Wednesday, 3 August 2016

1 month to go till our garden opens for the NGS on Sunday 4th September

Our garden opening is almost here! COME! put it in your diary now. Your one chance in the year to visit

Sunday 4 September (2 - 5.30pm).
Admission £3.50, children free. Home-made teas.
24 Grove Park, London, SE5 8LH

The National Gardens Scheme says

'An exotic garden full of the exuberance of late summer inspired by travel in Southeast Asia. A lush jungle of big leafed plants, bold colours and shapes incl bananas, dahlias and towering Paulownias. Huge hidden garden gives unexpected size with ponds, sunken terrace, productive area. Lawn and lots of hidden corners give spaces to sit and enjoy. Renowned for delicious home-made cake.'

Also available new season honey, which is the best yet!

Other people have probably said.....

'oooh, that was amazing. the best garden I have ever visited'
'that was not what I expected, it was huge!'
'I have been every year and there is always something new to see'
'Is that a Paulownia?'
'Very unusual'
'I don't care about the plants I am only here for the cake'
'Your honey is amazing, I would like 10 jars please'
'That is not what I would expect in Camberwell'

Every year the garden is different as it is always evolving and getting bigger and better.
This year after our wet early summer it is especially lush...some pictures of how things are shaping up to tempt you in.....

Monday, 4 July 2016

Serre de Madrone: Lawrence Johnstons Menton garden

Escaping England for hotter climes of Nice in the South of France the time had come to visit the Serre de Madrone garden, created by Lawrence Johnston of Hidcote fame. 

Bought in 1924 Lawrence would then spend most of his year here, before dying in 1958. After this the garden changed hands several times, falling into a period of neglect. The Conservatoire du Littoral acquired the garden in 1999 and launched a restoration programme, led by the botanist Pierre Augé and the landscape architects Arnaud Maurières and Eric Ossart restoring it to Johnson's designs.

Everyone raves about Hidcote, widely regarded as 'one of the greatest gardens of the last 100 years, but this garden had seemed a little secret. On TripAdvisor it has 70 reviews, with the close by Hanbury Garden having over 450.It was a bit of a pain to get to as after considering trains, buses and even cycling we hired a car from Nice to drive to the gardens.

The garden is a 6 hectare series of terraces on the side of the hill, including woodland. It includes many of the features of Hidcote such as garden rooms, and long vistas but has none of the polished finish of a National Trust garden. It felt more like a private garden, and to many non-gardening folk may appear rather wild and overgrown. However, it really reminded me of how I garden as it was more of a well planted backbone upon which things are allowed to put themselves about. The wild look was not from weeds, but more from cultivated plants self-seeding, and plants that were left to show themselves off, even if it means partially blocking a path. What it didn’t have was any of the overly preened prissiness that a National Trust garden can often have.

I loved the rooms and the space, and the choice of plants were really interesting and up to date…they seemed to have a whole Araceae bed including many different varieties of Fatsia polycarpa which was interesting, and a few Schleffera. I loved wandering the narrow paths and having space to yourself as there were probably only another 6 people there at the same time as us.

Beautiful round pond surrounded by Tetrapanax

a lovely Fatsia polycarpa
I wouldn’t say that it will be one of my favourite gardens…where it seemed to fall down was that it came across as more of a collection of plants than a garden. Whilst the original concepts and vistas were still there, the overall planting designs, combinations of plants, and how borders hung together didn’t quite work/exist in a lot of places. Whilst there is great beauty in naturalism and randomness, it didn’t sparkle with the magic that Great Dixter has.

Although recently restored, it felt like the garden was suffering from a lack of investment…there certainly didn’t seem to have been much spent on marketing it! We debated if the National Trust could support it …as the contrast between Hidcote and its masses of coachloads of tourists and the sparse splattering in Menton was stark. After all this is a garden which is important to British garden history. However, if overly preened this garden will lose the magic which does still twinkle in the layout, different rooms and vistas.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Back into life

Things are now all systems go in the garden. With the recent hot weather the hammock is back up and things are growing at a rate of knots. The big plant out is just getting up speed with the big bananas out, but a lot more to go in including a greenhouse full of seedlings.

As it has been a mild winter all the cannas seem to have survived and are now just poking their heads above the soil, and by the gardens best will be 5-6ft. The Ensete in the greenhouse are just about coming back into life and I am waiting for them to put out more roots before planting out any more.

My new wooden 'henge'

This has been the big area of change in the garden. Last year there was a trellis all the way along the wall, but by taking it down it gives potential to have a great new bed at eye height...this also changes the feel of the bottom garden as what was a 'full stop' now becomes part of an ongoing vista

Anyway, happy gardening! We are also in the heights of garden visiting season so if you haven't seen which NGS gardens are open near you CHECK THEM OUT! we are off to the Forest Hill gardens tomorrow which are well worth a trip

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

RHS Orchid and spring show.....plants to get obsessive over

It was with trepidation that last weekend I went along to the RHS spring and orchid show. I must admit that when I first saw how they were charging for this show I was a little grumpy as the spring show was usually free, and the orchid one was charged for. However, rather than turn into (more of) a moaning Minnie I thought I would go along and see what it was all about.

I was very glad I did as the orchid bit was great! Growers from all over the world with some fabulous flowers. There were also loads to buy, and if you were an enthusiast you could have come away a lot poorer.

Orchids are still one of those plants that people are crazy about, and you could see an obsessive and compulsive twinkle in the eye of many of the people attending.

Growing orchids really appeals to me as they have rarity and great beauty. However, I don’t (yet?) have a heated glasshouse and know that I would kill things quickly. Whilst I also love phalaenopsis and can keep them alive, I rarely get them to flower again and perhaps I should get the basics right before moving onto those that cost £30+. I also have a much stronger craving for nepenthes which are achingly glorious…

So a good show and a reminder as to how beautiful fiddly plants can be. It also helped to remind me how much I like carnivorous plants and I went home to re-pot the collection!

Pretty flowers 'init

Now hardy orchids are something I could get obsessive over.....

Some were all a little OTT

and there was of course some proper RHSness going on...

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Paulownia: king of the exotic garden and vlog

A new era beckons! vlogging! I'm dipping my toes in, and wanted to share my first attempt which is a short vlog about Paulownias as chopping them down has been my one recent bit of gardening. 

Paulownias are of course one of my favourite plants...perfectly hardy and THE plant that you must have if you want your own jungle. Looking after them is also super easy

Friday, 5 February 2016

Dead foxes and squirrels

If there is one thing worse than a stinky fox, it’s a stinky dead fox….At the moment the garden feels like a bit of a no go zone…when it is light enough to walk round it is wet and muddy, with lots of detritus everywhere. There is also a very bushy tailed fox that keeps watching and skirting round me, but sadly it has a bad leg which I feel means that there may soon be an inevitable death. 

Foxes are strange creatures…there are always lots around us, and they are lurking in the shadows ready to dash out and pick off any small children or vulnerable adults.

I last found a dead fox a few years ago which was very grim….the small percentage of butcheness that I have in me quickly disappears in these situations.  I smelt the fox before we found it, curled under a large Laurel bush where I buried it. The next day I came out to find the fox had been dug up by another fox and dumped in the middle of the lawn. Yuck! 

The grim one was the dead squirrel which I once found in a water butt/tank which I didn’t smell but saw….it was a huge evil mass, vastly bloated by the water, more like a cat than a squirrel. YUCK!

This nature business is all very well, but only when it is all cute and fluffy!

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Happy 2016! Pondering the year

Gosh this year has gone quickly! This has been a good gardening year…

Good things
Weather was ok, a mild winter followed by a warm spring, then cool summer with lots of watering before the garden opening

Musa sikimensis: in pots they were fabulous, and in the ground where they usually sulk they also did well…although they are getting big

Ensete ventricosum: I am very happy to have about 7 of these fabulous beauties, all slowly getting bigger year by year

Jiffling things around: the garden is definitely in the editing phase of things as things that aren’t so good are moved and others given space. Tricky to do, but essential

Year of the soil: this has certainly been the year I have invested in the soil! I can’t think how many bags of manure I have bought but I do think if you can get the soil right a lot of the rest follows

Echiums: we were so lucky to have so many monsters survive to flower. Hurrah!

BBC Instant Gardener: it was great fun to have the BBC film for an afternoon!

Things getting big: it is lovely how things are padding out and getting big, it is feeling very jungly!

Things that weren’t so good
 Vegetables: I am still a rubbish fruit and veg grower

Slugs and Snails: we were smited by great plagues

Dahlias: after 2 good years they now sulk and aren’t there amazing fabulousness

Im not big in Austria (yes I am still grumpy!)

Plans for 2016
More editing: I need to be brave and move a big clump of bamboo!

Colocasias: I see some big pots full of them

Persicaria orientalis: a current plant lust

Bees: taking off honey as soon as supers are full to better appreciate the different seasons honey

Art: I see the creation of some new idols and friends to terrify the unsuspecting visitor

Whatever you plan to do I hope you have a fabulous 2016