Wednesday 25 June 2014

Grow London: a new plant fair/experience for London

Last Thursday I had the good fortune to manage to blag a ticket to go and visit the new Grow London contemporary garden fair. This was exciting stuff as I had heard about it ages ago and wanted to visit, however I had to persuade the husband that this was a better thing to do than have a romantic evening out.

So off we trotted to Hampstead, following their random unsignposted route from the tube to the show through backstreets and the windy ye old England of Hampstead with occasional grunts from the other half about whether or not I knew where I was going interspersed with attempts to look at maps on our phones.

Our mood on arrival at the fair, on the outskirts of the heath was immediately lifted by tables of free booze and wishes that the guy serving knew how to pour fizz. There was also a DJ making this a very un-RHS experience which was exactly what I was hoping for, as regular readers know I do rather hope that the RHS could modernise their shows a bit although their recent attempts have been rather more exciting (those Heucheras wrapped in rope lighting with dry ice were enough to raise a few eyebrows)

Wandering around there was a nice feel to the show as there were stands from companies I wasn’t familiar with and lots of interesting bits of garden furniture to lust afterwards however it was rather lacking in plant stalls. Later looking at the program (through wine googles) it seemed only approximately 10% were plant nurseries.  

Half way through I was expecting to come across lanes of nurseries brimming with plants, but it was more of the same however we did bump into Mark and Gaz of Alternative Eden fame which made the evening a lot more exciting (they go to all the best openings, you can see their write up here). When chatting we said it reminded us a bit of a job fair as it had that kind of marquee corporate set up. If it was a job fair I would definitely want to work for Crug Plants. Having them there was a big coup and made the event as they are still the most exciting nursery around and perusing the plants with a glass of wine was dangerous as I bought an expensive and sensitive looking Piper which on refection is far to sensitive to deal with my neglect!

Glorious Crug Plants

Overall it was an interesting experience, and there was the amusement of Joe Swift, James Sinclair and Cleve West doing a skit half way through. I think it was disappointing not to have more plant stands there as I do think this needs to be the cornerstone of a garden show. Within the stands themselves there also wasn’t much space for plants, and they were oddly laid out

Would I go again? Yes, probably if I got another free ticket and there were free drinks (I am a very cheap date)

Would I feel disappointed if I had just gone and paid £16 on the door?...yes.

Are they giving the RHS a run for their money? Not yet, although there is potential. They gave a fresh approach to things and had some different people there, certainly a lot more modern, and holistic in terms of a gardeners needs, albeit one with cash to splash. The way the RHS does things is very polished, staid, but polished and very plant focused which for me is what was lacking at Grow, however they do seem to want to be more holistic and are certainly a lot cooler. I wish them luck for the future and hope that they do grow and become a good alternative to the RHS as a bit of competition would be very healthy!

Saturday 14 June 2014

A new NGS Group garden opening in Camberwell and an amazing plant sale

On Sunday June the 15th from 2-5:30pm 34 and 37 Grove Park will open their gardens for one afternoon in aid of the National Garden Scheme, and included will be a fabulous plant sale in aid of the Grove Park Tree base association.

Two very different gardens in a leafy part of Camberwell. No.34 is an 80ft x 40ft garden started in 2006, designed for yr-round flowers. Large colour-themed beds with abundant perennials, old English roses, alliums, cardoons and climbers. Packed 50ft S-facing front garden, best described as organised chaos. No.37 is a creative mix of sub-tropical plants interspersed with walkways made of reclaimed hardwood. Lancewoods compete for attention with muehlenbeckia and Tibetan ferns. Designed by New Zealander James Fraser the garden has had 10yrs to flourish, creating an original presence for this South London location. Both front and rear garden are enclosed with James' signature irregular fencing

James and Maddys

I love both gardens for different reasons, James and Maddys is very much something for the exotisist as it is a mature garden full of New Zealand plants. Christophers is the opposite, a 
very English garden jam packed with plants.

Also on offer:

  • ·        Amazing tea and cake at Christopher’s
  • ·        A pop up sloe gin bar at James and Maddys
  • ·         A plan sale run by Lyndon, who also has one of the best stalls on Columbia Road with a very interesting plantsmans choice of plants, which appeal to the exotisist. From the plants that are already here I spy tree ferns, Echinacea’s and lots of things I will want to buy myself”
  • ·         A large amount of plants given by neighbours
  • ·         Loads of homemade preserves and jams!

mmmmm 3 trolleys of plants waiting to be bought and loads more out back!
The plant sale will be in aid of the Grove Park Tree Base Association which is a community group which aims to plant up the bottom of the trees which grown on the road. I have been involved for a while, as it is a great project lead by Helena whom is a passionate dynamo who has really driven things along. In essence when the council was re-doing our pavements we campaigned to ask them not to pave up to the tree trunks but to leave space for us to grow and maintain other plants.  This simple ask has led to creating a project which has really helped bring neighbours together and created a much more interesting street full of flowers! Monies raised from the sale tomorrow will go towards sustaining and buying new plants/soil for the project.

Two of the tree bases planted as part of the project

 Come and visit! Buy nice plants! Have a nosy! Eat cake! Buy homemade strawberry jam!

Sunday 8 June 2014

NGS Garden weekend: fabulous gardens in Peckham and Dulwich

This weekend was the NGS Festival Weekend, the weekend in the year when the most NGS gardens are open and which they promote to the raise awareness of the scheme and get people visiting gardens!

Locally there were loads of gardens open, 3 of which were in my NGS 'patch' and in an attempt to be a good NGS volunteer I Tweeted about them all, and then headed off to do the rounds.

First up was Choumert Square, which is the most amazing place. In essence the square (more a road) is like two rows of small terraced houses with small front gardens, maybe 3-5 meters long, but no road, just a central pathway. The whole place is gated so quite private, and as the houses are all so close and the gardens small it has fostered a great sense of community and everyone comes together to help out and do stuff.

In a way it was the opposite of the Dulwich gardens, which I did last, and which are big 'traditional' NGS gardens with amazing plants and planting. As Choumert is small it inst so much about the plants (which are still great) and they do a lot of extras such as the Pimms garden (mmm), back massage, plant sale cakes etc. My favourite was 'which celebrity has the same height as you' which meant that loads of people were wandering round with name badges saying who they my friend was Audrey Hepburn, someone in the choir was Naomi Campbell, and I was, well I was Colonel Gaddafi!

Next up were the Dulwich gardens, one opening alone and two others together.

The one opening alone was so different to the others, designed by Christopher Bradley Hole and maintained by a very talented gardener. Sleek and inviting with a swimming pool backed by a pink wall and inviting sun loungers at the top

At the top was a large lawn with more 'wild' walkways either side of the pictures do not do the planting or design justice!

The last two were a well oiled machine and I think had about 600 people visit over the afternoon. Big Dulwich house's with huge gardens backing onto the park making you forget you are in London. Fabulous plantings with long herbaceous borders and Delphiniums which could tempt me away from the tropics...

June: aggressive bamboos and things beginning to come together

The garden has recently been a neglected wife as I am 6 weeks into a new job which is further away and also has less toil and flexible working than where I was. Those plants that are in have been subjected to the relentless march of the monopeds... there are so many slugs and snails eating everything with particular favorites being anything I plant in the veg plot, Cannas or Dahlias. 

Years ago when spotting a snail I would casually lob it over next doors garden when I thought no one could see me, tutting at my mothers use of slug pellets. All that has changed and I can quite happily snip a snail or slug in half with a sharp pair of scissors or crush small snails with my bare hands. Currently I use pellets on selected areas, however even then there are expletives a go go when I wander round and see that they have munched the 2ft tall growing tip of a Dahlia imperialis.

The new shoots of this P.bisetti are about 4ft taller than last year and finally hiding the house!

Another gasp came this weekend from the bamboos...I love bamboos and have been giving them kind words and appreciative looks in the hope that they would grow faster and hide my neighbors houses.  This year I have been rubbing my hands with glee as new shoots have emerged, their giant phallic thrusts heading to the stars, growing incredibly fast with a girth to be proud of. I was therefore a little surprised to see a huge shoot a few foot from the main clum of Vivax. 

This is the main clump, well behaved as a, well, clump! all about to double its size.. however when I went to dig up the stray shoot I found that it kept going, and then going some more with a very active shoot!

This  picture shows how far it has come from the main clump. The spade marks where it has ended up about 2 meters away!

This is the beast dug out, about 2m!

I know bamboos spread however was a little surprised at the tenacity of this one!

Other things going on in the garden:....

Ensete's all planted out and gradually coming back to life

Slug damage on Ricinus seedlings! thankfully once rescued they seem to recover 

I love my Tetrapapnax forest which is now getting really big!

some of the Paulownia shoots are now almost 2meters!

Scotch thistle....rather prickly

I have tried planting out my Cyathea medularis in a very large pot...

the same bed from the other side...the Solanum are huge!

amazing Echiums *swoon*

Other bed sparce with new Ensete's and Ricinus seedlings