Thanks to an alert from the estimable Gentle Author, we went on Saturday to the gardens open for the National Gardens Scheme in Spitalfields, London, and a splendid time we had. Purely by chance, we started at the smallest garden and moved to the larger ones, but almost all had the same features in common: a small space (even smaller than my garden, and that’s saying something), rectangular or square, and almost completely surrounded (and therefore shaded) by the high brickwork of surrounding buildings.
The solutions to these apparent limitations were ingenious, and mostly made a virtue of the high walls to encourage plants upwards toward the light – the flowers of one terrifically scented climbing dark-red rose could be picked only out of the windows of the upper storeys. And though there were some sensational bits of ‘accent’ planting, the overall colour palette was green and white – plenty of contrasting foliage shapes in all shades of green, with white and cream flowers glowing in potentially gloomy corners.
All had sitting-out areas, despite the space restriction; there were a couple of lovely sheltered grottoes, and even water features. All but one were the gardens of private homes: the exception was the courtyard of the Future Laboratory in Elder Street, which offered a high scaffolded wall stacked with utilitarian grey waste-paper bins which had been used as planters for a huge variety of flowers, fruit and vegetables, from pelargoniums to broad beans to strawberries. This must provide a wonderful environment for beverage breaks for the workers – certainly beats standing around the water cooler.
Many thanks to all the participants who so generously allowed strangers to tramp through their houses and gardens in aid of charity: I do hope you’ll be doing it again next year!