A while back I blogged about pigs in Holland Park. This week I found pigs, sheep, echiums, the Women's Institute, Morris Dancers, and a Punch and Judy stall right in the heart of the theatre district in the West End. Plus cheeses and a grumpy shetland pony. It was the 2nd annual Phoenix Garden Agricultural Show.
In all the years I worked in the West End, I never knew the Phoenix Garden existed. That was back in the dark late 1980s, when it was just emerging from life as a car park and druggie hang out, and I was more interested in pubs and clubs in the area. Now, just behind Shaftesbury Avenue, in the shadow of the brutal Centrepoint tower and the charming spire of St Giles Church, there is a gorgeous garden. All planted in raised beds made of recycled concrete or on a very thin layer of rubble. A fruiting walnut tree, rowans, self-seeded echiums, Clematis 'Summer Snow' a fast growing, drought tolerant climber that flowers for 4 months of the year, salvia microphylla, and managed brambles. It was a masterclass in hardy, urban planting and is a big hit with local wildlife. But there was a fabulous banana plant too.
What started out as a community project in 1984, set up by local residents now gets enough funding to employ gardener, Chris Raeburn 20 hours a week. A fantastically generous source of knowledge, Chris blogs here.
I loved these chickenwire chickens he made, stuffed with plane tree leaves. They take a long time to rot down and meanwhile offer a winter home to ladybirds and lacewings. Chris tops up the leaves in the autumn and then uses the leafmould when its ready.
While I was garnering inspiration and knowledge to bring back to our own local neglected green space, husband was busy investigating the tea stand, farmyard life and the punch and judy: adults and children alike were riveted by the sight of cute, if disinterested farm animals, and the spectacle of violent traditional puppetry in such a rare setting.
Writer, gardener and lover of gardens, plants and all green spaces, especially in cities where grass really does seem all the greener when it has concrete as a companion. I have a small back garden, shared with my husband and dog. A bigger space is a long way off, so for now I'm happy gardening in the neighbourhood and at work, whenever I can and discovering new greenery around town. This blog is about how I get my garden fix in London.