One small step. One giant leap.

Week 36 – One small step. One giant leap.

This week has a been a big week for all of us here at TLA as we’ve just successfully installed our first modular, planted off-site, installed in ONE DAY living wall… and it went without a hitch! Installing this wall in Belsize Park has been a delight, a pleasure, a dream, a breeze… I’m delighted, the clients delighted… what more can I say… who wants one!? Call us now. Onwards and upwards!

The Great British Bake Off

Week 34 – The Great British Bake Off

I have an admission to make, I love the Great British Bake Off (and Noel Fielding). I also love a nice piece of cake (preferably with a cup of tea). I like most types of cake, but I definitely have some favourites. If I had to choose a favourite slice, this week it would probably have to be lemon drizzle, but next week it’ll be different. It’s the same when it comes to choosing my favourite plant. Right now it’s most definitely Geranium ‘Rozanne’ (which is currently looking amazing in our latest living wall)… Next week it’ll probably be some unpronounceable fern. That’s the beauty of plants (and cake) they’re all so lovely (and tasty). Just don’t get them mixed up as eating plants is not as nice as eating cake (and planting cake is just stupid).

One year later

Week 33 – One year later

This is the living wall we installed last summer in Eaton Square. It’s extremely rewarding to arrive back on site to be greeted by such a sight… I am thrilled with how it’s doing. It’s moments like this that make all the hard work seem worth it!

Red Admiral

Week 31 – Red Admiral butterfly, Devon

Scientific name: Vanessa atalanta

It’s the summer holidays and true to form the family Shepherd-Gray has headed to the coast. Walking along the cliff paths of the South Hams (in Devon) it’s hard not to be enchanted by the erratic dance performed by the numerous butterflies swirling around our heads. The Red admiral is probably the most common of all the butterflies in the UK and they are everywhere this year! These delicate creatures seem so fragile yet strangely sturdy at the same time. Apparently in Britain and Ireland the most important and widely available larval foodplant is the common nettle (Urtica dioica). What!? Who would have thought the scourge of both gardener and walker alike actually had a valid use! It’s certainly made me feel (slightly) more fond of the dreaded stinger now I know the role it plays in this super summer dance. Although I’m not sure my kids feel quite the same.

Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’

Week 28 – Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’

This is another first, taking me (rather surprisingly) ten years to include this wonderful plant in my own garden. While most forms of Echinacea have purple-mauve or red ray florets, ‘White Swan’s’ are (as you might have guessed) ivory-white with drooping petals that reveal burnished, orange-brown centres. They are lightly honey scented and very attractive to butterflies and bees, especially bumble bees. Because they are originally prairie plants, they are happiest in a well-drained but humus-rich, moist soil in full sunshine. Removing faded flowers regularly will greatly increase the flowering period, alternatively if you refrain from cutting down the stems until February it will allow birds to feed on the seeds in winter… which personally I think sounds like the right thing to do, as although I love a repeat flower I like the idea of feeding the birds more.

Verbascum olympicum

Week 27 – Verbascum olympicum

I planted this in my garden back in the Spring. In June the flowers are packed into long heads which can tower to 3m. Flowers open randomly up and down the spike-like inflorescence and carry on for a long time. We are now well into July and my Verbascum is still in full flow. Apparently it would be unusual not to have a few flowers as late as November. It’s my new favourite. Until my next new favourite comes along…

Learning by osmosis

Week 25 – Learning by osmosis

Osmosis, a definition: the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas, knowledge, etc.

My business partner Will has obviously been paying attention. With very little input from me he has single handedly put together his rather beautiful new garden. It looks like one of my designs and I’d like to take some credit but it’s all his own work. Unless of course it is in fact an unconscious nod of approval to one of my gardens. Seriously though, it is beautiful. 10/10 for the planting. (I did help him choose the acers). The only downside is that it looks like I’m becoming redundant in my own company.

Planting living walls ‘off-site’

Week 23 – Planting our latest green wall.

We’re all quite excited at TLA HQ as we start to plant our new batch of living walls ‘off-site’ at our new nursery space. This will allow us to plant our walls in advance of delivery to site which is good for lots of reasons. Most importantly, the planting in advance means a more mature and developed wall at the point of installation so our clients ultimately get an improved product. We also reduce the time we need to spend on site so it becomes far easier to install our living walls as part of wider garden schemes. On a more selfish level, it is also a joy to work in the peace and quiet of the countryside where all we can hear is the birds chirping away and not the sound of builders, scaffolders and traffic!

What is a show garden?

Week 21 – What is a show garden?

The “Chelsea Flower Show”, what can I say, am I alone in feeling confused? Is that a show garden over there or is it a trade stand? Can I tell the difference? Do I care anymore? Well yes actually I do. My problem is that I just don’t understand what is so interesting about re-creating a familiar landscape from elsewhere. This seems to be a safe route and one that more and more are following. Be it a quarry in Malta, a vineyard in France, a piece of Dartmoor or a slice of Tuscany. It’s all very ‘inspiring’ apparently. A piece of the moon might be more interesting. I want to see designers developing original ideas and creating inspiring spaces, not showing me how well they can reproduce a ‘scene’ from another location. To my eyes this is just a display of technical ability. Over the years many designers have chosen to delve a little deeper. In 1997 Christopher Bradley Hole’s ‘Latin Garden’ was inspired by a Roman poet and won best in show. Diarmuid Gavin’s 2004 garden drew inspiration from the national lottery and Sarah Ebele’s 2007 garden “600 days with Bradstone” represents the personal space of an Astronaut on a 600 day tour of duty and was an investigation into the psychological effects of long term stay in space. Now that’s what I consider an original and exciting ’show garden’.

Selaginella kraussiana ‘Aurea’

Week 20 – Selaginella kraussiana ‘Aurea’ is an amazing, beautiful, delicate and very useful little plant.

Spike moss is another of my little secret weapons. I use it in the same way and often alongside soleirolia soleirolii as an effective ‘surface’ cover. Close cousins to the true ferns, it forms a low creeping mat of feathery leaves. It prefers moist to wet and shady conditions. This variety has leaves of bright chartreuse yellow, forming a beautiful carpet that lends itself to creating all kinds of interesting contrasts when used in one of our living walls.