Award-winning garden in London’s Highgate has been influenced by the owner’s many years spent in the south of France and Italy
It’s no surprise that Mona’s dramatic and architectural north London garden scooped the award for The Best Back Garden by the London Gardens Society in 2015. You’d expect to find something like this in the South of France or Italy, not in a suburban street close to Highgate. “I moved here in 1999 after a long search for a garden with a house, not a house with a garden,” she says. The property was dilapidated and nothing had been done to it since the 1930s, but the wonderful thing was that the empty garden was 84m (275ft) long and it widened out at the bottom.” The gently sloping site overlooks open land, a real bonus in London, but the soil was sticky and slightly acidic, so 500 tons of gravel, coarse grit, top soil and building materials were barrowed in right at the beginning. Mona spent many years in Italy and the south of France so, not surprisingly, was heavily influenced by the Mediterranean landscape and flora. “I began by growing pittosporums, eucalyptus and grevillea,” she says, “but then I got interested in exotic Cornish gardens such as Tresco Abbey. Cornwall is still where I go for new plants and Trevenna Cross Nursery is top of my list.” (www. trevenacross.co.uk) The secret of Mona’s success is ‘drainage, drainage and even more drainage’, with sharp sand and coarse grit helping to dissipate any winter wet. She’s also made four raised beds, again to aid drainage, with soil around the crowns of plants so that the water can flow away. As a result she’s created an exotic, Tresco-like garden in North London. “Our weather is generally not as mild as it is down on that part of the coast so I can’t grow all the things they grow,” she says. But this year the temperature was -2C (28F) for only two mornings where she lives, so being in London is an advantage. The area closer to the house is up to 2C warmer than the lower part, so Chusan palms (Trachycarpus fortunei), which she grows in both areas, have lusher foliage closer to the house.
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