Saturday, 27 February 2016

take the nature away from me

Occasionally, Wallpaper magazine, home of the elegant, design-obsessed urbanite, feels impelled to do little profiles of outdoor clothing. It is, after all, a world of high-tech innovation, materials improvement and cutting edge design, and, as such, newsworthy. The models who end up in these shoots often seem to share the same expression, which can be summed up as: I signed up for Wallpaper - I didn't expect Countryfile.

Check out Nathan Saignes, below, rocking the pouty-private-school-boy-collapsed-in-a-ditch-after-overdoing-the-cider look. I especially like how he experimentally touches the grass (clean grass, I note, primped, cleaned, dressed and studded with Chelsea quality florals) and then thinks better of it.

Oh, the fervid beauty of the studio garden, perfectly lit, made to be perfect for a single glistening half-day and oh-so-proud of its reflective white background. Designer Matt Wright reputedly likes it messy, and perhaps it is; by Wallpaper standards.

You can see the full set of pictures, including Nathan turning his back on all this greenery nonsense, revelations about the hi-tech clothes  and an incomplete but still intriguing plant list, over at

Thursday, 25 February 2016

february flowers

Some things really never stopped flowering this year, but that hasn't stopped my little back garden being damp, cold, mucky, tatty and above all dark. The flowers are coming in though, for the year; like little cold torches in the february murk.

blue pansy burgundy hellebore pioneer narcissus
common heather sic transit daffodil hectic cherry
daffodil, still petticoated flopped crocus midnight purple ruffles

Chilly faces downturned, petals still tightly wrapped, and all the damage of storms, rain, and my year-round slugs showing, they are nevertheless all things bright and beautiful, especially at this dark, downturned time of year.

I eventually took pity on that poor daffodil and took it inside, for my first flower bunch of the year, which is that flopped daffodil with Green Trick Carnations (which don't stop "flowering" ever, because that's not a flower) and Winter Jasmine, which is following the Gorse strategy of never being out of blossom:

february bouquet

Alys Fowler has set herself the challenge of having home-grown flowers in the house every week this year; I'm not sure I'll quite manage that. But there may be a new bouquet every month.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

gucci's gorgeous garden room

I found a gold foil pleated skirt in Zara the other day and found myself implausibly drawn to it. I've not worn a pleated skirt since school uniform days, so what was going on? Turns out I was remembering an advert I had seen where people in crazy yellow and gold clothes were posing awkwardly in a gorgeous room covered with an elaborate botanical mural:


The clothes Zara is riffing on come from Gucci Resort 2016 and they are very botanical. But what about that garden room? Pleasingly the advert comes in Youtube flavour too (complete with a lot of awkward dancing from gorgeous models) to view that mural in full, complete with hydrangeas, roses and morning glories growing up a tree.

Where is that awesome muralled room? It's Castello Sonnino, in Tuscany. While we're gathering trivia, the music is by a long defunct Greek 80s band called Alive She Died. Although the most extraordinarily botanical suit in the range is visible neither in the ad above nor in the runway show, Gucci took their model circus to Berlin, where the flowers could flash against the concrete, and gave it a starring role:

The bit where the model goes off the skateboard on the corner is priceless.

I might skip the gold foil skirt, but clashing multicolour florals sound like a good way to go in the garden this year; I like the contrast with the concrete chip rooftop (rather more than the elegance of the faded villa) and the cartoonish, outsized blooms; the self-consciously overdressed, over-the-top and over-the-rainbow garden.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

christening the IKEA growhouse

The seedlings are beginning to need potting on, insanely quickly as it always seems. Pop pop pop they go, far faster than I can find them cosy spaces for growing on.

tomatoes chapter 1

There is the first set, looking massively unprepossessing. Those are Black Krim, aka Black Russian, a super-savoury large beefsteak tomato with a solid umami kick. They're an uncommercial variety (I often have to chop away up to a quarter of the fruit) but very, very tasty.

Worried by the frailty of the tiny seedlings, I was looking for a lid for them when I remembered VINDRUVA, an IKEA impulse purchase:

new growhouse

It is unfortunately irritatingly narrow; you can see that I had to stagger the pots, and could only cram in seven. But on the bright side, finding somewhere for it to live is very easy. I was even able to balance it on a radiator to warm up the compost (they won't live there, it's just to ease the transition from heated propagator to chilly windowsill).

Now the seedlings are on the windowsill, leaving only the problem of what to do with the next lot of seedlings.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

dendrobium repottage

I have a variety of orchids in the house, all bought on sale. This one (Manager's Clearance) marks the first time I ever saw a Dendrobium orchid for sale in a supermarket. There were ranks of them on a big unit being sold for a fiver, presumably to familiarise people with them as a product (or maybe some breeder had dumped thousands of low grade plants on the market - they were "allsorts" - not an identifiable variety, but no less beautiful for it).

Manager's Clearance isn't the plant it used to be. The old stems are depleted and new stems (keikis) are sprouting all over, little subplants complete with roots.

repotting dendrobium repotting dendrobium
repotting dendrobium repotting dendrobium

One of the old stems fell off. The little keikis were all starting to rot. So I took a sharp pair of scissors and chopped off the stems, in the hope that the old pot will resprout. Everything that looked green went into its own little pot. This, apparently, is a "long term" way to get flowers. But I actually quite like the look or orchid foliage, and especially the air roots. A few little keikis around the place won't go amiss.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

the joy of pavilions : hive

Milan Expo 2015 looks like it might have been quite eye-popping. The theme was sustainability - feeding the planet, energy for life! as google translate would have it; and so the trade stands are full of food and plants, gardens and greenery; and of course it was all recorded and put out on multiple channels, official and unofficial, which meant that when I discovered that the UK pavilion had involved a giant metal beehive full of music performed by half of Spiritualized, Wolfgang Buttress and 40,000 bees, I was able to find a video of what that looked and sounded like:

It's tiny; just a brief snippet. But the Hive (or perhaps part of it) will be coming to Kew Gardens this summer, so the experience in full is coming soon.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

led home by the nose

At this time of the year, walking home of a chilly evening, you can suddenly find yourself moving through blocks of scent so solid it is almost visible in the air. Sarcococca is the usual culprit, though sometimes it's Chimonathus or Mahonia or Hamamelis. Late as it is, there's no time to stop; dark as it is, it would be impolite to peer over walls and into gardens; cold as it is, I'm unwilling to linger; so these patches of scent remain mysterious, momentary, instantly lost.

Try as I might, I can't get any of these delicate, early-year flowerers to grow in my garden. I've tried; and things have died.

The only thing my garden smells of is damp.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

january moss garden

There has hardly been a day of frost this year. But on January 19th, there was frost on the cars, and as I walked into work, one of the houses in the street had a garden wall that looked like this:

Frosty moss garden

I have a great fondness for garden walls. There was a very old one at my primary school, covered with Ivy-Leaved Toadflax and little red mites. Up close it looked like a tiny world; in dark crevices, woodlice lurked. A smooth dust came constantly from the wall, as it eroded in the weather; and lichen clung to its grey surface. We raced across the playground, and landed, hands flat, on that soft, forgiving stone. Sometimes a mite would be crushed on our hands; a tiny smear of red.

One of the first things we did in the garden was to build a wall. We hauled up a pile of rubbish to discover it was the only thing stopping the neighbour's garden (three feet above ours) and indeed their garage sliding into the property. So we hired handy Andy the indie builder to put in a retaining wall, and as he'd just taken out someone's chimney breast, he re-used the bricks, marked as they were with heat and soot, and made us a smart retaining wall, which is still doing a fine job of retaining. "You'll want to clean it up a bit," he said but we never did; I quite liked the look of the marked and strained bricks, and of course the plants didn't care.

The bricks are already going a bit; frost delaminating the top layers, moss emanating from the mortar and the new cracks. But that's really as a garden wall should be. I wonder, is it ready yet for some toadflax of its own?