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Posts tagged ‘Home & Garden’

My urban balcony garden: One year on

It’s become something of a tradition to share a few photos of my favourite garden sanctuary. For my urban balcony garden, adjoined to the London apartment I call home, is still my pride and joy, and one of my favourite places to indulge in a little R’n’R.

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One year ago, almost to the day, I posted views of my balcony, newly regrown after our return to London from Mallorca required the recreation of our garden from scratch. One year on, my balcony is flourishing once again, but not with a further year’s growth. For after one of the worst winters on record, my balcony was ravaged by severe frost and decidedly inclement conditions. I lost my geraniums, my grasses, and very almost my adored brugmansia. By June of this year, those plants which had survived by a whisper were only growing small shoots, and the leafy flurries which followed were then attacked in turn by a decidedly roasting summer, and all the insects and diseases which accompany near-tropical conditions.

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Now, in September, things have finally settled down. The plants, twice ravaged, have found peace and have engaged in a period of harmonious regrowth. Grasses of deep reds and chocolate browns are growing beautiful seed pods fluffy like squirrel tails, while geraniums create splashes of brighter red in amongst a sea of green. And after a very hard year and a near-death experience, my favourite peachy brugmansia is finally bearing fruit – or flowers I should say – those sublimely perfumed melon-sized flowers which cause passers by to stop in the street. We’ve had a mere handful so far, but things are looking good for a late summer spurt. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an Indian Summer, and a winter which is very slow in coming.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

My urban balcony garden: revived and revisited

Back in 2012, I wrote a post on The Daily Norm extolling the virtues of my little slice of urban garden paradise. Full of mature blooming geraniums, passion flowers and the sweet smelling sensation of my tropical brugmansia, the balcony adjacent to my London flat has always been my pride and joy. Wouldn’t all of us love an extensive green space, but this close to the city, such a paradise would be hard to come by. But here, in the South West I benefit from the green spaces of Clapham as well as my own little slice of the great outdoors. It was one of the reasons I was so sad to leave home when we moved to Mallorca back in 2014.

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When we returned to London earlier this year, one of our main priorities was to return our balcony, then stripped bear, to the same little piece of paradise it had been before. The centrepiece of it all, our brugmansia, was just about holding on to dear life after a spell down at my parents’ in Sussex, but our olive tree, also moved Southwards, had prospered. As for the rest, this was a project in starting from scratch, and as Spring moved into summer, we started introducing climbers, grasses and the red geraniums which have always characterised our urban garden space.

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Now as summer moves into autumn, this little urban balcony garden is entering its leafy, flower-bursting prime: a last hurrah before the cold weather moves in and reduces it to a skeleton of its summer self. At this time of year, moments in the creamy sun of late summer are a pure joy. As I laid back in my lounger yesterday morning, book in hand a coffee in the other, I looked around me, full of pride of the restoration we have achieved in only a small number of months. Only one thing remained to be done: to share it with all of you.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

My Urban Balcony Garden – 2013

Last summer on this blog I wrote to tell you all about my secret urban paradise – the little balcony garden which runs alongside my South London flat and which has slowly metamorphosed into my own slice of the Mediterranean. Well one year later, this Elysium of urban-imported Andalucian countryside is as healthy and abundant as ever and surely worth another post. For this year, my balcony’s abundance is all the more worth celebrating for England suffered from what was one of the coldest and longest winters on record. Even in April, while I was luckily ambling along the warm cerulean beach at Pollença in Mallorca, they had snow back in the UK. These conditions my balcony disliked. Grumpily my plants began to waken from their interrupted, uncomfortable winter’s slumber, but some, like my vast tropical centrepiece – the bell flowered brugmansia – were stubborn until the very last. Having lost all of its leaves in the cold, I almost gave up hope of the plant ever recovering when in June still no shoots had been forthcoming.

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Yet a month later the brugmansia, like the other plants on the balcony, is flourishing. This Mediterranean paradise is tightly designed in shades of black and red to match the interior design of my apartment, but is nonetheless allowed to expand autonomously, thus creating an ever cosier garden space. This year we have imported a fragrant jasmine to remind us of those paradisal nights in my family home in Marbella, where the sweet-smelling perfume is almost overwhelming. That joins the Palms, the wild Passion flower, the abundant olive trees and the vivid and voluptuous red geraniums to make this small balcony space perfectly reminiscent of a slice of Southern Spain, yet with contemporary touches suitable for London brought by black grasses, blood red lilies and other wine-coloured foliage.

My urban balcony garden really is my pride and joy, and this year I’m celebrating its success more than ever.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2013 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Summertime Sussex (Part 2) – Pre-birthday Garden Party

For me, the highlights of my childhood were the times spent outside in the spring and summer; my sister and I playing endless games such as flower fairies and thundercats in the daffodils, or picnicking under our lilac tree on a Sunday evening; sleeping in my tent on a damp dewy midsummer’s night; the smell of Avon suntan cream and the texture of my mother’s toweling dress; dragon flies hoping over the surface of our still reflective pond water, and the sound of their wings getting stuck underneath the netting which kept cats away from the fish. More recently, I’ve loved to indulge amongst privilege few in the elegant gardens of Glyndebourne opera, dressed up to the nines, a picnic basket in one hand and a glass of champagne in the other; and to this day my favourite thing in all the world is to dine al fresco.

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So being that it is approaching my birthday, and that this build up has fallen, fortuitously, within a period of unseasonably fine weather, I decided that when a visit to my family home in Sussex fell due, there could be no better way to celebrate my birthday that with an elegant garden party for all the family. This had parallels to a lavish do that I put on for my 12th birthday, when I transformed the garden into an Alice’s wonderland, painting a Cheshire cat to sit up in the tree, and bedecking the garden with playing card garlands. 18 years later, I got out that same, slightly tatty Cheshire cat that I painted as a boy, and sitting him in the very same, now slightly more slumped iris tree he sat in all those years ago, I went about decorating the rest of the garden for the occasion.

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The result was a slightly more elegant affair than the wonderland spectacular I conjured up all those years ago, and perhaps more suitable for the grand old 30 years I will reach on my birthday in two days time. Pearlescent balloons and large oversized paper chains that I made in the car journeying down from London (I wasn’t driving, I should note) were an easy but effective decorative option. But the real heart of the party of course was the table, where I wanted to build a focus while making the table cosy and intimate – something not easily achievable when dining out in the open air. This I did through the use of a large umbrella, from which I dangled single flower stems of every conceivable kind gathered from around the garden (much to my father’s horror). The result was an impromptu chandelier of flowers, forming an elegant canopy over the table and later reflecting the candlelight from the tealights set out in odd glasses on the table below.

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As for the dinner, well a barbeque made posh with all manner of Mediterranean salads and salsas and marinades delighted all family members present, but not nearly as much as the cake – something of a last minute gathering of a Marks and Spencer Percy Pig cake, surrounded by a mud bath of chocolate additions. Most importantly of all were every one of the required 30 candles, the heat from which made for our very own outside patio heater, at least for the short duration before my birthday wish extinguished them forever.

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So the moral of the post, apart from to show off my photos of course, is that with a  few single flower stems, an umbrella and a bit of ribbon or string, you can make a table centrepiece that will wow your guests before the food even hits the table.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2013 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.