So it’s all change again. Last week I was gardening bare-legged in sandals, rolled up jeans and skimpy tops. Today I am firmly back in full length jeans, socks, boots and wool.

And I’m not alone in thinking it’s colder. The fish have moved lower down in the pond and are swimming and feeding more slowly. The abundant berries on the Sorbus (Rowan tree) are being devoured by the blackbirds, and the mice are coming out to forage before winter. I have just been watching the latter doing acrobatics in the plants around the bird feeders and stealing the bird food (see the video). Then today, in broad daylight, one mouse even dragged the remains of a snail I stood on accidentally last night across my terrace and merrily fed on it behind my pots. The bird food stealing didn’t shock me, the dead snail eating did. But mice are mammals and omnivores. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

So, as we all prepare to bunker down again for the cold months, I have pruned the Wisteria, dead-headed the roses, buddlejas, dahlias and cosmos for the umpteenth time and thus find I have a moment to reflect on the year in the garden, and what I’ve learned. And lots of it seems to be about water and wildlife.

For example, the spray water scarer is the only effective device I’ve tried for keeping the heron, fox and cats away from the fish in my pond. Its major downside is that regularly the dogs and I get drenched when I forget to turn it off. That’s fine at 27 degrees C, less fun at 12 degrees C or when I’m in my glad rags, about to go out.

On the plants side, the abundant rain and long period of cold led to extraordinary combinations as everything rushed into flower at once. And I have discovered that Leonotis ‘Leonora’ is a manky dead nettle (when in my garden - it might be quite wonderful in yours) and it is not required to still have a wonderful array of butterflies and moths throughout the summer - the Buddleja are key. Aquilegia ‘Tequila Sunrise’ does not like being moved (RIP) and Physalis, the Cape Gooseberry, is actually a pernicious weed of the very worst type. Please don’t plant it anywhere except in a pot - unless you want acres of it. In addition, incredibly, cherry trees will send their roots up, above ground, to feed on the goodies in your baseless compost bin - amazing but true.

Top: Fremontadendron 'California Glory'.
Bottom left: Amelchanchier 'Snowfalkes'. Bottom right: Solanum laciniatum

And, despite its brash, orangey-yellow flowers and skin/eye irritating leaves and seed pods, I realise I really miss my Fremontadendron ‘California Glory’. It was in flower for so long each year – from spring to early winter. It was an unruly, wild, wonderful plant, somewhat like a teenager. It was determined to be independent, grow itself into a tree by splitting its pot aggressively and burying its roots underground. It had a vigour and character that the Amelanchier ‘Snowflakes’ I tried to replace it with couldn’t even think of matching. The latter lasted five months and has now been replaced by a semi-tender, Solanum laciniatum which has grown profusely and flowered since planted, so might become a reasonable alternative. We’ll see. It may not survive the winter – which the garden tells me will be hard again. There are lots of berries and hips already and these usually predict a hard winter. I can even see the ivy and Mahonia japonica preparing themselves to be the last season’s food for the birds and insects.

As an aside, many people don’t realise that ivy has flowers and berries but it does, and they are a really important source of late nectar and food for all manner of bees, birds and other insects, so please keep some ivy. It comes in many varieties, variegated or plain, small or large leaved, and is great for covering fences and walls and for harbouring and feeding a myriad of wildlife in winter.

I’ve also learned that many roses will grow very happily north-facing, as long as they are out in the open, and that other plants deemed OK for north facing sites, really are. This year’s project, my miniscule (2m x 42 cms) new front bed, has been fabulously successful against all expectations. It has been in flower constantly. In spring it bore two Camelia ‘Silver Anniversary’, then two Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Munstead White’ and one Astrantia ‘ Hidcote Shaggy Hybrid’ and two A. ‘Orlando’. These were joined by two Geranium ‘Brookside’ and G. 'Sabani Blue’. Then the three standard roses (two ‘Cream Abundance’ and one ‘Champagne Moment’) flowered profusely in June and they have been repeating ever since. The white Hydrangeas (‘Annabelle’ and ‘Steel Black Zebra’) started to add drama to this display in August and now the two Anenome ‘Honorine Jobert’ are in flower, the Astrantia are re-flowering, the Camelias are in bud again and the Sarcococca Confusa is getting ready to scent the path through winter.

Top: the front bed in September. Mid L: Rosa 'Cream Abundance'. Mid R: Rosa 'Champagne Moment'
Bottom L: Aquilegia vulgaris 'Munstead White'. Bottom R: Geranium 'Brookside'

This tiny, new, north-facing bed is looking luscious, green and gorgeous and is very happy making. It’s been a mini project but a major triumph this year. Complete strangers have stopped to thank me for making their walk along the road that bit more enjoyable and sweetly scented. I feel properly vindicated by my risky decision to buck the trend in the street and try to have flowering plants by my front wall and railings instead of the ubiquitous privet hedge.

One of the keys things I also did in the complete front re-vamp was to add a water butt on the side of the bay window. I had no water out there, so this has revolutionised my approach to watering it – i.e. I do it now! It was a neglected desert early last year.

Generally, I very seldom water my plants unless they are in pots or newly planted. In my London clay, once they are established, I reckon they should be able to find water deeper down – and for goodness sake, I live on a road with “brook” in its name for good reason - there was once a stream flowing under here. It occasionally appears in the cellar and so the least it can do is also look after the majority of the garden.

On the wildlife front, I have a major apology to make. I predicted the start of spring far too early, based on the frogs. I realise now that frogs know nothing about the start of spring. Early in the year they will come to the pond in a frenzy of excitement, sing their hearts out all night and mate, far too early. Their spawn gets frozen by late frosts and even snow and ice. The wiser toads wait in their warm beds amongst the leaves under my shed and in the stones around the pond “waterfall” until warmer times.  I’ve learned this year that the day the toads come out to mate is the day good temperatures are really here to stay. Henceforth, I shall ignore the frogs as portents of spring, however sweetly they sing at night.

And, when I think about the garden and what makes it special to me, it is the pond that is at the heart of it. Its pump-driven waterfall means the garden is full of the sound of moving water, 24 hours a day. This detracts from the surrounding noises of London – the inevitable emergency sirens, aeroplanes, traffic - and neighbours. But more importantly, it provides a drinking and washing place for a huge variety of insects and birds as well as a home for the fish, frogs, toads and numerous insects and other organisms.

So, as I reflect, given that the garden is 10 years old now, and despite my abiding passion for plants and scent, I think that what’s given me the greatest pleasure this year is the myriad wildlife attracted to it.

Top Left: Jersey Tiger moth. Top right: Speckled Wood butterfly
Bottom left: Peacock butterfly. Bottom right: Frog

I’ve had Peacock, Red Admiral, Comma and Speckled Wood butterflies feeding here as well the expected blues and whites. I’ve had an Old Lady moth, a Vapourer moth, a Lime Hawk moth and, recently, at least three exotic Jersey Tiger moths.

The birds and bees are many, and lacewings, ladybirds, damsel flies, crane flies and spiders just add to the mix. The ladybirds and tits do fairly well controlling the aphids, and the blackbirds and toads pretty much keep the snails and slugs under control. I’m sure this plethora of life is not just down to the planting. I’m certain the water, and more specifically the pond, is key. It makes the regular chore of cleaning its pump, elbow deep in sludge, eminently worthwhile – as well as being strangely satisfying.

So my advice to any new garden owner would be ‘add water’. Even if it is just a wall fountain, the sound will be relaxing and create an atmosphere away from the surrounding noises. A pond, however small, will encourage a wonderful array of wildlife. If you don’t have fish you’ll probably get newts (the two cannot co-exist because fish eat the newt eggs). Fish add colour, movement, character and noise (as they leap - which they do!) and lots of poo. They can also cause heartache if they die or are eaten by the heron – so get a water spray gismo and fear not. Be bold, put water in. You won’t regret it. Just remember to turn the heron scarer off before you walk past.

The male blackbird who has starred in a couple of my movies loves this garden. He built a nest this year with his mate in the ivy in the side passage: very sensible – well hidden and close to a permanent food and water source. For weeks I watched him and his mate dive in and out of the ivy. Then, a couple of weeks ago, the side passage was full of the cries of newly hatched blackbirds screaming for food.

Sitting at the table on the terrace was almost dangerous – we were in the flight path – as Mr and Mrs Blackbird flew tirelessly in with worms and grubs to feed their young. The noise from the ivy was glorious and exciting. A new brood of little blackbirds was in progress.

Last Friday I was out at the opera and the dogs were thus locked in the house. Saturday morning the nest was silent. I listened to the silence for a few hours and then, with a heavy heart, investigated. I found a dead blackbird chick on the ground – almost fully fledged. It broke my heart. I can’t see the remains of a nest or his other fledglings (maybe they are in my neighbours’ garden) but the nest and family are clearly gone. It must have been a magpie or a cat. Magpies check the garden out and I have caught cats stalking across the fence there, despite the thorny roses and dogs.

It has happened before. Last year a cat attacked when the nest was just eggs and Mr Blackbird and his wife recovered and built a new nest in the roses above the gated arch where they successfully raised a brood. This time I know he put up a fight, albeit unsuccessfully and I don’t think he has built a new nest.

He is now back on the feeder, bruised and battered, with his feathers all messed up and looking like he has been in a cat – or magpie -fight. He can fly and feed so I suppose he’s OK but gosh, every time I see him, I want to weep for his dead family and the fight he obviously put up to try and save it. His before and after can be seen below.


A few days later I found what looked like a dead bee in the pond. As we all know we need every bee we have for pollination purposes, so I fished it out and put it on the edge hoping it might recover. I filmed it too. As you will see it lay looking dead for some time and then miraculously came to life, started to move and clean itself. But then the struggle seemed too much and it appeared to give up and die. However some moments later it recovered its strength and went through the process again. This happened about five times and every time I thought he had given up the ghost. But he hadn’t. 20 minutes later it had recovered sufficiently to fly off – and of course I missed the take-off. However, on the positive side, we have one more bee in this world even if we have four or five fewer blackbirds. I am still in mourning for them.

My pond is unfiltered, full of fish, frogs and toads who have all woken up and are eating and pooing. Inevitably leaves and things fall in it too so, relatively regularly from late Spring through to late Autumn, the working parts of the pump get clogged up with vegetation and the stream turns to a trickle as the pump works overtime to try and push the water around. Thus I have to clean the pump.

Despite all the poo and cold water (and the 30 minutes or so it takes to do this) I must admit I find it very satisfying. I love the fact that I know how to take the pump apart completely (no good details in the instructions of course), it gives me enormous pleasure to clear the gunk from the fly wheel and, when the new rush of water suddenly appears in the stream, I feel a little flutter of joy and, I'll admit it, a little pride. Ridiculous, but there it is.

This is the second such pump I have had in the pond in ten years. The first finally exploded after about six years with a nasty pop, which luckily I was close enough to hear. This one is a little more powerful but the same type (a Blagdon amphibious). As you'll see in the video, I have found the front fitted filter the pump comes with wholly inadequate, so I have removed this and installed the main pump unit in a special cage which I have also mounted on an old set of plastic metal shelves to keep it above the fish poo layer on the bottom of the pond. The whole thing is quite Heath-Robinson looking but works.

This video also marks my debut on camera on this site. Why didn't I choose something more glamorous? But thinking about it there's not much in gardening that's glam other than admiring flowers close up or gently dead-heading, so my plastic apron and I can be seen elbow deep in fish poo.

Filming oneself is pretty tricky. I have to guess the heights and focus, remember to turn everything on (microphone etc), try to check if I am running out of battery or card space and then hope for the best. There are already all sorts of out-takes on this pond pump cleaning procedure and other videos I haven't published (planting Camelias), so perhaps I'll create a Christmas film with all of them together.

Oh yes, I nearly forgot. Please excuse the manky wet plaster on my left forefinger. I had a nasty slice in it which I wanted to protect from all the gunk.

Later note: 18/10/2013

I have to admit that the pump finally blew up in July. Water got in through the wire at the rear so I have bought a new one. This is a different pump, a Pontec Pondomax eco 5000. It has something that chews up the vegetative matter which the Blagdon didn't. It has worked without cease since installed and the water flow has not yet reduced. I'm very impressed. When it eventually needs cleaning properly I'll work it out and let you know how to do it too. As ever, full instructions as to how to get inside it are not enclosed!




I bought this house in February 2003 for the garden. It is around 20m by 7m (55ft by 25ft) plus a side passage, south facing and basically neutral London clay.


I had become a keen gardener on getting my first house and garden just up the road in 2001. It was 20ft by 20ft, east facing and, much as I loved and nurtured it and it was where I read all my books, learned many of the names of plants and discovered my passion, I soon realised it was too small to allow me to grow everything I wanted as I became more and more enthused about gardening and growing plants. I had to move to a larger garden.


Back to top



The garden I bought

On purchase it was a playground for four young boys with a raised playhouse/den, a young apple tree in the middle of the end of the lawn, the classic edge borders and a





 View of old lawn  View of old terrace

meagre terrace. The previous owner was a frustrated gardener and keen on plants (despite the footballs) and I have inherited and kept a number of her plants - in particular the sweet fruiting cherry tree and the silver birch at the end of the garden, the amazing pineapple broom (Cytisus battandieri) which is now a tree in what is known as the “hot” bed on the east facing side, as well as the ivy and Hydrangea petiolaris and an unknown yellow climbing rose in the side passage, a rowan tree and a Berberis in the west facing pink bed, plus an unknown scarlet climbing rose on the West facing fence by the house.


It had an outside tap in the side passage but no other water supply and no power outside the house.


This is what the same two views looked like by May and September that year.



And two years later.




Back to top 


The brief

The brief for my new back garden was:

  • a modern, “country style” garden in a small London space
  • different areas;
    • room to entertain
    • a pond with moving water for sound and wildlife
    • separate large beds to allow me to create substantial borders and to have hot colours (reds, oranges, yellows etc) as well as classic pinks, purples, blues and whites in the same space
    • a working area with a greenhouse, shed, compost maker and water butts
    • space to relax and contemplate it
  • highly scented for me and the wildlife
  • have height so I could grow things upwards
  • be in flower and scent for as much of the year as possible
  • allow as wide a range of plants as possible
  • be curvy and soft not hard and square looking
  • stone and gravel to be light and warm coloured
  • include art
  • having lighting plus power to the shed and greenhouse
  • and be as eco-friendly and chemical free as possible.

Back to top


The design


I had done a lot of research, read hundreds of magazines and books and visited lots of gardens. I had in my mind what I wanted it to look like (a large country house garden in a small London space) but I needed to translate this into hard landscaping, products and planting to make it real.


It’s a tough brief to fit all that into such a small space. For example, the lawn and apple tree had to go to make way for beds and pond.


I measured a lot and I drew a complete plan first on paper and bought a large watercolour pad and some wax crayons and drew the “feel” I wanted for the two borders. This was very basic and rough as you can see for the hot bed!





 I then designed the detail and plotted the exact measurements on a software package. Garden design software has come a long way since then!





 I then created a “mood board” using clippings from magazines of the style, feel and products I wanted to include such as the bed edging detail, ideal furniture and fencing etc..





The final design is essentially divided in quarters though most of the internal lines are curved.


The middle two quarters (ie half the garden) are dedicated to the two large beds split by a curving gravel path from the house terrace which leads to a pond and pond bed on the right and a rustic swing seat on the left plus a smaller bed which was originally designed for vegetables.


The north quarter (south facing) by the house is the enlarged terrace which has a curved front edge with small walls holding raised beds for growing alpines and plants that need it hot and quick draining. I levelled the land so there is a step down to the path off the terrace. There is also a side passage along the kitchen with a bed along the fence.


The bottom quarter of the garden is purposely gently “fenced off” with low level (I metre high) trellising and a gated rose arch. This area has the shed, greenhouse, composter (behind the shed) and a water butt collecting the water off the greenhouse. (A very large water butt that collects water from the house roof has been added to the side passage subsequently.)


Nine years later I am still very happy with the basic design. It remains this way though I have added much to the height and changed the planting quite substantially.


Back to top


The work


All the design work was done between my offer being accepted and completion in order that I could start work on the garden the moment I moved in. I owe a debt of gratitude to the vendors who let me visit many times in the interim to get more and more exact measurements.


Even though the house needed doing too, there is no separate access to the garden so all the heavy machinery like cement mixers had to come through the front door and kitchen. I knew I had to do the garden before the house interiors and anyway it was my primary concern.


So, before I could start planting I needed the hard landscaping, building work and wiring/lighting to be done.

After getting a number of quotes I invited a local company called Muddy Wellies to do the hard landscaping and the wiring. Work started in March 2003 and they had until the beginning of May to finish so I could get the planting in for the summer. They were a great team, made really useful recommendations on stone and fence suppliers, worked hard, used really friendly, experienced, mostly antipodean labourers, and completed pretty much everything on time and on budget.


The destruction begins





Creating terrace and walls and new fence


Lawn goes, bases for buildings and beds created



  Path made, Duckpaddle swing seat and cedar Malvern greenhouse go in

The cedar Malvern shed arrives, the pond stone and ‘Family’ sculpture go in

Then the wiring went in for the lights, greenhouse and shed.


After the Muddy Wellies team had left, a number of very good friends and I spent a couple of days deep digging each bed, extracting major stones and buried children’s toys and enriching the ground with compost and organic material.


Back to top



The planting


The garden is divided into different beds known as below:


The pink bed: a large border - pink, apricot/peach, white, blue and purple allowed with a dash of pale yellow

The hot bed: a large border - red, orange, yellow and deep purple allowed (plus verbena bonariensis which just seems to like it best in the gravel beside it) and white in spring

The veg bed: which was for veg but has become too shaded for them and now has changed use but still retains its name

The pond beds: actually two beds around the pond and in the pond itself

The terrace and side passage: a bed which extends from the sitting room French doors along the kitchen to the end of the West side of the terrace and as mall bed on the East side

The wall beds: in the low, raised walls on the south side of the terrace

The back bed: the end of the garden and fence


And then there are lots of pots including two large planters on the south facing kitchen wall.


In a small space every plant has to work hard to retain its right to be there. Overall the brief for the plants was:

  • Scented wherever possible
  • Variety of foliage colours and textures
  • Each delivering a long flowering season unless they have a very good excuse
  • Colour (from foliage or flowers) and scent throughout the year
  • Predominantly perennial and herbaceous backbone with bulbs, tubers and seed-based extras.


Obviously the planting has changed over time as I have experimented. For example I started with lots of lupins and delphiniums in the Pink bed but they don’t like me, the clay, the slugs or all three so I have stopped even trying. I also had a variety of poisonous plants, especially in the hot bed which were structural and dramatic such as Ricinus. I have got rid of since getting dogs. It’s just too much of a risk.


The things that seem to do really well are roses, clematis, dahlias and shrubs so I now have over 30 roses and over 30 clematis in the garden. I grow them all within the borders or in pots. There is no formal rose garden. I have also tried and thrown out a number of roses and clematis for not performing well enough (see plants) and I have experimented with growing veg like sweetcorn and chard through the flower beds to a limited extent.


I wasn’t sure whether it would be better here to describe the original planting scheme or how it is now. It was planted nine years ago and I have experimented a great deal, learned a lot and changed much in the time. But, when I look back at my photos, I think some of the beds looked better a few years ago than they do now which is very frustrating! This is partly because shrubs were smaller then and because some plants only survived a season but looked great whilst they did it. Anyway, I’ve decided to tell you what the planting is now and not worry too much about the past. For details of each of the individual plants please refer to the Plants section.


In the hot bed


So, as I write, this in anchored by the Cytisus Bantandieri which is now quite a well sized “small tree”. It is semi evergreen and its flowers are large, scented, yellow “pineapples” in the summer. I love this plant and think it should be recommended much more often as a great tree for a small garden. It is very happy to be pruned to shape, doesn’t cast too much shade, and it brings in all sorts of wildlife, especially bees.


Along the fence runs a stunning white wisteria which was initially bought as a “ bush” wisteria with multi stems but which has decided it’s a “rambler” and now reaches along and over the side passage arch, across the back of the house and onto the neighbour’s house back (they requested it).



Clematis ‘Daniel Deronda’ shines its fabulous long purple petals and pale yellow anthers through it as it comes into flower.



The major shrubs in the bed are Pittosporum ‘Tandara Gold’, Choysia ternata ‘Sundance’, and Abutilon megapitamicum ‘Kentish Belle’.



Through the season the roses up the fence are yellow ‘The Pilgrim’, orange ‘Esterland’, dark red ‘Dublin Bay’ and bright red rambling ‘Super Elfin’ up the pineapple tree and red ‘Rambling Rosie’ now starting up the Loire arch. The ones within the bed are yellow floribunda ‘Arthur Bell’, red floribunda ‘Remembrance’ and orange hybrid tea ‘Indian Summer’.


Major perennials in focus in spring are: Euphorbia x ‘Martini’ and ‘Golden Fusion’, Dicentra ‘Valentine’, Peonia ‘Blaze’, and the magnificent Aquilegia ‘Tequila Sunrise’.


These are followed in summer by the flashy but short lived beauty of an orange Hemerocalis and the long lasting Alstromerias ‘Golden Delight’, ‘Red Beauty’ and ‘Orange Supreme’, Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’, and Spigelia’ Wisley Jester’ while Clematis viticella ‘Madame J Correvon’ flowers through the pineapple tree. In late summer and autumn Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ and ‘Emily McKenzie’ shine alongside Helenium ‘Morrheim Beauty’ and ‘Waldraut plus Rudbeckias. There are also various coloured grasses.




In between all of this, there are the bulbs and tubers/rhizomes. In spring there are red, orange and yellow tulips and they are replaced by red, orange, yellow and dark purple dahlias and cannas (which I dig up each winter). They need to share the space between the perennials.


Self-seeded amongst all this (apart from the weeds) are Californian poppies, the stately Verbena bonariensis and Mimulus luteus which ran riot in the pond (where it was first planted and from which it is now banned) but which I have allowed a little space in the bed where it is more controllable.


The pink bed


The pink bed is anchored at the NE corner by the Rowan tree and a Ceanothus ‘Puget blue’ , plus a variegated Philadelhus, at the moment a Buddleja ‘Lochinch’ and a Berberis create the back of the bed. These are supplemented by white Clematis montana grandiflora and now pink Clematis montana ‘Mayleen’ – both of which have to be controlled every 3-5 years because they grow so large, take over the tree and swing seat etc.. There is also a beautiful Daphne bholua “Sir Peter Smithers” and a Ceratostigma willmottianum.




All the roses are repeaters. They are apricot/pink hydrid tea ‘Scentsation’ which grows very tall (and like a floribunda) and lives up to its name, floribunda pale peachy pink ‘Pretty Lady’ which has really spread, two darker pink ‘Gertrude Geykylls’ at the back, climbing ‘High Hopes’, pale pink ‘Eglantyne’, white ‘Susan Williams-Ellis’ and purple/white ‘Eyes for You’ and white ground cover rose ‘Avon’. ‘The Generous Gardener’ climbing and ‘Super Fairy’ rambler are starting up the Loire arch from the bed.





In winter and spring the bed is scented by the Daphne, and the Brunneras ‘Jack Frost’ and ‘Dawson’s White’ add pretty blue colour and fab foliage amongst pink and white tulips, pink and white Dicentra and lily of the valley and blue bells hidden under the roses. Clematis ‘Arabella’ starts to scramble her pretty purple/blue flowers through everything as the variegated Philapehus takes over the scenting role. The tulips are replaced by white, pink, peach and purple Dahlias and white Cosmos for later in the summer while Geranium clarkei ‘Kashmir pink’, Centauras, self-seeded Nigella and the roses start to flower. And then the Buddleia starts and Clematis ‘Prince Charles’ and ‘Caroline’ twine their way up the Daphne and onto the swing seat. If I’m lucky, the tree Peony ‘Haruno Akebono’ flowers. Later in the season Saponaria osea ‘flora plena opens and spreads beside the Dorycrinum ‘Little Boy Blue’. Astrantia ‘Roma’ and ‘Warren Hills’ also show up each year and the Dahlias, roses and Ceratostigma take the colour to the first frosts.


The veg bed


This is now incorrectly named because it no longer contains vegetables. It has a vast number of plants given its tiny size. At the back is Pittosporum ‘Irene Patterson’ and Pittosporum ‘Garne Hii’. By the low trellis is a standard Aronia pru ‘Brilliant’ and Jasminium nudiflorum for winter colour, Rosa ‘Ghislaine de Feligonde’ up the gated arch and Clematis ‘Anna Louise’, C. ‘Venosa Violcaea’, and C. ‘Beauty of Worcester’. This is also my main daffodil site and home for the new Digitalis ‘Illumination Pink’ which is supposed to be perennial. We’ll see next year! The side by the swing seat holds light purple Wisteria sinensis ‘Caroline’, Lonicera periclymenum ‘Graham Thomas’, Rosa ‘Crown Princess Margareta’ and Clematis ‘Henrii’ and C. ‘Princess Diana’.


And in the middle a willow wigwam plays host to Clematis ‘Carnaby’, ‘Dawn’, ‘Special Occasion,’ ‘Ooh La La’ and ‘Bourbon’. Very pink all round! Under the wigwam are four sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) and at its front edges are Geranium ‘Rozanne’, Lamium ‘Ghost’, grape hyacinth ‘Armeniacum’ and Scilla plus plenty of self-seeded poppies and weed Viola labradorica which has jumped out of the pond beds and gone everywhere.



The pond beds


The pond beds from the gated arch to the “Family” statue hold Rosa ‘Phyllis Bide’ up the arch, Clematis ‘Prince Charles’, Primula veris, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silver feather’, Rosa glauca with its fabulous hips, Acer palmatum “Sunset”, Astrantia, Gillenia trifoliatax, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Lady in Red’, and Acer palmatum ‘Orange Dream’.




In the pond is a hardy white nymphaea which is probably ‘Candida’ and a variety of submerged and floating oxygenators. In submerged planters on the sill are Lobelia cardinalis, Myosotis paulstris, Iris ‘Ensata Hydrid’ and Iris pseudocorus, Lysimachia punctata, the dinosaur grass Equisetum hyemale, Ranunculus flammula, Caltha polypetala, and Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’.


The side passage bed and terrace beds


On the west side of the terrace this bed Is anchored by climbing Rosa ‘Graham Thomas’ which now pretty much takes up eight feet of it horizontally and vertically and is smothered in blue Clematis macropetala.



Also in there is Clematis ‘Warszawska Nike’, Euphorbia and Sarcococca confusa and a small tree, Albizia ‘Julibrissia Boubri Ombrellax’. Up the new arch are Rosa ‘Compassion’ and R. ‘Lord Byron’ with Wisteria bachytrotis ‘Schiro Kapitan Fuju’ and Lonicera americana.


In the part of the passage opposite the kitchen it is predominantly covered in different ivies and Hydrangea petiolaris with an unknown yellow rose and Anemone ‘Honorine Johbert’. Appearing through are Clematis texensis ‘Duchess of Albany’ and C. ‘Comtesse de Bouchaud’.



The East side of the terrace is supposed only to be home to an unknown scarlet climbing rose which I inherited and Trachelospermum jasminoides because there are only two gaps in the terrace.




However, the Fremontadendron ‘California Glory’ that was in a pot burst through it, buried under one of the terrace flags and became planted there. It has now been removed (see blog) and replaced by an Amelanchier laevis ‘Snowflakes’.


The wall beds


The wall beds by the hot bed are home to Dianthus ‘Flashing lights’, Lotus corniculatus, Camomile, and an unrecorded blue Campanula.  The pink bed wall beds are home to Mimulus ‘Andean Nymph’, Zaluzianskya ovate, Saxifrage ‘White Pixie’, Aubretia ‘ Hamburg Stadt Park’, and Armeia splendens.



The back bed


Is home to a flowering sweet cherry tree, a silver birch tree and a eucalyptus niphophila. The north facing back fence is covered in Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’ and C. ‘Miss Bateman’ which thrive there, and daffodils and snowdrops appear every spring through the gravel.





There are too many to detail them all and of course many change. However some are permanent features and these house the following:


Agapanthus – ‘Headbourne hybrids’, ‘Bressingham White’ and ‘Evening Star’

Rosa – ‘Make a Wish’, ‘Shining Light’ and another unrecorded


Geranium sanguinium ‘Max Frei’

An unknown pink mophead Hydrangea which is a potted out house present

Clematis- ‘Bourbon’, ‘Vivienne Beth Currie’, ‘Rebecca’, ‘Angelique’, ‘Parisienne’ and ‘Sieboldii’

Rhamnus alaternus ‘Argenteover’

Libertia ‘Taupo Blaze’

Hibiscus ‘Lavender Chiffon’

Lauris nobilis (for cooking purposes)

Mahonia japonica

Magnolia stellata

Vitus ‘Sauvignan Blanc’ – my favourite tipple but a very disappointing vine

Vibernum carlesii ‘Aurora’

Syringa – pubescens patula

Four Acers of different types

And lots of Nemesia and herbs and a bright orange cactus in the greenhouse which flowers every year.


A full list of the plants in the garden and personal comments on them can be found in the Plants section of the site. It also includes many I have grown and discarded for various reasons – wrong shape, too little scent, too big, wrong conditions, too aggressive/really a weed (eg physalis and mimulus), or because I just didn’t like it or it didn’t like me.



Back to top


The lighting


The garden was originally designed with quite a lot of light: three low voltage lamps to light the path from terrace to rose arch gate plus 3 moveable spotlights in each major bed to highlight individual plants or trees, the sculptures and the pond stream plus two spotlights in the back end to light the engraved art and up the silver birch. Also two wall mounted lights on the back and side of the house plus a free standing light element.


The wall mounted lights have never worked properly and despite replacing all the interior elements often, many of the ground lights or their wires have been destroyed by foxes or rain or what seems to be internal combustion. I now have the path lights and three spots still working so when I have visitors (or simply the inclination) I light the garden with candles in protected glass. However I do mean to get a man in to solve the spotlight problems. Watch this space!


Back to top


The art


The first piece of art to arrive was a large black marble sculpture called “Family” by a young Zimbabwian artist called Sam Mabeu who I found at the House & Garden show at Olympia. It arrived with him, his agent and a large chunk of tree trunk to mount it on. It took all of us plus two of the Muddy Wellies team to get it up and in place. Since then the wooden stump has been destroyed (twice) by stag beetle larvae and threatened to fall through the fence into the neighbour’s garden so I have given up on the wood and the sculpture now sits on the ground amongst acers and agapanthus.


  Left: The "Family" with its artist Sam Mabeu pictured 2nd left and right, the sculpture now amongst acers

The second piece of art was also from Zimbabwe, a green lady. It took me some time to find a suitable mount in a reclamation yard. She was originally put on it and placed by the silver birch at the end of the garden. She is now in the shade of the rowan tree in the pink bed.  The third piece I commissioned from an artist called Andrea Owen who I also met at a London home and garden fair. It is dandelions and insects etched into the back of a glass sheet, coloured and then protected by another glass sheet. It needs a dark background to be seen at its best so, at that point, I painted the back fence dark ivy green. They are both seen below with the green lady sculpture in its original position.





There is also a sculpture of a woman on a horse by Erica Renelt which I bought from the sculpture exhibition at the Wisley summer show in 2011. It is made of slate resin on a wire frame.




My latest “art” is two new Vitra chairs for opposite the swing seat. I often sit there, to ponder the garden and enjoy the view, so any chairs opposite have to be “see-through” when I don’t have visitors. They also have to be comfortable of course. I have looked a long time for suitable chairs (four years) and in 2012 bought these two in a moment of extravagance, ironically following a meeting with my accountants who happen to have their office by a very expensive designer furniture shop in Euston. They are made of recycled materials, designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec with plants in mind and seem to me to be very like the intertwined leaves of the irises in the pond. They fulfil the brief and I am very pleased with them despite the outlay.





There is also an iron heron, an iron kingfisher, a metal dragonfly and a bust of a coquettish but shy young woman by the pond.





Back to top


Daphne has been my joy and sorrow this winter. She was a water Niaid supposedly, a great beauty sought by Apollo, a water spirit. December is transformed by Daphne in my garden as the six year old, evergreen, D. bholua ‘Sir Peter Smithers’ beside my swing seat once again comes into flower as the rain and snow falls. But as a water nymph she has failed. It’s now clear I have lost all the fish in my pond bar three to the heron. Clear in every way. The unfiltered pond is now crystal clear from the freezing temperatures. I can see every leaf or piece of gravel on the bottom as well as the pump, waterlily tuber, and each fish as it “hibernates” as low down as it can.