It's new faces all round, with alpine glories and new chicks on the block

The chickens have finally arrived on site, causing great excitement all round. Meanwhile the Alpine House is full of unusual spring flowers

Calceolaria ‘Walter Shrimpton’ has flowers that look like many little cartoon facesThis week’s comedy plant is – small drum roll please – Calceolaria ‘Walter Shrimpton’.

Yes, you just have to see this plant to believe it; the flowers look like many little cartoon faces and I always wait for it to flower with great glee.

It is an alpine plant and nestled securely in the Alpine House here. Its common name is slipper flower or pouch flower. Like many alpines it is fully frost hardy, but we grow it inside to keep the flowers from spoiling in the rain.

It is one of many gorgeous plants that are gracing the Alpine House at the moment, and April/May is its glory time: it’s a chocolate box of sheer delight for plant lovers.

An owl's eye view of the garden

Yesterday we were clearing branches and brush away in the woodland glade when Peter spotted a beautiful tawny owl high up in the tree canopy. It regarded us very calmly without blinking and wasn’t fazed by the activity going on below. I didn’t have a close enough zoom to get you a photograph, more's the pity.

Name that chicken

RHS Garden Harlow Carr's new chickens settle into their run

The chickens have finally arrived on site, bringing great excitement all round – the marketing department is going to run a competition to name them. We have got two crested cream Legbars, two black-laced Wyandottes, one gold-laced Wyandotte and one blue-laced Wyandotte. They are still very young and have been squabbling among themselves with all the insecurities of teenagers, but we’re all looking forward to getting to know them better.

Joe is like a proud father having successfully hatched and reared them at home, and all the cursing about building the run has magically been forgotten and they are appreciating their new spacious home.

The RHS's new Curator, Robert Brett, is spending time at RHS Garden Harlow CarrWelcome our new Curator

We have today been welcoming the new Curator from RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Robert Brett.

Ours is the last garden on his tour of RHS Gardens, and it’s great to have him on board. We all do a lot of cross-site visits and this really strengthens our core knowledge and support of each other.

Welcome to you, Robert.


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