Monday, August 31, 2015

'If you were selling rocks, I'd buy one."

This woman actually said that to Phillip Watson, the QVC personality - and how - who sells plants, designs gardens and always fills the seats at the flower show.

'If you were selling rocks, I'd buy one."

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This woman actually said that to Phillip Watson, the QVC personality - and how - who sells plants, designs gardens and always fills the seats at the flower show. He's a delightful speaker - and he knows horticulture. I  caught up with Phillip, whom I last saw in June for a long interview at his home in West Chester, in the hallway before his talk - English-Style Gardens for Americans. He was eating a power bar. Quick lunch.

Just as an aside. This was the first show in awhile where I met a good number of people who said they found plants they could use at home. The Hawaii show was cited several times as a difficult or unpopular theme for that reason. "Hawaii's plant material was so foreign to me. I can't palnt anthurium in Chester County. This show has a more natural feel," said Tom Watkins.

Then there was Christine Garner, a first-time show visitor from New York City. Good thing she didn't come last year. She was positively "wowed by these over-the-top exhibits," but complained that "I thought there would be more ideas for semi-serious home gardeners at this show." Which is why she wanted to hear Phillip speak. "I'm hoping he'll have ideas I can relate to," she said.

And he did. This is a man who designs for super wealthy clients in places like Greenwich, Ct. But he also has a good sense of what's feasible for the rest of us. (For example, he has no problem using Knock Out roses - in huge masses - something high-end designers typically shun.)

So how to have that English garden look in the U.S.? "A lot of people look at books on English gardens and say, 'I can't grow that,' "Phlilip said, "but it's all about flavor. That's what we're after."

The flavor, if not the idential plant list, of English gardens.

Here are a few of this favorite things, in no particular order - colorful foliage, agastache, grape hyacinth, clipped boxwoods, creeping jenny between the stones of a path, 'Caesar's Brother' Siberian iris (oldie but goodie), peonies planted behind a wall so they can droop over it instead of on the ground, English-style roses with better disease resistance than the old ones, little sedums and herbs growing on walls and steps, 'Annabelle' hydrangeas in large masses, Allium senescens (a perennial), very large pots for outside, hardy yuccas for architecture, and brightly colored coneflowers.

"I want fireworks," he said, reminding the audience that U.S. gardeners have it all over our British counterparts in one area: "We have sunshine."

Inquirer Staff Writer
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About this blog
Ginny Smith, a Philadelphia native, joined the Inquirer at 1985. After stints as both reporter and editor in the city and suburbs, she’s been happily writing – and learning - about gardening full time since 2006. She’s won two silver medals of achievement from the national Garden Writers Association and in 2011, Bartram’s Garden honored her with its Green Exemplar award for her stories about “the region’s deeply rooted horticultural history, cultural attractions and bountiful gardens.” She plays in her own – mostly - bountiful garden in East Falls. Reach Virginia A. at vsmith@phillynews.com .

Virginia A. Smith Inquirer Staff Writer
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