Notes from a summer: London Wetland Centre

London Wetland CentreAhoy there! Hello! How are you? It’s been ages, I know. I fell off grid a bit, this August. Technology (such as this dear old laptop on which I write all my blog posts) becoming substantially less appealing than lying outside in the sun on a picnic blanket.

Anyway, such times have come to an end, it seems, with this utterly relentless and miserable rain of the last week, so I’ve finally remembered how to open up Word and plug my camera into the computer to take a look at some pictures I’ve taken over the past few months.

It’s been something of a pottering sort of summer. No big holidays, but the odd weekend away. Few exciting day trips, but lots of time poking around in our garden pond, or building soil castles in the flower beds, or mooching along to the local park.

Still, I have a couple of little gems of visits to share with you so, for the next couple of days, a few notes from summer 2015.

First up, the utterly wonderful London Wetlands Centre. We visited a fortnight ago, when the summer flowers were just reaching their end, and the first hints of autumn were coming in.

Summer planting at London Wetland Centre
Kniphofia, grasses and asters looking abundant
Wood sculpture at London Wetland Centre
I loved this wood sculpture
London Wetland Centre
I shared this pic on instagram, having been astounded at my wondrous photography prowess. Very few people liked it, ha ha. Just goes to show, you never can tell with instagram,

It’s a great spot for kids: acres and acres of lakes, surrounded by long winding paths, perfect for running down and exploring.

(Side note: last time we visited the littlest was still pram-bound only, and I found that a more peaceful experience than our most recent visit when he was off toddling away and I had to keep a close eye to ensure he wasn’t about to leap off into a huge body of water. So if your child is toddling age, perhaps wait six months or so until they really understand why it’s best not to run headfirst at a lake…)

Of course, there’s lots of wildlife to see, of the ducks, birds and otters variety, but I am always especially taken by the glorious plants. It’s naturalistic planting at its best, in my opinion, everything appearing to be growing just where it wants to but – I am sure – in fact carefully planned and designed.

London Wetland Centre
Paths for wandering
London Wetland Centre
All the reflections made me think a lot about what plants are best to sit next to water. There is something lovely about seeing the flickering mirror image upside down of a beautiful plant.

A high point of this trip was discovering three sleepy ducks sitting on a wooden bridge. As we approached, they opened their eyes to take a look at us, but made no attempt to actually move, so I got the chance to photograph them for some time, while the sprogs stared and asked various questions about their feathers, their legs and why they had chosen to go to sleep on a bridge.

Ducks at London Wetland Centre
Zzzzzzz
Duck feathers
Those amazing feathers!

And aren’t these just the sorts of conversations you want to be having on a day out?

Practical info:

  • The Wetland Centre is in Barnes and is run by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT).
  • Entrance is £12.75 for an adult or £7 for a child. Various family, concession and membership options also available. I’ve just seen, while checking prices to write this, that you can save 10% by booking online. Doh, if only I realised that before we went.
  • Their website is here: London Wetland Centre
  • There’s a cafe (essential in my eyes) and various activities for children too.

Painshill Park: the weirdness of landscape gardens

Hot on the heels of my trip to Eltham Palace to check out the 1930s planting, yesterday saw me visiting Painshill Park in Surrey, this time to visit an 18th century landscape garden.

Painshill Park | Wolves in London
The lake at Painshill Park

A bit of potted garden history for anyone interested. The “landscape” style of gardening became popular in the UK around the 1700s; its best known designer Capability Brown.

It’s a style of gardening that essentially aims to “improve” the natural landscape, intending the results to look like a beautiful spot of English countryside (though, in fact, huge chunks of money were likely spent on creating these effects, and vast swathes of land dug up and moved around to make “natural” lakes and hills and woodland areas…)

Painshill Park | Wolves in London
View of the estate

Nestled within the bucolic scenery were (in my opinion) completely lunatic buildings, designed to become a focal point and draw your eye to the horizon, across the sweeping vistas. Gothic follies, “ruined” abbeys, temples, towers, arches, bridges… …nothing was considered too grand or too weird for the aristocrats who owned and built these gardens.

At Painshill, close to Cobham in Surrey, all these features are apparent. Designed by its owner, the Honorable Charles Hamilton, an aristocrat with good connections but little actual money, the park was extensively re-designed and re-built to adhere to the 18th century ideas of a beautiful landscape.

Among other great ventures, the oxbow lake was re-dug to form a more appealing shape; a tumble-down ruined abbey was built to hide some actual modern-day brickworks; a grotto was bejeweled inside with crystals; and, most bizarrely, a Turkish tent was erected on the top of a hill at one side of the estate.

Grotto at Painshill Park
The outside of the crystal grotto. Think this looks weird, then take a look…
Crystal grotto at Painshill Park
…at this! Every single crystal was stuck onto the ceiling by hand.
Crystal grotto at Painshill Park
And this was one of the views from the grotto’s many peepholes
Gothic temple ceiling at Painshill Park
This is the ceiling of the gothic temple
Hermitage at Painshill Park
Naturally, there was a hermitage (!) – this was the rather beautiful view from its window

I’ve got to admit, it’s not my favourite era of garden styles. A little bit too much effort and artifice to create something “natural” – and a serious lack of things that, to a modern eye, are desirable. Such as, you know, flowers or non-evergreen trees and shrubs.

But a morning wandering around (in rather cold May drizzle) was a good way to blow away the cobwebs of the week. And I did very much enjoy the (non-original) watermill and the glorious walled kitchen garden on the way in.

Kitchen garden at Painshill Park
The walled kitchen garden
Water wheel at Painshill Park
The waterwheel building was gorgeous
Waterwheel at Painshill Park
As were the views behind

Incidentally, if you’re thinking of visiting a landscape garden close to London, I would recommend, instead, a trip to Stowe (where I was lucky enough to spend two years in the sixth form at the school there). Designed by Capability Brown himself, this is landscape gardening at its absolute finest.

Next week, we’re off on holiday to Somerset and I’m hoping to visit Hestercombe while we’re there. With a garden designed by Lutyens and Jekyll, I’ve got high hopes of some serious inspiration there…

Falling in love again

Of course we loved our house when we first bought it. You’ve got to really love a collection of bricks to hand over the best part of half a million pounds, after all.

I remember when we first viewed it: I was seven months pregnant, we were looking at 13 houses that weekend and we thought we’d found everything we ever wanted as we wandered through the cute little Victorian terrace in East Dulwich.

Pebble dash London house
Our house, the day we viewed it for the first time

It was perfectly preserved in the 1950s, a real home where we could imagine bringing up our imminent arrival.

And, best of all in our eyes, it was a doer-upper. “Oh yes!” we exclaimed when we heard there was no central heating. “Oh we’ll just extend this kitchen right out to the side and back” we panted with enthusiasm on discovering the long narrow galley kitchen with no natural light. “We’ll have that pebble dash off on the very first day” we grinned to each other, all the while thinking of the savings we were making on the purchase price by doing all these things ourselves.

And then we moved in. And the love affair came to a rather abrupt end.

That first winter was so fricking freezing. Without central heating, we shivered away. Ancient electrical heaters in the main rooms provided some warmth but left me with the constant fear of an electrical fire in the night. Heaven forbid if you had to walk out of one room to reach another, shivering all the way down the corridors.

Eventually, the builders moved in, 14 months after we first did. Four months later, structural work completed, we moved back. To a house of bare plaster and a need for endless decorating. Once again, I was seven months pregnant.

Our money long (long!) eaten up, the past 14 months have been spent painting, sanding, hole-filling, caulking and getting quotes for various things that cost a fortune.

But at last it feels as if the end is in sight, signalled by the momentous occasion of the pebble dash being removed. And you know what, I’m reminded for the first time that my house is actually a real little looker.

Under all that ugly brown and grey pebbledash are some beautiful London stock bricks, all now beautifully re-pointed and able to breathe the air for the first time in probably 40 years.

London terraced house
That brickwork! Who knew I could be so excited by a lovely brick?

Next steps: plant a climbing white rose up the front and replace the windows. Possibly in the opposite order. Ah, little house, you’ll be a proper beauty again before too long.

Loving the 1930s: Eltham Palace day trip

I always wonder, at some point in a blissful three day bank holiday weekend, whether every single weekend would be as good if everyone only worked a four day week all the time. Surely so much office working is just faffing around, chatting, making coffee, checking emails and so on, that actually it could all be squeezed into four days instead and the whole country could have three whole days off every single weekend? Anyway, such dreams are unlikely to become reality (and perhaps I would find then that I longed instead for a four day weekend?) but a bank holiday Monday is always a very delightful thing for me… …even though I don’t even have an office job to go to these days.

This Monday past, we set off for Eltham Palace, an English Heritage owned house and garden in deepest South-East London.

Eltham Palace | Wolves in London
The main entrance was across a fantastic bridge…
Eltham Palace | Wolves in London
…and round the curving drive to the front door

My latest garden design assignment is to create a planting plan for a London garden attached to a 1930s house; the planting needs to sit nicely with the period of the home. I didn’t know much about 1930s gardening, but a quick Google told me that Eltham Palace has some of the best 1930s borders in the country (and described it as a “gardener’s garden”) and Google maps told me it was a 25 min drive from our house. What luck, eh?!

The gardens were, indeed, stunning.

Along one side of the house, the formal gardens are set: a rose garden, a “linear” garden, a square pond and so on. In my research on 1930s gardens, I discovered that this was quite common in Edwardian times (and, indeed Arts and Crafts gardens, which were still in fashion in the ‘30s): more formal gardens, laid out often symmetrically, planted closer to the house, often in a series of “outdoor rooms” and then, as you got further towards the boundary, the planting became more naturalistic and wild, blurring where garden ended and open country began.

Eltham Palace gardens | Wolves in London
All is symmetry and tradition here
Eltham Palace gardens | Wolves in London
This looked like an old potager
Orangery at Eltham Palace | Wolves in London
The heavenly orangery. Oh to have an orangery!

So, too, at Eltham. Across the most fabulous bridge from the moat, a meadow area was full of trees, grass and wildflowers, with a series of paths just mown into the meadow. This is an idea I absolutely adore and one I definitely plan to do if I am ever lucky enough to own a piece of land big enough to have a meadow…

Eltham Palace | Wolves in London
The bridge across the old moat – perfect for the Billy Goats Gruff
Eltham Palace meadow | Wolves in London
The meadow had some magnificent trees

Though the house would originally have been enclosed by the moat, nowadays only half is still filled with water. The section of moat at the back of the house has instead been turned into huge borders, flanked by beautiful old red brick walls.

Even the car parks were beautiful, in fact, this brick wall being one of the first things we saw when we parked the car:

Eltham Palace car park | Wolves in London
Yup, I haven’t uploaded the wrong photo here, this really is the wall in the car park…

Looking at the “1930s borders,” I’ve got to say, they looked like any contemporary flower borders to me, using all sorts of plants that I’ve learnt about in my course and love. I certainly wouldn’t have known that they were specifically from the ‘30s if I hadn’t been told so.

Garden notes a Eltham Palace | Wolves in London
I loved this sign on the way in…

white flowersflowerseuphorbiablossombleeding heartsAs for the house, well, that is the most fabulously 1930s place you could ever imagine. I’d left my camera in the pram (which wasn’t allowed inside) so I’ve got no photos, but it was a wonderful stroll round rooms preserved in their 1930s best: fabulously decadent gold mosaic-filled bathrooms; round windows all over the place; a special room (with central heating) for the pet lemur, called Mah-Jong (or Jonggy, if you’re on intimate terms) and walnut-panelled guest bedrooms. Given half a chance, I would have moved in then and there…

So, definitely worth a visit if you’re a garden lover, 1930s buff, or just fancy a wander round a nice house and grounds. We were talked into signing up to a year’s membership with the English Heritage at the entrance (you know, cos it ends up only costing three times as much as just paying to get in and that suddenly sounds like a great deal when someone says it to you enthusiastically) so I hope we’ll be visiting lots more places before the year is out.

Trips to the Horniman museum

At last! Another post in my Making the most of London series. A mere year since the last one, ha ha…

Horniman museum | Wolves in London
The stunning conservatory at the Horniman museum. I want to live here

Overstuffed walruses, giant totem poles, kitchen gardens growing lentils; what’s not to love about the Horniman museum?

It’s one of those collections of eclectic eccentricity that the British seem to do so well.

Luckily for us, it’s a mere 15-minute walk from where we live (albeit up an extremely steep hill) so we visit almost every week. But weekly visits are almost a necessity to even start to explore just a little bit of the amazingly diverse activities and sights here: almost all of them ideal for children.

Bandstand Horniman museum | Wolves in London
A view out across the grounds by the bandstand. Look closely and you can see the London skyline in the distance…

The museum was founded by Frederick John Horniman, a Victorian tea trader, philanthropist and collector in 1890 to showcase the bits and pieces he’d picked up on his travels around the world. [Side note, if only current job descriptions were as exciting as “tea trader, philanthropist and collector” — I’d be updating the CV as we speak…]

Added to slowly in the centuries that have followed, the museum is a brilliant juxtaposition of the old anthropological exhibitions that you expect from a natural history museum and crazy architectural features like a totem pole, with modern additions such as the beautiful green-roofed library and aquarium in the basement.

Horniman museum totem pole | Wolves in London
Just your average view in South East London

Being something of a fishy family (in the nicest possible way), the aquarium tends to be our first spot to visit, where the sproglet races round pointing out all the fish excitedly to anyone listening and the baby and I tend to spend a little more time staring into the tranquility of the jellyfish tank. So peaceful and beautiful, I’d really love one in my own house.

I try not to bore on too much about the differences between a pipe fish and a seahorse to the sproglet, so once we’ve completed the loop a few times, we head upstairs to the natural history museums.

Here, two floors of glass cases are filled with stuffed animals, where the most famous exhibit is the fat walrus – bought by Horniman for the opening of his museum and originally from Canada. He’s a little chubbier than he should be as the taxidermist who stuffed him who had never before seen a photo of an actual walrus so had no idea they had folds in their skin.

If fish and stuffed animals aren’t your thing though, there’s plenty more to see.

The music room showcases practically every musical instrument you could ever imagine. Though safely behind glass, two tables in the room allow you to select photos of the instruments and listen to what they sound like. An adjacent room has a hands on area where you can play a selection of random instruments (most often populated by dads with their children, I’ve noticed, “just showing them” how to play the instrument correctly)… Outside, by the bandstand, every day objects have been turned into giant instruments – plastic pipes become a huge organ, and metal ones a giant xylophone. The sprog absolutely adores this area.

Outdoor music at the Horniman museum | Wolves in London
He’s a musical genius, I suspect…

The bandstand itself is the setting for weekly story readings as well as a series of concerts over the summer.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the animal walk – a (really pretty tiny) walkway where you can admire chickens, goats, sheep, rabbits and… …two alpacas. Alpacas being pretty much one of my favourite animals in the world right now, I often lose myself, leaning on a gate, dreaming of owning an alpaca farm in the country and making my fortune selling beautiful alpaca yarn. Right until the sprog starts tugging at my sleeve and demanding, “Wot Mummy doin’?”

Horniman museum gardens | Wolves in London
The dye garden: full of wonderfully bright coloured flowers

There’s also a kitchen garden, ten acres of grounds to explore, and the most stunning glass conservatory, in which occasional exhibitions are shown and which is available to rent for events like weddings (we did consider it for ours…)

Conservatory at Horniman museum | Wolves in London
Just one more of the amazing conservatory

The summer events programme is particularly impressive, I think. With an Edwardian theme (to match the newly renovated Edwardian bandstand), they’ve really gone to town on creating events to cater to all whims. Open air cinema, Edwardian “lates” with tea dances and live music (sooooo up my street!) and activities for kids on every day of the week, such as storytelling, art and minibeasts tours of the grounds. I genuinely think this must be one of the most “interactive” museums in the whole of London.

So, if you like a bit of weirdness in your kulcher, definitely somewhere to add to the “to visit” list. It’s in Forest Hill, so fairly easy to get to on the Overground or train line. Just be warned that the hill to get there is pretty steep…

Related articles:

  • Check out all the events, activities and exhibitions on the Horniman museum website. (NB, despite the gushing, I’m not in any way in cahoots with the Horniman on this post; just a genuine fan!)
  • For more Sabrina-reviewed places to visit in London, check out my series Making the most of London

 

5 ideas from Hampton Court flower show

Last Wednesday I spent a gorgeous sunny day wandering round Hampton Court flower show.

Forgotten Folly summer garden at Hampton Court show | Wolves in London
The Forgotten folly summer garden. One of my favourites from the show

It was an English summer personified: the drowsy song of bees in the air, the sun beating down with occasional white clouds drifting across the blue skies, endless (endless!) stalls selling Pimms and rather a lot of people dressed in striped blazers and Panama hats.

I managed to spot a glimpse of Carol Klein, Joe Swift and Mary Berry, which added to the excitement of course, but I also got lots of inspiration from the gardens and stalls around the show.

I am planning to redesign and replant my own little patch of green this autumn and I came away with lots of ideas I’d love to translate back to my own space.

Here are five pieces of inspiration I took away from the show, in the hope they might also inspire you!

1. Use native planting to attract insects

Macmillan legacy garden and Hampton Court show | Wolves in London
Wonderful naturalistic planting of native flowers

As far as I’m concerned, this is preaching to the converted. Who wouldn’t want lots of colourful butterflies and buzzing bees in their garden, helping pollinate all the fruit and veg?

Lots and lots of gardens featured naturalistic planting and wildflowers, but the Macmillan legacy garden, above and below, was definitely my favourite.

Macmillan legacy garden at Hampton Court show | Wolves in London
I’m pretty sure I need a rusty metal cow in my garden too…

The plants chosen were all native to Somerset (where Douglas Macmillan grew up) and included verbena, alchemilla, ammi majus, anemones, campanula, grasses, foxgloves, geraniums, hostas, sedum and thyme. In short, loads of my very favourite plants!

2. You can still pack a punch with small borders

It’s easy to walk around a show like Hampton Court and think, “sure, this all looks lovely, but I just don’t have space in my own garden to do anything like this…”

Al Fresco summer garden | Wolves in London
Small bed + loads of plants = lovely

The Al Fresco summer garden, though, provided great inspiration for planting in small beds. The majority of the garden was hard landscaping, with a central dining table, covered by a pergola, and built in barbecue.

The area was surrounded by a number of raised beds, of fairly small dimensions, but full of gorgeous flowers, more than making their mark despite the small space they were confined in. Definitely one to provide encouragement to all those who, like me, only have a small space for planting…

3. Use your garden for what you love

Before I started my horticulture and design course last year, I had rather set ideas about what a garden should be.

Surely every garden needed a lawn, a patio, some borders and so on?

Of course, this is complete nonsense. Your garden should contain only the elements you want and will use.

No interest in a lawn but lots of time entertaining outside? Don’t bother including one, just create an amazing dining space like the Al Fresco garden above.

Allitex greenhouse at Hampton Court show | Wolves in London
Sigh, dribble, drool. How I want one of these beauties in my garden

Obsessed with growing tender plants? Forget everything else and just have a greenhouse then! This one from Allitex is surely the greenhouse dream and I loved the way it had been surrounded by flower beds.

Not a show garden, of course, just a display by the company, but I lusted after it nonetheless.

(Perhaps one day I will be able to afford one to replace the beast…)

4. Simplicity is key

I am something of a magpie when it comes to my garden. I want to include every single lovely plant I have ever seen somewhere within its four fences…

Allium stall at Hampton Court show | Wolves in London
Stunning. Just stunning. Love me an allium

But this display on an allium nursery’s stand reminded me of the importance of paring it back with plant choices and with colours. Less range of plants, but growing in profusion, is definitely more in design terms…

Sure, I don’t want to restrict myself to just alliums in my garden, but this was a great reminder of just how striking simplicity can be.

5. Plant up in everything you can…

…but don’t forget a cohesive style

Zinc planters at Hampton Court | Wolves in London
These amazing buckets only cost £25. But I couldn’t carry one home, with the baby in a sling, and the guy said he only sold at shows. Sob, sob. Next year…

I adored this stall which sold lots of zinc planters and buckets and milk urns and a million other wonderful things.

My garden currently has everything planted in the beds, with a few scattered pots here and there.

But planting up all sorts of unusual objects can have a wonderful effect. These zinc buckets, for example, would look fabulous planted as a herb garden.

Remember to match the planters to the style of your garden, however, to ensure you achieve cohesion of ideas. These would look great in a cottage style garden, as would terracotta pots.

A contemporary urban garden might suit aluminium or concrete pots better. Don’t be tempted to mix too many different materials together or the overall look can become a little bitty…

So, plenty of inspiration for me as I start to plan the next phase of my ever-evolving garden. And I’m booking myself a ticket to next year’s show as soon as I can!

Related articles:

  • You can see more photos of all the gardens over on the RHS website: RHS Hampton Court flower show
  • Of course, but of course, I have Pinterest boards for these sorts of things too. If you love a beautiful garden as much as I do, follow my Dream garden plans board for lots of stunning designs. And my board Plants, plants, plants started as a place to save plants we were learning about in my horticulture course and has evolved into a place to save details of every plant I come across that I love. You can see a preview of both below, just click on the photos to go to the full board…

Wonderful Wisley

Last Sunday, we strapped the sprogs into their car seats, cracked the windows open to let in some warm summer breezes and set off along the A3 heading for RHS Wisley.

Sun behind trees | Wolves in London
Trees, sunshine, what more could you want?

I wasn’t sure how enjoyable the rest of the Wolves in London clan were going to find the excursion; all of them so far too young /not-into-gardening to think that a thrilling day involves me wandering round examining flower beds and sharing fascinating snippets of information about Latin horticultural names or the biology of a plant’s roots. (More fool them…)

Tree trunk | Wolves in London
“Now gather round, family, and let me share some fascinating facts about this stately tree…”

Actually, I was delighted at how family friendly Wisley was. There were only a few areas where I had to try and explain “Keep off the grass” signs to the sproglet.  There was a soft play area and a children’s playground. But, it says a lot about how much fun we had everywhere else, that we didn’t have time to visit either of them.

An arts and crafts fair was taking place that weekend (I know, double heaven for me: gardening and crafts!)

Lots of stalls were set up around the grounds with makers selling their wares and offering lessons in everything from pot-throwing to brooch making.

Had I been alone, I would have definitely tried my hand at these plant prints. I only had a very quick look, but I think they must be made with inkodye, something I have been dying (geddit?!) to try out for a while now. The effect is really striking:

Blue ink flowers | Wolves in London
My guess is that these have been made by placing a leaf over some fabric covered in light sensitive dye

The sproglet was particularly impressed with a collection of wire sculptures of animals, like this hare:

Wire hare | Wolves in London
Pretty realistic, no?

And, naturally, I couldn’t resist getting a photo of this wolf sculpture. (A friendly wolf! I’ve written before about how they’re pretty hard to find…)

Wolf sculpture | Wolves in London
Awww, a soft cuddly wolf

There were also various performances going on during the day. This lady, in the glasshouses, was billed as an “aerial artiste”…

Aerial artiste | Wolves in London
Not a job for those with vertigo

But, most fun was had just wandering through the impressive grounds themselves, which are full of quirky architecture and sculptures.

RHS Wisley | Wolves in London
I loved these huge bulrush sculptures by the lakes

The sproglet dashed off in glee the minute he saw the pagoda:

Pagoda at Wisley | Wolves in London
You can’t beat a good pagoda…

But his attention was held for even longer by a rather impressive insect hotel.

(Side note: I think these look stunning, but any I have come across seem rather devoid of insects. Anyone have something similar in their own garden?)

Bug hotel at Wisley | Wolves in London
I have a sneaky suspicion a few bits of wood might have been removed at this point…

Rather intriguingly, my friend Annie (of Nimble Fingers and Steady Eyebrows) tweeted me just as I was leaving and said that there was a statue of her somewhere in the grounds. Sadly, I didn’t see it, but I did enjoy this couple sitting and soaking up the view:

Statue at Wisley | Wolves in London
“Weather’s nice today, dear…” “Yes, isn’t it, dear.”

And the glasshouses, of course, were mind-blowingly awesome:

Glasshouses at Wisley | Wolves in London
Now I only I could replace my old greenhouse with one of these!

We spent a lot of time wandering round inside and, of course, I took a few hundreds of photos of plants. This is the (highly) edited selection…

Pink flower | Wolves in LondonOrchid | Wolves in LondonLeaves | Wolves in LondonWhite orchid | Wolves in LondonYellow flower | Wolves in London

Rather foolishly, I was so busy being snap happy that I forgot to write down the names of any of these plants and I’m not really familiar with exotic flowers like this so I no longer have a clue what’s in the photos.

But no matter, for I’m saving the best til last. My very favourite part of the gardens was the more naturalist drift planting, just outside the back of the glasshouses. This is the look I aspire to in my own (much, much, much) smaller flower beds.

Drift planting at Wisley | Wolves in London
The sun was in when I took this photo, which is a bit of shame…
Red flower | Wolves in London
So cheery!
White flowers | Wolves in London
I think this was a type of Lavatera
Red flowers at Wisley | Wolves in London
Anyone know what this is? There were so many lovely red flowers here it *almost* persuaded me to plant some in my own garden…

And I was very excited to see lots and lots of Mexican fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus) growing out of walls and steps all over the place. I just bought some for my own garden and have planted the little plugs over the stone wall that divides one of my flower beds from the lawn. The first little daisy-like flower appeared yesterday, to my immense delight:

Erigeron karvinskianus | Wolves in London
One day I hope mine will look as prolific as this

Aaaaand, that’s the end! Lots of photos, but still only showing a mere fraction of what’s there. I shall be returning soon, no doubt.

I also purchased some rather glorious second hand gardening books, but this post is already heejusly long so I’ll show you them another time…

The hubby is off work for five weeks now between jobs, so we’ve got plenty of time for exploring. Anywhere else we should go?

{Joining in with Manneskjur and How does your garden grow? If only this were my garden!)

I want this so badly

Before accepting that I must keep my old tumbledown greenhouse in the garden, for the time being at least, I spent a long time searching online for a greenhouse slash garden shed slash potting house.

It seemed such a straightforward idea to me. One little building that housed plants, tools, and all that junk that accumulates over the years and is banished from the house proper.

I searched and searched and searched and found nothing really suitable. Certainly nothing affordable.

But just now, a mere few days after telling you how I was reconciled to the beast at the end of the garden, and how I planned to make it look all lovely and appealing, on a little stroll down the Pinterest rabbit hole I stumbled across it. My dream garden outbuilding. Part potting shed, part greenhouse, part tool shed. And all, every single last bit of it, utterly beautiful.

Take a look.

Potting shed slash greenhouse
© Nitty Gritty Dirt Man

Screw the big, ugly greenhouse. I can’t begin to tell you how desperately badly I want this one, nay need this at the end of my garden.

It’s homemade, by someone who clearly has some superb DIY skills, and the plans and all sorts of useful information for how it was built are over at Nitty Gritty Dirt Man.

(There are also loads and loads of other wonderful gardening articles too, with hugely appealing names such as Ten reasons I love elephant’s ears. If you’ve any interest in gardening, you could while away a good amount of time here, as I just have…)

But back to the glorious shed. Any ideas on how I can persuade my husband to give up every bit of spare time he has to learn the requisite skills and then build this for me? As a birthday present perhaps? That would give him a whole three months to essentially retrain as a builder and get it in situ. Sounds fairly reasonable to me…

Pimp my greenhouse

As spring turns to summer, my thoughts turn to the unwieldy beast at the end of my garden.

I speak, of course, of my greenhouse.

When we first moved in, I planned, immediately, to replace it with something sophisticated like this:

Griffin Glasshouse
© Griffin Glasshouses Just the perfect sort of greenhouse for a horticulture student, non?

Then I saw the price tag.

And so, I must reconcile myself to living for the next few years at least with this:

Ramshackle greenhouse | Wolves in London
I’ll grant you, the huge amount of weeds and vast piles of junk on the floor don’t show it off to its full potential

It’s not pretty is it?

And, at 15ft by 12ft, it is taking up almost a third of my garden.

Eventually, I will put in something smaller and build some raised veg beds in the area freed up. But for now, until I have a spare couple of thousand pounds, I plan to do everything I can to prettify the beast…

Luckily, there is plenty of inspiration out there. Here are a few of my favourite dilapidated yet lovely garden buildings. Because, hey, everyone loves aspirational gardening, don’t they?

It perhaps won’t surprise you to hear that I do have a collection of old rusty watering cans. So this first picture is brilliantly achievable for me:

Attractive greenhouse | Wolves in London
Image from here

And never mind that this shed will soon collapse under the weight of the tree branch; it’s light, airy and full of stunning old gardening related props. And plants, of course. Plants are a must in the greenhouse.

Recycled shed | Wolves in London
I can’t find the proper copyright details for this pic. Eeek, I hate using them unattributed, but I just had to share

Yup, note to self, more plants needed. Currently, my greenhouse just houses seedlings, but something bigger would look rather nice:

Greenhouse full of plants
Shot by photographer Jeroen van der Speck for the Delicious Magazine

I also have a couple of old wooden crates (left by the previous owners) and am starting to realise that filling them with plants and displaying them outside the greenhouse is an absolute must. (In practical terms, this would actually be a great way of hardening off plants as well…)

Summer house
You can see more of this amazing summerhouse at Remodelista – the inside is, if anything, even nicer!

And I’ve saved one of my favourites til last. Fairy lights! You’d think electricity and somewhere that’s regularly watered wouldn’t mix, but hey, fairylight the crap out of the place and it will almost certainly look artful and atmospheric instead of old and tumbledown. (Note to readers, fairylight your greenhouses at your own risk!)

Cactus greenhouse with fairylights
© Jenngyn

I’m planning on creating some similar artful little garden vignettes around the greenhouse over this summer, so I’ll share some photos of the results soon.

Watch this (heavily styled) space!

And if you’re as much a sucker as I am for the artfully distressed in the garden, I have hundreds more glorious photos over on my Pinterest board Dream garden plans. Click below to check it out…

A love of trees

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know have a bit of a penchant for photographing flowers. (For which read, my feed is stuffed full of floral photos, mostly taken on my daily wanderings round Peckham Rye Park.*)

Rose | Wolves in LondonFlower | Wolves in LondonMagnolia stellata | Wolves in Londonwisteria | Wolves in London

But there was another reason that my feed was 90% flowers: my crappy iPhone 3 which objected strongly to photographing anything indoors in focus and most other big things outside too. Flowers, for some reason, it was fairly happy with.

Since I’ve just upgraded to a phone with a much better camera, though, I thought it was time to branch out (geddit?) and move past the individual flower to whole trees as well.

Acer | Wolves in London

I’ve developed a bit of a love of trees since starting my horticulture course last year. I mean, it’s not that I ever didn’t like them, but now I’ve started to really notice their individual characteristics.

The way a birch tree’s branches sway and flitter in the wind; the amazing unique leaf shape of a Gingko biloba; the fabulous bark on a mature horse chestnut…

Gingko biloba | Wolves in LondonTree trunk | Wolves in London

But, I have to confess, I’m still able to identify only a very few trees, so my aim over this summer is to photograph lots and find out what they are.

If this sounds vaguely interesting to you too, follow me over on Instagram to see some more. (All photos in this post are from my feed.)

And if you’re a good tree recogniser, I will be calling on you for help over the coming months!

*A park I love and to which I highly recommend a visit if you’re local. You can see more about in my post from last year: A stroll round Peckham Rye Park.