theharmoniousgarden


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(dead) moss

Last weekend I stumbled across the most stunning preserved moss wall. My friend and I were in Milan for a mini-break to see Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, and climb the roof of the famous Duomo. Wow. Both experiences left us with a strange tingly feeling, and definitely lived up to our expectations. It rained heavily the entire weekend, and it was while going from one shelter to the next that this bright green wall caught my attention. It was inside a design store called Sicis – it has some of THE most extravagant and outrageous furniture you can imagine – in the stylish Brera district of Milan. From outside on the street, I couldn’t tell if it was alive or fake, but on closer inspection (after the salesperson welcomed us into the store), it turned out to be made entirely of preserved mosses and ferns . The salesperson explained it is made by drying out the plants, without any artificial dyes, and will last up to 10 years if kept out of direct sunlight.

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I’m not sure if I would want one in my own home (or could afford one), but it’s certainly striking and makes a great impact. For more examples of preserved moss walls, check here. Thoughts?!


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there’s foil all over that building!

It’s official. I have a new favourite place in London. Months ago a friend suggested I check out this amazing new green wall near Kings Cross, yet only last weekend with camera in hand did I manage to get there. I was completely blown away. The whole surrounding development around Granary Square is amazing. And in the words of a preschooler I heard chatting to his ever-attentive father, ‘there’s foil all over that building’! Indeed, it does look like foil, and the lightning-like flash creates such a striking visual display that brings the whole area together.

You can check the green wall out, and also a whole bunch of other photos I took of Granary Square (it has THE most spectacular fountain, which at night is beautifully lit), a cool fake-turf chilling area, and assorted flora and fauna along the canal.

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How crazy is the ‘avocado’ colour of Regent’s Canal? I’ve never seen it go like this, but no-one else seemed that bothered so I’m sure it must be a pretty normal occurrence.

Here are some snaps of the fountain in darkness:

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So what are you waiting for? Get yourselves down to Granary Square !!!!

 

 


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all things come to those who wait

This weekend was wonderful. After weeks of rubbish weather, we were finally rewarded with a run of hot sultry days. And a whole whopping 28 degrees C!

But what really made me happy was my cactus flowering after 4 and a half years of prickly nothingness (I’ve previously featured this reluctant bloomer here and here). After following some helpful advice from another garden blogger who suggested I locate it in the warmest/driest place  possible – no easy feat in my shady central London garden –  it’s finally a vision of pink! Here she is in all her glory.

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I’ve also featured a few other flowers currently in bloom in the garden. With all the erratic weather to date, the garden’s not a patch on what it usually is at this time of the year. Thankfully the flowers here are mostly bee friendly and are giving our nectar-loving friends something to eat. For more information on how to create your own bee-friendly habitat and garden, check out The Bee Cause. 


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medieval transylvania

Okay okay. I’m aware this started out as a gardening blog (who needs another travel blog, right?!), but I can’t really control myself. Having entered our third ‘winter’ this summer – London temperatures are currently on par with the southern hemisphere’s winter – the gardening scene is decidedly flat around here. Which is why I’m going to share with you some flora and fauna from a recent mini-break to rural Transylvania in central Romania.

The focus of this particular trip was to visit some of the fortified churches that dot the Transylvanian countryside. There are over 150 still surviving, and the one photographed here is in Viscri. And true to form when I’m travelling, I had my camera on ‘macro’ mode to zoom in on the visual feast on display! As you can see from all the insects, this place is positively buzzing with life! And how adorable to see that hundreds of years on the grasses are still bearing flowers (eg comfrey, buttercups, clover, wild berries) most likely around when the church was established back in the 13th century! And the wildflower meadows around the village were sensational!

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And here’s a little bit of trivia for you: after some tough economic times, this region’s local farmers are the leading suppliers of elder flower for the UK drinks market! I’ve been so inspired by my visit to this beautiful region and its abundance of butterflies, bees, and other insects that I’m seriously considering ditching my own domestic gardening attempts and turning my whole garden into an urban wildflower meadow!


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amsterdam

Amsterdam is a seriously awesome city. Regardless of your tastes or interests, you should definitely pay ‘The Dam’ a visit. I was lucky enough to do so over the weekend, and one of the unexpected highlights during my stay was stumbling across the NEMO science centre’s roof terrace in the City’s Oosterdok neighbourhood. I’ve recently taken to abandoning my guides and maps when visiting new places and just following my interests. It’s so much more fun discovering ‘surprises’ than planning everything in advance!

To be fair, the plants themselves were pretty nominal, consisting of little more than a few concrete planters filled with grasses and other nondescript filler plants. But what an awesome public space for the residents and visitors of the city to enjoy. A pulsing stream, games to play, and lazy chairs and beanbags to relax on while enjoying the panorama.

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And one final surprise for me: it turns out the centre was built in 1997 by Mr Renzo Piano, the celebrated architect who designed London’s newest skyscaper, The Shard. Thank you Mr Piano. What beautiful and accessible space you’ve created for everyone to enjoy and take in the sights of Amsterdam.


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overwhelmed in eden

A visit to Cornwall has been on my to-do list for the longest time. I’ve heard so much about its isolated wilderness, I wanted to see it for myself. And with a rental car and my trusty companion/navigator at my side, I set off over the Easter weekend to get a taste of the wild country.

First stop was a half day visit to the Eden Project. Although aware of the project due to its high profile within the UK as an innovative eco tourist destination, I hadn’t paid it much thought prior to our visit. And I was completely overwhelmed by the enormity of the place. It’s HUGE!!! The biomes are gigantic, and appear even larger once you’re inside. With outside temperatures hovering around 1-2 degrees Celsius (that’s right, like the rest of Northern Europe, our winter is never-ending!) we headed straight to the tropical biome to bask in the tropical warmth.

I’ve found it difficult to capture any sense of the place in just a few photos (and most of those I have are close-ups as focusing in on detail was the only way I managed to cope with so much to take in!), but here are some of my favourites. Enjoy!!

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I can’t remember the names of any of these plants – except for the ginger (its the flower that looks a bit like a frilly protea).

If you ever get the chance, go and explore the Eden Project. Its awesome!!


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hanging gardens of barbican

A few weeks ago my partner arranged a ‘mystery’ weekend activity for us. Because I’m very good at guessing, I wasn’t given a single clue as to where we were going. To my delight, our destination was the Barbican Centre in the City of London. (For those who don’t know, the Centre is located within the Barbican Estate, a huge multipurpose complex of high-rise residential, civic, theatre and community buildings, built in London’s celebrated but divisive Brutalist architectural style.) We’ve been to the Barbican several times before at different times of the year, and personally I can’t get enough of the place. But the purpose of this adventure, and a complete surprise to me, was to visit the conservatory. Initially designed as an afterthought to ‘disguise’ the theatre’s fly tower, it’s a fantastic sub-tropical oasis (and arid desert!) in the sky.

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Shakespeare Tower

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Koi pool

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Giant bamboo

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Strelitzia reginae… otherwise known as ’emu flower’ in my native country

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Love this! like a psychedelic shamrock!

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Succulent close-up

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Cacti garden

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Bridge over the stream

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The fly tower

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Finches

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View out of the conservatory onto the rooftop terrace… about 6 levels up here

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Restaurants and bars to the left, apartments on pedestals on the right. The theatre is behind the restaurants, and the conservatory up the top and well out of sight

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Definitely coming back here in the summer for a vino (or two!)

As you can see from the photos, we almost had the garden to ourselves. A quick google search shows that the conservatory isn’t really a secret, but it was such a joy to discover a unique garden space in the heart of the city open for all to appreciate while at the same time not over-run and therefore spoilt. And you can even get married in the gardens if you wish!! I hope you enjoyed these photos of the Barbican Conservatory as much as I did.