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 All that gaudy pink has been replaced by the Hydrangea grown in a tub.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.

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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

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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!

Brunel Museum

The Brunel Museum

The Brunel Museum will be open during Open Garden Squares Weekend, 17 & 18 June – do visit! The Museum is housed in the Engine House which was built by Sir Marc and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel as part of the Thames Tunnel. The garden is on top of the Rotherhithe shaft and home to the cocktail bar, The Midnight Apothecary, whose cocktails use flavourings grown in the garden.

The Brunel Museum

The Tower or Rotherhithe Shaft was the original entrance to the Thames Tunnel, the first tunnel a river anywhere in the world. The Tunnel was built between 1825-43. The day the Tunnel opened 50,000 paid to walk under the Thames! The Tunnel was built to facilitate trade across the river, however, not as a tourist attraction. Today the shaft is used as a performance space and the garden on top of the shaft is home to the cocktail bar, The Midnight Apothecary, whose cocktails use flavourings grown in the garden or foraged locally.

Building the Thames Tunnel (https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Thames_Tunnel)
Building the Thames Tunnel (https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Thames_Tunnel)
The Brunel Museum
The top of the shaft leading down into the Thames Tunnel today

The Brunel MuseumThe Brunel Museum

The Brunel MuseumIsambard Kingdom Brunel’s work is humourously remembered in two benches at the Museum – the Hungerford Bridge (1845) and the Royal Albert Bridge in Saltash (1854). And don’t miss the striking seats and table behind the Museum, or the remains of the priming pump from the Surrey Docks.

The Hungerford Bridge seat at The Brunel Museum
The Hungerford Bridge seat at The Brunel Museum
The Royal Albert Bridge seat at The Brunel Museum
The Royal Albert Bridge seat at The Brunel Museum
Priming pump from the Surrey Docks (L), The Brunel Museum
Priming pump from the Surrey Docks (L), The Brunel Museum

The Royal Albert Bridge seat at The Brunel MuseumThe Brunel Museum

Winterton House off the Commercial Road

Winterton House is a ‘Hidden Gem’ in Open Garden Squares Weekend on 18 June 2017. This wonderful garden is tucked away behind a building that gives no hint of anything horticulturally special. But do visit! The photographs give you a taste of the garden where plants of all kinds and varieties are on show and there is also a small allottment area and speciality poultry and ducks.Winterton House

Lavender Pond

The Secret Woodland at Lavender Pond

Behind the reeds in front of the Pumphouse at Lavender Pond is another secret pond and a cool woodland area, and you can visit both on Saturday 17 June 2017 during the Open Garden Squares Weekend. This small nature reserve in the former Surrey Commercial Docks is a haven for wildlife – peaceful and quiet on the edge of the Thames and in sight of the towers of Canary Wharf. The entrance is on Rotherhithe Street, past the ‘works end’ of the site.

Lavender Pond Nature Reserve

Lavender Pond Nature Reserve

Lavender Pond Nature Reserve

I visited Lavender Pond last year and posted on the historical origins of this interesting small nature reserve fashioned out of the remains of part of the Surrey Commercial Docks. The Pond was originally much bigger and used for floating logs to keep them from splitting. ‘In 1928 the entrance to the pond was blocked when the Port of London Authority built the Pumphouse on the site to control the water levels in Surrey Docks. In 1970 the Docks were closed. The area became neglected and the pond was filled in, but in 1981 the pond was re-created as part of a nature reserve.‘ As you can see from the map below the ‘pond’ was an enormous area. Do visit this excellent blog for detailed history of the docks.

Surrey Commercial Docks, 1908 (www.mapco.net)
Surrey Commercial Docks, 1908 (www.mapco.net)
Timber handling in the Surrey Commercial Docks (http://russiadock.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/the-commercial-dock-company-history-of.html)
Timber handling in the Surrey Commercial Docks (http://russiadock.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/the-commercial-dock-company-history-of.html)

The Pumphouse stands at the head of the Pond and the remains of the lock gate are still in place, and still functioning. The channel into the Thames is clear and from the mouth, at river, Canary Wharf is just a stone’s throw away. Traffic up and down the river is slightly different  these days and it is startling to realise how quickly the changes have come.

The entrance to Lavender Pond
The entrance to Lavender Pond
The Pumphouse at Lavender Pond
The Pumphouse at Lavender Pond

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The large pond in front of the Pumphouse is enjoyed by the birds, and the local residents throughout the year – you can sit on the benches and enjoy the flowers and wildlife in complete peace and quiet.

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Benches at Lavender Pond

Flowers at Lavender Pond

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And then there is the ‘secret pond’ behind the rushes, with an area of woodland which will develop into a magical place as the years pass.

Lavender Pond

Further information
An interesting paper on the history of the Surrey Commercial Docks
The Docklands History Group
A walk around the Surrey Docks

Roses in Cable Street Gardens

A Bouquet of Roses from Cable Street Community Garden

Cable Street Community Gardens will be open on Sunday 18 June during Open Garden Squares Weekend – do visit! I posted a general view of the gardens previously but I had to return because the roses are just …. well, I can’t really find the words because ‘beautiful’, ‘elegant’, ‘delightful’, ‘fragrant’ don’t begin to describe the wonder of these exquisite blooms alongside the DLR in Tower Hamlets. The roses were just as beautiful last year – standing proud, draped over fences and arches, and climbing into trees, the scent mingling with honeysuckle and jasmine.

Roses in Cable Street Gardens

Cable Street Community Garden

Cable Street Community Garden will be open again this year, on Sunday 18 June, during the Open Garden Squares WeekendThis peaceful site is one of several in the historic Docklands Area in London and I was lucky to have a preview this week. The site is in Hardinge Street, just off Cable Street – which is a very clear clue to the history of the area – and is c.2 acres of organic gardens on either side of the Docklands Light Railway. The gardens are locked for safety so don’t miss this opportunity to visit this remarkable and magical haven and meet its friendly gardeners.

Cable Street Gardens