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 182012
 

Warren Street

This window box was home to the first daffodil I saw this year, and now it has erupted into colour again, this time with wallflowers and a couple of plants you wouldn’t expect to see in flower yet – a dahlia and a tobacco plant (nicotiana). Despite the fact that it’s felt pretty cold in central London, it’s clearly still a microclimate compared to the rest of the country.

Oct 182011
 

East Dulwich

I think this is what’s known as a ‘riot of colour’.

I once glimpsed an elderly gentleman in the doorway of this unusual house on a busy main road (Lordship Lane), so I presume this garden is his handiwork.  It has some spectacular displays in the summer and autumn – mostly dahlias, with some roses, sunflowers and morning glories thrown in. This year there are lots of nerines, too. When the show’s over everything is cut down/dug up  – so much so that in the winter months you could walk past it and forget it’s there. Then in spring, the garden consists almost entirely of wallflowers. Look closely and you’ll see that they’re already in place among all the late bloomers.

It’s a bit of an unconventional way of gardening by today’s standards – most of us are going for year-round interest, structure etc etc (not to mention a parking space) – but there’s no denying that it’s pretty special in its own way.

Aug 142011
 

Walthamstow (by Paul Lindt)

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.

 

Apr 292011
 

Norfolk

When I had a balcony I was tempted by shelves as a way as cramming more plants in, but I couldn’t quite figure what to do with them. But I see now that the trick is to fill them with the same type of plant in the same type of pot for maximum effect, as they do at East Ruston Old Vicarage.

At the moment I could fill this blog with weird planting combinations that should never be seen together – such as wallflowers and roses, shown here.  Suffice to say that I saw daffodils and roses flowering on the same day, and I’m still recovering from the shock.

Apr 162011
 

Regent's Park

Since I swapped an overpriced and overcrowded commute for a walk through Regent’s Park every morning, my life has improved no end. Not only do I finally ‘get’ dogs – all enjoying the best part of their day and getting up to all sorts behind their owners’ backs – but I can see the seasons gradually evolve. At this time of year everything is happening so fast that I keep spotting things I’ve never noticed before.

Like this border – how could I have missed it until now? It’s a mix of dark-leaved phormiums, pink wallflowers, dark red tulips and wine-coloured heucheras – a contemporary take on the traditional tulip/wallflower combo.

I’m not a huge fan of bedding, but there are lots of combinations in the park at the moment that are really original. I get the impression that the planting is becoming more sustainable – mixing shrubs such as phormiums and tiny, acid green euonymus into the schemes. I’d love to meet the person responsible for coming up with the ideas.

Mar 052011
 

Marylebone

Spring really seems to be on its way in London – camellias and rhododendrons are out, a haze of green shoots is covering trees and magnolias have big fat buds on them. These are the first wallflowers I’ve seen though – coupled with white narcissi. They run the length of a balcony. Whoever lives here has similar taste to me when it comes to daffs