Cafe A Vin


I’m not keen on modern shopping precincts that are made up of chain shops and restaurants, but I can handle the new area at Spitalfields because it has some nice landscaping, and some quite nice restaurants too.

I liked this combo outside the Cafe A Vin. It contains two of my ‘banned’ bedding plants, but I’m prepared to let that go because the white-edged leaves of the euonymus and the petals of the cyclamen complement each other so nicely.

When I walked past again a few days later, the cyclamen had all been taken out! Cyclamen don’t like being cold and wet, so maybe the snow finished them off…

St Leonard’s Church


Here’s another plantless pic – this time St Leonard’s Church in Shoreditch. Come 21st of May it will have an ‘Oranges & Lemons’ garden as part of the Chelsea Fringe.

The Oranges & Lemons theme comes from the nursery rhyme, in which the church gets a mention: ‘When I grow rich, say the bells of Shoreditch’. If it looks vaguely familiar, it’s because it stars in the sitcom Rev.

This is the second Fringe garden that I’m involved with and in many ways it’s more ambitious than the first (see previous post). It’s much bigger for starters, and it needs funding – several thousand pounds-worth. Plus there’s the small matter of cladding the church pillars and tree trunks in fake oranges and lemons (if anyone has any ideas, please let me know!).

The designer, Dan Shea, has come up with an ambitious plan and the aim is to get as many passersby to visit the garden as possible, enticing them in not only with lovely planting but also music, drinks and deckchairs.

This church doesn’t do things by halves – it shelters and rehouses homeless people, runs groups for addicts and puts on gigs (it has amazing acoustics, apparently). So the garden will need to do it justice.

The Idler Academy

Westbourne Park

There isn’t a plant, let alone a garden, in this pic, but rest assured that come 21st May, the Idler Academy will have a generous coating of chlorophyll. It’s going to be transformed for the Chelsea Fringe, the hotly anticipated gardening festival that will coincide with the Chelsea Flower Show. Around 80 gardens/events/happenings are planned all over London.

I’m one of the fringe co-ordinators, which means I have to oversee a couple of the gardens and check how they’re coming along. This is one of them, and I’m really chuffed to be involved. The Idler Academy is a cafe, bookshop and centre of learning (a group of young people were doing their Latin homework when I visited). Its proprietor, Tom Hodgkinson, also edits The Idler and wrote one of my favourite books, How to be Free.

At the back of the cafe is a tiny garden, and I met up with Tom, top garden design graduate Angela Newman and her former tutor Annie Guilfoyle on a January day to discuss how to transform it into a ‘Grove of Idleness’. I won’t give too much away, but lots of ambitious ideas were bandied around and it’s all very exciting. I’ll bring you pics of the finished garden in May.