There are many possibilities in the topic of ‘Gardens’, so we have set out some overall themes to start with, along with some more specific ideas about how to grow and nurture our garden interests. We would like to hear what people think of these, and are open to other ideas as well – it is your group. Our proposed themes are: Sharing practical tips, seasonal themes, types of plant, visiting gardens, garden design, practical work
We will also make visits to gardens in the London area, and maybe to members’ plant containers, gardens and allotments.
Group Conveners: Sarah Dearman and Rebecca Harrington
This Form may also be used to contact the Convener on other matters relating to this Group’s activities
33 Wood Vale, N10
The subtle colours, textures and shapes of the trimmed curves of Mona Abboud’s front garden give the hint that someone with a real interest in unusual plants lives here. Beautifully clipped specimens rub shoulders with wiry sculptural shrubs, shiny evergreens with tiny yellow starry blooms, and bright green feathery foliage studded with vivid red flowers. Passing through the house to the steep stairs at the back we gasp at the vista of Mediterranean and Australasian trees and shrubs stretching away into an endless tapestry of lush foliage. Mona’s garden is a story of clipping, pruning and shaping, executed with bold determination and an artist’s eye, to refine and develop a garden full of visual treats and year round interest. Our U3A Gardens Group is gathered near a neatly clipped double lollipop of variegated Rhamnus alaternus, a tender buckthorn, with strange inverted spires of Pseudopanax from New Zealand behind it and a strawberry tree and variegated Pittosporum on the left side. It’s taken Mona 19 years of composing, nurturing and shaping the many tender, drought loving plants which thrive under her care. She loves plants which need free drainage, but her 100 metres of garden is on heavy clay, and a few days before our visit had a three inch deep lake at the bottom of the slope. The tons of gravel, grit granite and topsoil brought in by the barrowload to create the right conditions is a testament to her passion.
A gently bubbling fountain surrounded by a curtain of Equisetum, a primeval species dreaded by most gardeners for its vigorously invasive nature, but here, confined in concrete basin, makes an elegant screen around the gurgling water. The garden is long and narrow, but the path twists down around olives and tea tree, crape myrtle, palm and bamboo giving constant changes of view. Many have been pruned to lift the crown of foliage, opening views through the close planting. The soft, tactile, copper-coloured bark of the Chilean myrtle, framing the fresh green of new acer leaves and willows is a lovely example of this approach. The varied textures, bronze and grey-green soft colour schemes and shapes give coherent themes, with splashes of bright colour like this lush yellow mimosa in full bloom.
Mona told us it was her fourth attempt to grow this tender Mediterranean gem, and the sunny cloud of fluffy blossom was worth the effort. As well as being awarded ‘Best large back garden’ by the London Garden Society, Mona received the accolade of her Corokia plants being designated a National Collection. Native to New Zealand, these charming shrubs appear throughout her garden and are displayed together here in pots, showing their variety of soft colours.
Top tip: In many ways more interesting than the box hedging which is so badly damaged by blight in many gardens, Corokia looks a great alternative, and is drought resistant too.
See for yourself! Mona’s garden is open under the National Gardens Scheme on Sunday 20th May, 1.30-5.30, 33, Wood Vale N10 3DJ And online at www.monasgarden.co.uk
Southwood Lodge, N6
The Garden Group met in Highgate on 10th April at another local garden, Southwood Lodge, which is open to the public under the charitable National Gardens Scheme. Sue Whittington was kind enough to offer us a U3A special guided tour, and answered our many questions about her unusual and wonderful garden. It was a grey day, so the views out from the hill were misty, but despite the weather the garden was a feast of interest.
From the herb bed by the front door with a lovely aromatic lovage plant, through clematis arches, clipped beech and hornbeam hedging, topiary yews, past beds planted with shrubs and burgeoning ground cover bulbs, round ponds full of frog, or perhaps newt spawn, a secret grove, and a stunningly sculpted conifer trunk, it is full of surprises and delights. Being U3A and keen on learning, we asked dozens of questions about the plants and learned the botanical names of everything which caught our eyes, and a lot about cultivating them into the healthy specimens we saw. Just one intriguing idea was a shrub rose, ‘Ferdinand Pichard’, trained to grow in loops to best show off its pink striped flowers – definitely one to return to see at the next NGS Open Day on Sunday 13th May, 2-5.30 p.m. We had a preview of the delicious home made biscuits today, an added attraction, but with plants for sale as well that date is firmly in my diary!]
Photographs © Alison Miller
St Regis Close, N10
The Gardens Group made its first visit to a local garden whose owners open to the public under the charitable National Gardens Scheme. We wanted to see these ‘show’ gardens before they are at their peak, to see how they develop over the season, as well as to get inspiration for our own gardens. St Regis Close is an exuberant Tardis of a garden. Fronted by a classic magnolia, another world is tucked away behind a modern terrace of houses. Down a narrow side entrance it opens out into an extraordinary network of creative spaces, filled with sculpture, pottery and trompe l’oeil installations, including a Japanese tea house, all providing colour and visual interest at all seasons.
Every corner is a feast for the eyes, with a host of shrubs, trees, bedding plants and many, many pots and other receptacles – plants grow in all sorts of containers here, from chimney pots to a pair of shoes! Cuttings and seedlings are nurtured to plant out for the open days and for plant sales. Our artist hosts, Sue and Earl, had a story for everything, and along with their delicious cakes they gave us a most entertaining morning.
The garden is open to the public in aid of the charities supported through the National Gardens Scheme this year on Sundays 29 April, 17 June, 22 July, and in addition on 29th July for Karenni Student Development Programme, all from 2-6.30pm.
Sue and Earl are Assistant County Organisers for the National Gardens Scheme, and are always on the lookout for new gardens for the scheme, with character rather than size mattering most!
Photographs © Alison Miller
The Gardens Group started well at the Open Event, and is now up to 30 members, all with a lively interest in a wide range of gardens and gardening topics.
Our meetings began with sharing interests, problem areas and ideas for group discussion and activities. We had a discussion on pruning, and finished the year with a festive session including traditional American popcorn and cranberry decorations.
2018 started with tips from a local gardener, Alfie Bines, on Getting ready for Spring at our January meeting, with ideas for planning and preparing for the coming seasons with colours and shapes, and interesting shrubs which grow well in most local conditions.
In February Chris told us about her experience of learning beekeeping, a complex task which needs training, and fascinating and productive when you have some expertise. Who knew there are 620 species of bee living in the UK? She also talked about creating pollinator-friendly gardens. Bees need water, so a pond, however small, helps them directly, as well as encouraging birds and frogs which will eat pests, avoiding harmful pesticides. A ‘bug house’ and a small log pile complete the bee friendly landscaping. If we then plant plenty of their favourite simple, non-hybrid flowers like salvia, borage, lavender (in pots if we have heavy clay soil) rosemary, sedum, herbs and winter flowers like sweet box, ivy and hellebores, we’ll be helping these essential creatures to benefit our gardens and the wider eco-system.
We’ve been meeting in members’ homes so far, but will branch out for three spring visits to local gardens which are part of the National Gardens Scheme, and which will open specially for us. There are charges for these visits. These gardens look splendid when open to the public in the summer, so we want to see how they start off in spring and get ideas for the work ahead in our own! There are plans for some plant swapping too.