Hillcrest Estate Woodland in Upper Sydenham

The Green Chain Walk runs through the Hillcrest Estate Woodland in Upper Sydenham on a path which is easy to follow. The path is in two sections, on either side of the blocks of flats in the middle of the woodlands. This is ancient woodland, a small part of what was once The Great North Wood.

Cox’s Walk in SE London

Cox’s Walk in SE London is a former 18C public path which used to link a public house in Dulwich, The Green Man, with the spa at Sydenham Wells. It was a ‘path with a purpose’, a practical path. The path delivered you to the spa, or perhaps offered something stronger to those who had already recovered in the spa. Today it is a pleasant and well-used stroll in ancient woodland, between Dulwich and Sydenham Hill. It is interesting to see the continuity of purposes as it seems to enjoy a similar practical aim, only now it delivers people into the woods for exercise and enjoyment.

Arnold Circus & Open Garden Squares Weekend

Arnold Circus is at the centre of the Boundary Estate, which started building in 1890 and was one of the earliest social housing developments. The Friends of Arnold Circus have renovated the bandstand and now care for the planting and wildlife on the site. This is a quiet spot, well-used, and just a few minutes away from busy Shoreditch High Street – do visit, and linger, during Open Garden Squares Weekend when you can meet some of the Friends as well. The Gardener, Andy, will be on site, planting, and willing to talk about the difficulties of shade planting, particularly dry shade planting. 

Dalston Eastern Curve & Open Garden Squares Weekend

Dalston Eastern Curve is a peaceful and calming site created from a derelict railway line and now well-patronised by local people. The black fencing and vibrant mural don’t prepare you for the green haven where gardener Emma plants in deep shade and patches of sunlight. Do visit during Open Garden Squares Weekend, or at any time during the year and support her hard work and then sit down with a cup of tea and the excellent lemon and polenta cake and relax into the peace.

Fassett Square, Hackney

Fassett Square & Open Garden Squares Weekend

One of the many pleasures of Open Garden Squares Weekend is to ‘discover’ a beautiful garden in an unexpected setting. Fassett Square is such a pleasure – a modest garden square enclosed by railings in a mix of Victorian and 20C buildings is green and lush with some pretty plant combinations. You know this will be a cared-for and enjoyable garden when you walk into the square and see luscious pink paeonies draped over a wall – do visit!

Winterton House, Clematis

Winterton House & Open Garden Squares Weekend

The Commercial Road in East London is a busy, bustling highway and Watney Street (which opens on to the Commercial Road), one of London’s oldest markets can be found here. It is always busy, multi-cultural, and with one of my favourite fabric shops. But this is a post about gardens and just round the corner is Winterton House, an uncompromising tower block of flats with a wonderful, hidden garden which was created by Melvyn and Ken from the wasteland hidden behind the building.

The City Garden at the beginning of July

Where has the time gone? It is nearly the start of the 7th month of the year and more than time to look at the garden again and review progress. This is a very difficult garden, with several patches of completely different ‘climates’ and with the overall problem of SNAILS & SLUGS! Oh, and there are the squirrels, cats, and foxes as well. I am trying to make a varied garden which is snail-resistant, but which is also relatively easy to maintain as I am the sole gardener. And I am trying not to spend a fortune on plants – the price of plants, particularly perennials and shrubs, seems to have soared, or am I being unrealistic?

At the end of May there was a lot of pink: the cistus draped over the wall was pink all through June, but needs to be cut back – this may mean its demise, but it is too woody so I will take cuttings and see what happens. And the pink geraniums were wonderful! I think they are a variety of macrorrhizum, but it hasn’t been identified. They don’t repeat – just the one glorious burst of pink. And underneath the Knautia Macedonica is finally happy with the dry heat at the base of the wall. All that gaudy pink has been replaced by the Hydrangea grown in a tub. 

A month ago the shady border along the flint wall looked like this; now the flower buds are swelling on the Japanese Anemones and the plants look really dense.Japanese Anemone 'Robustissima'Japanese Anemone 'Robustissima'Japanese Anemone 'Robustissima'

In the brick wall border the veronicastrum is falling over and the Japanese Anemones are reaching upwards. The grasses are starting to flower, the Philadelphus thrived after its early spring transplant, and various geraniums have been a joy. The Libertia and Euphorbias are going to ‘work’, I think, and I have found the snails don’t eat Tellima Grandiflora. Neither do the snails eat Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia Vulgaris) and I may have to add more next year.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Fence border, with its mix of hot, dry sunshine, and dry shade is not quite right yet. I don’t think the Viburnum Plicatum is going to flourish – we had to move it twice while redoing the garden – and so with a heavy heart it is going to be replaced. Seeing how well ‘Annabelle’ is doing near the Bay Tree I am considering hydrangeas.

Hydrangea 'Annabelle'

And then there is the fernery…

Phoenix Gardens behind Centre Point

‘…The Phoenix Garden is the best-kept secret of London’s West End. Open daily, it provides a peaceful green retreat for local residents, workers and tourists all year round, and is a haven for a wide range of urban wildlife.

Created by local volunteers in 1984 on the site of a former car park, this is the last of the Covent Garden community gardens. The location can be challenging, yet the Phoenix Garden demonstrates what can be achieved with ingenuity upon a bedrock of West End rubble. Phoenix Gardens…’.

Phoenix GardenPhoenix GardenPhoenix Garden

Trees give shade but are also interesting – birch, elder, fruit trees – and a gingko biloba. 

This is a haven of quiet – somewhere to escape from Oxford Street and just sit quietly for a while, or perhaps read the book bought at nearby Foyles.

Phoenix Garden Phoenix Garden

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Phoenix GardenPhoenix Garden

The garden is in a Victorian part of London, as you can see from the date on the warehouse, and also backs on to the Church of St Giles in the Fields.

A pond attracts dragonflies and damselflies, and, I assume, frogs to eat the snails. And there are clever planting ideas for the very dry ‘rubble bed’, created when the new centre was built. Plant your old parsnips and carrots, let them flower, and you have tall heads resembling Queen Anne’s Lace! And what about Phacelia Campanularis, salvias, and lychnis (instead of knautia macedonica) for fast-draining, hot and dry beds?

Phoenix Garden pondDragonfly in Phoenix Garden

Phacelia Campanularis
Phacelia Campanularis

Salvia Microphylla
Salvia Microphylla

Flowering parsnip
Flowering parsnip

The garden opens officially on Monday 19 June, but you can preview during Open Garden Squares Weekend – do visit!