Tom Massey

Week 10 – Tom Massey

I’m starting my next wall in a few weeks which is destined for a very nice garden in Richmond designed by the charming, talented, RHS gold medal winning, Tom Massey. As always I’ll be experimenting with my plant selection and this time I’m looking to include a number of fabulous Epimedium’s including the stunning Epimedium stellatum ‘Wudang Star’.

London Calling

Week 9 – London Calling

The full TLA team all met up in London this week to install not one but two living walls. Alan and the Stevington squad brought their walls for a fab courtyard in Highgate whilst I (the current Devon team) brought up my latest offering which slotted straight into a wonderfully modern garden in St Johns Wood designed by John Davies. John’s a fabulous designer who we’ve produced a number of living walls for over the years and you can see his beautiful portfolio of gardens here.

The Beast from the East

Week 8 – The Beast from the East

Snow, sledging and slipping around. I fleeced up the living wall that I’ve just finished (installing next week in St. John’s Wood) and headed for the slopes! Well, our own personal sledging field which sometimes doubles as a farm. Much fun was had by all including yours truly.

The devil is in the detail

Week 6 – The devil is in the detail.

I thought I’d share my latest plan. This is how it all starts. I hand draw all my vertical planting plans. This is the first draft showing my go to backbone plants. Not shown are the special plants that are sprinkled on top like hundreds and thousands on a birthday cake. These exotic rarities (such as the Saxifrage stolonoifera ‘Ginkgo 98’ PB) are not always spotted by clients but I like to hide a few surprises in amongst the greenery nonetheless. The devil is, as they say, in the detail.

“The devil is in the detail” is an idiom that refers to a catch or mysterious element hidden in the details, meaning that something might seem simple at a first look but will take more time and effort to complete than expected and derives from the earlier phrase, “God is in the detail” expressing the idea that whatever one does should be done thoroughly; i.e. details are important. When it comes to our living walls – I agree completely.

Saxifrage stolonoifera ‘Ginkgo 98’ PB

Week 5 – Saxifrage stolonoifera ‘Ginkgo 98’ PB

The 20th March is officially the first day of Spring but here in South Devon it feels like it’s already arrived. Snowdrops and daffodils are appearing everywhere as new life returns once more. Life is getting busier and business is booming. Over the last week I’ve been drawing up planting plans for our next batch of living walls. Delving once more into the wonderful world of plants, I’m introducing reliable old friends to exciting new ones. I feel it’s essential to keep experimenting and this requires research and investigation. From Devon to Scotland I roam, hunting for delicate beauty for sale. I stumble across exciting new plants offered for sale by nurseries I’ve never heard of in the most unexpected places.

One such nursery in Scotland, Growild Nursery is ‘a small nursery located on a 200 year old farm in south-west Scotland that specialises in growing rare and unusual species plants, in particular hardy perennials from Japan, China, the Himalayas and North America’. Perusing their website, I feel like a kid in a sweet shop. I want one of everything. There are so many fabulous specimens, including some that have been discovered by the internationally recognised living wall designer, botanist and plant hunter (and my personal plant-hero) Patrick Blanc. I buy numerous plants including the stunning Saxifrage stolonoifera ‘Ginkgo 98’ PB (below). It’s an evergreen species with beautiful, white, starry flowers on tall stems and rosettes of fleshy, green leaves, marked slightly with silver on younger leaves and I am very excited at the thought of including it in my next wall.

We’ve not met, but I wanted to say thank you to Lisa and Andrew at Growild and all the other dedicated plant loving nursery owners up and down the county. Your hard work brings me so much pleasure. I owe you.

What is a weed?

Week 4 – What is a weed?

A weed is just a point of view or a matter of opinion. In the latest issue of the RHS magazine, The garden, there’s an article entitled ’Tackling small, early weeds’. One of the weeds listed is Hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) and it advises hoeing or the application of weedkiller to get rid of it. In stark contrast, Marlow Renton and Eric Biggane who are wild food foragers say “this plant tastes like peppery cress crossed with rocket and is one of our favourite edibles. Great for salads, soups, salsa, pestos and anything else you might ever use cress for.” On their homepage Marlow and Eric state “We have put this site together because we have a genuine love of wild British food. We like wild food. We forage it, harvest it, cook it, dry it, prepare it, store it and eat it”. I think it’s safe to assume that they don’t consider Cardamine hirsuta (otherwise known as Hairy Bittercress, Lambs Cress, Land Cress, Spring Cress, Shot Weed or Flick Weed) a weed.

I think a weed is more often just a plant in the wrong place. It is not something to be killed and certainly doesn’t deserve to be sprayed with nasty chemicals.

It’s busy up Bedford way

Week 3 – It’s busy up Bedford way.

I’m back at our new and improved (and much loved) ’living wall production facility’ in Bedfordshire and Will, Alan and our newest recruit Peter (Alan’s brother) are hard at it. We already have over 100m2 of living walls to plant, with another 100m2 booked in. That’s a lot of plants (approx. 8000) and a lot of planting (approx. 200 days) so it’s going to be a busy start the year!

It’s still the holidays!

Week 2 – It’s still the holidays!

It’s still the holidays! Well, that’s not strictly true (but it feels like it).

Olive and Frankie started their new school, Blackawton Primary on Tuesday 2nd. Their old school (the much missed Coleridge in Crouch End) had over 900 children (120 per year) and Blackawton has 120 in the whole school. It’s a big change in so many ways, but so far so good. New friends are being made and everyone is making us feel very welcome. At the weekends we are in adventure mode, finding new places to explore and enjoy. East Portlemouth is a stunning spot. A golden strip of sand runs along the edge of the estuary as it opens out to the sea, with the town of Salcombe perched on the cliff edge opposite. This time of year it’s very wild and very windy, but that’s not going to stop us… however hats, scarves and gloves are essential.

In the ‘deep lanes’ of devon, the natural world is all around us, hard to ignore and apparently dormant. However, beneath the surface things are starting to stir. The first snow drops and primrose are opening and I’ve noticed some sheltered trees are already starting to blossom. January is the ‘dawn’ of the year and it’s time for my creativity to rise and shine.

2018: A new year, a new adventure

Week 1 – 2018: A new year, a new adventure

So I’ve some fairly biggish news to kick start 2018, I’ve moved to Devon.

We (myself, Helen and our two children Olive and Frankie) moved on December 28th… which I can now officially confirm, is a pretty nuts time of the year to move.

It’s been a long time in the planning. Or should I say more accurately, I’ve been thinking about it for decades, talking about it for years and when it finally came to it, planned the move for about oh… what must have been at least… several weeks.

We have moved into what can only be described as huge Georgian farmhouse just outside a village called Blackawton in the South Hams (3 miles from the sea). Since arriving it’s been wet, wild and windy and it’s absolutely brilliant. I love weather. Any sort of weather and down here you get weather, and you can feel the weather. You feel the wind and the rain and when it shines, the warmth of the sun on your skin. At night it’s really truly dark and the stars twinkle, which sparks my imagination and helps put things into perspective.

In the past I have read people write the words ‘I’ve found my home’ and arriving in Devon that’s how I feel.

Work wise, I realised that (having successfully tested the idea of planting our new modular living walls in Bedfordshire and then shipping them to site) I could set up a new ‘living wall production facility’ anywhere I wanted. And I did want to, in Devon. Which brings us up to date. I am now in the process of setting up the new nursery and living wall ‘factory’ and I for one am feeling excited, confident and eager to start testing out new plants in the next batch of walls.

Oh yes and my new years resolution, besides trying to get fit, is to attempt to actually write 52 blog posts. Last year I stumbled along to week 45, which wasn’t bad, but this year I am determined I will make it to the finish line.

I will keep you all posted.