Jul 292011
 

Regent's Park

My lack of a sense of direction is legendary but I excelled myself the other day – I walked all the way around the Inner Circle of Regent’s Park, trying to find a route out, and ended up exactly where I started. And then I had to retrace my steps halfway round all over again, by which point it was almost dark.

So I happened to walk past this garden not once but twice. It’s in front of a building called The Studio. I just googled it and it seems to be home to a company that does ‘event architecture’, whatever that is. I think the planting must have been done to complement the orange door and the orange Smart car on the drive. I rather liked the mix of the dark foliage, orange marigolds and heleniums and towering fennels.

I took a pic, finally got out of the park just as dusk fell and then got lost again, this time around the back of Lords Cricket Ground. Hopeless.

Jul 272011
 

Finsbury Park

Last Sunday, my friend Naomi had an impromptu lunch party.  It was still going strong at 6.30pm, when her garden was bathed in some lovely dappled shade.

The garden is the perfect illustration of just how many plants you can cram in, and how great a garden can look, if you don’t have a lawn. The front is reserved for veg and some extremely tall sunflowers courtesy of Great Dixter where Naomi sometimes volunteers.

Naomi spreads her knowledge of gardening far and wide – she’s got entire streets in her neighbourhood planting veg in their front gardens and beautifying their tree pits. As a result she’s just found out that she’s been nominated for two community gardening awards.

Be sure to check out her popular and very informative blog.

Jul 252011
 

Islington

When I was at King Henry’s Walk Garden the other day I saw this bike lock. I’ve spotted quite a few of them over town recently and had been wondering who made them. Turns out they’re called PlantLocks and are made by the Front Yard Company, which aims to make front yards and gardens useful places for storing objects securely and attractively. Hurrah for them.

A PlantLock costs £135 inc VAT and weighs about 75kg when planted up, rendering it immoveable. Nifty, huh?

Jul 212011
 

Abbey Road

I used to live in a building called Utopia House. Never was a block of flats more inaccurately named, but that’s another story. One thing that used to fascinate me was that out of 18 flats, only two had plants on the balconies. The rest were home to junk that people didn’t have room for indoors. Space was at a premium, of course (why can’t designers create flats with enough storage – basements, bike stores etc?), but I got a lot of pleasure from gazing out at my green jungle. I couldn’t understand why 16 households in a fairly grim part of town were looking out on such a depressing view.

At the weekend I walked past the Alexandra & Ainsworth Estate and decided to have a look around. Whenever I’ve gone past it on the bus I’ve thought it looked like it must be home to some greenfingered residents, and so it is.

This was the best bit of planting I saw (I especially like the celebratory flags) but I also spotted lots of red geraniums (the perfect balcony plant as they’re so visible), lavender, courgettes, salads, garden gnomes and even trees in pots. Apparently the architect, Neave Brown, designed the site so that everyone had access to a private outdoor space of some kind. And 30-odd years later it’s obviously still appreciated, as most people seemed to be growing something.

I also spotted a community veg garden (growing in bags). And apparently the site will soon be getting some beehives, too.

Jul 192011
 

Devon

In my job I am mostly deskbound but last week I was lucky enough to go to Devon to help out on a photoshoot at Riverford Farm near Buckfastleigh. That’s Riverford as in the organic veg box people, of course.

At the amazing Riverford Farm Field Kitchen, chef Jane Baxter and her team come up with amazing, seasonal veg dishes and some spectacular puddings twice a day; there is meat to go with them if you want it but it’s not the main attraction. You eat at communal tables, and the first time I went I was worried there wouldn’t be enough food to go around. But of course there was. The Times restaurant critic Giles Coren reckons he had the lunch of his life there and I’d second that (although I wasn’t with Giles when I had mine, obviously).

At first glance the site looks like a farm, as you’d expect, but as you near the Field Kitchen and Riverford HQ there’s lots of nice, exhuberant planting on terraces – shown here.

If you’re holidaying in Devon this summer, you MUST go. Just don’t plan too much for afterwards, as you may need a lie-down.

Jul 172011
 

Islington

I went on a foraging course lead by foraging king Miles Irving the other weekend. I was wondering what on earth there would be to forage in London but in the space of two hours we didn’t move more than a few metres and learned about the joys of hairy bittercress, water mint, king cup, yarrow, hoary mustard, wild rocket, wild lettuce, chickweed, sow thistle, procumbent yellow sorrel, clover, mugwort, lady’s bedstraw, dock, fat hen, nettles and much more.

I’ll never look at weeds in the same way again, but the real revelation of the day was King Henry’s Walk community garden. It was created a few years back on previously derelict land, with the support of my favourite London council, Islington, and run by volunteers. It has around 75 plots, much smaller and therefore more manageable than the average allotment, all looking artfully abundant and tended by bicycling locals. There are also some raised beds for less able users (pictured), a greenhouse, storage areas and a learning centre. The place is teeming with wildlife.

The garden has won a bucketful of awards, including two RHS London in Bloom awards, and rightly so. I know I keep banging on about this, but there is more land than we think that can be cultivated out there – it just takes some imagination and dedication.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m off for some meadowsweet custard and a hawthorn tea.

Jul 152011
 

Dartmouth Park

As I’ve observed on this blog before, the likelihood of someone being home as I’m snapping their garden seems to be disproportionately high. These days I have a card at the ready and most people are more than happy to have their garden photographed.

My luck ran out last weekend, though. The cockles of my heart still warm from the house a few doors down (see previous post), I found this other lovely display (there were also some other pots that you can’t see, which contained French marigolds and cornflowers). I got my camera out, raised it… and then heard some loud banging on the window from behind the net curtains. This was accompanied by an emphatic ‘NO!’. And then the curtains were pulled to one side.

Having been a gardening journalist for several years, I am used to the fact that the owner of a garden is often not at all what you’d expect from the look of their garden. And that was certainly the case here. I was imagining someone at bit boho and middle class (as most of the inhabitants of Dartmouth Park are). Let’s just say that the person shouting at me was not remotely like that…

Jul 132011
 

Dartmouth Park

I’m always really happy to see any house where the inhabitants have taken the time to brighten up their environs, especially in London where so many people don’t bother. This place has pots fixed to every part of spare wall, with plants spilling out of them.

In the window is a sign to read…


I’m not sure what compels someone to put a sign like this in their window, but I guess it’s a message we could all do with reminding about.

Jul 112011
 

Fitzrovia

I don’t think I’ve ever had a ‘girl crush’ before but I might be in danger of developing one. My friend Vicky and I stumbled across Emma’s hairdressing emporium (which doesn’t yet have a name) on Cleveland Street a couple of months back. We instantly loved the way she’d kitted it out (shabby chic might be the best way to describe it) and swooned over the battered green leather sofa in the window and old issues of Vogue. We also fell in love with her black labrador, who she takes for walks in Regents Park, temporarily shutting up shop.

When we went there the other evening to make an appointment for Vicky, we were instantly struck by Emma’s new flamboyant display of pots. It turns out that sheused to live across the road and had a similar display there on the steps of her flat – I’d wondered why it had disappeared. Nasturtiums, geraniums, hydrangeas and hollyhocks spill on to the pavement and create quite a show. From inside the salon, it looks like a real garden.

Vicky and I both agreed that Emma is very cool indeed. Next time we go in we’ll probably discover that she gives all her earnings to charity and is about to discover a cure for cancer.