Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Spitalfields garden

A thriving tree (looks like a laurel but possibly a magnolia!) in the courtyard garden (Oct 2012)

As mentioned in my previous post, I am the gardener (volunteer) for the courtyard garden at the head office of The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) in Spitalfields, London. My role is to maintain the existing plants; encourage more wildlife; and to do new planting appropriate to the location and the historic building. More on this in a future post...

The garden already has some well-established plants, put in a few years ago by the former director, and these are doing well and are appropriate for the conditions - which are certainly challenging: deep/partial shade, and waterlogged London clay soil. On the plus side, it is very sheltered and south-facing but a large glass office block stops the sun getting into the garden. It does produce some weird light when the sun comes out - it seems to bounce around the walls.

Plants already doing well include: ferns, laurel, Pieris, Pachysandra, Hostas, hardy fuchsia, Astilbe, jasmine, Hydrangea petiolaris.


A shady corner with Hydrangea petiolaris (Oct 2012)

The plan is to increase the planting in the beds but mainly to add some pots which will give us more flexibility in avoiding the clay soil! As a tentative first step, I planted some snowdrops, violas and a Hellebore into the beds last Autumn. The violas didn't do much; the snowdrops have emerged but only one with a flower bud; and the Hellebore is thriving but no flowers. Obviously it is better to plant snowdrops 'in the green' rather than bulbs but I was itching to get on with some new planting...

I am currently drawing up the plans for the pots etc and I am focusing on the following:
  • plants suitable for damp shady conditions and/or pots
  • native plants where possible
  • plants to encourage wildlife (at the moment a blackbird visits)
  • herbs grown by Nicholas Culpeper, who lived in Spitalfields in the 1600s
  • attractive and scented flowers to tempt staff and SPAB visitors into the garden

I am looking forward to getting stuck into the planning and then planting in April/May!


The local blackbird watched me working in the garden in Nov 2012. She looked very fat!


More wildlife - a snail! This trough will be planted with herbs


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