Warren Street part 2

Warren Street

As my friend Steven and I walked along Warren Street to London’s cheapest pub (we are so classy) we passed the building on Warren Street that I’ve featured several times on this blog – and in the previous post, actually.

Steven exclaimed: ‘That’s the house you’ve featured on your blog!’ (glad to see he’s been paying attention). He dragged me down the cobbled street at the side of the building to look at the mews that it leads on to, and we found yet more great planting.

Someone around here has seriously green fingers, and they’ve well and truly understood that less is most definitely NOT more when it comes to pots outside houses. You need big pots, and lots of them, Great Dixter-style. A few bitty ones just don’t cut the mustard.

I love the little bird box, too.

Chaun’s place


My friend Chaun tells me that this bronze container is specifically made for storing a hosepipe. I’m not entirely sure I believe him, but it does have drainage holes and it is the right size. Whatever it is, it would make great storage for all manner of garden bits and bobs. It comes from TK Maxx.

But maybe you’re more interested in the cat. Wispy spends most of her summer sleeping on the compost around the fig tree. The trunk is covered with chicken wire because she likes to use it as a scratching post.

Secret gardens part 2: National Theatre

South Bank

I’ve waxed lyrical about the  Queen Elizabeth Hall roof garden a couple of times on this blog, and that definitely qualifies as a secret garden. But there’s a new kid on the block now too, a few hundred metres away: the garden outside the National Theatre.

These grasses had caught my eye several times from Waterloo Bridge, but I couldn’t figure out exactly where they were. I eventually got up close and personal with them last week (they’re a couple of floors up, near one of the Olivier theatre’s bars). They’re planted in large blocks, intercut with rows of box, and their buff colouring complements Denis Lasdun’s concrete perfectly.

And you know what? On a balmy summer’s evening, most of the bar tables were empty. So if you want a quiet drink in London with a view to die for, you know where to go.

Secret gardens part 1: The V&A

South Kensington

As London returns to normal after the Olympics, I miss not only the sport but the emptiness of the rest of the city. In the next couple of posts, I’ll feature some ‘secret’ gardens I came across when I managed to tear myself from the TV.  They’re perfect for a quiet alfresco drink or a lounge with a book, and enjoying them won’t cost you more than a sandwich at Pret A Manger.

First up is the garden at the Victoria & Albert Museum, designed by landscape architect Kim Wilkie. Lined with hydrangeas and formal planters, it’s reminiscent of an Italian palazzo. It’s grand – and loads of fun.

Kids (and adults) can paddle in the shallow pool, spin and wobble on a Thomas Heatherwick chair or simply lie on the grass. On a warm Friday evening (when the V&A opens late) it was busy but civilised, and light years from the bustle of the city just outside.

Marchants Hardy Plants

East Sussex

Graham Gough owns the much-respected Marchant’s Hardy Plants in Sussex, and his garden showcases many of the plants on sale.

It’s inspired by the Dutch ‘new wave‘ movement and so contains lots of perennials and grasses – but with a few key additions such as kniphofia (red hot pokers), agapanthus and crocosmia. It’s undoubtedly a garden that’s ‘current’, but Graham is first and foremost a plantsman and has little interest in what’s trendy. That frees him up to combine plants that you wouldn’t think of as natural partners, such as a fuchsia and a grass.

Graham points out that this planting style means that he can be free and easy with colour. In a traditional herbaceous border most people think twice about putting certain colours together in case they jar. But in the new wave style the flowers are broken up by the grasses, so nothing clashes. There are splashes of pretty much every colour in Graham’s garden, all knitted together by green.

Olympic London

Fitzroy Square

London is a different place at the moment – the tube is empty, people are smiley, and the staff in Tesco Metro are wishing everyone a good day.

And the city is looking great.

I hadn’t noticed until now that it has been subtly tarted up – neglected areas have been planted, pubs are sporting exuberant hanging baskets and there’s red, white and blue everywhere.

Fitzroy Square is entirely lined with red geraniums (above) – at least 100 window boxes, I reckon. Bickenhall Street in Marylebone is flanked with patriotic planters – with blue railings to match.

I’m going to miss the Olympics. And until the Games started, I never thought I’d say that.
PS: You can read the post that I wrote about the fabulous Olympic Park last year here.