Thursday, July 15, 2010

Roots and Shoots

Eight years ago, I pushed the gates of Roots and Shoots in Walnut Tree Walk, and my life changed forever. I entered an urban oasis where humans and wildlife are living side by side. A project where nature and culture mixes without conflict. It is a place where I could forget about the fast pace of the city and where my mind suddenly became quiet. Joy and fun, learning and relaxing... Linda put me on a path, which is a little more than career orientated. At the time I was living an internal conflict, and suddenly I found myself at peace with trainees, bugs and plants. There are often events for the community . Check it out, you will find unusual plants at competitive prices, the best London honey, and a delicious apple juice. Prince Charles is a fan! I encourage you to read this blog, it so well describes the place I love it so much that I can't keep away!

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Roses started to bloom in May, and I haven't seen such a lush display for a long time. They probably loved the cold spell. My interest for roses has developed recently, despite them being high maintenance. I am very fond of old climbers and ramblers, preferably scented and with a repeated season of flowering. It is a pleasure to take a stroll on a sunny day, and stop to smell any bloom. This one - Madame Alfred Carriere, I think - caught my eye on my way to work. It is a noisette raised by Schwartz in 1879. The main crop is abundant, and it intermittently produces clusters of highly scented blooms through the summer and sometimes beyond. I love the way it grows around an old fashioned street lamp. The best way to remember their names is to plant them yourself. I will just do that at home, starting next weekend...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring, at last

It suddenly appeared, and a breath of fresh air has descended upon London. The first signs were very subtle: the days were getting slightly longer, one could sometimes smell the delicate fragrance of a 'Sarcococca' or a Daphne and the snowdrops and 'Hellebores' came out. Spring came two weeks later than last year. I was reminded this by the sweetly scented Magnolia x soulangiana, which has just started flowering. There is an explosion of soft pastel colours sprouting everywhere. Look around, open your senses to the fluffy clouds of the 'Cherry Trees' (Prunus sp) or the 'Snowy Mespilus' (Amelanchier sp), sometimes entangled with a 'Forsythia'. Every spring is a time to fall in love with a looked-over plant, and this year I am seduced by the delicate flowers of a white ' Flowering Quince' (Chaenomeles x superba). I always look in wonder at Nature's talent as a colourist. Indulge in your senses, as it will not last. Soon, Dame Flora will put on her summer coat, preparing the autumn ballet's opening, before going to sleep. Read the Greek myth of Persephone and Demeter that so beautifully explains the mystery of seasonal changes. Are seasons a sensible way to remind us the impermanence of life?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Light and shade

Making the most of natural light is often overlooked when planning a garden. And yet, it is the cherry on the pud... By judiciously juxtaposing hard landscape materials and plants, looking at the colours, the texture and structure, and contrasting light against dark. Fernando Caruncho skilfully plays with different shades of green and texture, making the most of light. Inspiration can be found everywhere. Watch the short film '14ieme arrondissement' by Alexander Payne in 'Paris, je t'aime'. There is an excellent 'jeu de lumiere' when the actress sits in the park. Beverly Pepper, painter, sculptor and land artist designed the small park 'Sol y Ombra' in Barcelona. In my opinion, it is one of the most playful place to observe the effect of light and shade. The Sun element is represented by a large grassy bank that raises from the ground, and the shade is a small spiral, planted with lime trees that protect the area from the blazing sun. Spots of lights hit the ground through the tree canopy. The park represents the Earth with its curves. Visit it if you are in the city. it is a lovely place to sit and wonder.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Right now, I need some space...and very naturally my mind drifts to my favourite landscape: mountains. From one part of the world to another, they are very different entities, but all share some common features: the flora, friendly people, the snowy summits and the fresh air. They are big, great, solid, stable, unmoving. In Sanskrit, one of the word for them is a-ga. And it means 'that which doesn't go'. They invite to elevation. They are bursting with life, and they are the place in the world, where I most feel the interconnection and the interdependence between all the elements on this planet. Mountain people are different: friendly, clean, thrifty and yet generous. They concentrate on what is essential, no time to waste in complicated means. I like their modesty, their relationship with people, their deep attachment to life. Mountains are a place where my mind is at peace, where all anxiety disappears and my body relaxes. Oxygen or the lack of it?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

V & A : The Medieval and Renaissance Galleries

I visited the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries after reading an article by Tim Richardson in the SGD journal. He described the grand opening gallery as a garden space stylised like an outdoor sculpture court, which was common in the Italian Renaissance's villas. It tempted me but not as much as the cultural richness of this period. I remember well from my day at school that the Middle Ages start in 476, with the falls of the Western Roman Empire. It ends in 1453, with the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire (more rightly called the Byzantine Empire). The sound of 'orient' and 'occident' - as used in my mother tongue - is much more pleasant to my hears. The Renaissance is the transition period between the Middle Ages and the Modern period, and is said to go from the end of the thirteenth century to 1600. These dates are controversial. There have always been periodization issues regarding the end of the Middle Ages, and there increasingly are issues in connection with the start of this period. It doesn't change anything to the diversity of events and cultures. I see it as the richest and most dense period of European History. There is a constant exchange between the West and East, that influences art, architecture, philosophy, science and technology. There are so many beautifully crafted objects, like this 'Large-pattern' Holbein Carpet, that was probably woven by a Muslim craftsman working in an increasingly Christian XV century Spain. The pattern reminds us the long-established Islamic society in Southern Spain, and the way it influenced the cultural development at the time. One could stop at every object and observe. Next time I won't forget my specs...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Year of the Tiger

Sunday, I met my friend Tian under a very cold rain to celebrate the year of the Tiger in Trafalgar Square. Year 4708 for Chinese. The Chinese calendar is lunar, and it is celebrated in countries with significant Han Chinese populations and cultures with whom Chinese have had extensive interactions, including Tibet. The festivities of the so-called Spring Festival starts on the first day of the first month and it ends on the fifteenth day , called Lantern Festival. Traditionally, it was the day when young women, chaperoned by matchmakers, were going in the streets in hope to find a suitable husband. Nowadays it is interpreted as Chinese Valentine's day. Chinese New Year falls on different days of the Gregorian calendar, every year. But it always falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice. The festival ends on the second full moon after the winter solstice and marks the beginning of spring. New year marks the beginning of a new year for a specific calendar. Various cultures around the globe have celebrated the New Year around Spring, such as Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, which falls on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox. Check it out on SOAS website ( This makes more sense to the gardener, than the worldwide used 1 January - as in the Gregorian Calendar, which continues the Roman calendar's practice since King Numa Pompilius around 700 BC. We ended up having diner in Phoenix Palace, which was like a trip to Asia. The message in my fortune cookie read " Your wish will be granted after along delay". What wish? Hurry up spring!