My neighbour in Hackney had an inspirational formal garden of box hedging, lavender and Alchemilla mollis with a backdrop of white stemmed birches.
Our garden was a little less formal but we shared the foxgloves that would appear in cracks in the paving or in the shade beneath the birch trees. You'd often find yourself viewing the garden through their tall spires.
In our Norfolk garden, red poppies, teasels and perhaps inadvisably planted bronze fennel were the random additions to our gardening efforts.
Here in Edinburgh it's the Welsh poppy that's a very welcome invader, giving the garden its character, finding a home in just about every gap in brickwork edging, beds and pathways, even growing in the stone walls. It's easily weeded out and the fun is in keeping a balance.
Sadly, despite its clear blue flowers which perfectly compliment the yellow and orange of the poppies, the alkanet isn't so welcome. Once its tap roots are have taken hold it's a devil to pull out.
Posted by Angie Lewin on May 29th, 2013
We managed to sneak in a quick trip to Sissinghurst the other week. Maybe it's a bit ambitious to try to make the large scale planting schemes of these great gardens work in a small garden, but the spring-flowering anemones, snake's head fritillaries, trilliums and hellebores were just so beautiful and understated. I'm going to try to emulate it in our long, well, long-ish, narrow front garden in Edinburgh.
The Charles Rennie Mackintosh watercolour below shows the unique chequerboard pattern on the fritillary's purple flowers. Apparently, Vita Sackville-West called it "a sinister little flower, in the mournful colour of decay" which seems a bit harsh.
Posted by Angie Lewin on May 6th, 2013
Here's my latest screen print, Autumn Garden, Norfolk.
Growing cultivated and wild plants together often creates a beautifully random effect. This screen print depicts huge papery artichoke flowers, astrantia and miscanthus growing amongst teasels, wild poppies and grasses in my Norfolk meadow garden on a late autumn afternoon.
Posted by Angie Lewin on April 28th, 2013
I've recently exchanged the tending of a large semi-wild Norfolk country garden with the cultivation of a tiny walled back garden and even smaller front garden in the centre of Edinburgh. Having spent a number of years living in London after graduating, I'm enjoying urban gardening again and I find myself studying the plants growing here in as close detail as those in our old meadow garden.
We're lucky - on one side we have woodland (with owls, woodpeckers, buzzards and foxes) and a small burn as neighbours. It's one of those renowned damp Scottish gardens and so, in the old stone walls and between the bricks edging the beds, we find a variety of ferns and welsh poppies too. Honeysuckle happily grows in the mortar of the walls in places.
When in the plant nursery or leafing through seed catalogues I now find myself being more choosy as every plant must really earn its place here. At the same time, I want to keep the same chaotic mix of the wild and the cultivated that inspires me, to continue to celebrate the self-seeders, to welcome those that climb and creep over and under my neighbours' fences and walls.
In her gardening anthology Garden Wisdom, Leslie Geddes-Brown includes 'A Gentle Plea for Chaos' by Mirabel Osler in which she asks... "So when I make a plea for havoc, what would be lost? Merely the pristine appearance of a garden kept highly manicured which could be squandered for amiable disorder. Just in some places. Just to give a pull at our primeval senses. A mild desire for amorphous confusion which will gently infiltrate and, given time, one day will set the garden singing".
This is the garden I hope I'll create here.
Posted by Angie Lewin on January 13th, 2013
Don't think we've ever seen this before - Eric Ravilious' Design For A Plant-house, watercolour over pencil.
Currently on show at The Fine Art Society in New Bond Street.
Posted by Simon Lewin on May 9th, 2012
The structure of dandelion seedheads has always fascinated me. But I think Regine Ramseier’s installation captures their delicate nature in a wonderful way.
My total lack of German means I can only enjoy the photographs and I just wish I’d a chance to see this piece in reality. I wonder how long it lasted? View further images
Posted by Angie Lewin on December 12th, 2011
Ever since my days working in garden design, I've gazed at photographs of the Alhambra and Generalife. But I was worried that the hordes of camera clicking tourists would make the reality a disappointment.
After the relative isolation of my residency at Los Gázquez our time in Granada was in sharp but good contrast. In countless photos I tried to record the incredible gardens and architecture. But on a smaller scale the complex tile patterns and their wonderful glazes that feature throughout are a real inspiration.
Posted by Angie Lewin on June 7th, 2011
A recent annual trip to Woottens Nursery close to Southwold makes me wish I had more soil and spaces in my garden to fill. The nursery is abundant with wonderful flora including a large greenhouse full of pelagoniums, a field of bearded iris and later when in bloom, another field of Hemerocallis (Day Lilies).
Due to the lack of space in my garden I came away with just a few plants, one of them being the impressive biennial Angelica Gigas to replace the Angelica which is flowering this year. This plant looks magnificent in my garden with bundles of ball-like flowers and umbrella foliage. It towers over the grasses and leaves wonderful seed heads in the winter months. When buying plants at Woottens, you are presented with printed information on your plant purchases telling you where to plant them and how to care for them and also what looks great growing alongside them - invaluable advice.
I'm going to preserve some of the stems this week. I'm intrigued to rediscover the taste and colour of candied angelica. You can find out more about the plant from Botanical.com
"The preparation of Angelica is a small but important industry in the south of France, its cultivation being centralized in Clermont Ferrand. Fairly large quantities are purchased by confectioners and high prices are easily obtainable. The flavour of Angelica suggests that of Juniper berries, and it is largely used in combination with Juniper berries, or in partial substitution for them by gin distillers. The stem is largely used in the preparation of preserved fruits and 'confitures' generally, and is also used as an aromatic garnish by confectioners. The seeds especially, which are aromatic and bitter in taste, are employed also in alcoholic distillates, especially in the preparation of Vermouth and similar preparations, as well as in other liqueurs, notably Chartreuse."
Posted by Kate Sullivan on May 26th, 2010
Angie's currently working with Merrell on another book project due this Autumn. We'll post some information about that soon.
Posted by Simon Lewin on March 24th, 2010
It wasn’t until Mary Delany was in her 70s that she first picked up a pair of scissors and began cutting intricate shapes from coloured tissue papers which she mounted strikingly onto dense black backgrounds. The hundreds of collages which she created are the most beautifully coloured and botanically accurate plant portraits. Her ‘paper mosaiks’ are the highlight of an exhibition at Sir John Soane’s Museum (which is an inspiring place to visit in itself).
Opens 19th February 2010 and runs until 10th May 2010. Tuesday-Sat from 10am - 5pm. Admission free
Sir John Soane's Museum, 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP.Website: www.soane.org
Posted by Angie Lewin on February 6th, 2010