Ale and arty


Plants that have been ravaged by the winter everywhere else appeared to be unscathed in Southwold this weekend – phormiums and astelias were still standing proud despite being reduced to a mush in other parts of the country. There wasn’t much to photograph though, until I spotted these calamagrostis outside the Adnam’s shop – a contemporary touch in a traditional seaside town. Close to Southwold is another Suffolk institution, the legendary nursery Woottens. The nursery is run by Michael Loftus, and the Loftus family have a long history with Adnams – so maybe Michael supplied the grasses here.

Pushing the boundaries

St Johns Wood

There’s a garden near my flat that looks like it’s got some interesting stuff in it, judging from the plants I can see popping over the fence – lots of large Mediterranean and grey-leafed shrubs and trees. Alas I can’t see in, but this is the boundary between that garden and the next. The log piles are interspersed with big wooden planters containing as-yet-unidentified shrubs.

It makes a change from a smart fence painted in a heritage colour – standard issue in these parts. But what I’m curious about is what the neighbours think. On their side it’s a bit of a mess, with slabs of concrete and random panels holding it all up. They can’t be happy about that, surely?

If life gives you lemons…

Lemons growing on Wigmore St, 15 February
Wigmore Street, W1

… take a picture of them. This balcony is on Wimpole St, above a steak restaurant. Before Christmas, white roses were in bloom, and now its lemon tree is fruiting. One white rose remains. I nearly got run over taking this picture – in the end a friendly cab driver stopped for me.

Boxed in


I was expecting rich pickings in leafy Dulwich this weekend but I didn’t come across that much – unless you count front gardens covered in slate chippings with a cordyline plonked in the middle. But there was no missing this gorgeous house and garden, on a huge corner plot. The intimate area near the front door is mirrored on the other side of the garden path. I love the cardoons…

House of dreams

East Dulwich

The moment I saw this garden gate in East Dulwich, south east London, I knew something pretty special would be behind it. But I couldn’t really see what, apart from the edge of a mosaic path and some spiky plants sticking out over the top of the fence. What to do?

I went to my friend’s house, lingered over a coffee and set back out again, camera in hand. I didn’t really have a plan as to what I’d do when I got to the house – knock and hope that someone answered, try to take a pic from the garden next door…? – but just as I approached a man came out. So I took a deep breath and asked if he lived there.

He told me that the house and garden are the work of his partner, the artist Stephen Wright. And off he went to fetch him, leaving me to look at the garden. And what a garden it is. The walls, painted Frieda Kahlo-blue, are adorned with colourful mosaics and the garden is filled with sculptures made from broken dolls, crockery, ornaments and curios.

And then Stephen Wright himself came out, gave me a kiss on the cheek and said I was welcome to take some pics. He explained that the House of Dreams is a life project which is supported by the National Trust. Eventually it will be bestowed to the nation. It’s open by appointment only (0208 299 3164; £10, children free) but there’s an open day on 19 Feb from 10.30am to 4.30pm.

Visitors will be able to go into the back garden too – and if the front one is anything to go by, it promises to be extraordinary.

Gone to the wall

Regent Street

I hate shopping but I love Anthropologie. Now that I’ve accepted that everything is double the price I think it’s going to be, even with a generous mental mark up beforehand, I no longer contemplate buying anything. Instead I go there to enjoy the gorgeousness of it all. The Regent Street shop has this spectacular green wall, 50 ft high and packed with plants that are grown hydroponically. It’s been going strong for over a year now and looks as lush as ever. It can’t fail to lift my spirits, however depressed I am when I turn over a price tag.

Live at the BBC

Portland Place W1

Broadcasting House on Portland Place has been under wraps for months, and now it’s £1bn extension is complete. It’s all very snazzy but I must admit I noticed the new Portland Stone planters outside first.

Now I’ve always thought that planters in a street are a lovely idea, but surely they must double up as 1) litter bins or 2) urinals? These lovely examples are quite tall, thus hopefully averting the latter problem. But there was already an abandoned coffee cup among the fatsia and box and a big dark brown stain (coffee from the aforementioned cup, I hope!) on the white stone.

These planters aren’t here just to jolly up the place, though. Apparently they’re part of a security ‘ring of steel’ to ward off a terrorist attack and contain reinforced concrete. So plants are now part of the war on terror…

Caught in the act

St Johns Wood

For the first time today, the owner of the house came home as I was taking a picture of their garden. He was very nice about it. ‘My wife will be pleased!’ he said and went to find her to say hello. She’s responsible for this sculpture, in a little garden packed with evergreens. I asked if she had a website so I could give her a plug, but she hasn’t got one yet.

I must get some blog cards done so that people don’t think I’m a stalker.