My Beautiful Neighbourhood 2

Short version:

Since posting about ‘My Beautiful Neighbourhood’ I’ve come across so many more amazing gardens and edibles in public spaces in a wider radius around Streatham…and I’m still singing the song by Space. I feel I have to stress that their neighbourhood is nothing like mine. Streatham truly is lovely.

I wrote this post with two friends of mine in mind. One has a front garden, but no back garden and until recently she was under the impression that it was not the done thing to grow food in the front. This will hopefully give her some inspiration and some ideas of what grows well in the area. One is thinking about moving to South London and I’d like to show her how lovely the neighbourhood can be.

During lockdown we have been exploring further afield in search of more remote areas of green. Until recently we had no idea that South London contained so many pockets of mini woods. The husband tells me that most of them used to be part of what was called the Great North Wood (as opposed to the South ones in Surrey) that have been cut into and built upon as London expanded. There are some wide expanses left like Sydenham Hill Woods or Dulwich Woods and some smaller closer ones like Biggin Wood, Grange Wood or Unigate. We’ve also been exploring parks like Norwood Park, Palace Road Nature Gardens, Norwood Grove Recreation Ground, as well as our old haunts like Tooting Bec Common, Brockwell Park and Streatham Common.

Walking to these places we’ve come across some fantastic things in gardens and in parks themselves. We’ve seen plenty of the usual fig trees and crab apples, but there are a few more fun things in gardens:

Edibles are still being used to create structure:

Edibles are found in all sorts of places:

I love seeing every conceivable space used:

I can still appreciate things if they’re not edible:

Of course not everything has to be in gardens. These are some great things in public spaces:

Of course I am most impressed when a front garden has lots of edibles:

This one has tomatoes against the house, runner beans in the pot on the left with the canes and either some chard or beetroots in the blue pot.

I noticed this garden for the escaping squash and nasturtiums. Upon closer inspection I saw masses of raspberry plants in the left side of the garden, then spied a rhubarb nearer the house and some sort of brassica.

The residents here are really going for it with the pots. I love it because it shows that you can use just about anything for a pot. There’s a pear tree in an old storage box and there’s a young cherry tree in what looks like a bin. There were also plants off to the right and more plants in the public space on the other side of the iron fence. In this garden, all in pots, I could also see spinach/chard plants, lettuce type things (mizuna I think) potatoes, blackcurrants, raspberries, some sort of onions and a plethora of herbs. I’m sure there were plenty of things I didn’t recognise and I last saw this garden in April, so there may have been many additions since.

This house below is my favourite. I even spoke to the lady who owns the garden and she said, “What else would I do with it?” I thought that it was a fantastic response. It’s true. If you have a lovely large space in the front, you live on a hill (and there’s no dropped curb) so parking in the front garden is difficult and the road isn’t so busy that you need to worry about pollution. I spied the rather large strawberry bed on the right first, with the large blackberry bramble hedge. I then noticed the pots in the middle with runner beans twisting round the bamboo canes. The ‘hedge’ on the left side was made of raspberries (just off shot), with a thornless blackberry cane in the middle. You can see the feathery ferns of the asparagus bed on the left with a blackcurrant in front, and then a lily (which I’d love to think is an edible daylily). I didn’t get too close a look, as I didn’t want to intrude too much, but I think there was also chard, courgettes and lots of herbs like mint and lemon balm. I’m sure there were plenty of hidden gems not visible from the road. There is of course the lovely wisteria that is making its way over the house. Little one managed to guilt me into getting her a wisteria, which I only did because I read that the flowers were actually edible. More research is still needed, however.

And finally… After nosing in other people’s gardens I thought it only fair that I should share ours too. I think this is a good example of how little you can see from the road and how many edibles can be hidden in a front garden. From left to right. Hidden behind the wall is a newly planted wisteria that we’ll wind through the brickwork. After that there are 2 squashes that should hopefully make their way up that trellis leant against the bike shed. On the bike shed in pots are cuttings of gooseberry and chilean guava, some wild rocket, some fuchsias and other edible flowers. After that you can see the roses which we’ve only used for crystallised rose petals so far. The bush next to it is a physalis. Making their way up the sides of the arch are peas and beans. Down the wall on the right are watercress, a tromboncino, an artichoke and 2 honeyberries. Under the windows in pots are a serviceberry, sweet potatoes, scorzonera, potatoes and a blackcurrant.

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