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.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Great wall

Finally an update! Some or none of you might be wondering what Keni has been up to these past few weeks of complete silence on his blog. Well among other things, there is my day job that has been draining all my energy leaving me none whatsoever to do anything during the evenings and the usual house chores. The day job also brought me to a couple of places for business meetings. Frankfurt 3 weeks ago and very recently a 5 days meeting in Singapore. It was so hectic and stressful, not fun at all. Oh well.

I have also been busy trying to swap my 4x4 Suzuki Jimny with a more practical car for my near future frequent commute to Malvern. I have finally found a diesel estate and last weekend, we finally swapped them. So now I am averaging 50pmg on the motorways compared to about 33mpg with my Jimny. So, some savings there in these austere times.

All my spare times have been spent travelling up to North Devon to Tim's parents. His dad is helping me with the construction of all the hard-landscaping materials for the show garden. Previous weekend, we managed to get good deals with Build Center Ilfracombe for the timber products. So we got almost everything we need to build any wooden objects in my garden (see pics).

Using these timber, we managed to knocked up a frame of the moon gate and the wall in a matter of hours! Thanks to Tim's dad, Ian. It was magical to see the construction of the moon gate:

It took us two weekends to complete the moongate. It was exhausting, sawing, sanding and nailing and all other stuff. But I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was so much more fun than sitting in an office typing away. I learnt so much about carpentry, mitre joints etc.

Last weekend, we also started with the circular display. But we ran out of timber, so it will have to wait until the coming weekend. We are now worried on how to transport the huge wall from North Devon to Malvern?! ANy ideas?

Next updates will see the complete wall and also all the raised bed. Stay tuned!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Location of my show garden on the showground

It has been ages since I updated the blog. I do apologise to those who; actually follow what I write here :-) The usual excuses for the lack of updates, full time job rendering Keni useless during the evenings.

Anyway, tonight I will show you a plan view (on your left) of where my garden will be situated at the Three Counties Agricultural Society (TCAS) showground at Malvern, UK.
The plan is orientated towards the west, and I have circled where my garden will be. As such, my garden will be facing west. To be honest I am quite pleased with the positioning of my garden. If you can see on the plan, Avenue F is a high-traffic path and I am very happy with the organisation's confidence in placing my garden on such an important path for the visitors. I just hope I do not disgrace them!

One of my main sponsor's booth, Bradstone, is just next to me, with the garden of a fellow contestant (Paul) behind my garden. The rest of the plot on the left side of the plan are other contestants of the Chris Beardshaw scholarship. On the right hand side of the plan, you can see the location of the "professional gardens", ie thos created by professionals with a professional budget. I actually met of these professionals, Hannah Genders, a Chelsea-award winning garden designer during one of briefings orga
nised by the TCAS. Hannah was very friendly, and I can't wait to see how her garden turns out.

I am also pleased to let you all know that almost all my plants are now sorted, and they will be sponsored by three garden centres/nurseries located around the West Countries. The alpines will be generously provided by the 3Shires Garden Centre, the marginals and a 'feature' tree peony will be supplied by Kelways Plants Ltd (a very very respectable plant nursery who has won countless Chelsea medals), and the bamboos will be provided by Desert to Jungle. I have spoken/met up with my generous sponsors and they have all been very encouraging.

I am over the moon that Kelways will be providing me with one flowering tree peony. These are very fickle plants and they are notorious for being difficult to show, but Kelways are very famous for displaying award winning peonies, so I think everything should goes to plan on that day. I have sketched out a couple of ideas on how I would display them:


This weekend, I am busy sorting out and figuring out the amount of timber that I would need to build all the hard-landscaping features. So this will feature in my next update. Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Show garden bamboo

For this update, I have created another video blog. I managed to find an application that allowed me to show a presentation/image whilst I speak (called Manycam). Please check it out. In this video blog, I am talking about the choice of bamboo that I will be using in the show garden. These are varieties of Borinda, Fargesia and Semiarundinaria. It's a bit long, so I promise that next time I will try to be brief and get to the point. I find myself yapping endlessly sometimes. Hope you enjoy it, and please comment. As comments might help me make the videos more interesting and less boring :-)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Another day at work: en VO!!!

Aujourd'hui, je vais faire un effort pour mes amis francophones en faisant un posting en français. Vous allez vous régaler en voyant les fautes orthographes et grammaires partout...

Tout d'abord, je voudrais vous annoncer une petite nouvelles. Je viens de recevoir un email du patron d'une chaîne de pépinière anglaise concernant la possibilité d'un sponsorship! Rien n'est certain, mais c'est un début.

Bon, on commence par une discussion de l'évolution de mon design qui a été évoqué dans la communiqué datée 31 janvier. Sur la première image que vous voyez ci-droite, on peut constater qu'il y a des jardinières rectangulaires par terre. Ces jardinières seront construites en bois, peintes en blanc, et elles seront remplir par 3 'petit jardins' (jardin sablé, jardin alpines et jardin galets/caillous). La hauteur de ces jardinières seront irréguliere, pour donner une impression d'être dans un térrain montaigneux... j'espère en tout cas :-) Apart ça, il n'y plus beaucoup de changements. Je vous montre une autre image qui montre comment ces jardinières sont étendre au fond du jardin aussi:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Keni's first press release

The Three Counties Agriculture Society, the co-organiser of the Malvern Spring Gardening Show, has just released a communique regarding my show garden! Have fun reading it.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Keni's first video blog

Instead of the usual update, I have made a video blog to provide you with a few more recent development of my garden today.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New simplified design

Sorry for the lack of news these past weeks. The day job has been so busy and frustrating that it has been impossible to do anything else other than to come home, plop down the sofa and watch the idiot-box. A real 'metro-boulot-dodo' (French for tube-work-sleep, literally) life I lead... But my spirit has been lifted tonight after re-watching the very funny French film, 'Le diner de con' on BBC 4. Hopefully this show garden will be a life-changing experience!

Anyway, back to the show-garden. We have some development on the design front. Due to difficulties in obtaining and sourcing funds for the construction of the garden, the design has been amended and simplified to fit the small budget. The sketch above shows the front of the garden. This has not changed much. But one major change has been the rock boulders at the bottom of the garden, which has been replaced by a circular display for 'suiseki-inspired' rocks. Suiseki, for those who are curious, is an art form originating from China, where rocks are appreciated for their form and beauty. Other major elements of the garden have been conserved, such as the pond and the major plants (bamboo and irises).

Moving to the main garden (see sketch on the right), the glass platform has been omitted as well. Quotes that I've obtained from suppliers showed that I would need about £5000 just to purchase all the materials without labour cost! That is just too much, and it has unfortunately had to go. As such, the main garden's level has been brought to the same level as the courtyard garden. The main change is like what I mention above, is the circular display. There is also an inclusion of a bench. The first pond has also been re-designed. It now doubles as a water fountain, where the source will be embedded in the middle of a circular stone slab. Water will then flow over the surface of the circular slab, and flow via gutters, into the main pond. Stepping stones will pave the water fountain, giving the visitor a sensation of walking above water.

So these are the major changes to the design. Please leave any comments or questions you may have on the new changes. The changes have been accepted by the organising committee and surprisingly, they are still pretty impressed with the simplified design. What do you think?

I am still trying very hard to find more funds. Writing emails to possible sponsors and calling them has been all that I have been doing the past weeks. It is quite disheartening sometimes, but I guess I just have to keep on hoping. At the same time, I am also right in the middle of planning the construction, figure out how much of the hard landscaping materials that I need, choose them, order samples and hoping that they will arrive!

On top of that, the most nerve wrecking thing must be sourcing the plants. The moss-lawn is proving VERY challenging to source. Anybody knows where I can find three varieties of mosses in the UK? My visits to Saihoji in Japan has been so inspirational that I have to recreate my own 'koke-dera'!

Friday, January 7, 2011


Today I received my first donation! You cannot imagine how proud it made me feel, and how touched I was when I received it. It just means that I have done something right in my social life or that my friends are just very very generous. Either way, it just shows that there is good and kindness in this world yet.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The design from the top

I present you with the top view of my garden design. From this view, you can see that my garden is in a rectangular shape. This shape is commonly found in many sub-urban settings in the UK. I've always found this shape to be challenging to design for. Most of the gardens with such a shape in the UK is planted with two long straight borders on both sides of the long-sides, making the garden looks even longer. The alternative isn't better, where people tend to just create a zig-zag path down the garden to create an 'illusion' of a 'wider' garden. How? Go figure.

Back to my design. The rectangle measures 3.5m by 7m. What I did was to build a tall wall bisecting the garden into two halves. The first half (courtyard) should ideally be slightly raised compared with the second larger half (main garden). Both sections are linked by a perfect-circle doorway, inspired by traditional Chinese landscaping technique. In traditional Chinese aesthetics, a circle/sphere (in 3D) is the perfect form/shape. And such a doorway is often called a 'Moon gate'. The moon gate is often used to perfectly frame a scenery, provided by the main garden in this case. I had wanted to created a very simple courtyard garden, with a very simple moon gate, both of which will contrast greatly with the more elaborate main garden. The two main features of the courtyard garden will be the 'miniature moss mount' and the natural stone footpath leading to the moon gate. The main garden will be composed of two ponds, a cascading water feature and a rock garden at the back.

The planting scheme and the whole design can be summarised by the phrase 'an encounter of the trinity of entities with uncertainties'. I will explain more on this on my next posting.

Donation button is now online!

Acceptance Mark

I am pleased to let you know that you can now place your donation via the PayPal button that you see on the right of this blog. It's pretty easy to do, just click the button and put in your PayPal account details. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also use the button and pay using your credit/debit card.

Thank you for all your contributions!

The journey begins

This blog will now constitute my journey for the construction of my garden design for the up and coming Royal Horticulture Society's Malvern Spring show. The computer simulation you see here is the winning design that I submitted a couple of months ago. I have less than 4 months to build it from scratch with whatever money that I may have.

Via Facebook, I have set up a groupe where I am pleading and begging all my friends to spread the word around our community so that I could find someone kind enough to donate some cash to my cause. Every little helps! So, if you are feeling kind and generous and you love my design and wants it to be built at the prestigous show, please help contribute. I would put your name(s) in the acknowledgements and if it is built, you are all invited to come and celebrate with me and rub shoulders with the English gentry. SHARE this!