Whatever the reason it's good to go with a plan
To tell a story
Here are my tips for telling a story
This time last year I decided to visit The London Plant & Design Fair,
it's the first show in the RHS calander.
It isn't widely publicised and I'm not sure why.
Think of the timing, February, yuck.
The end of a long, cold Winter.
This is what greeted me.
The venue is amazing it has a high arched roof and is filled with soft light and the occasional shaft of sunlight.
The stands were filled with colour and lifted my spirits.
What follows is an edited selection of the shots I took that day (and why) to show you how I wanted to tell this story through my lens.
Get the wow factor straight off the bat with your opening shot. I took this portrait and landscape.
Portrait wins hands down, it shows off the venue, which for one of these shows is unusually interesting.
Pick out exhibitor stands to showcase
I photographed several but this one shows how you can make more of a story out of them by shooting over the top and seeing visitors in the background.
Which brings me to another important point,
They always bring these stories to life.
(only photograph children with the written permission of their parents though.)
Once you've captured plenty of wide shots, pick some beautiful, and unusual plants and take
Maybe pick a theme, such as new plants.
Look for more than just a shot sometimes, look for the narrative.
Illustrate the other events going such as lectures or practical demonstrations.
It's not just about plants, show the other products people can buy.
And, the people who make the show happen;
so passionate, so knowledgeable and so hard working!
...and the new kids on the block...
Work fast and pay attention
all the time to what's going on around you.
The light caught these Iris reticulata and made the shot.
So now you know about a rarely publicised RHS show.
This year it's called The London Plant and Potato Fair 20–21 February 2015
Not the sexiest name, but there will be colour, lots of it, oh and potatoes.
So if you have time, pop along and support the exhibitors.
And the next time you pick up your camera make a plan, you'll love the results.
Ok, so it's a couple of days till the biggest horticultural show on the planet kicks off, Chelsea Flower Show. The exhibitors have been hard at it all year, but now they are all at the show ground frantically battling the elements to put together a show-stopping, jaw-dropping, rooting-tooting, all-singing-all-dancing horticultural extravaganza. Plants have been chilled or warmed to be in tip-top shape for the big day, gargantuan trees have been hauled from everywhere on fleets of flatbed lorries, a caravan named Doris has been polished and preened and gently placed on site, paths have been laid, walls built, hey even buildings constructed in this relatively small field in the centre of SW1.
My first visit was in the early 90's a the Publisher of Elle Decoration, back then I was bowled over by the extravant and what I thought at the time, somewhat false nature of the show. In the last 10 years, I have worked there as a photographer arriving on press day in anticipation of the judges arrival and watched as last minute nervous tweeks were made.
Each time I go I ask myself the same questions: is it gardening gone mad or, the greatest horticultural show on the planet? Is it all worthwhile or just a waste of money in our cash-strapped, food scarce world?
Last year, one of the gardening editors described her feelings about the event like this, 'It's a show, a piece of theatre, it wow's us with it's exhuberance, and excites us with surprises.'
I understand Chelsea, thanks to one of my favourite films, The Devil Wears Prada. The best scene ever (on this planet) is when Miranda Priestly explains the importance of a seemingly trivial choice of fashion items.
So this for me is Chelsea - it's not just 'stuff' - the flowers and plants, or who can build the show-stopping exhibits. No, it's taking design to the next level, challenging the boundaries, finding the plants that matter to our environment, creating beautiful 3-dimensional paintings with flowers, plants and landscaping. Then, one day somewhere in Westbury, West Bromich or Weston-Super-Mare someone will pick up a spade, dig a hole, plant something and change the way their world is for the better.
We used to be called a nation of gardeners' and these days with the boom in allotments, grow-your-own, vertical gardening, straw-bale gardening, raised beds and oh, the list goes on, you would think we still are. I hope so.
Around here, there are only a few keen gardeners, l despair when a neighbour digs up his front garden and replaces it with piles of dry stone. I may slip out one night and throw some seeds around...maybe Verbena bonariensis, then later in the year or maybe the next, a frothy, purple cloud covered in butterflies will drift across our neighbourhood. I can dream.
We are on the edge of a small town surrounded by beautiful countryside but I still love to see insects and wildlife in my garden. When we moved here the emptiness of our new plot was a shock to me. Coming from a garden teaming with life, only one lonely blackbird visited us and was welcomed with open arms. He visited loyally for a few years, we knew it was the same boy as he sported one white feather on his right wing. One year he didn't come back.
I plant my garden with delicacies to treat the palette of bees, birds and flutterbies. At this time of year in early spring they love pulmonaria, although I have the pretty Pulmonaria 'Opal' with ice blue flowers, it is slow to spread and bees seem to prefer Pulmonaria officinalis, or Lungwort. Each year I dig up a few pieces and spread them round the garden. When I sit outside on a warm, spring day, I listen to the lazy drone of honey bees feasting on it's nectar.
I refuse to spray, preferring to indulge aphids, who munch on newly emerging shoots; I hope that a hungry ladybird will breakfast on them. I even resist the temptation of putting down slug bait, despite a preponderance of the slimey creatures. It has paid dividends, these days I can see tits pecking at tiny flies in the thicket of my roses; even long-tailed tits, my favourite, who I hope are friends from my old garden. I listen to the cacophony of young blackbird's squawking rudely in anticipation of their next hit of wormy delights. My soil if full worms, each spade-full of rich claggy, clay unearths a small handful of the wriggly critters, all good signs of healthy earth.
But I feel that my garden is a café, a motorway service station, on a long journey across a concrete and stone jungle for tiny, hungry birds and industrious bees. I hope at least I am worth the stop, Marks and Spencers I hope? Not Macdonalds.
I spent a very enjoyable day, yesterday photographing Toby Buckland building a keyhole garden at his new nursery in the walled garden at Powderham Castle. The team at Send a Cow (@tweetacow) and Amateur Gardening magazine set the whole day up. It began as a very murky day and stayed that way, but it didn't matter as the everyone's enthusiasm made up for it. Anyway, if it had been any hotter they would have expired as it was hard work, shifting barrow loads of soil up a bumpy hill avoiding two very inquisitive pigs.
Keyhole gardens are a way of efficiently growing crops in a relatively small space. The charity promote them in Africa where water is scarce and run a schools project to educate kids and get them growing too.
In the centre, is a hollow which is filled with compost. Bricks or stones are used to make a low wall at the base which holds soil to create a volcano-like shape. Compostable waste can be continually added to the centre and 'grey' (waste) water can be added here too. The mound of soil is fed and watered by this central spout of compost. The central spout is reached by an indent in the soil mound-forming a keyhole shape when viewed from above. It can be planted all year round and is continually fed by the composting waste. Ingenious.
If you want to find out more, or make a very worthwhile donation to this or one of their other great projects, you can visit Send a Cow.
''Some say Zinnias are unsophisticated….which quite frankly is a really stupid thing to say about any flower and more than likely their eyes must have fallen out and been replaced by cold marbles. I’m not one to tell people what to like and dislike but…if you don’t like Zinnias you need a ‘check up from the neck up’.'' Mr Higgledygarden.
I love The Higgledygarden website partly because its a great name but also he makes horticulture cool, never thought I would be able to say that!
I'm having a wee re-think about my garden at the moment. I feeling the need for colour this year. I mentioned in an earlier post that pot marigolds were going to take centre stage this year (or at least supporting actor).
I'm thinking Zinnias-WOW, a scary combination, I will have to keep them apart-young Marigold is like the village festival queen and Zinnia the local tart. I only met Zinnia a couple of years ago at Green and Gorgeous in Oxfordshire, a lovely cut flower farm. Her native homeland is around Mexico way, and she looks like she would really fit in there. I've never been too sure about wild colours in my garden. When they are used well I think they are fab. I'm not sure if I can pull it off. I've ordered seeds anyway, apparently she flowers and flowers - I'll let you know.
I've been doing my final tidy up before Spring really takes hold. I have put off a job that I should be done in July; to prune my rambling roses. I have several ramblers in the garden, I like their attitude, daring, strong and beautiful. I have 'Veilchenblau', which threatens to drown my small garden like a purple tsunami. 'Open Arms', who for three years was adorable and well-behaved, reached adolecsence last summer and now waves her long, thorny, wayward branches in the air attacking me unexpectedly. By rights, I should have stuck to a better behaved rose like 'Sir John Betjeman' who flowers unspectacularly, but regularly throughout summer and into autumn like a bus timetable. No, my move from a large (1 1/2 acres) to a hankerchief-sized garden caught me out. Ramblers should be allowed to do just that, ramble.
I photographed a beautiful garden near Cirencester for The Garden, which boasts the national collection.
The roses grow in an old, walled orchard. They tumble over stone walls and clamber up trees. Its a stunning sight, but so fleeting. For two weeks the air is filled with a jumble of colour and scent until the delicate blooms flutter in the breeze like confetti. So all too soon, the show has ended and they morph into menacing, dark tangles of thorn. At this time in July (according to all recieved wisdom) is the best time to prune. Every year I look on disparingly at them, there is no way without pain.
So this winter, for the first time in three, I have tackled them, late I know. Will it kill them off? I hope not. I have hacked back the thug 'Francis E.Lester', who collapses every year under the weight of hundreds of shell pink flowers, and pruned to the ground my French aristocrat, 'Ghislaine de Féligonde'. You see, it is only at this time of year that I can see which branches to cut out. Only my old friend, 'Snow Goose', a pretty white double, thornless beauty escapes with just a snip here and there.
I will let you know how my dysfunctional family get on this year.
"We want to get gardens in every school in the country. It can be a couple of square metres, it can be a roof garden, it can be decking, in pots or wellie boots - anything that won't move," said Oliver
Good on you Jamie, at last kids can get the opportunity to see how we grow our food. Finding out that food comes from the ground and not from a plastic bag in the supermarket is a good thing. Emma, my daughter had a brilliant head teacher (Mary Murray now retired) who introduced a school garden and chickens several years ago, she was so switched on.
A couple of years ago I shot a story about 'Children, chickens and allotments'. See for yourself how much fun these kids were having on a cold, foggy winters' day.
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