c Garden, Tea, Cakes and Me

A Tale of Mini Cucumbers and Supermarket Compost

mini cucumber variety mini munch cucino thompson and morgan
The Summer of 2018 is one that will live long in my gardening memory. Extreme heat, endless sunny days, empty water butts, an abundance of garden birds and the promise of rain that never seems to arrive. But mostly I will remember the mini cucumbers I grew from seed, or rather the the cucumber plants that would grow no more.

Last year I grew very little in the way of vegetables, having been poorly for many months. However, I did buy some mini cucumber seedlings from a garden centre which grew very well and supplied plenty of juicy fruits.  Which encouraged me this year to grow my own from seed, I have previously grown plenty of standard cucumbers from seed. 

The varieties I had selected were both Thompson & Morgan mini cucumbers, Mini Munch and Cucino.  All my seeds successfully germinated. As the plants grew well it was time for them to be potted on. Now this is where I think things went wrong.  Not having enough compost to pot on all the seedlings,  I visited the supermarket later that day, my sister pointed out the compost was on offer. You know the type 2 bags for £5 or thereabouts, so yes why not. 
growing mini cucumber seedlings success failure
The Cucino Cucumber (left) Mini Munch Cucumber failure (right
grow your own cucumber failure
Mini Munch variety, stunted growth
All my seedlings were potted on with two of them (mini munch) using the new compost I had just purchased.  As the weeks passed my seedlings were growing well, the plants put on extra leaves and their tendrils were clambering for support, so most of them were staked. Except for 2 plants, where everything seemed to be growing all in the top of the plant, clumped together. Something certainly was not right, I could not blame the pack of seeds, they all germinated and the rest of the plants have grown well. All plants were in the same environment, received warmth and watering the only difference...the compost in the 2 stunted plants.  Could the compost really be the cause of this problem? It is the only variant I can isolate from all the other healthy plants. When I emptied the pot, the root system was certainly less well developed than the other plants.

mini cucumber mini munch variety
Mini Munch variety currently growing well and fruiting

So my gardening friends can you help.  Have you encountered this problem with mini cucumbers, particularly Cucino? Or have you had this problem with supermarket compost?

There's one thing for sure, there is always something new to learn about gardening, and our failures only help to make us better gardeners.

Cucumber Mini Munch variety
Cucumber Mini Munch variety
If you are on Pinterest and like me love gardening you maybe interested in my gardening boards covering tips and inspiration and one specifically if you love grow your own.
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Lots of Book Reviews and a Reading Challenge Update

2018 Book Review Reading Challenge Garden Tea Cakes and Me

Big news about my 2018 reading challenge, at the very end of June I hit my target of reading 20 books! Whoop whoop, this is good stuff and I have enjoyed being driven to embrace reading by giving myself a challenge.  I don't intend to take my foot of the reading pedal, but with a busy few weeks socially in July I'll be lucky to get one book read in the month. But I do have quite a few book reviews to share with you, including one I think will be in my top 3 books of the year.

This blog post will cover book reviews of six books with strictly no spoilers, so grab yourself a cuppa and delve into my good the bad and the amazing of the book world.

  • Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister
  • Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys
  • Explore the Garden at Chatsworth by Peter Drew
  • The Daughters of Gentlemen by Linda Stratmann
  • The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory
  • All By Myself Alone by Mary Higgins Clark

2018 Book Review Reading Challenge Garden Tea Cakes and MeAnything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister

Joanna is an avoider. So far she has spent her adult life hiding bank statements and changing career aspirations weekly.
But then one night Joanna hears footsteps on the way home. Is she being followed? She is sure it's him; the man from the bar who wouldn't leave her alone. Hearing the steps speed up Joanna turns and pushes with all of her might, sending her pursuer tumbling down the steps and lying motionless on the floor.
Now Joanna has to do the thing she hates most - make a decision. Fight or flight? Truth or lie? Right or wrong?

Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are no spoilers in this review, so read on knowing I won't ruin the book for you, and what a book it is!

I was in turmoil reading this book, I was totally captivated by the position the main character Joanna found herself in. Having turned around and pushed someone she believed was following her, she looks to find them fall down some steps and not get up again. Very quickly you start to imagine how you would react and the decisions you would make. Do the right thing and call the emergency services, I mean who wouldn't. Or run and do nothing and tell no one, live with the lie!

The story follows both scenarios, with each chapter headed either 'Conceal' or 'Reveal' it was not until the end of the book that I realised this, I'm not one for taking much notice of the titles of chapters. It was very easy to follow the two storylines, there was no way to mix them up.

I know that I could never have walked away and do nothing, the guilt would leave me a wreak. A lie that big eats you up, something the author Gillian McAllister captures really well in Joanna's 'conceal' life. Although the reveal story is not necessarily the easy option, Joanna still has to live with the consequences of her actions, and the reaction to them from her family and friends. Joanna's would be attacker has a family who what answers too.

This is a very relatable read, compelling, a real page turner.

I read this book for the June read of The Bookmatchmaker Bookclub, an online bookclub and a great suggestion is was too. Find out which books are on the reading list this year or to find out more about this online bookclub check out their website The Bookmatchmaker Bookclub.
The book is 389 pages and I read it in 2 1/2 days, my fastest read of the year.

Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys
2018 Book Review Reading Challenge Garden Tea Cakes and Me

England, September 1939Lily Shepherd boards a cruise liner for a new life in Australia and is plunged into a world of cocktails, jazz and glamorous friends. But as the sun beats down, poisonous secrets begin to surface. Suddenly Lily finds herself trapped with nowhere to go ...Australia, six-weeks laterThe world is at war, the cruise liner docks, and a beautiful young woman is escorted onto dry land in handcuffs.What has she done?

Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lily Shepherd is about to set sail on a journey from England to Australia. Taking advantage of the government scheme offering £10 fares for young women to work for 2 years as housemaids in Sydney, Lily embarks on a 6 week voyage on an cruise liner. It's 1939 and there is much talk of war, by the time Lily arrives in Sydney world war II has been declared.

This period drama had elements of an Agatha Christie thriller, the author describes beautifully the fashions and style of the time. As the ship is British the class system in Britain is reflected onboard - first class, tourist class and third class passengers are all on separate decks.

It really is voyage of discovery for Lily, the ship calls at a number of ports including Gibraltar, Singapore, and Egypt all offering her the once in a lifetime chance to see the places she has read about. Lily befriends Helena travelling to warmer climates with her brother Edward for his health. The class system on board becomes blurred as Lily socialises with a glamorous married couple Max and Eliza from first class. Her friendship with Maria a Jew from Austria fleeing persecution for a new life is frowned upon by her travel companions.

Lily does her best not to fall in love with Edward or to succumb to the pestering of unwanted attention of other men on board. The mix of different nationalities and talk of war makes for a tense atmosphere on board, with not everyone getting agreeing and some quite awful attitudes for those of other nationalities. Mix with your own class, mix with your own type. During the voyage you can sense the tension building, you know that something is going to happen and you know its going to be something awful but you are not sure what. Then it happens, not what I was quite expecting or to the person I was expecting either so it was still a shock. Then the story settles down again, and I was left thinking was that it, as bad as it was I was expecting worse. Just as I was starting to think well that was a little disappointing - boom, one sentence in this book changes the way you have just viewed many parts of the storyline. Very cleverly done, something I did not see coming at all. Then there is more involving some major characters, murder, lies intrigue this book has it all.

I liked the way the story was wrapped up once the ship arrives in Sydney. You have lots of questions about what really did happen and the author has a nice way of wrapping the loose ends up and answering those questions that as reader you have.

Very enjoyable read, thoroughly recommend it.

It was with this book I hit my 20 book target, and what a book to do it with. 'High five'! I some how also managed to find the time to crochet a cover for my new phone, complete with a meconopsis poppy.

2018 Book Review Reading Challenge Garden Tea Cakes and MeExplore the Garden at Chatsworth by Peter Drew

No synopsis for this book as it is a guide book around the garden and estate at Chatsworth House in Cheshire. 

Review Explore the Garden at Chatsworth by Peter Drew
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This guide book is just over 60 pages, and every page is a thoroughly enjoyable read. The gardens at Chatsworth demonstrate the history of gardening and garden design over the years, this guide is cleverly written to also includes this history. Using historical documents you can see how some of the features in the garden have since been altered, adjusted and moved around as interests and fashions changed. So many different aspects and feats of engineering to enjoy. It is also clearing shown how each earl and duke have developed the garden.

There are some clear maps demonstrating the different areas of the garden and how to best move through them.

It has certainly piqued my interest for a return visit, I realise now just how much I managed to miss out on my first visit.

The Daughters of Gentlemen by Linda Stratmann

2018 Book Review Reading Challenge Garden Tea Cakes and Me
The second book in the series of Victorian murder mysteries set in London, with a clever and determined female sleuth. Frances Doughty is a young sleuth on her first professional case, trying to discover who distributed dangerously feminist pamphlets to the girls of the Bayswater Academy for the Education of Young Ladies. Armed with only her wits, courage, and determination, she finds that even the most respectable denizens of Bayswater have something to hide, and what begins as a simple task soon becomes a case of murder. As election fever erupts and the formidable ladies of the Bayswater Women's Suffrage Society swing into action, Frances’ enquiries expose lies, more murders, and a long-concealed scandal—and she makes a powerful new friend. 
The Daughters of Gentlemen
by Linda Stratmann

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second book of the Frances Doughty crime thrillers set during the victorian period, and I much stronger book than the first, A Poisonous Seed.

The story continues on from the end of the last book, so it is worth reading the first book. Frances needs to find an income and a new home or she will have to move from Bayswater and live with her uncle, and her maid Sarah will be without a home and a job. A lifeline is found when Frances is approached by the board of Bayswater Academy for Young Ladies, and is asked to investigate who is distributing feminist pamphlets.

Frances takes on her first case as a private detective, this sees her maid Sarah now become her companion and apprentice detective. This complex mystery set in 1880's invites you into Frances's world of solving a crime not something a lady of the day should be doing - follow her steps as she investigates. Frances explores the worlds of ladies of society, servants, police, politicians and journalists. But this simple investigation soon turns into something far more sinister, with lives at risk. I loved that there was so much going on in the storyline, not just the main crime to be solved but some mini ones that Sarah has to solve too.

This story also touches on important aspects of history, it was very apt to be reading about the Women's Suffrage Society when this very month 100 years ago women were given the vote in the UK.

These books have many characters and weaving storylines, you have to pay attention so no late night reading and dozing off. Really enjoyed it and can not wait to read the next book from my library.

The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory
2018 Book Review Reading Challenge Garden Tea Cakes and Me
Jane Grey was queen of England for nine days. Her father and his allies crowned her instead of the dead king’s half sister Mary Tudor, who quickly mustered an army, claimed her throne, and locked Jane in the Tower of London. When Jane refused to betray her Protestant faith, Mary sent her to the executioner’s block, where Jane transformed her father’s greedy power grab into tragic martyrdom.
“Learn you to die,” was the advice Jane wrote to her younger sister Katherine, who has no intention of dying. She intends to enjoy her beauty and her youth and fall in love. But she is heir to the insecure and infertile Queen Mary and then to her half sister, Queen Elizabeth, who will never allow Katherine to marry and produce a Tudor son. When Katherine’s pregnancy betrays her secret marriage, she faces imprisonment in the Tower, only yards from her sister’s scaffold.
“Farewell, my sister,” writes Katherine to the youngest Grey sister, Mary. A beautiful dwarf, disregarded by the court, Mary keeps family secrets, especially her own, while avoiding Elizabeth’s suspicious glare. After seeing her sisters defy their queens, Mary is acutely aware of her own danger but determined to command her own life. What will happen when the last Tudor defies her ruthless and unforgiving Queen Elizabeth?

Review The Last TudorThe Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love reading about the Tudor period of history, and this novel about the Grey sisters did not disappoint. You follow the lives of Jane Grey who very briefly was Queen of England if for just a few days. Katherine Grey who marries the love of her life to the displeasure of Queen Elizabeth I, much like her sister Mary.

It was a real eye opener for me, just how tricky and complex life at the court Elizabeth I was. If you were invited to be part of the royal court you did as the queen commanded, or suffer the consequences. I don’t think I would of survived 5 minutes! The intrigue, scheming, blackmail made for many unhappy lives particularly for the Grey sisters.

Queen Elizabeth I refuses to marry, and will not grant any of her close relatives permission to marry for fear of them providing a clear heir to the throne of England. Other threats for the crown from England, Scotland, France and Spain make for a very paranoid monarch. All 3 Grey sisters suffered greatly at the hands of the Queen.

This book gave me an understanding of why Elizabeth I never married, and how woman were pawns and manipulated in the power play of royal houses. Though I can’t help but think why on Earth didn’t the Grey sisters learn from each other’s mistakes.

Another enjoyable Philippa Gregory book.

All By Myself Alone by Mary Higgins Clark

2018 Book Review Reading Challenge Garden Tea Cakes and Me
Fleeing a disastrous and humiliating arrest of her husband-to-be on the eve of their wedding, Celia Kilbride, a gems and jewellery expert, hopes to escape from public attention by lecturing on a brand-new cruise ship—the Queen Charlotte.
On board she meets eighty-six-year-old Lady Emily Haywood, “Lady Em,” as she is known throughout the world. Immensely wealthy, Lady Em is the owner of a priceless emerald necklace that she intends to leave to the Smithsonian after the cruise.
Three days out to sea Lady Em is found dead—and the necklace is missing. Is it the work of her apparently devoted assistant, Brenda Martin, or her lawyer-executor, Roger Pearson, and his wife, Yvonne, both of whom she had invited to join them on the cruise? Or is it Professor Henry Longworth, an acclaimed Shakespeare scholar who is lecturing on board? Or Alan Davidson, a guest on the ship who is planning to spread his wife’s ashes at sea? The list of suspects is large and growing.
Celia, with the help of her new friends Willy and Alvirah Meehan, who are celebrating their forty-fifth wedding anniversary, sets out to find the killer, not realising that she has put herself in mortal danger before the ship reaches its final destination.


All By Myself Alone by Mary Higgins Clark
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My second Mary Higgins Clark book, a straightforward murder mystery set on board an exclusive transatlantic luxury cruise liner. You will find there are no spoilers in my review.

This novel is a straightforward murder mystery, I certainly wouldn't describe it as a thriller. The story revolves around jewels, deception, and embezzlement. There are a key number of characters who could be the next murder victim or murderer. There are clues a plenty, most of which I followed though I critically failed to identify the murderer. Which I'll be honest there are clues but I did not put two and two together. It's no Agatha Christie, an easy read with reasonable characters, a mix of the likable and annoying.

I should add the cover and title of this book are very misleading, there is absolutely nothing scary or dark about the story. In that respect it was quite a disappointment. The more I am reading through my review of this book the more I want to revise my 3 star score, very mediocre, so many better books to read, don't believe the hype on the back cover. 

Currently Reading...The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton, I still, yes still have a number of Philippa Gregory books on my bookshelf waiting to be read. 

Do let me know if you have any book recommendations. You can find out more about the books I am currently reading or vote on which book I should read next on my Instagram account Garden Tea Cakes and Me.
Read my previous reviews including:- 
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Jack Reachers 61 Hoursthe thriller I See You or Jesse Burton's The Muse.

Goodreads What to follow me or see what the other books I have sitting on my GoodReads virtual bookshelf, pop over to my Goodreads page.
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Book Review Little Fires Everywhere, The Unfortunates and more about The Book Matchmaker

Book Review Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It has been a while since I've read a contemporary genre book, I was tempted when offered to review a book from The Bookmatchmaker. I was excited to be selected as an Instagram Ambassador for them, such a different way of selecting a new or preloved book to read. You do not know which book will arrive when you order but select by genre or 4 key words - it is a great way to discover a different author, I've used them to also buy book gifts for friends, that way I get a surprise too. Quote 'bookmatchrep10' for 10% off any order. 
Little Fires Everywhere literally begins at the end, the opening chapter reveals a family home destroyed by fire and the Richardson family watching on. With all fingers pointing to Mia and Pearl a mother and daughter who are the tenants of the Richardson family living nearby.

As the story unravels Elena Richardson has the perfect home and family, well to do, well educated and living in an ordered community in America. Elena likes to give back to those worse off in society and rents out a nearby homes in a nice part of town to someone deserving, such as Mia and Pearl Warren who have newly arrived in town.

But there lives soon become entwined, Pearl becomes kindred spirits with the Richardson youngest son Moody, and settles into creating herself a place with what she sees as a perfect family. Pearl admires Moody's older sister Lexie who is out going and popular at school, distracted by Moody's athletic older brother Trip and amazed at the talented musician of sister Izzy. Just the kind of family Pearl has dreamed of belonging to, instead of moving from town to town living the most basic of lifestyles, whilst her mother a photographic artist uses each more to search for new inspiration.

This becomes far more complicated when Mia becomes the Richardson's cleaner, and invades what Pearl sees as her escapism. Izzy Richardson sees Mia as an interesting and warm mother figure that understands her youthful eccentricities, something Elena Richardson her own mother does not grasp.

Relationships between the main characters evolve and become entwined, lies are told, secrets are kept. But when dear family friends of the Richardson's adopt a Chinese baby, and the birth mother takes them to court to get her baby back. Sides are chosen and more secrets unravel.

During a school visit to the city museum a photo is discover taken by a well known female photographer of Mia Warren holding a baby. Elena Richardson decides it is time she found out more about her new tenants - where are they from, where is Pearl's father.

Once I had cracked this book I did not want to put it down, I was desperate to know who set the fire, why did they set the fire. As the story develops the focus shifts between the main family groups, the Richardson's, the Warrens, the McCullough's who have adopted May Ling and Bebe, May Ling's mother.

It certainly made me look deeper into the different lifestyles people choose to live or how they react when circumstances are chosen for them. When the judge has to decided who May Ling should live with who is he, or we, to say that because people choose to live a certain lifestyle it is any more right or wrong from any one else - just different.

Whilst reading this book it had a feel to it of the the american tv show Big Little Lies, which incidentally is due a second series. I can certainly see there is a story line for a sequel to this book.

The UnfortunatesThe Unfortunates by Laurie Graham
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Poppy the lead character is such a ridiculously annoying person. The story follows the fortunes of a family in New York from the late 1890’s through to the 1970’s. So many major events in history touch their lives, as they travel and adventure to and fro America and Europe.
An easy book to read but with no depth to most of the story, it flits quickly from one character and point in time to the next. It covers the lives of four generations of the same family, but mostly focused on Poppy Minkel, and all in just 365 pages. So no surprise there was no substance to each element of the story. I’m surprised I bothered to read until the end, mostly I just wanted to give Poppy a piece of my mind whilst I truntered on to myself turning over the pages.
It’s only when I had nearly finished this book that I realised I had previously read the Duchess from Nowhere by the same author, whom I also found the main character Ducky to be ridiculously annoying. Not an author I would want to read again.

Essential Poems For The Way We Live NowEssential Poems For The Way We Live Now by Daisy Goodwin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I rarely sit and read poetry from a book, usually a read individual poems I discover in other pieces of literature such as newspapers, magazines or social media. Or maybe when out visiting museums or historical places of interest. This book collates a wide variety of poetry both old and new. None of which are composed by Daisy Goodwin who has collated the poems for this book and has her name emblazoned all over the cover. Which certainly worked on me! Browsing my local library for a 'learners' book of poetry it was her name that drew me to it, one to borrow not one to buy in my opinion.

I enjoyed many of the poems and it has clearly drawn to my attention to which poets are my favourites Thomas Hardy, Sir John Betjeman and Wendy Cope. Though I certainly have no wish to read anymore of Philip Larkin!
Book Reviews Garden Tea Cakes and Me

What's next on my bookshelf
I am currently reading Mary Higgins Clark's All By Myself Alone, but I have found myself distracted with garden.
I have ordered the next book in the Frances Doherty series at my local library. I still have a number of Philippa Gregory books on my bookshelf waiting to be read. Do let me know if you have any book recommendations. To find out more about the books I am currently reading or vote on which book I should read next on my Instagram account Garden Tea Cakes and Me.

Follow me on Goodreads to see how I am progresses with this years Reading Challenge.

Read my previous reviews including:- 
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Jack Reachers 61 Hours
the thriller I See You
or Jesse Burton's The Muse
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A Visit to Malvern Spring Show

I had high expectations for my first visit to the Malvern Spring Show, and I was not disappointed. A number of my online gardening circle had sung high praise of this garden show including it's magnificent setting.  I went to the show with my sister who had the pleasure of chauffeuring me and my wheelchair about. We arrived around 10am, the weather was perfect the sun was out with the odd breeze to ensure we were not too warm. 
Spirit of the Woods Show Garden Malvern
The Spirit of the Woods garden
My Show Highlights 
  • Show Gardens - It was a pleasure browsing around the show gardens. My favourite was the Perfumer's Garden, which incidentally worn the Best Show Garden. The Spirit of the Woods garden had a real calming feel about it, with few people around us we could almost feel a soothing sensation wash over us. It is a great opportunity to talk to the designer and most gardens were handing out plant lists, which comes in very handy as the gardens are a great source of inspiration.
  • The smaller Green Living Spaces garden offered some practical  and imaginative planting ideas. Having thought about it since my visit I think these were of more interest to me.
Gardeners World Adam Frost preparing to film in one of the Green Living Spaces gardens
Alpine Plant envy at the D'arcy & Everest stand in the Floral Marquee
  • I thought there a good choice of plant stalls, though unfortunately we did not manage to find one with a good selection of grasses.  But having spoken to a few people at the show I was told more than once that the show was much smaller, and there were less choice of plant stalls. Obviously as a first time visitor I didn't notice.
  • There were numerous traders selling greenhouses, they were selling a lifestyle not just a greenhouse. They were beautiful, set up and styled to lure you in.  If I was in the market to replace my greenhouse, I would certainly wait to visit a garden show - so much choice in one location. 
  • Both my sister and I were very impressed with the Guild of Crafts area, the choice and quality of products made was exceptional and a real pleasure to look around, and one I would recommend.
  • We found time to enjoy the Green Kitchen talk at the Grow & Cook Theatre with Alys Fowlers, Martin Fish and Mark Diacono. Though we forgot Gardeners Question Time at the Festival Theatre and only managed to catch some of it, we were so engrossed with looking at plants!
Huge Terrariums where located around the show
The Perfumer's Garden

An inviting open gate
  • I was particularly keen to see The Work of Heart Garden, a knitted and crocheted garden. Created by Clare Young whose late husband was cared for by Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice. Crafters from all over the world including myself have crocheted and knitted a staggering 50,000 hearts to help raise money for the hospice. Well done to Clare for creating this amazing garden. 
Work of Heart Knitted Garden Malvern Show
Work of Heart Garden

Work of Heart Knitted Garden Malvern Show
Knitted walls and wonderful flowers

Work of Heart Knitted Garden Malvern Show
Work of Heart Garden
  • The busiest spot at the show was the Floral marquee. This was no surprise it must be the most popular area of the show, so many flowers perfectly presented plus the opportunity to buy. We certainly did, tempted by the display and choice of alpine plants at the D'arcy & Everest stand. We spent just under £20, unlike the person next to us who wanted reserve one of the £500 display gardens!  Also within the Floral marquee you will find the RHS Gardening Advice stand, we waited very briefly to talk to an expert about our poorly Laburnum and the  ants in my vegetable raised beds.  
  • There was plenty of space to move around The Great Pavilion of Art and Flowers, and some impressive flower displays along with floral arrangement demonstrations.
  • It is worth buying a show guide (£5). Have a look around the show gardens or the floral marquee then grab a drink and plan your day.  It contains all the listings for the various theatres, I found I was constantly referring to the show map throughout the day. 

Monty Don was not at the show but this greenhouse looks staged to appear like he had popped out and left his jacket behind.

More show information
You are sure to spot a gardening or foodie celebrity during the day; I was convinced that Carol Klein was stalking me at one point! 

You will find a good choice of food and refreshments (although you can bring your own), the only queue I saw was mid morning for coffee, but move on around a corner and you will find another vendor with no queue. Again we easily found seats. The vintage tea corner in the Arts and Crafts area served nice tea and coffee and plenty of space between tables but very disappointing cakes. Next to the Festival Theatre near the show gardens you will find a number of street food stalls including tempura, gourmet burgers, churros and pasta. The Avon Hall is also another good location to find a selection food stalls.

It's all about Thursday
Thursday is the day to go, it was not overcrowded and a pleasure to move around, no queues for looking at the show gardens, food or toilets. The floral marquee was very busy but I had expected that it is one of the highlights of the day. Though Thursday is the more expensive day, it was very enjoyable and if I go again it will certainly be a Thursday. 

The Malvern Hills made for a phenomenal back drop to not just the show gardens but the whole event. Giving it a very different feel to the event, relaxed and surrounded by nature.  Many years ago I visited RHS Hampton Court, I remember nothing about it except the serious overcrowding, being a shorty it was no fun. Gardeners World Live, Birmingham is only 40 minutes away from where I live, but you are either surrounded by buildings or inside them. Next on my garden show wish list is The Shrewsbury Flower Show, a very local show for me as it is located in my home county. 
Planting ideas
Happy collection of alpine plants now on my greenhouse bench

A water lily 'Nymphaea Pygmaea Alba' and miniature bullrush 'Typha minima' plant purchased from Dorset Water Lily Company have already been added into the water feature, which is still an on going project.

Accessibility Tips

As the show is based at the permanent site of the 3 counties show grounds there are a large number of permanent paths and buildings which makes the use of a wheelchair or scooter easy. The more rigid temporary paths were also very good.
Inside many of the marquees are also worn down grass and were reasonably good. 
Sturdy temporary paths at the show made moving around with a wheelchair easy.
Moving around the main show ground field was very uneven, but as the weather had been dry was not muddy or unnavigable. As I am not confined to a wheelchair I chose to walk this area, as sitting in the wheelchair was very bumpy on my spine. I suspect if you where in a scooter this would not have been as bad as my manual wheelchair.

I am going to give a big shout out for the guys at the Event Mobility stand that hire out scooters and wheelchairs for the event. Half way through the show my wheelchair encountered a problem with one the brakes jamming, and they very kindly repaired it for me. 

The disabled car park was situated at the west entrance, which brings you in at the Show Gardens. Once parked the initial ground is very uneven, fortunately we were just a few cars away from the more even  pathway leading towards the entrance. It may be worth mentioning to a marshall if you need to park towards the end of the row. 

There are plenty of toilets situated around within the show ground and at the car park, including disabled access toilets. These are clearly marked on the show map. 

My eye was caught by the floating hedge in this garden
Travel Tips
Approaching Malvern from the north west we had to make our way around Worcester, with major road works and heavy traffic this part of our journey alone took us an hour. Leaving the show at 5pm we encountered additional traffic as the first horse racing of the year at Worcester race course had just finished. Expect delays and embrace them! We ensured a number of sweet treats purchased at the show to reward ourselves during delays on the journey home.

I could go on and on about just how much I enjoyed the Malvern Spring Show, so much space to more around, a wide variety of gardens and food demonstrations to see, plenty of retail stalls too. But don't just listen to me, start planning your own visit.

Do you have any garden show recommendations? 

Explore Keukenhof Tulips Gardens with my visitors guide including tips and getting the most out of a visit and accessibility advice.
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Visit to Keukenhof Tulip Gardens in Holland


The world renowned Tulips gardens at Keukenhof, Holland have long been on my wish list of gardens to visit. I had not really planned to visit them so soon, but I suddenly found myself researching a short break.  It was then I found a 5 night cruise called Tulips and Chocolates with Fred Olsen, with a specific excursion to Keukenhof - this suited me perfectly. No overnight coach journeys from Shropshire over the English channel and on to Amsterdam. Though Euro Star now run trains from London to Amsterdam, not without a transfer in Belgium initially, and I would still need to get to London from Shropshire. I just do not have the stamina for such journeys. You can of course fly, but that was not an option for me currently. So a cruise would do nicely!

Visit Guide Keukenhof Tulip Gardens Amsterdam

My sister and I, both of us equally fanatic about gardening, enjoyed the leisurely cruise from Southampton to Amsterdam and arrived the weekend of the Tulip Festival. Our trip to Keukenhof  gardens was booked for the Sunday, its busiest weekend!  To fully explore the Keukenhof gardens I would need use a wheelchair, I am not able to walk such distances. So I was delighted to see that Keukenhof have wheelchairs you can book online before you visit, you pay a returnable deposit of 20 Euros when you collect the wheelchair. 
Visit Keukenhof Tulip Gardens Dutch Bulb Fields
It was sheer fluke but funny that this man happened to be pointing at the Tulip fields when this photo was captured by my sister
Visit Guide Keukenhof Tulip Gardens Amsterdam

We left the cruise ship at 9am,and arrived at Keukenhof gardens just after 10.15am, the roads were very busy as we nearer our destination. En route we enjoyed the fields of colour of the surrounding Tulips fields. We also passed the headquarters of Bakker the largest garden specialist in Europe, not sure if they are still operating in the UK. Also spotted were a number of floral decorated floats that were used in the flower festival parade the previous day. 
Visit Guide Keukenhof Tulip Gardens Amsterdam
En route to Keukenhof and we pass Bakker headquarters
On to the gardens...
Visit Guide Keukenhof Tulip Gardens Holland
Wheelchair collected just as you enter the park, and we were off. We were limited by time, we only had 3 hours to explore Keukenhof as our ship set sail at 4pm. There are not just gardens to explore but also numerous flower show pavilions to look around and be inspired by. 
Visit Guide Keukenhof Tulip Gardens fountain

Visit Guide Keukenhof Tulip Gardens Holland
Gorgeous views very which way

The weather was very sunny and warm, the leaves on the trees supplied wonderful dappled shade adding to the overall feel of the gardens. Coincidentally my neighbours had visited the week previous and were very disappointed that none of the leaves were out, so worth waiting for in my opinion.  The use of water around the gardens was impressive the lakes, ponds, fountains and rills created eye catching scenes. Adding a touch of calm to the crowded chaos.
Visit Keukenhof Tulip Gardens Holland Muscari River
Muscari River surrounded by Daffodils and Tulips

Visit Keukenhof Tulip Gardens Holland Hyacinths
A stunning display of Hyacinths and Tulips 

Whilst everyone is there to admire and enjoy the flowers they also all want to take photos and videos, something you need to embrace. I have not hidden the crowds from my photos, this will give you a realistic view of what to expect visiting during peak time. Though we did still manage to find a quiet spot or too to enjoy an ice cream. 
Visit Keukenhof Flower Pavilions Holland

Visit Keukenhof Flower Pavilions Holland

Visit Keukenhof Flower Pavilions Holland

Keukenhof Highlights and tips...
The flower shows in the Willem-Alexander Pavilion had some inspirational arrangements, using many varieties of cut flowers. It was much less crowded in here, so we also took the opportunity to enjoy a nice slice of dutch apple cake. 

You will find plenty of plant labels within the displays, so if you spot that one Tulip you want to grow back home you can easily source it.

Be prepared to join a long queue for entry into the windmill, where you can enjoy raised views over looking the park and the adjacent bulb fields. Though there is a lovely food stall serving fresh warm stroopwafles, which I can thoroughly recommend! 
Visit Keukenhof Tulip Garden Holland Windmill

Visit Keukenhof Tulip Garden Holland Bulb Fields
Bulb fields viewed from the Keukenhof gardens
Disappointing that the Tulipmaina pavilion was just so busy when we entered we had to turned around, we ran out of time.

You can view the extensive bulb fields from inside the gardens, viewing points are located next to the wind mill and near the petting zoo. These can be busy but people soon move on once they have captured a photo.
The boat trips within the park looked like a great way to explore the tulips and gardens without being surrounded by crowds. There is a small extra charge for this. Having spoken with a couple on our coach they went straight to the boat hut next to the windmill when we arrived.  They really enjoyed a lovely relaxing trip around the gardens, and highly recommended it. Another good way to see the gardens if you have limited walking. 
Keukenhof Gardens Excursion Chocolates and Floral Fred Olsen Cruise

Visit Keukenhof Tulip Garden Holland Selfie

Visit Keukenhof Tulip Garden Holland

Wanting a souvenir to remember your visit? Obviously at this time of year you can not buy tulip bulbs but you can order them for delivery, there were a number of bulb huts located within the park.  

If you are travelling by coach there are a number of toilets located by the coach park. These are a lot less busy than those at the entrance to the park, worth remembering when you are leaving the gardens to avoid the queues. 

My Gardeners World feature...
Keukenhof Gardens Excursion Chocolates and Floral Fred Olsen Cruise

I shared a number of photos during my visit to Keukenhof on my gardening Instagram account ShropshireGardener, including the one above. I was very surprised but pleased when Gardeners World asked to include this photo in their Keukenhof in Spring feature for their website. That is probably the closest I will ever get to Monty Don! Incidentally you will also see a photo of the Muscari river surrounded with tulips and daffodils opened, you will of spotted a photo above I took where they had yet to open, I think I actually prefer them waiting to bloom.

I will certainly be wanting a return visit to Keukenhof. Hope you have found visit interesting, let me know if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer them.

More information...
Keukenhof Gardens
Fred Olsen cruises to Amsterdam
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