Too long

Having been busy for the last couple of weeks elsewhere, the trial lawn has grown. A bit too much by the looks of it. It looks quite stunning but is rapidly becoming a meadow, not lawn.

Here is an example of what it should not look like.

Swamped!

Swamped!

 

A mowing before Chelsea was really what I should have done. The yarrow has taken advantage. Another consequence is there are more large stems left behind after cutting and they don’t look that good. Slender stems are less offensive to the eye.

Here is the hard part:

Chelsea Chop

Talking of Chelsea chops, the Chelsea exhibit was becoming quite leggy and light starved from being in the Grand Marqee for the week. Many fine folk doubted that the blade would ever be applied to the show lawns, but, it’s got to be done. See above for what could happen if I don’t!

BEFORE:

Show lawns before the chop

Show lawns before the chop

AFTER

Show lawns after the chop

Show lawns after the chop

Devastation, or so it seems. Now, for a while, it looks rather similar to many a turf lawn, but perhaps more interesting. It’s only for a while. Watch this space.

 

 

 

Aftermath

SHOCK!   GNOMES INVADE CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW!   SHOCK!

Here he is. The gnome that set the world buzzing with excitement. Oh yes, this is the very gnome that was in the New York Times no less, and splashed around the hot news centres of the world.

This little gnome gave interviews (as did his keeper) and was the focus of lenses 10X as big as he (his keeper wasn’t). All hail the Chelsea gnome.

A supergnome is born.

A supergnome is born. Image courtesy: Mark Fellowes

 

Yes, just in case you missed it, the RHS threw a little flower show this year, in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, London. They’ve been doing it for quite a while now. It was even on TV.

Thanks to a surprisingly large number of people (I thank each and every one of you), the University of Reading had an exhibit that received a nice shiny medal (see earlier post).

University of Reading Chelsea Exhibit 2013

University of Reading Chelsea Exhibit 2013. Image Courtesy: Mark Fellowes

I am pleased to report that the exhibit was well received. A cabinet minister, a member of the royal family, and a celebrity or two popped over to say nice things, but best of all, quite literally hundreds and hundreds of garden enthusiasts came and found themselves shocked at the thought that the exhibit would need to be mown. The looks of horror were priceless.

Quizzical and sceptical frowns followed as the (possibly) deceptively simple technique of mowing and its effect was explained. How it modulates the plant size and light environment in a grass-free lawn to produce garden gorgeousness. The looks of horror were soon replaced by surprised realisation and enlightened understanding, and to my utter delight, by people instantly saying ‘one of those would look good in our garden’.

I haven’t had so much fun in ages. I just wish that the wretched ‘Chelsea Cough’ hadn’t found me on the very first day and set in for the week. Fighting off a cold during Chelsea week was surprisingly hard going. A hundred blessings on the inventors of kleenex balsam tissue and the mighty strepsil (for cough) lozenge.

I must say I wish lawn gardening success to the lovely lady who came back so enthusiastically five times to the exhibit, and to all those who gave 3 minutes of their time to complete the questionnaire.

To the lawn traditionalist who said there was only one ‘proper’ lawn on the stand, and pointing to the grass-free lawn said ‘and that isn’t it!’ I salute you. You warmed the cockles of my heart on a very cold and wet day.

100 years Chelsea

I can exclusively report that by the end of the week all the Chelsea gnomes were tired but happy and they all went sleepily home to gnome land and were in bed by 11 O’clock or thereabouts.

Here’s to another Chelsea century, and a new millawnium!

 

A friend sent me this so please don’t be offended

 

A friend with a wicked sense of humour sent me this. I blame her. She is entirely responsible…

A conversation with God.

GOD: “Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colours by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.”

ST. FRANCIS:
It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers ‘weeds’ and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

GOD:
Grass? But, it’s so boring. It’s not colourful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It’s sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

ST. FRANCIS:
Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

GOD:
The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

ST. FRANCIS:
Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week.

GOD:
They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

ST. FRANCIS:
Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

GOD:
They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

ST. FRANCIS:
No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

GOD:
Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

ST. FRANCIS:
Yes, Sir.

GOD:
These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

ST. FRANCIS:
You aren’t going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

GOD:
What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It’s a natural cycle of life.

ST. FRANCIS:
You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

GOD:
No!? What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

ST. FRANCIS:
After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

GOD:
And where do they get this mulch?

ST. FRANCIS:
They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD:
Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

ST. CATHERINE:
‘Dumb and Dumber’, Lord. It’s a story about….

GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

 

Well. I do hope the old boy is at least a little bit more optimistic now..

Here’s a sneaky peek at the show lawn to cheer him up:

A peek at the lawn

A peek at the lawn

 

I hope HE likes it.

New Website

Due to the huge amount of continuous public pressure to have an on-line presence, I’ve had a go a creating a website.

It’s the first time I’ve tried to create one myself, so apologies for any errors. I’m a complete newbie at this web design thingy.

Here it is: Grass free lawns.

Hope it works!

Avondale planted.

It’s taken a day and a half and unfortunately we ran out of plants before we could fill the entire space, but what we have achieved is the world’s first public grass-free lawn. I’m feeling rather chuffed at the moment.

All the hard work of the Kensington & Chelsea staff and contractors Quadron has come together to make something quite unique and quite simply beautiful.

Avondale grass-free lawn at the end of planting 09/05/2013

Avondale grass-free lawn at the end of planting 09/05/2013

 

It’ll be a while yet before the plants settle in and start to mingle, but even with that in mind, the lawn looks pretty good. The weather over London was out of The Wizard of OZ. High winds and squalls, so the images we took are a bit dull and don’t do the lawn full justice; and why do modern cameras all seem to have a problem capturing blue properly?

Every single passer-by who stopped to have a chat (and there were also quite a few who just stopped to contemplate the view) had only good things to say. Dogs seemed to be the main concern for the future of the lawn and there was general surprise (think melodramatic anguished wailing and looks of incredulity) to hear that a mower was the management tool, but with a little gentle explanation nerves were soon soothed.

I plan to sneak back on a sunny day and sit and gaze for while – like the young gentleman on the park bench smoking that wonderfully aromatic cigarette…

 

 

Two weeks to go.

Chelsea is unsurprisingly at the front of my mind. So much to do…

Here’s a peek at how the exhibit lawns are looking after a few days of lovely spring sunshine.

Exhibit lawn 1

Exhibit lawn 1

Exhibit lawn 2 - with pink dandelion!

Exhibit lawn 2 – with pink dandelion!

Exhibit lawn 3

Exhibit lawn 3

Meanwhile out on the trial lawn I have to force myself to look at this:

 

Trial Lawn May Bank Holiday

Trial Lawn May Bank Holiday

 

It’s such a hardship!