The Kitchen Garden at Hampton Court

When ‘food’ is mentioned in the same sentence as ‘Hampton Court’ what generally springs to mind are Henry VIII’s massive Tudor kitchens, groaning with hogs heads, venison and enough pies to satisfy an army. An army that when not actually fighting potential invaders, spent much of its time playing at it, jousting in the tilt-yards…

Christmas at Kew

Thought I’d take a little time out from my giant autumn roundup to visit the Royal Botanic gardens at Kew for their annual Christmas Festival of lights… It’s a combination of imaginative lighting through the trees, illuminating the elegant garden buildings and strange installations. This year is curious because many leaves on deciduous trees are…

National Apple Festival, Brogdale

Two thousand, two hundred varieties. Two examples of each. And that’s not counting the new plantings in the next field.If you can’t find an apple you like in Brogdale’s National Fruit Collection, chances are you aren’t going to find an apple you like anywhere. I first went last year, where I met a fantastically knowledgeable…

Eager for IGA

In case anyone’s been wondering where I’ve been recently, it’s Berlin, watching the city prepare for the mammoth International Garden Exhibition next year, otherwise known as IGA (pronounced ‘eager…’). It’s going to be extraordinary. Much of it is already in place (what do expect from those hyper-efficient Germans?) but as the park closes for the winter, ready…

Why we shouldn’t neglect old friends

I know, I know. This view is so bloomin’ obvious, it’s practically a gardening cliche. I felt almost embarrassed taking it. Then I checked myself. It’s a great view. Why shouldn’t I enjoy it for what it is? I used to come here several times a year when I was a child. I know it intimately,…

Horticultural Hypochondria

Last week I went to Avebury Manor, at Avebury in Wiltshire. It’s a fantastic house, constantly in very beautiful flux. A few years ago it was redesigned to show each room in as it would have been seen at various times in history – a fantastic idea. Visitors can touch anything in the house (with the…

The House of Dreams

A garden is, perhaps more than any other part of our homes, a reflection of ourselves. Whether going for formality, cottage-style, practicality, potager, rubbish tip, wildlife haven or simply abject neglect, it tells the world something about our inner soul. Artist Stephen Wright’s soul is on painful, beautiful display in every inch of his living…

The Maid of February…

Crime Writers! Looking for an unusual way to kill off a particularly annoying character? Perhaps a Mary-Sue, a little too pure-as-the-driven-snow to be fun? How about making them more interesting by subjecting them to… ….DEATH BY SNOWDROP. In this blog, I’ll often talk of the joys of edible flowers, but here’s one I don’t recommend. In France this feisty…

Les Hortillonages

Sebastian Faulks’s trench warfare epic “Birdsong” begins gently enough. Sketching a world soon to be lost in the carnage of war, Faulks chooses an extraordinary subculture within a sleepy Picardie town-centre as a cipher for French petite-ville normality. Amiens’ Hortillonnages – or floating gardens, are, even at the time Birdsong is set, wonders to be…