Mar 312011
 

St Albans

There are not many things that I covet in life but a greenhouse or potting shed is definitely one of them. So when I heard that Jackie and Pete were building a shed-stroke-greenhouse on their allotment I was a tad envious. They’ve been working on it all winter and when I went recently it was finished.

Jackie gave my co-allotmenteer Huw and I a guided tour. The greenhouse half is home to lots of seedlings and a giant datura overwintering in a pot, and the shed half has a seed cupboard made by Jackie and Pete’s daughter. There’s also a water butt, barbecue, deckchairs, weather vane and dreamcatcher. Pretty much all the materials were salvaged and lots of components were donated by other plotholders.

In the greenhouse Jackie has a sign that says: ‘Born to garden, obliged to work’. Jackie is now actually retired and spends most days at the allotment. Maybe the sign is there to remind her how lucky she is.

Mar 292011
 

St Albans

Every September, my friend Huw starts off loads of hyacinth bulbs in old coffee jars (apparently Co-op Fairtrade Instant have exactly the right neck size). And then he gives most of them away so that people can enjoy them at the dullest, darkest time of the year – often they’re out by Christmas. He keeps plenty for himself too, and when they’ve flowered indoors he puts them out in the garden to flower the following year. This year they’ve put on a great show.

I ate my lunch next to the amaryllis – its flower was almost as big as my head. It got attacked by narcissus fly last year but has bounced back. It was having a brief holiday outdoors in the unseasonably warm weather and will spend the summer outside.

Mar 282011
 

St Albans

I went to pick up my nephew Joe from school the other day. He goes to the same school that I went to in the 1970s and almost everything about it is exactly the same, right down to the smell in the classrooms. But where once there was a concrete paddling pool (used a handful of times a year when the weather was hot enough) there is now a small garden. The pupils also have an allotment and there are plots for parents to rent, too.

When Joe came to my allotment last year, he expertly harvested a courgette, twisting it off at its base. He said he’d learnt how to do it at nursery. I wouldn’t have known what a courgette was at the age of four.

Any article about growing food with kids always says that children are more likely to eat food they’ve grown themselves, but that’s not the case with Joe. He’s not likely to eat a courgette anytime soon – or any other green vegetable for that matter. Although when it comes to the strawberries that his Dad grows in pots, no one else gets a look-in.

Mar 262011
 

Piccadilly

Nobody on the March for the Alternative today took the blindest bit of notice of one of the UK’s best green walls, at the Athenaeum Hotel on Piccadilly. I can’t think why! Actually my friend Jo said she wouldn’t have noticed it if I hadn’t pointed it out – maybe because Londoners rarely look up. It’s designed by French trailblazer Patrick Blanc.

I was too busy photographing the wall to notice the sign that the guy in the stripey top was carrying…

Mar 242011
 

Regents Park

The skies have been blue all week in London, not that you’d know it from this blog – so this pic should redress the balance. On the way to Regent’s Park this lunchtime, I walked past the Royal College of Physicians. Its themed raised beds always look good but this one looked especially lovely today, bursting with spring flowers. All the plants have discreet labels bearing their Latin names and you don’t even have to bend to read them, as the beds are at waist height.

Mar 222011
 

Kentish Town

Once one person starts planting in communal spaces, others often follow suit, as any guerrilla gardener will tell you. The roads around Ryland Road (see previous post) also have planted-up tree pits, and there’s a community garden area too; a sign says that it’s tended by residents. And it’s not made up of boring low maintenance shrubs either – a lot of front gardens don’t look as good as this.

Mar 202011
 
Kentish Town

If there’s one place I’d like to live in London, it’s Kentish Town. It’s near Hampstead Heath, is home to a healthy amount of oddballs and hasn’t entirely been taken over by the three-wheeled buggy/Farrow & Ball/cupcake brigade. Plus it has a resident who had the idea of planting up the tree pits.

His name is Sean Kanavan and he lives on Ryland Road. You can read more about him here. Every tree is underplanted – currently with irises and hollyhocks. Apparently the council obliged by lifting paving slabs to make more room for the plants. The road has won Camden in Bloom awards and in the spring sunshine it was lovely place to be.

If anyone fancies buying me a place there, do let me know.

Mar 192011
 
Victoria

I wasn’t expecting to take any pics yesterday as the weather was pretty grim, but towards the end of the day there was a beautiful sunset. I found these pleached pear trees – several rows of them – in the gardens opposite some swanky flats in Victoria.

And guess what? Beneath them was a lush lawn – and a sign saying ‘Keep off the grass’. Oh dear. Looks like the theory in my previous posting was not 100% correct. The sign did say it was private property, though.

I walked on the grass to take this pic.

Mar 182011
 

Victoria

I went to the RHS Halls in Victoria today for a preview of the London Orchid Show and to hear about what the RHS shows have in store this year. I chatted to Colin Crosbie, Curator at RHS Garden Wisley. He said that plants are an addiction, and he often has to fib to his wife when she spots a new plant in their garden, claiming that it’s been there for ages. My mum does a similar thing with my dad. I guess it’s the horticultural equivalent of someone with a shopping addiction claiming to have had a new pair of shoes for years.

Anyway, after the show I went shopping. I tried on some clothes, hated all of them and found myself in a bit of a bad mood (I hate shopping). And then I spied a street full of cherry trees in bloom, and found myself drawn to it.

The trees led to Ashley Gardens, a Victorian block of flats. Its garden is a cornucopia of shade-loving plants – hellebores, fatsias, camellias, Arum italicum, tree ferns, hardy geraniums and so on – with paths and mystery doorways and different levels. I spent a happy few minutes taking pics – along with someone else (I hope she doesn’t have a rival blog to this one!Q).

When I walked off I realised my spirits had lifted considerably. So I guess I’m with Colin on the addiction front. Oh well – plants are (usually) cheaper than shoes…