Tuesday, October 22, 2013 11 comments

HIgh class blooms and high flyers, Part 2

The Conservatory at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

Last year I wrote about my trip to judge the Garden Club of Virginia Rose Show at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond. I talked about the splendid blooms that stole the show, and the Butterflies Live! exhibit that stole my heart.

Randy Scott, Courtesy Tom Mayhew
I’ve just returned from judging the 2013 show and it turned out to be even more spectacular than last year.

Once again, Richmond’s Boxwood Garden Club treated the judges like visiting royalty by throwing a cocktail in the Lewis Ginter rose garden, followed by an excellent dinner (with lots of fine wine) in the Robins Tea House.

Lewis Ginter is a historic property (once owned by Patrick Henry) that features over 50 acres of gorgeous gardens and 9,000 types of plants. More than a dozen themed gardens include a Healing Garden, Sunken Garden, a Victorian garden, and an interactive Children’s Garden. There’s also a classical domed conservatory, a Garden Café, Tea Room and the most enticing gift shop I’ve visited.
A recent addition, but a stunner

The rose garden features more than 80 varieties and 1800 roses selected for repeat performance, fragrance and disease resistance. The visitors I saw were literally spoiled for choice when it came to finding the most sweetly scented blooms in the display.
Crystalline, Courtesy Tom Mayhew

If you are ever anywhere near Richmond, you owe it to yourself to take time to stop and see what I believe is one of the finest gardens in the east.

Snuffy, Courtesy Tom Mayhew
While the judges were chatting during the cocktail party, we heard some of the top exhibitors from several districts would be bringing blooms to the show. The next morning it was easy to see the rumors were correct as we had trouble deciding which bloom would be tapped for Queen.

In the end, Randy Scott took top honors with Crystalline and Snuffy close behind as King and Princess.

Mexican Bluewing
Once the judging was complete, I made a beeline for the North Wing of the Conservatory. I’d heard Butterflies Live! was back and couldn’t wait to have all those brilliant jewels fluttering around me once again.
Dad, is that you?

This year, a Chocolate Pansy (Junonia iphita) landed on the sleeve of my suit jacket and refused to budge. According to lore, this means a loved one from the past has come to say hello, or good luck will be coming my way. (I hope both legends are true.)

I also saw different varieties this trip including a False Zebra Longwing, Common Morpho, Mexican Bluewing and the Julia.

Sadly, the show moves on.

Common Morpho
The Garden Club of Virginia Show moves to a new venue every two years, so this was going to be my farewell trip to Richmond.

Our time there simply flew by. I will miss Lewis Ginter and many of my dear rose judging friends I don’t get to see very often now that we’ve moved to the mountains of North Carolina.

But between the hugs, the high class roses and high flying beauties, I have memories that will lift my spirits for months to come.


Sunday, October 6, 2013 8 comments

David Austin is golden at Chelsea and Hampton Court

The Albrighton Rambler, a new Austin intro at Chelsea

I’ve been away the past couple of weeks on a mini vacation judging roses shows, visiting friends and family as well as stopping by two of my favorite botanical gardens. So I am a little behind on The Dirt Diaries, but I promise to post pictures from Norfolk Botanical Gardens and Lewis Ginter very soon.

In the meantime, I’ve been wanting to share some of the amazing photos of David Austin English roses from two of the summer’s biggest flowers shows across the pond.

Like many companies in England and Europe, David Austin’s nursery has been affected by atrocious weather this year, but it didn’t stop them from scooping up gold medals at Chelsea and the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

Their rose garden exhibit (above) staged in the Grand Pavilion snagged a 17th Gold for the firm at the 100th Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show. The garden included 500 roses including four new varieties The Lady Gardener, The Albrighton Rambler, Thomas a Becket and Carolyn Knight.

David JC Austin said their approach was different than in recent years, and possibly a bit risky. 

We will not see Thomas a Becket in the US till at least 2015

Austin's exclusive china, English Rose

Instead of basing the design on grand public gardens as has been done in the past, they focused on providing inspiration for private gardens. He noted people could easily recreate a corner of the Austin display at home, then just sit back, relax and enjoy the wonderful fragrance of the roses.

Henry VIII"s favorite royal residence now hosts an impressive flower show

The RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show also awarded the firm Gold for the best exhibit in the marquee.

When they found out the theme was to be “Romance and Roses”, the Austin folks felt they almost had an unfair advantage. “After all, we are fortunate to have introduced some of the most romantic roses being grown in gardens today,” the great hybridizer said with a smile.

Another gold winner at the BBC Gardener's World show
Indeed, the display jam-packed with many-petalled, fragrant blooms and old world charm definitely caught the eyes (and I’d guess, noses) of the judges.

"Tea and cakes" at Hampton Court
By the way, David Austin English Roses also won major awards in France and Japan this year.

But I wondered how much beauty readers could handle in one posting.


          Many thanks to David Austin Roses for sharing their photos of the Chelsea and Hampton Court winners.