!

The Top Brass!

Rachel de Thame, Kitty Arden ( and Mark Fane


The Team, shown by the number of days they were on the barge

7 Days on site:  Sarah Champier, Saskia Marjoram, Kurt Cyriel Beirens, Alice Fane and Anthony Johnson

6 Days on site: Sallie Campbell, Brenda Crump, Pamela Holder, Kerry Power, Virginia Davis, Lucy Felmingham, Lisa Tomkins, Deborah Anscombe, Linda Freely, Amy Lyons, Sinead Oyando, Abigail Pennington, Amber Winship, Michelle Thornley, Jane Edmonds, Davina Hill and Penelope Nunn, Stephen Wooster (Photographer), Charlotte Deacon (Catering), Harriet Combes (Catering) and Wieslaw Ziecina (Driver).

5 Days on site: Gillian Ross and Jane Edmonds

4 Days on site: Olivia Stirling, Lauren Colover and Louise Hampden

3 Days on site: Joanne Knight, Alison Greaves, Ian Pierce, Henrietta Dickinson, Peter Clay and Helen Derrin

2 Days on site: Graham Hoyle, Mark Osborne and Tony Collinson

1 Day on site: Rose Hamson and Andy Hill

Crocus Open Day 9th June

Monday, June 11th, 2012No Comments

We had one of our Open days last Saturday where we sell of all the Chelsea plants as well as the plants of the Royal Barge.

A visitor, Petra Hoyer Millar, wrote this very nice blog about the day. To read the whole article, click on the link

Pointless. The superbly harebrained, naive notion of taking along a list, to what is undoubtedly one of the best plant sales in the country, is best completely disregarded. The sheer mass of colour, plant quality and scale of varieties available at the Crocus Open Day, is simply too tantalising. My list never saw the light of day. One could argue, that this incredible drive to impulse buy is down to superb sales strategy, but Crocus really know their plants. Presumably, its through their annual Chelsea Flower Show participation, that Crocus always seem to be one step ahead in terms of the varieties on offer. Thus, be prepared when attending the Crocus Open Days, to drive home in a visually impairing, garden on wheels so make sure the car is void of all but the driver…

Being solely an online business, Crocus organise four open days every year to sell off show and/or excess stock, PR purposes and opportunity to meet and greet their growing database of customers. Open days are spread across the year, with the June, Chelsea-sell-off not surprisingly the most popular, where attendance numbers seem to rival those of the Harrods Sale. RHS Chelsea Flower Show gardens built by Crocus, do not participate in the big Chelsea plant sale finale, which leaves punters keen to take home an Arne Maynard or Sarah Price, no choice but to work the isles and crowds, at the nursery.

Even the most ardent skeptics of the power and influence of the Chelsea Flower Show would be impressed, to see not just the sheer scale of the crowds, but the zeal to purchase ‘that’ plant seen at the show. Just to make it all a tad more cosy, plants from the floral displays on the Royal Barge, designed by Rachel (thank-goodness-my-husband-didn’t-spot-her) de Thame, and (secretly) sourced from Crocus, were included in the sale.


Diamond Jubilee Pageant Saturday 2nd June

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012No Comments

Our last day. We all arrive early because we know that we have a lot to do. The forecast is not good but we have no option but to carry on. We split into teams – some hanging garlands, some planting the ‘E’ lantern, some finishing the knot garden and some preparing yet more greenery. (My daughter Alice, who helped throughout the project, worked out that she spent 34 hours preparing greenery!). I have a wobble when one of the Police sniffer dogs inadvertently walks across some of our planting but we soon sort it out.

The team senses the finishing line and rises to the challenge. We are all tired and have been working 12 hour days but no-one mutters a word. People come on board and gasp at the garlands and the plants. It’s difficult to believe that so much can be achieved in such a short time.

By 7.00pm it’s all done. The Spirit of Chartwell has been turned into Royal Barge fit for a Queen. The detailing all over the boat, masterminded by Joseph Bennett, is wonderful.

With a heavy heart we say goodbye to the wonderful team from Pershore. For some of the students working on the Barge, this was their first project. What a start to their floristry career!



Diamond Jubilee Pageant Friday 1st June

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012No Comments

We are now up to nearly 50 on site. There is a real buzz about the place with our team plus the team building the thrones and all the other decorations working hard. The site is being managed by Dominic Hyman who has a calm professionalism about him. So far, everyone has got on really well. We know that the final day is getting very close because a whole lot of police divers arrive to check the hull of the ship.

The rose and paeonies and placed on the garlands by Kitty and her team. They are beautiful and the team has done a wonderful job. Pete Clay comes to help with the planting with Rachel and Lou, the producer from Gardener’s World. Graham Hoyle and his team arrive from Crocus to complete the knot garden and by the end of the day we have placed 10 garlands into position. I confess to have an emotional moment seeing them going into place. 6 months of planning has gone into this moment.



Diamond Jubilee Pageant Thursday 31st May

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012No Comments

Sunday is creeping towards us very quickly. Yet more flowers arrive from various suppliers around the country. David Austin deliver some wonderful roses (Munstead Wood and Darcy Bussell), Taylors deliver daffodils in full flower (not bad for the end of May!), and the rest of the herbaceous plants come up from the Crocus nursery. Ian Pierce and his team from David Austin arrive to help prepare the cut flower roses.

Kitty and her team have nearly completed all the greenery and start placing the carnations and greenery on the gardlands. They are beginning to look fantastic.

We decide to plant up two of the lanterns. Rachel de Thame, who has been responsible for developing the floral design for the Barge, comes to help set out all the plants. Our first decision is that the lavenders (Munstead) are sitting too high in their pots. The only solution is to cut off the bottom of the plants. Not necessarily the best horticultural practice but needs must!

By the end of the day, two of the lanterns are nearly complete. I am genuinely concerned that the wind conditions on the Thames might be severe, so we decide to glue down every plant. Even though I have built 23 gardens at Chelsea, I can safely say that I have never glued a plant down before!

We finish work at 8.00pm. We are working long days but everyone seems up for the challenge. The excitement of working on a project of this magnitude keeps us going.




Diamond Jubilee Pageant Wednesday 30th May

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012No Comments

The carnations arrive for the garlands. The floristry team seem to be getting on really well. There are now 40 Crocus people on site all working about 12 hours a day on flowers and plants. We are being really well fed by Charlotte Deacon and Harriet Combes who bring us delicious food everyday. There are no shops within a couple of miles so it’s impossible to go out and buy a few sandwiches.

The Barge is really beginning to take shape. City and Guilds have been doing a fantastic job on the prow of the ship and the colours of gold, purple and red are really showing through.

We decide to start on the knot garden at the stern of the Barge. We have already prepared the plants in advance at the Crocus nursery but it takes a while to get it looking right.


Diamond Jubilee Pageant Tuesday 29th May

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012No Comments

Whilst the floristry team carry on preparing all the greenery for the 70 garlands, we take delivery of the first wave of plants for the deck. There are five main sections on the deck and we have to plant all of them. I’m reluctant to start straight away because its windy and hot and I don’t want to expose the plants too early. We have to be careful, about watering on deck because all the planting beds, or lanterns as they are called, are covered in velvet and it musn’t get wet.


Diamond Jubilee Pageant Monday 28th May

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012No Comments

The serious works starts today. I don’t need the alarm to wake me up, even though it’s 5.00am. I was keen to make sure that everything goes smoothly at Covent Garden Market so on my way to the Docks I go by Covent Garden to ensure that our pick-up of all the greenery for the garlands is going smoothly. I arrive to find the very reliable Nick, one of our drivers, busy loading up with rhododendron, lavender, hebe etc.

I arrive at the Docks to gulp down a cup of tea before the florists turn up. I have asked Kitty Arden to help me on the project so she has organised the floristry team. In addition to her own florists, she has organised lots of floristry students and their tutors from Pershore College to help.

When they arrive, Kitty and I give them a brief introduction. We have to get quite serious about not allowing them to take any photographs of the Barge. I really don’t want any photographs appearing on Facebook. That would be really embarrassing.

The team, all decked out in their special Crocus/Jubilee polo shirts, get stuck in to preparing greenery.







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