Aug 082011

St Albans

My friend Danny and I once observed that gardeners receive little gifts almost every day – something that pops up where you weren’t expecting it, puts on new shoots in spring, comes into flower or ripens.

My Mum received a gift of her own the other day. As I’m currently without a garden, she’s  minding some of my pots and had put this one in a dark corner of her composting area because she thought there was nothing in it. But when she went there the other day, she was startled to see a perfect display of marigolds.

I have absolutely no recollection of sowing these – in fact I’m pretty sure I didn’t. A friend gave me some seeds (that were given to him by his mum) a couple of years ago, and I sowed them last year in an old wine box. And then I moved. So these must have self sowed themselves perfectly in a completely different pot.

Nature, eh? The pot now has pride of place on my Mum’s patio. And I took a pic of this ‘present’ on my birthday.

Aug 052011


I think I may have found my ideal man. Too bad he died 54 years ago.

I’ve never really known much about E. A. Bowles, the legendary plantsman, except that he used to garden at Myddelton House in Enfield and has 40 varieties named after him.

Turns out there was much more to him than that. He held ‘tulip teas’ for the community and friends on his birthday in May, was a talented artist, taught literacy to local children and was a mean ice skater. If a member of staff was having family troubles he’d slip an extra ten shillings into their pay packet.

You get a real sense of the man at Myddelton House, thanks to the swish new visitor centre and helpful signposting around the garden. This isn’t a place with manicured herbaceous borders and neat rows of bedding – it all feels on the verge of being slightly out of control. Mr Bowles wasn’t an aesthete – he was more interested in acquiring plants and giving them the right conditions in which to grow. Many of those plants are familiar to us now but they must have been very unusual at the time. I saw quite a few things that I didn’t recognise.

It’s a really nice place to spend a couple of hours. Be sure to see the clump of Japanese knotweed, its leaves as big as dinner plates and stems as thick as bamboo, now contained by an iron ring to stop it spreading. Edward Augustus planted it for its architectural qualities, not knowing then, as we do now, that this plant is horribly invasive. But nobody’s perfect.


Aug 012011

Tufnell Park

More often than not the bit that juts out in front of a basement flat is unplanted and grim, or covered in weed-infested gravel or slate. But this mini gravel garden/rockery is the perfect solution with its thrift, hebes, campanulas etc.

I particularly like the cute little container of alpines. And the classy window box.