Jun 052013
Finsbury Park

Finsbury Park

As part of Out of my Shed‘s street party for the Chelsea Fringe, I was asked to judge eight tree pits that had been planted up in the local area. It’s the second time that I’ve been given this job, and it isn’t easy. Any tree pit that is planted up is infinitely prettier than one that isn’t, and who am I to judge one community-minded gardener’s plot against another? This year, I roped in gardener and fellow blogger Colin to help me.

Boy, was Colin a hard taskmaster. I was inclined to take each pit at face value – ie. what it was looking like on that particular day. But Colin’s assessments went much futher than that. He was looking for great structure, appropriate plant associations, good use of colour and more than one season of interest. All from a couple of square feet at the base of a tree!

Luckily Mr Mian’s tree pit looked great on the day AND met most of Colin’s exacting criteria, so we were unanimous in voting it the winner. The scheme was simple – mostly hardy geraniums – but there were also other perennials and lemon balm. The billowy plants were spilling over the pavement and could be seen from several metres away. We saw some other lovely ideas, too – one pit was planted with wildflowers, and another with yellow wallflowers that matched the front door of a house.

All of the ideas for the tree pits were infinitely better than those suggested on a recent Chelsea Fringe edition of Gardeners’ Question Time – Eric Robson suggested planting ground elder. The residents of N4 could show the panel a thing or two.

Jun 022013
Finsbury Park

Finsbury Park

Naomi from Out of my Shed hosted her second Chelsea Fringe street party this weekend. The sun was shining and there was a great turnout (and supply of cake) from Naomi’s local community. This year, gardening bloggers were also enjoying the event virtually, via a parallel Fringe event called the Bloggers’ Cut (geddit?), organised by Michelle over at Veg Plotting. How very 21st century!

Naomi scored a bit of a coup as she managed to get three Chelsea Pensioners to declare the party officially open. They always visit the Chelsea Flower Show, so it was fitting that they visited a Fringe event too. They caused quite a stir, posing expertly for the (many) cameras and chatting away to the fascinated crowd. And what lovely, twinkly chaps they were. I asked Bob (in the middle) how he’d got there, and he told me he’d walked (he’d got a taxi). Bill (on the right) told me all about life at the Chelsea Hospital. Apparently the food is excellent, especially the crumble. He took some pics on his smartphone. I’d love to have talked to them all for longer.

A bit of Chelsea Flower Show-style planting had also come to Finsbury Park, in the form of some cow parsley in the communal veg patch. I’ve walked past that veg patch many times, and have never noticed any cow parsley. A neighbour told me that Naomi dug it up from somewhere she shouldn’t have, but her secret’s safe with me.

Chelsea-style planting in Finsbury Park

Sep 102012

Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden

I suffered rather an ordeal the other night. In other words, I had my photo taken. My friend Naomi at Out of My Shed is writing a book, and she plans to include me in it.

It is an undisputed fact that I always look awful in pictures. I was once photographed for Which? Travel magazine (clutching a bottle of tequila… it’s a long story). The photographer said that the harder the person is to take a picture of, the longer the job lasts. Taking one picture of me took FOUR HOURS. In the resulting shot I looked like a burglar with a drink problem (bottle of tequila + the unfortunate choice of a stripey top).

Anyway, Naomi rather sprung this picture-taking session on me and it was just my luck that I was having a bad hair (and bad cold) day. But one does not say no to Naomi, so off we went to the Queen Elizabeth Hall roof garden for the ultimate urban veg growing vibe.

The place has got a lot more popular since I last went (and rightly so – it’s fab), and there were people sitting everywhere. Naomi snapped away, doing her best with such a lousy subject, while everyone no doubt wondered why a woman was having her picture taken next to some vegetables.

The ordeal over, we had a beer and admired the gardens. I loved this informal screen that has sprung up the length of the pergola that leads to the Hayward Gallery. The raised bed underneath it is probably one and a half feet wide and deep, and is stuffed to the gills with Verbena bonariensis, Solanum jasminoides, Joe Pye weed, the odd rose, nasturtiums and herbs. Edible, ornamental, and scented.