Secret Gardens of Spitalfields

Having spent a couple of weeks living in Spitalfields for the recent St Jude's In the City exhibition, now we're back north it's a shame we won't be able to visit some of these secret gardens of Spitalfields which will open to the public on Saturday 7th June 2014 as part of the National Gardens Scheme.

As Spitalfields Life founder The Gentle Author points out:

"If you did not know of the existence of these gardens, you might think Spitalfields was an entirely urban place with barely a leaf in sight, but in fact every terrace conceals a string of verdant little gardens and yards filled with plants and trees that defy the dusty streets beyond."

Find out more via Spitalfields Life

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Chelsea Flower Parade

Our friend and collaborator Christopher Brown has been busy over at Wild At Heart's Pimlico store, hand painting a number of iconic Chelsea characters in their windows.

These images are also available as a series of hand coloured prints and a little folded leaflet.

I'm not sure how long the display will be on show - perhaps give Wild At Heart a quick call before travelling.

Contact details for their Pimlico store can be found online.

And you can find a selection of Chris' limited edition linocut prints over at St Jude's.

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Tommy Perman

From 9th May until 9th June 2014 artist Tommy Perman will be exhibiting a new collection of drawings at The Skylark in Portobello. The drawings are inspired by visits the glasshouses at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

"I grew up in the centre of Edinburgh and even though this is a relatively green city I still feel disconnected from nature. I've spent much of my career drawing the chaotic geometry of the city, often going to great lengths to remove any signs of life, so I've surprised myself by developing an interest in plants.

I like to set rules and limitations for my drawings. For this set I have limited myself to black on white and each image is contained within a circle. So that I didn't stray too far from familiar territory I have focused on plants with bold striking markings and structure that's almost architectural."

Born in 1980, Edinburgh, Scotland, Tommy Perman is an artist, designer and musician who works in a variety of media including visual art, performance, sound and music. He has a particular interest in combining new digital technologies with traditional techniques and materials. Between 2002 – 2013 Tommy was a member of the artist collective / band FOUND. As part of FOUND, Tommy has released numerous records and co-created a collection of weird and wonderful interactive sound installations including Cybraphon and #UNRAVEL.

Tommy has recently been working with Rob St. John on the art-science Water of Life project. They have contributed to the forthcoming issue two of our journal Random Spectacular and have created this audio accompaniment.

The exhibition runs from 9th May until 9th June 2014 at The Skylark, 241-243 Portobello High Street, Portobello, EH15 2AW.

Find out more about Tommy's work via www.surfacepressure.net

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Space Invaders

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.

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Sissinghurst Castle

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.

Find out more about Sissinghurst Castle and view more of Mackintosh's work over at the Hunterian Museum website.

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A Gentle Plea for Chaos

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.

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