Gardening: Pretty garden of treasures in Hornsey to be open to the public

Linette Ralph in her Crouch End garden, which she opens to the public. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Linette Ralph in her Crouch End garden, which she opens to the public. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Linette Ralph’s pretty garden of treasures to go on show to the public.

“But what am I going to show people if nothing’s come out yet?” These were more or less Linnette Ralph’s first words to me when I came to look at her garden in Warner Road, Hornsey.

She won’t be the only gardener worrying about that, in this peculiar season of stop/start weather.

People who open their gardens to the public through the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) have to choose their dates far in advance, so it’s chancy – Stuart Bull, for instance, was to have shown his hellebores in February but they flowered before Christmas.

Linnette’s opening is tomorrow, when there will certainly be plenty for visitors to see.

It is a back garden, very pretty and carefully tended, surrounded by high green-clad fences.

Perhaps it is these high sides and the slight slope down towards the back that gives the impression of a drawer having been opened, revealing treasures within.

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Linnette is hoping that the trachelospermum covering some of the fencing will be in flower, which would make it a scented drawer.

After the initial courtyard-like part, the garden is divided into two distinct areas, separated by a picket fence and gate.

At first glance it might seem a traditional division between flower and vegetable garden, but although there are no vegetables in amongst the beds surrounding the circular lawn, there are plenty of flowers in the raised beds further down, including sweet peas, roses, clematis, viola.

In fact, says Linnette, she is not growing much veg now that the children have left home – only salads, herbs, soft fruit.

Anyway, Linnette’s dad, still keeping his allotment in his 80s, is a good supplier of veg and tomatoes.

It was he who helped her re-arrange the lower half of the garden in 2012, and gave her the potting shed.

Formerly, she says, there was a row of conifers along the back taking the light, but now it’s like a playground, a place for her to try out new things.

Alpines are her “new obsession,” as exemplified in containers spread throughout the garden.

Linnette used to work in the specialist food trade.

When she stopped, her Dutch supplier of Monopoly money chocolates sent her a farewell present of a small crate of bulbs – and that very crate, now filled with liner, crocks, potting compost and gravel, is planted with white thrift, erigeron, Sedum oreganum and Helianthemum “Henfield Brilliant”.

Another miniature crate, with Great Dixter stencilled on the side, is planted with Lewisia Elise, Chaenorhinum origanifolium “Blue Dreams” (winningly described as Fairy Snapdragon from the Pyrenees) and Chiastophyllum oppositifolium (also nicely named: Lambs’ Tails).

If Linnette’s dad is a major background gardening influence, her friend, Judith Glover, is the one in the foreground.

Before moving out of London, Judith – artist and garden designer – used to show her garden in Muswell Hill.

Calling it a bonding experience, Linnette recalls five days in the wind and rain at the Chelsea Flower Show of 2003, helping Judith with her winning show garden, and says she owes a great deal to her.

Looking around Linnette’s garden, my eyes lighted on a detail that did bring Judith’s terrace to mind: the paving around the circle of grass, each small paving stone edged by pebbles.

I well remember interviewing Judith when she was in agonies of doubt about leaving her garden behind, doubts exacerbated by the impression that the buyers of her house were not interested in it, so it was cheering to hear from Linnette that a beautiful new garden is now coming along in Sudbury.

Linnette’s garden at 12, Warner Road, N8 7HD, is open tomorrow, 2pm – 6pm. Plants and teas for sale.

More events this weekend:

As part of Reclaimed, Recycled, Reshaped – billed as “a fun day for ages eight to 80” – Fiona Campbell will be giving a talk and demonstration about her sculpting techniques, tomorrow at 3pm.

This is part of Maureen Michaelson’s Chelsea Fringe event, The Hidden Garden Art Show, today and tomorrow. Inspired by fishing nets, Fiona Campbell made the copper canopy over the floating Viking Cruises Garden at Chelsea, and so helped designer Sarah Eberle win a Gold Medal. All details here.

Tomorrow afternoon, you may need skates.

There are not only Linnette’s garden and the Hidden Garden Art Show, but a fascinating-sounding walk organised by the Highgate Horticultural Society around the remaining features of Angela Burdett-Coutts’s Highgate estate, including rare trees.

Meet at top gate of Holly Lodge Estate (junction of Highgate West Hill and Holly Lodge

Gardens) at 2.00pm. Downhill walking, tea at the end.

And before that, today the Hampstead Garden Suburb Horticultural Society Flower Show at Free Church Hall, Northway, NW11 6PB.

The events takes place between 3pm and 5.30pm.