Plant fear sets in
I went down to visit Ann-Marie Powell’s garden build at Chelsea a couple of times last month. It was incredible to see all the show gardens being built side-by-side. When it came to planting time, I watched teams of volunteers planting thousands of plants with more than the upmost of care and attention to detail – it was pretty awe inspiring. When I saw one garden with iris buds wrapped in paper towels and delicately tied with brown string – I could feel my blood draining from my face.
The journey to find the right plants and plant supplier for the garden started long ago. This has been the bit I’ve enjoyed the most but also the bit I am finding most scary. The effect I want to create on the ground is that of a mass of planting – starry or globe shapes that on closer inspection are unique and different from their neighbour in their own right (in a similar way to a starry sky at night). My first choice way back when I designed the garden was to opt for Echinops. Their wonderful blue globe forms in such a mass would work and they should be in flower for Hampton Court. But when I got my feedback from the RHS, they said they must be mature and good quality, which immediately rang alarm bells in my head. After some more research I found that it would be very difficult to achieve what I wanted to achieve with Echinops because they have tap roots and therefore don’t like being moved and aren’t really grown to maturity in pots. They would need to be field grown over two years perhaps, advised the lovely and VERY experienced, Rosy Hardy of Hardy Cottage Plants.
So with some more research I have opted for Agapanthus and chosen Agapanthus ‘Blue Heaven’ which really sits well with the ‘blue sky thinking’ theme.
In terms of the aerial planting this posed a bit of challenge. First and foremost they need to be the kind of plants that are likely to tolerate being hung upside down. Not a natural position for many plants. The easy option would be to have gone for typical hanging basket plants but it goes against what I am trying to achieve. I wanted plants that look good from above. The sort, that if you gaze down from a second storey bedroom window, you admire their qualities. As soon as you hang the plants upside down they are in the shade or part shade but then the mirrored boundary will throwing up plenty of light so they need to work in this unusual environment. My other criteria was that they were textural, simple with accents of sky colours – blue, yellow, perhaps white that worked together to form a beautiful ceiling carpet. Last but not least they need to be in flower or looking their best in July. Not too many considerations then. It’s been a really challenging and enjoyable journey to find the right plants that fit all my criteria. With predominantly a mixture of hostas and ferns I hope I will achieve it.
The pots I am using for the upside down planting are Boskke Sky Planters, specially designed for plants to hang upside down. They can be used both inside and out but so far they have mainly been marketed as interior features. They are ingenious as they have in integral water tank with a little stick that indicates when it needs filling up. I am using pots from the new recycled range as part of their launch.
Last week I went to Hardy’s and spent a very enjoyable morning with Rosy and Hilary planting up the pots. Some of the plants are very small so in my mind they are on AMBER alert. I’m going back at the end of next week to do a final check on them and to lay out the plants to check my planting plan (it will be easier than doing it when we hang them upside down 4 metres above our heads.
I just can’t stop the nagging worry that the Agapanthus may not flower in time or the hanging plants won’t be big enough. Most things you can control but plants….. Typical first show nerves no doubt. Oh please plant worries go away – I need some sleep.