Garden visit at King’s Cross

July 2019

Members of the Gardens and Gardening Group ventured south to Kings Cross to discover an unexpected oasis tucked away a few streets behind Camden Town Hall. As we waited to gather our members, behind the gates of the 1903 industrial dwellings we could see a courtyard with abundant foliage from a mature hawthorn tree and a host of large and small pots spilling over with flourishing shrubs and bedding plants. Along one small area beside a front door, large green tomatoes promised salads in a few weeks while a courgette plant wound its tendrils along the railing, bracing itself for a bumper crop in a small but sunny spot where every inch is put to use. Our host, Sue, told us about the history of the building, one of a series of blocks which rehoused slum clearance from the other side of Grays Inn Road, well built social housing with interesting features outside and decent space indoors. Refurbished by Camden Council in the 1970s, several ground floor flats were adapted to give flat access for people using a wheelchair, and incorporating a large garden space. Sue’s family then was her husband, who needed a wheelchair, her twins and foster son, who moved in with an optimistic approach to the large expanse of bare earth which surrounded them on both sides of the flat. Forty years later, with plenty of help from energetic and loyal friends, she has created a lush and varied garden, an oasis between the tall blocks on either side. A moving in gift of a small magnolia now fills a wide corner, embellished by a white climbing rose which adds to the enjoyment of a neighbour, and now friend, who looks out over a cloud of blossom in spring. Two slender birch trees and a variegated maple add to the sense of a wooded grove, and a large variegated holly along the darker side brings dappled colour and perches for blackbirds. On a shaded corner wall a hydrangea petiolaris has climbed to the first floor and shows no sign of stopping there. Nearby the ruffled foliage of a pittosporum has been lifted to give groundcover space while it marks another part of the boundary. There is a central lawn, patched to repair the damage of the urban foxes, yes even so close to central London. Several raised beds in a sunny spot provide rhubarb, courgettes and tomatoes and a pool of peachy coloured nasturtiums. Glossy leaved evergreen Trachelospermum jasminoides smothers an archway with fragrant white flowers, a walk through to a quiet shaded grove where Buddha meditates peacefully. There a big pots full of agapanthus just bursting into dozens of blue flower heads, a vivid pink, long lived salvia, a mass of pink and white francoa blossoms and many spires of heuchera flowers which do well in this light but shaded garden. Several of us took advantage of the plants for sale after the weekend NGS open garden session, pleased to take with us some of the delights of this special garden, very much an urban place, softened and enriched by the labour of love and friendship, bringing life, colour and pleasure for the many people whose flats ‘borrow’ their view of Sue’s oasis.

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