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…

A Year at Warley Place Pt. II: The Story

Warley Place, one of the most exciting gardens of early 20th Century England, has been a ruin since World War II. Ellen Willmott, doyenne of the Edwardian gardening scene, was right up there with Gertrude Jekyll (literally, she and Jekyll were the only two women to receive the RHS’s inaugural Victoria Medal in 1897) but for…

Project Patio PtII

Or, as Chris Beardshaw told me on Gardeners’ Question Time on Friday, Project ‘Terrace’.  apparently ‘patios’ are really outre… Terrace, loggia, patio, whatever, I’m trying to create a flat area to sit with visitors, other plotholders and friends for a cup of tea without tumbling down the hill. Last week, despite wind, rain and thunder…

A Year at Warley Place, Part I: Snowdrops

I have often written about my love for Warley Place, the once-famous garden of Edwardian plantswoman Ellen Willmott. The Essex garden, visited by royalty and bigwigs of the gardening world, was lost before the second world war, but was rescued in the nick of time and is now maintained by volunteers as a stunningly gorgeous wildlife…

You keep a-knockin’…

…but you can’t come in… A few months ago I talked about the fantastic once-lost Plantation Garden in Norwich, a piece first featured in the Telegraph. It’s a wonderful, mysterious corner, once hacked out of an old quarry by an eccentric Victorian tycoon, then lost, then hacked out of jungle by an army of volunteers who still…

Project Patio Part 1

You know that bit in Apollo 13 where a guy  says ‘you’ve got to make this’ – he shows a sophisticated piece of space kit – ‘out of this’ – he tips a cardboard box of old junk onto a table…? Well that’s sort of how I feel about my latest project. Allow me to…

Cymbidium Challenge

After the glories of Kew, I have a confession. Me and orchids don’t get on. Don’t get me wrong, I love ’em. I just can’t keep them. No matter how much effort I make, they just don’t stay. They eventually get carted off to my sister’s orchid hospital kitchen. She is some kind of miracle-worker…