Monday, 6 September 2021

Our 2021 Opening

A huge thank you to everyone who came to this years opening. It was another record year and we had 245 visitors and make about £2700 for charity! Hurrah! We were blessed with one of the sunniest days for weeks (the sun always shines in Camberwell) and the garden was looking super lush. This year was different in that we opened for longer (from 11-4:30) with the hopes of having less of a rush. The lovely Hayley also joined us to sell some of her fabulous metal sculptures which was a great addition. This year I was told how a visit to our garden was lifechanging, with a fab lady saying how after her visit to the garden last year she had thrown out all her old plants and started just growing exotics! The plant sale is also clearly becoming a thing with a huge rush on plants when we first opened. I never really know how well things will sell, and even my 10 Polypody ferns which were unusual, but not to everyone’s taste all went within 10 mins! We also had a dinosaur trail for kids, but my 5yr off nephew told me off for it being too hard. Sorry Henry... As always it was humbling to see so many people returning, and lots of people saying such nice things. A huge thank you to everyone who has helped out on the day and those who donated plants to sell, it really is a team effort! THANK YOU! So some pictures of things at their best….

Thursday, 5 August 2021

Our opening for the NGS is coming up on Sunday 5th September 2021. Come and visit!

Come and visit our exotic garden in Camberwell! 

Our opening is almost upon us! Unless things with Covid-19 radically change, this year you can just turn up as normal and pay on the door, you do not have to buy a timed slot like last year. We are also opening for a bit longer, and will open earlier at 11am and close at 4:30pm.

The NGS says:

An exotic garden full of the exuberance of late summer inspired by travel in Southeast Asia. A lush and naturalistic jungle of big leafed plants, bold colours and shapes including cannas, bananas, Bamboos, dahlias, mature tetrapanax and towering paulownias.

Huge ‘hidden’ garden, created from being able to buy the bottom half of two of the neighbour’s gardens in 2010 gives the garden an unexpected size. Three two ponds (one for wildlife and two with fish), a productive area and contemporary sunken terrace full of pampered prized plants.

We deliver on the 'wow' factor with visitors being surprised by the scale of the garden and getting lost in the exotica. The garden changes and improves every year as the plants grow bigger and the feel gets 'junglier'.

Since first opening for the NGS in 2011 the garden has changed radically. At that time the top garden was still new and being cleared. Planting was mostly annuals and pumpkins! It took a year to clear the rubble, brambles and hops. We filled 5 skips with rubble and broke 20 spades and forks digging the land. Many visitors have kept coming back to see the transformation!

The lower lawn, lots of seating and hidden corners give space to sit and enjoy. Renowned for good teas and home-made cakes.

Last admission 4:30pm

Featured on BBC Gardeners World, BBC Instant Gardener, Garden News, Independent and Simple Things magazine

Full entry on the NGS website here 


The nearest train stations are Peckham Rye or Denmark Hill. If you are driving there is lots of street parking on our road.  The full postcode is SE5 8LH. Check your satnav/phone is directing you to Grove Park as sometimes it can take you to the back of the house!


Wednesday, 14 July 2021

The garden in July

An advantage of the pandemic is that the garden continues to receive the most attention it has ever had! 

The winter was probably the most damaging one we have had so far, exacerbated by decisions in 2020 to leave out some of the more borderline exotics. The most painful casualty was my large Schefflera macrophylla. The bird of paradise is still alive, but not as hardy as I had thought. I am still crossing my fingers that Musa bordelon is sulking under the ground waiting for a moment to emerge… 

All the Musa sikkimensis and Helens Hybrid that were planted out in the garden or left in pots were cut to the ground. However, all have recovered. The ones in the garden have all re-shooted from the roots and I am surprised at how big some of the Sikkimensis are getting! I am also surprised at how the Brugmansia sanguinea which was super battered has also completely regrown from the roots. All the mature Musa Basjoo were fine. 

Big decisions in the garden have led to the removal of an almost dead cherry tree and the Loquat tree that was in the middle of the lawn. Planted before we moved in, it has got bigger and bigger, with quite a lax habit, and was not doing as well as trees I have seen growing in full sun. My Dad has always had a vendetta against the tree as it drops its leaves throughout the year, and in the end he won the war! The resulting removals have actually been great, as the lawn is a lot more open and the garden feels more spacious and airier. 

 I also took out a Paulownia that I had left to flower. Usually, I just stool them every year which leads to amazing steroidal tropical growth, but if you do this they never flower as they flower. Leaving one to grow it produced some flowers after 2 years, and was fabulous at 3. However, at this point it was also getting to be very big and close to the neighbour’s house! 

Fortunately, all the plants on our sunken terrace survived, with the most tender protected by a temporary plastic/polythene greenhouse. This comes down as soon as possible as it is ugly to see from the house, but a great decision was to move it up to a sun trap in the garden and use it to grow on bulbs, dahlias etc. Having the extra space was great and helped me do so much more than usual, and removes the stress of cramming everything into the greenhouse. Next year I think I will do the same from winter and use it to dig up and store dahlias. They are perfectly hardy in the ground but get battered by slugs…e.g. the one I had in the greenhouse this year is now 4ft and flowering, the ones in the ground are 2ft, ropey and in need of love… 

 I had completely over ordered on summer bulbs so having this space was great. A success has been Calla lilies which I am using for bedding, although only one of the three varieties has thrived. A success for the mice was 100 Tiger lily bulbs as they ate every last one of them ☹. I have also bought begonia corms for the first time. Again, not a great success as they have sulked and not grown as much as I would like. Some are still not yet of a good size. 

 The big plant out of all the exotica and bedding primarily took place over the two bank holidays. This was slightly speeded up by the prospect of some filming for TV which also provoked much soul searching of when does the garden actually begin to look good? 

This year I have tried to grow a lot of Nicotiana sylvestris as I love the scent and leaves…but I have forgotten how the slugs like them too…Some have survived but others are sticks. I have some emergency backups growing on, so I hope all is not lost. Tithonias will also be back…I have had to sow three pots of them as I completely underestimated how many I needed. I have also learned how it is better to sow them later as the first lot sulked in the cold and were quickly surpassed by a later sowing where they rocketed away. I am also onto my third lot of emergency Shoo Fly plants….These are such good plants as they are super easy to grow and grow almost anywhere. From an abused pot of seedlings that were all sown too densely it is super easy to rescue some to pot on, and in a week or so they are ready to go out again.  

Challenges of the pandemic remain and I find it impossible to get compost/key garden stuff delivered. I was very lucky to get the 30 bags I needed to get the garden going. Feeding my plant addictions has also been hard as many nurseries don’t have the plants I need. However, where there is a will there is a way 😉 

New plants I have got and am excited about trying are: Broussonetia papyrifera Doodia media Polypodium scouleri Woodwardia fimbrata Woodwardia orientalis v. formosana Matteuccia orientalis Begonia 'Torsa' Begonia pedatifida Polypodium glycyrrhiza x scouleri 

 Fingers crossed for a good gardening year!

Musa sikkimensis which was cut down the ground in the winter has regrown from the roots and is now about 6ft

Ganesh flanked by some fab big begonia

'Burning embers' marigold is back, and a few have escaped from the slugs

Zantedeschia albomaculata, by far the best Calla lily as the other two I have are still looking ropey

This was where I used to keep the bees and has been a witner project to revamp. It is now a seating area and new beds as it has this great view of the garden

The Echiums are the biggest that they have ever been! I think it is as these ones are all triannuals 

Hydrangea macrophylla which has great exotic leaves

I am trying out a few penstemons for flower....the Jury is still out!

Area where there used to be the chery tree and Loquat which has created a much more usable bed, the garden is also so much more open!

So fab that the exotica is coming back!

Another project to create some staging for many of the random pots of plants that I like but don't really fit anywhere else...

The terrace looking very lush and filling out more every week...

Romneya which I actually dug out last year, but it has suckered and clung on in a slightly better place. Fab plant when in flower wih these HUGE flowers, but ropey and a big plant when not flowering

Thursday, 15 April 2021

The golden trowel

This week we received the National Gardens Scheme fabled ‘golden trowel’ which is given to people who have opened their garden for 10 years. We now need to do another 10 to get the matching fork….

Me with the engraved trowel which has now been mounted on a plaque!

We wanted our 10th opening to be memorable, and we got what we wanted with it being in the middle of the pandemic! The timed entry and longer hours actually made it one of our best ever openings as everyone was just so happy to be able to be out, eat cake and buy plants!

In total we have now made over £16,000 for NGS charities, and had over 2200 visitors. Our open day has turned into one of the big highlights of the year. It is a great way to bring people together, and very easy to make money for charity. I am very lucky that so many people want to help out, from my parents who do so much, to those who help on the day with the refreshments and plant sales.

It was kind of an accident that we agreed to open the garden. The NGS had always been on my radar as, but it was not something for the immediate future. It only happened when my neighbour, who was opening for NGS, mentioned to the formidable NGS volunteer who was visiting him that I may be interested in opening that I received an on-the-spot visit and inspection and acceptance! At that time the garden was fairly embryonic and we hadn’t any idea that we would be buying the derelict land adjacent to our garden within 6 months. This make a smallish job into one that was bigger than we had possibly imagined!  

The terror of preparing for our NGS opening along with the huge task of clearing the land and creating a garden was what led to this blog.

I also volunteer with the NGS helping to look after other garden openers in my area. Working full time, and with a garden that is a very demanding mistress has been a challenge, and I know I have not had as much time for this as I would have hoped. However, this role and opening the garden has given me a great insight into the NGS world and I have met some marvellous people and friends. The gardening world is full of good eggs! There are also lots of random things that have happened as a result of ‘being in the book’ such as filming Gardeners World with Carol Klein, The Instant Gardener, magazines and even some random artists using the garden for a photoshoot.

Don’t get me wrong, opening is still a stress…as it draws closer so does the frenzied weeding and watering, often late into the evening. But, every year it is easier and I now don’t wake up in the night in a sweat about how much to charge for tea and cake and how acceptable Styrofoam cups are. I have also come to accept a certain element of que sera as you can’t control the weather, and some years plants are early/late or eaten by slugs!

The opening days themselves have always been a lot of fun….it has become a ritual for all our helpers to have lunch on the lawn before we open and put bets on how many people would come. Afterwards, when the doors are shut we then open the wine and see who was right…

Every year we are always amazed at how many people come, and it is lovely to see how many people come back. In a way it is a bit like a party! I love it!

So, thank you to everyone who has come, and everyone who is part of the NGS and makes it the great thing it is. For those of you with great gardens and who are vaguely thinking about opening get in touch and do it!!

Snail attack! 

Friday, 27 November 2020

End of the year, and preparing for winter

I haven’t been looking forward to winter….with Coivd it was always inevitable that things would be grim and this is my least favourite season.

 For the whole year the garden has been a lifesaver. I currently work from home 3-4 days per week, and having ants in my pants I am frequently up having a break walking around the garden. Being here so much I have taken a lot of pleasure from noticing all the small changes as things grow and start flowering.

Having an exotic garden, and opening for the NGS puts all the focus on having things look amazing at the height of summer. It is very easy to just stop after the garden opening and put your feet up. In some year’s I have been so lazy that arrows and odd bits of signage from the opening have remained…slowly decomposing, Miss Havisham style.

I have been trying to shift the focus away from just being about summer so that the winter and spring isn’t just a raft of empty space and dying plants. Part of this has been taking more care of and propagating hardy evergreens to keep the terrace looking good. To do this I have been dividing up a great Aspidistra that came from Crug and has elegant leaves speckled with white specs, this is a elegant filler. 

This year I also bought 900 bulbs, way more than usual, but I figure I will be home more and need a spring lift! Most have gone into pots in the hope that the squirrels don’t eat them all! I also got an additional 250 Tete a tete daffodils which we have planted out around the tree bases on my road which I am excited to see come up and turn the road yellow!

Other stars on the terrace include the ‘Hercules’ arum that is stunningly big and exotic. The big Musa sikkimensis and Helens Hybrids are still looking their banana tree thing, and I am giving it a go leaving a Strelitzia out.

Inside I have had a slight terrarium obsession, which has opened up a whole new world of plants! The love of flag Iris’s also continues and I have enjoyed a brief, all encompassing, and expensive affair with Cedric Morris iris’.

In terms of the winter prep the big thing that I do is dig up the red bananas. These have their leaves removed and roots cut back to the basal plate. They are then left to drain upside down for a week or so before being stored in a frost-free outside cupboard. They are now all up to 8?yrs old and getting heavy! I used to be a lot more prissy about cutting off/tidying up most off a lot of the outside leaves, but I now leave as many as a can as I think this helps prevent them becoming too dehydrated when they come out of storage in spring.

We also put up a temporary plastic greenhouse on our sunken terrace, with an extra layer of bubble wrap. This is all super sheltered and sits against a retaining wall. In it go all the Cyathea tree ferns, although the C. medularis is now almost too big to fit in! I will need to be brave next year leaving it out. Also in go the fuchsias, brugmansias, and Begonia luxurians.  Wet is the killer, so most things now sit on bricks. Ironically you also need to watch the dry as the tree ferns dry out really quickly…I have lost more to drought that the cold.

This weekend beings the winter prep to an end, and leaves the garden looking satisfyingly good and attractive. As of 23rd November we still haven’t had any frosts at all in our bit of South London, although I am sure that they are just around the corner.

The terrace has still been looking amazingly jungly as the banannas just get better and better!

Arum 'Hercules' from above...super amazing!

Red banannas freshly dug up and draining off in our side way

Desperate attempts to keep the squirrels away

Terrace post winter sort out...less lux but still exotic. The fuchsias and salvias will stay out until it is frosty so we can enjoy the last bits of colour. Aspidistras fill out the space

Clearer terrace with the pop up greenhouse at the back, view inside below, the key residents being the Cyatheas

Keeping the Aspidistra flying!