Wednesday 23 February 2011

THE Yellow Book

Well on Saturday it finally arrived, the Yellow book, my name in print that people can pay £9.99 to see. No escape now! Internet entries can be changed at will, but this is a lot more permanent. It’s the first time I have actually seen the whole book as I usually just get the London wide pamphlet or look online, things do look very different in the rest of the country as there do seem to be lots of 10 acre gardens with moats and follies.
The Dulwich gardens open for charity pamphlet followed closely, with an amusing mistake. We moved to our previous house on the day of the Golden Jubilee and our friend Darrell therefore christened our Victorian Terrace Jubilee cottage, a name which I then took for my email as I opened a new account at that time. The email has stayed, and unbeknown to me the Dulwich people took note (Dulwich folk are probably more accustomed to cottages, moats and follies than us Camberwell scruffs). Our big early victorian 3 story block is therefore listed in the book as ‘Jubilee cottage’ which is hilarious.
To avoid disappointment I feel I must put in an order for 100 David Austen roses immediately!

On another note Sue gave me a link to her Mexico photos where she went to see the Las Posas (I hope you don’t mind me using a picture). I have only seen this in books and I think on the Monty Don program last year. I want to book my holidays and a course in concrete sculpture now...

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Beyond sage and onion stuffing

Over the past 12 months I have become rather enamoured with Salvias. I hadn’t realised what a huge plant family it was and also how many looked really tropical. Salvia falls within the mint family and in all there are about 700 different species, they are spread through the world but main centres are in Central/South America.
My first brush with Salvias (besides in stuffing) was with the bright red bedding salvias in neat lines in suburban front gardens, which was a little too commonplace for me. Recently I was reading about how Christopher Lloyd used a bigger type of them in his exotic garden which I thought rather fun. My parents also grew a lovely version last year which was a dark purple colour which looked great.

S.invocurata (bright pink flower)

I then picked up a bright pink S. invocucrata at Columbia Road which was so easy, and survived the winter with gusto. I now use it quite a lot around the place as it’s easy to propagate. It does however tend to be a bit brittle which is a pain is a cat gets a little frisky on it.
Last year I also grew the ‘hot lips’ one, which after seeing everywhere for a few years I actually found a bit disappointing as it doesn’t really have much presence for me. I was more excited by the Pineapple sage which was brilliant; its bright vivid red flowers offset against the appley green foliage were great and very exotic. I think what I liked was the raw colour of it, as I feel weak/pastel colours don’t fit well into the theme.

Pineapple sage
I was finally completely enamoured when we visited a nursery in Lincolnshire which had a few different types which I then went and bought most of. In particular I liked S. gesneriflora which had quite big furry red flowers, and I also loved S.confertiflora. The latter just reeks of the exotic and untamed to me as the flowers are rather odd. I wasn’t quite such a fan after we had it in the car for 4 hrs coming back from Grimsby as it does have a different type of reek.

This year I plan on having loads of Salvias, and look forward to seeing how hardy some are. This winter has pretty much wiped out most of the cuttings I took in autumn, but a couple of the main plants are still flowering away happily. I wait to see which of the plants which the nursery owner swore were hardier than people thought will survive!

Sunday 13 February 2011

Nice smells and a few deaths

I have had a productive weekend in the garden, helped along by my parents and the builder next door who would pipe up when we had a rest about slacking off and people who like hard work, but only when they are watching it. Finally it is beginning to feel like a garden as a shape begins to emerge. I’m also trying to stick to one of the mantras of my youth about having to tidy up as you go along, which is actually rather sensible, as it wasn’t fun clearing up rubble I had dug up weeks ago.
I’m continuing to buy loads of plants and got rather carried away putting in an order to Peter Nyssen a fabulous nursery. Garden offers seem to be everywhere and I was tempted to show my support for Kate and Wills and bulk buy a ‘Royal Wedding special’ which seems to just be a lot of red, white and blue pansies. Sadly I feel I will have to abandon plans to dig up the front lawn and do a Royal carpet bedding scheme, I am a little busy with the new territories.....

Spring seems finally almost here and I was able to potter around the garden for the first time, and whilst things are coming up there are a few deaths. Smelling the Polyanthus took me right back to last year, and being surrounded by the smells of daffodils and wallflowers. It’s also very uplifting to be outside so much in the sun hearing the birds.
NGS opening does loom more and more, I got my invite to the upcoming launch, I’ve also had my 4th offer of help in the kitchen and cake baking. I think I will be as fat as a whale by the opening as Steven was practicing his baking this weekend, I’ve had 4 slices of his lovely Victoria Sponge in 24hrs, and there is still half a cake left. This is threatening to undo my other ambition of suddenly becoming rather buff from all the hard work, although my arms are now as thick as tree trunks (all be Sycamore saplings)

I like jigsaws and this is the brick path in leading to a (hopefully) imposing plinth which will have a Ganesh on it. At the moment there is this Islamic table i found abandoned on the road and hope to turn in to a Balianese spirit house. There are/will be big bamboos beyond (P.vivax and spectabilis)

A bare garden with a semi mushed and wrapped Agave. For the second year running all my Echiums are dead :( however i recently read what Chritopher Lloyd said about them which is how their foliage was probably better than their flowers however i would like to have some flower again soon!

I did wrap my bananas this year with my ingenius system of old compost bags, leaves, horticultural fleece and old drainpipes, but sadly this one just fell over and is completely mushed...

 A growing pile of whole bricks we have dug up. I think they look rather stately, so perhaps could turn the garden into a sculputre garden?

The growing pile of rubble, when it gets to be 10ft high i will charge £1 to climb to the top

I have started a new collection of unearthed headless garden ornaments. So far there is a headless duck and rabbit 

Tuesday 8 February 2011


This has been a good week as I think I have turned a corner as I’m no longer just digging, I’m now diggings and doing other stuff too. I’ve managed to clear corners, remove old tree stumps, large logs and clear areas so I can begin to see what’s going where. I’ve also built a couple of paths, a plinth and planted a bamboo....the second plant I’ve planted on the land! Things are growing and bluebells are coming up everywhere...the nettles are also growing and I have discovered that they have now started stinging again.
I’m still being rather enthusiastic ordering new plants and have just put in an order to Peter Nyssen for lots of bulbs...the whole restraint thing hasn’t yet set in as I definitely have space!
Anyway, I thought it may be nice to do some before and afters of the main garden...

4 years ago...heavy building work, garden was an overgrown wilderness (but not as bad as the new territories)

Spring, all grassed and the 'classic' flower bed round the edge

Early structure with Tetrapanax and lots of Echiums

2009: side island and Sikkimensis survived the winter

Top path, controlled jungle

other side, last year

tree fern towards house

2009: best year for Ricinus which self sowed everywhere in 2010

by pond last year