On a sunny and cold Tuesday afternoon, with 2 garden nut friends, I strolled round the hidden The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple Garden, just off Fleet Street, sandwiched between barristers’ chambers, the round 12th century Temple Church, and the busy Embankment with cars, buses and taxis whizzing by. You get there by ducking down a little entry off Fleet Street, which immediately recalls the setting for Jarndyce and Jarndyce, the interminable legal case that chokes lives and life in Dicken’s ‘Bleak House’. Weaving your way towards the Garden, passing barristers in full court tog, and people carrying tottering piles of files and paperwork, it is a cloistered world- literally.
The public can visit the garden from 1230-1500 each weekday, but mainly we came across young legal people enjoying some sunshine and a sandwich. Fringing a spreading lawn, are borders and pretty spots of themed planting. I particularly loved the zing of the Smyrnium perfoliatum, which looked luminous in the sunshine. Sarah Raven loves it with tulips and I can see why. It’s a biennial, which means you need to wait a year for it to flower, but it will get going and self-seed, and with 3 months of possible flowering, it’s a bargain.
There were some gorgeous herbaceous paeonies which I didn’t know the name of, they just needed another day to fully open. I am not a great fan of salmon pink, it always reminds me of 1950’s toilets for some reason, but this beautiful paeony just shaved in by only brushing against salmon pink. Not at all sure which one it is.
And, up on the terrace, in full sun, were several Geranium maderense, going full guns. I have never managed to really get a geranium maderense going, although I have succeeded with Geranium palmatum on a couple of occasions, our rainfall is so very variable and I haven’t mastered the overwintering yet.
Sadly, a giant and striking Catalpa tree was destined for the chop, as 85% of it was dead. It is sad when a glorious tree has to go, but what a chance to imagine another great tree in the future when re-planting. When you think about it, many of Capability Brown’s parklands must have looked as if they’d been planted with sticks for at least two decades. We have really benefitted from the power of his imagination 200 years later.
I also loved the underplanting of a spreading Viburnum plicatum, not sure which variety, with Hakonechloa macra, the flowing Japanese grass. The grass hasn’t quite filled the space out yet, but is nearly there, and it makes for such fluid groundcover in a rich green. Simple and elegant. I grow this one, and the more popular golden variety, in my garden. Funnily enough, the golden one, Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, was planted by me in a state of early ignorance, in a boiling hot, dry, stony soil position. See how stubborn I can be. Well, I can report that it is in great health and is now 5 times the original size. It flags a little if there is sustained heat and dryness, but it has always come through. Perhaps though, not the recommended approach to take- a bit high-risk.
There was one ghastly bloomer, literally, in the garden, however. Maybe a case of my own forte for ‘It’ll come good’ when actually you are kidding yourself. I can only describe the planting pictured below as the horticultural equivalent of Billy Connolly’s jokes about diced carrots. For those who like Billy Connolly, here is a link which explains what I mean, it takes 7 minutes but it will enrich your life! Back to the planting. Well, I have to say that the pale blue muscari look washed away when faced with the sweetie pink of the bellis and the loud yellow. It is repeated, unfortunately. Hmmm.
But to finish, how breathtaking it was to sit beneath the big, spreading Magnolia x soulangeana, and look up at the sun. Even with the sharp wind, it felt very good.