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.
This is Marcia’s garden, planted up just over a year ago by… me! When Marcia moved in, it consisted of the decking with gravel around the edge, plus a Fatsia japonica, a mahonia and a very large bay tree. Marcia asked for my advice over tea, and I ended up doing a planting plan for her.
In many ways it wasn’t an easy garden to plant up. For a start, Marcia’s budget was around £500. That sound like a lot but it doesn’t go far, even when you’re only filling a few square metres. We saved money by buying plants in the smallest possible size, and for the time being the perennials have outstripped the slower growing shrubs. There was also the orientation of the garden to consider – it’s largely shady (only the border on the right gets a decent amount of sun). There was no budget to alter the layout of the garden, or to do a proper survey of the site, so the gravel was removed and replaced with new topsoil.
Marcia wanted quite a contemporary look, so I dusted down my plant books and got Googling, and after a very long time spent dithering (if I was a full-time garden designer I’d be lucky to earn £1 an hour) I came up with a plan.
The garden has lots of plants with bold foliage such as bergenias, oak-leafed hydrangeas and ferns, and grasses such as Deschampsia and Stipa tenuissima for texture. Hardy geraniums, Japanese anemones and sedums supply the flowers and Christmas box (Sarcococca confusa) and Trachelospermum jasminoides (on the sunny wall) provide the scent. I wanted Marcia to have an awareness of the seasons changing, so there’s spring blossom courtesy of a star magnolia and autumn colour from the Vitis on the back wall. Many of the plants should die back quite gracefully and many of the plants are evergreen, so Marcia won’t be looking out on to a sea of hard landscaping in winter.
You’re obviously not seeing it at its best (this pic was taken right at the end of October), plus the plants are still establishing etc etc. But all things considered, I’m pleased with it. And most importantly, so is Marcia.
My current accessories, a Nora Batty-style bandage and a crutch, are not conducive to taking pics for this blog. So it’s time to call in some favours. For the next few posts I’ll be employing some roving reporters to take pics on my behalf.
First up is Danny’s garden, taken by Paul Lindt. Danny is a man of many talents and his garden is a wonder, cleverly designed and laid out with his own fair hands, and packed with plants. Not that an estate agent liked it much, though – when he came round to value the house a while ago he informed Danny that the garden ‘could be very nice’.
Anyway, Danny’s front garden has been shortlisted for a ‘Best Kept Front Garden’ award in Walthamstow, and deservedly so.
Over to Danny…
‘In a blatant attempt to curry favour with the judges, and tick the criteria boxes (attractiveness, creativity, wildlife friendly, choice of plants), my supporting text for my entry read:
“Chock full of year-round interest, subtle colour, texture and some unusual plants. Danny’s front garden rises to the challenge of dry, summertime shade.He’s combined woodland plants like thalictrum, astrantia, tricyrtis, anemones, phlox and hardy geraniums. It’s peppered with self-seeded michaelmas daisies and softened by puffs of deschampsia. The house is clothed in spring-flowering clematis and white wisteria and a headily scented trachelospermum (a surprising success in shade).
Architectural plants include acanthus, phormium and fern while the front door is flanked by a pair of cypress trees. A wall-trained pyracantha has been home to nesting blackbirds again this year, and the soft dry soil provides nesting sites for solitary bees and the ubiquitous ant. And he’s a martyr to the snail.
Come late summer spiders strike up instant webs between tall stems, and autumnal yellow and golden hues suffuse the foliage. Fading to a garden of evergreens and dried seedheads. When spring comes around the garden is soon awash with mauve clematis and wallflowers and tulips, bluebells and alliums until the street trees draw the curtains on the sun for another summer.
It’s not the most manicured of gardens, ‘natural’ you might say, but Danny’s crammed it to the gunnells with lovely plants that vie for the attention of passers-by.”
Let’s hope he wins, eh? I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime if you spot a nice garden on your travels, please take a pic and send it to me via the Contact Me tab!
PS You can see more pics of Danny’s garden here. Well worth a look.