Allotment month 22: wasted produce, autumn flowering apples and snails

I’ve barely spent any time at the allotment in September. Bad Wallington. This has been a terrible but unavoidable mistake. Over the past fortnight I’ve missed a bumper crop of tomatoes, not used our many carrots and beetroot and worse, much worse… I just missed six incredible cauliflowers. Argh. 


Having grown them from seed, mollycoddled them all year watching them grow it feels like the worst crime and I am kicking myself. The cauliflowers are huge, started blossoming and are ravaged by snails and slugs brought on by this damp and gloomy end to summer. A week ago the heads were just forming. Who knew cauliflowers spend all year lazily growing leaves and then decide to blast football sized flowerheads out in only a week. The tricksters. 

Tomatoes are even worse, you’re going to hate me. About one hundred of them ripened in the last week while we were distracted by our NGS open day. In that time almost all of them have been munched by snails and ruined! Even the weird black ones. 

It’s been a really bad end to summer with overcast wet days for the last six weeks or so. Autumn has come early. Hopefully we’ll have a final blast of sun soon. But actually, here I am saying Autumn arrived early and my bloomin apples have moved onto Spring…


Strangely, in just over a week my stepover apple trees have formed buds and blossomed. What the?! Apparently this can happen when weather conditions are dry in early summer and very wet later. It may affect our crop next year but no real harm done. I feel as though they were trying to cheer me up but bless their blossomy hearts have only made things worse. Sorry apples, I love you long time. 

The Celeriac crop is still doing well however, as are the parsnips (which I learnt last year should be left in place to be frosted to develop that sweet taste). Although these look good enough to eat now I’m biding my time with them. 

Other brassicas are doing as well as those rapidly growing cauliflowers. So we have kale, brussels and broccoli to look forward to in winter. 

The asparagus patch is looking healthier following a good weeding courtesy of our friend John who came to help earlier in the month (for which I was v.grateful for). Rain has helped them too with damper soil which they prefer – my allotment’s soil being very sandy and free draining on the surface where they meet their roots. 

Zinnias are still going. My Dahlia patch is ticking along nicely if a little neglected this month. Great stuff although increases the guilt that I’ve used them and missed the food. Next year I’m thinking of moving all the Dahlias to space them out a bit more, they’re quite squashed. 


With today being the Autumn equinox, the allotment will start to wind down entering October. This always comes as somewhat of a relief as the pressure to keep everything going is gone. You guessed it my dear reader, I am shattered. 

Last year I vowed to get my harvesting right and have spectacularly failed despite a good number of home grown meals. Third time lucky, right? *looks toward 2018 seed catalogue in hand* 

8 Glasshouses to visit in London and why

London has some of the best glasshouses in the world and some of the most interesting secret smaller ones, here’s my pick of a number worth visiting on a rainy day.

If not outside, the place I feel most at home is in a glasshouse. That smell of warm compost and seedlings in spring, the patter of rain on the roof during summer showers, the protected exotics safe in winter – childhood memories that stay with me. Is there anything more peaceful than the bright, otherworldly space bubble of a glasshouse? Like a time machine, you can in one moment imagine standing next to Charles Darwin and in another imagine being on the surface of Mars in a bio dome. Glasshouses are (strangely) rather rare things, so visiting one is always well worth the trip for the experience. Below are some of my favourites in London. Continue reading 8 Glasshouses to visit in London and why

NGS September Open Day – #DahliaFest

Chris and I have been huge fans of the National Garden Scheme (NGS) charity for a long time. You can read about some of the NGS gardens we’ve visited in my articles here. If you don’t know much about it, basically avid gardeners open their gardens for a small donation to the charity. Those donations get distributed through the NGS to care charities like Hospice UK and Alzheimers UK. You can read more and find gardens near you on the NGS website or by downloading their app. Continue reading NGS September Open Day – #DahliaFest

Motherload of incredible succulents on sale at our open day this Sunday

Yesterday I was contacted by a chap called Alan Bridger offering ‘surplus succulents’ to sell at our open day on Sunday to raise some more money. Today when Alan and his wife dropped them off I was gobsmacked. Continue reading Motherload of incredible succulents on sale at our open day this Sunday

My 6 easy care comfort house plants you thought were boring but are in fact fabulous!

Forget the fancy house plants you keep spotting on Instagram. You know the ones, stylish Pilea, funky Peperomias, velvety Echeverias… Yeah, those ones. I love them too but let’s spare a thought for the house plants of old, so overused in books, catalogues and by shops that people have turned a blind eye to them. Continue reading My 6 easy care comfort house plants you thought were boring but are in fact fabulous!

Pot’s Growing On? Summer part two

After August’s overcast skies, in time for bank holiday weekend the sun is back for summer round two. This ‘mid-summer’ meh-weather seems to be a recurring theme in recent years. We’re tricked into thinking it’s autumn but actually we’ve still got months to go. We’re not the only ones, plants slow down in this period, I even spotted a Ginko turning yellow.  Continue reading Pot’s Growing On? Summer part two

Exciting exotics at 24 Grove Park, Camberwell open on the NGS

We’re particularly spoilt for exciting gardens in South London with a lean toward the exotic as the more tender plants thrive in our inner city microclimate. We’ve visited Clive Pankhurst’s garden a couple of times now on the NGS and were treated to a private tour this week. It is incredible.  Continue reading Exciting exotics at 24 Grove Park, Camberwell open on the NGS

Shanks Pony Nursery in Vauxhall

One of my coolest finds in London has to be the discovery of Shanks Pony Nursery in Vauxhall run by a chap called Andy (on Twitter) and his partner Julien. I was first made aware of Andy a year or so ago when I spotted a Brugmansia planted in a community bed in the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens park. Tweeting out about this unusual street bedding, people soon linked the Brugmansia to the culprit. Continue reading Shanks Pony Nursery in Vauxhall

Make time for what you love

With work, gardening, friends and family, my life can quickly be filled with wonderful things but it often means the seemingly less important pastimes get reduced. How can I explain to my loved ones that I need to spend time on my allotment or revising over seeing them… again? It never goes down particularly well and I feel so guilty about it that more often than not it’s horticulture that I drop first. Continue reading Make time for what you love

Allotment month 21: release the Dahlias! Black tomatoes, Zinnias, Brassicas and Pumpkins

You know that moment in sci-fi films when the warp drive or mega lazer is powering up? That “vvvvvvoooooooo” noise before the “ZEWWW” as it fires. Yeah, that bit. That’s the equivalent of what the Dahlia leaves are before the explosion of flowers. They grow and grow and then ALACAPOW there are balls of floof all over the shop. That’s the point my Dahlia patch is hitting on the allotment. And with twenty odd cultivars this year, if my Dahlia patch were a warp drive, South London would be inching closer toward Birmingham right now.  Continue reading Allotment month 21: release the Dahlias! Black tomatoes, Zinnias, Brassicas and Pumpkins

Box tree caterpillar plague in Clapham, London

It’s usually around this time of year, just as our good ship The Garden puts its rockets into nitro that problems start to crop up in the engines. Last year I spotted a beautiful moth in our garden and soon learnt that this beaut is a terror, Cydalima perspectalis, the box tree moth. Sometimes bad things come in good packages. Continue reading Box tree caterpillar plague in Clapham, London

Photo gallery: Malibu’s unexpectedly exquisite wild flowers

I had planned to write a more detailed article about Malibu’s national parks and wildlife. However, I can’t do it justice and instead I’ve shared below a gallery of some of what we saw in early July during California’s mid-summer dry season. Earlier in the year, the plants would be lusher. The exquisite, subtle colouring of the plants has stayed with me and I recommend people to spend some time examining the photos. As many of our garden plants in the UK come from North America, the Californian national parks felt as though someone had designed and planted them. It’s a very special landscape that has stayed on my mind since we were there. All a real surprise as I’d thought of Malibu only for surfers and celebrities.  Continue reading Photo gallery: Malibu’s unexpectedly exquisite wild flowers

Our first NGS open day: a weather miracle, cake and allotment cut flowers

Opening our garden to the public to raise money for the National Garden Scheme (NGS) was both an honour and a total mind-blitz to the senses. After all these years blogging about the NGS, it’s funny to add the ‘NGS’ tag to our own garden. It’s even funnier and lovely seeing other people’s photos of the garden after being the only person to photograph it over the last four years. Continue reading Our first NGS open day: a weather miracle, cake and allotment cut flowers

Our NGS open day, this Sunday 1 – 5pm!

A quick reminder that we are opening our garden and flat, 2 Littlebury Road in Clapham, this Sunday afternoon (23 July)! It may be small but it’s packed to the brim with unusual and weird plants that I’ve grown from seed or collected over the years. I’m hoping it will give ideas to other renters and owners of small flats and balconies in London – you really CAN grow A LOT of beautiful things in tiny spaces. 

All money raised will go to care charities via the National Garden Scheme (the NGS). It costs £3.50 to come in and we are selling cakes, teas, coffees, cold drinks and prosecco to help raise more money. Our fabulous and talented friend Rosanna Falconer has been an absolute trooper in helping us with the cakes – and she’s an amazing cook so do come and try some. 

Please pop down for a bit, and please help spread the word by telling people! The more people who come, the more we will all raise (at the moment I’m worried no one will turn up!)

Personally, I cannot wait to meet fellow gardeners to talk about plants, gardening and everything bright and bloomy! Or we can just talk about Brexit… just kidding. Hopefully see you on Sunday. 

Jack and Chris xx

Allotment month 20: it’s in the flavour – new potatoes, carrots, Florence fennel, beetroot and more

Monty Don always says it’s important to pick only what you’re about to eat to reduce the time between plot and plate. James Wong often tweets and writes in the Guardian about the way sugars in vegetables quickly turn to starch – often in surprisingly short spaces of time.  Continue reading Allotment month 20: it’s in the flavour – new potatoes, carrots, Florence fennel, beetroot and more

56 Photos of Californian Gardens: from Facebook and Google to Hollywood via Alcatraz

California is a magical place, Chris and I love it. One minute you can be in the oven of a 43C desert, a few hours later atop a snow covered mountain among giant trees. While it’s the wild areas that I love, the gardens are fascinating for the differences to those found in the UK. They seem to either be tropical or arid, extravagant or minimalist with very little in between. Oh, actually there is weird – weird is in between. It’s in a garden in Los Angeles that we first saw hummingbirds for the first time; one of those euphoric moments that last a lifetime. Below is a gallery of some of the Californian gardens we’ve visited during our trips from 2012 – 2017.  Continue reading 56 Photos of Californian Gardens: from Facebook and Google to Hollywood via Alcatraz

Pot’s Growing On? High summer in Clapham

Sorry for the lack of updates about our garden recently, I’ve been so busy opening my garden design studio it’s been hard to keep up. Also, with our open day but two weeks away today, all focus is now on making that a good day for everyone in order to raise lots of money for the care charities the National Open Garden Sheme support.  Continue reading Pot’s Growing On? High summer in Clapham

From the streets of California

Chris and I have just come back from a trip to LA, Vegas and Malibu visiting for a wedding. Once you enter the kingdom of plants, the world you see through green-tinged glasses changes radically and this latest trip to the states felt like stepping into an alternate universe due in part to the choice of plants used in urban plantings and people’s front gardens. In this post I’m going to document some of my observations from the streets of California. Continue reading From the streets of California

At the end of the earth, plants – Prospect Cottage, Dungeness

An upfront confession: I’ve never seen nor heard of any of Derek Jarman’s films. A film director before my time. I first heard of him after reading about his home, Prospect Cottage, found in Dungeness on the south coast, a couple of years ago. Quickly I became obsessed with the garden and our friend David gave me Jarman’s book about it as a gift. While short, it’s one of my favourite gardening books – or any book. Continue reading At the end of the earth, plants – Prospect Cottage, Dungeness

15 sensational plant combinations you can try at home from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017

One of my bugbears around Chelsea time are the naysayers proclaiming the gardens are unrealistic and impossible to recreate at home. You know what I always say to that? Poppycock! (Incidentally, what is a ‘poppycock’ or am I best not asking?) Continue reading 15 sensational plant combinations you can try at home from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017

23 things at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017

The Chelsea Flower Show is nuts. People on stilts dressed only in flowers, cactus jackets, astro turf lions, stands of rare plants grown to utter perfection by collectors and nurseries, every millimetre of gardens designed and fussed over, landscaping built in a week to be knocked down a week later, flowers arranged into hats… Continue reading 23 things at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017

James Basson’s road to ‘best in show’ at Chelsea Flower Show 2017

There are some garden designers we see at RHS shows regularly. James Basson is one that came on my radar in 2015 with his naturalistic, authentic style that really stood out from the gloss of the rest of the show. Like a fine wine, at first I was unsure if I liked the style but I have grown to truly love it. Continue reading James Basson’s road to ‘best in show’ at Chelsea Flower Show 2017

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017 – Press Day Highlights

It’s hard to take in the brain blitz that is the Chelsea Flower Show in one day – particularly when you keep bumping into Joanna Lumley and Mary Berry – so I’ll reserve full thoughts for later blog posts. Please check back in the week for design and plant picks. For now, I thought I’d quickly share some highlights from the press day today. Continue reading RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017 – Press Day Highlights

landscape and garden design in Clapham, London

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