Just off Marylebone High Street is this little mews. You can’t really tell from the pic, but the bamboos are really bushy and abundant and form a perfect screen for whatever is behind them (an office, by the looks of it). They contrast well with the clipped box balls and the Helichrysum petiolare ‘Silver’, which have gone a little bonkers (and have impressively come through the winter unscathed).
Around the bottom of the box balls is lots of chickweed. It is, of course, a weed. But it’s green and fresh and positively springlike, and it actually looks quite nice.
My friends Tim and Alan have recently moved to Brighton, where they’ve bought a house that is identical to the one they lived in in London. The only differences are that the new house is a bit larger, has a loft extension and was cheaper (natch). As all their furniture is in exactly the same place as it was in the old house, the effect is a tad disconcerting. I only remembered I was in Brighton and not East Dulwich when a seagull screeched outside.
I once mortally offended Tim and Alan by telling them that their London garden ‘could’ be very nice, when in their opinion it already was very nice (I’m not known for my tact). This time I was careful to keep quiet, but even Tim and Alan agreed that they’ll need to sort out their front garden at some point. It’s typical of so many terraces – less than a metre deep and currently consisting of some dodgy paving and some recycling bins.
This house, a few doors down, has dealt with this tricky space by filling it with big evergreens. The bamboo and fatsia are low maintenance and provide a screen against prying eyes. They also give lots of impact, even on a dark winter’s day.
I’ve just spent a sneaky week in La Gomera, a boat ride from Tenerife. It’s the perfect island if you’re a hippie, a rambler, a plant afficionado or a nudist. I score on three out of four of those counts, so I loved the place.
We spent the first few days communing with our inner hippie at the Finca Argayall. It’s a laid-back retreat-style place that has simple rooms, wooden huts and tents amid a lush garden that sits between cliffs and the sea. It’s not luxurious (or expensive) but it’s a lovely place to be.
The place is impeccably and discreetly run by 22 people of varying degrees of hippie-ness. Five of them are responsible for the garden, which is run along permaculture lines. It’s incredibly lush and home to an astounding array of plants, many of which I didn’t recognise, and many that I did – yuccas, aloe vera, hibiscus, bamboo, ferns and bananas to name but a few.
The garden is a work in progress, and the team are continually looking for ways to improve it. They planted lots of papayas and mangoes… only to find that they ended up with too many papayas and mangoes. It’s hard to imagine a glut of tropical fruits ever being a problem, but on La Gomera they can’t sell them as everyone else has a glut, and there is only so much pureeing, juicing and preserving that one can do. As a result, some papayas and mangoes have been cut down in a bid to introduce more variety. In their place the team are trying to establish some citrus trees, although they’re a little high maintenance – they need a lot of water and don’t take too kindly to sea winds.
The garden also has a veg patch that provides some of the kitchen’s food. It’s a surreal mix of produce – alongside bananas, papayas and avocados are more banal and familiar crops such as cabbages, potatoes, chard, salad, herbs and edible flowers (the latter adorn most of the delicious vegetarian dishes).
It’s possible to work at the Finca on a three-month trial. If I ever get the urge to permanently turn on, tune in and drop out, I’ll be contacting them straightaway.
This posh terrace of houses really stood out this morning as their front gardens are so green. All of the gardens have a similar set-up – some bamboos, fatsias, choisyas and so on, plus bin stores covered in alpines and evergreens. Quite a few of them have little seating areas. They look very similar, so maybe they were planted by the same person. Whoever it was certainly knew what they were doing.