Sunday, May 1, 2011

First night at Malvern

Last night was the first night that I spent onsite at the Three Counties Showground, where my garden is being built. The garden is progressing well by the way, I just need to find time to take a few snapshots and post it.

Anyway, in order to keep cost down, I had decided to stay onsite rather than pay for hotel/B&B for two weeks whilst I am here. I am no fan of camping and had only done it once for about a day and hated it. So I opted to sleep in my estate car. Well that didn't turn out quite as planned, and I should have tried it first. But it was difficult to completely block all lights from coming through the windows and I am too freaking tall! If I was 5 inches shorter, I would have fitted nicely in the car. The good thing about sleeping in car compared with in a tent if warmth, cossiness and quietness. My colleagues sleeping in tent have been complaining about the cold and damp and also the barking of dogs. Yes we have on site a 3 days dog show, and the owners with their dogs are staying onsite too. You cannot believe how noise a couple of dogs can be! I'd rather sleep by the M25!!!!

Waking up was pure bliss though, well stumbling out as I didn't sleep at all. So I am feeling rough and tired. But the view is simply stunning. If the dogs would shut up, I think this has been one of my nicest morning view. The Malvern Hills are right in front of me as I type and they are basking in the early spring sunshine... Jerusalem song came in my head immediately seeing this beautiful English countryside... Corny I know, but true though.

I'll post more later if I had the energy, but here's a lousy shot of what I meant (see below). The tent is not mine, and I am too lazy to move to take a better shot!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Attention to details...

The weather over Easter weekend was unseasonably brilliant here in the UK. Tim and I were at Devon for the earlier part of Easter and then made our way up to Malvern on Sunday. We reached Malvern showground around 1pm and with the afternoon sun casting its luminance on the bright white moon-gate, I was simply awe-strucked by my garden. I mean, I was not overtly happy with it as I thought it was very much smaller than what I had imagined. The sloping ground did not make things better. However, I was indeed very moved by the sight of my yet unfinished first show garden. There was a glimmer of pride in my eyes I suppose, but much need doing and there isn't time to just sit on my arse and enjoy the sun shine.

We spent a good few hours to ensure that all the wooden planters were well positioned and well levelled by using those leveller with a small bubble in it. The ground was very uneven, which was was it would have been a better idea to actually raise the floorplan with decking or concrete before constructing any of the hard landscaping. This was actually done on Rachel's show garden, which was being constructed by a large team of professional landscaper. Oh well, one lesson learnt.

After levelling all the planters, we then tackle the water feature and pond. The grey concrete edges around the rim of the pond was painted with special pond paint by Tim. This was recommended by Paul Taylor, who came by later on to give us further advices on how to better improve the finish of our hard landscaping. We had to clean all the surfaces of the slabs and to improve on the finish of the wall. Certain places on the wall show marks due to joining, as such, this should be sanded down and repainted...

Attention to details is what sets the professionals from amateurs. That's what I have always been told; but it is a habit of mine to pay too much emphasis on the big picture rather than the details. I must admit that a well finished product will naturally look and feel like a quality product.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Moon-gate

We have been so fortunate these past few weeks. The weather has been absolutely fabulous. up here in Devon, the sun is shining but the wind is a bit strong, so I have not been out in my shorts just yet. I am spending the Easter at Tim's parents, and the past few days we have been trying to fill the ponds with aquatic plants and learning all about iris. I have always loved Iris, and whilst walking around Rosemoor garden for Tim's birthday (22nd April), I saw many of the irises are in bloom. That gave an idea to use irises in my pond. The problem is, it is not the season for irises to bloom. So it has been pretty frustrating to locate those that would be in flower for Malvern. The challenge is to find them in North Devon. Although this is a rather rural area, there are not many garden nurseries specialising in marginals over here. So at the moment, the idea is still just an idea...

Talking about ponds, during the second day of the build earlier this week,
both Tim and Ian had
managed to build the circular water feature
and the pond for my show garden. As you can see from the following photos, their work is rather commendable! I love the shapes of the circular slabs and I personally think they fit the garden.

From the
photos, you can also see how tricky it is to overlap two circular slabs. At the regions where the two circles meet, the slabs need to be cut into shape. Without a grinder-cutter, it was almost
impossible. Luckily, Paul Cantello, a fellow contestant at the next door garden had one. So he kindly lend it to Ian and Tim to cut the slabs into shape. The first circle (the one nearest to the Moongate) was first layout to see if they all fit. And then the lawn was taken off, the liner was laid before builder sand was placed on the liner. The slabs were then laid onto the sand. Once everything was in position, the slabs were "stopped" using ciment.

I think the end product looks great. The next steps would be to place all the wooden planters in place, screw them in and start planting I suppose.

More photos can be viewed here .

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


This week marks the beginning of show garden constructions at Malvern for the Spring Gardening Show. Due to work, I was not able to be present on site at Malvern for this occasion, and Tim and his dad had to start the construction of the garden without me. It was very nerve-wrecking to be absent on site for the construction of my first ever show garden, but I had no choice.

We prepared and planned as much as possible, but being a complete novice, both Tim and I had no idea what to expect. Tim helped tremendously as he is more gifted in working with his hands. I tried to explain and described what I wanted as much as I could. Last Saturday, we packed up the es

tate car and he left for Devon where he will pick up his dad before making their journey to Malvern the following evening.

On the first day of the build, everything went fine according to Tim. I was very nervous at work, checking my emails and phone every now and then.

The first task was to check that all Bradstone products were delivered. Most of the stuff I ordered turned up, but to our great surprise, nothing was marked. All the products were delivered in bulk, and the contestants were expected to pick up the things that they ordered. It was quite confusing not having the materials labelled. Luckily, Tim was always present when I made decisions to order the products. So he was able to verified and checked my orders, based on a list that I provided him. All was well, except the rockery stones. There were a few crates on site, and none was labelled. I order Powys Green, but the relevant crate was already marked by Kasia (another contestant). This was confusing as the other crates bear no resemblance whatsoever to what I ordered. This got sorted by a couple of emails eventually. I was also relieved that most of the hard landscaping materials we transported two weeks ago were still there and intact.

Tim and his dad managed to get the wall up, as well as the circular display. Day 1 completed, Tim and his dad headed back to their hotel.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A flyer!

Hello, just a quick update.

Almost all the hardlandscaping materials for the garden were transported from Devon to Malvern last weekend. It was hard work and very frustrating. We had to drive from Surrey to Devon, hire a huge van from Devon and then drive up to Malvern then back all in one day! It was exhausting. Tim was an amazing star. He did all the booking and van driving. I couldn't have done it without him... I count my blessing everyday that Tim is around and helping and supporting me. His dad was spectacular as well.

Unfortunately the biggest van that we could find was not big enough for the wall! So we had to chop the wall into two halves, straight down the middle. I was not happy, but it had to be done. So hopefully we can join them up again on site. We also managed to squeeze in the circular display without harming it too much, and all the wooden planters were also transported.

The drive to Malvern and back was uneventful.

I have also managed to whipped up a flyer to be distributed during the show. It will be printed on A4 sheets and folded into three sections. See attached. What do you think? Is it too busy?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A little media interest

I would just like to bring to your attention a small news. In this month's RHS Garden magazine (April 2011), the editorial board of the magazine chose to use my show garden as a news piece to front an update about the Malvern Spring Gardening show! Please see scanned pages for the magazine. I'm chuffed to bits.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The circle of life

Cheesy title, I know. What do you expect when you just finish watching another episode of Glee :-) Anyway, back to business. The garden continues to progress. Over the weekend, Ian (Tim's dad) has managed to complete the circular display that will be placed at the bottom of the garden. As you can see in the picture, it looks pretty impressive. I am very impressed with the quality of work by Ian. All the components of the garden look fantastic, often better than what I was expecting. My only worry now is to how they will look like when they are all pieced together, as well as how to transport them in one piece to the show ground. Any ideas on how to transport a wall measuring 3.5x2.5m?

I have also managed to borrow some “suiseki” inspired stones from British Bonsai that will be placed on the display. I say “suiseki” inspired because they are not suiseki stones per se. They are slates that have been modified to look like mountainous mountains in China. I think they look slightly more dramatic than most suiseki stones. Real suiseki stones require a more intimate setting than an open garden. So I think the stones that I have will provide the necessary atmosphere. I have taken a few snapshots of these stones for you. In relation to this, I was also wondering if I should include a bonsai in the circular display. I initially only wanted suiseki stones in the display, but now that I have thought about it a little more, I would like to include a bonsai in the display. The trouble is, I don’t have any show quality bonsais that are of “chuhin” size (about 25cm or more tall). I have put out a request to borrow one from British Bonsai today, so let’s wait and see if Ian from British Bonsai would be interested.

Talking about transportation, I have also managed to rope in some help from Rebecca and Simon. Rebecca is Tim’s cousin and Simon, her partner, would be able to provide some help in transporting the components. Simon and his dad run a dispatch service in the West Country. This has yet to be confirmed as it depends on whether their route on the days that I need them would match. But I am hopeful.

Today I have also received a list of plants that 3 Shires would be able to provide me. It’s a slightly different from my original plan. So I will try to revise my plant list tonight, to see how to swap those I previously wanted with what is available. I have to factor in many parameters, but it is a thoroughly interesting process. I would need to consider what kind of plants they are, when do they flower, what colour flower, and how to grow them. From the list, I managed to pick one very interesting alpine. Further details will be provided in the next update as my commute is nearing its end.