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A City of Flowers

Although my husband Billy and I are often in London for work, it is rare we have a chance to enjoy what this wonderful city has to offer. So this weekend we decided to spend a few days being tourists. 
(First stop a pub in Covent Garden for a selfie.)
 Here is a record of what we packed in, plus, of course, the flowers we saw. I can thoroughly recommend it as a fantastic way to spend a weekend. 
One of my favourite stores is Fortnum & Mason. We took the lift to the fourth floor and then wandered down amongst the perfumes, hats, china, stationery and gifts to the food on the ground floor. On the first floor you will even find an ice-cream parlour. In the basement is where you will discover the flowers.
 
 I wasn't sure whether to smell this rose or eat it!
 Near the flowers we came across an ingenious machine dispensing tasting measures of wine. Great fun.
Next stop, just across the road, to the Royal Academy for The Summer Exhibition. 
Well, what can I say ....
 I think The Ladybird book of The Gallery says it better than I can!

 Exhausted by trying not to laugh at the art we walked down New Bond Street to Claridges. I had never been inside before but I had always rather fancied having afternoon tea here.
It is the most beautiful setting - and the flowers were heavenly.
(It is also worth poking around and looking into the bars and the ladies' loos.)
We started with Champagne and sandwiches before moving onto scones and tea. The jam Claridges serve is made from a secret recipe. I am guessing strawberry and possibly elderflower and vanilla, or maybe even a touch of rhubarb... but who knows ...

 Then it was time for cakes ... lemon ... raspberry ...chocolate ... almonds ...and edible flowers.
 It is without doubt the most expensive tea and cakes I will ever eat but I absolutely LOVED it.
 After meeting my daughter Libby for drinks we ended the evening in our hotel watching the late coverage of the Olympics. Go GB!! 
For the first two nights we stayed in the Premier Inn in Covent Garden. Fantastic location, very funky room but be prepared for a super compact set up. More of a pod than a room. 
 Day 2: We explored the streets just off Covent Garden, and in particular a small alleyway, Cecil Court, which is packed with small shops selling maps, antique books and coins. In the main Covent Garden Piazza it was great to see the flower displays that were a homage to the old flower market.
We had lunch booked in the restaurant at the top floor of the National Portrait Gallery. It has one of the best views of the roof tops of London and the food and wine were wonderful.  
Then we meandered our slightly drunken way through the galleries. There are too many amazing portraits to mention so I just took a quick photo of this of a young Queen Victoria as I was intrigued by the flowers that made up her posy.
Later that evening we had tickets for The Bolshoi Ballet at Covent Garden. 
A treat for me. And for Billy? Well all I can say is my husband is a patient man!
The following day we met friends for breakfast in Bills in St Martin's Courtyard,
 also home of The Academy of Flowers. 
 Gorgeous!
 For our final night we moved out of The Premier Inn 
 and into The Savoy! 
Oh how I love a beautiful bathroom. What can I say, this was divine.
 And as you would expect,
so were the flowers.

The Potting Sheds (with an 's')

Fate is a funny thing. Last week I came across a wonderful new flower shop, only to discover that they had contributed to one of the gardens at Tatton Park Flower Show. 
I was visiting my friend Janice, who has just moved from Dorset to Lancashire, and I had planned the trip around the flower show. Janice is currently deciding what to do with her new garden - although 
with a view like this you really don't have to do too much! 
The day before the show Janice took me to nearby Cedar Farm for a coffee. The farm has been developed as a centre for artists and has a number of small independent shops plus a cafe located in the yard.
Cedar House, Back Lane, Mawdesley, Lancashire, L40 3SY
 As we sat in the sunshine discussing politics (I know people say avoid religion and politics but Janice is vociferous, feisty and funny when it comes to her favourite subject, so it would be a shame not to enjoy her slant on things. And there was SO much to talk about!) anyway we had just moved on from Brexit to Corbyn and that is when I discovered The Potting Sheds. 
(And yes, it is spelt with an s)
 The small shop runs along the side of the cafe patio and it was a mass of inviting summer colour.
 You have to love a flower shop that embraces bikes and dolls' houses. 
Chatting to the manager, Katie, she told me they also have a landscaping part to their business and the rest of the team were out putting the final touches to one of the show gardens at Tatton Park. They were working with the designer Eileen Wood who had undertaken one of the "Back to Back" gardens at the show. 
(Maybe I should have seen this as a sign of good things to come: Janice's surname is also Wood as was my mother's before she married!)
If you haven't been to Tatton Park Flower Show I can highly recommend it. It has the spacious feel of Hampton Court but was far less crowded.
There was so much I liked about it I have decided to summarise these into my Tatton Top Ten.
 1. Plant Village 
Each nursery that is exhibiting is given a plot for their design and the flowers that they use can be bought then and there.
Really useful, if like Janice, you are looking for plants and advice for a particular area of your garden. In her case an overgrown herbaceous border.
 You can even find plants to match your sheep ... or do you dye your sheep to match your garden ... I've never been quite sure ...
 Which leads me to 2. The Plants
There are far too many to mention, it was like being let loose in a sweet shop. This was just one I fell in love with, Digitalis 'Illumination Flame' from Brookside Nursery
 3. The People
Everyone was incredibly friendly and keen to help.
And the horses weren't bad either!
4. The Horses
Amazing driftwood sculpture from James Doran (if you have the odd £30k to spare) 
 5. The Show Gardens
Well spread out and easy to view, here are some I particularly liked. Above: 'Coastal Retreat'. Gold in the Young Landscaper and Planting Designer section for Ewan Sewell and Lydia Knight.
Below: 'Cotswolds Connection'. Gold for young designer and planter, Sam Hunt and Lizzi Mills.
 And for full blown fragrance, I want to sit and drink wine in Fryer's Roses' garden
6. The Sheds
In the centre of the show were a number of small 6 x 4 sheds each decorated in a different style. A shed for any occasion. 
 This was my favourite - and apologies as I have forgotten who created it.
 There were other sheds that were more unusual, but this was just so pretty.
7. Attention to Detail
As you wander around your eye is drawn to the small touches that people have added to their landscaping or displays, and this (plus the sunshine) made me smile.
 A bug nest inserted into a traditional stone wall.
 A sprig of lavender tied with velvet ribbon - outside one of the Shed displays.
A water trough from the garden, 'The Waiting List'. A garden of calm created by Alison Galer who was once a transplant nurse.
8. Pink Vans
My advice is, no matter what your age, if you see a pink van head towards it.
 9. Back to Back Gardens
I have a relatively small garden so can find grand landscaping schemes a bit overwhelming. I am naturally drawn to miniature gardens, like these award winning Back to Back gardens.
Above: Inner Sanctum. Winner of Silver Gilt. Designed by Rosalind Rosewarne and Charlotte Khan. Below: High Tide. Winner of Gold. Designed by Michael O'Reilly.
10. A View Within
No 10 brings us back to where we started: The Potting Sheds. 
 A View Within was the Back to Back garden that they helped the designer Eileen Wood create.
 They won a Gold.
 And it really was my favourite garden. 

As I said, fate. 

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