On the shelf


When I had a balcony I was tempted by shelves as a way as cramming more plants in, but I couldn’t quite figure what to do with them. But I see now that the trick is to fill them with the same type of plant in the same type of pot for maximum effect, as they do at East Ruston Old Vicarage.

At the moment I could fill this blog with weird planting combinations that should never be seen together – such as wallflowers and roses, shown here.  Suffice to say that I saw daffodils and roses flowering on the same day, and I’m still recovering from the shock.

Tulip mania


When I first went to East Ruston a few years ago I was amazed by its flamboyant spring pots – and they were looking just as exuberant this time around, stuffed to the gills with tulips and hyaciths in every colour imaginable.

Co-owner Alan Gray was on Gardeners’ Question Time last summer, talking about how he keeps looking his pots so good, and I seem to remember that the summer ones at least involve copious amounts of manure and feeding. But I think the lessons I’d take away from these pots are: 1) Use the biggest pot imaginable 2) Use twice the number of bulbs you think you’ll need and 3) Go mad with colour.




I hadn’t seen a real-life auricula theatre before but there was one at East Ruston Old Vicarage this weekend, and very lovely it looked too. As with everything at East Ruston, it managed to be immaculate, tasteful and unusual all at once, with weathered terracotta pots, turquoise-painted shelves and a Chinese-style roof.


Old Arsenal stadium

When I was looking to buy a flat recently, the new development on the site of the old Arsenal stadium kept coming up on Rightmove. I wasn’t interested a) as I liked the old stadium just as it was b) I wanted a garden and c) I couldn’t afford a flat there anyway.

I went past the new(ish) development the other day and the gate was open, so I went in. And I was amazed at how green it was. A hell of a lot of the area – well, the size of a football pitch, really – has been given over to planting, which is by the renowned landscape architect Christopher Bradley-Hole. It’s a grid of hedges, grasses, block planting, glass screens and trees. And some of the flats do actually have gardens (albeit very small ones).

I was impressed. The garden seems like a fitting incarnation for a former football club – it’s the main feature of the development, and every balcony overlooks it. It seemed incredibly peaceful, too, and it struck me as a very nice place to live.

Naomi’s garden

Finsbury Park

My friend Naomi is one of the keenest gardeners I know. She gardens for a living, has two allotments and has also set up a street growing scheme in her area which has given away free seeds and bulbs, beautified tree pits and so on. One of her neighbours says that if she had been around during WW2 she’d have been in the ATS.

Anyway, her front garden is looking pretty splendid at the moment. She’s got two raised beds in which she grows mostly veg and flowers for cutting. When she started a few years ago, she fully expected some of the produce to be pinched – but it wasn’t. Although you can’t see it from this pic, among the tulips (‘Ballerina’ and ‘Curly Sue’) are mustard leaf and strawberries.

Full details of how Naomi built her raised beds can be found on her lovely blog.

A rose by any other name…

St John's Wood

I’ve featured this garden before – I wish I was taller so I could see over its high wall. It’s stuffed with trees, climbers and some amazing pots, which I glimpsed momentarily the other day when the gate was open and the maid (yes, you did read that correctly) was putting the recycling out.

Anyway this rose, climbing on the wall, has been in bud for weeks and is now beginning to flower! In April! It’s all too much!

The same rose also climbs up the front of the house, intertwined with a white wisteria. The house is painted pale grey, which gives the cottagey combo a contemporary twist.

Wisteria and peonies

As any Buddhist will tell you, everything passes and nothing lasts forever. It’s an idea I’m more than willing to embrace when I’m faced with something I don’t like – eg winter – which can’t go quickly enough as far as I’m concerned. But I struggle with the idea in spring, when everything moves so fast. If I could freeze any moment in time, it would be now. There’s colour and blossom everywhere, it’s warm, it’s light, and there are a good six months of half-decent growing weather and oodles of daylight ahead.

And then there are wisteria and peonies – a few weeks early this year. They don’t last long, but I guess that’s part of their charm. On the garden design course I did a few years back, peonies weren’t seen as particularly useful plants as they flower so fleetingly, but I think I’d definitely have some in my garden. And a wisteria too, come to that. And I’d do my best to accept that they won’t be around for too long…

Regent’s Park

Regent's Park

Since I swapped an overpriced and overcrowded commute for a walk through Regent’s Park every morning, my life has improved no end. Not only do I finally ‘get’ dogs – all enjoying the best part of their day and getting up to all sorts behind their owners’ backs – but I can see the seasons gradually evolve. At this time of year everything is happening so fast that I keep spotting things I’ve never noticed before.

Like this border – how could I have missed it until now? It’s a mix of dark-leaved phormiums, pink wallflowers, dark red tulips and wine-coloured heucheras – a contemporary take on the traditional tulip/wallflower combo.

I’m not a huge fan of bedding, but there are lots of combinations in the park at the moment that are really original. I get the impression that the planting is becoming more sustainable – mixing shrubs such as phormiums and tiny, acid green euonymus into the schemes. I’d love to meet the person responsible for coming up with the ideas.

Stone circle


This was my first ‘drive-by’ shot for this blog – I hopped out of the car, took a couple of pics,  jumped back in and sped off. Which must have looked extremely suspicious.

Anyway, I took the pic not for the arch, which is rather lovely, but for the stone circle on the lawn. Fancy having that in your front garden! There are a lot of them in this area of Somerset (near Cheddar Gorge) but I’m not sure whether this one pre-dates the house or is a more recent addition to reflect the surrounding landscape. For all I know stone circles might be on sale in the local Homebase.