Jul 312013
South Bank

South Bank

I’ve been Googling greenhouses a lot recently, as I’m hoping to get one for my new garden. Needless to say I like the fancy ones made of wood and brick, but they aren’t half expensive. But then I saw these ‘window gardens’ on the South Bank, and totally fell for them. They’re made from reclaimed windows and are part of the Festival of Neighbourhood on the South Bank. During the day they’re community allotments, and by night they’re illuminated sheds.

I want one! If I knew a friendly artisan who would make something similar for me (with sides that go all the way to the roof), I would totally go for it. Mind you, I bet it would cost almost as much as the fancy greenhouses I’ve been coveting.


Jul 252013
Regents Park

Regents Park

I love the fact that these incredibly posh Regency houses next to Regent’s Park have gardens that you wouldn’t expect. They’re blowsy, colourful and cottagey and there isn’t a box ball in sight. Cornflowers are currently spilling out of the formal railings onto the pavement.

Jul 192013


Now, here’s what I call a patio. It plays second fiddle to the plants, which are spilling all over it. They soften the edges and surround the seating with colour and scent. Who wouldn’t want to linger here?


I also love the naturalistic planting in the pots, and the fact that paving slabs have been lifted to make way for more plants. All patios should be like this.




May 192013




I always thought I might like to live on a houseboat until I went on one. The boat was rocking very slightly, and I felt instantly nauseous. Back on dry land, I felt as if I was swaying for hours afterwards. Plus I just do not understand locks, am not remotely practical and am not a tidy person. So all in all, I don’t think it’s the life for me.   

On a glorious spring day it did look like a very tempting proposition, though. I loved the little gardens that the houseboat residents have created – everything from wheelbarrows filled with aubretia and beds of tulips to chimineas, little veg patches and window boxes filled with herbs. Very cute.

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May 172013

Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

It’s said that the British are a nation of gardeners, but I’m not convinced. In my search for a home I have seen umpteen gardens – mostly online, a few in the flesh. I haven’t seen one that has been ‘gardened’ in the real sense of the word. Most have just been lawn, sometimes with some shrubs around the edge. The rest have been paved or decked over, often quite expensively (one, described by the agent as ‘stunning’, was completely covered in slate. Ugh).

Whenever I travel by train, I look at the gardens that back on to the railway tracks, and am amazed that people have done so little with the space they’re so lucky to have. But I suppose gardening is like cooking – some people get huge pleasure from it, and the enjoy the process as well as the end result. For others it’s a chore to be got over with as quickly as possible. My heart sinks when I hear the phrase ‘low maintenance garden’, but it’s what many people want.

Jean and Peter Block’s garden, Patchwork, which opens for the National Gardens Scheme, is most certainly not low maintenance. The couple have shaped it (quite literally – it’s on a steep slope) for over 40 years. It has terraces, lawns, ponds, patios, bedding displays, a herbaceous border, trees shrubs, and two greenhouses. It also has umpteen pots, stuffed to the gills with bulbs at this time of year. After flowering, the tulips are deadheaded and left to die down in the pot (those in bedding displays are transferred to pots to die down). In July or August, the pots are dismantled and the larger bulbs saved and stored in the greenhouse until planting time in November. After two or three years they’re replaced with new bulbs.

High maintenance, yes. But I’m sure Jean and Peter would say it’s totally worth it. As would the many people walking around the garden and enjoying a slice of tea and cake last weekend.

PS: The garden is next open on 18 Aug.

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