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Street Holloyhocks on AmblerHollyhocks are giving a wonderful display in our streets and front gardens this year.

Street Holloyhocks on Ambler 3Their ability to grow in such tricky conditions never fails to astound and delight me.

Jean Loup ChartresOn a recent trip to France in June (postings to follow soon on some amazing gardens visited) we stayed in a B&B in Chartres with Jean-Loup Cuisiniez (above) and his wife and met a kindred greener-upper-of the-city. Jean-Loup has been strategically sprinkling Hollyhock seeds around Chartres and has a fair few plants growing in a car park (above),

Guerilla Hollyhocks in Chartres 2and along his street. He’s promised to send me pics when they’re all in flower. Jean-Loup is in discussions with the local council about making more paths public rights of way to create easier walking routes throughout Chartres and he also wants to adorn the streets near the Cathedral with roses.

Roses in Chedigny 4I nodded sagely as he explained his aspsirations, but it wasn’t until we visited the Rose Festival in Chedigny, a village in the Loire near Loches, that I really understood what this could mean.

Roses in Chedigny 2

Every wall in the village was covered in these glorious climbers and ramblers,

Rosesign  in Chedignywith labels letting you know the variety. How bloomin’ marvellous.

Roses  in Chedigny with arrowThe Rose Festival is the brainchild of Mayor Pierre Loualt who started the project in 1998, working with French rose specialist André Eve to plant over 700 roses in the village. The festival takes place over two days every year with specialist nurseries setting up stalls,

Roses in Chedigny 3

but you can happily wander through the village at other times to enjoy this marvellous rose extravaganza.

Finsbury Park Streets

Both sights and scents were truly inspirational, and, although our North London manor doesn’t quite conjure up the bucolic bliss of the Loire, I’m wondering if we could start some similar rose planting in our streets in Finsbury Park?

Grow LondonGrow London is now in its second year. Last year was a fabulous show, beautifully curated with top-notch nurseries, classy garden furniture and the most desirable tools and it looks to be the same again this Friday to Sunday. What’s more, there are great talks happening every day and I’m looking forward to hearing Cleve West, Helen Yemm, Patti Barron and Fergus Garrett talk on Saturday. What a line-up! Violas Wildgoose Nursery will be there again with their deliciously scented Violas, Crug Farm will be offering up some exciting and unusual plants (which should mostly be hardy in London) and Hardy’s return with their glorious herbaceous perennials (see top pic). Dogs at Grow London The show is taking place on Hampstead Heath and if you fancy killing two birds with one stone, you can go for a walk and then bring your loyal canine into the show with you. Can’t say fairer than that!

The show costs £16 on the door, but pre-booked tickets are only £10.80 (a tenner plus booking fee). Not to be missed!

AquelegiasThese gorgeous Aquilegias (aka columbines, Granny’s bonnets) seemed to have exuberantly increased since last year (all on their own), and post spring bulbs, have joyfully created the next wave of interest in my back garden. These are the common Aquilegia vulgaris, readily morphing into all shades of pink, purples and whites, and although you can find many fancy and rather tempting hybrids to buy, these cottage garden favourites retain their appeal partly due to their simplicity and also to the fact that they can pop up in cracks in paving and in spots all over the garden. Mustard leaf +self seedersGiant red Mustard leaf is another welcome self-seeder and its deep purple leaf and bright yellow flowers have added a zing to an otherwise tasteful but rather pastel colour palette right now in this border. The groovy  Caper Spurge (Euphorbia lathyris) just to the right of the mustard leaf has also plonked itself right at the front of the bed, but it’s an airy plant with a wonderful texture and a wild upside down alien-like tripod structure which always adds a richness to the planting. I think I dug one up from my parents garden over 15 years ago and it appears all over the garden in different positions every year. In summer I can actually hear the seed casings popping as another seed is ejected and flung into the garden. I love it! Seet cicely and aquelegiasUmbel-like Sweet Cicely flowers have joined the throng of pinks and purples, alongside globes of Allium ‘Purple Sensation’, Geranium psilostemon sport and I’m pleased to see Phloxes, Roses, Geranium psilostemon (above) and Sisyrinchium coming along too so that they’ll be continued colour in the border once the Aquilegias have gone over. Astrantia and Arum italicumIn a shadier spot, Astrantia (‘Shaggy’ I think) looks great with the self-seeded (and a tad thuggish if you let it) Arum italicum as a backdrop, and I can see a couple of teasels (Dipsacus fullonum) popping up too to give height and drama to these areas for summer. Notable hole Just one noticeable gap in the bed where I divided a Verbena ‘Bampton’ , left it kicking around in an old compost bag for weeks before replanting a bit later in the year and not surprisingly, (but disappointingly) it’s not returned this spring. Bit of a shame as it was a lovely mid-height variety with pink flowers, but it looks like the raspberries will colonise this spot as the season moves on, again, without much interference on my behalf. Not quite what I’d planned, but great when nature will fill in the gaps for you.

P.s. If you’re having problems with your Aquilegias this year, you’re not alone. Read this Telegraph article from earlier in the year about a killer Aquilegia mildew and how best to deal with it.

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