Notes from a Cot­tage Gar­den

This England - - Creating the Perfect Afternoon Tea - By Rose­mary Pet­ti­grew

In high sum­mer you get that first fore­telling of the au­tumn to come when small green conkers start to form on the horse chest­nuts. It de­presses some peo­ple but I love the turn of the year as I look back on how the gar­den has done and look for­ward to the com­ing year with new plans.

The high­light of my sum­mer has been vis­its to not one but two ma­jor flower shows. In April I went to the Har­ro­gate Spring Flower Show. I can’t un­der­stand why I haven’t been be­fore — there is so much to see and learn. Set in the glo­ri­ous spa town of Har­ro­gate the show site was full of fas­ci­nat­ing trade stands and I felt a bit like a child in a sweet shop be­cause you have the op­por­tu­nity to buy plants and prod­ucts that you don’t see in lo­cal nurs­eries.

What I found most use­ful was see­ing the top nurs­eries in the coun­try ex­hibit­ing their plants and giv­ing ad­vice on how to choose and care for the best va­ri­eties that match your par­tic­u­lar needs. One of the nurs­eries of­fer­ing box and laven­der plants re­ally helped me with my plans for a herb gar­den. Although they didn’t have enough plants at Har­ro­gate to meet my needs they of­fered to bring down ev­ery­thing I wanted to the Malvern Spring Fes­ti­val where they were ex­hibit­ing in May.

Har­ro­gate Show was an ex­cel­lent day out that all my fam­ily en­joyed in­clud­ing my three-year-old grand­daugh­ter who par­tic­u­larly liked the Vik­ing boat show gar­den made by Askham Bryan Col­lege. And thanks to the kind­ness of the bon­sai tree ex­hibitors my seven-year-old grand­son came home with a tiny Ja­panese maple — and a new in­ter­est.

Malvern in May was an­other real treat. Set against the back­drop of the Malvern Hills, it has so much to of­fer that you need to get there re­ally early to be able to take ev­ery­thing in. The show gar­dens were in­cred­i­ble — there was an Ital­ian gar­den brim­ming with rose­mary, stone col­umns, and even white doves; a gar­den that paid homage to ‘Ca­pa­bil­ity’ Brown with an amaz­ing sunken thatched build­ing; and the most rest­ful gar­den you can pos­si­bly imag­ine full of nat­u­ralised plant­ing. The lat­ter was the Macmil­lan Legacy Gar­den and it de­servedly won best in show.

I no­ticed that many of the vis­i­tors had fold-up shop­ping trol­lies and I soon dis­cov­ered these were very use­ful as it was im­pos­si­ble to re­sist pur­chas­ing plants be­cause they were of such high qual­ity. So I found one of the stands sell­ing them and packed ev­ery­thing in — in­clud­ing my box and laven­der plants that had trav­elled down from York­shire. The shop­ping trol­ley will be out again in Septem­ber — Har­ro­gate Au­tumn Show is 16-18 Septem­ber, Malvern is 24-25 Septem­ber.

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