Dec 182013
 
Heuchera

Hammersmith

I am terribly behind with this blog, which explains why this pic looks quite autumnal. But when I checked last week, these heucheras were still going strong outside an office block in Hammersmith.

I’ve never been that keen on heucheras. No particular reason – they just don’t do it for me. But these look good en masse, and are shown off quite nicely by the gravel. Plus, they positively glow in the low winter sunshine.  So I’ve decided I like them.

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Sep 272013
 
orangedahlias

‘Wigo Super’

Every year, the Inner Temple Garden’s head gardener Andrea experiments with different dahlias. Here are a few that I especially loved.

‘Wigo Super’ glows in the border, and looks great against the backdrop of purple cleomes. Andrea’s so impressed with it that she’s thinking of dumping ‘David Howard’ next year and replacing him with this charmer.

Dahlia 'Edwin's Sunset'

‘Edwin’s Sunset’ positively pulsates with colour and takes over from a red rose that has finished flowering.

Purpur Konigin

In the War of the Roses border, ‘Purpur Konigin’ is stealing the show. It’s small but perfectly formed and would make a fantastic cut flower.

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Sep 242013
 
Innertempleborder

Temple

Late summer/early autumn is always the peak season for the High Border at the Inner Temple Garden, and head gardener Andrea Brunsendorf thinks  that this year, it’s looking the best it’s ever looked. I agree.

Innertempledetail

Almost every colour can be found in it  – orange, yellow, red, magenta, purple, pink and blue – and yet it doesn’t look garish. It just glows in the mellow autumn light. It should power on for a few weeks yet, so if you’re in London, take the time to go and see it.

Innertempledetail2_edited-1

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Sep 102013
 
Englishcombe, near Bath

Englishcombe, near Bath

This handsome owl is the unofficial mascot of the Millstream Project in Englishcombe Village, just outside Bath. I stumbled across it by accident one day and now drag all of my visitors there, crossing fields and streams and taking a few unnecessary detours thanks to my appalling sense of direction.

The area has been renovated and planted by the local community with help from the Duchy of Cornwall, which seems to own a lot of the land around Bath. It has brooks babbling through it, over 400 new trees and is teeming with wildlife and interesting plants. There’s a den for kids and a barbecue that anyone can use. It’s a lovely place to wander around or sit in (on some extremely nice handmade benches that were an eBay bargain). The organisers have a 21-year plan for the site, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves.

Jun 202013
 
Temple3

Temple

While we’re on the subject of the Inner Temple Garden, here’s one of my favourite parts of it – the Peony Garden. It is home to peonies, obviously, but what I really like about it is its green-ness. There is colour, but it’s quite muted. The magnolia kicks off the show, then the wisteria takes over, followed by peonies, foxgloves, hardy geraniums and clematis.

Temple2

During the Chelsea Fringe/Open Squares weekend, other Temple gardens were open too. If you get the chance to go, do – it’s fascinating to walk around a part of London that is rarely open to the public. There’s even a tiny shop that sells shirts and pommade. But it’s not all traditional, either – I liked this slightly unruly planting in a raised bed next to a very grand house.

May 282013
 
Rotherhithe

Rotherhithe

‘Gardening and drinking go really well together,’ says Lottie Muir, aka the Cocktail Gardener. And she should know – by day she’s a volunteer gardener at the Brunel Museum and by night she mixes delicious cocktails using botanical ingredients.

I’d never heard of the Brunel Museum, let alone its roof garden, before the Chelsea Fringe. The garden sits above Brunel’s Thames Tunnel and was created last year by Lottie, with the help of a small grant from Capital Growth and Southwark Council. Triangular raised beds are laid out like a Trivial Pursuit counter around a fire pit and sun dial. Volunteers in the garden can take the produce home, but Lottie admits that she’s increasingly favouring plants that she can infuse, distill or use as a garnish for her cocktails.

Ah yes, the cocktails. I don’t generally drink in the afternoon but that policy went out of the window the moment I clapped eyes on Lottie’s Midnight Apothecary menu. First up was a Chelsea Fringe Collins (jasmine-infused gin, St Germain elderflower liqueur, rose petal syrup, lemon juice and soda). It was long and refreshing, sweet and sour, pale pink and sparkling, and garnished with sweet william petals and a sprig of lavender. I could have drunk that all afternoon but for decency’s sake I moved on to the non-alcholic but equally amazing Lavender Honeysuckle (lavender-infused wildflower honey, lemon juice, lemon balm, mint and sparkling water – see the pic above).

If I wasn’t such a lightweight I’d have tried the deep crimson Silver Rose Hibiscus (silver rose tea-infused vodka, Cointreau, hibiscus syrup, lemon juice and bitters). As it was I had to be driven home in a daze – the sun, the alcohol, the hum of the bees, the gentle chatter, the fragrance of the lavender I’d been sitting next to and the fact that I was wearing a jumper in the 20-degree heat had all conspired to make me feel a little… sleepy.

The roof garden is a lovely and unexpected space, free to enter, and it’s a real sun trap too. I urge you to go, especially while Lottie is dispensing her cocktails – every Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. Just make sure you don’t have anything important to do afterwards.

Brunel

Jan 272013
 
Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn'

Waterloo

Viburnum tinus ‘Bodnantense Dawn’ is one of my favourite plants – it flowers in the middle of winter and has the most fantastic scent that stops you in your tracks.

This one is in a community garden near Waterloo. It’s somehow been trained to cover an arch – its base is covered by the fence I was peering over, so I’m not sure how it’s been done. But it’s a nice idea, don’t you think?

Apr 092012
 

Tower Bridge

I went to a Chelsea Fringe meeting at City Hall the other night.

It’s a pretty nice walk from London Bridge – walk through Hay’s Galleria and you’re presented with a view of the skyline opposite before Tower Bridge looms into view.

That part of the river has lots of swanky new high-rise buildings and it’s not the kind of area where you’d expect to see much in the way of greenery, so I was surprised to see this garden.

It’s all very snazzy and modern, with heucheras, sarcococca (winter box) and ferns laid out in rows beneath silver birches and magnolias. It’s divided by lots of box hedging, which I like best at this time of year when it’s new growth makes it look bright green and fluffy around the edges. There are plenty of places to sit – the perfect urban oasis.

As I took some pics, I was surprised to see a squirrel darting around one of the granite seats. As I got closer I saw the reason why – someone had left some peanuts in their shells there. I can only assume they were a squirrel fan.

Sep 152011
 

Stratford

I went to Stratfield today – not to go to Westfield with the masses, but to the Olympic site. I donned a hard hat and hi-vis jacket and was shown around by Nigel Dunnett, who is playing a key role in the planting there.

The planting at the park is not an afterthought – it’s integral to it. In fact, you could say the Olympic Park is an urban park with some buildings in it. After the Games (or ‘Games’ as they’re known to those in the know – without the ‘the’), many of the temporary buildings will disappear, but the park will remain.

Nigel is part of an expert team that really knows what it’s doing and is united in its aim to create something truly groundbreaking. It’s taking controlled risks, calmly experimenting with plant mixes and sowing times, its eye on the 2012 deadline all the while.

This is a modern park that most British people won’t have seen the like of before. There are no rose beds or garish annuals but wet woodland, swathes of annual and perennial meadows and native plants and trees. The highly designed yet naturalistic-looking borders combine familiar and less familar plants in unusual ways – a modern take on the traditional herbaceous border. The site has its own bespoke soils and sophisticated drainage and irrigation systems, and ticks every biodiversity box. Wildlife is already moving in.

The sheer scale of the planting means that it’s pretty showstopping – especially the River of Gold, a long corridor planted with an annual meadow mix of coreopsis, californian poppy, annual chrysanthemum and cornflowers. But it’s not showy or brash and doesn’t feel like a theme park. The plants, even those from far-flung parts of the world, look very much at home.

The design team hopes that the Olympic site will change our view of the urban park forever. It might also change the way we garden, too.