London in Bloom – Cambell Gordon Way

We were recently visiting Gladstone Park to take photographs for the new edition of London’s Parks & Gardens which is published in the autumn.  After taking lots of pictures we left the park and encountered a strange sign which stated ‘WARNING – CHILDREN GARDENING’ on Campbell Gordon Way.

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Children were indeed busy with fork and hoe in hand tending the flower beds along the residential cul-de-sac.  Bernard was busy supervising the kids and was happy to take a few minutes out to show us around the estate and show all the work done by this local gardening group which was founded just a few years ago and has already been awarded first prize from Brent in Bloom.

Bernard is enthusiastic about the project and all the friends that have been made working together to make the estate a lush oasis where formerly plain municipal shrubs predominated:

‘We’ve got people from all over the world on the estate and there are about twenty languages spoken, but we all get along great… The kids love to get involved and we often have BBQ’s when we can get together and enjoy some of the food we’ve grown!’

He leaves us to roll up his sleeves and help the children with some planting in advance of the visit from the judges of London in Bloom… We wish them well!

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The Trellick Bee Tower

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Here are our photos of Roots and Shoots amazing insect sized Trellick Tower.

Inspired? Click here to find out how to make your own Insect Hotel…!

Roots and Shoots

 

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This one-acre site in Lambeth is productive in more ways than one: a place where people are nurtured as much as plants. Half the site is given over to the teaching facilities, greenhouses and raised beds of vocational educational charity Roots and Shoots, the remaining half-acre is a flourishing wildlife garden. Even the wooden clad learning centre is eco-friendly with a trio of biodiversity boosting roofs – a large solar one, a green one planted with sedums and thrift and a brown one designed to attract miner bees and digger wasps.

Young people thrive here, as does the wildlife garden.

Set up as a charity in 1984 by Linda Phillips, Roots and Shoots offers disadvantaged young people aged 16-21 training in horticulture and retail, as well as environmental education for the wider community. Trainees stay for a year and learn a range of life skills to prepare them for the world of work. The approach is holistic – for example working in the on-site shop improves numeracy and imparts retail and social skills. Placements in high-profile gardens such as Buckingham Palace and the Royal Hospital provide quality work experience. The Roots and Shoots shop incidentally does a roaring trade in its own-produced honey (recently voted the best in London) and ‘Orchard Bounty’ apple juice. The plants sold here are also well worth buying – raised on site by the trainees, they are acclimatised, sturdy specimens and reasonably priced.

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Linda Phillips

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Young people thrive here, as does the wildlife garden. Although a garden had been in place since 1984, it didn’t really take off as a wildlife one until 1999 and the arrival of David Perkins, the Wildlife Outreach worker. Under David’s care the garden has become a beacon of biodiversity, and is a popular venue for local school groups. Visitors enter through the ‘Secret Gate’ – beautifully crafted by the handy David from curvy oak planks and reclaimed hinges – and step into another world. In midsummer such is the garden’s abundance that it is sometimes difficult to spot the different habitats it contains. The summer meadow is rich with native plants and is only cut once a year – a regime that ensures a healthy population of moths such as little skipper, common blue and six-spot burnet, multiple species of hoverfly, crickets and grasshoppers. Hard-working honey bees live in an apiary tucked discretely behind a hedge of espaliered Discovery and Egremont Russet apples and there are hand-crafted insect boxes all around the garden, including an insect sized ‘Trellick Tower’, populated by spider hunting wasps and red mason bees. Appropriately for this hive of activity, Roots and Shoots is also the base for the London Beekeepers Association, who hold regular meetings and lectures on the site.

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The Trellick Bee Tower

The large pond with reed bed and dipping platform is home to frogs and newts while the romantically named ‘William Blake’s Paradise Corner’ contains two further small ponds surrounded by exotic South American planting. Throughout the garden plants have been chosen to appeal to gardeners as much as the wildlife, and in amongst the self seeded verbascum, fennel and euphorbia are well-established ‘Fantin Latour’ and ‘Graham Thomas’ roses and Hypericum ‘Hidcote’. But although clearly well-loved, it’s a far from manicured space and – tidy-minded gardeners look away now – insect friendly weeds like deadnettles and brambles are often left in situ. Beloved by bumble bees, echiums are a particular feature and their success here reflects the mild microclimate of this sheltered site – one lofty Echium pininana specimen reached 14 feet in 2001. Both E. pininana and E. candicans are now rarities in their native habitats.

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Enveloped in greenery and surround-sound insect and bird noise, the garden utterly belies its earlier history as a former industrial site, with oil contaminated soil and strewn with engine debris. The half-acre garden even finds room for a magnificent horse chestnut and oak trees. There are regular public open days – look out for the spring Science Open Day, Apple Day in Autumn and openings for Open Garden Square Weekend and the National Gardens Scheme in the summer.

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Walnut Tree Walk
(off Kennington Rd),
SE11 6DN
http://www.rootsandshoots.org.uk

T:020 7587 1131


 

This is an extract from the latest edition of The London Garden Book A-Z by Abigail Willis, which celebrates the wealth of London’s gardens with an inspirational compost of specially commissioned photographs, reviews, practical gardening advice, and useful listings of horticultural societies and projects, plant nurseries and more. 

Available from our website at £2.00 off the RRP (recommended retail price)

LGB COVER

 

 

 

 

http://tinyurl.com/khu9ouw

How to make your own Insect Hotel!

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The Trellick Bee Tower

Insects are an integral part of natural eco-systems and in a garden context they are vital because they eat pests and pollinate plants and in turn provide food for birds and other wildlife. Beneficial insects such as ladybirds can be encouraged into the garden through wildlife friendly management techniques, and by making ‘hotels’ which they can check into over the winter months to hibernate and lay eggs.

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When it comes to setting yourself up as an insect hotelier, no great technical prowess is required. Small-scale boutique bug hotels can be made by drilling holes in a block of wood or tying together a bundle of hollow bamboo canes; block up one end to exclude draughts and hang from a tree or place against a sheltered wall. Wooden pallets, stacked on top of each other, are perfect for larger constructions – just fill the gaps with insect friendly material like straw, dry leaf litter, pine cones, wood chippings or corrugated card. If pallets prove too cumbersome, a similar effect can be achieved by making a layered structure using bricks and wooden boards.

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an Insect Hotel made by drilling holes

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An Insect Hotel made using bamboo

Although there are no planning permits or building regulations to worry about it is worth following a few guidelines:

• Keep the rain out by providing a waterproof roof for your hotel. This doesn’t have to be fancy – old roof tiles or a board covered with roofing felt or simple plastic sheeting will do. The waterproof membrane can be covered with gravel and soil and planted with sedum to create a green roofed hostelry with 5 star wildlife credentials.

• Leave plenty of gaps and holes to give your new guests space to move around and make themselves at home.

• Invertebrates, like students, prefer damp shady living quarters so site your stack in moist, dappled shade if possible.

• There’s something highly satisfying about building a bug home and then watching your garden fill with new insect life. Your guests might not bother to post a review on TripAdvisor but they will reward you in other ways – devouring garden pests like greenfly, pollinating flowers and fruit trees, and making your garden more bio-diverse.


 

This is an extract from the latest edition of The London Garden Book A-Z by Abigail Willis, which celebrates the wealth of London’s gardens with an inspirational compost of specially commissioned photographs, reviews, practical gardening advice, and useful listings of horticultural societies and projects, plant nurseries and more. 

Available from our website at £2.00 off the RRP (recommended retail price)

LGB COVER

 

 

 

 

http://tinyurl.com/khu9ouw

Stave Hill Ecology Park

Hidden behind housing estates and a sports centre, Stave Hill Ecology Park is a difficult place to find, but well worth the effort. The best way to find it is to look out for the Stave Hill which also gives some great views of Canary Wharf and then walk down to one of the entrances to the park.

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Amid the surrounding woodland is a visitor centre with small ponds, growing beds and bee hives. The four-acre park was created from a Victorian industrial landscape in 1997 by English Partnerships and now the ponds that were formerly used to keep imported wood from Russia and Scandinavia wet and so avoid warping is rich in plant life and a home to wildlife.

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The park will be featured in the new edition of London’s Parks & Gardens which is published in the autumn.

Stave Hill Ecology Park
Thames Path
John Harrison Way, SE10
Tel: 020 7237 9175
http://www.tcv.org.uk

 

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Dulwich Park

Dulwich Park came into being in 1890 from 72 acres of farm land. The park offers a rolling landscape with ancient oaks, a lake where boats can be hired, football and cricket pitches and a bike hire service which includes unusual recumbent bikes.

Recent additions to the park include table tennis and an outdoor gym area. There are also sandy paths which are used by horse-riders from the Dulwich Riding School.

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The less sporty visitor will no be disappointed with some beautifully planted gardens including a dry garden and an American garden with healthy looking rhododendrons and azeleas.

If you’re feeling peckish the park has a glass-fronted Pavilion Restaurant which also serves simple snacks and offers great views across the park.

 

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The main entrance to the park is on College Road, just opposite the fabulous Soane-designed Dulwich Picture Gallery. It’s well worth taking a day out to enjoy the gallery and exploring the park.

(A more detailed review of Dulwich Park will be published in the new edition of London’s Parks & Gardens out in the autumn)

 

Frugal Gardening

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 Once the gardening bug has bitten it can be a surprise to discover how much your new addiction can cost – garden infrastructure, tools, plants and seeds can all be expensive to acquire and naturally there are no end of specialist companies eager to part you from your cash. Horticulture may be big business nowadays but there are plenty of ways of gardening on the cheap – and in fact, as allotment plots all over the land testify, most gardeners (and their gardens) thrive on the ingenuity required by a make-do-and-mend approach. Here are a few tips to get you started:

 

  •  Grow plants from seed – it may take longer but it’s far cheaper and more satisfying and you can choose exactly the variety you want.
  • Seed exchange events are a great place to pick up seeds for free or a small donation. If you’re buying seeds, the chances are you won’t use all of them in a season so get together with gardening friends to swap seeds – that way you’ll get more varieties and perhaps try out ones you wouldn’t normally grow.
  • Collect seed from your plants to use the following season; surplus seeds can be swapped with friends or via a seed exchange forum like http://www.gardenswapshop.org.uk.

 

 

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  •  Plant stands at your local horticultural society or gardening club can often be a great place to pick up cheap and unusual plants (though don’t be shy about checking the root ball for unwanted weeds or pests).
  • Ditto car boot sales, jumble sales, church fêtes.
  • Take cuttings – don’t be afraid to ask friends with established gardens. Propagating from plants is straightforward and can be quicker than growing from seed. Roses, lavender, penstemon, pelargoniums are all dead easy to propagate and with the advantage that because you are essential making a clone of the parent plant you know exactly what variety you are getting (not always the case with seeds).

 

 

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  •  Once they get going, plants are amazingly good at reproducing – cottage garden favourites like poppies, pot marigold, nasturtiums, columbines are prodigious self-seeders. Dig up the unwanted seedlings and plant elsewhere or swap or sell them.
  •  Clump forming herbaceous perennials like sedum, geraniums, asters, daisies, grasses and oriental poppies can be divided in spring (and sometimes autumn) to make more plants to fill your garden or to swap or sell.
  • Terracotta pots are beautiful and their porosity makes them perfect for raising plants but they can be pricey. Be imaginative about containers – as long as there are drainage holes in the bottom anything from an old olive oil can to a wellington boot can become a ‘plant pot’. Rubber tyres make good raised beds for the allotment or veg patch.

 

 

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  •  Yes, it is perfectly possibly to germinate seeds on your window sills but you may find that your gardening ambition will quickly outgrow the available space inside your own dwelling. Your dreams will be haunted by visions of gleaming greenhouses, packed with pristine produce and radiant blooms. No need to splash out on a new one though – scour your local small ads or Freecycle for unwanted greenhouses in search of a new home (I got my little lean-to greenhouse from a neighbour who had bought a larger one). Polytunnels are a cheaper alternative to greenhouses and the web is awash with instructions on how to make your own if you want to save even more money.
  •  Harvest your own water. It may cost a little to install a water butt or two but it’s better for the environment and your plants to recycle rainwater for garden use. If you are on a water meter, you may even save some money.
  • Make your own compost – it’s an eco-friendly way of adding goodness to your garden soil and getting rid of kitchen waste (but not cooked food or meat). If you don’t have a garden, a wormery on your balcony or in your backyard will produce small quantities of top quality compost that can be used potting purposes. Mark Ridsdill Smith makes great use of his wormery.

 


 

This is an extract from the latest edition of The London Garden Book A-Z by Abigail Willis, which celebrates the wealth of London’s gardens with an inspirational compost of specially commissioned photographs, reviews, practical gardening advice, and useful listings of horticultural societies and projects, plant nurseries and more. 

Available from our website at £2.00 off the RRP (recommended retail price)

LGB COVER

 

 

 

 

http://tinyurl.com/khu9ouw

Container Gardening

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Window boxes, balconies and roof gardens… where would the garden-less Londoner be without containers? Even those lucky enough to have a garden of their own often choose to supplement their borders with a strategically placed container or two, for an extra kick of seasonal colour, to fill in a bald patch, or simply because they have a beautiful plant pot to show off.

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And whether they be a traditional hand-thrown terracotta long-tom or a rusty old dustbin, containers are ideal for gardeners who like to change their planting schemes on a whim or who enjoy mixing it up with plant combinations that wouldn’t be possible in nature. Container gardening is tailor-made too for London’s serial renters – moving your garden is a cinch if your plants are housed in portable pots.

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Of course, there is a price for all this versatility; like having a demanding pet, container gardening requires commitment. Your plants will be totally dependent on you to water and feed them, a daily chore (twice daily in hot weather) that can make holidays and weekends away fraught with anxiety. Capillary matting and automatic irrigation systems are one solution, reciprocal watering arrangements with like-minded neighbours another.

 


 

This is an extract from the latest edition of The London Garden Book A-Z by Abigail Willis, which celebrates the wealth of London’s gardens with an inspirational compost of specially commissioned photographs, reviews, practical gardening advice, and useful listings of horticultural societies and projects, plant nurseries and more. 

Available from our website at £2.00 off the RRP (recommended retail price)

LGB COVER

 

 

 

 

http://tinyurl.com/khu9ouw

Front Gardens

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Do Londoners love their cars more than their front gardens? In some boroughs it appears that they do – according to an influential report carried out by Ealing’s Local Agenda 21, nearly a quarter of the borough’s 74,300 front gardens are completely hard surfaced with no vegetation at all. And the problem is exacerbated by a ‘domino effect’ whereby the more front gardens are converted into parking spaces the less on-street parking is available, leading to more gardens being paved over. The trend looks set to continue, despite the 2008 planning regulation requiring planning permission for impermeable surfacing of more than 5 square metres.

However, with a bit of thoughtful design and the use of impermeable materials such as gravel, reinforced lawns and carefully chosen plants, it is perfectly possible for cars and front-gardens to cohabit. The 2011 RHS publication Gardening Matters, Urban Series: Front Gardens has some great ideas for car friendly gardens. Ealing Front Gardens Project hope to reinstate 3 front gardens in 2012, working with home-owners who want to restore their hard-surfaced gardens back to something softer.

 

Naomi Schillinger in front garden

Naomi Schillinger

 

They may be small but London’s estimated 1.8 million front gardens cover some 9,400 hectares and have a big contribution to make to the capital’s environmental and aesthetic well-being, providing important habitat for urban wildlife and a valuable focus for neighbourly interaction. Conversely, impermeable surfaces bring with them the increased risk of flooding, the creation of localized heat islands (which intensify the effects of heat waves), and contribute to a decline in biodiversity. Perhaps most importantly, paved gardens are just plain ugly.

In Islington one community gardening scheme has harnessed the positive potential of front gardens. The Blackstock Triangle Gardens Project was started in 2009 by neighbours Naomi Schillinger and Nicolette Jones and initially focused on treepits in the local roads. The following year, thanks to Capital Growth funding, they added a food growing dimension, with grow bags and free seeds being issued to 50 participants enabling them to raise sweetcorn, squash and beans in their front gardens. In 2011 the number of participants doubled to 100 and in an exciting development, funding was found for 10 front gardens to have their concrete removed and be reinstated as productive spaces. The project has also boosted community spirit with people getting to know their neighbours for the first time through their gardens, and friendships cemented over tea and cakes at popular ‘Cake Sunday’ events.

http://www.outofmyshed.co.uk/btg/
http://www.ealingfrontgardens.org.uk

 


 

This is an extract from the latest edition of The London Garden Book A-Z by Abigail Willis, which celebrates the wealth of London’s gardens with an inspirational compost of specially commissioned photographs, reviews, practical gardening advice, and useful listings of horticultural societies and projects, plant nurseries and more. 

Available from our website at £2.00 off the RRP (recommended retail price)

LGB COVER

 

 

 

 

http://tinyurl.com/khu9ouw