Cardiff Council and Llandaff North Residents' Association have a show garden at the RHS show Cardiff 2012. Afterwards, the garden will be moved to its permanent site in Llandaff North.

21 April 2012

Our garden to feature on S4C!

S4C were filming our garden today, and are critiquing the show gardens on their programme Byw yn yr Ardd on Wednesday 25th April at 8.25pm. That'll be interesting!

Day 2 of the show

On site at 9.15am with LNRA committee member Louise. The weather was glorious to start, then showers, but brightened up in the afternoon.

John Morley and I posing for our staff magazine 'Pawb'

We keep getting great comments and feedback from the public - in fact I haven't heard one negative comment, and it's amazing seeing people photographing our garden. The colour scheme and planting is really popular, and today the buzz was about the stocks grown by Cardiff council nursery.

 Great to see more people from Llandaff North, along with friends and my work colleagues John Morley, Linda Boyce, Jen Hancock and Linda Tyson. We also had off-duty visits from Colin, Ben and Anthony too. The head of Cardiff Council parks dept, Jon Maidment, was also spotted 'keeping it real' by litter-picking!

 My camera battery is slowly packing up, so I only managed a few photos today. The judges suggested that I take photos from the garden - to show the public interest in it.

I still haven't been around the showground yet as I've been too busy manning the garden! Hoping to get an hour or two tomorrow. I've made some great contacts at the show, talking to other designers and contractors.

The break down of the gardens starts tomorrow, and I'm sure I'll shed a tear, or possibly fully-blown sobbing! Am bound to embarrass myself!


Onsite at 6.30am and tickled those plants into submission! The Bridgend course director gave a tip to wet the paving to enhance the look for the judges and I got wet feet as I had to take my boots off, as did Alex.

Went for a coffee in the park cafe while the judges did their bit and went back for 9.30am. The medals weren't awarded until after 11.30am I think.  
It was a silver! After Rob mentioned a silver gilt, I think Ben, Alex and myself were a little disappointed, but as the day wore on it sank in that a silver for my first time was a good result, especially given the judges comments, some of which I didn't agree with, and think were personal preferences. I have to say they were very friendly and helpful, but it was hard not to try and justify my decisions.
We filmed the feedback, but in summary their comments were (mine in beige)
  • Space felt right size for 6/7 people
  • Planting at the back was bitty, but common to community type gardens
  • Stocks running through were a highlight and good quality (well done Nigel and team!)
  • The build was first class (well done Colin and the two Johns! I was thrilled they got a good review because so much of the work for the garden was the actual build.)
  • They would have preferred for the mural tree to have been 'dropped down 18 inches', so as to appear to grow out of the ground (school children designed it, though I could have directed them I guess)
  • Needed eg a solid tree in the garden (we aren't allowed to block the mural)
  • The seating was not heavy enough (we couldn't afford a £600+ seat)
  • Would have preferred the seating to be the same colour as the fence (disagree - it would blend into the background rather than stand out as a feature and we had great public reaction to the seating)
  • Planting needed more heaviness and stronger feel (we didn't have access to larger plants)
So all in all I don't feel too disappointed, except that those last points took away from the build quality and stock quality, after all their hard work.

We had great feedback from the public though, and the star of the show was the Zaluzianskya ovata (night scented phlox), so much so, we had to buy some labels to let people know the name. I reckon we could have sold well over 50 plants!

We had lots  of photos taken, none on my camera sadly, and even had photos with the Lord Mayor.

The garden was manned by LNRA committee members Louise, Derek, Margaret and Ian, and it was nice for me personally to have friends, relatives and colleagues come along, as well as lots of people from Llandaff North.

Just been out to celebrate with my first cooked meal of the week. I'm so tired I'm seeing aurora type lights in my field of vision! I get a lie in until 7.30am tomorrow. Woo hoo!

19 April 2012

Build:day 6

Up at 6.30am and onsite at 8am-ish. After planting up the front section of the border last night, I was more worried about Alex's opinion than the judges! When I asked what he thought, he seemed quite happy with it. Phew!

My brain is so addled I can't remember much of today. Regulars John and Colin finished the painting, tidying up and general stuff, while me, Alex, Ben and new comer Anthony planted up. It was hard work! I have to say, the planting is better than I thought it would be.

Nigel and Rob

Rob Jones paid another visit, as did Will and even head of parks Jon Maidment!. Rob reckons if we finish to a good standard we could get a silver gilt! Even if we don't, that means a lot to me! We finished up at 3pm-ish and decided not to carry on in case we made the site worse before assessment.

Talking to the assessors

The preliminary assessors came and spoke to me for a few minutes, then stood in the garden making notes. There's so much I didn't say or explain! Luckily Ben and Alex stayed behind which I'm grateful for as it gave me some moral support. Afterwards I felt quite down as all the team had left and I was on my own and felt I had no-one to share it with as they've done so much of the work.

The assessors in the garden

At 6pm LNRA members Ian, Derek and Margaret came to go over the garden, trying to get the finish we need for that silver gilt! - washing down the paintwork, removing faded leaves and flowers and making sure the mulch was topped up. However, some of the paint has rubbed off in one place, but I'd asked for the stain to go back to the nursery out of the way, so I can't repair it before they judge the garden at 7am tomorrow! Mmm....that's the biggest thing I regret, as I'm happy with everything else.

I've had the best few  weeks ever and realise it's the process rather than the outcome that is the most enjoyable. I've really enjoyed working with the staff I've met on the parks team, and would like to thank them all now:  Rob, Will, Colin, John, Alex, Ben, Nigel, John 2, Harry, Anthony, Mark, Fred, Bill, the nursery staff, and some I can't even remember or didn't get their names. Many, many sincere thanks.

18 April 2012

Build: day 5

How I'm finding the time to post today is beyond me! Things really went up a gear. After getting more plants first thing, I arrived late on site. there was a queue of traffic waiting to enter the site and we weren't allowed to park on site today, so had to park at the nursery.

Colin had put up the mural and I'm glad we made the decision to put mastic in between each panel (though I had to climb up the ladder and paint over it). It looks good and seemed to survive the rain we had today. It was really hard work for people on site. My mobile phone got wet and packed up too.
John carried on feather boarding the outside of the fence, while Alex and Ben were keen to get on and plant, but we had to finish any work to the mural and fence before planting.

I placed the main structural plants, then myself, Alex, Ben and Harry added to the scheme. We all know the 'rules' for planting, but it was great having four pairs of eyes as we could spot things that weren't working quite quickly and someone would come up with an alternative. The scheme has turned out better than I'd hoped. The stocks grown by the council nursery smell lovely and we were lucky to have such a resource.

Rob Jones and Peter Hamblin paid a visit just as we were placing plants, and seemed pleased with what we'd done so far.

Ben and I went to Pugh's for more plants (I can't bring myself to tell you how much it has cost and I felt sick when they told me!), and the seat.

By 5.30ish everyone had left but I stayed on and managed to plant up the front section. It takes so long! Alex had warned me. I stayed on 'til kicking out time at 8pm, then came home to paint the community noticeboard sign, make some posters for the noticeboard, emailed Rob (who replied at 21.45- that's commitment!) and update the blog. I Haven't eaten yet!

There was less chatting with the other exhibitors today. One of the guys from the Circle of Life garden came to ours and had good things to say about it, which was reassuring! And when I was telling Chris Beardshaw's team how much my plants cost, they said they had loads over and to come and choose some in the morning!! Like I said, everyone is so helpful and friendly! Apparently Chris Beardshaw was on site today, but that passed me by, that's for sure!

Anyway, just getting ready for tomorrow-  We're being judged at 4pm and I have to be available to speak to them! Just printing off a copy of my revised clients brief that they judge against- to remind me what I've said!

Wish me luck!

Here are yesterday's photos...

17th April: Alex, Rob and Will
17th April Ben and Fred
17th April : delivering bark mulch

17 April 2012

Build: day 4

Got to the site at 8.30am with Margaret, but the event team were stricter on the number of vehicles on site today, and we had to park in the nursery. Once there, we found Alex and Ben collecting plants that the nursery team (led by Nigel) had brought on for us - Alchemilla, day lilies, hostas etc.

After the high winds last night, we were relieved that everything was still upright! Colin and the two Johns cracked on with putting up the feather board fencing and Alex, Ben and I painted a second coat of stain on the staging. John fetched a load of bark mulch which we used to bulk up the planting area before adding the soil tomorrow.

We received another visit from parks team leader Rob Jones, and Will Power too (yes, I wasn't making that name up!) Rob certainly knows his stuff and I've been told he's been invited to judge gardens in the past, so he gave the plot a once over with his critical eye. I showed him the plants we had and he gave me some tips for planting out and conditioning the plants. Both he and Will picked up a night scented stock we've chosen, as they hadn't seen that variety before. It's a really healthy looking, pretty plant and chosen by me! I'm really pleased with our plant choices, as there's not much in flower at this time of year, but the foliage shape and colour work really well together. At least I hope the judges think so!

The Echo sent a photographer to take photos of us today. I was instructed to sit in the paving circle while holding a hosta, with the guys working behind in the background! Then I had to pose and lift the hosta in the air. So embarrassing and I dread to think what witty comments were coming from the others knowing their banter. Good job I was out of earshot! All good publicity for LNRA, the council, RHS and our sponsors though which is the main thing, and I'm always grateful for the Echo coverage of Llandaff North issues as it makes such a difference. I lost all inhibitions about publicity long ago!

We wrapped up on site at 5pm-ish and then I went for wander to the other show gardens for a chat. Gaynor Whitchard is lovely, and was busy picking through her bamboo. Her contemporary garden looks stunning and will be a highlight of the show.. So will Rich Landscapes' garden, which is also a favourite, and ladies - what a good looking pair of lads and so friendly too! The amount of work that's gone into Broxton and Moruzzi's garden is amazing and I'm sure will be popular with the public.

All-in-all I think the standard of previous shows has been surpassed this year.

I left my camera onsite tonight and had to phone the H&S site manager whose number I'd luckily put into my mobile on day 1, and he found it and has put it away for me to pick up tomorrow. So no photos today I'm afraid.

It's all going so fast. I'm loving every minute and will be sad when it all ends. I think I'll come down to earth with a bump next week!

16 April 2012

Build: day 3

Chris signing out plants at Pugh's garden centre
Went to Pugh's garden centre this morning with council gardeners Ben and Alex to choose plants. That was fun! Pugh's staff member Chris was really helpful, and I got to chat to Graham Pugh too. Turns out I knew his cousin Karen, and Graham knows my cousin Jeff who plays for Llandaff North rugby club. Small world! Gaynor Whitchard was also there getting her plants, and when I left my folder behind, kindly brought it back to the site. Thanks Gaynor!

Then onto Margaret's, and we travelled to the site with the mural in her little pick up truck. After making a cuppa for the team, I showed Margaret around, but felt guilty that I'd only just come onsite and hadn't done much work!

Colin and the Johns  finished off the paving and have done a brilliant job. It looks great! They started putting up the side fencing too. I did do a bit of painting today, along with Ben and Alex who were more interested in the Emmerdale plot line by all accounts! Don't tell anyone, but I've sussed out that Colin is in charge and quietly makes sure that everything is OK, but lets me think it's me!

What's the goss down at the Woolpack, guys?
The weather forecast is for wind and rain tomorrow, and most exhibitors took their plants undercover. We were lucky that the council park ranger team had put up their marquee and have kindly let us store our plants there for now. We got a coat of stain on while the weather remained dry. I was really pleased with the colour- 'Jacobean oak' from Johnstone's Paints on Hadfield Rd.

I didn't get home until about 6pm and have been drafting our signage for the show. I'm absolutely shattered tonight.

The South Wales Echo are coming to our garden tomorrow, so look out for us in the paper soon!

Our plants stored in the rangers' tent

15 April 2012

Build: day 2

It took 3 hours to get to Hereford for Ian and Del's wedding celebrations yesterday. Don't ask! We arrived tired, frazzled and hungry. This was soon put right with a buffet supper of Ian's yummy handmade pork pie (the bottom tier of the wedding 'cake'!), homemade cake and a few bottles of Henry Weston's Hereford cider appropriately enough!.
Del looked amazing and her dress was exquisite. CONGRATULATIONS MR & MRS DREW!

Louise and I went straight from our B&B to the site at midday. Colin, John 1, John 2 and Shaun (or is that shorn?!) had been working hard since before I'd even got up. There were a few issues with the paving. Luckily, Jon  Mathias from Brett was on site, and an approved Brett installer, Broxton and Moruzzi, who have installed the 'Alpha Antique' paving in clients' gardens, came and advised us and the problem was solved. Everyone is so helpful and friendly!

The mural frame was also put up and the noticeboard position agreed, so it's really coming together. Louise had to dash out to B&Q for some block paving sand- thanks Lou!

I actually did some work today and sanded down the wooden noticeboard. One of the exhibitors told me how they were marked down for having silver hinges on their summer house last year, so I thought if the judges were that fussy, I'd better sand the back too! Worrying.

Council parks' team leader, Rob Jones, paid us a visit and was pleased with the progress. Rob is the man who gave us this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I'm so grateful to him.

At 5pm I had arranged to go and finish painting the mural at our Vice Chair, Margret Ford's house. The school hadn't been able to finish the mural because of the Easter break, so Margret and local teenager Bethan helped put the finishing touches to the school's design. Here's a sneak preview for anyone following the blog! I particularly love the sky, which was done by 5 and 6 year-olds using sponges to give a pointillism effect. Thanks to Margret for kindly opening up her beautiful home for us.

 Hoping for an early night tonight and off to buy plants tomorrow.