Snooping round-up part 2

I am stumped for a weak pun-based title today, as this post is another compendium of  nice gardens I’ve seen lately.

This included some charity-endorsed (therefore non-nosey parkerish) snooping, as I went to an open day of a beautiful garden in West Dulwich in mid-June – it turned out to be another of those rotten days which started out promisingly but turned later into a torrential downpour, but the garden at least looked sparkling and green in the fresh post-rain atmosphere.

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The garden included these gorgeous cream foxgloves, which made me feel my common purple ones were very bog-standard in comparison, and some very splendid campanulas – I grow plenty of the small variety, which seem to spread themselves everywhere very easily, but I’d love to produce something as beautiful as this:

ImageThere was also a proper ‘wild’ area at the end of the garden which showed what flowers like red campion and scabious ought to look like in a meadow environment instead of sprawling out of my raised bed – and a lovely display of poppies in a mixed bed, below:

ImageSeeing successful mixed planting like this made me realise how hard it must be to produce what looks natural and unplanned and how much I still have to learn – I’ve repeatedly, stupidly, planted tall plants at the front of beds and allowed some unsuitable things to sprout far too big until they swamp the surrounding plants.

This reminded me of a garden I’ve been meaning to photograph for a while, but keep forgetting to, as it’s right on my doorstep on the neighbouring street. Finally I remembered to stop and take a picture on my way home: it’s an absolute gem of a front garden.

The photo doesn’t really do it justice, but what I particularly love are the splashes of bright orange poppies (California poppies, I imagine?) – and a bit like my garden, it’s scruffy and has the odd bare patch, but somehow it just looks right. Again, though I’ve never seen anyone at work in the garden when I pass by, I bet it takes a lot of work to keep it looking like that.

Finally, something sweet and simple that caught my eye the other day, a planter outside a cottage in West Norwood:

Petunia, pelargonium, lobelia and ox-eye daisy. What could possibly be nicer?

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In the days before broadband….

…or Twitter or Flickr or Facebook or Pinterest, I had a scrapbook.

After I reminisced about it the other week in a blog, I thought it was about time I dug it out again, to remind me of the interior design ideas I lusted after in the heady dotcom days of 2001, when loft apartments with bare brick walls, Eames chairs and coffee tables on oversized wheels were all the rage.

The scrapbook was on a very high shelf in my bedroom which had been out of bounds for several months – firstly because I was too pregnant to go up a stepladder, and then because the baby’s Moses basket has been in the way. However, a recent spring clean effort finally got me clearing out that particular shelf and down the dusty old scrapbook came.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the things I was into back in the day…

ImageThis was my Oriental-themed page – most of the contents came from the pages of the Pier catalogue, I think. (That’s another aspect of this nostalgia trip…reminding me of the home decor shops of Tottenham Court Road, where I used to work, and which now no longer exist).

In terms of more current preferences, I do still have a collection of blue-and-white china which I’m very fond of, but I no longer desire to fill my home with imitation Buddhas or bowls of floating candles (didn’t they make the water all waxy and dusty? – most unattractive, I recall).

ImageThis was my ‘red’ page – I was getting very into collecting pictures by theme by then, rather than just randomly pasting them in, and remember I was very proud of how this page looked (especially the stained glass window lady in the middle, to paraphrase the Dude, really pulled the whole thing together).

Relevance to my current tastes? Not much, really, although I do have a vertical striped stair runner a bit like the rug on the right. Oh, and my sofa is red.

ImageHmm. This page is a bit incoherent, I can’t remember why I photographed this one in particular now, but the treehouse is very cool, hey?

ImageAh, this is a bit more like it – some of my favourite flowers on this page, including alliums, stocks and roses, and the picture in the middle of blue/cream/mauve flowers is very similar to the colour scheme I picked for my wedding, so it’s very pleasing to see I’ve been so consistent in my tastes all these years.

When I found the scrapbook, it was over half full, and with a lot of loose pictures I’d never got round to sticking in – so I grabbed a Pritt Stick, got to work, and filled another couple of pages before the glue ran out.

It would be nice to finish it completely one day, but I’m not sure I have the time to go through magazines any more cutting things out! Perhaps the baby will help out once she’s old enough to be into cutting and sticking….I may not have much in the way of artistic talent to pass on, but anyone can make a scrapbook, even me, and I hope she gets as much fun out of it as I did.

In praise of pelargoniums

A very overdue blog, as life and baby-rearing have rather taken over, and the weather has limited my actual time spent in the garden, bar the odd bit of dead-heading here and there.

However, two weekends ago I paid a visit to a new garden centre in the area, Alexandra Nurseries  in Penge. It combines a pleasing selection of vintage bits and bobs with cake, and very reasonably priced plants.

I was struck by a gorgeous collection of pelargoniums right by the entrance and couldn’t resist taking a picture:

Gorgeous pelargoniums at Alexandra NurseriesPelargoniums are plants I feel I oughtn’t to like and yet somehow do – having always called them ‘geraniums’, I only discovered recently that true geraniums are actually the wild purple ones (what I knew as crane’s-bill as a child, and therefore related to wretched Herb Robert which seeds itself ALL OVER my garden).

While the wild ones have a lovely rambling romantic feel to them – and that blushing shade of purple is one I’ve already admired on a previous blog – to me, pelargoniums are a strictly garden plant, happiest when tidily spaced on windowsills or in terracotta pots.

The range of colours, as per the display above, couldn’t fail to warm the hardest heart, and I have grown every shade from white to bright fuschia pink, but there is a particular shade of salmon pink which is my favourite, and it has a story attached to it.

The story goes that my maternal grandmother saw a salmon pink pelargonium growing at the Welsh open-air museum of national history, St Fagans near Cardiff, and took a fancy to it. A museum attendant was walking nearby, so she asked him politely (in Welsh) ‘Could you look the other way a moment, love?’ – took a cheeky cutting of the plant, and grew it for many years.

I never met my grandmother, as she died before I was born, but having heard the story from my mother, I decided that I would grow salmon pink pelargoniums in my garden one day – and one of the first things I planted in windowboxes outside my house were pink pelargoniums.

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The windowboxes came from my local Woolworth’s, now sadly RIP, and although the first pelargoniums didn’t survive the following cold winter, they were replaced by more of the same, or pansies if I fancied a change.

However, I had a nasty surprise one October when I came home to find the windowboxes gone – a Hallowe’en trick or treat joke, I imagined at first, but when they didn’t get returned I concluded they had been stolen.

I was doubly sad to have lost one of the final things I’d bought at poor old Woolies, and one of the first  bits of planting I’d done to improve the look of the house (and cheer me up) in the early, difficult days of the renovation process.

Having lost my windowboxes for good (boo!) I now have a pink pelargonium in a wall-hanging planter by the front door – too heavy to steal, I hope! – and two more in the back garden, including this undeniably garish fuschia pink one, which has done a good job of brightening the gloomy corner by the bike shed.

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So while I’ve lost pelargoniums to frost, snow and thieves, I have not let my losses get me down, and I imagine wherever I end up gardening next, there will be a pink pelargonium somewhere in the mix.