A Judas tree

Judas tree
Bradford on Avon

You don’t see Judas trees much in this country, so I always like to stop and admire one when I see one – this one was in Bradford on Avon last week. Now I finally have one of my own, bought cheap at the plant sell-off at West Kington Nurseries a month or so ago. It’s a little multi-stemmed number and I’ve planted it in the widest area of my border, replacing a Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’, which has now been relegated to a large pot on the patio.

The Public Sale Days at this wholesale nursery are famed locally – a wide range of perennials, climbers, shrubs and trees are sold off at bargain prices. Perennials are a few quid, roses are £10. My neighbours have got the sale down to a fine art – get there when it opens at 9am (the all-important wheelbarrows run out pretty quickly), head straight for the expensive stuff (trees and shrubs), know exactly what you’re looking for, and don’t get sidetracked. It’s hard to not get carried away, stuffing everything you can get your hands on in your wheelbarrow. It’s odd what people walk out with – lots of people were buying big pots of daffodils in flower, which would have gone over in a few days.

As the morning wore on, the wheelbarrows ran out, and people were picking up each other’s by mistake. It was a thoroughly British affair – there was some loud tutting at wheelbarrows blocking routes to the plants, some pointed querying as to whether someone had jumped the queue to pay, and some light stalking of people heading back to their cars with their purchases in order to get their wheelbarrow. But it’s all good fun and well worth it – for about £70, I picked up the Judas tree, a decent-sized Hydrangea paniculata, one of my favourite roses, ‘Compassion’, and around ten perennials. The next sale is on 4 July, and while I’ve got little room left in my garden now for anything new, I’ll definitely go back.

Kentucky coffee tree

Kentucky coffee tree Gymnocladus dioicus, Hauser + Wirth Gallery
Bruton, Somerset

This is Gymnocladus dioicus, the Kentucky coffeetree. There’s a line of them at the Piet Oudolf garden at the Hauser + Wirth Gallery in Somerset. Apparently they come into leaf late and drop their leaves early, so presumably Mr Oudolf chose them for their architectural quality. The seeds can be roasted to make a coffee substitute, apparently.

The Judas tree

Pink house 2
Brook Green, west London

My favourite blossom is that of the Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum)*. You don’t see it much in this country, although if you’re lucky enough to be in Paris at this time of year, you’ll see it everywhere. This tree looks so pretty against the pink house – the owner says the blossom doesn’t last for long, but it’s beautiful while it lasts.

I loved the hanging basket in front of the window, dangling from one of the gnarled branches.


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Weekend inspiration: cherry blossom


I have a large wild cherry in my garden that was smothered in blackfly when I moved in last summer – and I mean smothered. It looked very sorry for itself. I didn’t have high hopes for it come spring, but I’ve been surprised.

The tree is obscuring the area where I want to grow veg, so I pruned it to allow more sun to hit my future veg patch. The branches had tons of flower buds on them, so I brought them indoors and put them in a vase. There are no flowers outside yet, but indoors they’re flowering beautifully.

Early blossom

Kentish Town

In a month or so’s time, blossom will be everywhere. But on a brisk March Sunday, in a row of trees that were entirely bare, this really stood out. I love the shape – so airy and delicate. I’d love to know what variety it is.
Miriam, a reader of this blog, has emailed to say: ‘I think the variety is: Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’. I have one in my front garden and it is a welcome sight at this time of year as it is the first of the cherry trees to come into bloom. Later when the blossom has gone the leaves come out.’

Thanks Miriam! It’s definitely one for my tree wishlist.

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To my mind, there’s no sight more beautiful than blossom set against a blue sky, and nothing more pleasurable than lying under a blossom-laden tree.

So I couldn’t wait to see 23,000 fruit trees – apple, plum, cherry, quince and cobnuts – in bloom during the blossom weekend at Brogdale Farm, home to the National Fruit Collection.

We had to wait a while for the blue skies, as hail and rain were very much on the agenda. But finally they appeared, setting off the cherry and plum blossom perfectly. Above  is a ‘Victory’ plum.

The South Bank

The South Bank

I’m walking up and down the South Bank a lot these days and it never fails to impress. Aside from the culture, restaurants and views it’s got loads of thoughtfully planned seating, clever lighting, interesting paving, twinkling lights in the trees and ever changing things to look at.

These silver birches have just appeared outside the National Theatre, complete with tweeting bird sounds emanating from their branches. It’s an other-worldly addition that’s almost eerie at night.

The only thing ruining the South Bank at the moment is a mariachi-style band that dominates Hungerford Bridge, drowning out every other busker and making conversation/iPod listening nigh-on impossible for at least a 200m radius. They used to play ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’ ad infinitum but now they’ve switched to Christmas carols. The other day I crossed Waterloo Bridge to avoid them, only to find that some of their pals were dominating that one too. Please, please will someone make it stop?!?!!!!………….



Only in Soho, I would wager, is it possible to see two prostitutes and an apple tree within a few feet of each other.

No sooner had my friend Vicky told me that her boyfriend was once propositioned in Soho by a lady who said ‘Any business?’ then we saw two women and two men down an alleyway, all looking slightly shifty. Of course there could be a perfectly innocent explanation for the goings-on, but let’s just say that the women weren’t dressed for a day at the office or a night out and there was definitely some kind of deal going on. Then we heard one woman saying to the other, ‘Do you want one or two?’ Oooer.

Moments later we walked past 68 Dean Street, where this apple tree had lots of juicy-looking fruits on it. There’s also a big old ivy and a jasmine, which makes the house look like its been there for years. Which of course it has – since 1681, in fact. I’d never noticed it before, but it’s used for photo and film shoots.