CKIB Trophies 2015Thrilled to bits! I won the prizes for best front garden AND best rear garden in the Charlton Kings in Bloom Competition this year. Two huge trophies and £50 of garden vouchers but the best bit was the feedback from the judges and I quote:

“Your garden is outstanding. Your borders were picture perfect with beautiful waves of colour, height and texture. Your rear garden flows well and again your choice of plants is exceptional. The standard of your garden is the highest we have ever seen. It’s been a real pleasure judging it.”

It was worth all the long hours and hard work just to hear that.

Judgement Day!

DSC_0016I don’t consider gardening to be a competitor sport but when the opportunity arises, it’s nice to see how you’re doing by getting the opinion of those in the know. So I entered the Charlton Kings In Bloom competition for the second time and it will be judged today! DSC_0015Sunday 19 July 2015                                                                                                               It’s 4pm and I am waiting for the judges to appear to inspect and critique my garden in the annual Charlton Kings in Bloom competition. My judging slot is 4.30 – 5.30pm which is the last of the two days and the 30 gardens which have entered. I hope they are not fed up and dying to go home! The weather is beautiful, warm and sunny with a light breeze, perfect for garden visiting. Officially, I am not even supposed to talk to the judges, I don’t even have to be here. They usually just turn up, walk around, take loads of photos, mark the scores on their clipboards and leave. However, I have a cunning plan, I am going to greet them and offer to give them the tour!DSC_0017 I have spent the last two days pruning, plumping, propping and preening…….weeding, watering, mulching, deadheading, mowing and edging……weeding, weeding and weeding! It looks good…not perfect but good enough I hope. It has been so warm and dry that many of the plants I hoped would be in peak condition are already over, the delphiniums, knautia macedonica, salvia greggii and microphylla are past their best but balanced by the echinaceas, heleniums and some of the early chrysanths which are out earlier than usual.DSC_0024

4.50pm They have arrived…..six of them! I know three of them including a former nursery owner and a professional gardener. This is going to be difficult. Wish me luck!DSC_00255.35pm They’ve gone! Phew! Actually it went very well. They loved the design and planting schemes, raved about the Agapanthus africanus lined up in front of the bungalow and looked at everything with experienced and critical eyes. DSC_0023They were keen on finding any rare or unusual plants and were furiously writing notes on anything they found. I suppose there are only so many petunias, begonias and pelargoniums you can take! This worked to my advantage as there are several unusual things around the garden one of them being the Leopard Lily, Belamcanda chinensis, which no-one recognised. Others were Salvia uliginosa and the beautiful but easy white  Lysimachia ephemerum  which got them talking and writing even more furiously.DSC_0020

Time for a glass of wine and a sit down. No gardening tomorrow!



At the Awards for this year’s Charlton Kings in Bloom competition I was awarded first prize for the best front garden and runner-up certificate for the best rear garden! I am absolutely delighted and would like to thank everyone for their good wishes. I have had lots of kind comments from people who have walked past, driven past or seen photos on my blog and it suddenly dawned on me that gardens can bring so much pleasure to  so many people.

They Came, They Saw, They Liked It!

Dwarf Sweet Pea 'Cupid

Dwarf Sweet Pea ‘Cupid

My judging ‘slot’ was 3pm – 5pm. I was beginning to think they had forgotten, got lost, got fed up and gone  home. But no! At 4.57pm an SUV parked up outside and in they came with clipboards, cameras and rather tired faces which, thankfully, lit up when they began to inspect the garden. I rushed out to meet them and offered them tea but this was politely but firmly refused. I was clearly not going to be able to accompany them and ‘explain’ the garden. They spoke in hushed tones, busily photographing everything and writing copious notes.

Agastache 'Liqorice Blue' with Bidens 'Golden Goddess'

Agastache ‘Liqorice Blue’ with Bidens ‘Golden Goddess’

Suddenly, half way around the front garden, the mood changed and I was invited to join them to offer the names of cultivars of agapanthus, dwarf sweet peas, penstemons and lilies. Ah! I thought, this is the Botanical Latin memory test! Thankfully, I could remember them all so this must have scored a few points. I then realised that two judges had disappeared into the back garden without me noticing. By the time I got there they had their heads stuck in my compost heaps which they found ‘very impressive’ as one of them put it! Mind you, I do have six of them which is a bit extreme even by Monty Don standards.Blackberries ripening July 2014

I was trying to impress them with my impending prolific blackberry harvest when they decided it was time to go. It had been a long day…for all of us. They had inspected 40 front and rear gardens at 29 addresses and were obviously tired and ‘gardened out’. I was up at 6 am, had breakfast, walked the dogs, cut the grass and checked every inch of the garden for weeds, dead heads and seed heads. I had swept, watered, pruned, preened and plumped. My darling wife Cathy (the under-gardener!) had filled yet another two trugs with detritus. Between us we were satisfied that no-one could have tried harder or done more to present their garden any better.

Inula magnifica with Verbena bonariensis

Inula magnifica with Verbena bonariensis

Before they left I gathered that the decision would be communicated at an award ceremony on 17 July which we duly agreed to attend! They sat outside in the car for ages, gesticulating and presumably trying to agree where my garden fitted with the 28 others they had seen. Eventually, they drove off. I was exhausted. How stupid! It was only a local ‘Best Kept’ garden competition and yet it meant so much. I had a beer and reflected on what had transpired when suddenly the sky turned black, thunder roared and the Heavens opened.082

If you look closely you can see the hailstones on the lawn. In July! Was this retribution for my pride, my selfish desire to win, my coveting the trophy? I like to think it was just good timing!


Judgement Day!


With everything as ready as I can make it, Judgement Day has arrived! In a few hours time, the four judges from Charlton Kings in Bloom will be arriving to critique the garden. No place to hide now. If there are weeds, I can’t find them. If there are dead flower heads, I’ve missed them. Good stripes though!037

I am pleased the Echinaceas have begun to open but I wonder if I should have removed that allium seed head!018

Sweet peas are looking lovely and smell divine.021

If they want to use the path I’m in trouble. Friday’s rain made everything lean. Agapanthus should impress them.010

The changes made to the middle garden earlier in the year have paid off and it is far more interesting and colourful now.046

I like the way the grass paths now disappear around the corner of the new beds.051

By removing the old Garrya elliptica and scruffy bit of lawn, the new gravel area is a good addition and a great place for a rest and a cuppa.060

In the back garden, the raised beds have performed well again this year with bumper crops of fruit and cut flowers.058

The Alstroemeria ‘Sweet Laura’ are impressive but will be thinned out in the autumn before they take over.057

The cordon grown Sweet Peas have been a challenge which I could have done without and won’t be repeated next year. 064

Some plants are so easy and so well behaved they deserve their place in any garden. Lychnis coronaria is such a plant. The crimson and the white versions work well together.026

A few last minute adjustments by the under-gardener and the stage is set. Fingers crossed!

The Final Countdown

Delphiniums looking goodIt must have been a sudden rush of blood to the head but I have entered the garden in the local ‘In Bloom’ competition which will be judged on Sunday. It’s amazing just how much you find needs doing when you realise five illustrious horticulturists will shortly be walking around your garden with clipboards! More later. Must go. Weeding to be done.