Show garden build: Days 1 and 2

‘I’m up here now, is there any chance I can deliver your plants today?’ The delivery driver, Andy, from Paramount Plants is in Cheshire and would dearly like to offload my fig trees and grasses because, as he put it ‘I’ve got a right big load’. I call him to say I can’t access the site until the next day, which was our agreed delivery date, and he enquires about a place to park up for the night. I try to find somewhere but in vain and agree to meet him at 8am at Tatton Park.

Day 1
We leave home at 7am, at 7.20 Andy calls, he is parked at Tatton. I give him my plot number and he is waiting when I arrive at 8.15. The fig trees are unloaded, followed by the Calamagprostis Karl Foerster. ‘Lovely Figs’ says Andy, I agree. The Fig trees have an almost ethereal pale grey trunk and gnarly branches. Andy regales me with tales of deliveries to Monty Don, Joe Swift and Wayne Rooney and I feel like I have picked a decent Nursery to buy from.

Lovely fig trees



Calamagrostis Karl Foerster on the hard dusty ground

The plot stands bare and dusty, having had the turf removed and the RHS have also erected the brushwood screening – double bonus! We open the car boot and begin unloading the Santolinas which have been resident in our garden at home for four months.

Santolinas finally get to Tatton

I can’t get a spade in! I have hacked at the soil but nothing makes an impression on the rock like ground. My husband wields a pick axe as well as an iron bar, which he has borrowed from work colleagues, trying to make a decent sized hole for the first Fig tree. Fifteen minutes later, with divorce imminent and with sweat rolling down his red forehead I spot a digger next door. I walk over to one of the ground crew who is manning the dumper to takes away any scooped soil. ‘I can see you looking at the digger’ he smiles. ‘How would I arrange to have my plot turned over?’ I ask; the kind dumper man says he’ll speak to driver once he’s finished. Fifteen minutes later the whole plot has been dug over and I have two pits for the fig trees – the ground crew are life savers. Seriously without that happening we could not have made any progress – it is exceptional weather at the moment but should I ever do another garden, getting the plot dug over mechanically would be first on my list.

I have caught up with the neighbours and everyone is really friendly as was mentioned to me by people who have done gardens before. Briony, who I met back in May, is next to us and the other side is Andy who I meet the following day. He is a veteran of multiple gardens as is Matt, the fourth of our back to back group. Matt doesn’t have any plants, other than a large tree which has turned up, due to Nursery issues and I’m thankful all is on track for me at the moment.


Day 2
Up at 6am, for another 8am start on site with my plants arriving from Dovecote Nursery today. Peter, the driver, pulls up in his van with all my plants on Danish trollies within. Peter, like a lot of people here, is an old hand and regales me with tales of Chelsea and famous designers he has delivered to – the plants come off the van and look magnificent and within a couple of minutes are being enjoyed by dragonflies and butterflies which appear out of nowhere.

Morning of Day 2

After lunch Richard arrives – he’s a friend we met through the local primary school with a landscaping business. He was happy to help, not having done a show garden previously, and having someone who’s done this stuff before is brilliant. My husband and I labour for him, fetching timber and wheelbarrows full of gravel and compost from his trailer. Four hours later, as if he has waved a magic wand, the plot has edging, defined borders, is level and has a gravel area ready for the bed.


Bottom: Richard and I. Top: lunch in the shade.

‘This email says your plants have been delivered and left in a safe place in the porch’ calls my husbands from his chair. So I now have 55 Vervein plant sat in someone’s porch – they should have been coming to Tatton and we don’t have a porch at home so they could be anywhere! We ask the man at the gate, ‘Good luck with that’ he grins as we head off on a tour of the perimeter. At one entrance the gateman gestures to a house whose occupant is on holiday, so we try there – there are four boxes plied up in front of his front door in a grand pillared porch and they are addressed to me – Hurrah!
At 5.30pm I begin watering the hundreds of plats we now have on site in pots – it is 30C and they are thirsty, as is my husband. I start to panic at 5.55 as we need to be off site in 5 mins, 5 o’clock starts for watering next time! So that is the end of Day 2 – just got to plant the plants now – Days 3 and 4 to follow….



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