We have been asked to come up with a design for a local NHS healthcare centre. The brief is to incorporate shrubs and plants which apart from looking beautiful, can be also used to create tinctures and herbal remedies – we are thinking Valerian, Rosehips, Echinacea, Feverfew, St Johns wort, Lavender, Elder, Comfrey, Rosemary…so many possibilities and colour palettes for a wonderful herbal landscape. But what we love most about this brief is that it gives us another opportunity to create a series of community engagement events. Healing through horticulture. We love it!
We have been busy this week ordering thousand of wonderful, beneficial bulbs and plug plants on behalf of our clients to create that first flush of Woodland Spring…
The wood is where flowers start their year. They have to get out early to beat the shade of the leaves from deciduous trees which close over to create deep shadow by mid May.
The tapestry starts in February with the yellow chalice shaped flowers of Aconite, followed in March with the star like bright yellow flowers of Lesser celandine heralding the start of Spring. Wild primroses abound, gradually added to by the graceful nodding white and pink flowers of wood anemones which carpet the woodland floor. Bluebells follow along with the Yellow archangel flowers, and white stars of Greater stitchwort.
We particularly love Ramsons – wild garlic, with their umbels of long stalked white flowers and thick green leaves which are delicious chopped up and added to stir fries! These start to appear late March/early April.
Red campion, with their bright rose pink flowers start to appear from late April – another firm favourite of ours, and so good for encouraging beneficial wildlife.
Why not create your own mini woodland effect by planting some shade loving Spring plants in your garden.
Our fave combos:
Wild primrose with Wood anemone and Dog violet in deep shade
Germander speedwell, Greater stitchwort, Red campion and Bluebells in semi-shade.
Come and meet us on Saturday 28/9 at the annual Transition Belsize green fair. Kids, come and help us create a willow butterfly tree which we will fill with lots of lovely fluttering butterfly messages.
Time: Midday to 4pm.
As we approach the end of September it’s the last chance to be thinking about sowing any lawn seed before the Winter sets in. But why lay just a traditional grass lawn? We are urging all of our clients to turn a section of the lawn over to create a fragrant pollinators Lawn.
With a mix of clovers, wildflowers (such as birdsfoot trefoil, self heal), and herbs, the sward contains no grasses, and is a truly diverse mixture. The mix is designed to be cut very infrequently, to ensure that the flowers are allowed to come into bloom. The mix will tolerate a little wear and tear, but is not terribly hard wearing. Come on, what’s stopping you!
Meanwhile, it’s been an incredibly busy period, we are currently ordering over 4,000 Spring bulbs for all of our clients. From February to May, our clients’ shady spots/woodland areas in the garden will be bursting with wild primrose, wood anemone and dog violets. Germander speedwells, greater stitchwort, red campion and blue bells will be in full colour in our semi-shade areas. We are plantings lots of ramsons – with their pretty white March flowers and gorgeous aroma – fab for cooking up in pestos stir fries. Wild tulips and snowdrops, winter aconites and lesser celandines will provide many a bed filled with a lovely Spring colour palette of yellows and whites.
We are off this afternoon to pick up the following great awards for several of our school designs/campaigns:
Fitzjohns Primary School – Greenest School in Camden 2012/2013
Fitzjohns Primary School – 1st prize in horticultural/eco links to the curriculum
St Pauls Primary School – Second best food growing school in Camden.
Our view is however, that we are all winners. In Camden alone, so many schools now have beneficial and productive gardens, grounds and food growing clubs. Recent research by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) on behalf of the RHS has proved that students involved in school gardening were reported as providing pupils with:
- Greater scientific knowledge and understanding
- Enhanced literacy and numeracy, including the use of a wider vocabulary and greater oracy skills
- Increased awareness of the seasons and understanding of food production
- Increased confidence, resilience and self esteem
- Development of physical skills, including fine motor skills
- Development of a sense of responsibility
- A positive attitude to healthy food choice
- Positive behaviour
- Improvements in emotional well being.
We will soon be starting to work with a Camden Montessori school helping turn their grounds into an even more magical, wildlife friendly and productive space with the aim of inspiring their nursery aged pupils and the community around them.
Last week we were delighted to be able to contribute a tasty amount of herbs from three of our community growing spaces to a fantastic new veg box scheme in NW5 – www.vegbox.org.uk. Our thanks go to the Year 3 kids from Eleanor Palmer school (a school whose grounds we have just taken over the maintenance of); the folk at our weekly food growing club at St Pancras Almshouses; and the Dig it Club at St Pauls School NW3. A well herby time was had by all, washed down by copious amounts of our freshly made elderflower cordial!
We love the clubs we run at local schools. Last week at Fitzjohns School we really enjoyed creating natural dyes from plants and veg and designing our own bamboo t-shirts. The madder plant we had grown in our natural dye bed worked particularly well. All that was left to do after a great creative session, was to enjoy a cuppa – a cup of HERBAL tea, that is, made from herbs picked from the garden. The pic shows Kyle enjoying a nice cup of fennel, lemon balm and chamomile tea!
Meanwhile over at St Pauls, several of the pupils are having a good look at how our inter-class ‘Lettuce be friends’ competition is coming along!
This week we are working on a great new job to transform a small, overgrown Belsize Park front garden into a wildlife habitat. Columns of herbs adding a formal edge to the design. A palette of whites and purples aiming to delight the residents in all 7 of the flats. The planting of season round nectar rich plants aiming to attract all manner of butterflies and bees whilst adding texture and shape. We have also included the very lovely Rosa rugosa ‘Scabrosa’ to our planting list. Apart from being shade tolerant, it will provide lovely big hips in the Autumn, great for making rosehip syrup, or a delish rosehip jam.
So, why do we love front gardens? Because we say to all you folk out there, rip up the drive, get rid of that concrete and show your neighbours and the community around you, that front gardens can do more than looking beautiful – they can be beneficial too!
We have been invited by Swiss Cottage library/Camden Council to run a workshop this Saturday 18th May on ‘Attracting wildlife into your outside space.’ We’ll be outside the library between 2pm-4pm. Come and meet us and take home a free marigold plant – great for wildlife and a very important companion plant.
We have just been given the go ahead on a truly inspiring project in Brent to bring a burst of colour and community engagement into an estate in Brent with the most wonderful grounds. This is our fave kind of project where horticulture becomes so much more than a question of garden design and planting, but provides an opportunity for engaging with a whole community – with 500 flats and 25 cultures living around the gardens we are really excited about the potential.
Not forgetting to mention . . the planting of beneficial plants and shrubs will also provide another pollinator pathway in a much needed area of London!
Last Autumn, we were given a brief at Fitzjohns school to plant an area of fruit bushes…
With the aim of really engaging the kids we decided to turn it into a fruit salad patch, lotsa currant bushes, raspberries etc all inter planted with quick growing salad crops. We had great fun at club painting up a fruit salad sign on a piece of re-claimed tree bark. The shrubs are now full of blossom and our Summer cocktail of fruits is surely just round the corner.
We were invited by City farm to run a community workshop last weekend. Whilst the workshop was billed at being a nettle workshop, as the weather has been sooo cold, even the nettles have been slow in growing! What to do – aha, cleavers.
Cleavers, aka Goosegrass, are growing all around us at the moment – they make a delicious pesto. Simply pick a handful, mix with some chopped up garlic and pine nuts, blend with oil and voila a simply delish pesto.
So good for you…local food production at its very best! As the growing season kicks in, why not grow basil, pick ramsons (wild garlic)….what other ideas can you come up with for your very own homemade pesto?
We have just been asked by a certain council to design for the grounds in one of their large libraries, a series of beds which look like opened books. The beds will be filled with flowers/plants referenced in books to be found in the library. Methinks the book could be surrounded by a weave of hazel.
Brings a whole new meaning to the term book worms….
Great piece this week in the Kentish Towner about ‘Of butterflies and bees’ and our social enterprises, both online and in print.
“First, some news just in. Soho House Group have agreed to sponsor six planter/bike locks which will be manufactured by Kentish Town’s very own Front Yard Company. Designed and maintained by the folks at social enterprise Of Butterflies And Bees, in association with the Urban Gardening group of Transition Kentish Town, the stands will be positioned along Kentish Town Road and filled with a variety of beautiful wildflower plants and herbs . . ”
Read the rest here 🙂
We had a great day out on Saturday at Parliament Hill farmers market where we ‘Gave peas a chance’ and sowed soooo many peas with lotsa young gardeners. What tickled our fancy most was that we have been invited to go and receive a brief from a potential new client – she is ten years old! She wants to attract butterflies and bees into her garden. How cool is that!
During March we will be running three free community events. On Saturday March 9th, 10am-2pm, you will find us at Parliament Hill Farmers market where we have been invited to run a stall teaching kids how to grow lettuce and peas. We say give peas a chance! The following Saturday on March 16th, we will be running a ‘pop up editorial office,’ for The Ecobeat, a kids newspaper which we will be launching in June. Finally on Sunday March 24th 11am-2pm we will be running a nettle workshop. Come and learn how to make nettle soup and nettle pesto – soo good for you and the environment.
Very exciting – we are working alongside the urban gardening group of Transition Kentish Town to design and maintain several bike lock planters which will be placed all along Kentish Town High St. Thanks to the sponsorship from the team at Pizza East, the project has just been given the go ahead. We are imagining herbs and wildflowers… people parking their bikes and breathing in a beautiful aroma. If any shop owners out there are interested in having a bike planter outside their premises, do give us a call!
Very excited … our idea for the design of a literary garden has been commissioned by a school in NW3. What greater way to get those kids reciting and engaging with beautiful Shakespearean language than by having the flowers and plants, mentioned in the plays, all around them in the playground!
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Act 2 Scene 1 255-60)
Our planting plan will also include: Lavender (The Winters Tale – A4 Sc5); Rose (Hamlet – A4 Sc5); Fennel (Henry IV Pt2 – A2 Sc4); Crab Apple (The Taming of The Shrew – A2 Sc1); Roses (Henry VI – A2 Sc4).
What a fabulous way of linking garden design with a school curriculum! If only the head would let us build a raised bed, which from a top shot, looks like an opened classical book.
As all gardeners know, particularly those that follow the principles of permaculture, the most productive and fertile part of a woodland or forest is often its edge. This interface between areas not only provides a place where the most interesting growth takes place, but also furnishes habitat opportunities for a diverse range of wildlife species. Did you know that you can create your own mini woodland edge effect in even the smallest of gardens?
This week, we have created a woodland edge in another of our client’s back gardens. It was sooo easy to do. After clearing much of the general over growth (and more nettles!), cutting back the trees, clearing one half of the ground over plants (leaving the snowdrops which are already peeking through)…we prepared the area for our new woodland edge plants. Using the principles of permaculture, we will plant up through several layers of canopy, based on the principle that because plants grow to different heights, a diverse community of life is able to grow in a relatively small space.
For ground cover, we selected the early flowering ‘Lesser Celandine’ whose little yellow flowers will spread in no time to form a yellow carpet (much loved by the Flame Brocade Moth). These will be mixed with the lovely white April flowering ‘Wood Anemone’ (loved by the Fern Moth). From April to June, the pretty purple ‘Germander Speedwell’ (loved by Spotted Fritilary Butterfly) will flower to mix in nicely with late Spring to Summer’s (and sometimes a second flowering in the Autumn) ‘Yellow Pimpernel’ (loved by the Green archer moth), a great nectar plant.
For the second layer in our canopy we planted several semi-shade tolerant currant shrubs; red, white and black! Leaving just enough room to plant a dwarf ‘Gisela,’morello cherry tree. Growing to 7’, it will produce a cluster of slightly sour tasting berries in July, perfect for making morello cherry jam, me-thinks. Only prob, is the birds might get at them first. Half for them, half for us, we say!
For the final layer we planted several climbing honeysuckle plants. Lonicera japonica, ‘Halls prolific’ will work well in the dappled light/semi shade, climb nicely up around the beautiful Silver birch trees, and provide masses of fragrant white flowers turning a lovely buttery shade.
Quickly time to pile all of our tree cuttings into a corner to form a warm and snug duvet of a log pile for resting Winter wildlife…and it was time to retire for a nice cuppa.
It might be siesta time for much of garden life, but early January is a great time of year to be thinking about garden landscaping. We’ve been working this week on designing a really lovely elliptical shape for a paving area in a client’s back garden. Time to bring out the angle-grinder! It’s oh so easy to have a perfect rectangular shaped paving area, so we were delighted to be given the brief to come up with something a little different. Having also managed to procure some wonderful warm honey toned sandstone @ £25 per square metre (York paving at £75 per square metre, move over) – for a mere few hundred pounds we are, this week, putting the finishing touches on a fab new landscaped area for our client. All that’s needed is some complimentary coloured wooden furniture, a large glass of G&T and a bird feeding station, then it’s time to sit back and enjoy the beauty of late winter, watching the buds of those first early woodland spring plants soon appear.