It all started with a plan, hand drawn in pencil and pretty basic. Oh, and I guess some aspirations!
The plan is redone again and again, sent off along with sketches and then two months later, I am accepted for Gardeners World LIVE 2018!
Now it is all about growing the plants I need for the design. Some Californian poppies germinated very well pretty quickly. But I have never had so many seed trays on the go before!
Some other plants had to travel from abroad. They were in the post for a very long time but still arrived in good condition. These Trifolium rubens had me worried as they wouldn’t flower for so long but in the end they performed soooo well!
All of these daisies are growing well from cuttings in the poly tunnel. They will provide the border with some pink.
I’m also growing these Echiums in the hope that they can supply interest in the border, a super rewarding plant to grow from seed. They were indeed talked about a lot at the show, mainly about how they almost grow like weeds in the south of the country.
The Californian poppies started flowering a bit too soon, so I’m having to worry how to keep them going till June in good nick. How pretty are they?!
This is the first time I managed to plot the design with these small limestone slabs provided by Jewsons of Portree (one of my lovely sponsors). Thank you Mark:-)! I’ve never seen a person more willing to give support!
I’m thinking, these daisies need to come out of that hot poly tunnel soon!
Today is the day! I’m taking you out into the “wild and windy”! Hold tight!
Today I am plotting out the space to see how many more plants I will need. It seems the answer is….LOTS!! That worries me slightly, so I’m having a bad day thinking “what have I got myself into?” I am having to bring most of the plants from my nearby poly tunnel, so I’m going back and forth with the wheelbarrow.
Later this month, we are having such great luck with the weather, that the plants are finally starting to bloom pretty well and making me feel a lot more positive.
The plants photograph very well in the low evening light so I have some fun with the camera.
I wasn’t sure what colour these delphiniums will be so I am really pleased with what I got.
I am having to continually plot out the space, try to fill gaps and think where to get the missing plants from and how not to spend a small fortune in the process. Fran and Paul from Skye Shrubs (another of my lovely sponsors), are true stars helping me with this a lot!
On top of all the preparations for the show and running two small businesses I am asked by the BBC if I would like to be involved in making a short piece for the Gardeners World programme. Hmmm, would I want to be on my favourite TV show??? Errr…I think SO!! So a visit is scheduled and a team of great, very professional, funny, down to earth people arrive and filming begins.
I nearly get in trouble for dragging the team up high in the Quiraing, but we got some great shots:-). “You are welcome:-)”
I don’t think we are all thinking the same thing…I am thinking “I will have scrambled egg for lunch and ham and cheese toastie or maybe soup? Maybe both?” My two friends are probably wondering when is the helicopter coming to pick us up.
The hand! Oh the hand! This bit takes the longest and is the most tiring for me.
The guys are so easy to work with though and try to put me at ease by constant Mickey-taking at Louise’s expense! She is taking it all in her stride!
Mr Soundman is only doing his job!
Now the filming is over, I am back with my plants and they are delivering! By golly, they are!
Finally I can relax a bit more as the border starts to look a lot fuller and a lot nicer with all the blooms. Having said that though, the conditions change from day to day and the plants can flop in a matter of hours, so I’m having to be very vigilant and do a lot of looking after. A lot! In two days I have to set off for Birmingham. But not until I have the van from the Sligachan Hotel (yet another one of my lovely sponsors) and fill it to the brim with flowers. Very stressed out before that, wondering if all the plants will fit in the van.
Blimey!! There’s even a plant in the front seat! Honestly, it’s taking me the whole day to put everything in the van. (later turns out I have left a whole tray of nepeta at home!). I plan to set off around 3am to avoid some of the heat the next day and to get to Birmingham in good time. As I start driving, I am so nervous that all the plants will fall over and get damaged and sure enough, I hear a rumble after 20min of driving. I stop and two plant pots have tumbled down on top of some other plants. I loose two. After that everything stays in place. I think it’s a real miracle!
I get to the NEC in Birminhgam around 6pm after a 13 hour journey and I am greeted by the most delightful staff. Erica, the beauty that she is, helps me unload the van which takes a couple of hours in all. Very tired, sweaty and hot by then I finally drive to my b&b. Lovely hosts make sure I have everything I need and I sleep like a baby that night.
The next day, it is hot again. I meet Pat and Wicek who made a special journey all the way from Poland to help me for the day. They rightly predicted that I could do with a hand. The border next door has about 12 people working on it, I feel outnumbered!
We need to remember to keep the plants watered as they wilt before our eyes. Pat is the “gal” for the job.
I couldn’t have done it on my own. That is a fact. Well, maybe I could but not to the standard that was required!
Patricia, Wicek and I work so hard till late in the evening. The pace is fast and we are feeling the pressure. We remember to have some much needed lunch and coffee and tea.
Despite being tired we still manage to smile and make jokes. We don’t have much left now.
We finish after about 12 hours and I can’t believe we pulled it off. I am genuinely happy and grateful. I thank: Pat and Wicek for this huge effort and sharing their knowledge, Mike for looking after everything I left to him at home for so long, Jane and Angus for where I grow all the plants, Suzanne for the trip to the Cottage Garden nursery, Imogen and Bob for seeing potential in my design and accepting my application, Joy for the Calendulas, Fran and Paul for the special treatment and many more of you who encouraged me along the way.
The next morning we are very proud and happy with how the border has turned out. I say that, because even if I don’t get an award I couldn’t have wished for more and I’m feeling a bit emotional. For the first time I can relax as there isn’t any more we can do before the judging at 11:30am. We sit at the top of the hill watching the judges deliberate.
The finished border in the morning light.
We then have time to walk around the whole of the show grounds and we especially love it in the floral marquee. The displays are just fantastic. They all get judged too and then the nurseries sell their plants to the public for the next 4 days. Let me tell you, the guys in the nurseries are extremely busy dealing with thousands of customers, replacing sold plants, basically running around for the whole day. By the end of the day everybody is exhausted. Hats off to all of them. I buy myself only a few plants to take back and I am given a corydalis from the delightful Lynne from More and More Plants later in the week.
Some of the show gardens were right up my street. This one for instance. A lot of recycled material and quite informal. I got the rose from Pat by the way:-). I carried it everywhere. (But not in my teeth).
Later on that day at the press evening, I find out that I had been awarded a Sliver Merit award for my border. I am shocked, thrilled and proud. I have to find out what the “merit” bit means. It turns out that it sits between the Silver and Gold so I was very close to the Gold award after I got the judges feedback.
Pat and Wicek leave me now with my border that they’ve helped create. The next morning I meet the film crew at my stand early in the morning. One of the Gardeners World presenters, Mark Lane, who interviews me, is just lovely and so is the rest of the crew. We chat at first then we film and, just like that, in one take, it’s all over. I will see it on the telly tomorrow.
I love this picture.
And this one! After the filming is done I decide I need to enjoy the show and I explore the venue and find Carol Klein. She kindly signs my book. She has such a tight schedule and she is rushing to a book signing but says to me, “I will do it now before it gets too busy”. She is a delight and very down to earth, thanking me for the complement I pay her. Later I also get Monty to sign my book and he recognises me from the programme and seems impressed with my performance.
I also meet Saul and Lucy and the Skinny Jean gardener. All top gardeners that give gardening advise at the show all week.
Friends travel for hours to see me. Also Donna, Judy and Dave arrive later. They all make me feel very special.
After the programme is aired, lots of people come to see and talk to me. I get messages from all over the country and abroad. Can’t quite believe it but I reply to all of them later on when I get back to the b&b. It’s great chatting to so many people. I get such nice feedback too. People particularly like the way the planting in the middle creates a mound, the colour palette and the round path. I hear lots of people say: “We could do that in our garden”.
Visitors taking pictures of my border and reading my info board.
Fellow exhibitors Ben Stubbs and Steven Ballinger who were great sports and had stunning designs!
I had to have a picture taken also with Steven’s mum Gill, who was ever so helpful and nice. I nearly kidnapped her!
We all also met Joe Swift. I wanted to trade my jumper for his shirt but he wouldn’t have it.
The lovely Matthew Biggs, who I listen to on BBC Radio 4 Gardeners Question Time, came to see me too. We had a long chat which was great and one of my best memories too. Thanks Matthew!
I indeed have so many memories and little stories that I will remember for a long time. I’m so glad I came up with this idea. It did involve an incredible amount of planning, preparations, work and stress but most exciting things do don’t they? I run my small gardening business Delonix Designs here on Skye and it has certainly brought some publicity and interest being part of the show. But I think the main thing for me was not to advertise my gardening services but to do something for myself. To set myself a challenge, learn something in the process, make new memories and friends and also to feel accomplished.
I get asked if I will be doing another one next year but I don’t have the answer yet. It’s tempting for sure!
For now, I want to look after my own plants and garden, enjoy them and also continue looking after and creating other peoples’ gardens.
Back home. My one Echium which I kept for myself after the show, seems to be growing pretty well. I hope that I can manage to protect it well over winter to give it a chance to flower next year.