We’re in The English Garden!

Or at least the very beautiful glossy magazine by that name. You can imagine how happy I was to flick through this month’s copy to find a mention of this website by Lia Leendertz. A wonderful surprise. lia In fact  I was SO happy I did some serious squeaking – which isn’t so cool when you’re on a crowded train. Ho hum. Anyway moving on (which was what the other people in my carriage wished they could do when I then started to cry a little) here’s a poem about some other news from the garden for you. It’s one of mine this time, and is especially for Lia who is already a muse:

The News From the Garden

is earthshattering,

a blackbird’s made its nest

in the hawthorn tree,


and breaking as I write,

seedlings planted a month ago

are bursting forth, teasing


us with their rainbow hints,

but if you rub 
a leaf

between finger and thumb


you can smell summer

already; a baby is kicking 
its legs

in response at the clouds


rolling over her like a news tape

filled with sun-bites,

while over by the swings,


a camelia 
leads an uprising

of blood red against the privet,

tulips and bluebells form a coalition,


and even the grass strengthens its position

near where this morning, at five past eleven

dizzy with dandelion flowers


the cat let a pigeon fly free.

Only the plane tree, obedient

to the season follows the prompts


while propped up against the wall

already warming itself for glory,

the first rosebud waits for her cue.

Grass Mounds, Taking Risks and Riots – Spa Fields, Exmouth Market

I’ve been to Exmouth Market several times, but never ventured down this uninviting passage to visit Spa Fields


I’d thought it was a perfect place to take a plate of street food from the market, but then I read a little about its history.


Turns out that its well-known for the Spa Fields riots of 1816, and later, between 1821 and 1824, as the base of a community led by a group of printers and based on the co-operative ideas of Robert Owen, the visionary founder of Scotland’s New Lanark.


Ups and downs though, and after only several years, the community floundered. Perhaps because, apparently, ‘The community also set up a ‘monitor’ system whereby each monitor looked after one person and acted as his ‘confessor’.


Before that though, in the 18th century, it was known for ‘the rude sports that were in vogue’ and thieves who knocked down passing pedestrians and ‘despoiled’ them of ‘hats, wigs, silver buckles, and money’.


Luckily I was allowed to eat my lunch in peace.


And when I visited, just round the corner, round three corners in fact, there’s an inspiring children’s playground – not a park though. And an adult-free zone to boot. It may not have ‘monitors and confessors’ but it does have some rules I loved!


I say when I visited, because sadly I heard that the playground had a fire just after I’d been, and was seriously damaged. You can read about it here.

So I offer you this poem from Robert Louis Stevenson which reminds me so much of playing as a child, although we had nothing as exciting as this wooden structure which was destroyed by the fire. Heartbreaking.



The Swing

How do you like to go up in a swing,

   Up in the air so blue?

 Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing

   Ever a child can do!


 Up in the air and over the wall,

   Till I can see so wide,

 Rivers and trees and cattle and all

   Over the countryside–


 Till I look down on the garden green,

   Down on the roof so brown–

 Up in the air I go flying again,

   Up in the air and down!



And I invite you to write about being allowed to take a different view of the garden, as with these giant chairs. I’d have LOVED these as a child. In fact I’d love them now.  A real boost for young imaginations.

It seems that Islington Council are committed to repairing the playground. I hope the children can play again very soon. 

Chelsea Fringe – Cake in the Garden…

Well, I’ve come to the end of (almost) daily posts but haven’t come to the end of all the London gardens so I will be posting more on here. Slowly though. And will be collating them all under the London Garden tab on this website. It’s been yummy, a piece of cake, the cherry on my gardening cupcake…


I could go on, but this is actually a very clumsy segue into my contribution to Veg Plotting’s wonderful Bloggers Cut event – where garden bloggers share their ‘cake and garden’ moments. So I thought I would make a garden cake. And to celebrate an article about my mum, Elizabeth Peplow, which has just appeared in Herbs Magazine, I decided to make a herb garden cake.


Thyme and rosemary and chocolate… yes! (I left the lavender out from the recipe because of personal taste and I don’t think it loses anything)


Topped with ricotta and honey and even more herbs… although one cake wanted to grow its own herb garden on top…


It’s a tribute to Mum’s herb wheels, I think… here’s one of the photographs from the magazine. She looks so young here!


And to top it off a cup of herb tea (from one of the Otter Farm plants I’ve just got for my new ‘tea garden’).


Here’s a poem to enjoy with it… all about Mum’s and chocolate cake which seems appropriate. It’s by the definitely-not-just-for-kids Michael Rosen.

Thanks for all your nice comments and messages during this tour – and to finish, I invite you to write about cake, or even just enjoy a slice for yourself! You can see some lovely posts over at Veg Plotting! Thanks to Michelle for setting this up, and sorry to be late to the party. No need for you to be though, you can still enjoy one last weekend of the Chelsea Fringe.

Roll on next year!

Chelsea Fringe – London Garden No 16

Five Minutes Peace: a garden to sit in, a poem to read, and a prompt to write to … No 16. (Find out more about what this is all about here.)

Pop Up Garden by the Balcony Gardener, Squint


This pop up garden by the Balcony Gardener has been a popular part of the Chelsea Fringe – based at the showroom of the innovative furniture designer, Squint. I love their patchworked wonderfully mad furniture so this was a double reason to go.


I have a tiny patch of green myself, so it was exciting to see evocative gardens even smaller. And look with sun…


Pretty as a picture…


You just want to catch it in a bottle…


Better than a cocktail…


All the equipment you need to make your own mini garden is available at Squint until the exhibition stops on 19th June, but the inspiration gave me the chance to visit my own favourite mini-garden shop, Le Petit Jardin in Tunbridge Wells…


Look how pretty Penny makes everything look…




And oh oh I can even get animals for my garden..


And so I went looking for a tiny poem for these beautiful gardens. What better than a haiku? Here’s one by Kit Wright:


Just a green olive

In its own little egg-cup:

It can feed the sky.

I invite you to write your own small poem… you can get some help here!

Chelsea Fringe – London Garden No 15

Five Minutes Peace: a garden to sit in, a poem to read, and a prompt to write to … No 15. (Find out more about what this is all about here.)



OK, so this isn’t the prettiest London square, and when I sat there a lot of people seemed to be using it mostly as a cut-through, but …. shhhh…. stop a little …


..if only to remember April 1694 when Edward ‘Beau’ Wilson was killed in a duel to the death with the Scottish economist John Law – who eventually escaped prison to found the Mississippi Company. Maybe they fought on this spot…


Anyway, one of my favourite things about this little square is the story that it used to be one of London’s private gardens but then the iron railings were melted down during the Second World War and it was left open for the riff-raff to enjoy, like me…


In fact, it used to be very private. It was originally the forecourt to the 4th Earl of Southampton‘s London home!

bloomsbury square

 Another thing I love is how this statue of Charles James Fox is looking directly at the statue of Francis Russell, Fifth Duke of Bedford in Russell Square. What kind of conversation could they be enjoying? At least they agreed with each other’s politics.


But this is good too – school planting in action.


And of course, one of my very  favourite cafes just near enough to get a take-away coffee and bring it back – still hot enough – to fuel the writing.


I read somewhere that the second movement of Symphony No 2 by Vaugham WIlliams respresents ‘Bloomsbury Square on a November Afternoon.’ I hadn’t listened to it before but enjoyed doing so thinking of this little garden. Here’s the music if you click on this link.

Thinking about the duel in the garden makes me think of the emotional maps we draw of gardens. They become less the ‘you are here’ plan and more the ‘once this happened here’ map. This deceptively simple poem by Hilaire Belloc sums it up perfectly for me:

The Elm

Hilare Belloc

This is the place where Dorothea smiled.

I did not know the reason, nor did she.

But there she stood, and turned, and smiled at me:

A sudden glory had bewitched the child.

The corn at harvest, and a single tree.

This is the place where Dorothea smiled.

And I invite you to write your own garden map today.