Jan 212013
 
Isabella Street, Southwark, SE1

Southwark

I’d like to say that Isabella Street is one of London’s best-kept secrets, but it isn’t really. It’s just that I’ve only recently discovered it. I was initially drawn to it by – you’ve guessed it – the plants that adorn the archway at the entrance.

Isabella Street isn’t a ‘street’ as such – it’s an odd patch of ground sandwiched between a railway bridge and Southwark and Waterloo East stations. Strangely, it’s home to a few restaurants and bars, including EV, a Turkish place. Dozens of hardy yet exotic-looking plants in pots – bamboos, cordylines, Mexican orange blossom (choisya), loquats (Eriobotrya japonica) and date palms, all watered lovingly by the restaurant staff – line the walkway and seclude the outdoor tables. At night they’re lit with fairy lights. Somehow all this gives the place a holiday feel. The place is packed on Friday and Saturday nights, especially in summer.

I’d wager that no one would be drawn to Isabella Street without the plants – they make the place. Without them it’s just a patch of concrete with a view of the Shard.

Mar 182011
 

Victoria

I went to the RHS Halls in Victoria today for a preview of the London Orchid Show and to hear about what the RHS shows have in store this year. I chatted to Colin Crosbie, Curator at RHS Garden Wisley. He said that plants are an addiction, and he often has to fib to his wife when she spots a new plant in their garden, claiming that it’s been there for ages. My mum does a similar thing with my dad. I guess it’s the horticultural equivalent of someone with a shopping addiction claiming to have had a new pair of shoes for years.

Anyway, after the show I went shopping. I tried on some clothes, hated all of them and found myself in a bit of a bad mood (I hate shopping). And then I spied a street full of cherry trees in bloom, and found myself drawn to it.

The trees led to Ashley Gardens, a Victorian block of flats. Its garden is a cornucopia of shade-loving plants – hellebores, fatsias, camellias, Arum italicum, tree ferns, hardy geraniums and so on – with paths and mystery doorways and different levels. I spent a happy few minutes taking pics – along with someone else (I hope she doesn’t have a rival blog to this one!Q).

When I walked off I realised my spirits had lifted considerably. So I guess I’m with Colin on the addiction front. Oh well – plants are (usually) cheaper than shoes…