Kay’s secret garden

Kay Thomson’s beautiful garden. She worked together with Nicholas Wood-Glover, the designer.

Last week my one trip outside the house was when a friend drove me to Muswell Hill to see Kay Thomson’s beautiful garden, open under the National Garden Scheme. I’d met Kay through my friend over a cup of coffee in winter and heard about her garden so was looking forward to this. It had been scorching all week and being gardeners of course we hoped for rain, but not during this afternoon! As luck would have it the rain held off and the temperature was balmy. An extremely tidy side return leads into a long garden divided into sections. But first of all we admired the profusion of flowers on this Trachelospermum jasminoides scrambling on the back wall of the house. And of course we took in the scent which is divine. It must be a good year for this climber as my own has done better than ever, clambering all over an east-facing brick extension right outside my bedroom window.

Trachelospermum jasminoides

A lawned area is surrounded by borders which Kay has planted up to represent astrological colours – reds, greens, whites and blues representing fire, earth, air and water. This red salvia represents fiery Aries, my own sign.

Aries area of the border – red salvia

And the large white valerian below represents air.

Capricorn area – Valerian

Kay has some unusual plants and trees, including this guava tree which I’ve never seen in the UK. If you look closely you can see the purple and white flowers, although Kay says she’s never seen them turn into fruit.

Mature guava tree with blossom

A pergola leads to the pond area.


A quirky feature is this metal boat complete with oars and rope and artful planting.


It leads to this large wildlife pond.  It has a few goldfish but I wonder how long before a heron discovers a tasty meal! At one entrance is a running stream, something I lack in my own pond.

Wildlife pond – lilies in full swing
Babbling brook
Fine specimen of Equisetum

Scattered throughout the garden are some lovely sculptures which are enhanced by the surrounding plants.

Sleeping cat
Cheeky duck

Beyond the pond is a mirror serving to extend the garden.

Clever use of a mirror

And any garden showing under the National Gardens Scheme would not be complete without the statutory tea and cakes.  What a display – worthy of the Women’s Institute!  My friend bought me a raspberry sponge cake and a tea and we sat down at one of the many tables and chairs scattered throughout Kay’s garden.  A real treat of an afternoon – thanks to my friend for taking me.

Tea and cakes

Kay will happily show you her garden by appointment.  Get in touch with her at kaythomson378@gmail.com


Going for gold – in North London

I didn’t manage to get tickets for the Chelsea Flower Show this year so here’s my own Chelsea garden in Stroud Green. I love the bronzes and purples of the heuchera, astrantia, cirsium and acer against the greens and whites in this border.

And here is the same border as an aerial view showing the different textures of the plants.

Cirsium rivulare atropurpureum

Here’s another border. Geranium Johnson’s Blue, aquilegia (I think Nora Barlow?) and self-seeded Alchemilla mollis and valerian.

Cottage garden border

Another border fringed with the ever-multiplying Alchemilla mollis! It’s so pretty with raindrops on but I couldn’t get a photo of those rare drops.

Alchemilla mollis – the little tramp!

I’m keen on geraniums, especially blue ones. Here’s the lovely Geranium Rozanne, much beloved, and deservedly so, by Carol Klein. It’s out from June till October, but this is a very early flower.

Geranium Rozanne

I’ve also just discovered a newer relation to Rozanne – Geranium azure rush which I’m told has a more compact form and is even more long-flowering.  I bought mine from Claire Austin which came in excellent condition.

Geranium azure rush

I haven’t got many roses, but who could fail to love the Rambling Rector – a cascade of unruliness, just like some unkempt Victorian vicar’s garden.

Rambling rector rose

Another rose I bought at this time from David Austin is New Dawn, which after several years has come into its own. Its a modern rose and flowers repeatedly and has the most delicate fragrance.  Worth waiting for.

New Dawn

At the end of my garden is a pond with various planting around it.  Here is a rush with some fish sculpture from Crocus floating above.

Rush with fish

And lastly a picture of my pond.  It looks tranquil but I have many newts, water snails, water boatmen and damsel and dragonflies. I even have a daily visit from a sparrow hawk sipping from the pond.  There’s been a pair nesting in the trees on the railway at the bottom of our gardens for several years now.

Wildlife pond

Blossom in Stroud Green

Amelanchier Lamarckii

It was my birthday on April 1st (no joke!) and as it was a sunny day I took myself off to snap photos of the lovely blossom around Stroud Green. The first tree I snapped was the one above.  The Amelanchier is also known as Snowy Mespilus because of its delicate snow-white blossom.  There are a group of them on the space in front of Vagabond Cafe on Stroud Green Road. Blooming only for  a week, they always burst forth on my birthday. Another name for this beautiful tree is the Juneberry tree because of the small blue-black berries which fruit in June.  They are edible and apparently taste rather like blueberries although I’ve never tried them. I have one in my garden and I can time the ripening of the berries as enthusiastic wood pigeons rustle and flap among the branches as they munch their dinner. The tree has all year round beauty – in autumn the leaves turn a rich dark red colour.

My blossom tour included Stapleton Hall Road and Mount View Road.  Walking up Stapleton Hall Road a woman stopped me to complement me on my bright pink fleece.  Arriving on Mount View Road two Portuguese women getting into their car stopped to chat and we got into a conversation about Easter traditions in Portugal where they scatter blossoms on the doorsteps.  I continued on my way and as their car passed me the driver rolled down her window and gave me a medallion of the Virgin Mary which she had blessed for me.  Hmm! But still, both encounters show how friendly people are round here.

Flowering cherry
Damson blossom along the Gospel Oak-Barking railway at the bottom of my garden. Mmm damson jam in autumn!
Photinia hedge – known as Red Robin because of its glossy red leaves in spring. Blossom is fairly insignificant but it’s a popular hedge in Stroud Green.
Camellia shrub in bud – the colour of my fleece!
A beauty of a camellia against a corner wall
Chaenomeles or ornamental quince – grown for its flowers rather than its fruit
Spring flowering clematis
Virburnum tinus – early flowering virburnum
A very neatly pruned forsythia – mostly they tend to straggle
Magnificent magnolia
And lastly my own fluorescent rhodie – rather early this year



Spring in My Garden

For the past few days I’ve been woken at dawn by a very loud thrush proclaiming from the treetops at the bottom of the garden. This morning I heard my first blackbird as I left the house. Spring is arriving. I say arriving because winter has not yet left us. My winter garden is still blooming with intermingling scents from the viburnum, winter honeysuckle and daphne. I walk down the railway sleeper path to the bottom of my garden to view the blooms still clinging to the autumn flowering cherry and the mahonia.

But my slow walk in the garden reveals that spring is almost here with wild primroses scattered between the sleepers and hellebores, which have seeded themselves underneath my two weigelas, sporting a variety of colours from white to deep purple.

Daffodils are budding and bluebells are poking their leaves above ground. The vegetable plot is doing well too. The seedlings I bought from the garden centre at the end of autumn have flourished. I’m very proud of my Romanesco cauliflowers and my calabrese, neither of which I’ve grown before. One of the cauliflowers looks as it should – tight green spirals forming the head – but the others have a form more like broccoli. Excellent taste though. The calabrese is not yet ready to eat, but it is as far as the wood pigeons are concerned. As the vegetable plots are near my bedroom window I find myself banging on the French windows to frighten them off, no doubt to the annoyance of my neighbours upstairs.

Last week a friend helped me to spread two dumpy bags full of compost mixed with chopped forest bark and the garden looks fantastically tidy with not a weed to be seen. I am eager for the rest of the perennials to thrust through the fine black compost so I can start planning to fill any gaps. But I don’t want to seem too eager for time to pass. Living in the moment is enough for me.

Romanesco cauliflower