The Lanesborough

Hyde Park Corner

Timekeeping isn’t one of my strong points but I actually arrived outside the Lanesborough Hotel with plenty of time to spare the other day (for reasons, see my previous post). That made me very pleased with myself because my friend Steven always gets everywhere ridiculously early, and somehow makes me feel guilty when I arrive on time (well, ok, usually a few minutes late).

So anyway, I enjoyed ten minutes of feeling smug and watching the doormen of the Lanesborough in their grey bowler hats helping guests to unload Harrods bags from their giant convertibles. Then I took a pic of the pots outside, mostly because the green umbrellas matched them perfectly.

By this time I was very chuffed because for the first time ever, Steven was LATE. And then I got  a text from him, saying that he was outside the Lanesborough Hotel*. It turns out there were two exits from the tube and he’d been there all along.

*We weren’t actually going to the Lanesborough Hotel, in case you think I’m impossibly rich and swanky. Or having an illicit affair with a man called Steven.

Hyde Park

Hyde Park

I had half an hour to kill before I met a friend the other day, so I thought I’d take a turn around the gardens at Hyde Park. The tube station was heaving and I fancied escaping to some peace and quiet and some greenery.

It all turned out to be a bit, well… weird. The first thing I saw when I walked into the rose garden was a sign saying ‘This area is controlled by police to protect your valuables’, or something like that. I’ve never seen that in a London park before, and it struck me as a bit ominous.

Then a lone man said ‘hello’ to me. Now if you don’t live in London you may consider that to be a friendly gesture, but most Londoners would immediately assume that the person is a creep or a nutter (in this case I think it was the former). The only other person around was a bloke wearing a hoodie, lying on a bench, smoking a joint and reading a book. Weirder and weirder.

Anyway, I went for a wander, hoping to find a nice seat and some plants to look at. I love this part of Hyde Park because it looks like a country garden, with big, blowsy borders.

And then I heard the pounding bass.

The reason the tube was so crowded and the garden so empty was that the rock festival, Hard Rock Calling, was taking place a few hundred metres away. I think I was hearing the Killers, but I can’t be sure as the tune had been lost by the time it reached me.

Anyway, I can confirm that it’s impossible to sit in a beautiful garden on a summer’s evening, in the midst of abundant borders, delicious scents wafting on the air… and not be irritated by a pounding bass. Just as it’s impossible to sit in your own garden and not be distracted the sound of a neighbour powering up a large electric garden gadget.

So I took this photo and left!

Colin’s garden

Finsbury Park

Colin is a man after my own heart – he’s greenfingered but he rents his flat, and is limited to gardening in containers. This he does very well, as the Great Dixter-esque pot combo outside his front door shows.

Just as Colin (who’s from Vancouver) was beginning to feel settled enough to start planting in the ground in the back garden, his landlord announced that he’s going to sell up! Colin, I feel your pain…

Hedge finds


If you’ve got a privet hedge, you may as well do something fun with it and entertain passersby. In this quiet street in Highbury there are back-to-back cats and a Thomas the Tank engine.

Apparently the neighbours a few doors down claim to have a topiary Intercity 125 – a.k.a an ordinary hedge that’s tapered at one end.

The Yellow Book


I met a French woman at a party earlier in the year. She was married to an English chap and said that she’d heard that in Dorset (where her husband comes from) people open their gardens to the public – an idea she found amazing. I explained that it doesn’t just happen in Dorset but throughout the whole country (and Scotland too).

We Brits are pretty reserved on the whole, so opening our gardens to complete strangers is a pretty un-British thing to do. And yet thousands of people do just that for the National Gardens Scheme every year, and are listed in the Yellow Book. Many garden owners provide tea and cake and seating, so you can basically have an afternoon out in someone else’s garden. All of the money raised goes to charity.

I went to my first Yellow Book garden of the year, in Highbury, north London, last night. I haven’t done it justice in this pic, but the layout was clever and did what all good designs should: it didn’t reveal the whole garden at once.

What was essentially a big square at the back of the house had been cleverly transformed into something altogether more intriguing thanks to a sweeping semi circle of planting surrounding the seating area and a path around the garden behind it. It had the mark of a professional and sure enough, it was designed by the owner’s sister when she was training to be a landscape architect.

The lamps in the trees were due to be lit as night fell. Needless to say, instead of a balmy, romantic midsummer evening, it was chilly and damp. But there was a good turnout anyway and wine on offer too.

I’d love to know if any other countries have an equivalent of the National Gardens Scheme and Yellow Book. Does anyone happen to know?

Salady Saturday

I went for lunch at my friend Naomi’s house today. She’d made a salad entirely out of leaves from her garden, plus nasturtium and borage flowers (which taste like cucumber). The orange and blue flowers looked so pretty I had to take a pic.

And then we both decided we were tired, and took a nap!

The Watermill

Die Wassermuhle, Faralya, Turkey

Temperatures can hit 40 degrees in summer in southern Turkey but at Die Wassermuhle near Butterfly Valley, it’s always cool. That’s because the gardens of the hotel are almost entirely in shade, thanks to numerous trees and covered walkways. They’re widely planted with ivy, and a few choice artefacts and geraniums in terracotta pots are dotted about. Soothing sound effects come courtesy of trickling water from a natural spring – which also fills the swimming pool.

It’s heaven.


Aghia Sofia, Istanbul

Istanbul is chaotic, exotic, hot, full of contradictions and… filled with red roses. Beds of them brighten up every park, adorn every historical site, line the congested roads and stand in pots outside restaurants.

It’s hard to feel stressed surrounded by red roses, which maybe explains why the 16 million people who call Istanbul home seem pretty laid back (unless they’re trying to sell you a carpet).

Lounging, Turkish style

Touran Hill Camp, Kabak, Turkey
Cirali, Turkey
Kabak Natural Life, Kabak

‘Why stand up when you can sit down and why sit down when you can lie down?’ is one of my dad’s favourite sayings – not that I’ve ever seen him put it into practice. But it’s a concept that the Turks understand completely.

Much of the outdoor lounging in Turkey is done in ‘kosks’ – wooden platforms covered with rugs and cushions. They range from the pretty fancy to the very basic – some are little more than a palette with an old mattress on top. People share meals on them (on low tables) or simply lie back and daydream. Shoes aren’t allowed.

I’ve been roadtesting quite a few kosks recently and can confirm that it’s impossible not to relax on one. In fact I don’t want to sit on a deckchair ever again.

Wake up and smell the roses


When I walked along a street with Steven, Tracy and Linda the other night, I was impressed that they all stopped to smell the roses. Tracy said that the best-smelling roses in London can be found on the Euston Road, in the garden in front of the Friends Meeting House.

That surprised me, as the Euston Road is one of the most polluted in London and not exactly renowned for its floral displays. But Tracy was right. There is a rose garden and the roses do indeed smell lovely. And it’s remarkably quiet considering it’s just a few metres back from the road.