Friday, July 16, 2010

The joy of a homemade garden

I recently spent a Sunday afternoon on a whirlwind tour of local gardens open under the National Gardens Scheme. Two, which I'd seen before, belonged to friends and I was keen to go along and support them.
The second two gardens I hadn't seen before. They were very different. The first had been created by a well-known garden designer, Andrew Wilson, and was in a leafy (ie smart and expensive) road just off Wimbledon Common. It was featured in the July issue of Gardens Illustrated.
The other was in a modest cul-de-sac off a main road in Wandsworth. I've featured it here on my blog because I thought it was absolutely enchanting.
There was nothing wrong with the Andrew Wilson garden. It was very smart, it had some wonderful features, such as a triangular pond with a screen of reeds, and a series of yew hedges that acted as baffles so that the garden only revealed itself as you walked round. But to me it lacked ... soul. I think the owner was very proud of it, but it didn't seem to have that sense of passion about it that you find in the garden of a plantaholic.
Pitt Crescent, on the other hand, owned by Karen Grosch, was crammed with plants, and ideas, and places to sit and relax and quirky objects that made you smile, such as the old railway station sign above.

Karen is a model-maker so her background is theatre design. It goes without saying that she has a great eye for form and colour and perspective. But to me the most impressive thing about her garden (apart from the plants) was its sense of peace and serenity - astonishing, given that it was next door to a council block and backed on to the District Line.

An old water tank is now home to frogs and a waterlily. Karen thinks the frogs keep the slugs and snails off the hostas.

I loved this combination of dark-leaved Begonia semperflorens with the painted fern, Athyrium niponicum var. pictum. Neither of these are plants I particularly like, but I was converted on the spot and rushed home and bought some begonias for myself.

I always think of this blue-grey-green colour as being typically French. It works amazingly well in any garden, I think.

The view looking back towards the house.

Details such as this decorative metalwork make wonderful talking points ...

... and even the utilitarian areas look attractive, such as this shelf of clay pots.

Last but not least, Karen's front garden.

101 Pitt Crescent, London SW19 8HR is open for the National Gardens Scheme on the first Sunday in June. To read more about it, go to