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Blimey, it’s May already, and the Chelsea Fringe will be with us in just over 2 weeks! This is its 7th year and it will be running for nine days, from Saturday May 19th until Sunday May 27th. What is the Chelsea Fringe I hear (some of you) ask? Well, it’s a fabulous alternative festival wrapped around the same dates of the Chelsea Flower Show, with hundreds of horticulturally related events happening in every corner of London, other cities in the UK and even in countries further away (yes indeed!).

Above is the wonderful Paul Wood, a great tree expert and author of ‘London’s Street Trees’. Our local community veg growing project has asked him to give a tree walk on Sunday 27th May at 10.30am in Finsbury Park. Paul is a hugely enthusiastic and entertaining guide, full of information about which trees have been planted and why. You’ll see some rare birches and a Mongolian lime..and many more, so do join us if you can. Tickets can be booked on Evenbrite.

What’s great about the Chelsea Fringe is that it takes you to parts of the capital that you wouldn’t necessarily go to and I’m very excited about all the different events and happenings this year. Here’s some more that may may tickle your fancy!

On Saturday 26th May at the Horniman Museum in S. London you can see an installation of hundreds of paper poppies (above) and then have a go at making your own.

The intriguing Omved Gardens in Highgate in N.London invite you to join them for a whole series of events  throughout the Fringe, with food courses, music afternoons, Japanese Flower arranging, herbs walks and much more. Booking is essential here.

Open afternoons in the walled kitchen gardens at Chiswick House in West London is definitely one I don’t want to miss (Monday 21st May-Thursday 24th May).

And Walthamstow Wetlands (over 200 hectares of urban wetlands) in East London is somewhere I’ve been meaning to visit for a while now. There’s a sculpture trail to follow throughout the whole Fringe, allowing you to see  a POP-UP collection of creations by local artisans. Collaborators include Borrowed Light Floral Studio, The Local Honey Man, Willow Weavers and Jacques Nimki, who will be repurposing locally sourced materials to create fantastic displays of the resident flora and fauna.

The London Vegetable Orchestra (LVO) can be found at Tottenham Green Market on Sunday 20 May from 11-30am – 4pm and will be making  some swede sounds. I saw them last year and they were very entertaining!

LVO will host one of their creative making stall where you can watch them hand-craft local vegetable produce into instruments that sound as incredible as they look. Chopin boards will be provided…and some of you will be able to put a finishing touch to your very own “home grown” vegetable masterpiece.

Throughout the day the LVO will be giving some performances on their amazing instruments and showing you how to play along.

There are so many more events to tempt you (many for free), so do go the Chelsea Fringe Website and have a look at what’s on. I’ve always hugely enjoyed the events/gardens/exhibitions/courses I’ve been to over the last seven years, and it looks like this year will be better than ever!

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This year has flown already. I must say, I’ve struggled to make time to blog, but I have found Instagram (I’m naomi.outofmyshed by the way) very alluring and now have a widget on my blog showing my Instagram images.

Using my iPhone (mostly), it’s so quick and simple, and for me, it’s a great way to record what grows and blooms throughout the year, (plus a few dogs in coats, sculptural stuff and great lighting installations). I do have to restrain myself though to a post (ish) a day. I’ve been told that that’s quite enough (if not too much?). Anyhow, I love it!

But there are times that you want to say (and share) a little more.

So here’s a gorgeous Clematis alpina Columbine. An early flowerer. I planted it last year and it’s slowly building up new growth and beautiful clusters of flowers. There’s no need to prune this unless it gets out of hand, and it’s a smallish well-behaved variety (growing to 6-8ft), so I don’t think it’ll need too much attention for a while.

Its petite blue/purple delicate flowers are a joy to behold, and good to spend time with for a bit of quite contemplation.

Meanwhile, in the front garden, things are a little livelier. The tulips are out. With the sudden burst of hot weather in London, I’m not sure that they’ll be around for long. But they are vibrant and uplifting and a great sight to come home to.

Mistress Mystic is a new one to me. A lovely muted pink with soft orange stripes.

Pink Twist seems really reliable and I do like the solid shape and the paler tinges at the top of the blooms.

Paul Scherer strangely has a few that are double-headed . Never seen that before, and it’s a perfect foil for the brighter hues in the bed.

Ballerina is always a favourite and adds a zing to an otherwise tasteful yet subdued palette. They don’t seem to be reliable as they usually are though and are a bit thinner on the ground than I thought I had planned. And I think there are a few ‘Green Bizarre’ buds which have yet to open. Hopefully, they’ll have green outer petals and a sort of scrunchy interior. I’m intrigued to see what they’ll look like.

And finally, on top of the bay window in the front garden, these jolly tazetta daffs are looking fabulous en masse. They’re an heirloom variety from pre 1937 (according to Peter Nyssen Bulbs) called Yellow Cheerfulness, and I can’t argue with that.

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A friend asked me what could she plant to give her interest in her South London garden at this time of the year, and heading towards Spring, and I came out with some hopefully useful suggestions (below), but I forgot to mention Vinca difformis ssp. sardoa (above). What a great plant for winter colour!

And evergreen foliage, which always looks vibrant and fresh. Its generous-sized flowers are a very pleasing pale violety blue, which flower from December until April or May and then again intermittently for the rest of the year. What’s not to love! This is no delicate little periwinkle. It’s a robust plant that grows to about 60cm high and it’s even starting scrambling much higher up an old tree trunk. As with other Vincas, it’s happily romping away in its shady spot, but it’s easy to pull up (and transplant elsewhere) if it’s getting a little too exuberant.

And she could also plant: Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ for a delicate wee flower and a stonkingly sweet scent,

Sarcococcas for more ‘knock-your-socks-off’ perfume (also with evergreen foliage),

Hellebores (this one above is the very upright ‘Anna’s Red’) flowering from now and well into March,

snowdrops popping up around now and into February/March (try Eurobulbs for great -‘in the green’ snowdrops to plant in March for next year’s display),

rich Chaenomeles blooms (aka flowering quince) for late February,

which I saw as gorgeous front garden hedging in Stockwell last year

(red and white varieties equally stunning-and great for supplying early nectar),

crocuses in Feb,

and Cardimine quinquefolia for delicate lilac flowers in March.

Plus all your Narcissi, Daffodils and Jonquils from now until April and May (start ordering bulbs for these in September for autumn planting). Above is Narcissus cantabricus, which I espied at Wisley back in 2014.

P.S. The lovely Wendy Shillam @Rooftopvegplot also suggests planting an autumn/winter flowering Cherry tree (Prunus subhirtella Autumnalis) for beautifully delicate flowers at this time of year. She’s not wrong.Thanks Wendy!

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This year has flown already. I must say, I’ve struggled to make time to blog, but I have found Instagram (I’m naomi.outofmyshed by the way) very alluring and now have a widget on my blog showing my Instagram images.

Using my iPhone (mostly), it’s so quick and simple, and for me, it’s a great way to record what grows and blooms throughout the year, (plus a few dogs in coats, sculptural stuff and great lighting installations). I do have to restrain myself though to a post (ish) a day. I’ve been told that that’s quite enough (if not too much?). Anyhow, I love it!

But there are times that you want to say (and share) a little more.

So here’s a gorgeous Clematis alpina Columbine. An early flowerer. I planted it last year and it’s slowly building up new growth and beautiful clusters of flowers. There’s no need to prune this unless it gets out of hand, and it’s a smallish well-behaved variety (growing to 6-8ft), so I don’t think it’ll need too much attention for a while.

Its petite blue/purple delicate flowers are a joy to behold, and good to spend time with for a bit of quite contemplation.

Meanwhile, in the front garden, things are a little livelier. The tulips are out. With the sudden burst of hot weather in London, I’m not sure that they’ll be around for long. But they are vibrant and uplifting and a great sight to come home to.

Mistress Mystic is a new one to me. A lovely muted pink with soft orange stripes.

Pink Twist seems really reliable and I do like the solid shape and the paler tinges at the top of the blooms.

Paul Scherer strangely has a few that are double-headed . Never seen that before, and it’s a perfect foil for the brighter hues in the bed.

Ballerina is always a favourite and adds a zing to an otherwise tasteful yet subdued palette. They don’t seem to be reliable as they usually are though and are a bit thinner on the ground than I thought I had planned. And I think there are a few ‘Green Bizarre’ buds which have yet to open. Hopefully, they’ll have green outer petals and a sort of scrunchy interior. I’m intrigued to see what they’ll look like.

And finally, on top of the bay window in the front garden, these jolly tazetta daffs are looking fabulous en masse. They’re an heirloom variety from pre 1937 (according to Peter Nyssen Bulbs) called Yellow Cheerfulness, and I can’t argue with that.

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A friend asked me what could she plant to give her interest in her South London garden at this time of the year, and heading towards Spring, and I came out with some hopefully useful suggestions (below), but I forgot to mention Vinca difformis ssp. sardoa (above). What a great plant for winter colour!

And evergreen foliage, which always looks vibrant and fresh. Its generous-sized flowers are a very pleasing pale violety blue, which flower from December until April or May and then again intermittently for the rest of the year. What’s not to love! This is no delicate little periwinkle. It’s a robust plant that grows to about 60cm high and it’s even starting scrambling much higher up an old tree trunk. As with other Vincas, it’s happily romping away in its shady spot, but it’s easy to pull up (and transplant elsewhere) if it’s getting a little too exuberant.

And she could also plant: Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ for a delicate wee flower and a stonkingly sweet scent,

Sarcococcas for more ‘knock-your-socks-off’ perfume (also with evergreen foliage),

Hellebores (this one above is the very upright ‘Anna’s Red’) flowering from now and well into March,

snowdrops popping up around now and into February/March (try Eurobulbs for great -‘in the green’ snowdrops to plant in March for next year’s display),

rich Chaenomeles blooms (aka flowering quince) for late February,

which I saw as gorgeous front garden hedging in Stockwell last year

(red and white varieties equally stunning-and great for supplying early nectar),

crocuses in Feb,

and Cardimine quinquefolia for delicate lilac flowers in March.

Plus all your Narcissi, Daffodils and Jonquils from now until April and May (start ordering bulbs for these in September for autumn planting). Above is Narcissus cantabricus, which I espied at Wisley back in 2014.

P.S. The lovely Wendy Shillam @Rooftopvegplot also suggests planting an autumn/winter flowering Cherry tree (Prunus subhirtella Autumnalis) for beautifully delicate flowers at this time of year. She’s not wrong.Thanks Wendy!


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Everyone loves a box parterre (don’t they?). Back in June 2012, fellow blogger Veronica, from Through the garden gate, and I went to see the open gardens in Amsterdam. We had a super (if a tad exhausting) weekend looking at many hidden gems in the city.

A recurrent theme was definitely box parterres.

Not present in every garden we visited, but quite a few.

There was also the gorgeously curvaceous box sculptures at Kerkstraat 67,

and the box dividers at the ever-so-delicious De Kas restaurant (just outside the city centre).

However, there’s a problem. I’m not sure if they exist in Amsterdam, but here in London, box-tree caterpillars have arrived in force over the last few years. Not only does box hedging have to contend with box blight, but these blighters can wreck a lovely bit of hedging in no time and many gardeners are looking out for alternatives.

By the way, the moth that lays its eggs measures about an inch (2.5cm) and is white with dark brown edges, and pheromone traps will be able to let you know if they are in your area. As it’s so mild of late, much to my dismay, new moths are still arriving in the traps I have.

If spotted in time, you can spray your box with chemicals, but this is a lengthy process if you have a lot of hedging  and impossible if you’re an organic gardener or if the hedging is surrounding edibles.

Another gardener I know says he sprays the box with strong jets of water, but the box doesn’t like this much either.

So what could you use instead? Ilex crenata (Japanese Holly) and Lonicera nitida  are now being promoted by hedging companies and on a recent trip to Haddon Hall in Derbyshire I was really inspired by their parterres.

The outer edging is grown from Teucrium x lucidrys (hedge Germander, with pink flower spikes in late summer)

and the inner divides are grown from rosemary and lavender.

The look isn’t as tight and clipped as box, but I like this softer look (especially with the backdrop of an amazing Tudor manor house) and the fact that the whole parterre is grown from herbs. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to fend off the caterpillars, so its good to know that there are other plants out there that will be able to do the trick.

And following Diana’s comments (below) also quite fancy using Chilean guava (Ugni molinae) (above) as hedging. Would be evergreen, but edible.

Also, here’s a link to Wisley’s Facebook page showing their trial garden for box alternatives and Michelle’s great post about this trial and listing most of the plants they are testing. Thanks Veg plotting!


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Everyone loves a box parterre (don’t they?). Back in June 2012, fellow blogger Veronica, from Through the garden gate, and I went to see the open gardens in Amsterdam. We had a super (if a tad exhausting) weekend looking at many hidden gems in the city.

A recurrent theme was definitely box parterres.

Not present in every garden we visited, but quite a few.

There was also the gorgeously curvaceous box sculptures at Kerkstraat 67,

and the box dividers at the ever-so-delicious De Kas restaurant (just outside the city centre).

However, there’s a problem. I’m not sure if they exist in Amsterdam, but here in London, box-tree caterpillars have arrived in force over the last few years. Not only does box hedging have to contend with box blight, but these blighters can wreck a lovely bit of hedging in no time and many gardeners are looking out for alternatives.

By the way, the moth that lays its eggs measures about an inch (2.5cm) and is white with dark brown edges, and pheromone traps will be able to let you know if they are in your area. As it’s so mild of late, much to my dismay, new moths are still arriving in the traps I have.

If spotted in time, you can spray your box with chemicals, but this is a lengthy process if you have a lot of hedging  and impossible if you’re an organic gardener or if the hedging is surrounding edibles.

Another gardener I know says he sprays the box with strong jets of water, but the box doesn’t like this much either.

So what could you use instead? Ilex crenata (Japanese Holly) and Lonicera nitida  are now being promoted by hedging companies and on a recent trip to Haddon Hall in Derbyshire I was really inspired by their parterres.

The outer edging is grown from Teucrium x lucidrys (hedge Germander, with pink flower spikes in late summer)

and the inner divides are grown from rosemary and lavender.

The look isn’t as tight and clipped as box, but I like this softer look (especially with the backdrop of an amazing Tudor manor house) and the fact that the whole parterre is grown from herbs. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to fend off the caterpillars, so its good to know that there are other plants out there that will be able to do the trick.

And following Diana’s comments (below) also quite fancy using Chilean guava (Ugni molinae) (above) as hedging. Would be evergreen, but edible.


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Clematis-you can never have enough of them! This one is Clematis viticella ‘Alba Luxurians’. One of the first I planted in my garden and I love it for its random green markings on the petals.

Originally growing right next to a tree, this plant barely used to flower, but as soon as the tree was removed, it sped away. It especially likes my neighbours’ lovely new trellis to cling onto.

Viticella indicates a late flowering (group 3) Clematis, so every spring, I just lop the whole thing down to about 18 inches, give it a good mulch with manure and it flowers profusely from July until September/October.

I think this one (above) is C. viticella ‘Venosa Violacea’ (huge thanks Nick and Jo -in comments below. Definitely not ‘The President’).  Again, flowering from July to September.

I may have mentioned (just a few times) that I’ve only got a small London garden, and having run out of wall space, I was looking for other means of getting more of these gorgeous blooms into my plot. A lovely old stick, wrapped in chicken wire seems to work well and sveltely adds a bit of height and drama into the border. Half of this Clematis did die back earlier in the year and presuming this was ‘clematis wilt’, I chopped the whole plant back to about a foot. Since then it’s recovered well,  put on lots of healthy new growth, and is still pumping out loads of colour in October. Hoorah!

By no means am I a Clematis expert, but many growers have advised me over the years to plant these climbers about 15cm deeper than they were originally grown in the pot, and this will hep them survive clematis wilt.

I’ve still got a fair amount of colour in the garden at the moment, but mostly pinks and purples, so I’ve decided to plant another Clematis, Bill Mackenzie this time, which will give me wonderful yellow nodding lanterns from August until November.

Now is a great time to plant perennials and climbers, as the ground is still warm and we should have plenty of rain for keeping plants well watered.

Following my own advice to plant good and deep, seventeen years later I’m still being surprised with concrete (reinforced this time-GRrr) in my borders.

However, I did manage to dig a big deep hole and plant my new purchase about 15cms lower than it was growing in its pot.

I’ve also given it a lovely stick to climb up, with lots of chicken wire to grab onto,

and mixed loads of rich compost into the planting hole. Again, I’ll cut this back in spring to about a foot, 18 inches. This is quite a vigorous Clematis though, so I think I may have to add another stick to make an arch as the climber really gets into its stride.

I’ve found Clematis do take at least a couple of years to really get going, but once you start looking at all the exciting varieties our there (try Thorncroft, a great Clematis specialist for ordering online, or Great Dixter have a great selection too if you’re passing near Rye), you can find varieties that will give you flowers for most of the year, and you’ll want to squeeze in more and more.

I bought this lovely metal frame from Plant Belles in spring to weave a Clematis Columbine (early flowering group 1) around. But many objects will give a clematis the support it needs to romp away.

Last summer I visited Bryan’s Ground, a superlative garden near Hay-on-Wye, and marvelled at this clematis growing up old bed springs, supplying a stunning backdrop to these triumphant Veronicastrum.

And this Clematis montana ‘Tetrarose’ (group 1) flowering in May in Lucy Mackenzie’s ‘Lip na Cloiche’ garden on Mull had a lovely gentle scent as well as entwining itself around a length of hefty old rope.

 Clematis armandii also delicately perfumes the air in March and April.  It doesn’t necessarily need pruning, but this evergreen is so vigorous, that you may need to hack this right back to a foot or two if it gets overgrown. Do it just after it’s flowered and you should still have some blooms the following year.

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Clematis-you can never have enough of them! This one is Clematis viticella ‘Alba Luxurians’. One of the first I planted in my garden and I love it for its random green markings on the petals.

Originally growing right next to a tree, this plant barely used to flower, but as soon as the tree was removed, it sped away. It especially likes my neighbours’ lovely new trellis to cling onto.

Viticella indicates a late flowering (group 3) Clematis, so every spring, I just lop the whole thing down to about 18 inches, give it a good mulch with manure and it flowers profusely from July until September/October.

I think this one (above) is C. viticella ‘Venosa Violacea’ (huge thanks Nick and Jo -in comments below. Definitely not ‘The President’).  Again, flowering from July to September.

I may have mentioned (just a few times) that I’ve only got a small London garden, and having run out of wall space, I was looking for other means of getting more of these gorgeous blooms into my plot. A lovely old stick, wrapped in chicken wire seems to work well and sveltely adds a bit of height and drama into the border. Half of this Clematis did die back earlier in the year and presuming this was ‘clematis wilt’, I chopped the whole plant back to about a foot. Since then it’s recovered well,  put on lots of healthy new growth, and is still pumping out loads of colour in October. Hoorah!

By no means am I a Clematis expert, but many growers have advised me over the years to plant these climbers about 15cm deeper than they were originally grown in the pot, and this will hep them survive clematis wilt.

I’ve still got a fair amount of colour in the garden at the moment, but mostly pinks and purples, so I’ve decided to plant another Clematis, Bill Mackenzie this time, which will give me wonderful yellow nodding lanterns from August until November.

Now is a great time to plant perennials and climbers, as the ground is still warm and we should have plenty of rain for keeping plants well watered.

Following my own advice to plant good and deep, seventeen years later I’m still being surprised with concrete (reinforced this time-GRrr) in my borders.

However, I did manage to dig a big deep hole and plant my new purchase about 15cms lower than it was growing in its pot.

I’ve also given it a lovely stick to climb up, with lots of chicken wire to grab onto,

and mixed loads of rich compost into the planting hole. Again, I’ll cut this back in spring to about a foot, 18 inches. This is quite a vigorous Clematis though, so I think I may have to add another stick to make an arch as the climber really gets into its stride.

I’ve found Clematis do take at least a couple of years to really get going, but once you start looking at all the exciting varieties our there (try Thorncroft, a great Clematis specialist for ordering online, or Great Dixter have a great selection too if you’re passing near Rye), you can find varieties that will give you flowers for most of the year, and you’ll want to squeeze in more and more.

I bought this lovely metal frame from Plant Belles in spring to weave a Clematis Columbine (early flowering group 1) around. But many objects will give a clematis the support it needs to romp away.

Last summer I visited Bryan’s Ground, a superlative garden near Hay-on-Wye, and marvelled at this clematis growing up old bed springs, supplying a stunning backdrop to these triumphant Veronicastrum.

And this Clematis montana ‘Tetrarose’ (group 1) flowering in May in Lucy Mackenzie’s ‘Lip na Cloiche’ garden on Mull had a lovely gentle scent as well as entwining itself around a length of hefty old rope.

 Clematis armandii also delicately perfumes the air in March and April.  It doesn’t necessarily need pruning, but this evergreen is so vigorous, that you may need to hack this right back to a foot or two if it gets overgrown. Do it just after it’s flowered and you should still have some blooms the following year.

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I love an edible window box. Gorgeous to look at, with tasty bites.

These delicate violas are from viola specialist Wildegoose Nursery  (Viola cornuta ‘Winona Cawthorne’ I think) and as well as being edible, they have a delicious honey scent. And planted alongside are some wonderfully textured mustard leaves. Red Frills, Golden Streaks, Green in Snow and Giant Red are all in the mix. Dead-heading keeps the violas constantly flowering, although I might have to replace some of the mustard leaves soonish, which are just about going to seed.

And talking about edibles,  I went to see the new Tord Boontje’s ‘Dawn to Dusk’ swivelling chairs on the Thames at the weekend as part of the Chelsea Fringe. They’re right next to Vauxhall Bridge, so easy to get to (Vauxhall tube is the nearest).

They’re handsome benches (modelled here by the gorgeous Gianna),

beautifully planted up with drought tolerant plants which look great against the rusted steel.

I particularly liked the Tulbaghia violcea (aka Society Garlic), a stunner of a plant of which both stems and flowers are edible, with quite a garlicy kick. Which almost makes this an edible chair?

Now here’s the turning bit. Below, there’s me giving you a twirl with the London Eye behind.

Tord Boontje's turning chair - YouTube

And here’s the very accommodating Andrew and his parents who let me film them while they were out Chelsea Fringing too. All great fun!

Tord Boontje's Turning Chairs x 3 - YouTube

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