Event: Peas are like Love

‘Peas will break your heart,’ a chap on my last allotment told me as I gaily sowed a couple of rows in my rookie year as an allotmenteer. Bob had a few choice other comments to make about my attempts as a gardener and although at the time I didn’t take them too kindly, I…

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

…at Warley Place, anyway. Most people love Warley for its drifts of daffodils. After all, Daffs mean Prizes – Miss Willmott won RHS medals a-go-go for hers. She even boobytrapped the best ones and carried a revolver in her handbag against bulb thieves. There must still be a few prize specimens in there, it’s a…

In Defence of the Spanish Bluebell

Listening to Gardeners Question Time I was shocked to hear the venom with which virtually everyone regards Spanish bluebells.  In the wild, yes, absolutely, they are to our delicate native bluebell what the grey squirrel is to the red. If they are going to be anywhere near our dainty wildflowers, where they might hybridise, you’re darn tootin’ they…

A Year at Warley Part V: Things that just fetch up…

Garden archaeology doesn’t come much more exciting than finding something pretty much every time you dig. I’ve been visiting Warley Place for thirty-odd years and every time I go something new has been uncovered by the dedicated team of volunteers. Sometimes it’s a bit of brick wall, sometimes a cobbled path. It might be yet…

Event: Asparagus Pacific 2000

You never forget your first time. Some events come easily. They’re a joy for their simplicity and flavour, yes, and I wouldn’t be without them. Others are hard-won, which means when you finally get to try them they are all the sweeter for it. My journey to Asparagus Nirvana began in 2014, when my lovely…

A Year at Warley Place, Part IV: Daffodils

Miss Willmott had a thing for daffs. No, really, she was crazy about them. On joining the male-dominated Royal Horticultural Society she promptly invaded the all-male Narcissus Committee and won gold medals in four consecutive years. Warley Place would have been sunshine-yellow with prize hybrids, named for her sister and brother in law, as well as the…

Wild Strawberries and the Last Chance Saloon…

Just how different is Europe? I have a sneaky suspicion that in one way, at least, not at all, but I am running an experiment to find out… I have one bed remaining that is really not pulling its weight. It’s the only main bed that isn’t terraced, though it is, at least, raised. It…

Painshill, Pride of Surrey

Painshill Park Landscape Garden in Cobham, Surrey, is an 18th Century fantasy of gothic follies, Arcadian vistas, woodland dells and mysterious grottoes, yet by the mid-20th Century it had crumbled to invisibility. Estate Manager Mark Ebdon, who began work 33 years ago as a trainee, still remembers his first day. “It was just woodland,” he…

Zen and the Art of Skip Salvage – A Practical Guide

Following on from my previous post about skip-diving, I thought I’d bang on a bit more about my worst habit. There is much to be gained from nosing round First World Human Detritus  – and it’s not all tangible loot. Skip-tenets hold true for Life. To master the art of Skip-Diving is to master yourself.* *Not really, but…

I know what you did last weekend…

Yeah, well, I had to give it some kind of title and the spade looks faintly sinister. ‘Installing fake Victorian rope edging I found in a skip’ didn’t really cut it. It’s true though. My street’s being ‘regenerated’ at a rate of knots and skips keep appearing, filled with all kinds of stuff that is SO…

Event Number One of 2017: Purple Sprouting Broccoli

For the first time ever the rhubarb has been pipped to the post for the first event of 2017 – by purple sprouting broccoli.   It’s the first time I’ve grow it to term – the only other time I tried it, it developed into a huge, happy plant with no intention whatsoever to send…

A Year at Warley Place, Pt III: The Ruins

Part three in my year’s exploration of the extraordinary ruined garden at Warley Place, Brentwood, Essex, looks at what’s left of the house and spectacular gardens. Last time saw a potted history of how Edwardian Plantswoman Ellen Willmott’s cossetted baby became so very ruined and overgrown. This time we’ll take a quick hike around what a…