I bought this house in February 2003 for the garden. It is around 20m by 7m (55ft by 25ft) plus a side passage, south facing and basically neutral London clay.


I had become a keen gardener on getting my first house and garden just up the road in 2001. It was 20ft by 20ft, east facing and, much as I loved and nurtured it and it was where I read all my books, learned many of the names of plants and discovered my passion, I soon realised it was too small to allow me to grow everything I wanted as I became more and more enthused about gardening and growing plants. I had to move to a larger garden.


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The garden I bought

On purchase it was a playground for four young boys with a raised playhouse/den, a young apple tree in the middle of the end of the lawn, the classic edge borders and a





 View of old lawn  View of old terrace

meagre terrace. The previous owner was a frustrated gardener and keen on plants (despite the footballs) and I have inherited and kept a number of her plants - in particular the sweet fruiting cherry tree and the silver birch at the end of the garden, the amazing pineapple broom (Cytisus battandieri) which is now a tree in what is known as the “hot” bed on the east facing side, as well as the ivy and Hydrangea petiolaris and an unknown yellow climbing rose in the side passage, a rowan tree and a Berberis in the west facing pink bed, plus an unknown scarlet climbing rose on the West facing fence by the house.


It had an outside tap in the side passage but no other water supply and no power outside the house.


This is what the same two views looked like by May and September that year.



And two years later.




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The brief

The brief for my new back garden was:

  • a modern, “country style” garden in a small London space
  • different areas;
    • room to entertain
    • a pond with moving water for sound and wildlife
    • separate large beds to allow me to create substantial borders and to have hot colours (reds, oranges, yellows etc) as well as classic pinks, purples, blues and whites in the same space
    • a working area with a greenhouse, shed, compost maker and water butts
    • space to relax and contemplate it
  • highly scented for me and the wildlife
  • have height so I could grow things upwards
  • be in flower and scent for as much of the year as possible
  • allow as wide a range of plants as possible
  • be curvy and soft not hard and square looking
  • stone and gravel to be light and warm coloured
  • include art
  • having lighting plus power to the shed and greenhouse
  • and be as eco-friendly and chemical free as possible.

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The design


I had done a lot of research, read hundreds of magazines and books and visited lots of gardens. I had in my mind what I wanted it to look like (a large country house garden in a small London space) but I needed to translate this into hard landscaping, products and planting to make it real.


It’s a tough brief to fit all that into such a small space. For example, the lawn and apple tree had to go to make way for beds and pond.


I measured a lot and I drew a complete plan first on paper and bought a large watercolour pad and some wax crayons and drew the “feel” I wanted for the two borders. This was very basic and rough as you can see for the hot bed!





 I then designed the detail and plotted the exact measurements on a software package. Garden design software has come a long way since then!





 I then created a “mood board” using clippings from magazines of the style, feel and products I wanted to include such as the bed edging detail, ideal furniture and fencing etc..





The final design is essentially divided in quarters though most of the internal lines are curved.


The middle two quarters (ie half the garden) are dedicated to the two large beds split by a curving gravel path from the house terrace which leads to a pond and pond bed on the right and a rustic swing seat on the left plus a smaller bed which was originally designed for vegetables.


The north quarter (south facing) by the house is the enlarged terrace which has a curved front edge with small walls holding raised beds for growing alpines and plants that need it hot and quick draining. I levelled the land so there is a step down to the path off the terrace. There is also a side passage along the kitchen with a bed along the fence.


The bottom quarter of the garden is purposely gently “fenced off” with low level (I metre high) trellising and a gated rose arch. This area has the shed, greenhouse, composter (behind the shed) and a water butt collecting the water off the greenhouse. (A very large water butt that collects water from the house roof has been added to the side passage subsequently.)


Nine years later I am still very happy with the basic design. It remains this way though I have added much to the height and changed the planting quite substantially.


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The work


All the design work was done between my offer being accepted and completion in order that I could start work on the garden the moment I moved in. I owe a debt of gratitude to the vendors who let me visit many times in the interim to get more and more exact measurements.


Even though the house needed doing too, there is no separate access to the garden so all the heavy machinery like cement mixers had to come through the front door and kitchen. I knew I had to do the garden before the house interiors and anyway it was my primary concern.


So, before I could start planting I needed the hard landscaping, building work and wiring/lighting to be done.

After getting a number of quotes I invited a local company called Muddy Wellies to do the hard landscaping and the wiring. Work started in March 2003 and they had until the beginning of May to finish so I could get the planting in for the summer. They were a great team, made really useful recommendations on stone and fence suppliers, worked hard, used really friendly, experienced, mostly antipodean labourers, and completed pretty much everything on time and on budget.


The destruction begins





Creating terrace and walls and new fence


Lawn goes, bases for buildings and beds created



  Path made, Duckpaddle swing seat and cedar Malvern greenhouse go in

The cedar Malvern shed arrives, the pond stone and ‘Family’ sculpture go in

Then the wiring went in for the lights, greenhouse and shed.


After the Muddy Wellies team had left, a number of very good friends and I spent a couple of days deep digging each bed, extracting major stones and buried children’s toys and enriching the ground with compost and organic material.


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The planting


The garden is divided into different beds known as below:


The pink bed: a large border - pink, apricot/peach, white, blue and purple allowed with a dash of pale yellow

The hot bed: a large border - red, orange, yellow and deep purple allowed (plus verbena bonariensis which just seems to like it best in the gravel beside it) and white in spring

The veg bed: which was for veg but has become too shaded for them and now has changed use but still retains its name

The pond beds: actually two beds around the pond and in the pond itself

The terrace and side passage: a bed which extends from the sitting room French doors along the kitchen to the end of the West side of the terrace and as mall bed on the East side

The wall beds: in the low, raised walls on the south side of the terrace

The back bed: the end of the garden and fence


And then there are lots of pots including two large planters on the south facing kitchen wall.


In a small space every plant has to work hard to retain its right to be there. Overall the brief for the plants was:

  • Scented wherever possible
  • Variety of foliage colours and textures
  • Each delivering a long flowering season unless they have a very good excuse
  • Colour (from foliage or flowers) and scent throughout the year
  • Predominantly perennial and herbaceous backbone with bulbs, tubers and seed-based extras.


Obviously the planting has changed over time as I have experimented. For example I started with lots of lupins and delphiniums in the Pink bed but they don’t like me, the clay, the slugs or all three so I have stopped even trying. I also had a variety of poisonous plants, especially in the hot bed which were structural and dramatic such as Ricinus. I have got rid of since getting dogs. It’s just too much of a risk.


The things that seem to do really well are roses, clematis, dahlias and shrubs so I now have over 30 roses and over 30 clematis in the garden. I grow them all within the borders or in pots. There is no formal rose garden. I have also tried and thrown out a number of roses and clematis for not performing well enough (see plants) and I have experimented with growing veg like sweetcorn and chard through the flower beds to a limited extent.


I wasn’t sure whether it would be better here to describe the original planting scheme or how it is now. It was planted nine years ago and I have experimented a great deal, learned a lot and changed much in the time. But, when I look back at my photos, I think some of the beds looked better a few years ago than they do now which is very frustrating! This is partly because shrubs were smaller then and because some plants only survived a season but looked great whilst they did it. Anyway, I’ve decided to tell you what the planting is now and not worry too much about the past. For details of each of the individual plants please refer to the Plants section.


In the hot bed


So, as I write, this in anchored by the Cytisus Bantandieri which is now quite a well sized “small tree”. It is semi evergreen and its flowers are large, scented, yellow “pineapples” in the summer. I love this plant and think it should be recommended much more often as a great tree for a small garden. It is very happy to be pruned to shape, doesn’t cast too much shade, and it brings in all sorts of wildlife, especially bees.


Along the fence runs a stunning white wisteria which was initially bought as a “ bush” wisteria with multi stems but which has decided it’s a “rambler” and now reaches along and over the side passage arch, across the back of the house and onto the neighbour’s house back (they requested it).



Clematis ‘Daniel Deronda’ shines its fabulous long purple petals and pale yellow anthers through it as it comes into flower.



The major shrubs in the bed are Pittosporum ‘Tandara Gold’, Choysia ternata ‘Sundance’, and Abutilon megapitamicum ‘Kentish Belle’.



Through the season the roses up the fence are yellow ‘The Pilgrim’, orange ‘Esterland’, dark red ‘Dublin Bay’ and bright red rambling ‘Super Elfin’ up the pineapple tree and red ‘Rambling Rosie’ now starting up the Loire arch. The ones within the bed are yellow floribunda ‘Arthur Bell’, red floribunda ‘Remembrance’ and orange hybrid tea ‘Indian Summer’.


Major perennials in focus in spring are: Euphorbia x ‘Martini’ and ‘Golden Fusion’, Dicentra ‘Valentine’, Peonia ‘Blaze’, and the magnificent Aquilegia ‘Tequila Sunrise’.


These are followed in summer by the flashy but short lived beauty of an orange Hemerocalis and the long lasting Alstromerias ‘Golden Delight’, ‘Red Beauty’ and ‘Orange Supreme’, Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’, and Spigelia’ Wisley Jester’ while Clematis viticella ‘Madame J Correvon’ flowers through the pineapple tree. In late summer and autumn Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ and ‘Emily McKenzie’ shine alongside Helenium ‘Morrheim Beauty’ and ‘Waldraut plus Rudbeckias. There are also various coloured grasses.




In between all of this, there are the bulbs and tubers/rhizomes. In spring there are red, orange and yellow tulips and they are replaced by red, orange, yellow and dark purple dahlias and cannas (which I dig up each winter). They need to share the space between the perennials.


Self-seeded amongst all this (apart from the weeds) are Californian poppies, the stately Verbena bonariensis and Mimulus luteus which ran riot in the pond (where it was first planted and from which it is now banned) but which I have allowed a little space in the bed where it is more controllable.


The pink bed


The pink bed is anchored at the NE corner by the Rowan tree and a Ceanothus ‘Puget blue’ , plus a variegated Philadelhus, at the moment a Buddleja ‘Lochinch’ and a Berberis create the back of the bed. These are supplemented by white Clematis montana grandiflora and now pink Clematis montana ‘Mayleen’ – both of which have to be controlled every 3-5 years because they grow so large, take over the tree and swing seat etc.. There is also a beautiful Daphne bholua “Sir Peter Smithers” and a Ceratostigma willmottianum.




All the roses are repeaters. They are apricot/pink hydrid tea ‘Scentsation’ which grows very tall (and like a floribunda) and lives up to its name, floribunda pale peachy pink ‘Pretty Lady’ which has really spread, two darker pink ‘Gertrude Geykylls’ at the back, climbing ‘High Hopes’, pale pink ‘Eglantyne’, white ‘Susan Williams-Ellis’ and purple/white ‘Eyes for You’ and white ground cover rose ‘Avon’. ‘The Generous Gardener’ climbing and ‘Super Fairy’ rambler are starting up the Loire arch from the bed.





In winter and spring the bed is scented by the Daphne, and the Brunneras ‘Jack Frost’ and ‘Dawson’s White’ add pretty blue colour and fab foliage amongst pink and white tulips, pink and white Dicentra and lily of the valley and blue bells hidden under the roses. Clematis ‘Arabella’ starts to scramble her pretty purple/blue flowers through everything as the variegated Philapehus takes over the scenting role. The tulips are replaced by white, pink, peach and purple Dahlias and white Cosmos for later in the summer while Geranium clarkei ‘Kashmir pink’, Centauras, self-seeded Nigella and the roses start to flower. And then the Buddleia starts and Clematis ‘Prince Charles’ and ‘Caroline’ twine their way up the Daphne and onto the swing seat. If I’m lucky, the tree Peony ‘Haruno Akebono’ flowers. Later in the season Saponaria osea ‘flora plena opens and spreads beside the Dorycrinum ‘Little Boy Blue’. Astrantia ‘Roma’ and ‘Warren Hills’ also show up each year and the Dahlias, roses and Ceratostigma take the colour to the first frosts.


The veg bed


This is now incorrectly named because it no longer contains vegetables. It has a vast number of plants given its tiny size. At the back is Pittosporum ‘Irene Patterson’ and Pittosporum ‘Garne Hii’. By the low trellis is a standard Aronia pru ‘Brilliant’ and Jasminium nudiflorum for winter colour, Rosa ‘Ghislaine de Feligonde’ up the gated arch and Clematis ‘Anna Louise’, C. ‘Venosa Violcaea’, and C. ‘Beauty of Worcester’. This is also my main daffodil site and home for the new Digitalis ‘Illumination Pink’ which is supposed to be perennial. We’ll see next year! The side by the swing seat holds light purple Wisteria sinensis ‘Caroline’, Lonicera periclymenum ‘Graham Thomas’, Rosa ‘Crown Princess Margareta’ and Clematis ‘Henrii’ and C. ‘Princess Diana’.


And in the middle a willow wigwam plays host to Clematis ‘Carnaby’, ‘Dawn’, ‘Special Occasion,’ ‘Ooh La La’ and ‘Bourbon’. Very pink all round! Under the wigwam are four sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) and at its front edges are Geranium ‘Rozanne’, Lamium ‘Ghost’, grape hyacinth ‘Armeniacum’ and Scilla plus plenty of self-seeded poppies and weed Viola labradorica which has jumped out of the pond beds and gone everywhere.



The pond beds


The pond beds from the gated arch to the “Family” statue hold Rosa ‘Phyllis Bide’ up the arch, Clematis ‘Prince Charles’, Primula veris, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silver feather’, Rosa glauca with its fabulous hips, Acer palmatum “Sunset”, Astrantia, Gillenia trifoliatax, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Lady in Red’, and Acer palmatum ‘Orange Dream’.




In the pond is a hardy white nymphaea which is probably ‘Candida’ and a variety of submerged and floating oxygenators. In submerged planters on the sill are Lobelia cardinalis, Myosotis paulstris, Iris ‘Ensata Hydrid’ and Iris pseudocorus, Lysimachia punctata, the dinosaur grass Equisetum hyemale, Ranunculus flammula, Caltha polypetala, and Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’.


The side passage bed and terrace beds


On the west side of the terrace this bed Is anchored by climbing Rosa ‘Graham Thomas’ which now pretty much takes up eight feet of it horizontally and vertically and is smothered in blue Clematis macropetala.



Also in there is Clematis ‘Warszawska Nike’, Euphorbia and Sarcococca confusa and a small tree, Albizia ‘Julibrissia Boubri Ombrellax’. Up the new arch are Rosa ‘Compassion’ and R. ‘Lord Byron’ with Wisteria bachytrotis ‘Schiro Kapitan Fuju’ and Lonicera americana.


In the part of the passage opposite the kitchen it is predominantly covered in different ivies and Hydrangea petiolaris with an unknown yellow rose and Anemone ‘Honorine Johbert’. Appearing through are Clematis texensis ‘Duchess of Albany’ and C. ‘Comtesse de Bouchaud’.



The East side of the terrace is supposed only to be home to an unknown scarlet climbing rose which I inherited and Trachelospermum jasminoides because there are only two gaps in the terrace.




However, the Fremontadendron ‘California Glory’ that was in a pot burst through it, buried under one of the terrace flags and became planted there. It has now been removed (see blog) and replaced by an Amelanchier laevis ‘Snowflakes’.


The wall beds


The wall beds by the hot bed are home to Dianthus ‘Flashing lights’, Lotus corniculatus, Camomile, and an unrecorded blue Campanula.  The pink bed wall beds are home to Mimulus ‘Andean Nymph’, Zaluzianskya ovate, Saxifrage ‘White Pixie’, Aubretia ‘ Hamburg Stadt Park’, and Armeia splendens.



The back bed


Is home to a flowering sweet cherry tree, a silver birch tree and a eucalyptus niphophila. The north facing back fence is covered in Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’ and C. ‘Miss Bateman’ which thrive there, and daffodils and snowdrops appear every spring through the gravel.





There are too many to detail them all and of course many change. However some are permanent features and these house the following:


Agapanthus – ‘Headbourne hybrids’, ‘Bressingham White’ and ‘Evening Star’

Rosa – ‘Make a Wish’, ‘Shining Light’ and another unrecorded


Geranium sanguinium ‘Max Frei’

An unknown pink mophead Hydrangea which is a potted out house present

Clematis- ‘Bourbon’, ‘Vivienne Beth Currie’, ‘Rebecca’, ‘Angelique’, ‘Parisienne’ and ‘Sieboldii’

Rhamnus alaternus ‘Argenteover’

Libertia ‘Taupo Blaze’

Hibiscus ‘Lavender Chiffon’

Lauris nobilis (for cooking purposes)

Mahonia japonica

Magnolia stellata

Vitus ‘Sauvignan Blanc’ – my favourite tipple but a very disappointing vine

Vibernum carlesii ‘Aurora’

Syringa – pubescens patula

Four Acers of different types

And lots of Nemesia and herbs and a bright orange cactus in the greenhouse which flowers every year.


A full list of the plants in the garden and personal comments on them can be found in the Plants section of the site. It also includes many I have grown and discarded for various reasons – wrong shape, too little scent, too big, wrong conditions, too aggressive/really a weed (eg physalis and mimulus), or because I just didn’t like it or it didn’t like me.



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The lighting


The garden was originally designed with quite a lot of light: three low voltage lamps to light the path from terrace to rose arch gate plus 3 moveable spotlights in each major bed to highlight individual plants or trees, the sculptures and the pond stream plus two spotlights in the back end to light the engraved art and up the silver birch. Also two wall mounted lights on the back and side of the house plus a free standing light element.


The wall mounted lights have never worked properly and despite replacing all the interior elements often, many of the ground lights or their wires have been destroyed by foxes or rain or what seems to be internal combustion. I now have the path lights and three spots still working so when I have visitors (or simply the inclination) I light the garden with candles in protected glass. However I do mean to get a man in to solve the spotlight problems. Watch this space!


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The art


The first piece of art to arrive was a large black marble sculpture called “Family” by a young Zimbabwian artist called Sam Mabeu who I found at the House & Garden show at Olympia. It arrived with him, his agent and a large chunk of tree trunk to mount it on. It took all of us plus two of the Muddy Wellies team to get it up and in place. Since then the wooden stump has been destroyed (twice) by stag beetle larvae and threatened to fall through the fence into the neighbour’s garden so I have given up on the wood and the sculpture now sits on the ground amongst acers and agapanthus.


  Left: The "Family" with its artist Sam Mabeu pictured 2nd left and right, the sculpture now amongst acers

The second piece of art was also from Zimbabwe, a green lady. It took me some time to find a suitable mount in a reclamation yard. She was originally put on it and placed by the silver birch at the end of the garden. She is now in the shade of the rowan tree in the pink bed.  The third piece I commissioned from an artist called Andrea Owen who I also met at a London home and garden fair. It is dandelions and insects etched into the back of a glass sheet, coloured and then protected by another glass sheet. It needs a dark background to be seen at its best so, at that point, I painted the back fence dark ivy green. They are both seen below with the green lady sculpture in its original position.





There is also a sculpture of a woman on a horse by Erica Renelt which I bought from the sculpture exhibition at the Wisley summer show in 2011. It is made of slate resin on a wire frame.




My latest “art” is two new Vitra chairs for opposite the swing seat. I often sit there, to ponder the garden and enjoy the view, so any chairs opposite have to be “see-through” when I don’t have visitors. They also have to be comfortable of course. I have looked a long time for suitable chairs (four years) and in 2012 bought these two in a moment of extravagance, ironically following a meeting with my accountants who happen to have their office by a very expensive designer furniture shop in Euston. They are made of recycled materials, designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec with plants in mind and seem to me to be very like the intertwined leaves of the irises in the pond. They fulfil the brief and I am very pleased with them despite the outlay.





There is also an iron heron, an iron kingfisher, a metal dragonfly and a bust of a coquettish but shy young woman by the pond.





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