A new garden and some new plans

With great excitement, we handed in our notice on our rental house recently.

Our definitely-completed-in-six-months building project is now at the start of month eight and, finally, builders have started on the final phase. The project has been drastically scaled back (the attic conversion is now going to have to wait for another time) but I am insanely excited at the prospect of finally moving in in mid June.

Most excited of all, possibly, at the thought of our new garden.

The view of the garden from the upstairs window

When we bought the new house, the one (and only) concern for me was that the garden was a bit smaller than our old one. In our last house, the garden was extremely long and extremely narrow (5mx20m) and though our new garden is almost a metre wider (believe me, in London, these kinds of small additions count for a lot!) it’s about two metres shorter.

But, after eight months in our rental house with just a tiny shaded courtyard out the back, the space is looking pretty palatial right now.

Since we moved in, while all the building work has been going on, I’ve been taking photos of the garden. Both to give myself some proper “before” shots to look back on, once the “after” is resplendent (hem hem) and also so I can remember what will flower where and what everything looks like at its best season of interest.

Garden

So this view, above, is looking from the patio down to the end of the garden in early Spring (with a little ornamental cherry in bloom in the middle of the grass).

Pyracantha blossom

And this is how it looks right now, with the old spiky, but rather attractive pyracantha in full blossom.

London garden

And this, above, is the view back to the house, from the end of the garden.

As you can see, it’s all pretty overgrown, but there is lots to work with. The shrubs and trees are mature but now too large for their spaces, so my plan with these is just to do a bit of a constructive edit. I’ll prune some right back and remove others, to leave a smaller number to shine. There is an acer, in particular, that is going to be delightful.

Arch

The patio is separated from the garden with some rickety trellis, that is looking pretty unstable now. I think it will have to come down fairly soon (or fall down on its own) but I love the idea of a separation here and am thinking I might try and put a huge corten steel circle in, as a modern take on a moon gate. Watch this space!

Fence

The equally rickety fence at the back conceals three lime trees and a small strip of council-owned land. Both neighbours have taken the fence down to reclaim the land and absorb it into their garden. After a mere 20 years, apparently, it will be your own… And the wooden bear was left by the previous owners. The boys already love it.

Pond

There is a small and rather sweet pond, backed with overgrown dogwood. I am planning to coppice the dogwood asap, so that next year it will just be a small collection of bright red newly grown stems, reflecting in the water.

The lawn is curved at the sides and covered in moss, but a great space for the boys to play. I’m not too bothered by the moss actually, but I do plan to straighten out the edges, so that it’s a regulation rectangle, surrounded by similar-sized beds.

Camellia

There are quite a few flowering shrubs jostling for space, but little herbaceous interest in the beds. A camellia in the front garden is looking nice. A pieris could have a chance to shine with some judicious pruning around it. All in all, lots of tidying and shaping to be done, and then some herbaceous perennials planted in the newly created gaps.

Scrappy side return

At the side, a really quite large patio with a pergola that we’ve had to remove (it was dripping damp into the house). Here, I am planning on festooning the fence and walls with green and making a shady little evergreen nook to sit in on really hot days.

And, what’s this here? An extremely ugly add on to the house, you say? A no, no, no! This is actually the room in the house I am most excited about because, for the next few years until we can afford to build a side return, this is going to be my plant room. My urban jungle. My green retreat. My wannabe-orangery. It’s a bit hard to imagine, looking at it like this, but I have high hopes of making something very beautiful in here!

So, lots to do, lots to decide and lots of promise for the hot summer months. May mid June roll on as quickly as possible!

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6 easy updates for a beautiful summer garden

When I first got into gardening, I was always slightly embarrassed by my own garden in the middle of summer. Springtime tended to be luscious and green, Autumn was russet-toned and lovely but in the very middle of summer… …well, quite often not much seemed to be going on.

Where were the flowers? Should the grass be that brown? Why did everything look like it might be about to shuffle off this mortal coil?

In fact, since learning a bit more about horticulture, I realise that high summer is one of the trickier times in the garden. Lots of the earlier blooming flowers are over, those that wait for the cooler days of Autumn are yet to impress, and everything tends to be in good need of a large drink of water.

Thankfully, I’ve also learnt it’s not that tricky to resolve the situation, so here are six easy tricks for sprucing up your garden.

  1. Bedding

    Nicotiana | Wolves in London
    Delicate star-shaped nicotiana
Cosmos | Wolves in London
Beautiful cosmos
Sweet pea | Wolves in London
Sweet pea

I used to dismiss bedding as old fashioned, blousy and, frankly a bit naff. If someone mentioned “plugging up the gaps in your beds with bedding” I’d immediately think of petunias or marigolds. Garish flowers that would look perfect in an Victorian park, with head gardeners wasting endless supplies of water keeping them alive, only to rip them up at the end of the season and start again.

Actually, though, there’s plenty of tasteful, beautiful, non-garish and even modern bedding around.

Technically speaking, bedding can refer to any plant that’s an annual, or lives only for a year. Because it’s just a one season thing, it’s cheaper to buy than perennials (nobody has had to look after it for years before it blooms) and often easy to grow from seed.

Some of my favourites, all of which should be available in a good plant shop near you, are cosmos, snapdragons, sweet peas and Nicotiana alata. The last of these has the most incredible scent in the evening, but is fairly toxic, so make sure you plant it towards the back of a bed if you have kids or animals roaming around.

The best thing to do if you’re planning on buying bedding, though, is just taking a browse at a garden centre or (even better) a plant nursery and grabbing anything that takes your fancy and is looking good right now. Remember that it won’t be around next year, so make sure it looks like it’s got a good bit of flower production still left for the season and then just plant it anywhere that needs an extra dash of interest…

  1. Pots

white flowersThis is the quickest win of all when it comes to gardening. Buy some plants already in flower (bedding, or perennials) and put them in a pot in a prominent position.

Gardens Illustrated always has brilliant combinations for plants in containers if you need inspiration, or just follow your heart and choose things you think look nice.

The really great thing about pots is that you can move them around, so once a display is over, put the pot into a hidden corner to wait until next year, or dig up the plants, re-plant in your garden if appropriate and put something new in.

3. Cleaning

Al Fresco summer garden | Wolves in London
Perfectly clean!

I know, sorry, what a boring option! But if you’ve not got the time / money / inclination to re-paint fences or furniture, then just giving them a really good scrub can often work wonders to perking up the whole look of your garden.

Endless spring showers (and often summer ones too) mean that tables and chairs can get dirty and everything can start to look a bit drab and brown.

This is especially true if you have a very modern-looking white-rendered wall style of garden, where every stain and mark shows up. A friend of mine who works as maintenance gardener once described working in these gardens as being a bit like an outdoor cleaner: more often than pruning shrubs or weeding, she found that cleaning the walls made the biggest difference to how everything looked.

  1. Mow the lawn
Walcot Hall, Shropshire
NB, this is not my lawn! (Photographed at Walcot Hall, Shropshire, where we got married.)

I am constantly, constantly amazed what a huge difference it makes to my garden once we’ve given the grass a good mow. Suddenly, everything looks neater and more intentional when set against the backdrop of a finely trimmed sward

  1. Choose some lighting

High summer is prime time for late night suppers in the garden. In an ideal world, we’d all have atmospheric mood lighting to accompany the event. You know the kind: dramatic uplighters highlighting a stately tree trunk, or a string of romantic bare bulbed lights over our eating area. In real life, this is often a fairly expensive option for the rare evenings in this country where we want to be sitting in the garden at night.

But mood lighting can be simple (and cheap) too; candles for eating dinner are perfect. Perhaps a hurricane lamp strung from a tree. Or just some outdoor fairy lights festooning a fence. Anything that twinkles, basically, is a good bet…

6. Add some fabrics

London garden

I can sometimes be guilty of not bothering to carry things outside to the garden, because I know I’ll just have to take them back inside at the end of the day.

But a picnic blanket, some cushions, a hammock strung between the trees: these are the things of comfort and relaxation and long days spent soaking up the sun. Our kids love their red and white striped teepee and can spend hours minutes sitting inside quite happily on their own and pretending it’s a space rocket.

Do you have any other tips for quick fixes to make your garden look inviting? Do share them below…

6 tips for a summer garden update

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In the garden: June

SeedheadWell, wasn’t the last week of June utterly depressing. Like so many, I was knocked for six with the results of the referendum.

I find the whole thing terrifying and bleak. The result itself, the reports of increased racism that have peppered the news this past week, the furious packpedalling of the Leave campaigners, the Leave voter regretters, but also the really unpleasant bile and accusations that have been rife on my Facebook feed ever since — predominantly from those who share my political views and also voted to remain.

Yes, I agree, it is bloody miserable that more people said leave than stay, but I don’t think that justifies branding half the population either racist or moronic. Nor do I feel much empathy for those who want to take London out of the UK (erm, doesn’t that kind of go against the whole point of staying stronger together?) or moan about how they’ll no longer be able to retire to a lovely villa in Spain.

Anyway, let’s hope that something comes up to stop us actually following through and leaving and that the unpleasant racism and Facebook fighting dies down and maybe, just maybe, we can all stand up against a political system filled with lies and nonsense pedalled merely as a desire for personal gain, irrespective of the good of the country.

In the meantime, pottering in the garden has provided me with some respite from the bleak outlook. June is often a bit of a “flower gap” in my garden, a time when the Spring blooms are over, but high Summer is yet to hit its peak. But there’s just enough of interest to keep me wandering around between all the rainstorms.

Thalictrum delavayi 'album'
Thalictrum delavayi ‘album’

white thalictrum

My complete obsession at the moment are my stunning thalictrum plants. They’re Thalictrum delavayi ‘album’ and the flower buds form perfect white circles that bob about on slender stems, before opening to reveal delicate yellow stamens. I have about nine plants dotted throughout the garden and I just adore them. They were newly planted in the Autumn, but I shall put them in every garden I ever own from now on…

Scabiosa bud
Scabiosa bud
Scabiosa flower
Scabiosa flower
Scabiosa seedhead
Scabiosa seedhead

Another favourite is this scabious; I love watching it unfold from tightly packed bud to luscious flower and then into a rather glorious seedhead. I planted it next to some salvia argentea, which is a huge fat-leaved, hairy silver plant, that looked absolutely amazing for about a week. And then the slugs devoured every last bit of it. Three plants, completely munched through, with only the leaf veins left. Grrrr.Bee on erysimumBee

Regular reads might chuckle to know that, yes, my wallflower is — as ever — in full bloom. Not only does it flower pretty much continuously for 11 months of the year, but the bees love it. It’s a garden staple, I think, if a little unglamorous.

Ladybird

I planted a beautiful pittosporum towards the back of the garden, but it has become a breeding ground for aphids. Every time I see a ladybird anywhere in the garden, I put it on the pittosporum in the hope it will munch those little pests right up. But, a few minutes later, there will be no sign of the ladybird and hundreds more of the little black dots multiplying in front of my eyes. I think I need a more effective form of control, but the hose doesn’t reach that far down the garden to blast them away, and I always feel a little queasy, I have to confess, about wiping them off between my fingers.

Echinops

There is lots on the verge of flowering at the moment too. Some poppies that have grown from seed that I asked the sproglet to chuck liberally across the flower beds are growing well. I can no longer remember what type we sowed, so I watch them every day in eager anticipation, waiting to see what colour the flowers will be. And my newly-planted echinops is getting taller and taller, the flower buds fattening. I can’t wait for them all to burst open.

London garden

Finally, a rather crappy shot of the garden as viewed from the patio looking away from the house. It’s not quite as short as it appears in the photo, but we cleared all the plastic kids crap away to put up the much more attractive fabric tent last weekend, so I thought it needed a quick snap. You can just make out the chicken house and the veg beds at the far end…

So, roll on July. Here’s to less rain, more flowers and, hopefully, a little more optimism in the whole political situation. Fingers tightly crossed.

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In the garden: March

So, after 3.5 years living here, we’ve finally – finally – landscaped and planted the garden. Hurrah! I’ll show you proper photos next month as it’s still all looking a bit bare and unimpressive while the plants establish, but in the meantime, here’s a little look at some of the recent additions to our little patch of turf.

On a sunny Friday at the end of Feb, we hired a van and drove to a plant nursery in Surrey. I’m still beside myself with excitement about the brilliant trade prices I’m now eligible for as a trainee garden designer, and wandering round a nursery stuffed full of plants, feeling the first of the Spring sunshine on my face, was pretty much my idea of heaven.

Lots of what I bought is nothing more than a small mound of leaves at the moment, but these are the ones with something to show right now…

corkscrew hazelcatkin

I’ve been obsessed with corkscrew hazels (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) for a good few years now and couldn’t pass up the chance to have one in my own garden. The twisting stems look rather Tim Burton-esque to me (in a good way) and then there’s the delights of all the catkins in Spring and hazelnuts in Autumn.

Euphorbia myrsinitesEuphorbia myrsinitesEuphorbia myrsinitesEuphorbia myrsinites

Also a huge obsession, though a more recent one, since my visit to Beth Chatto’s garden last year, is this incredible Euphorbia myrsinites. Those grey spiky leaves, lime green flowers and flowing stems are just quite spectacular as far as I’m concerned. I’ve planted a couple of other euphorbias, too, which will hopefully be in full flower by next month.

Chionodoxa forbesii

The famous wallflower is still going strong (no photos this month, since I’ve shared them a gazillion times) and clustered around its base, a flurry of bright blue bulbs have come up: Chionodoxa forbesii, that I planted last year and I had completely forgotten about. There is something magical about bulbs, the way they pop up and down, year after year, and you can never quite remember what is going to come up where. (Or is that just me?!) These blue beauties are a welcome sight, though I think the slugs and snails agree with me, since their leaves (as you can see) are almost always bitten off, and I often find whole flowers disappear overnight.

ipheion alberto castillo ipheion alberto castillo

I’m hoping these new ipheion (‘Alberto Castillo’) will do just as well. I grabbed them from the nursery on an impulse as they were looking so stunning, and I was pleased to then find them recommended by Dan Pearson as one of his all time top plants in Gardens Illustrated later in the month. They’re very beautiful, with their long stems and white star-shaped flowers, striped down the middle with a faint line.

Stachys byzantina

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I can’t resist plants with fluffy leaves. So it is, the garden is heaving with Salvia argentea (which is a bit ratty looking to show you at the moment) and the lamb’s ear above (Stachys byzantina), which looks especially fantastic when it catches dew in the morning.

Stipa tenuissimaMiscanthus sinensis

I’ve also added a few grasses. The beautiful Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima), above top, which glows in the sunlight and waves around in the wind in a most fantastic way. I might have to try and take a video sometime. And some brilliant miscanthus, to provide huge seed heads throughout the winter.

Blossom

Finally, a blossom shot, hooray! Not, actually, a tree in my garden, but from my neighbour’s. Spring is so very, very nearly here.

Joining in, as ever, with Annie and How does your garden grow.

In the garden: February

Magnolia stellata | Wolves in LondonSlipping in, just in time, on this fabulous extra day of the year to share some photos of the February garden, taken throughout this month.

If you were to look at a year in gardening, February would be the month of planning. Reading the seed catalogues, choosing the fruit and veg for the year ahead, deciding about changes to make in the garden and – above all – checking the air for signs of imminent Spring.

In the garden itself, not much is new in February. And this is especially true this year with the unseasonably warm Winter meaning that all my Spring plants put their heads above soil last month in January. But everything is looking that little bit more wonderful.

magnolia flower

The magnolia flowers are almost all fully unfurled, their petals luxuriating in the odd day of sunshine. The daffodils are bobbing about in the windowboxes, shaking off early morning raindrops and enjoying the lighter evenings.

Daffodil bud daffodil flower water on daffodil water sroplet

Buds are everywhere: on the cherry tree in the front garden and the apple and pear in the back. The acer is showing signs of bursting into leaf any time soon. And the catkins from next door are drooping over the fence…

Catkins

Spring, we’re ready and waiting for you.

In the garden: January

What a weird weather January it’s been so far.

I have to admit, I was not one of those welcoming the cold snap a few weeks back with open arms. Nope, my arms were huddled inside three trillion layers of clothes, wearing gloves, sitting under a blanket, clutching a cup of hot chocolate in front of the fire.

I really hate being cold.

Magnolia flower bud

I was concerned that the garden might find it similarly hard to adjust after such an incredibly warm winter so far. Magnolia buds had appeared unseasonably early and started to unfurl a few weeks ago. I was sure they’d get frosted and drop off last week, but — lo and behold — they seem utterly nonplussed by the minus temperatures and instead the first flowers have come out. In January!

(A few years back I was seeing the magnolia tree come into flower in May, so this is five whole months in advance. A most bizarre winter…)

CrocusSnowdrop | Wolves in London

In the back garden, all of the Winter and Spring bulbs have put their heads above ground at once. A host of purple crocuses had appeared to greet me on my return from a weekend away.  (We were house-hunting in Wiltshire, about which I had a huge chat and lots of brilliant advice over on this instagram photo…) Crocuses normally appear significantly after the snowdrops, but both are out right now, as are my first Tete-a-tete daffodils, which are cheering up the window boxes in front of the house.

DaffodilsDaffodil window box

What will happen once March actually arrives, I’m not quite sure.

The alstromerias are seriously confused by the weather as well. They should be in flower in summer and autumn, yet buds have been appearing already. Are these late bloomers from last year or early bloomers from this year? I suspect they don’t know either.

Alstromeria | Wolves in London

Finally, I’m almost embarrassed to put in this photo but, yes, my wallflower (Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’) is, as ever, in flower… When I first bought this I wondered if it was going to live up to its RHS AGM (which stands for general merit award or some such, and not annual general meeting) but a plant that flowers pretty much non-stop the entire year has to be good in anyone’s books.

Wallflower | Wolves in London

Generally, though, there’s not a huge amount to show you this month, as the garden is mostly mud, mud, glorious (and sometimes frozen) mud, after we pulled the greenhouse down, and started to mark out new flower beds.

I’m getting properly excited about planting it all up next month or the month after. I keep vacillating on the colour palette I’m going to choose, veering between whites, pinks, blues and greys (basically, a bit restrained but good for making a smallish garden look bigger) or some amazing lime greens and deep reds, taking inspiration from the colours of the stunning Euphorbia martini in the photo below.

Euphorbia x martini
© Crocus

I suspect safe and boring will win out, especially as we might be looking to try and sell our house fairly soon anyway. Ah well, if we do buy somewhere with a big garden, I can test out exciting colour combos to my heart’s content!

Joining in with the ever lovely Annie of Fable & Folk and How Does Your Garden Grow. Incidentally, my plan for 2016 is to share a garden post with you every month and, hopefully, by the end of the year I’ll have a glorious garden worth photographing in full, rather than just these endless plant close-ups…

In recent weeks…

Knitting in progress | Wolves in LondonThe transition from December to January has had me in a flurry of planning, organising and new starts, in a way it doesn’t normally.

Typically, the start of January sees me sitting in a post-Christmas fug, depressed about the lack of availability (or acceptability) of a Bucks Fizz for breakfast and wine at lunch and feeling too cold, bleak and depressed to leave the house.

But for some reason, this year, I am full of verve and vigour and (dare I say it) resolution.

I’ve been knitting up a storm in the evenings, capitalising on the pre-Christmas bobble hat knitting with a jumper for the sproglet that has been all but completed in a fortnight. Actually, though I say this, it has been sitting in a little neglected slump for the past few nights, waiting for me to sew the side seams together – the solitary remaining task before it’s ready to wear. Why oh why is sewing up the seams and knitting in the ends such a dreary end task to the joy of knitting an item?!

Homeknitted bobble hats | Wolves in London
I don’t think I ever showed you these hats – the last ones I knit for cash just before Christmas

After that, I have just one more bobble hat to make for a friend and then I think a pair of mittens for the littlest will be the next thing on the needles. Anyone happen to know of any good patterns for toddler mittens?

In non-knitting news, I have been planning all the plants for our garden, ready to head out and buy them as soon as spring arrives. Meanwhile, I’ve been very very very busy directing, hem hem, my poor old workhorse of a husband for what shape the beds should be and where he should lay the huge slabs of stone that he is moving round the garden on his own…

Oh, and that our oft-maligned (in this blog, at least) greenhouse was removed yesterday so it’s crunch time for making the decision about what will go at the bottom of the garden. Despite the support for option three, (the micro pig option) I am pretty sure I’m going to be sensible and stick with option one: a small shed-slash-greenhouse, along with some raised veg beds. And perhaps a cute (twee?) white picket fence and gate to separate off the far end of the garden from the rest.

Thursday saw me up in Regents Park, back at my garden design course again; the second week of the year and we were set our first assignment. I am chomping at the bit with excitement about everything we’re doing this year. Our final project is to design a show garden and our tutor told us about a student from a few years ago who submitted his show garden from the assignment to Hampton Court Flower Show, was accepted, and won a gold.

So, yup, that’s the dream now. Aim high, right?!

Anyway, happy Monday to you all, I hope there is a good week in store…

The bottom of the garden

What will go at the bottom of the garden? Endless hours, days and possibly even weeks have been spent pondering this dilemma in the three years we’ve lived in this house.

Our house renovations / remodeling / decorating / re-decorating where the kids have drawn on the walls are almost finished. (Yes, I know I’ve been promising pictures for the best part of three years and just as soon as I manage to have a single room tidy enough to photograph I will grab my camera and snap away…)

So now we’ve moved onto the garden. After similar pontifications on the fate on the pond, we finally decided to get rid of it, and the biggest two-thirds of the garden are in the process of being dug out and re-planted in time for next spring.

But the bottom third currently still has my old greenhouse in it and I am still, still undecided about what do with it.

Let me tell you the options in the hope it helps me come to a decision.

Option one: replace the greenhouse with another, smaller greenhouse and surround the greenhouse with raised veg beds.

Allitex greenhouse at Hampton Court show | Wolves in London

Aka, the sensible option.

I love my giant greenhouse but it is too big and too dangerous to keep (I found that one of the shelves is made of asbestos the other day and the glass panes have a tendency to drop out of the sides and smash). Plus, I don’t really use all of the space for growing plants, but a lot of it for storage.

So, obvious answer: replace it with a small greenhouse and a small shed (even better: a combination of the two) and then surround the area with raised veg beds and I can keep on with all my vegetable and fruit growing. Which I also really love.

Cons: erm, none really.

(Okay, I know that the greenhouse above, which I photographed at Hampton Court Flower Show a few years back is surrounded by flowers, not veg, but imagine artichokes in place of the blooms and that’s basically what I’m aiming for…)

Option two: install a cool pod-style studio.

Ecospace studio

At the moment, the kids are in one of our three bedrooms, we’re in the other and the final one is a spare room slash study. Which means, in practice, a double bed that hardly ever gets slept in is surrounded by endless bits of paper and books and all the other dross that I need for my garden design course or that won’t fit anywhere else in the house.

I have my eye on one of these awesome studios by ecospace (website: www.ecospacestudios.com), which would look really cool at the end of the garden, and I could use for working on all my assignments and into the future if I start my own garden design business. Perhaps we could even put a small daybed / sofa in there for people to sleep on if they come to stay.

Cons: The expense is by far the biggest one. I am finding the website a bit hard to read properly, but it looks like it would cost around £20k for a studio the right size for our garden. Which, sadly, I don’t have sloshing around a bank account at the moment. Also, the fact that it might be a bit lonely working at the end of my garden. It might not be the most fun for people sleeping over in the winter months to have to use the bathroom in the house and then walk down the path in their PJs and slippers in the freezing cold / drizzling rain to go to bed.

Option three: pigs. Of course!

Micropig
© Petpiggies

So, erm, I just discovered that the minimum amount of space you need for a micropig is 36m2. And, guess what, the space at the bottom of the garden is… …36m2.

A match made in heaven?

Oink oink, I think he’s just snorting, “Buy me Sabrina, buy me!”

Cons: the husband is not convinved this is a “sensible option.” He just might have a point.

Well, written out like that it’s clear what the winner is. Anyone have any last ditch arguments to swing it over to the pigs side?!

Over on Pinterest: houseplant heaven

Houseplant heaven | Wolves in London
Helsinki botanical garden © Ukkonooa

Since joining in with Urban Jungle Bloggers these past few months, I’ve been seriously bitten with the houseplant bug.

I’ve got to confess, for a long time I thought houseplants were a bit 70s. A bit naff. A bit macramé pot holders (though they, of course, are now massively back in fashion…) And, most of all, a haven for endless dust.

These days, though, I’ve got a “more is more” philosophy on plants in houses. My collection of ferns in the bathroom has outgrown its spot and been moved to new positions throughout my home. A recently acquired hoard of succulents sits on the mantelpiece. And upstairs, I’ve got some lovely little tillandsia in glass baubles, waiting to be strung from an old branch.

Houseplant heaven | Wolves in London
© Decorating with Plants, Time Life Books 1978 via Supreme interiors
Houseplant heaven | Wolves in London
© Sunset ideas for Hanging Gardens, 1974 via The Secret Garden blog

But not enough! Not enough! I crave ever more interesting and new ways to introduce houseplants (the weirder, the better) to my relatively dark and small Victorian terrace.

I’ve been pinning away some of my favourite images for inspiration to a new board, Houseplant Heaven. Do go over and take a look if a green indoor oasis is your style too, you’ll find the photos in this post, plus many many more…

Release the frogs!

Frog | Wolves in LondonThese past few weekends we’ve been digging out the pond from the bottom of our garden to convert it to flower bed.

I’d been agonising about what to do with the pond (as is my wont) for a good few years. On the one hand, the pond isn’t very safe for the kids, is under three apple trees so spends a large portion of the year full of rotting apples, and leaves a huge swathe of bed behind it completely unreachable and, therefore, covered in bindweed and more rotting apples.

One the other hand, it’s the home of huge numbers of frogs, which we all love.

Finally, the first argument won over, and so — with plans to put a new, smaller pond in place somewhere that’s not under loads of trees — we’ve decided to dig this one out.

Job one: removing the water and re-housing the resident frogs. Which was wildly, vastly more fun than I could have possibly imagined.

We thought we had a few frogs in there. If pushed to pick a number I probably would have settled on five. But, slowly removing all the water in bucketloads, we discovered about 30, including a couple of soon-to-be Mums, their bellies fat with eggs.

The boys and I watched on, impressed, as my husband caught them all in his hands and put them into a bucket of pond water. And then we set off, the four of us, down to the lake in the local park to set them all free for a new home.

The littlest was especially impressed with the frogs, pointing at them and yelling “Rog! Rog! Touch! Touch!” so we soon developed the routine that the hubby would get a frog from the bucket, hand it to the littlest, who then set it free beyond the fence of the pond.

(Where they mostly sat around looking perplexed for an alarmingly long time and I worried that the heron was going to swoop down and eat them at any second.)

By the third trip, we had gathered a bit of a crowd to watch the frog-releasing exploits, and even the sproglet and I gathered up enough bravery to also hold and release a frog of our own. We made a few new friends, had some good frog banter, and my husband was even called “a modern David Attenborough” — which I think made his day week year as Attenborough is his number one hero.

All in all, the perfect way to spend a Sunday.

NB In all the excitement, I completely failed to take any photos of the frog-handling / frog-releasing so instead you’ve got an old photo from a few years back of the frogs in the pond as it used to be (you know, in case you’ve forgotten what a frog looks like while you’re reading this…)