Mar 292013
 
Great Dixter, East Sussex

Great Dixter, East Sussex

If you read a lot of gardening blogs, you may have noticed that there’s been a flurry of posts on Great Dixter recently. That’s because the garden invited bloggers to an open day last week. (What do you call a group of bloggers? A bevvy? An annoyance?…) We all behaved in exactly the same way: we briefly said hello to people we’d known previously only by their blog name, and then whipped out our cameras and notebooks and started snapping and scribbling away. I know for a fact that Michelle over at Veg Plotting took these very same pics. She’s probably writing exactly the same blog post too.

I love Great Dixter. Its Edwin Lutyens layout (yew topiary and garden rooms) may be eternal, but the planting is ever changing, in the spirit of the late Christopher Lloyd who gardened there for years. It’s now in the very safe hands of Fergus Garrett, to whom I could, quite frankly, listen to for hours as he divulges his secrets to Dixter’s legendary plant combinations.

The first time I visited Dixter, I was struck by the beautiful pot display at the entrance to the house. It was the first time I’d seen so many containers grouped together – I was used to seeing a few tiddly pots of geraniums standing feebly outside front doors. I rushed home and tried to emulate the exact same look on my balcony.

Fergus told us that the display is refreshed every two or three weeks from the end of March until October. It’s often put together by Dixter’s students, who then move on to helping make bigger decisions about borders and bedding displays.

Fergus explains that Christo was very generous with his gardening knowledge, and that he continues in the same spirit with his students. ‘You give someone everything in the hope that they will give everything to someone else,’ he says. And that’s what I love about gardeners – I’ve yet to meet one who isn’t more than happy to share everything they know.

Pots at Great Dixter

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Mar 272013
 
Narcissus 'Tete a Tete' and crocuses outside Pizza East

Kentish Town

This caught my eye on the way to Parliament Hill the other Sunday. I liked how the writing doesn’t follow the contours of the container and so looks superimposed.

A week or so later I went for dinner at Pizza East next door. The little campanulas were looking distinctly worse for wear – they obviously haven’t liked the low temperatures we’ve had recently.

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Mar 212013
 
Embankment

Embankment

I’ve done quite a few posts on this blog about Andrea Brunsendorf’s amazing pot display. The last time I visited, the surfaces of most of the pots were covered in conifer trimmings – something they do in Germany as it’s too cold in the winter for most bedding plants. This time, it had erupted into colour. The bright red tulips are ‘Early Harvest’ and the crocuses (below) are Crocus biflorus ‘Blue Pearl’.

Andrea reckons that the garden is about a month behind this year. It still looks pretty wintery, although the hellebores and daffs are looking lovely and euphorbias are adding touches of acid yellow. Tulips are peeping optimistically through the soil. It’s all happening, but slowly.

So in the meantime, let’s fast forward to June, when the garden will be taking part in the Chelsea Fringe.

Andrea wanted to do something people wouldn’t expect from a garden that’s in a very traditional and formal setting, so she’s come up with the idea of a dog show. She says that many head gardeners have dogs (Andrea has the lovely Boris, a cockerpoo) but that most gardens don’t allow dogs. So on 9 June the garden will be the most dog-friendly in London, with a dog show with categories such as ‘waggiest tail’ and ‘dog most like its owner’. There will also be a horticultural quiz, cake show and gardening agony aunts and uncles. Roll on summer…

Crocus 'Blue Pearl'

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Mar 172013
 
Cyclamen coum, box and ivy

Wimpole Street

I must say I’m getting a trifle weary of winter bedding (and winter in general – will it ever end?), but this window box makes a refreshing change. Cyclamen coum are usually planted in the ground, but here they’re being used as bedding. They’re on top of some railings, so passersby can enjoy them at eye level. I much prefer them to the ubiquitous larger-flowered types.

There’s some interesting leaf textures going on, here too – the tiny leaves of the box, the larger leaves of the cyclamen, and the variegated ivy. Lovely.

 

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Mar 092013
 

 

Crocuses on the lawn, Kentish Town

Kentish Town

At this time every year, the lawn in front of this house erupts into a riot of yellow, purple and white crocuses. There’s always a steady stream of people taking photos of it. I think the house might belong to someone who works in the park on Parliament Hill.

I’m sure a better photographer would have got some lovely shots with a decent camera, the right lens, some forgiving light and infinitely more skill. But the pic I took on my compact made the house look horrible and didn’t capture the crocuses either. So then I took a pic on Instagram, which made everything look better.

And that’s the thing about Instagram, isn’t it? It’s life, but through rose-tinted glasses. I love it and hate it in equal measure.

One person who has no time for retro photography apps is my Dad. I sent him a picture of my nephews taken with Cross Process, and he informed me that it was overexposed. He offered to fix it for me on his computer.

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Mar 052013
 
P1040300c

Kentish Town

In a month or so’s time, blossom will be everywhere. But on a brisk March Sunday, in a row of trees that were entirely bare, this really stood out. I love the shape – so airy and delicate. I’d love to know what variety it is.
STOP PRESS:
Miriam, a reader of this blog, has emailed to say: ‘I think the variety is: Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’. I have one in my front garden and it is a welcome sight at this time of year as it is the first of the cherry trees to come into bloom. Later when the blossom has gone the leaves come out.’

Thanks Miriam! It’s definitely one for my tree wishlist.

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Mar 042013
 
Carex, ivy and silver birch in a pot

Lambeth

The walk from Lambeth North tube to the Garden Museum isn’t the most scenic (it’s better to walk from Westminster, and enjoy the view of the river and Houses of Parliament on the way), but I like it.

If you go via the Imperial War Museum, there are some interesting town houses (some with nice gardens) to nosey at. If you take the short cut, you walk through an industrial estate that has some unusual-looking businesses. Whichever way you go, you walk past a cafe that always looks horrible and an industrial bakers that always smells amazing. And then you end up at the Garden Museum, a haven for garden lovers in the midst of thundering traffic.

Last week I took the industrial estate route, and saw these pots: a grass (carex), ivy (its stems growing upwards) and multi-stemmed silver birch. There are quite a few of them, outside what I think is a design studio. A nice bit of permanent, low maintenance but high-impact planting, don’t you think?

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Mar 012013
 
P1040277

St John’s Wood

Regular readers of this blog (hello, both of you!) will know that St John’s Wood is considered the box ball capital of Europe. Topiary has been trending in NW8 for years now, along with fancy fencing, electric gates, doric columns, lion and eagle statues and overly large or small dogs.

Quite often, the box balls or lollipop bay trees are quite out of proportion with the giant pillars and lion statues, which amuses me because it shows that money cannot buy taste. But this tiny area (a side passage) is perfect. It contains just three plants: the obligatory box balls (lovely plump ones), a wall of Trachelospermum jasminoides and a Magnolia grandiflora. The big leaves of the magnolia contrast with the tiny leaves of the box, and the hard landscaping complements the pots and the walls. It’s simple, but really effective.

I’m reliably informed by my local mole that the garden was designed by Anouska Hempel’s ‘people’.

The same mole also informs me that the pots are made of plastic. In St John’s Wood! I’m surprised this isn’t contravening a local bylaw.