It’s that time of year when it’s all about improving the soil. In horticultural terms, soil is everything. By getting the soil right, creating nutrient rich soil filled with well rotted manure, organic matter, homemade compost, or spent mushroom compost; by treating roots to mycorrhizal fungi; dressing top soil with seaweed extract – we are really helping enhance our soil, and getting the conditions right for the plants which we will be soon putting in for all our clients, to flourish. Not of course forgetting to mention we will also be creating a habitat for the populations of microbial activity which live beneath the soil. Did you know that in the upper 30-cm layer of soil there are about 25 tonnes of soil organisms like bacteria, fungi, earthworms!
As a company we believe in investing a good amount of our clients’ budget on soil preps; we are currently trialing Bio char – Carbon Gold, which also helps with carbon sequestration. We love working with Lakeland gold compost made from bracken and sheep’s wool – (www.dalefootcomposts.co.uk) on many projects ranging from our NW2 local authority sites, to our Camden and Islington schools – it’s a great alternative to peat. As an every day product, we are always very happy with a couple of dumpy bags of well rotted manure from Thompsons of Crewes Hill. (www.thompsonsofcreweshill.com)
Not forgetting to mention the best value compost of all – homemade compost!
We loving getting well soiled…although it’s not terribly glam. See Debbie below!
Any questions on how to improve your soil, or advice on creating your own homemade compost centre Give us a call!
The start of February sees us busily bee-vering away on eleven really exciting projects – and this is meant to be the dormant season! From a client brief to create year-round scented planters for a school entrance, to creating a vertical design for a small garden in Camden – from creating a woodland slope in a lovely shady garden, to designing a mini orchard, it’s all go here.
Don’t forget that now is the time to get planting those bare-rooted fruit trees/shrubs. We are busily planting fan-trained cherry trees in particular at the moment. We are particularly loving the Cherry ‘Sunburst’ and ‘Stella’. These 15L fan trained cultivars will also bear lovely white flowers in the Spring. Not forgetting to mention the sour Cherry ‘Morello’ which is fab in tarts and jams, and is also semi-shade tolerant. If you would like some advice on how to select bare-rooted cultivars, give us a call!
We have started the year by taking on three very exciting new projects.
Firstly, a wonderful large garden in the Islington area. The challenge is a classic one – the garden is very long and thin. To break this up, our design will incorporate areas of lovely soft landscaping; a white clover lawn, a fragrant pollinator lawn and a woodland edge. An area of lawn filled with white clover is a wonderful way to create an area of soft landscaping with a difference. Imagine a lawn dotted with white clover with a hint of pink, flowering May onwards. Clover is also a prime nectar source for bees and moths. We will also plant an area of the lawn with fragrant pollinator plants – a mini wildflower meadow. At the back of the garden is a slope filled with rubble and old soil. Our solution is to create a gently undulating slope filled with woodland edge Spring flowers.
Around the garden we are going to plant a delightful array of wildlife friendly herbaceous perennials and evergreens. Plants to inspire through all seasons, colours and light conditions. A scattering of fruit trees and shrubs will complete the lovely bucolic look and feel of this garden.
Our second project in Camden is a front garden. We are particularly happy that our client’s have taken on our recommendation of not just planting a usual ‘box’ standard hedging – but to create a hedge that will also act as a beneficial wildlife border. By adding hedging to provide hibernating sites, climbers with nesting and roosting opportunities and Winter/Autumn berrying shrubs, this front garden will not only have visual appeal, but be of great benefit to wildlife. We are thinking Ligustrum vulgaris (wild privet) to provide nectar for insects, Viburnum opulus (guelder rose) to provide nectar for birds, Crataegus monogyna (hawthorn) for flowers, berries and foliage, Rosa rugosa, a wild rose with magenta Summer flowers which are followed by masses of orange-red hips.
Talking of hedging, we are also very proud that a third new client we are working with are the TMO of another really inspiring Local Authority estate in Brent. We are working with them to transform the large grounds into an oasis of colour and envirnomental benefit. We have encouraged them to apply for the Woodland trust community hedging pack. We are envisaging that long pathways of bland metal fencing in our Council Estates will be replaced by miles of beneficial hedging, forming vital habitats, providing food, shelter and breeding sites. Wildlife hedging will also act as an important wildlife corridor linking urban areas together and acting as wildlife highways! and stop off-points.
Fewer than 1% of Britain’s 22,000 species of insects are garden pests, and many are beneficial pollinators and predators of garden pests.
We have been commissioned to design and create a wonderful new space outside the Kentish Town Health Centre. Called the ‘Well-beeinng garden,’ our concept will turn the over-grown area into a abundant, beautiful and beneficial space filled with plants and herbs that not only have healing qualities, but are bee friendly – hence the name, ‘The Well BEEing garden.’
We have organized a community event which takes place on Saturday 30/11 1-3pm, where we will all dig over the site to start to shape out the space. If you have got a spade and an hour free, please do come along and meet us!
In tandem with our local Transition groups in Belsize and Kentish Town, we are developing our very own beer: Belsize beer, Kentish town keg, and Hampstead Heath hop. Our bit is to advise how to grow the hops! We are looking for as many of you as possible to join in with the fun and plant some hop plug plants next March. Hops, a perennial are so easy to grow, not only are they are great climber and have very beautiful white flowers, are also extremely beneficial to wildlife, but they can also be turned into beer!
All the hops we all grow will then be harvested in September and sent along to local brewery The Bull in N6, who have agreed to brew the beer. Fast forward to October 2014 – we will all be drinking our very own beer in our local pubs.
To join in with the campaign, please get in touch.
Just putting the finishing touches on the design of a very small but lovely back garden in Islington. The brief is to stick to a year round colour palette of purple and white – hues thereof. Thank goodness for Anemone blanda, a bulb which will provide a wonderful carpet of early delicate blues and purples in March to be followed by lots of Greater stitchwort, Germander speedwells and Muscari before the herbaceous perennials of pop back into life…who says early Spring has to be mellow yellow – with this design we say bring out the purple haze!
We have been busy, alongside Transition Belsize and Kentish Town, the last few weekends taking our apple press around to lots of local schools and events. We particularly enjoyed the event at the local forest/Montessori school in Camden whose grounds we have just started designing/maintaining.
Our fruit trees whizzo – Paul, was in attendance at the events. He would like to encourage you all to plant as many fruit trees as possible this Winter, as we are now heading towards the right time of year to plant those bare rootstocks!
Attention parents and teachers – please look in our community/schools resource section for, ‘The Story of Two apples,’ which provides a great workshop for kids wanting to consider the merits of local food!
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….