Fuchsia ‘Hawkshead’

Week 19 – More living wall maintenance in Knightsbridge

This week it was all back to Knightsbridge to check on another of our walls. Although very different in scale to the pair of walls we visited last week, this little living wall packs a real punch. I have to admit it is one of my personal favourites. It’s packed full of flowers and it is packed full of fun. Fuchsia ‘Hawkshead’ and Erigeron karvinskianus are currently stealing the show but there’s lots of other delights waiting in the wings ready for their star turn. Move over… Bravo!


Week 18 – Knightsbridge living wall maintenance

Last week we were back in Knightsbridge carrying out our regular health check on the pair of living walls we installed last year. I was delighted to see that the plants are knitting together beautifully to create a wonderful green tapestry. Liriope muscari, Soleirolia soleirolii, Euonymus fortunei ‘Harlequin’, Brunner macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’, Pachysandra terminalis ‘Green Carpet’, Asarum europaeum and Bergenia cordifolia ‘Purpurea’ with their differing leaf shape, colour and size have combined to create a picture that I rarely predict correctly. That’s the joy of experimenting with plant varieties and planting combinations… surprise!

Week 17 – Pinner

This week I returned to a garden we planted last year in Pinner, North West London. I grew up in neighbouring Stanmore and for one reason or another I still find it emotionally challenging to return to the area. On this visit, to my delight, I arrived to find the garden is doing very well. The sort of very well that means more well than one could ever have hoped for. Healthy plants, developing perfectly are knitting together and harmonising in such a way that leads to an end result that is more than the constituent parts. So, I would like to say a heart felt thank you to the plants for reminding me that it is they that are the stars of the show and it is they who are actually in control of what us designers like to try and take credit for. Plants take a bow. I simply planted you. You did the rest. Bravo.


Week 16 – Maintenance

This week I returned to Nottingham to check on one of our living walls. We like to return to each installation every three months to top up the liquid feed, monitor the health and progress of the plants and to undertake any pruning or plant replacement as required. This particular wall is now into it’s second year, is in fine health and starting to mature nicely. The hydrangea are putting on a bit of scale, the Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’ (or slender sweet flag) is forming a striking sweep, the ferns are romping away and the hellebores are very happy indeed. If the plants are happy, then I’m happy and that usually means the client is happy too. As Alan is fond of saying – JD (job done).

Viola riviniana

Week 14 – Viola riviniana

It’s the Easter school break and I’m on holiday in Pembrokeshire. This is a part of the world I know well, return to often and love like an old friend. Walking the coast path is a favourite family activity and yesterday we all walked from Whitesands Bay to St Davids Head. A dramatically beautiful walk along a well trodden cliff edge path, past the ancient Cromlech Stones, which are Neolithic burial chambers (around 5000 years old), dozens of wild horses and a plethora of beautiful flora. The bracken smells like butter and the masses of violets create subtle drifts of purple that are incredibly beautiful. The Common Dog Violet (Viola riviniana) grow well on nutrient-poor soil and this type of vegetation is characteristic of the coastal peninsulas of St Davids and Stumble Head. The plant is an early nectar source for butterflies and is the larval host plant for a range of Fritillary butterflies, including the Small Pearl-Bordered, the Pearl-Bordered and the Silver-Washed Fritillaries. It flowers from April to June but its flowers are not scented, unlike those of its cousin, the Sweet Violet. They are tiny… so get down on one knee to get a closer look and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Planting in action

Week 12 – Planting in action

Gardening is not known as an adrenaline filled pastime. This is as good an ‘action’ shot as you’re ever really going to see. But just in case anyone wanted to see behind the scenes, this is the reality. Mud, compost, plants, spades, a wheelbarrow and lots of plastic pots. In fact that’s actually one of our pet hates. Plastic pots. As opposed to throwing them away we try keep all the pots so Alan can re-use them to pot on the next batch of plugs and 1L plants. Surely this is the least we should all be doing in order to do our small part in reducing unnecessary land fill. Better still let’s start to see a complete rejection of plastic pots and move to an effective biodegradable replacement. Now there’s a good business plan. In the meantime we’re going to push on and finish this monumental planting job. After all the sunshine has arrived.

Echium candicans

Week 10 – Echium candicans

Last week I retuned to Nottingham to start planting a garden we’ve been working on for some time. The hard landscaping is done and the trees are in. Now it’s time for the bigger more architectural plants to go in before moving on to the perennial plants. This stage is always fun, always exciting and always harder work then I remember. This is the first time for quite a while that I’ve found myself planting into the ground (as opposed to a living wall) and the client, a keen gardener and knowledgable plantsman himself, has allowed me to take complete control over the plant selection. As the garden starts to take shape, unexpected vistas start to appear, like the dappled evening sunlight seeping through these newly planted Echium candicans. It’s still a little early in the season, but you can just see the blue flowers spikes starting to open. Wonderful.

Acer palmatum

Week 9 – Planting an Acer palmatum

It’s always fun planting trees, but when I have the opportunity to plant a 4 ton, 6m high Acer palmatum it’s not just fun but exhilarating, terrifying, difficult, heart stopping, exciting and… did I say terrifying already?

A tree this size is too big to pick up by yourself. It’s too big to push around. It’s too big to argue with. You can’t send it back. You can’t leave it on the side of the road. Ultimately you know you have to pick it up… and once you do, you definitely don’t want to drop it.

Clearly the only thing you can do (besides paying it huge respect for being so damn big and beautiful) is get a 20 ton crane to pick it up for you and drop it into a large hole. Then you stand back and breath a huge sigh of relief. Thank you Deepdale trees for supplying such a wonderful tree, to Justin and his team from AKA crane hire for all their help, to the weather for being kind to us, and to our client Neil for letting us plant such a fantastic tree in his garden. Judging from this photo he certainly seemed to enjoy watching the drama unfold. This week we shall return to start the underplanting and I can’t wait. Lets hope that all goes as smoothly.


Week 7: Barcelona

Last week I went to Barcelona with my family and we all absolutely loved it. It is a dynamic, vibrant city full of friendly people, good food and it even has a rather fantastic beach! Whilst walking around the city it didn’t take long to notice that huge palm trees are a real feature of Barcelona’s landscape. Incredibly there are over 6,000 different species of palm trees in the streets of Barcelona, five of which account for the majority of them. The most common is the True Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera), followed by the Washingtonias (Washingtonia robusta and Washingtonia filifera) and the Mediterranean Fan Palm (Chamaerops humbles).

Dozens of ancient palms are scattered across the Playa Reial, one of the most ancient and famous squares in Barcelona and they’re used to great effect all along the beachfront promenade. Washington robusta, the Mexican fan palm (or my favourite the sky duster), is the palm of choice here, often planted in long dramatic rows or in a more strict grid like pattern. They do make a very graphic visual statement, but I’m not 100% convinced that the palms are horticulturally or visually entertaining enough when used on their own in this way. I couldn’t help but feel that a nice bit of underplanting wouldn’t go amiss… maybe a mass of agapanthus, or cloud clipped Pittosporum tobira ‘Nanum’ (which I saw used en-mass elsewhere in the city). But hey, I’m just a tourist passing through and so I’ll happily settle for the warm sun on my face, the sand, sea, blue sky, surfers, skateboarders, joggers and dogs to fill in the gaps.

Natural Inspiration

My new years resolution is to make more effort and write a blog post every week for the year. I hope I can keep it up and that you will all enjoy them. Happy New Year! Adam

Week 1: Natural Inspiration.

Over the festive break I went to south Devon with my family and on New Year’s day we went for the most fantastic coastal walk. We joined the wild, wet and windy south coast path at Gara Rock and started walking west towards Salcombe. After an hour, soaked but still jolly, we reached Mill Bay which is nestled just below the hamlet of East Portlemouth. Walking inland towards the cafe for hot chocolate and chips we came across the most incredible collection of moss and fern covered stone walls I’ve ever seen. These natural examples of a living wall were so simple it was breathtaking. I found the minimal palette of plants, primarily harts tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) and moss totally inspiring. I decided that if I can come even close to re-creating these natural walls then I will have learnt a valuable lesson, that maybe ‘less is more’.