It’s always nice to see our work in print, so thank you Andrea Manley for including some of our projects in your article on green roofs and living walls in this months issue of Grand Designs magazine. The article features an image from the very first wall I created in Hackney, London back in 2009 . The living wall was part of what turned out to be a pretty amazing roof garden that featured a glass bottomed pool, polished concrete fire pit and of course, the ultimate accessory, a fully stocked bar!
It’s hotting up, down in Devon… and things are starting to get a little crowded at the nursery in South Milton. We’ve got multiple living walls developing nicely, all ready and waiting to be shipped to various locations across London. Whenever possible we like to plant the walls well in advance of the installation date, allowing us to keep a close eye on the plants as they develop and grow, sending out roots and settling in to their new vertical home.
On our tour of London last week I was delighted to see how well our living walls are doing, so much so, I wanted to share another image. This time it’s a wall we installed this time last summer in Belsize Park.
This week I’m back in London to check on a number of living walls we’ve installed over the last few years. A couple needed a little attention, others however required nothing more than for me to stand and appreciate what a fantastic job everyone who is involved with producing our living walls has done. When our combined hard work comes together and the plants start doing there thing… well it’s simply a pleasure to behold. This wall in Swiss Cottage was installed just a few months ago, and I am absolutely delighted. It’s one of our best yet. Congratulations team TLA for a job well done.
The well heeled folk who reside in the exclusive Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (London) are always well turned out and looking their best. The cars on the streets are shiny, supercharged and often driven by chauffeurs. The facades of houses are tall, white and often hide a multitude of fabulous treasures behind them. Last week Will returned to check on this living wall, created for one such home owner a few years back and took these images so I could assess (from my sleepy seaside retreat) how the wall is doing. I say it’s doing just great, looking good, dressed in it’s horticultural finery. The Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’ is almost always the first down the catwalk with the Campanula poscharskyana ‘Stella’ not far behind. However, I’m more than happy to wait a little longer for my favourite, the Begonia grands subs. evansiana to stride out for the finale (and usually close the show). With it’s nodding clusters of slightly fragrant pale pink or white flowers I’ve loved this beauty from the first time I cast my eye upon it. Bravo!
An essential part of what makes any garden or living wall interesting is the plant selection. Finding and testing out new plants is an exciting, fascinating and important job. I love discovering a new nursery and nothing can quite beat the tingle of excitement brought about by the anticipation of stumbling upon a new plant. I’m relatively fresh to the world of plant hunting, so I’m constantly ‘stumbling’ across lots of plants that I am unfamiliar with… or to be more honest, have simply never heard of before. Shame on me. However, plants are not something to be scared of or worried about using. They are to be picked up, paid for and whisked home to gaze upon for several minutes, hours or indeed days, before inserting into a new planting scheme. The pleasure of watching a new plant working it’s magic amongst other beauties is simply one of the great joys of my life. I am always happy when I’m planting. That’s why I constantly have mud under my finger nails.
This week, we returned once more to sunny Nottingham. Dr Neil Rotherham’s garden is fabulous. He’s a great gardener. I’ve never told him this, but when he asked us to create him a living wall that he could enjoy from his new kitchen window, I was slightly nervous. It’s a tricky spot, occupying a once forgotten shady slice of the garden that runs down the side of the house. It was one of those awkward, overlooked spaces… but it is no longer ignored or unloved. It is now celebrated, admired and commented on over a glass of wine. Best of all it is now a much loved space and one in which Dr Rotherham spends many an hour gently pruning off dead leaves and spent flower heads.
A few weeks ago I returned with my trusted colleague Alan to carry out some maintenance in a garden we created in Villefranch-Sur-Mer a few years ago. It is a fabulous spot on the south coast of France. It was a tough week, but somehow we managed to get through it, and despite the numerous challenges we faced we were even able to force a smile for this photo taken on the last day…
It is quite easy to pick up an injury in our line of work if you are not careful. A sore back from too much digging. Shredded arms from clearing brambles. Cut fingers from pruning. A mild case of sunstroke or frostbite from being exposed to the elements. Tick. Tick Tick. Tick. I never expected that I’d manage to break a thumb though. Whilst not being able to drive for six weeks is a complete pain I guess I should be thankful that my thumb doesn't actually hurt very much.
I know spring brings lots of beautiful blossom to our streets and gardens but for me there are plenty of trees that don’t really bloom and are just as good. The colours of this Acer Palmatum “Beni Tsukasa” are almost autumnal but yet the tree still carries that same springtime sense of new life and optimism for the summer ahead. The blue sky helps a bit too.
Outside of gardens, living walls, trees and plants, one of my favourite things is enjoying a well earned martini. Perhaps there is some similarity. After all there are endless varieties of martini to enjoy, all with their own unique colours, aromas and flavours. They’re all different and they’re all great. Some of them even come with an olive which brings me back to thinking about gardens...
Whilst Adam is enjoying the delights of rural Devon I have been getting to enjoy the delights of a building site on Old Street. Lucky me. Actually the view from the roof terrace is pretty good, especially on a sunny day. It is nice to know that it will be even better in a few months once we have installed a large living wall that tracks the shape of the neighbouring building’s gable end. My only slight concern is all the working at height we will be doing - I’d have taken a photo of the view to the pavement but I didn’t dare get that close to the edge of the terrace!
With business booming and hundreds of meters of living wall to create, Adam has fallen behind on his weekly blog posts. A long way behind. I have agreed to step in and lend a hand. For my first post I thought I should write about my own living wall which we created almost exactly a year ago. The living wall is located in our side return and is in full view from our large kitchen windows. This spring it has proven to be a massive distraction for my children with meals and homework endlessly interrupted. The reason? Well we have had robins nesting in the corner of the living wall and so every time they swoop in or out we all look up and watch the robins. They don’t like to leave the nest for more than a few seconds at a time so the distractions are pretty much constant! If you look closely you’ll see the mother tucked away amongst the Asarum caudatum. Beautiful.
I love Epimediums. Also known as barrenwort, bishop’s hat, fairy wings, horny goat weed or yin yang huo in Chinese. The majority of species come from China with a huge range of forms and species, many of which make a great choice for my living walls as they prefer a moist environment. Handy. They can be evergreen or deciduous and there are so many to choose from it makes my eyes water. I’ll be testing various varieties in my living walls throughout 2018 and will, I’m sure, slowly edit my selection down to a half dozen… yeah right, as if… make that two dozen. They’re just too fabulous.
Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleitun’, forms beautiful spreading evergreen ground cover and has the most wonderfully delicate yellow flowers. Perfect for creating wonderful flashes of brightness amongst the mottled greens and reds of it’s equally fabulous foliage. Like I said, I love epimediums.
Easy to miss, Asplenium trichomanes or Maidenhair Spleenwort, whilst delicate looking is actually extremely hardy (H6 - which is down to −20 °C). The leaves of this species are composed of numerous tiny leaflets held onto a wiry deep brown central stem which comes from the centre of the rosette. Numerous rosettes make a clump.
It’s one of our native evergreen ferns which grows in a range of rocky habitats, including cliffs, rock faces, screes, and perhaps now most commonly, on walls. Yes, walls! Of course they do. I’ve seen them! How could I have not used this fern already in one of my schemes? Maybe because they are so unassuming. They don’t shout out at you saying ‘use me, I’m a beautiful fern’. So they get overlooked. But it will be ignored no longer. I intend to test the little Spleenwort out and include it in my next living wall. Mixed in with some Soleirolia soleirolii, moss and a few other ferns, it’ll look ace, just as it does in nature. They are however tiny and I’m going to need a lot of them, so I better get plant hunting. (Lucky for me they grow like weeds in devon!)