Oct 312011
 

Soho

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.

Oct 292011
 

Stoke Newington

This isn’t a gratuitous cat pic, lovely though Cleo is – I wanted her to walk on the lawn but she wasn’t playing ball.

As you know, I don’t like fake plants, but until I was actually standing on this lawn I didn’t realise it was fake. It has some authentic-looking ‘thatch’ and my friend Olivier has left some autumn leaves on it for a more natural look. Apparently the original lawn was always waterlogged and wouldn’t grow, plus Olivier and his partner had nowhere to store a mower. So although I’m loathe to admit it, a couple of metres of fake turf has done the job quite nicely in their garden. It’s from LazyLawn apparently.

Oct 262011
 

Knoll Gardens, Dorset

Here’s a nice autumn combo: a grass and a sedum: Eragrostis curvula ‘Totnes Burgundy’ and Sedum telephium ‘Karfunklestein’. The sedum’s dead flowerheads should look good into winter and the grass can be cut down in spring – so a good alternative for a winter pot too.

Oct 242011
 

Knoll Gardens, Dorset

Neil Lucas, grass expert and owner of Knoll Gardens in Dorset, says that grasses look best backlit by the sun. And of course he’s right. He couldn’t have asked for better weather for his grass masterclass last week – the sun was dancing on the flowerheads of the grasses, the shadows of trees were lengthening on the lawns and the entire garden was aglow with autumn colour. If a visit there doesn’t convince you to grow more grasses in your garden, I don’t know what will.

Oct 212011
 

Regent's Park

I find this pot a bit depressing. It’s perfectly nice and everything, but the sight of it makes my heart sink a little.

Let me explain. This container contains all the usual suspects for winter interest –  ivy, tree heather, cyclamen, pansies and an ornamental cabbage. Go to any garden centre now and these plants are pretty much what’s on offer. And they’ll continue to be on offer until next spring. And therein lies my problem.

Whereas the choice of plants for summer pots is vast, with lots of potential for colour and exciting plant combinations, there are hardly any options for winter pots. It’s quite hard to find an unsual cyclamen or pansy, let alone come up with an amazing planting combination. It takes real skill and imagination to come up with anything a bit different for winter, and lots of people don’t bother.

And so, the hunt is on. I will endeavour to bring you some winter pots that are truly amazing, and hereby ban red cyclamen and purple pansies from this blog. Let’s just hope I that doesn’t mean its pages will be empty…

Oct 182011
 

East Dulwich

I think this is what’s known as a ‘riot of colour’.

I once glimpsed an elderly gentleman in the doorway of this unusual house on a busy main road (Lordship Lane), so I presume this garden is his handiwork.  It has some spectacular displays in the summer and autumn – mostly dahlias, with some roses, sunflowers and morning glories thrown in. This year there are lots of nerines, too. When the show’s over everything is cut down/dug up  – so much so that in the winter months you could walk past it and forget it’s there. Then in spring, the garden consists almost entirely of wallflowers. Look closely and you’ll see that they’re already in place among all the late bloomers.

It’s a bit of an unconventional way of gardening by today’s standards – most of us are going for year-round interest, structure etc etc (not to mention a parking space) – but there’s no denying that it’s pretty special in its own way.

Oct 162011
 

Bath

I do like a bit of serendipity. No sooner had I read about Vegmead, a community veg garden in the middle of a park in Bath, than I walked straight past it. A former flowerbed, it was created by a group of volunteers as part of the Transition Bath movement in Hedgemead Park. It was planted in six days – you can watch a lovely video about its creation here. I’m not sure who gets to eat the crops…

Meanwhile Bath has won a silver gilt in the Britain in Bloom Awards. Bath in Bloom gave support to the Vegmead project, which shows that the competition isn’t all about immaculate flowerbeds like the one below. Apparently the Britain in Bloom judges saw much more veg displays around the country this year – I bet we’ll be seeing more of them in the future.

 

Oct 142011
 

Bath

I lived in Bath for three years when I was a student, and never knew it had a Botanic Garden. I wasn’t interested in gardening then – at the time the University offered a BSc in Horticulture and I used to think that all the glasshouses looked a bit boring. Mind you, I thought the boffins in labs tapping away at something called the ‘World Wide Web’ looked a bit boring, too. Thank heavens I didn’t embark on a career as a trend forecaster.

Anyway, I’m not a huge fan of botanic gardens as I’m not that interested in plant collections as such – more how plants are put together. But Bath Botanic Garden was set up (over 100 years ago) with the aim of being an attractive garden with botanical interest, rather than a garden that is purely of botanical interest. So it has an interesting layout and lots of nice features such as a scented walk and some surprisingly contemporary herbaceous borders.

Apparently it looks its best in spring but it was looking pretty good at dusk on an October day. The borders were still looking good and there was lots of autumn colour, berries and grasses, plus some amazing scents from the likes of a huge Abelia x grandiflora.

Oct 122011
 

Walthamstow

This garden is tiny – no more than a couple of metres square – but it’s managed to squeeze in a silver birch, some evergreen shrubs (lavender and rosemary) and a wisteria. The colour palette is greens, whites, purple and greys (the white bark is going to look great in winter) and it’s low maintenance and drought tolerant too. Sometimes the simplest ideas really are the best.