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!

Ready, Steady, Blow!

Batten the hatches!

It’s REALLY windy today. At least my new greenhouse panes are still in situ though – hurrah (above is a picture of me trying very hard to get the pane to fit).

I should be rattling through some freelance work at the moment, but the truth is, it’s gone 10am and I’m propped up in bed under my duvet and blanket, flanked by a snoring cat, nursing a sore throat after a rubbish night’s sleep disturbed by rattling and banging (in the house, not in my throat!). Since the flu I just haven’t been able to shake this slightly itchy, sore, irritated throat so I think I’m going to have to go back to the doctors. Of course, I looked it up on the Internet and it could be any number of very scary, very horrible things. I don’t know why I try and self diagnose. I always end up scaring myself witless.

So hopefully it’s just something very simple and very bland that can be treated easily.


Last week I tried a natural shampoo recipe that had been hailed by a journalist as a wonder product that would leave my hair strong and shiny. It was a simple recipe – one tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda mixed with 2 tablespoons of water. I thought I’d give it a go as I’d very much like to reduce the number of synthetic chemicals I use, and this seemed like a viable option.

To be honest, I don’t think this journalist has ever used this recipe (I’m pretty sure he was actually lacking in the hair department), because it WRECKED MY HAIR. I knew it wouldn’t lather, thanks to a lack of that oft-maligned ingredient sodium laureth sulfate, and at first it actually felt like quite a nice exfoliating treatment. I rinsed it off and left off the conditioner just to see if it did leave my hair lovely and shiny. It did not.

No, my hair was a tangled mess that knotted when left unbrushed for a few minutes, felt dry, rough and very stiff. I applied a tiny amount of olive oil, which did help with the condition, but it still hung in stiff strands and lacked any of its normal shine.

Generally, my hair is in pretty good condition despite the fact that I regularly blow dry and straighten it (my hairdresser is quite surprised by this), so I tried it again with conditioner and it still did not work at all. I’ve no doubt that it *cleaned* my hair… but it was just too harsh. It made my scalp even worse and my hair hung stiffly, as if I’d applied a lot of hairspray or been swimming in the sea and left it to dry. It just looked dull and was for all intents and purposes quite unmanageable.

To be fair, Poppy over at A Life Less Simple did give me a few pointers as she thinks that the bicarb can affect pH levels of your hair, which can be re-addressed. She suggested putting cider vinegar in the rinsing water, and said that she uses a mix of old tea, vinegar and bicarb for her hair. I didn’t get around to putting her suggestions into action, but I might give it a go again… I’m a little wary though as it took my hair a good three or four days plus a hot oil treatment to get back into shape. Although I’m not preoccupied more than most with my looks, I am a bit precious about my hair because it’s one of the few things that I’m content with.

I don’t know, maybe I’ll give it another go with a different recipe. There’s a lot out there and obviously I need something moisturising for the ends and gentle on my scalp. We’ll see.

In other news, I’ve been madly buying up vegetable and herb seeds, and so far have far too many for my allocated home growing space, but I’m still not finished yet. I’ll find a way to fit it all in. I haven’t really looked at buying in flower seeds yet, as I’m preoccupied with finding space for edible produce, which may have to grow in spaces in the borders. I think as long as I’m able to grow lots of nectar rich plants in between my shrubs and veg, I’ll be happy with that. Incidentally, thanks to some recommendations on my Smallest Smallholding Facebook page, I’ve now purchased Permaculture in a Nutshell and will be interested to find out what changes I can make.

Aside from starting my potatoes chitting, I haven’t sown anything as yet. I’m itching to get growing and get out there, but it’s just not *quite* the right time. Some stuff can be started off early, and if I was any kind of good lifer, I’d be attending to my winter produce right now, but I’m a slighty scatty, decrepit young lady and it hasn’t worked out like that so far (although, I have an inkling we’re going to have one last cold snap before spring). I think it’s forecast to piddle down all weekend, but now that my greenhouse is fixed I feel a bit more cajoled to get on and sow a few bits and pieces and make a very rudimentary start. That’s if the greenhouse doesn’t get blown away in the meantime…