The Orange Tip

mattcollinsgarden.co.uk

Garden Design, Barnes

IMG_0650In 2016 I redesigned a garden in Barnes for a private client. Good to return in spring earlier this year to see how it’s been getting on.

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New Website

It feels a little strange coming back to the blog after so long; various exciting yet somewhat consuming commissions having taken precedence over the last couple of years, both gardens and garden writing. Good to return to this site though, and I hope to use it more frequently going forward for thoughts, images and little side-reflections regarding the wonderful world of horticulture and wild Nature.

I have now assembled my work for a new website, which can be viewed here: Matt Collins Garden.

Toast Travels

I’ve started writing monthly articles on plants and Nature for the lifestyle and fashion brand, Toast. The first piece looks at the wildflowers and wildlife of Caldey Island in Pembrokeshire, South Wales: Island Growing

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Hortus Article

Super pleased to have been asked to write an article for the spring edition of Hortus. Hortus is a fantastic journal of garden writing and I’ve been a fan for many years. Greg Barnes drew a lovely illustration of a Japanese anemone for the piece.

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New Book: My Tiny Flower Garden

Much of 2015/16 was spent writing a commissioned book for Pavilion Books on the subject of small flower gardens. Lots of fun to put together, working with amazing photographer, Roo Lewis. It’s now on the shelves!

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Caught By The River

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The good people at Caught By The River wrote a lovely review of my journal, Ivy Cities. You can read it here: Review: Ivy Cities

The journal has had a limited print-run, and copies are available for purchase here.

Caught By The River is a wonderful blog that chronicles the many wonders, challenges and surprises of the natural world.

Urban flower

Wild chicory, Detroit MI, USA

Weeds

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Viola odorata

A little while ago I moved on from the garden which, for the most part, provided the recurring inspiration for this blog. As a near full-time gardener employed by its owner, this small yet indomitable and humbling landscape stimulated within me observations of a certain variety; reflections that would sit comfortably together on a page. This is one of the factors which made the act of updating and maintaining this blog relatively effortless, and something of an enjoyable process. Since my departure from the garden however, it has been difficult to continue at the same pace, having yet to settle on any particular focal point or muse.

I thought for a while that I might instead turn my attention to ‘weeds’. Living in a dense city, when your feet experience little besides concrete, tarmac and mortar, the rosettes and protruding stems which unfurl along the surface have become a new novelty to me. Their contrasting green against the pavement and my insatiable need to identify and familiarise myself with any unknown plant variety combine to form an inquisitiveness that regularly stops me in the street. During the winter months it was the thought and visualisation of what flowers would soon spring from the green that most interested and excited me. Recognising leaves beneath their coating of dirt (kicked up by the street-cleaning vehicles and passing pedestrians); knowing, but often not knowing, what colours and forms they would provide if left to flourish or simply survive, this was to me a kind of secret thrill, an escapism or even refuge perhaps. So I began to take photographs and to log the details, with the intention of beginning a new chapter on this blog.

Sadly both time and preoccupation got in the way, and in place of the garden I’ve been absorbed in a couple of garden designs and a book commission. However the photographs remained on my phone and having spotted a particularly colourful curb-side display this morning, I felt compelled to make use of them.

Forget me not

Forget me not

‘The more we seem effortlessly – but temporarily – to eradicate weeds, the less we bother to understand them. They were regarded as powerful medicines, and more pragmatically as important contributors to domestic economy. Their appearance now sparks reflexes, not reasoning. They are regarded as inexplicable and impertinent intruders, quite unconnected with the way we live our lives’.

Richard Mabey writes this in his popular 2010 book, Weeds. It’s a fine observation of the cultural shift in the association between man and weed. To write much more on this subject would be to power-phrase Mabey’s fantastic work. So I wont. But the question that most often reoccurs in my mind when I stumble upon these unexpected ‘conquerers of the concrete’, is one relating to ornamental quality. To me this is the most interesting; what is it in us that will allow some plants to thrive and others not. Why do we take pleasure in a roadside violet, but chemical spray a dandelion. Is it ignorance? Practicality? Taste? ..Or is it a far more complex response. I have always believed that in taking time to learn about the plants around us, we grow to appreciate and often cherish them. However I myself am guilty of overlooking a Shepherd’s Purse flower (Capsella bursa-pastoris) in favour of another, perhaps more showy plant.

Primrose seeded into the wall of Highgate Cemetary

Primrose seeded into the wall of Highgate Cemetery

Shepherd's Purse flowering with forget me not in the background

Shepherd’s Purse flowering with forget me not in the background

London Bats (new podcast)

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Last autumn I spent a day with Cindy Blaney, a warden at Highgate Wood in North London, as she surveyed the resident bat population. Cindy is employed by the City of London, caring for, documenting and conserving the wood, which amazingly for London, can be traced back to a form of ancient woodland. Each year Cindy conducts a bat census, recording species and numbers, and I was fortunate enough to tag along. It was very cool to get up so close to the bats, typically such illusive creatures, which we found huddled in nest boxes, settling in for the winter.

You can listen to my time in the wood with Cindy over on the Podcast page in the header.

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Waterlow Park

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Waterlow is my nearest London park. Those not living in close proximity to this incredible yet tucked-away paradise of a landscape tend not to have heard of it. It isn’t very big, as London parks go.

I recently took a few rolls of 35mm film to be developed and found this photograph among the prints. I’d forgotten taking it, but instantly remembered its context upon seeing it – the unexpectedly high temperature that day, the quietness, walking up to Highgate with coffee and a banana, annoying my girlfriend by taking so long to retrieve my camera from the depths of a rucksack, and then to angle the photograph. While holding the coffee and banana.

On any other day just like this one, the same view could have been a much more crowded one; it isn’t as though the park is a secret. I just love that, perhaps even unbeknownst to them, one person had the entire scene to themselves.