a prickly issue


Love or hate them cactus are amazing!

My gran was an enthusiastic grower and appreciator of cactus and I wish I knew what happened to her wonderful collection when she died.


My dad has his theory on my Gran’s love for these spiked green wonders and it is something along the lines of her being in good company……


I don’t mind admitting that I LOVE a cactus.

I have them (they are practically the only green thing that I have indoors) in my home.

I am drawn to them in garden centre and places like Kew and the Eden Project.


I wonder what it really does say about me and my gran, then?

I’m not bothered about succulents (pah!! pretenders!!), I love the full blown, nasty, needle covered cactus that is impossible to repot and will remind you (in no uncertain terms) what they are capable of if you forget yourself and get too close.


They are the perfect architectural designer’s accessory and even if they are hugely uncool at the moment, this designer loves them.

I love them!!


I love them for their architectural grace and interesting shapes.

I love them for their unforgiving ways (hmmm? some might say…….).


I love them because they work perfectly in our understated london home which is mostly white with grey furniture and walnut floors that is only coloured by the contents of our shelves AND a carefully placed cactus here and there.


They are neat and contained so they also fit in with my deep love of order and tidiness.


It is in complete contrast, I have to say, to the outside which is a mix up of colour (not too much), green, wild stuff, compost and things not necessarily in the right place (rhubarb).


Every time I look at one of my little beauties, my gran comes to mind.

What could be wrong with any of that?

Edible Garden


rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb

rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb

I haven’t posted anything about our garden in such a long time. In fact not since before I separated this blog from my tinyinc blog in December 2010.

If I was honest, we’ve neglected it because we have been so busy and found no time to spend out there. As a result, we’ve had interesting things growing (without any help from us I hasten to add) but we haven’t really had any veg or produce from the ground behind our home and I miss that.

the herbs and rhubarb survived the new fence

the herbs and rhubarb survived the new fence and are now surrounded veg and salad waiting to sprout and grow

There is nothing more tasty, satisfying and relaxing than harvesting a few salad leaves, tomatoes and courgettes for your supper. Especially after the rigours of a long and stressful working day.

Our fence desperately needed replacing recently so on the back of that, and a bit of welcome good weather, we decided to revamp the garden and do things a bit differently this time. The mess and damage that the new fence inevitably made was the prefect excuse to tackle things differently and set it up in a new way.

the other side still has the creepers but bare soil below

the other side still has the creepers but bare soil below

We’ve tried things in certain spots, we’ve tried things in pots and we’ve tried a raised bed but my sister bought me Alys Fowler’s The Thrifty Gardener which I love. I then bought her Edible Garden book which has so inspired me and talks about exactly the kind of gardening I have been looking for and didn’t have a name for it……

runner beans against the fence which gets a lot of afternoon sunshine

french beans against the fence which gets a lot of afternoon sunshine


It just makes so much sense.

french beans

french beans

We don’t want regimented lines of carrots really (although we have done that) and we don’t actually have time to manage that kind of garden anyway. Plus we don’t really want to see great swaths of precious tasty soil left with nothing growing in it when the weather is rubbish and you are stuck in doors looking out waiting for things to change.

swiss chard

swiss chard

So what is polyculture?

In the true sense of the word, it means ‘growing multiple crops in the same space’. The best example is how the native americans used to grow corn that had beans climbing up the stems and courgettes growing around it’s feet. The three plants develop and produce at different times so the space is very efficiently used to great benefit.

courgettes - one of my favourites

courgettes – one of my favourites

Perfect for a small victorian terrace garden in London.

Alys Fowler follows these principles but not to the letter and the result are stunning and very productive.



Aside from the sight of it being wonderful, the advantages are numerous and there are many publications that explain this.



So with that in mind, we have started out with a nearly blank canvas (I couldn’t bear to uproot my rhubarb and herbs etc so they stay put) and will see what we achieve be it successful or otherwise.

lettuce mix

lettuce mix

There will be some mistakes and I am already undecided about a few plant combinations but it’s very exciting and it has got me making lists, sketching out plans and scanning all my back issues of Country Living for more plant ideas.