On the 18th and 19th July, the Jewellery Quarter will be holding its first JQ Festival to celebrate the opening of Golden Square. As part of the Festival there will be an Open Studio Trail, where visitors can visit all sorts of craftmakers, designers, jewellers and architects to see them at work and ask for advice and tips of the trade. I work from home and so opening up to the public was not a practical option but towards the end of May the idea of a pop-up garden was mooted. By early June the Open Studios organiser had found me a courtyard tucked away behind a black door on Pitsford Street and I was part of the Open Studio Trail.
I was delighted to get the support and sponsorship of two dealers in reclaimed and vintage - Moseley Gifts and Gardens and The Barn at Studley. Both are a treasure trove of items from tin baths, furniture, chimney pots and much more. The ideal source of items to match my theme.
I was really pleased to find these ladders which make a colourful and quirky alternative to trellis reflecting the industrial setting of the garden, the primary colours provide a cheerful contrast against a white painted wall.
Having only containers and pots for your plants can seem restrictive and yes some plants sulk in pots and they all need more love and attention as they relay on you for food and water. But you can have lots of fun using whatever you can find from old tin cans to boots and unlike the garden-bound gardener you can create the ideal conditions for the plants you like in their very own pot, sitting drought lovers and water-babies side by side.
The JQ is full of beautiful buildings being renovated and repurposed creating a vibrant, eclectic eco-chic community and it's time to do the the same with our outside spaces too. It's been a mad few days getting ready but we have finally finished setting up and I can relax at least for a little while. The moment of truth will be seeing the reaction of visitors tomorrow to our newly-loved outside space...
The JQ is full of tiny courtyards, roof spaces and balconies; most of which are unused and unloved and many residents are renting and so unable or reluctant to invest in longer-term roots : ) With little money to play with, the idea of recycling, up-cycling and reclaiming objects to create a garden seemed like the perfect solution and so 'The Room Outside' began to develop as an idea. Hopefully showing how we can all make the most of these secret spaces and create our own personalised urban oasis. Old furniture and household items are re-purposed and filled with living colour and everything in the pop-up garden can be taken away when the owner moves on.
The surrounding walls of the garden are interspersed with eccentric, brick follies providing miniature towers, turrets and shady garden rooms, all in soft old brick with silvered timbers. If only we all had such fairy-tale buildings to weave into our gardens.....Wisteria and roses hug the walls and the planting seems inseparable from the built structures enhancing the feeling of a secret garden lost in time.
We took advantage of the gorgeous weather recently to make a trip out to some nearby nurseries. All with the excuse of market research of course : )
Stone House Cottage Garden has been on my list to visit for some time and I am really glad we made the effort to get there. Just outside Kidderminster, it sits in the tiny village of Stone on the A448. The garden has been created inside a one acre walled kitchen garden and is one of the most eccentric and romantic gardens I have visited.
The style is very much English Romantic and includes the classic yew hedges, abundant herbaceous borders and garden rooms. But far from been a cliché it has a very personal touch and feels like the private garden of a passionate plantaholic. It has distinct areas and the use of hedges to create separate rooms and passage ways makes it feel larger. The wandering visitor is presented with tempting glimpses and vistas leading you one way and then another - one of my favourite design techniques.
The entrance into the Garden is through one such folly and leads you into an open grassy area and the visitors first choice of route. To your left there are some excellent specimen trees including two of my favourites magnolia and the less common but stunning Cornus kousa. The latter is a small, bushy tree (8m when fully mature) and follows these graceful flowers with strawberry-pink fruits and purple-red autumn colours. In fact the 'flowers' we all admire are actually modified leaves called bracts and these surround the actual flowers, which are white and tiny. It can be slow to establish and you may have to wait a few years for it to start flowering but in my opinion worth the wait.
Alternatively straight ahead takes you along a refreshing vista of green and white, walking along a wide mown path flanked on our visit by swathes of ox-eye daisies. Many of the garden rooms are colourful and the owner obviously has a favourite palette of pinks and purples. I would have liked to have seen a greater variety or contrast in colours between one area and the next but then one of the charms of this garden is that it feels so personal and loved- not a conceit created with the sole aim of impressing visitors.
Next door to the garden is a small nursery where you can buy many of the plants you have been admiring in the garden, some of which are the rarer and more special varieties that you just don't see in the larger, everyday garden centre. Well worth a visit to get ideas on how to create mystery and surprise in a garden and for some beautiful plant combinations - particularly the good use of contrasting shapes and colours in foliage. Its not a nursery to visit for your standard everyday bedding or plants but a good source of the more unusual varieties of perennials and shrubs. Its not the smartest or tidiest of nurseries but for some of us that's part of the charm and the plants themselves look in robust condition. They do not offer mail order but you can view their plant lists online or order a catalogue.