London’s Top 5 Festive Events for Garden Lovers

The days may be short and the nights chilly, but plant lovers can still get their fix of horticulture thanks to the plethora of festive events happening in gardens across the capital over the next few weeks. Here’s our pick of them:

1.Christmas at Kew

Launching tonight and running until 2nd January, the magical Christmas at Kew includes a mile-long walking trail through the illuminated botanic gardens along with festivities, food and fairground rides.

2. Festive Floristry at The Garden Museum

If festive floristry is more your thing, The Garden Museum is offering masterclasses on Monday 7th December. Based at Lambeth Palace, experts Rosemary Campbell-Preston and Jane Macfarlane-Duckworth will share their botanic knowledge, enabling you to make your own Christmas wreaths and table decorations.

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 3. Christmas Fair at Chelsea Physic Garden

This coming weekend, Chelsea Physic Garden will host a Christmas fair with stalls selling plants, unusual gifts and artisan food and drink. Proceeds from the event will go towards future garden projects.

4. Horniman Christmas Fair

The Horniman Museum and Gardens in Forest Hill will host a Christmas Fair on the weekend of 5th/6th December.  Along with a festive market visitors can look forward to a seasonal trail through the gardens plus craft workshops.

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5. Forty Hall’s Magical Christmas

Saturday 28th November will see this Jacobean Manor House in Enfield transformed into a winter wonderland. Along with the festive stalls and workshops, visitors can take a horse-drawn cart ride around the lake.

Let me know what’s going on where you are.

Have fun! 🙂

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And We’re Off!

Working with the RHS at Regent’s Park last Thursday, it was clear that spring was now upon us. I was greeted with an oasis of yellow trumpets all heralding in the new season!B_6yN6AWMAA-gGZ

And when I arrived at the plot this weekend, there were two things I was immediately delighted to see: 1) The polytunnel was still standing, and 2) the daffodil bulbs I planted last autumn were now rewarding me with their beauty. Being the old romantic that I am (that’s right folks, inside this withered and battered old gardener beats a young, foolish heart), I saw the opportunity to cut several blooms and present them to Soph.  With the windowsill episode firmly behind us, this was a chance to earn myself some brownie points… and boy did they work! That very evening, the love of my life (not now, Monty) took me out to dinner.  But we’re getting a little off topic with talk of springtime ardour.bra 3

Flowers look wonderful in their natural state, growing happily in borders, woodland or on your allotment. However, with so many daffodils bursting through, I’m sure Mother Nature didn’t mind me cutting several to take home with the excuse of romance.

Flowers cut, I was all too aware that the jobs on the plot are growing week by week. After a freshly made coffee from the stove in my shed and another cheeky treat from the local baker, the daffodils gave me inspiration to do something rash: create a new flower bed. Not only for extra colour and to coax in the wildlife, but those bursting buds could cover up a makeshift windbreaker I erected several weeks ago out of corrugated iron, as although it’s doing it’s job, it’s not the prettiest of things.

Excited by this ‘Eureka’ moment, I made haste and sacrificed one of my bedding paths that runs adjacent to the windbreaker.  Removing the weeds, turning the soil and adding some well rotted organic matter, I got things going and planted thirty plus gladioli bulbs with a little top dressing to finish off. This should do wonders for the late summer season, but I need to think about what to plant for spring and early summer… hmmm, I’ll let you know on that.

Moving on, I turned to the main job: planting my early brassicas – broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. They’re the first thing I’ve planted on the plot this year, and it was a long time coming. I removed the weeds, carried out secondary cultivation and consolidation, added some fertiliser and began planting.  A fresh bed is always pleasing to the eye, but seeing all my early brassicas out on parade wearing their brassica collars and standing to attention filled me with great pride!bra4However, the final lashings of winter aren’t quite done and I’m expecting a few more cold spells, and although brassicas are hardy, they’re always grateful for that extra protection.  As I sit and write my weekend instalment on Plot 23d, there’s a bed full of brassicas tucking down for the night under the cover of their fleecy cloches.

Agents of Field are off and running, let the 2015 growing adventure commence!! AdeSignature

A Rose Among Thorns

Three weeks ago I started a new job in the heart of London’s West End. I freelance and have worked all over the place, but it’s been a while since I worked in central London. It was a jolt to the system. I was suddenly part of the commuting hordes again; standing on the wet platform in rush hour amid a crowd of strangers frowning at their phones, caught up in the jostle to get onto the train and the subsequent ordeal of spending twenty minutes with my face pressed into a stranger’s armpit.
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From Euston Station, I could take the underground to Tottenham Court Road but the idea of more crowds, more frowns, more armpits is sometimes too much to bear and I usually choose the twenty-five minute walk to the office instead. Regardless of the rain. Yet still the scowling city makes its presence felt. The other day, I watched as a pedestrian accidentally stepped out in front of a cyclist:

“GET OUT OF THE F***ING WAY, MORON!”

came the response.

It wasn’t yet 9 am. Good morning, London.

Human beings. I’ve been struggling with them a bit lately. The inherent meanness, the miserable faces, the hostility, the constant preoccupation with mindless trivia, the relentless pursuit of the inconsequential. How misguided most of us are.

My office is in a square that overlooks a garden and my favourite part of the day is walking through this garden on my way to work. Two weeks ago, the flower beds were bursting with cream and pink tulips and primroses, a raspberry ripple of delight.

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This morning, like every morning, I caught my train to Euston and embarked on my walk through Bloomsbury to Soho. Approaching Oxford Street, a red bus sounded its horn at a pedestrian who was standing with a skateboard under his arm, precariously close to the bus lane. The pedestrian took a reluctant step out of the way before giving the driver the finger as he passed. He leaned close to the driver’s window and then made sure he was in the eye-line of his wing-mirror, to make absolutely sure the driver saw his hateful gesture. I sighed as I crossed the road and entered the garden, an oasis of calm and beauty amid the ugliness. There, in the middle of the garden was a man. He was quite a small fellow, in his fifties I’d say, with dark, weather-worn skin. I’ve noticed him before in his council-branded uniform, cutting the lawns and clearing away leaves. I walked up to him.

“Excuse me, are you the gardener here?”

“Yes, I am.” He says with a big smile. I detect an accent that hints at warmer climes.

“Did you make these flower beds?”

He looks apologetic.

“No ma’am, someone else does the flowerbeds, I just cut the lawns and tidy up.”

“Walking through here is my favourite part of the day”, I tell him, “I love the flowers.”

His eyes brighten as he points out which flowerbed is his favourite and informs me that new flowers will be planted in the next week or two.

 

“Do you have a garden?” He asks.

 

“I do!”

 

He goes on to tell me that sometimes, when they re-design the beds, there are leftover plants which end up being thrown away if there’s no space for them. It makes him sad because it’s so wasteful. He asks if I would be interested in taking them.

 

“Yes please!”

“Come and see me next week and I’ll see if I can put some flowers aside for you.” He smiles.

I thank him profusely and point out my office building to him, telling him I visit the garden every day and that I’m sure I’ll see him around. We exchange names and shake hands. It is a rare moment of warmth in an otherwise cold and unfriendly city.

It would be easy for me to get caught up with the London way of life. As I settle into my job and work slowly starts to consume my thoughts, it wouldn’t take long for me to become just another frowning worker, hunched on the platform, eyes glued to my phone, eager to snap at anyone who might step in my way; no longer a detached observer of this urban animosity, but a heedless participant. But I shan’t let that happen. As my new friend demonstrated, people can be capable of kindness and friendliness, even in this city.

There are rare blooms among the weeds and we should aspire to be them.
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