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Home decor

Best Chocolate Cake for Valentine's Day


Hello friends.  How are you all doing?  Please forgive my radio silence.  I just needed a little break from posting to re-group and refresh.

With Valentine’s just a few days away, I wanted to share this amazing chocolate cake recipe that will take your Valentine’s Day dessert to next level.  Because if you are anything like me, you prefer to stay in on Valentine’s day and whip up the ultimate romantic dinner at home.

These individual chocolate cakes are not only delicious and mouth-watering but  also stunning.   The actual cake recipe is from my favorite Food Network chef, Barefoot Contessa.  

I baked the cake on a regular Classic 9 x 13 Covered Cake Pan and used 2″ biscuit cutters to make individual cakes.  I always enjoy making individual desserts, especially for Valentine’s Day.  I just think it makes it makes the occasion extra special and fun.  

I then cut the cakes in half and filled them with a chocolate and raspberry cream cheese filling.  To make these little cakes the most decadent desserts possible, I topped them with a rich and silky chocolate ganache and decorated them with fresh fruit.  What an explosion of flavors!!!

I hope you enjoy this recipe.



CAKE RECIPE

(Barefoot Contessa Beatty’ Chocolate Cake)


Ingredients

  • Butter for greasing the pan
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup good cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee


Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter two 8-inch round cake pans or regular 9 x 13 pan.  Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.  In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.  With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
Place one layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal.  With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting.  Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Chocolate Ganache


Ingredients

  • 1 cup chocolate 175g, semisweet or bittersweet (I like to mix both)
  • 1/2 cup cream 120mL
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 5mL
  • 1 tsp. Creme De Cassis
  • 2 tbsp of unsalted butter

Instructions


  • Chop chocolate roughly. If using chocolate chips you can skip this step or give them a few swipes with the knife. Chopping chocolate into finer pieces adds surface area and lets the hot liquid melt it with less additional heat and chance of burning. Place in medium bowl and set aside.
  • Heat cream either on the stovetop or in the microwave until just about to boil.
  • Pour cream over chocolate, add butter and Creme De Cassis.  Cover bowl with a plate and set aside for a minute.
  • Mix chocolate until dissolved and glossy. If there are a few pieces of chocolate left unmelted microwave at 50% power for about 10 seconds and mix again.

Notes

  • Don’t burn your chocolate! If you need to microwave it use short 10 second bursts at 50% power.
  • If your ganache is too runny either let it cool down so it sets or add some more chopped chocolate in.
  • Ganache that is thicker than desired can be heated up or mixed with more warm cream/any liquid you’d like.



Cream Cheese Filling

Ingredients:

1/2 bar of cream cheese (room temperature)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter
10 fresh raspberries (mashed)
1/4 cup melted chocolate
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. Creme De Cassis

  • Instructions:
    Step 1. In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese, butter and powdered until      creamy.
    Step 2. On a separate bowl mash/crush the raspberries raspberries.
    Step 3. Add raspberries, vanilla and Creme De Cassis to cream cheese mixture.




  • Happy Valentine’s Day sweet friends.


Janet

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Home decor

Frozen Watermelon & Strawberry Margarita

Hello everyone.  If you are looking for Cinco De Mayo party food ideas, then I have you covered beginning with this refreshing and super easy Frozen Watermelon and Strawberry Margarita.  




Exactly what you need to get the Cinco de Mayo celebrations started.  The best part about this margarita is that all the ingredients are all thrown together in the blender and your drink is done is a matter of minutes…  How easy is that!! 
It’s been all about Cinco de Mayo prep in our home. Soft shrimp tacos with mango salsa, guacamole with chunks of fresh pineapple and chunky fresh salsa just for starters.  But today, it is all about this beautiful and delicious Frozen Watermelon & Strawberry Margarita.  Not a boring recipe in the bunch!!!  These are all fun and tasty party foods for sure that your guests will love and I am sharing them all this week.  It may be April, but Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner so I will keep those recipes coming.


I can definitely use one of these pretty frozen margaritas right now and would love for you to join me.  Have fun creating!!!

Cheers,

Janet

EASY FROZEN WATERMELON and strawberry MARGARITA RECIPE

SERVES 4
FROZEN WATERMELON MARGARITA
Inspired by adapted from thecookierookie.com
10 MINPREP TIME
5 MINCOOK TIME
15 MINTOTAL TIME
INGREDIENTS
  • 2 1/2 cups seedless watermelon (rind removed and cubed)
  • 1 cup of fresh strawberries (cleaned and cut into cubes)
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 3/4 cup good quality Tequila (You can omit if you do not drink alcohol)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar – very important!! (simple syrup or sugar of choice)
  • 2 cups ice (or more as needed)
  • Lime wedges (For garnish)

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Freeze the watermelon chunks for at least 2 hours (optional but makes it even better)
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a high powered blender and pulse until fully combined and smooth. Add more ice if needed to get the consistency you like.
  3. Pour into salt or sugar rimmed glasses and garnish with a lime wedge.
  4. Decorate with Fiesta Umbrella Picks and watermelon wedges.
  5. Enjoy!

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Home decor

Blue And White Alfresco Tablescape

Hello friends.   I hope you are having a great week so far.  We all know how particularly enchanting and fun Al Fresco dining can be. As soon as the warm weather arrives, dining gets moved outdoors…  You just can’t beat summer evenings for dining Alfresco.  And if the we are lucky enough, we get an extended summer season.

Today I am excited to share with you photos of a table I styled last weekend for a brunch that I hosted on Sunday.  I knew I wanted my table to have a more traditional and sophisticated feel so of course I decided to go with the eternal classic blue and white color palette.  For me, the fun part about styling a table is in the planning and brain storming ideas about how best to set the most beautiful and inviting table.  It’s a creative process!!  Mixing and layering patterns and textures.  And do not be afraid of mixing patterns!  The secret is keeping a similar color palette.

Blue and white is a classic combo that will never go out of style,  It is always fresh, timeless and surprisingly works with a rainbow of colors.  Perfect example of that, is the magnificent floral arrangement that I made using fresh Forsythia from my garden in a blue and white ginger jar with striking bold patterns.  For an unexpected detail, I added individual mini arrangements in purple tones at each table setting.

So many elements inspired this elegant table.  Such as the gorgeous Aerin Lauder floral table in  shades of blue and green, the striking Bunny Williams plates and the ultimate tabletop luxury; hemstitch monogrammed napkins from Bella Lino Linens which added exceptional sophistication and style. This table couldn’t be more perfect!  Side note:  Bella Lino is currently offering 20% off Set of 12 Monogrammed Napkins!

Have you fallen in love with blue and white yet??  Even if you aren’t, you might be after looking at these photos.


Have a great week.




Janet

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Home decor

Mini Cream Cheese & Lemon Tart Recipe

Hello friends.  I know I’ve been a bit MIA from by blog lately but a lot of has happened in the last month.  There was a serious illness in the family which made me put the blog on hold and spending my spare time with family has became my priority so I hope you can all understand my absence.

Today, I am happy to share an easy recipe for creamy, no-bake lemon cheesecake layered over Pre-baked shortbread tart shells and topped with fresh blueberries.  These delectable lemon blueberry tarts are bite-size and require no turning on the oven!!!

The filling for the tarts is made with ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry and refrigerator.  Cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and lemons.  The one item you may have to buy is the Pre-baked shortbread tart shells.  I like using the Clearbrook Farms shells which I normally find at my local grocery store but if you are unable to find these, you can use the Phyllo mini shells.  

Ingredients


  • 1/2 package of cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup whip cream
  • 1 box of pre-baked tart shells ( See below)
  • blueberries 

    
    Total Time 15 minutes
     Servings 10 tarts

Instructions


Filling

  1. In a bowl mix the softened cream cheese until creamy.
  2. Gradually add powdered sugar until it is completely combined.
  3. Stir in whip cream, vanilla extract, lemon juice and lemon zest.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  4. Pipe (I scrape the filling into a ziploc bag, snip off one of the corners, and squeeze the filling into each tart) or pour the filling into each tart.
  5. Top with blueberries.
  6. For shine, use apricot jelly — place in small microwave-safe bowl and heat in microwave until it is liquid (about 10-20 seconds). Gently brush on top of blueberries with a pastry brush.
  7. Serve & enjoy!
  8. Keep uneaten tarts refrigerated in an airtight container.




I hope you like this easy recipe.  Your family and friends are definitely going to ask for more.  Besides, they are so pretty!!!


Have a great week,


Janet









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Home decor

Garden Tablescape

Happy Sunday friends.  I hope you all had a wonderful and relaxing weekend.

Our backyard garden is a little wonderland.  It is what I consider my secret garden and place where I unwind.  I often set-up afternoon tea or dinner for two beneath the glorious emerald boughs of one of our trees in the garden. It is an area surrounded entirely by greenery, giving it a very peaceful and relaxing feel.

Taking inspiration from the blue hydrangeas I picked from our garden, I styled this table using soft hues of blues and white.  The pastel dinner plates from Lenox and monogrammed napkins from Bella Lino add a sense elegant and graciousness without too much effort.  It is easy to immerse yourself in this relaxing outdoor space to let time slip away…

I hope I have inspired you to enjoy the beauty around you, to take time to linger, reading a favorite book and savoring a cup of tea or a glass of wine.  

Wishing you a lovely week.


Janet
Source List

Place Mats:  Sur La Table
Dinner Plates:  Lenox – Pattern: Butterfly Meadow Blue Solid
Flatware:  Lenox – Pattern:  Eternal Gold
Stemware:  Lenox – Pattern:  French Perle
Napkins:  Balla Lino – Patttern:  Danielle


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Home decor

Patriotic Tablescape

Hello sweet friends and happy Sunday!  July 4th will be here in just a couple of days so it’s time to be outdoors and get the grilling started.  And with summertime, the entertaining should be easy.

Staying with the traditional and classic color palette of red, white, and blue never goes out of style for celebrating the 4th of July. Bright place settings with mixed china, flower arrangement, and fun accents come together in creating this bold and festive table. Begin your patriotic tablescape with dinnerware and napkins in shades of blue, red-and-white laid on top of a galvanized plate charger to give your table a casual feel.  Keep your color theme going by adding colored flatware and glassware, and complete the look with assorted mini lanterns and votives.  

Don’t be afraid to layer plates and linens, mixing colors and patterns to achieve combinations that are relaxed and add interest to the table. Use a plate with a fluted design in your plate stack. It will add visual impact interest to your place setting.  Don’t worry about being matchymatchy!!  This is when you get to have fun styling your table.

And don’t forget to add something special at the top of your plate stack.  A whimsical napkin or fun object that ties in with the theme of your table will definitely elevate your table setting    
Always think outside the box. Fresh flowers are our go to for creating a focal point, but why not add an element of the holiday to you floral arrangement.  It could be small American flags to celebrate the Fourth of July, or the bright, bold pop of red bandanas used as napkins.



Lastly, relax and remember there aren’t any rules other than to enjoy the occasion and the friends and family that are making your dinner party more  special. Your goal is to create a unique table that speaks to you, filled with pieces that speak to you, make you happy and bring a smile to your face.  

Have fun creating sweet friends and happy Fourth of July.



Janet





List of Sources:


Tablecloth:  Home Goods
Galvanized Plate Chargers:  Michael’s
Dinnerplate:  Lenox Federal Gold
Dinnerplate:  Lenox Pleated Colors (Red)
Accent Plate”  Lenox Pleated Colors (Red)
Flatware:  Hampton Forge (Red) from Bed Bath & Beyond
Blue Glassware:  Pottery Barn (discontinued)

American Flag Star Dinner Napkins:  Pottery Barn

Mason Jars:  Walmart
Mini Lanterns:  Dollar Tree
Flags:  Dollar Tree
Votives:  Pottery Barn
Galvanized Beverage Holder:  Home Goods
Pop Corn Canisters:  Dollar Tree


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Home decor

Coastal Tablescape

Summertime is about casual and relaxed entertaining and this year, much of our entertaining is happening outdoors.  There is something about summer that invites one to sit back and take things down a notch.  That also translates into how I dress and how I set my tables during the warmer months.  It’s about having fun and casual dining al fresco.  Whether it is a barbecue, clambake or elegant dinner for two.


This weekend, I pulled out all the stops and planned a quiet dinner for my hubby and I poolside. The sun was out and the temps were ideal for spending the day by the pool.  There was delicious seafood, cold ice tea, wine, and lots of fun in the sun.

Such a fresh and festive way to elevate the occasion.  Of course my tablescape was inspired by the blue hues in the pool. Linens in simple shades of blue and red enliven the table and just for fun; I used my playful Oceanside dinnerware  by Lenox that is decorated with starfish, sea horses, and sand dollars in vibrant red, white and blue which sets the tone for my coastal tablescape.  All come together to emit a relaxed feel as we kick back with a glass of favorite wine.

I always like to add an element of whimsy and interest.  For this table, I simply used a small metal bucket to tuck in a napkin, lemon and small bottle of wine.  I also used natural starfish to decorate each place setting.


Thank you for stopping by today sweet friends.  Always remember to take time to do something special.  Whether it’s buying yourself petty flowers or having a cup of tea in your garden.  Make everyday special.

Janet

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Garden

Peter Janke – plantsman AND designer

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An all-too brief trip to Germany recently. A chance to get some summer sun during a singularly cool English summer, but to be honest, one does not go to Cologne to lie on the beach. The main reason for going was to interview Peter Janke about his garden (for House and Garden magazine), which is actually a bit further north, just outside Düsseldorf. I was staying in Cologne with Ina Sperl and her family – Ina is gardening correspondent for the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, the regional paper. Though technically a freelancer, Ina has a position in garden journalism that is now unknown in Britain, a two-day a week job with a desk in the office!
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Peter practically has gardening in his genes, as his grandparents had a nursery, his grandmother having been a notable breeder of cyclamen (Germany has always much led in this field). He had to take over the family business as a young man, owing to his mother being ill, which meant that he never went through the long process of training (university or apprenticeship) which is normal in Germany. Note for the rest of us – you do not normally do anything in Germany without a long training, even supermarket shelf-stacking requires a long and arduous training (I am making this up, but you get my point). Peter designs gardens professionally, for him it comes completely naturally, “I had been growing plants and putting them together since I was five, making funny little combinations as a child”.
  P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; }People who have a good design eye and are real plant collectors are rare. Peter is one of these – “I try to bring together a collector’s garden and a designer’s garden”. On his 14,000 m2 plot, he says he has over 4,000 varieties, and yet as Ina had said to me over breakfast that day “there is nothing out of place”. There is a very strong sense of structure, and rhythm, but it is in no way ‘formal’ planting. “I like the idea of formal elements and natural things” he says, and his planting is very much about getting this balance – “we like formal landscapes but the trouble is people go too far and have formal planting too, formality works best with more naturalistic planting”. “I am fascinated by the Beth Chatto style from the beginning but I have things she would hate, like clipped shrubs.” Peter worked for Beth on and off for two years, an essential training, and she was clearly a mentor, but I can imagine a good-humoured argument or two between them over things like this.
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One of the key problems in planting design is keeping interest going through the year, but Peter says “this is the trickiest part of planting design…but I truly believe a garden should be for twelve months, and comparing with fine art you can have a Claude Monet in summer and a George Braque in winter if you do it right”. Peter is very keen on using space twice over, such as experimenting with layering, eg. late-developing plants which can allow for a ground layer of small spring bulbs or low perennials first, eg, many Zingiberaceae or having late emerging foliage from things like Darmera peltata, or somewhat smaller, the fern Gymnocarpium dryopteris. with bulbs or very early woodland perennials. Another thing he is doing istesting different ways of cutting perennials down, pruning them mid-season to get healthy new growth, e.g. Geum rivale “two or three weeks later they look super”. He is trying to create combinations that you can do this with, using astrantia, tellima, onoclea, matteucia. In addition he says how “it is possible to have a border which is full of bulbs and spring flowers then the picture changes completely almost tropical in appearance with Tetrapanax, Boehmeria and many others”. This ‘tropical’ look is something which I have noticed a bit recently in Germany – where the real exotic look possible in Britain is impossible (winters are a lot colder) but often using large-foliage plants from the Far East, like many Aralia, Boehmeria, Shefflera etc.
  P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; }Walking through the woodland area of the garden Peter tells me that “variegation almost used to be a no-no, but now my attitude has changed completely, I can appreciate that it can be very useful, in very small quantities, it brings light into shaded places, and it can be used to create some striking combinations, particularly good for urban situations.”
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It is interesting to hear how Peter describes himself as being very influenced by Karl Foerster (a writer, nurseryman and plant breeder who was immensely influential in the early part of the 20thcentury and who wrote extensively), “the antithesis of what I knew in the cut flower industry, the use of plants which are not necessarily flamboyant and colourful, he taught me to see plants in a completely different way”. But we agreed between us that actually Foerster’s style today would be seen as relatively conventional. Things have moved on – partly because his last major book, on grasses and ferns, in 1957, has helped initiate a whole new more naturalistic planting style.
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I remember a previous conversation with Peter, a few years ago, in which we were comparing British and German gardening cultures in the early part of the 20th century, and probably discussing which was more influential. Peter said that he thought that German garden culture had been almost irreperably damaged by the 1939-1945 war. Actually, there was a huge drop off in plant availability in Britain too, a loss which carried on through the 1950s. In Britain however gardening remained culturally important; in Germany, Peter thinks less so, “we lost our German identity completely after the war, in garden culture too, but now we are getting our garden culture back…. the garden lecturers like Cassian Schmidt have done a lot to change people’s perceptions, and the fact that more and more private gardens are open that helps a lot, started with groups of plant collectors opening their gardens to show each other, now nearly every city has an open garden gate event, it makes people work at their gardens”.
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A couple of years ago I did a blog post on pre-war German gardenculture – see here.
Since then, I have made contact with a member of the family of the artist, Escher Bartning, who did many of the illustrations for Karl Foerster (such as the phlox in that previous blog post – the delphiniums were by her father Ludwig) from the 1930s to the 1950s, by which time Foerster was living in the DDR (communist East Germany). Her niece lives in Leipzig and still has many of the original watercolours (I told this to a colleague in Berlin, whose response was “is that where they are, we have been looking for them for years”). Recently I was able to get hold of a whole set of Gartenschönheit, the magazine that Foerster edited before the war. More on this in a later blog post I hope, its a wonderful but also deeply poignant view into a liberal, broadminded, modernist Germany, at a time when the dominant political and cultural currents were going very much the other way, and a cataclysm beckoned. I’ll end with some of Escher Bartning’s covers for the magazine.

* * * * *
If you like this blog, why not check out my e-books, which are round-ups of some writing I did for Hortus magazine back in the early 2000s, along with an interview with the amazing Beth Chatto. You can read them on Kindle, or Kindle packages for smartphones or the computer. You can find them on my Amazon page here. You will also find my soap opera for gardeners – currently running at eight episodes.

SUPPORT THIS BLOG
I write this blog unpaid (of course) and try to do two postings a month, to try to provide the garden, wildflower and plant-loving community with information, inspiration and ideas. Keeping it coming is not always easy to fit into a busy working life. I would very much appreciate it if readers would ‘chip in’ (as we say in England) and provide a little financial support. After all, you pay for magazines and books, and it is only for historical reasons that the internet is free. Some money coming in will help me to improve quality and frequency, and to start to provide more coherent access to hard information, which I know is what a lot of you really want. So – please donate now!! You can do this through PayPal using email address: [email protected]
Thank you!
And thank you too to the folk who have contributed so far.

********

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Mini Caprese Skewers with Balsamic Glaze – Easy Summer Appetizer

Happy Sunday everyone and welcome to my blog.

Summer is all about keeping things easy and light!  These Caprese Skewers with Balsamic Glaze are a quick and healthy appetizer that your guests will love. Easy to assemble, delicious and make a pretty presentation.

Mini square mozzarella cheese pieces are skewered with sweet basil leaves and juicy cherry tomatoes then drizzled with sweet balsamic glaze to create the perfect bite-size appetizer. Trust me when I tell you that these will be gone in  a matter of seconds.


To make these for your next gathering you’ll need grape or cherry tomatoesfresh basil leaves, and fresh mozzarella.  You can get mini cheese balls in most grocery stores these days. If not, just cut regular-sized fresh mozzarella into square bite-sized pieces and place on top of store bought mini square toasts like I did here.

Layer a fresh basil leaf or two on top of a mini toast, add a drizzle of balsamic glaze, fresh mozzarella cheese, drizzle again with balsamic glaze (if you want to), and lastly; add cherry tomato and place a toothpick to hold it all together.
  

Aren’t these adorable?  And so pretty to look at!  Make sure to make plenty of these because they won’t last very long.


Happy entertaining,


Janet




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Reviewing progress at the Olympic Park

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The Sarah Price design for the ‘Sheffield school’ plantings at the QE Park
 A trip to the Queen Elizabeth Park with a lively group from the Landscape Institute – this is the vast new park in east London which is the legacy from the 2012 Olympic Park, the largest new park in the UK for over a hundred years. I was interested to see all the various naturalistic plantings, particularly the ambitious plant mixes created by Nigel Dunnett and James Hitchmough from the University of Sheffield; Piet Oudolf has created some borders here as well. Good to take an LI group around, get their opinions and feedback and since a lot of them have been here already find out what they thought it is like at other times of year.
Part of the Piet Oudolf planting at the QE Park
I had been here in June, and had left with a vague feeling of discouragement, so to see much looking really good just now has been most heartening. All in all I’m impressed! There is a lot of very colourfully exuberant planting, well maintained and looking as if it could continue to develop well over the next few years. This is a very large, ambitious and complex park- it is interesting to see the management documents from the London Legacy Development Corporation who are managing it, which outline a large number of different habitats, all receiving different treatments: particularly mowing and cutting regimes. There was a lot of scepticism in the group about how many of these will be adhered to, and suggestions that there will be an inevitable tendency towards ‘one size fits all’. We shall have to wait and see.
Bupleurum fruticosum in the Oudolf planting
Much of the ‘splash’ of the Olympic Park plantings in 2012 was through annuals, which of course were a one-year special. Many of those areas have been grassed over now, although when I was here in June there seemed to be a lot of areas which looked like ex-annuals, with California Poppy (Eschscholzia) doing rather nicely. These areas often included a lot of native plants too and were attractive but did not look as if they would stay for long – I could see grass invading and taking over in a year or two.
There are a lot of areas which are basically using a limited range of native flora (which here in Britain is pretty limited anyway) alongside the tussock grass Molinia caerulea, on what looks like a pretty infertile substrate. Unlike most British grasses, the molinia will not form a suffocating carpet over other plants – because it is a tussock-former, and the low fertility soil will reduce the growth of other grasses as they will inevitably seed in from outside. So these should look good for a long while yet.
The North American planting
The Hitchmough/Dunnett plantings (not forgetting garden designer Sarah Price) who knitted them altogether were particularly impressive. They made four geographically-defined plantings along the waterway opposite the London Aquatics Centre: Europe, North America, Southern Hemisphere (basically South Africa) and Asia. In June there wasn’t much in flower, although I don’t think I’d got as far as ‘Europe’ on that occasion (I got jolly lost – it is a huge and at times disorientating place). One of the weaknesses of the Olympic Park as legacy project was probably that there was little thought given to spring bulbs, perennial or shrub performance (the games were in July). In fact one of the unusual things about the whole place, is the remarkably low importance of the usual range of horticultural shrubs – refreshing. Most of the shrubs here are native species.
The South African planting
The North American planting was just about to come to peak flowering – in fact there would appear to be very little in flower before this time; this is a planting which will end the year in a crescendo. The Southern Hemisphere mix, which looked rather dull and very gappy in June had clearly had a good summer and still had plenty of life in it. Over time the agapanthus will form solid clumps and the dieramas will probably seed, so filling the gaps. Of all the mixes this is the most exuberantly colourful and exotic looking: gladiolus, galtonia, kniphofia with underplanting of New Zealand carexes annd ?restios. The Asian planting was the most successful in terms of ground coverage, space filling and colour, but relying on very few species: Persicaria amplexicaulis, Anemone x hybrida, and grasses, and there was little in flower here in June.
Selinum wallichianum in the Oudolf borders
Since the Olympics, the main development has been some Piet Oudolf planting up around the various public grass and playground areas. It was interesting to see what he comes up for a public space which needs to have a simple, straightforward management regime – lots of perennials and grasses in easy-to-maintain small groups making a great impact as a backdrop for nicely-sized grass areas, very well maintained and mostly doing really well. Very little was in flower in June though and there was a rumble of criticism that the planting could have offered a longer season; the same has been heard about his new planting at Hauser + Wirth in Somerset. It being a Saturday, the whole area was being incredibly well-used, the people of London in all their amazing ethnic diversity picnicing, playing, chatting and relaxing.
There are planting lists on the QE park website, which is at first sight looks a cheerfully dumbed-down affair, with a rather inadequate map but if you dig around you will find: http://queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk/the-park/attractions/parklands/gardens/2012-gardens

* * * * *
If you like this blog, why not check out my e-books, which are round-ups of some writing I did for Hortus magazine back in the early 2000s, along with an interview with the amazing Beth Chatto. You can read them on Kindle, or Kindle packages for smartphones or the computer. You can find them on my Amazon page here. You will also find my soap opera for gardeners – currently running at eight episodes.

SUPPORT THIS BLOG
I write this blog unpaid (of course) and try to do two postings a month, to try to provide the garden, wildflower and plant-loving community with information, inspiration and ideas. Keeping it coming is not always easy to fit into a busy working life. I would very much appreciate it if readers would ‘chip in’ (as we say in England) and provide a little financial support. After all, you pay for magazines and books, and it is only for historical reasons that the internet is free. Some money coming in will help me to improve quality and frequency, and to start to provide more coherent access to hard information, which I know is what a lot of you really want. So – please donate now!! You can do this through PayPal using email address: [email protected]
Thank you!
And thank you too to the folk who have contributed so far.

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