RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016 visit

botanic garden

Part of the Botanic Garden

This week I headed down to Sloane Square with my mum for this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The weather was a bit crap – overcast and pretty chilly for a late May day – but given the crowds I was actually quite pleased not to be in the glare of a hot sun!

First off we headed for the show gardens, and although at times given the volume of people it was hard to stop and ponder the planting, I really enjoyed the flowing, naturalistic planting schemes that seemed to prevail in the vast majority of the gardens. Wildflowers have definitely made a comeback, with ragged robin a popular choice, and it seemed most gardens were going for purples, whites and a variance on rusty orange or rusty pink.

I suppose just like fashion, preferences for planting are subject to trends. But I like this recent trend. Pollinating flowers like alliums and salvias were in evidence everywhere, as was a certain type of almost milk chocolate-coloured California Iris.

I think my favourite garden had to be the Botanic garden – not for its main feature, a glass house, but for one side of the garden that was planted up in a style that nodded to permaculture, with salvias, lupins, wild carrot, hyssop, beetroot, rhubarb, blackcurrant, gooseberry, french beans, nasturtiums, and all manner of fruit and veg crammed in together to create a bustling, thriving growing space. It definitely gave me lots of ideas for my own patch of the good life.

A close up from the Greening Grey Britain garden

A close up from the Greening Grey Britain garden

The Greening Grey Britain garden was also an inspiration, with some almost prairie-like planting with swathes of plants that are perfect for pollinators, wildflowers including ragged robin and aquilegia (another popular feature in many gardens this year), grasses, and some gorgeous rusty metal bird seed cups that I haven’t been able to locate anywhere! I love the idea of ‘Greening Grey Britain‘, an RHS scheme launched last year in a bid to overcome the paving over of front gardens, driveways and what could be thriving spaces for flora and fauna to reduce flooding, combat localised temperature rises and even subsidence. Want to make a contribution and bring colour and vitality back to the streets of Britain? Then visit the RHS site to make your promise.

So lots of ideas and inspiration, and armed with three new packets of seed (two types of pollinator-friendly Astrantia, and some white ragged robin), I’ve come away determined to make the Smallest Smallholding a living, breathing and productive oasis in my part of suburbia.

Natural planting schemes were everywhere!

Naturalistic planting schemes were everywhere!


Beetroot interplanting
I’m now on week 25 of my pregnancy and boy, have I grown. I have been more determined to keep on growing despite having to take pretty much everything so much more slowly! So I’m quite pleased that despite all this, so far I’ve managed to plant in the onions, shallots, sow carrots, get the potatoes in (albeit it a little late), plant gooseberry bushes, and with my mum’s help last month we got the early peas in, and planted the parnsips and calabrese too.

Whilst this is most definitely progress, with everything yet to mature there’s still a lot of spare space in between the main crops in the big veg plot. So I’ve decided to have a go at interplanting – using smaller, quick-to-mature plants that utilise the spaces between the slower growers like the calabrese and parsnips.

Space between parsnips for interplanting

The beetroot went in about three weeks ago and is doing well. I’m not hugely keen on boiled beetroot so I’m think I might have a go at pickling it myself! And this recent bout of hot, sunny days followed by damp and muggy days has seen an explosion in growing speed. Everything is taking off at great speed so there’s definitely time to get some more lettuces and radishes in as well.

Interplanting can also include thrifty companion plants – complementary flowers or plants that help to create a plant community that can improve pollination or deter pests and diseases. For instance, marigolds are often planted around tomatoes to deter aphids, and nasturtiums are used to attract blackfly away from beans. Calendula are said to help improve the pollination of courgette flowers and mint (keep it planted in the ground in a pot or it’ll grow rampantly) or alliums help keep carrotfly at bay.

I love the idea of planting sweet peas around my legumes to encourage bean flower pollination – I picked up a couple of cheap plants at my local nursery and will plant them close to my early peas. Hopefully they’ll also add some colour and scent to the veg patch too. I might be a practical soul, but I can’t deny I like to see a little bit of pretty in the vegetable garden too…

Munchkin pumpkins

Munchkin pumpkins growing up the arch


Love your shed: From shabby to chic

Ronseal Willow paint

My mum is an inspiration – she’s very, very resourceful and always had a knack of turning something potentially throwaway or neglected into something new and useful.

When we were replacing our falling down shed, Mum saw an opportunity. Rather than letting us just send the whole lot off to the Tidy Tip, she got my Dad to saw off the good third or so of the shed and create a “new” bijou version for her smaller garden. What was a 6′ x 4′ rotting mess became a rustic new shed complete with reused window and a new roof.

The recycled shed

The recycled ‘bijous’ shed

So when Ronseal got in touch about us trying out some of their Weatherproof Wood Paint, I immediately thought of my Mum’s little shed. When the package arrived, complete with a large tin of Willow paint, a small tin of Ash colour (as well as a host of goodies including bunting, a tin “I Garden Therefore I Am” mug and a planter), I knew we could help bring the little shabby shed to life with a lick of colour.

But you know… work, life and weather have a tendency to get in the way. When the weather was good, I was working. When I had a few days off, it drizzled. It’s been a job on my To Do List for a very, very long time.

Finally this weekend, I actually had some time off when the sun was out and the sky was gloriously blue. So we turned up with paintbrushes in hand and set about making a start on Mum’s shed.

Brushing down the shed

Brushing down the shed

First, I brushed down the shed to get rid of cobwebs and little monsters. We have a bit of a Buddhist take on nature; do no harm. So all creepy crawlies were moved on to pastures new.

Opening the tin of Ronseal

The tin needed a good shake and then it was time to get painting… finally! The colour is really lovely – it’s serene but bright and reflects a lot of light back out into the space, really helping to lift what could easily become a gloomy space under the boughs of the neighbours’ gargantuan goat willow tree.

Painting shed willow

First coat starts to go on

The Ronseal paint is also really easy to apply, nice and thick, and under the balmy late Autumn sun, it also dried very quickly. Ultimately we only had time to do two coats on the front of the shed, and will be back to finish the job, and add a flash of white across the gable to offset the green roof. But so far, so good.

two coats of Ronseal Willow paint

Two coats down and looking great! Now we just need another sunny day to finish the job…

I think it’s looking great already and really lifts that corner of the garden. Once the trellis goes back up and the pots are out the front, it really will be a case of from shabby to chic. Mum is pleased, so that’s good too!

So now we just need another non-damp day in November to get it finished and get that bunting up before winter really sets in! Watch this space…