Tuesday 31 December 2013


So that’s it, goodbye 2013! Overall I think it has been a good gardening year despite a rubbish cold winter which started early and finished late...especially bad for bees with 30% of colonies not making it thought. Oddly the plants fared fine, and I had few losses...the main ones primarily due to the armies of slugs and snails which have been on the attack all year, especially when things were first emerging

This was also the first year which wasn’t full of masses of hard core digging and clearing, instead the garden moving to more of a phase of seeing how things grow, and then jiggling everything around mainly due to me planting too densely of lots of things sulking. However this has meant for more sitting around, and drinking of tea and gin which is what gardens are for. Other highlights have included getting honey for the first time, and of course the chance to meet Anna Pavord.

Seeing the changes as things mature and you find plants which thrive with you is exciting, and I have been gazing fondly at thickening bamboos and maturing bananas. My top favourites for the year have included Canna musifolia (so easy and lush) Cobea (rediscovery) Helianthus salicisifolius (still one of the top ones) Salvias which were some of the faves have been pushed down the list as this year they were rubbish...the late summer meaning they didn’t really get into their stride until October, Ricinus and nicotiana were also late...

My mind is firmly onto next year with a hunger to buy new plants...not helped with the Chiltern seed catalogue arriving yesterday and Mark and Gaz’s posting about palm tree sales..... People always ask what your plans are for the garden which is a hard question as there isn’t a master plan, as really you need to see how things fare and then tweak as they grow and redesign as it becomes easier to see what goes where and what will work. Certainly there is no big plan for 2014 beyond more re-jigging, I want to use grasses more as I fall more and more under their spell. Boundaries also need hiding more, especially if the neighbours put up a planning 2 storey extension right against their wall, so more bamboo, Trachycarpus and cordylines to provide a diversion.  This may also be the year or automatic watering systems, especially after seeing Patricks AMAZING tree fern garden in Camberwell, which makes me want to plant a lot more Cyathea.

Anyway, a Happy New Year to you all, I hope that it has been a good gardening year for you and that next year will be even better!

Its easy to forget how things go back to the ground!

Things changed through the year with moving the greenhouse to create a bigger seating area

This is to help remember how the Ensetes will grow back!
This year Ganesh got properly dressed up

We also opened for the Dulwich gardens safari

In Birmingham I feel in love with hardy orchids with a deepening love for Arisaema

Canna musifolia doing their thing, and an ever growing Ensete (below)

It was a good year for planing on the terrace with the lushest planting so far

Mum excelled on her bunting making...

And finally cheers! Happy 2014 to everyone, especially those that have helped and came to the garden openings to help us raise so much money for charity! hurrah! thank you!


Tuesday 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year readers! with special good luck brought to you by Maureen our Christmas fairy 

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Columbia Road at Christmas: Heaven and Hell

It is almost Christmas, hurrah! Work is winding down and everyone here is pondering if the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre really will have live penguins on show as part of its Xmas festivities.

To get a Christmas tree that wasn’t vastly overpriced we headed off to Columbia Road Flower Market last Sunday and were met with a wonderland of winteryness.  I love the smell of Christmas trees and can happily sit by one for ages taking it all in, so was in heaven as there were several forests at either end of the market. There was loads of choice and it was cheap as our 6ft one cost £35, I also then felt super butch flinging it over my shoulder and carrying it back to the car

The whole market was pimped up for Xmas and it is a great place to go if you need hyacinths, Poinsettias or bits of twig...my additional aspirations had been to sneak a couple of large cordylines in the car whilst we were there, but we got so laden up with trees and flowers that we will need a special January trip J

I have been coming to Columbia road for a long time and love it as it is the place for cheap, good plants as there is loads of variety. Over the last few years the shops either side have also got a lot better with some really interesting artisty things to wander through. Our big discovery of the year was Jimbob art

There are many aspects of the market which are heavenly such as the plants (obviously!) and flowers...it’s also a great trip out as we have our favourite things and will always stop for hot calamari and salt beef bagels. It is also so random how it is this fabulous road in the middle of a bit of a gritty estatey area as it is proper east end London and the traders have the banter to go with it (although Im sure they are all post ex-public school people who put it on for the punters). However parking can be a real pain, and there are now so many people there that it gets a bit of a scrum....particularly hellish bits are when overly determined mothers with pushchairs jab your feet or people with bikes try to squeeze by with ‘out of my way bitch’ eyes.... Im also hoping it won’t become a victim of its own success as it is attracting more and more tourists and day trippers who are more interested in the coffee and nick nacks than the plants which will eventually push up rents and change things.

However if you love plants and flowers then go! Especially if you need to flood your house with Christmas!

Friday 6 December 2013


As you can probably tell I'm spending a lot of time on Wikimedia this week and in particular am completely in love with the Tropenmuseum collection of old photos which are great inspiration.

Today a reveling on Ganesha one of my favorite Hindu gods who I have always been drawn to. A large Balinese sculpture sits on a plinth at the top of the stairs, and he was one of the first things to go into the garden. As a God associated with being a creator and destroyer he is good for new ventures, so it all seems very fitting, and once in the rest of the garden kind of flowed. He is also found across South East Asia and I have a smaller Cambodian statue which sits in the lower garden.

However by far my favorite style of Ganesha is Javanese, closely followed by Balinese with my complete favorite being a huge statue in the national museum in Bangkok, so it was very exciting to find these fabulous pictures which I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Hotter inspiration

Its cold, drizzly and very dark in the mornings, so my mind is wandering to far away places. I do have a bit of a Bali obsession, and in particular Bali in the 30's/40's so I was excited to come across these great photos which I think are fabulously atmospheric and inspiring...they are certainly succeeding in taking me to somewhere that isn't a grey Camberwell!


All photos by Paul Spies and are from the Tropenmuseum in the Netherlands. you can see them here

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Preparing for winter: how I overwinter my plants

So with winter imminent it was time to dig up and take in all the more exotic elements of the garden to save them from a cold icy death. The majority of the garden is actually hardy or are annuals however a splattering of tender things helps jazz things up and emphasize the exotic nature of the garden.

All in all it was a good job I took things in today as this morning (20th) I saw the first proper signs of frost damage...au revioir Dahlia imperialis...

I'm loving Cannas more and more every year, which is good as they are multiplying up fast! Basically all that I do is cut off the foliage, dig up the clumps, and knock off the main chunks of the wet garden soil as it tends to have quite a lot of clay in it, I also try and rescue worms which seem to like living close to the rhizomes.

Once dug up I put them into compost bags, gently filling around the edge with dry multipurpose compost. They then live for the  coldest part of the year in our electricity meter cupboard which is underneath the entrance to the house, and probably stays at about 5-8 degrees.  Some of the Cannas which are in pots I tend to just cut the foliage off and move into the covered side passage by the house. It is open at one end, but it is covered and it think the combination of the warmth from the house and dryness is what keeps things alive.

I do find that the Cannas actually can survive in the ground, however they are then so late getting going that it means it would have been better to dig them up. I am expereimenting leaving some in the ground, and I will dig them up in March?

The Enstes are the exciting thing which I deal with as follows

1) Happy plant, not knowing what will come next

2) Cut off the leaves and roots (be careful not to damage the corm) and also leave some of the stems. A temptation is to peel all the dead leaves off  like a banana, however try and keep most as this prevents it drying out too much

3)  Wash the base to get the remaining soil off and then cut off the remaining roots

4) store upside down somewhere frost free (mine are in the meter cupboard). This drains out the water that is in the leaves

5) after a few weeks if the moisture has gone turn the right way up

Finally the remaining Musa sikkimensis were dug up and put into pots and will be joined with the Musa lasiocarpa in the sideway.

Bananas waiting to go under cover if the builders ever finish the sideway
The greenhouse is also getting full! I have lots of salvia cuttings and hedychiums. A good tip for those people with Carnivores is that it can be good to move the sarracenias out for the winter as the cold is supposed to be good for them....I've started doing this as it is a great space saver.

Dahlias all stay in the ground, although I am going to try digging up 2 Dahlia imperialis to get them going earlier in the year, I also lost one at the far end of the garden and I wonder if it is simply too wet for them to survive.

Finally some pictures of today's frost...its not devastating but enough to kill off the Dahlias and slap around a few other things...

A flowering Dalia imperialis and Tetrapanax is a sure fire warning that the frost is about here!  


Sunday 17 November 2013

The November Garden: things at their peak before the end...

Last night the club I was at played Mariah Careys 'All I want for Christmas' there is no escape! winter is almost here. There are also the usual weather stories about how this is going to be to be the worst winter for a generation...however with all the mini stollen I'm eating from Lidl I think i will be well insulated.

Frosts must be imminent, so this weekend was time to dig stuff up, however before I did I wanted to take some pictures of things at their 2013 climax, so enjoy... 

This was a good year for Cobea...I had stopped growing it as it tended to grow huge and not flower, however growing them on arches and trellis where they got lots of sun has reignited an interest. I do think if you can bend the branches down it encourages flowering as otherwise all it wants to do is to get to the top...they are very impatient.

Mmm I love Melianthus... it has taken ages to get going, but their leaves are magnificent and make a great contrast with dark leaved dahlias.

The terraces jungle army, with their last show of exuberance. This year I also designed things more from the perspective of the view from our terrace and lounge to create a backdrop of lushness which I will miss...

Musa lasiocarpa flanking Ganesh....great foliage but I really want them to flower. any tips?

 Nicotiana tabacum with some delicate red flowers, and Dahlia imperials (below) bought in July and now up to at least 8 foot and about to flower.

 Sams salvia and Salvia coccinea (below)

This is the view I am really pleased with as last year nothing really grew here and I had concerns about the soil, however this now seems to be the best place for lots of things as the Ricinus grew best here (about 8foot) and the Musa sikkimensis settled in nicely

Garuda standing tall, and then a more accurate picture of the garden where in general things are really knocked around, stuff is dying and looking rather worse for wear. Time for winter renewal and planning for 2014.

I was trying to think if music to go with this as an ode to the end of the season......