Cricklewood open gardens that hark back to rural heritage of the area

PUBLISHED: 17:42 01 July 2015 | UPDATED: 17:49 01 July 2015

NGS open garden of Dr, Elayne Coakes in Teignmouth road, NW2

NGS open garden of Dr, Elayne Coakes in Teignmouth road, NW2

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Ruth visits two gardens in Cricklewood opening under the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) that remind her it was under a century since farms and horses populated the landscape.

NGS open garden of Dr, Elayne Coakes in Teignmouth road, NW2 NGS open garden of Dr, Elayne Coakes in Teignmouth road, NW2

Having looked it up, I now know it’s well under a century since there were farms in Cricklewood, one a refuge for tired horses… What prompted this recourse to Wikipedia was picking up from those streets with West Country names, Exeter, Teignmouth, Dawlish, signs of a rural past still faintly present beneath the surface.

This impression was doubtless helped by Elayne Coakes’s back garden in Teignmouth Road, by standing on her terrace above a “meadow” and immediately seeing a great tit winging into the left hand hedge to feed its shrill offspring.

When Elayne and Jim Coakes took over nine years ago they set about transforming their garden into a place where bees and other pollinating insects, pond life and birds could thrive.

They stripped back the previous garden till only birch, elder, plum and fig trees remained, put in two ponds and various other water features, a big rainwater tank under the terrace, and constructed paths and pergolas. As their book of photographs illustrates, it was a bold venture that took several years, but now it all looks settled and right, with old fashioned roses, perennials, clematis and meadow flowers.

NGS open garden of Renee Laub in Exeter RoadNGS open garden of Renee Laub in Exeter Road

With the weather so changeable it is difficult to predict which flowers will be at their best when it opens through the NGS on July 5.

However, as Elayne reckons to have clematis in flower all year round, clematis is a safe bet. The rose Pink Perpetue should be out on the pergola, the white valerian and red/purple cirsium in the meadow/grass bed going strong. The agapanthus may be opening, and the various acers will be providing fresh and subtle colour. Elayne has a long plant list for fellow plantaholics to enjoy.

Last year we featured two other interesting Cricklewood gardens also open on July 5 (Helen Marcus’s in Anson Road and Carol Klemera’s in Menelik Road) but this year there is a new one, Renee Laub’s in Exeter Road.

Renee herself, a garden designer, is not new to the NGS, but her current garden is of amazingly recent date – she only started on it less than three years ago.

NGS open garden of Renee Laub in Exeter RoadNGS open garden of Renee Laub in Exeter Road

A front “hedge” of Trachelospermum jasminoides was in promising bud when I visited. Out back there was late afternoon sun and, despite wind tearing through the poplars beyond the boundary, everywhere else was bright and calm, with balanced planting, wide, comfortably spaced flagstones and plants glowing with health.

While Renee, the picture of elegance, found fault with this and that, a touch of leaf curl here, the noise of the poplars there, the memory of the underground stream that caused so much trouble to begin with, I was free to enjoy the fruits of her attention to detail – a living wall to the left of the terrace, either side of water flowing from a ceramic wall fountain, burgeoning herbs by the kitchen door, a greenhouse with a varied collection of begonias, sheds draped with creepers, roses high and glowing above the right hand fence.

Renee wasn’t sure of the varieties, they had been in the front garden when she took it on, overshadowed, but are now much happier in their new positions.

It was a quick visit, but long enough to form an impression of an intense, vivid space, beautifully cared for – go with more leisure on July 5 to take it all in.

NGS open garden of Renee Laub in Exeter RoadNGS open garden of Renee Laub in Exeter Road

Cricklewood gardens open on July 5: 20 Exeter Road, NW2 4SP, 2.00 – 6.00 pm. Teas, plants for sale. 121 Anson Road, NW2 4AH, 2.00 – 5.30pm. 27 Menelik Road, NW2 3RJ, 2.00 – 5.30pm, Teas, plants for sale. 58a Teignmouth Road, NW2 4DX, 3.00 – 6.30pm, Teas, plants for sale.

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