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. 

Sprout & Flower

I have known Sarah, the owner of Sprout & Flower in Mere, Wiltshire 
since my days working at Ted Martin Flowers in Tisbury. 
Sarah was Ted's manager there for many years, before deciding to go it alone and try running her own shop. She and her husband Bob were in the process of thinking of moving (their two sons were getting too tall for their cottage's ceilings!) when the old fruit and veg shop in Mere came on the market.
The shop hadn't been renovated or decorated for many years but the position was perfect. After a huge amount of work they moved in - also taking the accommodation above the shop (with tall ceilings!).
Now Sarah combines fruit and veg with gorgeous flowers and bread at the weekends. And if you're lucky you can often find cake for sale by the till.
It is beautiful shop and always a joy to visit. When I called in last week I found Sarah busy with posies for Proms and  bouquets for a Golden Wedding.
This rose always makes me smile; Miss Piggy
Recently Sarah has taken on Josie to help with the fruit and veg.
I think it is fair to say, from this photo, that Josie has a way with flowers too ...
 ... although I think radish earrings could look pretty good too ...
 Sarah delivers flowers all around the UK ad you can find her at Sproutandflower.co.uk and she is well worth following on instagram @sproutandflower

Hampton Court Flower Show

In May I was lucky enough to have a stand at Chelsea Flower Show displaying our fountain pens - Plooms - alongside my flower books. 
I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to be there during the build up and to see the gardens in the first early light. Meeting Diarmuid Gavin as he watered his garden one morning we fell into conversation.
What I really wanted to say was that when my daughters first met their now step-father, Billy Kelly, they said: "We knew he was Irish and we knew you like Diarmuid Gavin so we thought he would look a bit like him." (So far so good) "Then we came in and saw a tramp sitting on the sofa." 
My lovely husband is not known for his sartorial elegance!
This is how the conversation actually went with Diarmuid:
Nice garden," I said. "Thank you," he said.
 One of the best parts about Chelsea was seeing old friends. Those who visited and those that helped on the stand, including Claire Foster who runs the wonderful Green Pavilion flower shop in Buxton, Derbyshire.
And proudest moments? There were two. First when Kazuyuhi Ishihara, who designed my favourite garden, came on the stand and bought a number of my prints. Secondly when a girl of about 20 spotted my books and asked "is it you?" She went on to explain that my books had inspired her to be a florist. And now she had just won a medal in the floral design marquee for her arrangement. (I have to admit I cried)

Exhibiting at Chelsea convinced me to start blogging about flower again. I had not quite realised how much I had missed talking to people about them.
 So here, after a bit of an absence is my first post. 
A visit to Hampton Court Flower Show.
We arrived on a grey morning after huge queues to the car park, but once we were in the grounds it was if the sun realised it really ought to get its act together and start shining. There was so much to see - there is lots more room than Chelsea - and of course you are never far from wonderful views of the waterways and the Palace.
 Here are a few of my highlights. 
I loved the Vegetable and Flower Boxes that give inspiration for even the smallest garden. These two photos are from the Gold winning display created by Alton Infant School. Their display of "Growing to Eat, Eating to Grow" took different recipes that the children and parents had contributed and planted out the ingredients you would need. Above, Strawberry Lemonade. Below, Herb Omelette. 
 In addition to the Floral Marquee there was the Festival of Roses marquee set aside exclusively for ...well... roses. Even on a good day this was quite muddy underfoot - so I really hope that the weather keeps fine for everyone.
The roses were fabulous, despite the very strong smell of damp mud!
A floral arch from Peter Beale Roses.
 The roses from The Real Flower Company are always a treat. They were close to us at Chelsea and I would go over to their stand and just take a deep breath whenever I wanted to enjoy their fabulous scented display.
The RHS award their medals on a huge number of criteria. I have gone for just 3 awards of my own.
 1. Most like to be when sharing a bottle of wine with my family
This goes to The Viking Cruises' Scandinavian Garden
- which basically is a beach with a driftwood fire
 2. Most like to be when sharing a bottle of wine with my best friend
This goes to Cherry Carmen's Immerse Garden.
What you cannot see from my photo is that water is flowing down all the walls of the sunken garden
 3. Most like to be when on my own with a book and a glass of wine
(I think you can see there is a common theme to my awards!)
This goes to Inner City Grace.
Very calming. Very Sauvignon Blanc.
 And I could not leave Hampton Court Flower Show without mentioning the school's Scarecrow Competition. This year this had a distinctly space age theme
Tim Peake would have felt right at home!


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