A Tatton show garden in the making: ‘Sleep Well’ a garden for wellbeing

Site visit plus ‘the team’

This week I have been mostly filling in risk assessments and picking aphids off my plants. I am doubtful that any of my home grown efforts will be tall in just six weeks from now, but I must continue to molly coddle them- a small miracle may not be out of the question.

plant takeover
Where did my garden go? My plant efforts at home with under six weeks left until the show. Clockwise from top left: never in a million years, probably not, unlikely, possibly, definitely maybe, definitely, definitely and the arch obviously.

On a brighter note, I visited my plants at Dovecote Nurseries [Dovecote Nurseries], where the owner and ace plants woman Philippa has been sorting them into a group for my show garden. She also has plants for another show garden that will be happening before Tatton. The plants look healthy and I am relieved; one problem is that the Sanguisorba ‘Tanna’ are very very small (even with 6 weeks to go I ‘m not feeling positive about them). It seems that Sanguisorbas are not to be (I have tried and failed to acquire taller varieties s as well as the shorter ‘Tanna’ that are at Dovecote). I worry as they are my ‘pop’ of colour in the show garden. I tell Janet who is currently making the quilt, and she unpicks the fabrics with the particular colour of the Sanguisorbas from the growing quilt. She is not unhappy with removing this magenta pink and happily replaces it with softer pink hues.

Do not panic Captain Mainwaring! I hare off to Gordale nurseries [Goredale] to view some already very tall black hollyhocks. Rob their plant manager had informed me they had a huge delivery of plants for the bank holiday weekend and I should go and see them before the hoards descended over the weekend. The leaves are too similar to the fig leaves and they don’t have an ‘airy’ feel and I not sure, so I don’t buy them. Rob says he is very good at sourcing plants and will try to get Sanguisorbas (or Dierama ‘Blackbird’) for me. ‘You should wait until the week before the show and come and see what looks good’ he offers! I’m not sure I have the nerve for that.

Dierama ‘Blackbird’ and Sanguisorba officinalis

The site visit

‘That must be it over there!’ we screw our eye towards the horizon searching for any indicator of show site beginnings. There is a copse of trees, a couple of cars and less than a dozen humans, who are huddled against the wind. In the far distance (but not that far) are a herd of deer; the near distance offers various brightly coloured triangular nylon flags stuck in the grass. ‘Go and test the ground’ my husband is cautious about getting the car stuck in mud (it’s May 1st and it’s been raining forever). ‘I’ll go and ask if we can drive on the grass’ I say. Nobody in the group wants to commit to a ‘yes it’s ok to drive on the grass’ but the general consensus is ‘carry on’- I wave my husband and Richard, my landscaper who has come to see what the site has to offer, over.

site visit
Richard and I on the edge of the show garden plot

The three of us stand on my plot- it’s surreal. The flags mark out show garden sites and my flags are orange; apart from the few flags all there is only parkland-grass growing on rock hard ground, trees, deer and some unobtrusive fencing delineating the road to the main carpark. When I sent a photograph to friends, one said ‘It’s a f***ing field- you’re building a show garden in a field?’ My husband lies on the grass in the centre of the 6x4m space ‘I’m in the bed!’ Richard has his tape measure out and he and I talk through the layout of the show garden. My heart pounds as U imagine the crowds that will walk past during the show. My garden will be on the corner of two main avenues and will be unmissable (not least due to the fully dressed bed). It’s gonna have to be good I tell myself-all those eyes on my garden! Yikes!

‘You must be the garden with the bed in it?’ a young lady comes over- she is one of my B2B neighbours. ‘I’m Briony’ she shakes my hand. ‘You’re the bee’s garden?’ I remembered seeing her striking design called ‘Penumbra’on the RHS website [Penumbra]. She’s from Oxford and is building her garden in Blenheim, then moving it to Tatton! I hope I’m not the only show garden first timer. ‘What happens to bed if it rains?’ asks Briony’s landscaper………

Once I’ve asked the deputy show manager millions of questions we head home. It’s been really good chatting to Richard, who has tons of experience, and I feel like I got a lot out of the visit.

The team

Myself: wanna be full time garden designer. Have designed half a dozen gardens for clients then returned to science for 12+ years. Plant lover, creative and ‘ever the optimist’.

Husband: long suffering listener to the wanna be garden designer (been there before!). He is very practical, grounded and has a terrific eye for detail. He will be brutally honest, but at the same time keeping spirits high.

Richard: I phoned Richard when I found out I had a show garden because I knew it was something he’d never tried, but would like to do something different. Luckily he offered his services as an experience landscaper in return for taking part in something new and exciting. He has created some lovely gardens and he will have an eye for detail and finish. Importantly he has a pickup truck and will help to transport the disassembled garden to its permanent home after the show.

Janet Haigh and Stephen Jacobson: Janet was the first person I discussed my ideas for a show garden with. I had called her to ask whether she thought I would need Kaffe Fasset’s permission to use his fabrics to make a quilt. She was on board from that moment, volunteering to make the quilt and design it with me using my planting plans. Stephen (her husband) volunteered to create the perspective drawing from my plans; Janet painted all the illustrations for the application. The three of us spent two days last October working out how to create the bed for the garden, and a showerproof canopy. They will come and dress the bed for the show.

Daughters: aged 16 and 19, they will be the chief critics! They have scoffed and chortled at the daybed when we set it up on a practice run in our garden (see previous blog post). Despite their ‘teenageness’ (is that even a word?) they have offered to help with the planting, and I know that I will be seeking their youthful opinions on the design of the leaflets to be handed out at the garden during the show; they will also help me with what to wear during the show!

Thank you for reading- I hope you enjoyed it?

Next time: to be decided!




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