Ooh, I’m going to be cheesy like those TV shows and do a round-up of my year for you all. It will feature everything from suits that aren’t big enough for thighs to brand new plants with secret vegetable crops underground… How does that turn you on??
January always starts a little quiet, with many administration days in the office doing the important groundwork for the summer trials. This year, we would be working with the famous tourist attraction Jimmy’s Farm, and our trials would be open to the public for the first time in years, so we knew it had to be pretty darn good! I also take quite a few weeks to set up our technical trials; so we can thoroughly test our own new hard goods, and also challenge a few gardening myths here and there…!
The last week of January is always the week of the main European horticultural (and other!) trade show, held in Essen, Germany. 1000’s of suppliers display here, and we set up many meetings in order to get to the bottom of which new plants are coming to the marketplace. We set up meetings so we can really dig into what’s coming over the next few years, rather than just seeing what’s on display! We are sneaky!
I bought a new suit for the occasion and, because I hate carrying luggage, had to wear it all the time. I avoided sitting down too much, as the thighs were rather tight, and as I sat on our flight, I could see my own flesh through the seams. But, alas, this story ended well, however the suit does now need replacing! What a fool!
The months of March and April always bring a couple of trips to the Netherlands to see the spring bulb fields, and to visit the world-famous Keukenhof garden. Again, I spend time with suppliers behind the scenes, to see the future flowers; such as carnation-flowered (and fragranced) daffodils and the most glorious double-flowered tulips! Of course, any trip to the Netherlands just isn’t complete without my favourite, Kroket, and I have always spilled mustard down my front within minutes of landing!
May is, of course, the month of Chelsea Flower Show, and is the culmination of many months of worry as we grow contenders for Plant of the Year! Getting summer-flowering plants into bloom for late May is super tricky, but we managed it for a few and our climbing Fuchsia ‘Pink Fizz’ and dwarf Raspberry ‘Ruby Beauty’ were both short-listed. In fact, the Fuchsia was short-short-listed and I had to give a speech about it on stage in the marquee. Alas, we didn’t win!
May also brought a bit more travel in the form of a QVC Germany show, which was a resounding success. German viewers seemed to like our new and exclusive plants, and my gardening garble, albeit dubbed over in German! June is then the month where we travel to the flower trials week in the Netherlands and Germany, another fabulous week of new plants and innovations. What did we see?? You need to wait and see- not giving away any secrets!
Over the summer, I also maintained my charity work for The Royal Gardener’s Benevolent Society (also known as Perennial)- we did a ‘naked skydive’- which was basically a team of us jumping out of plane in nude-coloured morph suits!! This event brought a few new faces to the Grubby Gardeners team, as did the London 10k run! I thoroughly enjoyed this event, as running the streets of London certainly kept me more interested than the streets of Ipswich do!
The summer also had me spending oodles of time at Jimmy’s Farm, as I gave 147 tours (probably..) to members of the press, clients and special customers. The display was popular, and looked the bollocks! I was showing off a few lines that are coming up next spring- just a few clues… a Fuchsia you can eat, a Petunia for patios and a Bidens you need sunglasses for…
I almost forget my second stint in Japan too; demonstrating and talking at the Barakura English Garden. I was honoured to be asked back, although not too pleased to have laryngitis whilst I was there! I really enjoy the style of container building in Japan; where all rules are out of the window- perennials mix with shrubs with annuals with moss… anything goes!
Not wanting to bore you too much here, so I’ll wrap up soon I promise. I had a cracking autumn too, and was super pleased to be asked to speak at an RHS London show. I presented about ’Surprising Shades of Autumn’, and (I think) I dazzled the audience with some uber colourful plants, but also with a few autumn plants that are often overlooked!