Having fun with shade and sun

Down the side of our Victorian maisonette is a narrow alley way. It’s where I started our garden so I know its seasonal patterns well. The side wall is pretty much south facing so gets blasted with full sun in the summer. The alley is only 1.5 m wide at one end and 2m wide at the other. The six foot boundary fence creating full shade on the other side. This creates two opposing conditions packed tightly next to each other, something very common in urban gardens. Continue reading Having fun with shade and sun

Apple iTree: the botanical trend reaches new heights with Ficus maclellandii ‘Alii’

This week Apple reopened its flagship London store on Regent Street after months of renovations to reveal the focal point as none other than indoor pot plants on a gargantuan scale. An indoor avenue of twelve Ficus maclellandii ‘Alii’. Continue reading Apple iTree: the botanical trend reaches new heights with Ficus maclellandii ‘Alii’

Living on a prairie (part 1)

This year I took on my allotment and I designated one bed for garden design experiments. Deeply inspired by Planting in a Post Wild World and then seeing that principle in action at Nigel Dunnet’s design in the Barbican I’m focussing on creating a plant community with drought tolerant plants and grasses. I’ve grown everything from seed or plugs as I do with all plants to fully understand them. So this year it’s (as expected I should add) looking quite bare… Continue reading Living on a prairie (part 1)

Summer highlights in our garden

Our experimental garden is now in its third year with lots to fix but standing back and overall the atmosphere is coming together. Only two real issues so far this year: first one heavy rain shower in June that flattened all of the new growth on Salvias, Briza media and Allium sphaerocephalon – they didn’t recover. Second was too many Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’. It looks a bit gaudy but you know, I like a bit of ridiculousness in my life, so I have kept them in for this year anyway, using fewer next year. Onwards to late summer and autumn and new levels of OTTness. Continue reading Summer highlights in our garden

Brighton’s futuristic municipal planting

I don’t know what they put in the water down in Brighton (where I work) but I suspect it’s either Maxigrow or – more likely – homemade organic comfrey tea. The public parks around the city are filled with adventurous and sustainable plant communities that look ripped from the pages of a design magazine, especially around the Skate Park. Continue reading Brighton’s futuristic municipal planting

Form factor – our garden in June 2016

The best thing I’ve added to our border this year (I think so far) is Nicotiana alata ‘Lime Green’ – it hasn’t even flowered yet, it’s the leaves. I had no idea the leaves would be so plump and large. In amongst all of the smaller leaved plants, they’ve added the necessary contrast in leaf form our border was missing. As they say, the best things in gardening happen by mistake. I’ve tried to capture this in this photo: Continue reading Form factor – our garden in June 2016

Lambeth Palace Gardens

As part of the RHS Level 3 course we have to learn about different garden design eras, one of which is medieval. Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, has an 11 acre site that has been cultivated since the 15th Century in medieval times. Unfortunately, though understandably, none of those elements remain. In place is an extravagant site with interesting plays on plantings. The gravel garden felt Mediterranean and has given me ideas for our own garden (I’ll always associate gravel like that with my first visit to East Ruston Old Vicarage). In particular, to my eye, the stand out features right now are some simple but beautiful experiments with grass. Continue reading Lambeth Palace Gardens

24 Things at the Chelsea Flower Show 2016

This is my third year at the Chelsea Flower Show and it remains an emotional experience. Excitement, inspiration. Admiration for the designers. Threaded with regret for my wasted years of not focussing on garden design. Only counterbalanced by a tiny sparkle of hope from the RHS education programme that tells me it’s not too late. Continue reading 24 Things at the Chelsea Flower Show 2016

Tulips – worth the bother?

This year I planted over 100 tulips. I love tulips. However, while they last for a good three-ish weeks in flower, that’s quite a short amount of time for quite a lot of effort. I’m not lazy or anti brief flowers, it’s the fact they’re unlikely to flower reliably for a second year so you really have to dig them all up and get rid. It feels wasteful and excessive. One thing’s for sure, I won’t be planting them throughout the border again because trying to get them out from between the roots of growing perennials was a nightmare. Next year, I’ll only grow tulips in some pots for little splodges of colour. I’ll save enjoying the big displays at professional public gardens instead.

11 Realities of Gardening in London

Either I’m inexplicably inept at gardening, or living in the big smoke is providing a world of gardening pain that you’ll only understand if you live within the M25. That said, I do love London gardening – it’s for the fearless few, the diehard who persevere against the odds for the reward of an inner city oasis. If you’re one of these Londoners on a gardening mission, how do these match your own experiences? Continue reading 11 Realities of Gardening in London

landscape and garden design in Clapham, London