Trees And Plants

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Last weekend I visited this hidden gem in the Dane Valley.  The lavender meadow is at The Swettenham Arms near Congleton. The pub is tucked away in the small village of Swettenham behind a church, the fragrance from the flowers is divine.

The local wildlife seem to appreciate the lavender, it was alive with honey bees and butterflies.  I spotted beautiful peacock butterflies that have eyes on their wings and comma butterflies which are orange with black spots and feathered wings.

The lavender meadow is in bloom throughout July and August, it’s a perfect backdrop for wedding photos.  There also is an arboretum and nature reserve next to the pub as well that visitors can walk round.

The pub itself is a delightful traditional building dating back to the 16th century.  During my visit the window boxes were overflowing with vibrant summer flowers.

If you work up an appetite walking round the meadow and arboretum, the pub serves delicious food and cream teas.  I enjoyed lunch outside the pub, as it was a rare sunny day this summer.

The Swettenham Arms maybe off the beaten track, but it’s worth the effort to find.  The address is Swettenham Village, near Congleton, CW12 2LF.  Put the post code in your sat nav to find it or take a look at their website.

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These glorious flower meadows surround the Olympic Stadium.  They are full of tiny flowers that don’t have much impact individually, but en masse they are almost too beautiful for words.  Can you tell I love flower meadows? Full of vibrant annual flowers that grow from seed, flower and finish all in the space of a year.  The vast meadows are the largest annual meadows ever used in a public park.  Professors Nigel Dunnett and James Hitchmough created the Meadows in their role as the principal consultants for horticulture and planting design at the Olympic Park.

They developed an ambitious planting strategy for the site, which promotes biodiversity and sustainability.  The park will be transformed for public use after the Olympic Games. The meadows are just one part of a huge planting scheme around the Olympic site.

There were specific requirements for the meadows.  They had to be in peak flower for the opening of the games, look good before the games and continue to flower throughout the games and Paralympics.  The colour requirements were yellow and gold, so the meadows could be known as ‘Olympic Gold Meadows’.

The ground at the site was highly contaminated, so a clay cap was used to seal the contamination beneath.  Sand and subsoil were layered on top, followed by top soil which the seeds were sown on. The planting sites were available in 2010 and 2011, so the site was sown to assess the quality and colour combinations chosen.  Annual plants flower and finish within the same year so the meadow was started again for the Olympics.

To sow the seeds they were mixed with sawdust, so the seed can easily be seen on the ground.  The seed was sown by hand at a rate of 2g per square metre.  The ground was then lightly raked and covered with biodegradable jute mesh to stop the rain washing the seed down the slopes.

The seeds were sown in late April to early May to ensure the flowers were at their peak during the games.  Native and non-native plants were used in the meadows.  Main plants include Cornflower, Corn Marigold hybrids, Star of Veldt, Pot Marigold and Prairie Tickseed.

The meadows were blue and orange earlier in the season and then gradually transformed to yellow and gold.  They will continue flowering until the frost in winter.

The meadows are stunningly beautiful and will continue to delight visitors for months to come.  Don’t forget the meadows will continue to flower after the Paralympics so you have plenty of time for a visit.  You can read more about the meadows and the other gardens at the Olympic Park on Nigel Dunnett’s website.



Nigel Dunnett

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The RHS ran a Facebook competition recently to win tickets to an RHS show next year.  There were some truly stunning entries.  The image above of a fritillary butterfly on echinacea is one of my favourites, the colours are so vibrant.


First place was awarded to Crow Corvine for this beautiful image of a hoverfly and a wild flower.


This image was awarded second place, taken by Justin Miller.  His amazing photo shows a rare hummingbird hawk-moth.


Third place was awarded to Gitte Hamann for this photo of a bee on astrantia major.  I love close up images of bees, when they are buzzing about the garden you can’t really appreciate the detail of their wings or see how furry they are.

You can see all the entries on the RHS Facebook page.

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image: Steve Beckendorf

Dracula Simia is the botanic name of these amazing orchids.  Botanist Dr Luer named them Dracula, which means ‘little dragon’.  They are known as monkey orchids because of their striking resemblance to a monkey or baboon’s face.


image: S.Schneckenburger

There are over 120 species which grow in the mountains of Ecuador and Peru, at heights of 1000 to 2000 metres.  That is probably why they weren’t named until 1978 as they are hard to find, they are still very rare as cultivated plants. The orchids like cool humid conditions and have a scent of ripe oranges.

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The Spirit of Chartwell was transformed into a richly decorated barge for the Diamond Jubilee Pageant, it transported the Queen and members of the royal family along the Thames.  Horticulturist and presenter Rachel de Thame was the designer commissioned to decorate the royal barge, she used scented floral displays, garlands and planted lanterns.  The pageant took place on Sunday June 3 on a slightly grey day that was brightened by the amazing sight of a 1000 boat flotilla.

The royal barge was the centrepiece of the flotilla, amongst steamers, pleasure boats, tugs, dragon boats and kayaks. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh travelled on the royal barge, accompanied by the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William, Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cornwall.


Rachel de Thame’s magnificent design of crimson, purple and gold used almost 10,000 flowers and 600 plants.  It was brought to life with the help of Mark Fane of Crocus nursery and society florist Kitty Arden.  Crocus Nursery supplied many of the plants for the designs, Mark has won an incredible 20 medals at Chelsea Flower Show.  Kitty brought a team of 40 florists with her to create the floral displays.


Rachel spent several months researching the commission.  The design for the garlands and planted beds were inspired by royal iconography, particularly the coronation gown which featured embroidered flowers from around the commonwealth and the golden state coach.

The striking designs featured four planted lanterns including an English country garden scented with lavender, rosemary and bay, a knot garden that contained 200 clipped box plants, and a giant ‘E’ planted bed made from 1,500 African violets and edged with 400 patience roses. The design also included Welsh daffodils, Scottish thistles and 20 different plants from around the commonwealth to reflect where the Queen has reigned.


Scented roses were a key part of the designs as the Queen is very fond of roses.  One of the David Austin roses used called Munstead Wood has won awards for it’s fragrance.  90 floral garlands adorned the decks of the barge; they were attached to either side of the railings and featured roses, peonies, carnations, herbs and foliage.

Tomorrows post will feature more about the flower arrangements used on the royal barge.

images from: crocus

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