Bermondsey roof terrace

I do not know anything about gardening. However, I really want to learn, not least because we are lucky enough to have the most amazing roof garden that looks out over London as far as you can see.  This is rare in London so it seems stupid not to make the most of it.  It’s a really large space but lacks any colour, interest or beauty.

The developers decked the terrace, which is fine, but they used a horrible red coloured stain for the fencing and a different colour wood for the pergola. It would be best if this mis-matching wood could be covered with climbing plants.

Roof terrace pergola

The pergola could be absolutely stunning if over the next couple of years we could cover it in climbing plants entwined with lights.

Sunbathing up here is blissful.

The roof garden has 360 degree views of London. I just love it up here.

View towards the north looking over the river Thames to Wapping.

View to the east out towards Canary Wharf.

View to the west over London Bridge station and the Shard.

Our first step is to join with some of the other residents from our apartment block to form a ‘gardening club’. We apply for some funding from ‘Capital Growth’ and a three hour gardening session, which we do on lovely Sunday in February, one of the first bright days this year. The planting that was done by the developers is so boring looking so we begin by pulling up all the plants, potting some of the nicer looking ones and destroying others like the buddleia plants, which get everywhere.

There are eight of us working together to transform out roof garden.

It was really important to dig up the numerous buddleia plants that can become a pest as they grow so large, spread very easily and develop huge roots. Very large plants are not suitable for the raised beds we have as they will dominate too much.

Another reason for trying to clear the beds was we needed to try to improve the soil as the developers had used very poor quality, sandy soil that is not conducive to lush growth.

We had planted a few food plants last winter and these are out inspiration to try to make the majority of our planting edible and any crops will be shared amongst the residents in our block.

The next step is to move the compost bin we set up last year. At the moment it is slap bang in the middle of the biggest bed and very un-sightly. So we move it to a corner, turn it, and use what compost has been made to enrich the soil in each bed.

Compost can be made by adding food waste (uncooked is best, especially if you don’t want it to smell) and cardboard and turning it every now and then.

The bits of waste that have not turned into compost yet will need to be ripped up into smaller pieces and added to the compost bin again.

We then decide what to grow and where.  The ladies from ‘Capital Growth’ talk us through lots of different varieties of salad leaves, vegetables and flowers that will work well together and they give us a quick lesson about the best type of compost to use and how to look after soil.

Rotating crops enables the plants to grow as well as possible as each plant uses different nutrients.

Leaf mulch, coconuts husks, food waste compost.

We decide to have herb, wildflower, vegetable and lettuce beds and other various flowers to make it look pretty and to attract certain pests so they do not ruin the food crops. We then learn how to sow seeds.

We try to choose plants that will complement each other for example, we plant nasturtiums that will attract black fly away from our food crops.

We will buy a cheap cold frame to keep these seeds in until they are ready to plant out.

I also plant a few flowers to get us started. I put some sweet peas at the back of a couple of the beds as I’ve learnt they grow very tall and like to trail up or along whatever is there.  I also put in some geraniums and snap dragons for a bit of immediate colour.

Geraniums.

Geraniums will add colour to the corner of the beds..

A row of sweet peas will grow tall and cover some of the ugly red fencing. They also smell divine.

What have I learnt so far?

1) Plants need to be re-potted or fed (once or twice a year) to remain healthy as it is just as important to look after soil as it is to look after the actual plant.

2) Leaf mulch makes excellent compost.

3) Flowers and food plants should be mixed together as this prevents pests (I need to find out more about this).

4) Plant bulbs at the beginning of the autumn.

5) If you don’t harvest the food that you grow it will flower (otherwise known as bolting).

6) You can sow lettuce seeds in the spring and as long as you continuously harvest the outer leaves they will last the summer long.  There are varieties that you can then plant at the end of the summer that will last throughout winter (names of these varieties to follow).

7) A perennial plant is a plant that lives for more than two years so these are easy to maintain. They will usually die back over the winter and then return in the spring from their root-stock rather than going to seed as an annual plant does.

8) Once bulbs, such as daffodils, have faded you don’t have to have an empty pot or bed.  If you have planted the bulb deep enough you can plant perennial bedding plants (such as snap dragons, geraniums, pansies) on top of the bulbs.  This creates a very easy to maintain and pretty bed or pot that does not require planting every year.

9) Compost needs turning regularly.

10) You should try to recreate the wild as much as possible, which means you should combine as many different types of flowers and plants as possible. For example, a lot of flowers keep away pests from vegetable plants and vice versa.

 

I will keep you updated over the next few months on how much progress we make.  Hopefully, Bermondsey will be in bloom soon.

 

French exterior goodness

This post is not so much about interiors, but exteriors.  Our trip to the amazingly beautiful Ile de Re and then south west France gave me the opportunity to photograph breathtaking French architecture that has been a constant inspiration to me. I love the simplicity of French architecture rather than the more fussy, opulent aspects of some French interiors.  I hope these images inspire you as much as they inspired me.

The Ile de Re is absolutely stunning.  We stayed in a hotel called La Baronnie, which was nestled right next to the bustling harbour of St. Martin.

St. Martin Ile de Re

The symmetry of these coastal houses is so appealing. The light render, window shutters and terracotta roof tiles are all synonymous with French architecture.

St. Martin Ile de Re

The back entrance of La Baronnie lies off this little street.

French chateau with window shutters

I love the look of windows with shutters; they frame these beautiful tall, slim windows.

Vintage metal garden furniture

Wonderful antique metal furniture in La Baronnie gardens that just look so ‘French’.

French chateau garden

Although each part of La Baronnie is a different shape and size they are all tied together by their colour and roof tiles. This cohesive look is another aspect of French architecture that appeals to me.

French chateau with window shutters

Paint work on a lot of French buildings always looks so tasteful as a limited colour palette is used that includes grey, sage green, verdigris and duck egg blue.

French chateau terrace

Simple, cohesive outdoor furniture.

wood clad french chateau bedroom

Our room was clad in wood with exposed beams and painted floorboards. This style reflects being next to the sea and the light. The typical French toile de jouy bed linen is palatable (usually far too fussy for me) as this is the only print used in the room.

wood clad french chateau bedroom

The furniture in the room is sparse and simple, which makes the room feel more modern.

The pretty windows are framed with internal shutters and floaty white curtains to ensure the light can reach every corner of the room.

Small details like the sheer curtain across this door and the door handle instantly create the unique French style.

By using glass between the bathroom and bedroom it means the window-less bathroom is as light as possible.

wood clad french chateau bathroom

The bathroom is also clad in white wood with painted white floorboards.

We then travelled on to the Chateau de Lalande, whose architecture is as French as can be.

French Chateau

A beautiful example of an original French Chateau.

Ivy covered French Chateau

The ivy covering is very French.

Ivy covered French Chateau

The grandness of this Chateau is softened by the ivy and wisteria.

Hydrangeas at French Chateau

Hydrangeas line the entrance to the chateau and they reflect the blue of the shutters.

Ivy covered French Chateau

White, metal garden furniture would be more appropriate in this garden.

Swimming pool at Ivy covered French Chateau

The effort that has been put into this pergola absolutely covered in wisteria adds to the style of this Chateau.

French wallpaper

This is not to my taste but the chateau is decorated in opulent, old fashioned French style throughout.

 

I will be back as soon as I can be!

 

Plates

I love all types of crockery, porcelain and ceramics. Using beautiful plates to hang on walls means you can fully appreciate them and they can be hung anywhere in your home. Best of all, you can pick up the prettiest and cheapest of plates from charity shops, antique fairs and eBay.

Here are some ideas for hanging plates in your home.

Burleigh and Shelley plates hanging in kitchen

Collection of antique Burleigh and Shelley plates hanging on kitchen beam.  All plates were bought on ebay for between £2 and £10. eBay is a good place to get a bargain.

Combine antique and new plates for an eclectic look.

These plates make a feature out of the chimney breast.

Bold collection of plates.

Solid, coloured plates make a design statement, almost like polka dots.

Vintage plates hung in work space

Vintage plates add inspiration to this work space.

Choose plates based on their colour like this bue and white collection.

A collection of plates in all different sizes and shapes that are drawn together by similar illustrations.

Hanging plates

Hang pretty mis-matching floral plates together.

A display of plates on a kitchen wall.

Overlap plates for an interesting display.

A vertical display of plates is a good option for long slim wall spaces like this.

Hanging plates

Hang plates in a symmetrical display.

Fornasetti collection of plates

A black and white tableau of Fornasetti plates makes a bold statement.

Make your plate wall humorous, definitely a generator for conversation.

BUY YOUR OWN:

If you would like to begin your own plate collection have a look at some of these relatively inexpensive options:

Set of four art deco vintage plates

Set of four art deco tea plates. Buy online from Not On The High Street for £24.99.

Bohemian set of four plates. Buy online from Not On The High Street for £45.

Set of four vintage art deco plates. Buy online from Not On The High Street for £25.

Burleigh pottery plate

Burleigh pottery Asiatic Pheasants collection. Buy online for £5.85.

Retro plates featuring Royal festival Hall image

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain Mini Moderns has designed a range of porcelain plates featuring icons and motifs from the original Festival of Britain in 1951. A bargain at £18, I’d say.

Liberty plate

1950 Festival cake plate. Buy online from Liberty £27.50 (treat yourself!)

Natural World plates from Anthropologie

Natural World plates from Anthropologie. Buy online from Anthropologie for £16.

Artist Tom Frost’s wildlife plate set £20.

Anthropologie dinner plate

Francophile dinner plate, one of a collection from Anthropologie. Buy online for £24.

HOW TO HANG:

An alternative to plate wires, disc plate hangers are ideal for hanging plates and have been successfully used in England for many decades. They are easy to use and will not damage your plates. Click on the picture to buy these online for a couple of pounds.

Wire plate hanger

White wire rack allowing a plate to be mounted to the wall using an existing hook. The wire is sprung to ensure the plate is firmly gripped. Click on the picture to buy these online for less than £1.

 

Old school trunk

I love a bit of make-do. It’s not possible to run out and buy every beautiful piece of furniture you see and it’s important not to dispose of things “just because”. My mum went to boarding school and therefore had a school trunk, which I used to see in my grandparents’ garden shed as a child.  More recently, when I saw the trunk I knew I could make it into a fully functional piece of furniture that would last forever.  I decided to turn it into a coffee table that would double as storage.  However, I wanted to make it as versatile as possible so I added castors that would allow me to move it around my sitting room as and when needed.  The castors also add some height to it, which make it table-like.

You will need:

1. Vintage trunk or steamer chest

2. x4 castors (choose the size according to the size of your trunk)

3. x4 pieces of mdf (about twice the size of the base of the castor)

4. x16 screws (long enough to drill into the pieces of mdf but not too long that they go through the base of the trunk)

5. Wood glue

6. Screw driver or drill

Old school trunk

You will need: Old school trunk

You will need: Choose castors like these that are lined with rubber so they won’t ruin your floor covering.
Click on the picture to buy these online for £3.30 each.

TUTORIAL:

1. Using the wood glue stick the four pieces of mdf on the base of the trunk. Position them where you will want the castors. You need these pieces of wood because generally the skin of a trunk is very thin so if you tried to drill the castors straight into the trunk the castors would not be very stable and liable to tear the skin of the trunk. Make sure you leave the glue to dry for a couple of hours.

Castor on vintage school trunk

2. Drill the castors into each piece of wood.

Vintage trunk upcycled into coffee table

All finished. How easy was that?

The trunk is now not only a coffee table but it provides a lot of storage. You can fill it with heavy objects and it will still be easy to move as and when needed because of the castors.

I love the vintage feel the trunk brings to my sitting room.

The fact that the trunk still has my mum’s name stuck inside makes me love this piece of furniture even more.

BUY YOUR OWN HERE:

If you, too, would like to buy an old trunk then there are some options from online shops but these do tend to be quite pricey. By far the cheapest way to buy an old trunk is to use eBay: I bought one recently for less than £30.

Vintage metal trunks and chests.

Vintage metal trunks from Scaramanga £100

Vintage old school trunk

Vintage 1920s trunk with original railway labels from Lassco £135

INPSPIRATION FOR UPCYCLING A TRUNK:

Vintage and shabby chic trunk used as a coffee table.

Trunk used as a coffee table in front of the fire.

Vintage luggage used as storage in bedroom

Vintage luggage used as storage in bedroom.

Stacked vintage trunks

Stack trunks to be used as a lamp table.

Trunk coffee table at Foster House

At Foster House, a photography and film location they have used a trunk as a coffee table in this vintage-inspired sitting room.

 

Victorian pine toy-chest.

Shabby chic vintage trunk for storage of blankets and quilts.

Store blankets and quilts in an old trunk.

Vintage luggage and trunks used as a bedside table.

Stacked to make a bedside table.

Vintage suitcase upcycled into a bathroom cabinet.

An old suitcase made into a unique bathroom cabinet. Click on the image to find out how to make this.

Upcycled vintage suitcase.

Vintage suitcase with legs added to change its use.

Sowing the seed

Spring is springing so today my task is to sow seven different types of seeds for the roof garden: Lavender, thyme, parsley, chives, chilli peppers, green beans and lettuce (always check your seed packets for the best month to sow the seeds). This is what I learnt about sowing seeds from the lovely ladies at Capital Growth…

EQUIPMENT NEEDED:

Seeds

You will need: Seeds.

You will need: Compostable seedling pots, gloves, trowel, pencil.

Sowing seeds compost

You will need: Compost for seeds and cuttings.

Sowing seeds

You will need: Water and seed tray with lid.

Roberts radio and Lloyd Loom chair

I always need my Roberts radio for a bit of company whilst gardening.  Yes, that’s right, I am 98 years old and totally unashamed about it.

TUTORIAL:

Compost in biodegradeable pots

1. I began by filling each pot with compost.

2. I pressed the soil down, but not too hard as I didn’t want the soil to be too compact.

3. I watered each pot with a small amount of water. It shouldn’t be water-logged as seeds can rot in too much water.

French bean seeds

4. The next step depends on the type of seeds to be grown. If they are tiny, like lettuce seeds, they can be almost just placed on top of the soil. If they are large seeds, like french beans, they will need a hole to put them in, which I did with a pencil.

5. The rule that I was taught during our gardening session was that you cover the seed with the amount of soil that the seed is high e.g. a french bean seed is about 1cm high so you should cover it with about 1cm of soil.

Seed trays

6. I gave each pot a bit more water so the new layer of soil is moist. I do not have any plant markers and was not prepared so I used cocktail sticks and post-it notes (not ideal). I then put them inside in the warm.

I have learnt that whilst the seeds are germinating they need to be warm (i.e. inside if possible), but they do not need to have direct sunlight until they sprout. Once they do start sprouting you will need to turn your seed trays regularly as they grow towards the sun.  I will keep you up to date on when (if at all!) the seeds germinate and when to move them outside. I’m keeping my fingers crossed…

BUY YOUR OWN HERE:

In the mean time I have found some lovely plant markers from notonthehighstreet that you can buy if you don’t have any. But I am also going to do a post about making your own, as otherwise you can end up spending a fortune on your garden.

Blackboard plant markers

Liberty Bee slate plant markers. Click on picture to buy online for £7.

Alice Shields hand made earthenware plant markers. Buy online for £27.

Ceramic plant markers

Jo Heckett ceramic plant labels. Buy online for £6.50.

What have I learnt so far?

  1. When sowing seeds you only need to cover the seed with surprisingly little soil. A good rule is cover with as much soil as the seed is high i.e. a french bean seed is about 1cm high so you would cover it with about 1cm of soil.
  2. Don’t over water the seeds as they can rot.
  3. Put water into the bottom of the tray so that the seeds can take up as much water as they need.
  4. The seeds need to be kept inside for the heat but they do not need direct sunlight until the shoots begin to show.
  5. Once the shoots are out rotate your seed trays as they will grow towards the light.