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freightliners farm




I don’t know why I have never before been to Freightliners farm. A mere 10 minutes away from me, bang in the middle of Islington, lies this little bit of paradise.

freightliners farm - colourliving

It’s a small community-run farm, a vibrant hub of wildlife with a wide range of animals.

freightliners farm - colourliving

freightliners farm - colourliving

There’s a great vegetarian café with daily specials. This is housed in a volunteer-built eco building. Everything about this place is great.

freightliners farm - colourliving

I’ve now been twice, both times it was pouring with rain so taking photographs was hard.

freightliners farm - colourliving

freightliners farm - colourliving

I wanted to show some details of the place.

freightliners farm - colourliving

There’s also a petting zoo, hence the wash basins here below.

freightliners farm - colourliving

They have a vegetable garden and bee hives (can’t wait to get some honey). There’s even an animal boarding for local pets. How great is that? For now, I’m raiding their shop. Bought these gorgeous tomatoes and super fresh eggs.

freightliners farm - colourliving

freightliners farm - colourliving

I feel so lucky to live near such beauty and be able to support this great community project.

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inspiration on tiles




Inspiration is everywhere, we just have to look. On the weekend I drove past some rather inspirational tiles that made me stop and get off my Vespa.

I was on my way to Freightliners City Farm. More of that later on in the week. On the outside brick wall there were a whole lot of etched, glazed tiles. They were clearly done by children or young teenagers (well, that’s what I thought).

I love accomplished art as much as everyone but also get very excited by children’s art. It’s innocent, dream like, fresh and raw. I tried to take as many images as I could. I also tried to enquire about the artists. I didn’t get very far except that apparently these were made by children in the 70’s.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

inspiration on tiles - colourliving

inspiration on tiles - colourliving

inspiration on tiles - colourliving

inspiration on tiles - colourliving

inspiration on tiles - colourliving

inspiration on tiles - colourliving

inspiration on tiles - colourliving

inspiration on tiles - colourliving

inspiration on tiles - colourliving

inspiration on tiles - colourliving

inspiration on tiles - colourliving

inspiration on tiles - colourliving

inspiration on tiles - colourliving

inspiration on tiles - colourliving

inspiration on tiles - colourliving

inspiration on tiles - colourliving

inspiration on tiles - colourliving

So, what do you think? Which are your favourites? Fried breakfast? Mr. Owl? How wonderful would some of these look tiles in a bathroom?

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east london juice company




East London Juice Company is a place after my own heart. They promote healthy living and inspire a cleaner urban lifestyle. They’re anti-diet, anti-cleanse and anti-starvation. Pure music to my ears!

Established in March 2015, after a successful Kickstarter campaign, they took residence in Shoreditch’s Boxpark where they make and serve a variety of beverages and food to keep body, mind and soul aligned.

These guys are serious. Not doing anything by half, just glance at that menu.

east london juice company - colourliving

From smoothie bowls to seasonal elixirs, you’ll find plenty to awaken your senses. A limited choice for dishes to eat makes this even more special in my mind.

See lovely Olivia here below. A dancer and health aficionado, she expertly looked after me while I visited.

east london juice company - colourliving

The simple space reflects their ethos. Everything is meticulously displayed and everyone puts their full attention and love into whatever concoction you might be ordering. The macamoons (here below) just burst with vitality and the hazelnuts & pecans looked super yummy!

east london juice company - colourliving

The art of coffee making. The pour over method. They serve it with their almond mylk. Their beans are from Ozone Coffee Roasters UK.

east london juice company - colourliving

Don’t you just love the Hario V60 Copper Buono Drip Kettle?

east london juice company - colourliving

They have a fridge full of their organic, cold-pressed juices from fresh, organic produce that’s sourced locally whenever possible. They don’t add water or sugar, their juices are deliciously intact with all of the enzymes, antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients that our body needs. Great for the digestion.

east london juice company - colourliving

Simple and beautiful.

east london juice company - colourliving

A few chairs if you wanted to eat in. That’s what I chose to do.

east london juice company - colourliving

Now the piece de resistance…. the Bone Broth. I make my own Bone Broth every week so was super keen to try out someone else’s. There is a saying that “good broth will resurrect the dead”. I believe that good broth can cure any ailments. It’s definitely food for the soul and I was not disappointed. A little less chilli would have been preferable but this 36 hours broth was definitely nourishing in every way. Here garnished with carrots, courgettes, fresh herbs and mung bean noodles. Just the way I like it.

My organic wheatgrass with chlorella, spirulina, minerals, milk thistle, kale and orange chaser.

east london juice company - colourliving

There’s plenty of life affirming nourishment at East London Juice Company. I only wish there would be more places like this in London.

I would have loved to have some of their banana bread with full moon made Vanilla Maca Ghee, a smoothie and and and…. this will definitely be my new hangout in Shoreditch and if you like healthy food that’s made with love and full of intention, this is the place for you.

I hope the community supports them and I hope that we’ll see future branches roll out in London in the near future. I’m certainly a fan!

” Find a calm moment to taste your food and pay attention to how different ingredients feel in your body. Listen and honor what your body actually wants rather than what it’s addicted to”. East London Juice Company

Why not follow them on Instagram @eastlondonjuiceco

Unit 35 @ Boxpark, E1 6GY
Shoreditch, London
Mon-Sat 8am – 9pm
Sun 10am – 7pm

This post will stay live until Monday 24th August.

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project ocean 2015 at selfridges




Over the weekend I finally managed to go and visit the superb #ProjectOcean 2015 at Selfridges. Now in its fifth year, this year sets out to raise awareness of the harm plastic causes to our oceans.

Here are some horrifying figures. Almost 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced globally each year, but only about 10 percent of that is recycled. Between 5 and 14 million tonnes of plastic are estimated to enter our oceans every year killing a huge number of marine animals who get caught in plastic and sometimes mistake it for food. Thus humans who eat fish are affected by the toxic effect of plastic in the food chain and so it goes on!

project ocean 2015 at selfridges

Every year #ProjectOcean focuses its attention on another part of the dire situation the world’s oceans are in and what to do about it. The project is an ongoing collaboration with The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and various environmental organizations.

So how and why does Selfridges get involved? Firstly, they’re removing all single use plastic water bottles from their Foodhalls and restaurants. That alone amounts to roughly 400,000 bottles a year. Secondly, they’ve installed a Sea Change Drinking Fountain in the Foodhall to refill with water vessels we can buy from here.  After all ‘shopping’ in Selfridges is something many of us are very familiar with.

Thirdly, they collaborate with the best people to bring to life a serious issue and make us stop and think.

project ocean 2015 at selfridges

project ocean 2015 at selfridges
External window display.

They invited the masters of blurring boundaries between food and design, italian studio Arabeschi di Latte(I’ve previously blogged about them), together with curator Jane Withers, to install a Water Bar, an interactive exhibition where water laced with everything from charcoal, fruit infusions, superfoods to gold is served in rather beautifully designed glasses.

project ocean 2015 at selfridges

project ocean 2015 at selfridges
An installation of 5000 plastic water bottles collected from London’s waste stream. This is comparable to the number of plastic water bottles currently consumed by the UK in under 15 seconds.

project ocean 2015 at selfridges
For any help, information or just to simply say hello, here’s Aidan, a real charmer! He will make you a wicked water concoction.

The bar is made from a terrazzo material comprising recycled glass and epoxy resin. The taps and pipes are copper and brass.

project ocean 2015 at selfridges
The purpose designed Project Ocean glass can be bought at the exhibition for £15. All proceeds go to the project.

project ocean 2015 at selfridges
Some beautifully designed tools to make the water concoctions.

project ocean 2015 at selfridges
The attention to detail is staggering. Love these ‘closed’ signs and hanger for the specially designed uniforms.

On adjacent shelves you’ll find a vast range of different vessels that show alternatives to the plastic bottle and highlight the ‘ritual’ of drinking water. I was fascinated by the sheer beauty of most of them and found it very difficult to choose what to show you here.

project ocean 2015 at selfridges

project ocean 2015 at selfridges

project ocean 2015 at selfridges

project ocean 2015 at selfridges

project ocean 2015 at selfridges

project ocean 2015 at selfridges

project ocean 2015 at selfridges

project ocean 2015 at selfridges

project ocean 2015 at selfridges

On the other side  of the bar there’s the Gyrecraft project.  Studio Swine & Andrew Friend installed a replica of the 22-metre research ship called Sea Dragon, on which they sailed to the North Atlantic to explore how marine plastic might be turned into a valuable resource by making it possible for communities at sea and remote islands to harvest this abundant material and craft it into new artefacts. One can enter the Sea Dragon and listen to interviews with the crew and visitors can track the activities of the real ship, currently sailing the world’s oceans via a live link.

Here below is one such artefact. It’s made out of sea plastic, galvanised steel, etched brass, abalone shell, brass shackle and rope.
The first gyre was discovered by Captain Charles Moore in the North Pacific. This piece refers to industrial fishing, particularly the crab nets used to catch large Alaskan crabs.

project ocean 2015 at selfridges

Project Ocean is open until 3 September 2015
Selfridges
Ultralounge on the Lower Ground

This post will stay live until Monday 17th August.

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an art deco walking tour in the strand




I love London and have been living here for nearly 35 years. Yet I’m always surprised how little I know and how much more there is to learn about this great city. My regular readers will know that I thoroughly enjoy being a tourist in my own city.

I first found out about Yannick Pucci’s quirky London tours after connecting with him on Twitter. Back in November 2013 I booked onto his Art Deco walking tour in Bloomsbury which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was a real eye opener to me that albeit spending most of my time in central London, I don’t always ‘see’ what’s around me. As a designer I know it’s all in the details and yet I miss so much of it when rushing around this city going about my business.

It will come as no surprise that I was excited when Yannick invited me to come on his new(ish) Art Deco walking tour in the Strand. This time, last Saturday, it was a glorious summer’s day. No umbrella or raining jacket in sight. Again, an area I’m most familiar with and yet I enjoyed learning about the buildings, architecture, art deco details and fascinating tidbits. Once again Yannick inspired me to take a better look.


an art deco walking tour in the strand | colourliving
A rare appearance of Ms Colourliving.

We were a small group of curious folks who enjoyed being expertly led around the Strand. I really enjoyed the mix of iconic buildings together with some more hidden gems I had never seen before, all the while admiring the art deco signatures. Yannick is very happy to answer any questions and is eager for people to participate if they wish.

an art deco walking tour in the strand | colourlivingInfinity

I thoroughly enjoyed this 2 hour tour and came away knowing a little bit more about this great city I live in.

I’m not going to give away what the Strand tour entails, but for anyone who follows me on Instagram it’s no secret one of our stops was the fabulous and recently refurbished Savoy Hotel. I leave you with some images of this iconic place!

an art deco walking tour in the strand | colourliving
The iconic Savoy Hotel front entrance.

an art deco walking tour in the strand | colourliving
Rather beautiful detail of how to display plaques.

an art deco walking tour in the strand | colourliving
The beautiful lobby as you walk in.

an art deco walking tour in the strand | colourliving
Another part of the lobby.

an art deco walking tour in the strand | colourliving
I just love all the paintings dotted around.

an art deco walking tour in the strand | colourliving
A rather charming gallery wall within the lobby area.

an art deco walking tour in the strand | colourliving
Beautiful wallpaper.

an art deco walking tour in the strand | colourliving
The famous tea rooms.

I can’t recommend highly enough to join one of Yannick’s quirky walking tours. Do peruse his website and take a look at the other tours he offers. Here’s one for you foodies.

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ladybird by design




On Saturday evening I had the pleasure to attend a late gallery opening at the House of Illustration and see their latest exhibition called Ladybird by Design.

ladybird by design - colourliving

I don’t know about you but I love late gallery openings. They seem so much more relaxed. With this one there were also drinks and activities. Wanting to savour the actual exhibition I decided to try the activities first.


ladybird by design - colourlivingTable full of templates, magazines, markers, scissors and glue for us to play with.

They aim was to take one of the supplied templates (text) which were taken from the Ladybird books and find some imagery for it. Here were some examples floating around.

ladybird by design - colourliving

ladybird by design - colourliving

ladybird by design - colourliving

ladybird by design - colourliving

And here was my attempt. As you can see I veered off a little from the original:-) but hey, creative license and all that…

ladybird by design - colourliving

That part was fun but now to the main attraction. There are over 120 illustrations from Ladybird books dating from the late 1950s to the early 70s, including images from classic Ladybird titles including People at Work, Shopping with Mother, Science, Nature, Well Loved Tales and Key Words. You’ll also find rare photographs, roughs and a spread of the actual book layout, showing the 24 illustrations with the text.

Photography isn’t allowed as there’s a wonderful book accompanying this exhibition but here are just a few images to wet your apetite.

ladybird by design - colourliving

ladybird by design - colourliving

ladybird by design - colourliving

ladybird by design - colourliving

ladybird by design - colourliving

I am always so impressed with the curation at the House of Illustration. Their exhibition are full of storytelling and have immense content. I always come out feeling I saw and learned a lot. One of my favourite feature is the accompanying videos as you exit the exhibition. They are so interesting that I find myself watching them a few times while absorbing what I’ve just seen. See the one on Ladybird by Design here.

The shop, filled to the brim with interesting illustration books, greeting cards and so much more has a variety of products accompanying this exhibition. A box of 100 postcards, the exhibition catalogue, a series of Ladybird prints depicting the alphabet and they also found some original vintage Ladybird books where the proceeds from the sale goes towards the cost of running their extensive education programme.

ladybird by design - colourliving

ladybird by design - colourliving

And here’s what I managed to pick up. The Ladybird book of London has been reproduced but the one on food and Gerry the Giraffe are originals. Hurry though, the vintage ones will sell out fast.

ladybird by design - colourliving

I cannot recommend the exhibition enough and at a price of £7.70 per adult it’s really worth a trip. Check out their website for details of Ladybird inspired talks and events, late gallery openings and family workshops. I cannot wait to return before it closes.

Ladybird by Design
10 July – 27 September
House of Illustration2 Granary Square
Kings Cross
London N1C 4BH
Open 10am – 6pm Tuesdays – Sundays

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wild life drawing at spitalfields city farm




Wild Life Drawing is a drawing class with a difference. Instead of the usual human life models, the subject here are real , live animals. How great is that? Their aim is to inspire a sense of appreciation and understanding for the animals and conservation issues around the globe.

I’ve known Jenni Webber, a London based visual artist, educator and animal lover for a while now. Last year she mentioned she was going to start some life drawing classes with animals. Wild Life Drawing has just celebrated it’s 1st Birthday. I’m happy I finally got to join a class.

This one was held at the wonderful Spitalfields City Farm. The sun was shining, it was the perfect evening to engage with the natural world and encourage appreciation of wonderful animals.

Meet the herd, both in people and animals. This class was all about lambs and sheep. I had no idea how challenging it was to draw life animals moving around. It was nearly impossible. However, it did make me look and study them more and after a while I realised I could take a photo, work from that whilst still referencing to the live animal.

wild life drawing at spitalfields city farm
It was special being amongst the animals.


wild life drawing at spitalfields city farm
Are you looking at me??? This is Karen, a Castlemilk Moorit. This is a rare breed of domestic sheep originating in Dumfriesshire in Scotland.

wild life drawing at spitalfields city farm
My 1st attempt!


wild life drawing at spitalfields city farm
This is Teggan (female), a Badger Face Welsh Mountain sheep. This is a is a distinct variety of the Welsh Mountain breed of domestic sheep bred for Sheep farming in Wales.


wild life drawing at spitalfields city farmMy humble attempt!


wild life drawing at spitalfields city farm
Meet Jenny, the farm’s manager and Twiglet, the baby lamb who is Karen’s daughter (see above). Twiglet hardly survived and was bottle fed by Jenny. She’s now 3 months and thinks Jenny is her mum!


wild life drawing at spitalfields city farm
Is she gorgeous or what?

wild life drawing at spitalfields city farm
The beginnings….

It was all too short and before I knew it the session was over. I asked Jenny whether 2 hours wasn’t a little short but then we are dealing with life animals and I need to get to grips with my drawings a little faster:-) I think it’s the notion of being in a farm amongst animals that I wanted to spend more time with.

Next up is Goats & Kids back at Spitalfields City farm. I know that in August there is a life drawing class with owls. Jenny has done snakes, meerkats (jealous) and there are more exotic animals on the agenda. Be warned, the classes fill very quickly so your best bet is to sign up to the newsletter to be the first to hear of new dates.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself and am dead proud of Jenny’s new venture that already is a big hit. See you in class?

This post will stay live until Monday 13th July

8 Comments

grow london




I was really looking forward to the return of Grow London, the contemporary garden fair now in its second year. I missed it last year by a couple of days and was determined to make it this time.

Truth be told, I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew is that it’s always nice to have green inspiration. Off I went on the first day.

Right from the start I had a good feeling. There was a lovely vibe in the air.

I loved this installation by Ben Walker, here below, (BA Fine Art, Central Saint Martins College of Arts) entitled: Melon, W

 

Grow London | colourlviing

Artist’s Statement: “Melon, W (2015) is the result of a visual study of ‘In Watermelon Sugar’, the novel by Richard Brautigan. The book is a presentation of a sanitised utopia, where residents craft their houses, bridges and lives out of watermelon. When accompanied by the fog rolling over the soil, the bathtub, with its exterior enamel shell, is a further reference to the vats used to make the ‘sweet watermelon sugar’ described by Brautigan. As a vessel for water, it feeds the flowers that sprout from its core.”

Grow London | colourlviing

There were too many exhibitors and stands to mention so I’ve picked a few here.

 

Grow London | colourlviing
Botany was exhibiting as part of the Gardenista Market.

Grow London | colourlviing
Fab plant pot hangers by Eleanor Bolton, also as part of the Gardenista Market.

Grow London | colourlviing
There were succulents galore!!!

I was definitely in love with these conifers by Lime Cross Nursery.

Grow London | colourlviing

Grow London | colourlviing

Grow London | colourlviing

And of course one of the main highlights was the incredible stand design by Petersham Nurseries. They actually erected a feature garden and were offering workshops. They recently started a School of Garden Inspiration events. Why not join the slow gardening discussion at Rosewood London. As part of the Rosewood London Slow Food & Slow Living market this is a monthly series of cutting edge, thought-provoking and transformative ‘Slow Life’ and Slow Food conversations and experiences.

Grow London | colourlviing
Feature garden

These gorgeous Zinnias were floating in a bowl. Talk about colour inspiration as well as flower inspiration.

Grow London | colourlviing

I bought some lovely herbs and plants from Edible Scape and enjoyed talking to Bradley from Boma Garden Centre, where I not so long ago bought my Spider Lily from.

There’s something about plants that makes people happy and it was most evident at this successful fair. Thank you for the inspiration Grow London. Can’t wait for next year!

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gods own junk yard




Gods Own Junk Yard has been on my ‘must see’ list for ages so I was thrilled when it finally happened. It’s fairly accessible, in the depth of Walthamstow, in an Industrial Estate.

I’m not quite sure I knew exactly what to expect, but boy was I pleasantly surprised. You will be entering a world full of neon lights, neon signage, religious icons, kitsch and the most charming outside space with urban jungle and eclectic water stream/fountain. Best of all there’s also a café with comfy seating and affordable café grub and drinks. It’s the perfect place to while away an afternoon, get inspired, take millions of photographs and hang out with friends.

But I think I should shut up now and let you see for yourselves.

Gods Own Junk Yard | Colourliving
I think the cow says it all…

Gods Own Junk Yard | Colourliving
If you don’t like bright lights, don’t go!

Gods Own Junk Yard | Colourliving
You can sit down, have a drink and take it all in!

Gods Own Junk Yard | Colourliving
Loved the religious icons

Gods Own Junk Yard | Colourliving
LOVE!

Gods Own Junk Yard | Colourliving

Gods Own Junk Yard | Colourliving

Gods Own Junk Yard | Colourliving

Gods Own Junk Yard | Colourliving

Gods Own Junk Yard | Colourliving

Gods Own Junk Yard | Colourliving

Gods Own Junk Yard | Colourliving
Now who wouldn’t want this sign?

Gods Own Junk Yard | Colourliving

Gods Own Junk Yard | Colourliving

Gods Own Junk Yard | Colourliving
The outside space is like nothing you would have seen before.

Gods Own Junk Yard | Colourliving
What a GREAT and different kind of water stream/fountain.

Gods Own Junk Yard | Colourliving
Great Urban Jungle

Gods Own Junk Yard | Colourliving
I’ve seen many cable drums used as outdoor tables, but none of them in pink!

Gods Own Junk Yard | Colourliving
Inside a hut

Gods Own Junk Yard | Colourliving
Mwah!!!!

Gods Own Junk Yard | Colourliving
Great textures everywhere

Gods Own Junk Yard | Colourliving
Loved this stained windows.

I cannot wait to return. It’s fun, relaxing and completely mad! People have weddings and parties there and they do bespoke neon signs.Apparently that’s their core business. During the week the space is closed to the public and it’s being used for photo shoots and other commercial events. But if you’re stuck where to go on a Friday to Sunday, this is your place!

Gods Own Junk Yard
Unit 12
Ravenswood Industrial Estate
Shernhall Street
London
E17 9HQ
020 8509 0157

This post will stay live until Monday 22nd June.

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1a hungerford road




Today I’m so chuffed to introduce you to a wonderful project: 1A Hungerford Road, an eco house with exotic front garden and green roof. I actually happened to stumble across it when I was driving past yesterday afternoon. I immediately went back home (in my neighbourhood), grabbed my camera and returned to find the most amazing and inspirational project.

It was a pleasure to meet David Matzdorf and his partner who yesterday had an open house for charity. How lucky am I to have stumbled across it. It is such an interesting project that I decided to ask David to tell you the story so you get it from the horse’s mouth.

1A Hungerford Road | Colourliving
I saw this as I drove past and just literally had to stop

1A Hungerford Road | Colourliving
Love that wooden door, the entrance to the property

What’s your background. How did you start getting interested in eco and urban jungles? When I was 21, in 1975, I was part of a group that squatted an uninhabited tenement estate in Marylebone. We formed one of the first tenants’ co-operatives, registered as a housing association and persuaded the council to sell us the estate, which ended up comprising 50 flats after we had modernised it. In 1982, the council built a new block adjacent to our flats and constructed a rather boring garden in the shared courtyard. The co-op tenants persuaded the council that we could do a better job of managing the garden. A group of co-op tenants gradually replanted the entire garden and I got involved in looking after it, which led to an RHS qualification in horticulture in the mid-90s, having in mind a career change that never happened. I ended up as the main gardener in Marylebone through the 90s. The garden is still there and still very good, although the tenants who took over after I left have changed the style somewhat.

1A Hungerford Road | Colourliving
The weather was perfect for my visit

1A Hungerford Road | Colourliving
Every nook and cranny is used up to grow some greens

When did you build the house, get planning and how did the sloped roof come about? By 1995, I was looking for a site to build a house, because I couldn’t remotely afford to buy a house or flat in central London and 20+ years of living in Marylebone had spoiled the prospect of moving to the suburbs. It took 3 years to find the site, which I bought in 1998. It was the first scrap of land that I had found where no one thought you could get planning consent for a house – thus it was inexpensive – but I reckoned differently.

The intention was always to build a sustainable house, which was somewhat less common in 1998 than it is now. That went down well with the local planning authority and overcame the inevitable petition that was submitted in opposition to my planning application. The green roof was always part of the plan. Aside from its eco-credentials and its value in combating the petition, it also doubles the size of my garden. I had become accustomed to messing about in a communal garden 45m x 30m. Here, my entire scrap of land is 15m x 12m, including the footprint of the house. The more garden I could scrape together, the better. The green roof also has the challenging side-effect of giving me two totally different environments in which to experiment with plants.

The curve of the roof was a response to planning restrictions, as indeed are most of the peculiarities of the house. The planners mandated a set-back of 5m from the street and my entire plot is less than 12m deep, so perforce I have a wide, flat house, built precisely to the land boundaries at the rear and both flanks, with a wide-, flat garden to the front and a green roof on top. The planners also restricted the height of the house to 1 storey at the Northeast end, to avoid overshadowing the garden of the adjacent house. The curved monopitch roof  was a strategy that achieved maximum height in the middle, but still got down to the required height at the end.

Planning consent was granted in October 1998. Piled foundations were constructed in Spring 1999.  The main construction contract occupied the rest of 1999 and 2000. I moved in at the end of June 2000 and the house was finally completed in May 2001.

1A Hungerford Road | Colourliving
How stunning are these Zantedeschia Aethiopica?

Your love for plants is evident. How does one start an urban jungle and sloped roof full of greens? That’s an unanswerable question. The following all help: a qualification in horticulture, not being too precious when experimental plants expire after a cold winter or a dry summer, a great deal of patience, an eye for unlikely plant combinations and a focus on a garden as a venture in place-making and habitat-creating, rather than an exercise in competitive housekeeping.

It’s important that you are seeing the green roof after fifteen years of continuous experimentation. I’ve made many of the mistakes by now and their evidence is long-since faded. You saw some of the residual mistakes: the two varieties of invasive grasses, the daftness of a strip of gravel at the top of the access ladder and some ineradicable weeds. But most of the balls-ups have happened already and I have outlasted them.

The key period was around 2004-2007. That’s when I realised that I could grow a lot of really quite big plants in shallow soil, having semi-stumbled in the combination of a minimalist irrigation system and no fertiliser. Most specifications for green roofs, other than  the bog-standard Sedum mats, involve fertilising regimens and no irrigation, which constitutes a recipe for grasses and other weeds to take over. I do the opposite: the choice plants get irrigated before they die, but the grasses and weeds do not get the fertiliser that enables them to take over.

1A Hungerford Road | Colourliving
Look at these orange Abutilon

How do you choose your plants and where do you source them from? Anything that is drought-resistant and has  chance of coping with shallow soil will get a go. I do a lot of swaps, sourcing unusual/rare plants with people on internet forums, especially the one I co-run at Growing on the Edge. Sometimes I’ll see perfectly common garden species at a local garden centre such as Boma garden centre and will buy a few small, inexpensive plants to experiment with.

Until the financial crash, there were several specialist suppliers of unusual and exotic plants in England, but most of them failed after people no longer had the money to indulge their desires – combined with three successive hard winters between 2008 and 2011. There are still a few left, but they tend to focus on large specimen plants for super-rich people who want an instant garden. That’s not what I do.

1A Hungerford Road | Colourliving
Some more Abutilon

What’s the biggest challenge in having an eco house and walled exotic garden? Staying healthy enough to look after them as you get older.

1A Hungerford Road | Colourliving
Is this a Foxglove? Who can help out. Am sure David can!

Any tips how you keep your plants alive and get them to thrive? There’s no substitute for a proper college course in horticulture. I did my RHS certificate at Capel Manor college in the 90s and every move I make is informed by the basic botany, genetics, soil science, pruning techniques, composting practices and plant biology that I learned then. That and actually spending time in amongst your plants, observing them quietly and drawing conclusions about why they look good, bad, healthy or unhealthy.

1A Hungerford Road | Colourliving
Part of the wonderful exotic front garden. Look at the red wall section and you’ll spot the 9o degree ladder to the green roof. DON’T ASK!

Can you tell us a little bit about the National Gardens Scheme? Not much that you cannot glean from their website. They have been, for many years, the Great and the Good doing Charitable Works and they have been gradually dragging themselves, with increasingly effective good intentions, into the 21c. world of diverse London. Last year their annual formal reception was held at Broadwater Farm community garden in Tottenham. That was profoundly important for them and it was great success. Upmarket garden owners from all over London trekked up to a notorious council estate in N17 and some of them were able to learn from the local gardeners. The NGS deserves a great deal of credit for this, but it was not before time.

1A Hungerford Road | Colourliving
Can you see David who just got up the ladder and is walking up the sloped roof.

You run an international forum for exotic gardening enthusiasts. Can you expand? We can be found here.

In the first years of the century, the whole “exotic gardening” movement or craze (choose whichever word you prefer) used to commune and share information and experiences on Essex garden designer Paul Spracklin’s “UK Oasis” website. In 2007, he suddenly decided to stop running it and I contacted scores of his members to say that we desperately needed a replacement. Australia-based English horticulturist Peter Richardson did most of the website design, but for the past 5-6 years, the site has been run by me in London and Kev Spence in Loughborough Leics.

We have about 1400 members worldwide, including some pretty serious plant-hunters and suppliers, people who run well-known exotic gardens in places like Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Cork and Kerry, international experts on Tree-ferns, rare Palms, Aroids, Agaves & Yuccas, Japanese Orchids, Aloes and other types of plants. I’m a moderator, a site admin and the “green roof guy”.

The theme is basically: growing things where one might not expect them to be able to grow. Pushing the envelope. It’s an English-language forum, but as well as members in the UK, various regions of America, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa, we also have contributors in France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Madeira, Spain, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Philippines, Brazil, Japan and China.

1A Hungerford Road | Colourliving
On the green roof

1A Hungerford Road | Colourliving
The green roof

1A Hungerford Road | Colourliving
The green roof

1A Hungerford Road | Colourliving
The green roof

I also fell in love with the house and although I was awarded entry there just wasn’t any time to take pictures and show you how wonderful the inside it. When I mentioned to David that the inside has nearly got as many plants as outside, he said that if there’s a shelf anywhere, a plant will find a way on it.

I have to thank David for his generosity of answering my questions late last night and for being such a great host. I hope he will let me come back and take pictures of the inside of the house. Thank you for the inspiration David.

This post will stay live until Monday 15th June.

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