Speaking trip to the UK!


 

The following is an excerpt from the "Summer Edition, 2011" of my "Slightly Different Times" newsletter.  The best part was indeed the story about our speaking trip to England!...

 

No doubt one of the biggest highlights recently, was an invitation to speak... in ENGLAND!  What an honor!  It took over a year to plan out, but oh my God... what FUN it was!!!  Just amazing, that a simple gardenin' fool like me would one day wind up "going international"... and jumping the big pond, to speak for the British Hosta-Hemerocallis Society (BHHS) and the Royal Horticultural Society!  What 'r the odds, that such a DREAM to visit the "birthplace of ornamental horticulture"... could come true??? 

Once the date for the soirée was set (21st May, at the RHS "flagship garden" of Wisley, Surrey), I just couldn't contain my excitement... and told the whole family.  Well, those of you who have heard me tell tales of that wacky bunch sure know... they ALL wanted to come, too!  Of course, Mom was in front of the line... so indeed, got first dibs as a baggage handler.  Luckily, my friend David resolved those physical issues for her (the woman's 82 now after all, and guess I can't work the 'ole gal as hard as I used to), and decided to come too!  Because Mom lives in FL, my Sis Cindy (that lives near Mom) jumped on board too!  Indeed, what was just meant to be a short trip over to speak... turned into a major touring party, of 4!  A motley American crew for sure... but with a VERY full itinerary of gardens and Nat'l Trust castles/mansions/gardens to visit, you can bet we were totally psyched for a "slightly different adventure"!  So many folks have asked about the trip, that I thought you might enjoy seein' a few pic's from the adventure... so here they are! 

Here's the crew, at RHS Wisley Garden! 

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We actually got VERY lucky on this trip.  Because of early heat and semi-drought conditions in the UK this year, there was FAR more in bloom than we had hoped to see!  In addition, we never got rained on at all.  What LUCK, for the UK in mid-May!  In all, we were on UK soil for a full 7 days... and wasted NO time, in getting started with the tour!  Not long after landing, we were already in the first Nat'l Trust garden... meeting the incomparable Barbara Alsop, and her husband John.  Barbara had been my "handler" for months on end at that point, and I just couldn't wait to meet the gal... I just wouldn't have had NEARLY as fun of a time, were it not for her help with the planning!  The brat wouldn't get in any pic's though, so will just have to show you the gardens at the Claydon Estate... which were incredible!...

 

Literal "causeways" of perennial borders were DIVINE!

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The walled gardens were stunning too, with really awesome points of interest...

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And lo and behold... at least we got Barb's hubby John to pose for a shot!  Whatta GREAT guy...

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We stayed at an inn on the Waddesdon estate, in Buckinghamshire... WHAT a place!   Of course, the inn was down the road a piece from the main estate below... but at least it was a "good neighborhood", with phenomenal history!...

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Believe you me... the back of the joint was JUST as gorgeous!  They were in the midst of pulling spring bulbs and putting in Summer annuals...

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And the NERVE... they put me to work helping!!!!  Whatta gardenin' guy's gotta do for a break...

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What AWESOME annual topiary!  All kinds of cool designs, but this bird was our fave...

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Check out the Aviary!  A far cry from my bird feeding stations here at the nursery, for sure... so guess I'd better get to WORK, 'eh???...

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... and just LOOK at the size of this mature Copper Beech - my all-time favorite tree!  Good GOD, I'm in LOVE!!!!!!

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I mean really... look at the overall SIZE of these amazing beauties!...

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Honestly... the estates in England have the most mature and diverse arboretums I've seen in my life.  Seems no matter what one's gardening interests are, they can be overwhelmed... in the UK!

 

Next was the Stowe House and Gardens.  Nice house, 'eh?...

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 The place had EXTREME "garden features" galore (56, in all).  I mean really... look at this "little" scenic feature!...

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Or just a little stone bridge?...

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Gorgeous little sitting areas, with frescoes galore...

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Mom finds one of many really cool sitting grottoes by the lake... she deserved a break, indeed!...

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Pic's weren't allowed in the estate homes, but Mom sneaked this one of the main foyer of Stowe...

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Then it was on to Blenheim Palace... Winston Churchill's birthplace!  The back yard was especially lovely...

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... but the side yard "water terraces" were even nicer! 

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Further down, the terraces became pools (there were two of these)...

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Which then went into a lake.  Very pretty!...

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They definitely take their water gardens very seriously at Blenheim...

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David definitely thought we should have one like this at home!...

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Blenheim also sports the "2nd largest maze in the world", made from Yew topiary.  Too cool!  That's Dave in there (I was on a platform near one corner of it)... what a Godsend it was, as it kept him busy for hours (while I checked out cool gardens!)  ;-) ...

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THEN came time for the BIG SHOW at Wisley Gardens, on 21st May! 

The kids I brought over had been lounging in their European tub long enough after all, and it was time to meet their new parents!...

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It was exciting for sure, with the RHS putting up poster boards all over the place...

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I thought it was kinda funny, that the only daylilies they really knew were species... and used a pic of one for the announcement.  Well... that's what I was there for, right? ... to show them what REAL daylilies can look like!!!  ;-)

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I was totally thrilled that Andrew McSeveney (RHS Trails Manager) took the time to show us around their research areas, and where the lot of plants I had brought "for the cause" would be planted!  Jim Gardiner, the RHS Director of Horticulture, came too!  What an honor... am I gushing, or what?!...

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Mike and Kathy Shadrack were there too (too cool!), and it didn't take long for Mike to start promoting their new book that Kathy was to be signing at the Chelsea Show that week (their 4th!)...

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I tried to steal Jim back from Mike, with tales of how big our American Daylilies really get!  I'm not sure he believed me though...

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I was also THRILLED to finally meet Jennie Sivyer!  She's quite active on our AHS Robin (internet newsgroup)... and as it turns out, one really wonderful and crazy gardenin' gal!!!  We're definitely going to be friends for a while... she's a HOOT!...

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The show went VERY WELL, too!  Don't believe that the Brits are at all so "conservative"... they can laugh as hard as we do!  They really appreciated my "from the ground up" style of breeding that's geared towards real gardeners, and especially the hardiness issues that plague them in their cooler climate.  Right up my alley, and they seemed to really enjoy the kids, and stories!... especially about HOTTA PINKIE!...

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The show was a success all around.  I've always been most motivated by simply inspiring people to get into applied gardening, which in England isn't a hard thing to do!  They've really not been too exposed to our "brand" of daylilies though, and it was this that I was there to reveal.  With a little luck, the good folks of the UK will fall in total love with our irresistible American daylilies, and the rest will be history!  With a "pipeline" now open with Wisley, I'm anxious to see if the "largest and most showy" plants I could muster to donate to them get noticed there.  I sure hope so!

 

THEN it was off to tour Wisley itself!  Have you ever seen such HUGE colonnades of border perennials???  They were EVERYWHERE!...

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A glance through the hedge of the hedgerow shown above...

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... and looking down yet another...

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The place was an absolute maze of gardens!...

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They're breeding new types of Kousa Dogwoods there... this one had 5-6" blooms (WOW!!!)!...

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Endless... just endless...

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The "Alpine Houses" were to DIE for!  A "miniature" show of alpine plants, in several adorable houses...

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The Alpine area then spilled out over a HUGE hill (shown is only ~10% of it!), and subsequent water gardens...

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Indeed... Wisley Gardens is like "Gardening Disney World"!!!  If you can make it in this life... DO, and by ALL MEANS!!!

 

Then it was time to move... to Kent!  WOW... what gorgeous scenery in the hilly "Kentish Weald"!  We stayed in a B&B near Sissinghurst Castle, which was OF COURSE our first stop!  The original medieval gate tower still stands... and you'd better believe we all went up it, too!...

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And the view of the formal walled gardens below was just stunning...

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Mom snagged a pretty good shot of Dave & I up there, too!...

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Their famous "White Garden" was just starting to put on color, but even the structure is really quite awesome!...

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Cindy loves the gardens, but a little sassy 'bout gettin' her pic taken on the sly!...

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MY fave garden was one themed in yellow/orange/brown... TOO cool!!!...

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THEN off to Scotney Castle... a real medieval castle!  Even has an in tact moat, and SO photogenic!...

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From the opposing side of the moat, you can see the "new house" the family built further up the hill.  Very impressive, too!...

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The rhodo's were INTENSE, everywhere we went... but especially at Scotney.  I like this one the best...

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Not enough yet though!  The next day, we went off to "Kew in the Country"... or more properly, Wakehurst Place!  Whatta spot!...

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A low area, full of species daylilies!...

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Great borders everywhere too, and some early species daylilies in them as well...

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Indeed... plenty of formal gardens here too, and DIVINE ones at that!...

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On the last day, we had to move closer to Heathrow... so I found an Inn in a directory, and booked us.  Man oh man... for under $100 a night, I was FLOORED to see THIS when we got there!...

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An old estate turned hotel, the gardens were on par with the Nat'l Trust!  Barnett Hill, near Guildford... was a REAL find!...

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An adorable little "gardeners cottage" was out back, and I wanted to move in!  The clan was in prime form as usual... Dave laughing, Mom guzzlin' wine, and Cindy wonderin' how the hell she got stuck with the lot of us...

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SOOO... there ya have it!  Nearly everything that's been goin' on here... but certainly, not ALL!  The gardens are really looking good out there, and I'll soon have pic's of LOTS of blooming kids... and cool new landscapes, too!  Since closing to walk-in retail (doing "by appt only" now), I'm hoping to have a lot of weddings and parties here.  Having "real" gardens will certainly help out with that, as well as make things a LOT more interesting!  Of course, I've still got over 50K daylilies to look at too... so indeed, I'm a HAPPY GUY!  ;-)

 

THANKS for the interest in my "slightly different" ways... and hope to see ya here at the gardens, SOON!!!

 

Now... go get dirty!!!

Stay well... and keep loving ALL things "slightly different"!

 

 

You're friendly enabler...

 

Paul

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