Wednesday 3 November 2021

Winter is coming

The end of the year looms and the garden totters between portly lush exuberance that is now so top heavy that many plants are falling over after being buffeted by the wind. Things like the Dahlias are still going strong but they are so tall and many stems so weak that they snap easily. Those bananas and Colocasia’s that have escaped the wind are still looking so lush and tropical. Other more sensitive things like the Manihot started shedding their leaves early. The fuchsias, which I don’t have much luck with have only just started flowering… 

 I have never known a year where things have grown so tall….The Tithonia were all at about 6-7ft, I have an 8ft Ricinus, the Amicia is flowering strongly at 7ft. This was also the year I have had to do the least watering. In fact the opposite was true as things were so wet that I had to take the pots off the saucers and keep emptying out pots that had no drainage holes. 

 The ‘to do’ list for winter grows….compost heaps need emptying, and the war on a couple of very virulent bamboos is about to begin once my new mattock arrives…I haven’t yet taken in any of the tender things, probably leaving it till the last week in November/when frosts appear and for the first time will try having two pop up greenhouses to keep things safe. I also plan on digging up most of the dahlias, not to protect them from frost but from slugs and snails, and give them a head start. Lots to do!

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