Friday, 28 April 2017

when thugs collide

In my garden at the moment, the Alkanets are burgeoning. They're the biggest thug in my garden, although there are also problems from squirrel-planted hazel trees, Aquilegia and Raspberries, although it's all a question of perspective. The bees love the flowers, and raspberries are tasty.

periwinkle, nettle

I found this glorious sight of two happy garden thugs locked in mortal combat out on a walk. The periwinkle can smother a garden bed (though mine has remained persistently tiny, weedy and almost dead, probably because I bought a pretty dark purple variety) and nettles form dense rootbeds that crowd out everything else.

Who will win?

Thursday, 27 April 2017

all hail the radiator plant

I first glimpsed this plant a couple of years ago, outside my favourite florist. but I was on my way to an all-day gig and couldn't get it. I had no idea what I was looking at, but it was the middle of winter and I saw the leaves with little pale green frills floating above it and thouht I had glimpsed a bizarre type of Cyclamen

No wonder I had no luck googling it. It is of course a Peperomia, AKA the Radiator Plant, one of the famous indestructibles of the lackadaisical household, albeit a rather fancy variety - Peperomia Exclusiva Lilian - and it's definitely a pot plant. In this variety, the usual rat's tail flowers have fasciated into hooked and clubbed inflorescences.

What on earth would pollinate such a bizarre flower? There doesn't seem to be any kind of scent, pollen or nectar. My attempts to find out hit a bit of a wall when I discovered that data on flowering phenology and pollination of Peperomia species are virtually non-existent.

However the hint that hoverflies and potentially self-fertilization may play a part is intriguing. Will I get seeds? Or are the mutant inflorescences infertile?

Thursday, 20 April 2017

g's pretty garden

Whenever I'm over at the hospital, I try and drop in and see G. Time was, more of us lived up this end of town, and we'd see each other a bit more regularly. Now I normally see G when something has gone wrong. But I don't talk about that, I talk about her garden.

Her garden is smaller than mine, and the soils is rather lighter, being further from the river, but it is also terraced, contains far too many pots and has lots of cuttings and seedlings in various states of growing on about the place. Usually I come away with a pile of random pots and seedlings, but at the moment everything's marked off for a community garden she's accidentally got involved with, and anyway I'm on foot and exhausted.

Beyond the chaos of pretty pots full of fancy plants that is her patio, the garden is all neat mounds of colourful perennials and smart shrubs. A small pond; well placed miniature trees, mysterious plants she got from (mumble) all cut through with a smart winding gravelled path which (in the way of these things) is endlessly being invaded by something or other. She's a pincher - dead leaves, spent blossoms, inappropriate shoots all get pinched off and tidied away. It's a world away from my sprawling backyard jungle. Around it all a sharp hedge makes a tidy frame, and there's a bird table where a young robin comes down to bully her for mealworms. Around her doors, pots cluster like they want to get in and join the multifarious houseplants.

So she has a tree in the wrong place that needs some discussion, and I need to ask her about my water planters, because I think there's a problem. We have tea, and my clouds lift.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

neon campfires

I saw a Neon Campfire at Kinetica this year. Consisting as it did of a series of glued together shards of glass over a laser projector it looked a relatively simple (if somewhat unsafe)  homebuild (I even have an old projector light that's almost never being used) but pretty as it is, you would never draw close to it, and warm your hands on its icy edges.

kinetica london 2017

It's surprisingly warm, for April. Yuri night seemed like a good night to trial the Fire Bowl that I had been craving since I'd huddled round a friend's a new year. I bought some Aurora Cones, to light up the flames in bright colours:

You can't cook marshmallows over it. It's only copper sulphate, so not too toxic, but the ash is contaminated. We let it cool and threw it away.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017


I chose this cherry tree and planted it with my then housemate. I even invited some friends round to see the tree planted. Because every garden should have a tree, and every garden has a tree that suits it. This one is a Prunus Hilleri Spire, which combines a classic open pink blossom with a tidy, upright habit, which is sometimes described as vase-like, but which makes me think of a firework fountain, especially when it sparkles pink in spring, or flames red in the autumn.

the crab spider strikes

the crab spider strikes     Red Drink

Crab spiders love the cherry tree, too. If you look closely at the top picture, you can see one making a victory wave; and in the bottom left, joyfully consuming a honey bee.

It's come a long way, this little cherry tree. Here it is in earlier days, freshly planted (2005) and a few years in. I'm so used to it being huge that the second picture makes me look like a giant!

Cherry Tree Cherry Tree Growth Report 2008-05-18

Here it is just a couple of years ago, a rather more dominant presence. The huge slick of primroses under it were gifted to me as a few plants from a Betty, who was a volunteer with me at the Oxfam bookshop. They're all over the place nowadays, and not just in this garden.

Garden with Cherry Tree

It's not my tree any more, but it's always a pleasure to visit it.

Friday, 7 April 2017

the royal college of obstetricians and gynaecologists

I went to a conference last month, and this was in the garden. Apparently it won the Concrete Society's overall award for outstanding structure.

I like the smattering of pale flowers, how they pick up the white concrete, the lines on the lawn cut not too flat bending up into the vertical lines of the light on the cone.

Plus, there's no arguing with the Concrete Society.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

coloured glass in a white cube

It's strange how the inner experience of the individual has an intense effect on the things that the view, the experiences that they have. We were visiting a friend who's having a bad time, and took her out briefly to the White Cube in Bermondsey. Earlier that day I'd checked what was showing and spotted Josiah McElheny's The Crystal Land, which looked rather lovely, in a glassy perfected future kind of way.

But we went into the gallery and found huge hessian and recovered wood conglomerations, tattered old photos, depressing school desks and vast miserable hangings made of pungent leather. It was intense, artistically, but also depressing, and we had to cut and run before we made it out of the North galleries and into the glittering, glassy south.

I returned, later that day, to see if the crystal and delight was there, and it was, in the next galllery along, glitter, glamour, glass, delight all tantalisingly just out of reach like all proper utopian gardens, which you may dream of or visit, but only sometimes.

The experiemental film at the heart of the exhibition imaginess an exlusive spa concealed beneath a grassy mound in a wonderful garden, where initiates can bathe in light intensely coloured by vivid glass windows. The film was showing in a dark room lit only by gallery light passing in through square glass contruction bricks.

The film is called The Light Club of Vizcaya, and the garden it is set in exists, in Miami. The gardens of Vizcaya are already spectactular, dripping with orchids and statues. But this piece hints at a different way to develop your home and garden, through creating in its looser elements fictional spaces that act as extensions for the mind, underlaying and overtopping our ambitions with things that are impossible, impractical, absurd and intriguing.

It might help, to populate your space in this way, accessibly, where it can be stumbled upon daily, without quest or effort you can find these stories you can follow and spaces you can explore, and at their heart health, light, brihtness, brilliance and beauty.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

a walk around Edgeware Road

When I'm on training I like to have a quick walk at lunchtime. Just off the Edgeware Road I found:

Deco flats with interesting ironwork and fancy gardens:

garden palm zigzag grille

Plastic hanging baskets hanging over dead olive trees, and a weird anamorphic wooden sculpture:

dead olive standards round wood sculpture

Some very questionable statuary and some ancient olive trees:

weird scamp sculp