Tuesday 30 August 2011

Sunday here we come!

Well the time for our NGS opening has finally arrived...The garden has been painstaking weeded, the terrace has been power washed and all the niggly little things that we had been planning on doing for ages have been done. I am now praying to the Sun God for good weather and a few hot days to bring out some more flowers. At the weekend the parentals were unstoppable, with my Dad being great at doing some major bits that need doing....his arrangement of the architectural fragments of the ‘Roman’ temple are inspired as I was wondering what to do with a pile of old rocks...
Before I forget some practicalities and an advert to visit our local area! Come and visit!
The NGS says:  ‘A garden to surprise and delight with a pond, sunken terrace  and bold, big leafed planting of exotics that reach for the sky in late summer, achieving  a crescendo of colour with  dark dahlias, ricinus, bananas and tetrapanax . New interest this year from a huge secret garden with more jungle plants, developing potager and cutting garden. Plantsman’s garden with lots of interesting and unusual hardy exotics and a greenhouse with carnivorous plants only for the brave to investigate.’

Come and have a nosy! come eat cake!
Money raised from the door (£2.50 to get in, kids free) and from cake sales go to the many NGS charities including Macmillan, Marie Curie and Help the Hospices.
Don’t be put off by rain! in a worst case scenario we will be covering our terrace to make a rain proof area to laze on our outdoor sofas and chairs eating lots of cake. Our house is at 24 Grove Park, SE5 8LH numbering on our road is odd, but we are at the Chadwick Road end. Nearest rail stations are Peckham Rye or Denmark Hill

Come visit Camberwell and Peckham
We are lucky to live between Camberwell and Peckham and both have some great places to eat lunch if you wanted to eat locally as part of your visit. A few of our nicest local places:
Ganapati: one of our favourite restaurants (in all of London!) South Indian 10 mins from the house
Victoria Inn: also 10 mins away on Bellenden Road, good Sunday lunch
Crooked Well: new gastro pub in Camberwell Green just had a good review in the Observer
Angels and Gypsies: ‘Camberwell’s destination restaurant’ tapas, nice for a swish meal. Camberwell Green
Franks Cafe: uber trendy pop up cafe/restaurant/bar on the top of a multi-storey car park in Peckham.  Amazing views, interesting art and great place to go which is part of the Peckham art scene. Central Peckham near the station
South London Gallery: great restaurant and space. Very yummy. on main road between Peckham and Camberwell
There are of course loads more places, especially in Camberwell Green, Lordship Lane and a few on Bellenden Road....
I hope that if you come you have a nice visit, and do say hello! also don’t be put off from the front garden which has suffered from the recent building work and appalling soil....the main focus is the back garden which is very very different. I don’t know if gardeners are ever completely happy with their creations as there is always more to do but I am very happy how things have turned out as it is looking very special at the mo and friends have been saying the right things, come see for yourself!
It’s so odd that the day has almost come, as we applied to go in the Yellow Book 14? Months ago, and it has been such a focus of the year. On Sunday we went to see 2 local gardens in Brixton and Wandsworth as a) they sounded great and b) to do a final reccy to see how the openings were functioning (one made 13 cakes, had 130 visitors...paper plates with forks..(note to self: must buy paper plates and forks)
I was particularly pleased to be able to visit Victoria’s garden which was just as an NGS garden should be. It was very established with some great mature plants and was very well thought out and full of interesting things. I was very jealous of its maturity both in terms of having established clumps of things, and also the time to learn about what grows best where...having a young garden I have a lot to learn! The cake was also perfect with lots of seats to ponder the beautiful surrounds. Do visit her blog as she writes very well, and was lovely to meet.
We also met a lovely couple from New Malden who had just been accepted into the NGS and as such were scoping out all the gardens they could to help plan for their June opening. It was great to see people who were just like we were last year and going through the same stages of panic.
Stage 1: Assessment nerves
Stage 2: Is my garden good enough? I need to completely re-design it immediately
Stage 3: I need more plants, now!
Stage 4: That NGS garden was so much better than mine, I need to do so much more
Stage 5: That NGS garden was so much worse than mine, this will be a piece of cake
Stage 6: Cake?! How much to make, should I make 10 or 20 cakes? how many people will come?
Stage 7: Will anyone come?
Stage 8: Blimey I have a hole there, X will be past its best, can everything just grow please, what happens if it rains, how did those weeds get there?!
Obviously this is the stage I’m now at, and there could be a whole lot more stages before Sunday so I will keep you posted! I will also buy myself more Camomile tea and try not to develop a drinking problem
Finally a big thank you to people who have helped and who have offered to make cakes and help on the day. Stevens parents are coming down to help look after the door, Leslie who is a very clever volunteer Kew tour guide will be helping in the garden and perhaps running mini tours, and Hannah who has been testing cake recipes will be helping in the kitchen with Tim, Mum and Steven.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

12 days to go....

Well, we have been doing a bit of local promo, although you do get the oddest looks pinning something to a tree. It’s also amazing when you look at a tree to see how many other pins are there already, something I had never noticed before.

I had expected a few posters to fall down with the weather or be taken down but I was not expecting this


The above picture was taken 4 hours after I put the poster up on our community notice board, the one below was 24 hours later. Blimey.

Preparations for the big day continue, and a big thank you to Sam for it’s current mostly weed free state. The last lots of rubble have also gone so it is all clear, and we have created a bit of sculpture from all of our found objects which could sell for thousands of pounds locally....The sculpture was great fun to make as initially the parents just stood back looking confused, then as soon as Mum realisd that it was just like an art project she would do at school there was no stopping her.

Steven also made 3 cakes at the weekend to practice and try things out...all were very yummy, especially the double orange, and the banana loaf....Carrot cake disappeared at Kate (the Camberwell beauties) BBQ where very flatteringly I was asked for garden design/planting help for her trendy new outdoor gardening space. This is actually going to be a good challenge as I do know my jungle plants, but to create something different will be good.

Rain is miserable today, and I don’t like this getting dark earlier in the evening business. Rain is probably the thing I’m most worried about as this could make the difference between 10 and 100 visitors...however all is not lost as on a rainy day we can cover over our terrace and bring out the cushions for the outdoor sofa to create a perfect and dry space for eating cake and waiting for a dry spell hurrah!

Monday 15 August 2011

4th September here we come!

It is now only 3 weeks until the big day but I’m feeling ok. On Thursday we had another visit from our NGS area manager type person....Steven said inspection, I said visit and chat...but all in all it was better than expected. Janine is lovely and lives locally, but has this odd patch of gardens to look after that extends from Camberwell and Peckham down to South Croydon.  This large area mortifies me more that Camberwell is included in the same sentence as Croydon as I hoped I had escaped zone 4 for zone 2 grittiness.
A Camberwellian scene of beuty
Anyway, I was very good with my visit, although I panicked and took a half day to finish all my weeding before she arrived. I had worked out the route round the garden in advance, and she was suitably impressed with the bottom garden before I turned to my left and casually mentioned ‘and of course this is the new bit of the garden’ taking her up to the new territories where Ganesha is looking suitably imposing. She was a wonderful one for expounding superlatives and was suitably impressed, and she was even kind enough to re-word our NGS description to
‘A garden to surprise and delight with a pond, sunken terrace and bold, big leafed planting of exotics that reach for the sky in late summer, achieving a crescendo of colour with dark dahlias, ricinus, bananas and tetrapanax . New interest this year from a huge secret garden with more jungle plants, developing potager and cutting garden. Plantsman’s garden with lots of interesting and unusual hardy exotics and a greenhouse with carnivorous plants only for the brave to investigate’

This was very kind as it is very difficult to describe your own garden, and now knowing that all the descriptions in the Yellow Book are provided by their owners does add a rather egoistical dimension to visiting.
I pray to the NGS Gods that it will all turn out ok
An interesting dimension to all this NGS malarkey has been the panic friends have when I come and see their own gardens. On Saturday at a truly scrumptious BBQ in Winchester Jon seemed to panic and then get very paranoid if I looked towards any plants, and I felt that there had been a bit of anxious gardening before our arrival. He needn’t have worried, would I judge?!
The Gods are watching....grey panthers beware
So....all in all I’m ok, and on Sunday even managed to spend the afternoon on the outside sofas reading the paper and not desperately gardening as things are now all under control and it’s now just a matter of weeding and deadheading and praying that the flowers don’t go over and there is no freak weather or rain.... rain being the most likely. However we do have a plan b and if it is rainy we will cover over our terrace making a large water proof area for eating cake and relaxing, so do come visit!
Water Canna

Paulownia beginning to dwarf my greenhouse

We did do some digging to finish a couple of paths....these are all the evil bramble roots. Dont they look evil?

Unabused Rubbekia

Salvia confertiflora.....'lush' as they would say in Wales. slightly odd smelling and annoyingly brittle as I would say in Camberwell

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Riots......of colour and beautiful things

All been a bit crazy in London with the riots... Peckham is very close to us as is the Walworth Road both of which were a little trashed. I’m particularly sad for Peckham as its one of those places which have a bad reputation, but was just beginning to shift (it’s the new Hoxton don’t you know). I do love Peckham as its actually a nice place with a lot going on...if you fancy something exciting do visit Franks cafe...part of the pop up bar sensation...Peckham is also a great place to buy Coco yams and Eddoes if you need some exotic tubers for bedding out
Plant wise we are experiencing a riot of colour as things have grown incredibly in the 2 weeks we were in France..... Coming home to see how things have grown is probably the best bit about the end of a holiday and I’m usually in the garden pretty soon after dumping the bags

Big things include
Tithonia: these are now all out and very wonderful, my big success of the year and a plant I now always want to grow. Very easy from seed, big and drought resistant with such vibrant colour. Wow, I’m in love
Dahlias: now all fully out, apart from one which is sulking.  I’m particularly taken with this dark red/black cactus...I think it is called 'Chat noir'

Paulownia: mine grew about 3ft in 2 weeks! They now must be about 12ft tall....much bigger than last year, and all this growth is from one year.

Nettles....they seem to really like germinating in August. My fingers hurt and I have a rash on my knee...ouch.
Swiss chard....gosh this grows lots and I have masses to eat...
Grand entrace into new territories
Lots of weeds which I’m almost on top of, I had planned another gardening day last Saturday with friends but they all seemed to have some infallible sounding excuses and it ended up being me and a rather hung over Rachel. We got lots done and in prep for opening I’ve even put down some nice springy bark chips which make the paths look a bit more professional, but we are having an official NGS visit tomorrow evening so I hope everything is up to scratch!
Anyway, opening is almost here......and on Sunday 4th September we will be opening for the first time. Eek!
Hedychiums (gingers) in full swing....

Top bed...annoyingly slugs have destroyed the lush tobacco plant planting I was planning, but palm is dripping with exuberance

Thursday 4 August 2011

Vive la France! Chaumont, Monet and Clos du Coudray

I have been on me hols to France....lots of chateau, overeating and far too much patisserie! however there were also lots of nice gardens and inspirational plant ideas.

So a few things...

First of all i was thinking of a more formal approach to the garden....

This was the chateau at Villandry, a must visit if you are in the Loire.... amazing formal gardens, although I wouldn't like to be the gardener with all that clipping to do.  As well as all this formal stuff there were also some really good modern gardens where I was very enamoured with a giant Echinacea, and am now pondering putting lots of very giant plants in the garden (6ft plus) as I like the idea of the plants making you feel small.

I was very impressed with all of Frances municipal planting, as there was none of the UKs low maintenance stuff and dull evergreens, a lot of placse had loads of my kind of plants like this fluffy helianthus?? Eupatorium???. With their planting the approach very much seemed to be the 'what going cheap today and what do I have in the back of my lorry' as they did have a very ramshackle mix of plants from Brugmansia to Lasiocarpus or geraniums...

I also wondered about having a little folly by the pond....

We also went to see a mushroom farm which was very interesting, although there are only so many mushrooms a boy can see....

Then a big thing was a visit to Chaumont. If you haven't come across this before, basically it is a kind of French 'Chelsea' but different in that every year designers can submit plans, and a panel then selects 25 gardens to be created. These are then created in the grounds of this Chateau and anyoe then has the whole of the summer to visit.

The chateau its self is actually amazing, very fairy tale... and the area the gardens are planted in is also very impressive with lots of jungly grassy planting, ponds and giant fish...

The theme was biodiversity (yawn) but had some very interesting gardens and design stuff. The one below was about how plants need looking after (yawn again)  but i did rather like the sedum bed and amusing blood drip bags connected to trees and plants

It was a great show, and also not rammed with crowds as our own flower shows are, it is disappointing it doesn't get any tv coverage in the UK as I think people would be really interested to see the gardens

Now, you cant go wrong with a few balls on sticks can you? some of their balls were actually clear plastic and with some germinating seeds in them which was interesting, but a little mouldy after a month of sun

We have all seen chicken wire sculpture, but this is coloured chicken wire sculpture....

 This final one, which is part of the permanent gardens was really great as it was a woodland walk/adventure type thing with windy paths through trees and glades, and at the bottom they had a mister making it feel very Jurassic Park...

Then we also went to Monet's garden, which we had been to before a few years ago but in April? where it felt completely different. Beautiful garden, very intensively planted, and very intensively visited (try and get there first thing). 

This is the famous walk through the middle, with the nasturtiums poised to take over...

Then the famous water gardens.....they are just as good in the flesh!

But equally as good are the long thin flower beds which are planted  very densely in colour themes, great design and must be hard to keep looking good.

Finally we also took a chance to visit the Clos du Coudray garden which we randomly saw listed in a free leaflet and wanted to give a go to as it seemed like my kind of plants.

Things didn't start off well as it was in a little village and we arrived grumpy and hungry as this seemed to be the only village in France with no shops or restaurants, and over the holiday we needed feeding with about 1000 calories every hour otherwise we may have died.... It was also very quiet and we were a little wondering about wither 7.5 euros each was worth paying for what was essentially a garden of a garden centre

However, we were very surprised as this turned out to be the hugest garden ever with lots of distinct areas and good planting. The more we wandered the happier we got, feelings that were backed up by a group of garden designers/students who were visiting at the same time.

They did have a jungle garden which was good to see, mainly the usual suspects but with lots of beautiful big Gunneras. Also good to see some big gingers and Arisaemas. Sadly they seemed to have lost all their tree ferns 

I rather liked this Persicaria,anyone know the species??  they also had a huge grass garden which was quite inspiring... I haven't been a big grass fan, but this is changing as I do like my Arundodonax, and Ive also managed to find a giant grass and a couple that rarely flower in the the UK (I don't like their flowers much, and it gives me hay fever paranoia) 

And finally to finish with a Gunnera.....so pretty, when will you be mine......

My own garden is also looking great at the mo (Im dead modest), I wonder if its too good as it is now exactly one month to go before the garden opening and hope that things dont start going over. Ive also just been asked to return my forms about opening next year, eek!