I might have designed our little garden to be as big a contrast as possible with our neighbours’. I see them both from my study window on the top floor: ours is all paving, steps and geometry: next door, beyond a wall smothered with roses (never pruned, they sway six feet above it), with climbing hydrangeas, ivy and jasmine (J. polyanthum, already in flower in this mad weather).
Our neighbours seem to take the view that pruning is cruelty: long-matured shrubs of all kinds lean out from the walls to fill the long narrow space. Viburnum bodnantense is now keeping the jasmine company, pink with pink. What is slightly surreal is the immaculate lawn growing in this deep shade; a green carpet immaculately hoovered every week. From above, the result is utterly charming; a sort of country-rectory effect in 1,000 square feet. It makes our structured space, cramming in my greenhouse, wall beds, box hedges, a dozen big pots and three changes of level, look like a lot of effort. Which of course it is, and what we want.
I wrote last week about, among other things, the koi carp in Holland Park. My faithful Japanese correspondent loves giving me little supplementary briefings (and I love getting them). She says all ‘brocaded’ koi, the exquisitely coloured ones, are descended from a mutant common carp in the mountain village of Yamakoshi in Niigata prefecture. Carp was their source of protein in snowbound winters. Here by the Sea of Japan the average annual snowfall is 100 inches. Niigata, on the north coast of Honshu, grows more rice and brews more sake than any other of Japan’s 47 prefectures. It drinks more, too.