Anarchic Garden Design in a Post Brexit World

“This blog post is a part of Design Blogger Competition organized by CGTrader



Garden Design has lost its way.

Garden shows regularly regurgitate the same mixture of recreating the natural environment, another take on wild meadows, naturalistic planting,  ponds, water features,  seating for contemplation, pastiches of Mediterranean, Japanese and other International styles,  landscapes revisited and yet more contemporary modernist patios for small city gardens.  To acheive these gardens for ourselves we need time money and our own space. Once we have these generally we hide ourselves away in our own space and loneliness can slowly creep in.

Gardens are for everyone and co-opererative gardening has tremendous health benefits.

What we need to do to inspire young millennial designers of today is to offer up a new vision of their future and a practical way to obtain it.  Few youngsters have access to land or funds  with which they can let their imaginations run wild and flourish  and yet armed in an escapable free world of computer games,  many young adults and children spend hours  creating entire lands and cities to play in.

Ninety percent of our population now live in towns and cities.  Living in these environments can feel claustrophobic and hectic, unhealthy and grey.  However, when I look at old photographs of my old town Brighton, many streets actually appear quite generous in width, so why do they feel so mean?  Then I realised that this is the only way forward.  I propose that our mission for the future (should we choose to accept it) is to ban all cars, buses and lorries from our built environment and tear up the roads to start planting. We replace cars with a free moving electric public transport system and cycle ways.

Cars will be relegated to underground car parks or on the city fringe.

All roofs will become sources of energy from solar panel tiles and water gathering devices. We reintroduce a network of open rainwater channels to capture and irrigate our newly acquired garden highways and we  plant them with all manner of fruit and nut trees and shrubs, crops and vegetables. The old high streets and parks could be glazed over providing ‘projects of eden’ for growing more exotic fruit and vegetables.  Shopping for all other items will be either via the internet or on the city boundaries rather than the centre.  Let’s turn our cities inside out. Fences and walls between houses are pulled down with a free to roam policy for all. Our air will be cleaner and our garden streets safer for children to play outside once again. Vines could be encouraged to grow between buildings and across roads to provide shade from the sun and prevent the ever increasing number of sufferers from cancerous Melanoma.

We could all then grow food right outside our doors to share within the community.  Horticultural knowledge could pass between the generations and children will understand where their food comes from.  Huge progress is already being made in establishing vertical green  walls  as cladding, to keep our buildings cool, provide flowers for our pollinating  insects and nesting sites for songbirds. So let’s adorn our houses with plants.

We respectfully give  our towns over, street by street, to gardening with a purpose, where ‘sharing’ rather than ‘owning’ is the new language and we bring  back nature, health, safety and happiness into all our lives again.

This is my utopian vision for the future of garden design in towns and cities, child-like in nature but  not entirely inconceivable..






My Chelsea Flower Show 2017

Setting off … very excited, the sun is shining and it’s a glorious day…

Meet up with Chris for lunch first and a spot of research in a Chelsea Nursery

We have tickets for the 3.30 – 8pm slot but are allowed in at 2pm. Thats loads of time. As we enter everyone is shuffling around at zombie pace already- I don’t blame them, it is  hot. I know we’ll be the same in 5 hours time. We have energy, swerve the show gardens and head straight for the Great Pavilion. We gather up Alix en route and then all hell is let loose as we get excited and cameras are out for our favourites. From past experience I take photos of the flowers that I love – and labels (I think the exhibitors are missing a trick not plastering their name all over the labels?) .  Alix is a little more old fashioned and it’s all pen and paper for her.  I query this but she reassures me that that is the way she works.

OK I’ve already ordered 200 Narcissi for a client, having discussed with the gang which ones really are the most beautiful – but forgotten to take photos and we’re straight onto the Tulips…

So those flowers featured in the ‘Old Masters’ are/were in? – Here is one. Tulipa Grand Perfection

Next fave is Tulipa Blue Parrot

Apparently it can last 3 weeks – that is one whole week longer than many and a great additional attribute.

I hasten to add that these tulips will not look great together in my mind! Next one I love is Tulipa sprengeri… it’s been available for a long time now but oh how lovely:

and so the next stand is Bonsai???!! well, so the mind then has to disassociate from Spring bulbs and move onto miniature trees.  I can do that.

I home in straight away to this gorgeous coloured tree.  After a brief discussion with a Bonsai practitioner standing next to me, we agree this is a show-stopper;  Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’. I then spot

Pyracantha? Surely not? This hum-drum filler of a climber for a north facing wall has been transformed into this? I have now just bought one from Morrisons for less than 3 quid – hopefully in five years time I will have recreated this!

Moving on..

I’ve just got into Acers – way after everyone else, in fact practically every stall had Acers as a foil/back drop. Why? Anyway it seems that in America this whitish acer is called Ghost1 or 2, whilst here it is called Acer palmatum wigume or ukigume. I liked it.

Next in this list of completely unrelated plants, I was looking for a Bourganvillea for home and while I love that ridiculously garish pink one in the south of France, I don’t think I can resist this one called Bridal bouquet.

Hours later we emerge from the Pavilion blinking in the sun light – briefly hit and miss the show gardens, partake of a splendidly prepared picnic and have no time left to peruse any more…

I went home smiling and contented

Heart of Flowers

Where would we be without Hellebores at this time of year?

The race is on and I’m still trying to grab all those little weed seedlings, springing up right before my very eyes.  In between some more major jobs, I can be found kneeling down and combing over the ground, patiently removing them with my hand fork.  I remember an old allotmenteer commenting once on my weeding stance ‘What are you doing scrabbling around down there like a chicken in dirt? You need a hoe’  Well, he had a point.  If the garden plants were set out in nice neat rows like his vegetable patch, I’d be the first one to grab a hoe.  As it is,  I have to be more discerning..

For example, we enjoy growing forget-me-nots which are annual self seeders. At this time of year they look like this:

for the last couple of years we have been inundated with this:

Valerianella locusta, otherwise known as Lamb’s lettuce.

Close up you can see the differences in colour, leaf shape and veining but faced with a patch of both, you have to get really quite close to tell them apart:

Weeding them out can  drive you crazy if you allow it, I actually find the process quite meditative.

When we were not scrabbling around like chickens last week, we were doing this:

Still pruning roses

Cutting down Miscanthus

and transplanting snowdrops around…


Coppicing the willows and dogwood

and taking cuttings.  Making bundles for later use as plant supports

and most importantly enjoying the garden, both outside

Cornus mas

Hellebore foetidus

AND IN… (all very fragrant)


Euphorbia myrsinites


Spotted laurel




Coming back to Winter

I’ve just got back from a fabulous month long trip to the Antipodes – +30degreesC temperatures- and wearing my plant-hunter hat, the wonderful Lord Howe Island gave me all a ‘palm loving’ gardener could ask for. Forests of Kentia Palms (indigenous to the Island) and others – featured on the stamps below – only growing on the top of the these two mountains with their very specific climates.

Such a wonderful holiday, I was sad to leave, but my small bag tells the story!

Home I came, to a very different world of icy cold grey days and garden neglect..

Last year’s perennials strewn across the borders and Hellebore leaves obscuring the delicate new flowers.  For some gardeners this winter abandonment is absolutely fine as the coverage provides hiding places for wildlife. This is an excellent excuse to stay indoors and do nothing.  However I firmly believe that there are plenty of alternative hiding spots around the garden for the newts and frogs and if we stumble across a hedgehog nestled in some grasses we just tuck them back in again.

So with my trusty gardening colleagues Emma and Chris

we set about putting the gardens right.

With these two cheeky chappies, the jet lag was forgotten and the fun began.

the old hellebore leaves now no longer detract from the glory of these mid-winter beauties:

The dead fern leaves were cut back to the ground

and old flower spikes went too…

The hedges and Bay tree were trimmed before birds start nesting

and the weeds – yes the weeds are still growing – have been carefully disposed of (at least for now).

Aaaaaah, now that feels better and looks just great! The perfect antidote to coming back to winter.



Brimming with life


It’s too soon to turn your back on your garden.

Plants may be fading and you may be  itching to pull out old annuals and cut back the perennials and start the big tidy up, but let’s take a moment to appreciate the here and now.

I’d like to savour the early days of Autumn when the greens turn to orange, the apples, pears and berries ripen and glow and the seed heads rattle in the breeze

The spiders are busy spinning their webs which glisten in the early morning dew like  pearl necklaces.

The late summer flowers of Dahlias and Alstroemerias crash and burn with the failing support of the other plants around them and the ornamental grasses, chinese lanterns and Red Hot Pokers are just coming into their own.

There’s still so much to enjoy. Cut and bring into the home a few simple daily reminders of the world outside.





All that hard work and effort must be rewarded.  This is a great time of year to share, enjoy and celebrate the rewards of gardening.

Too soon it is gone.

Pick it, give it.

Let’s celebrate summer.


My humble offering is dedicated to the Pride Parade this weekend in Brighton. This is an opportunity to  welcome and enjoy diversity in this city and beyond.  It is a chance for the flamboyant, casual and even demure folk to take to the streets to recognise and be proud of the freedom that we have.  To celebrate the open attitude to Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transexuals that our generation has made real and ok.  It also highlights the many countries that have yet to acknowledge LGBT rights within the community and have severe punishments for people expressing themselves this way…

Here is my rainbow of flowers…The rainbow being the symbol of LGBT rights worldwide.

The Journey from Garden to Vase…

Today, on our weekly visit to Newtimber Place garden, we were discussing how fast the scenery changes in the garden, particularly at this time of year. The cherry blossom was stunningly beautiful but gone after just a couple of weeks. We saw it twice.  Luckily this was followed by the apple blossom and shortly the Philadelphus will be flowering. All these wonderful flowering trees and shrubs in our gardens and yet we tend to stick with bought flowers for our homes.  Many of which have been flown in from faraway lands.

Let’s rejoice in our Spring Summer Autumn and Winter and bring our gardens into the home! Let these seasons pervade our houses in vases to try and eek out every moment of their beauty and scent whilst wandering from room to room.

The very lovely and creative Floral Artist, Beata Burke, and I have decided to bring you some ideas for a seasonal arrangement, picked directly from the garden.  Many of you won’t have access to all the choice we have here at Newtimber, but you may be surprised to have some of the plants and at least find some inspiration from our choices…


Here is Bea gathering the goodies.  All you need is a sharp pair of secateurs and half a bucket of water.


Weeping Pear - Pyrus salicifolia 'Pendula'

Weeping Pear – Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’

Copper Beech

Copper Beech



Cow parsley

Cow parsley

She also picked some Honey suckle,  blossoming Crab apple and cow parsley


Crab Apple

Crab Apple



The Grand Finale



Bea’s business ethos is to use  British  grown seasonal plants in her designs.  To see more of Beata’s work you can visit her website…

To stay in one of the holiday cottages at Newtimber Place, please visit the website…

Spring Showstoppers

Oh wow, higher temperatures and a sprinkling of rain and the gardens have gone native. I literally walked round with an open mouth, in shock, at the incredible amount of growth in a week.

When Mother Nature puts her mind to it, she can really overwhelm us.

However there’s no time to stand and gawp when there’s work  to be done…

We’ve waged war on the Spanish Bluebell  over the last couple of weeks and  created a mountain of the invaders.  It’s an impossible task to get rid of them all in one year but we have made a start and set the bar for the future.


The top pile are the Spanish, bottom are the dainty English ‘bells.


Now is the time to buy seed of Biennials ready to sow (in the next few weeks) and grow for flowers next year.  Along with Foxgloves and Hollyhocks, a must have plant is this stunning variegated white Honesty..




If you have your hand in your purse and space for more plants another great purchase would be 20-30 bulbs (more if you can afford it) of beautiful blue Camassia. Good positioned in dappled shade and moist soil.



The first Peonies are nearly over with the promise of more to come.

No garden should be without..



We’ve provided them with these ‘living willow’ supports as the flower heads get too heavy when it rains.

That’s the fun bit over, now back to the weeding 🙁

Back in the driving seat



A year ago I put in an offer on a new place to live. I won the bid and bought myself a wreck of a home that has taken this long to make  habitable.  It has taken a whole year out of my gardening life and blog to move and put down roots in a new home..Finally I feel like I have arrived.

I have continued to garden during the year but my heart has been elsewhere. Naturally, I have focused on interiors rather than exteriors. When you don’t have a bathroom or kitchen your priorities change..    Gardening,  however, has kept me grounded during this transient period of my life, such a therapeutic profession.

My heart lies with both Architecture and Horticulture and  marrying of the two. The first most often inspired by the second.  I have moved into a Georgian property where the proportions and details within are so carefully considered they can only have been inspired by the Golden Ratio (The golden ratio appears in some patterns in nature, including the spiral arrangement of leaves and other plant parts.)

So I return at the best time of year for any British Gardener – Spring! Heralded by the flowering of my favourite Lily.. Zantedeshia

They grow well in damp conditions.  In fact they can grow in shallow water as a marginal plant..

So, hello again to all my fellow gardeners.. here’s to another fabulous year in the garden 🙂

July Stars of the Show

Well it really has been a fabulous week in the garden.. the sun, the rain, the sun, the rain, mid-summer joy with still plenty more excitement to come.  So let’s just immerse ourselves in what we have now…



Crying out to be a crumble. They look so moreish.


Dahlias, sweet peas and Salvias

The most delicious courgettes  (seed supplied by Marshalls) roasted or steamed yum yum yum.


Philadelphus – the most delightful flowering shrub in the borders right now. The perfume from the flowers just blows you away and they last and last in a jug. J’adore…


Lilium regale album.  I really wasn’t sure they would survive in this heavy clay soil, but 3 years on they are thriving.  You could stake every single one to stand upright, but in my mind that is way too many stakes and string. Let them reach out. The perfume is glorious.


The white and yellow sings out with the yellow Corydalis rooting itself in the brickwork behind.



More Lilium regale in the raised beds by the patio.  Mixed with a purple Heuchera, sombre Sweet Williams, Alliums of all shapes and sizes and the lime green Cotinus  (smoke bush).. I’m happy with this.


Finally, Pauline is let loose with the hedge-trimmer.  She makes a fabulous job of the Beech hedge despite it being her first time with the mean machine.

“All for one, and one for all”


Brighton based gardener with lots of great ideas