Guest Post: Alba Villacampa Visits Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

Hi! It’s Alba here. I’m taking over the blog for a day.

The week before last was full of surprises. My husband made me pack on Sunday ready to go the next morning from Tenerife (Canary Islands) where we live, to “somewhere”… He had some fun making me queue up at the check-in desks for a few destinations until we finally got our boarding pass to London!

I’m not sure about how many times I’ve been to London but it’s always worth the visit and you can be sure to find loads of new interesting things going on.

We went out for dinner with Jorge the same evening we arrived. There we were, two friends and Spanish garden designers catching up at Nando´s in Gloucester Road. But, the unknown destination was not the only surprise that awaited for me that Monday. Jorge took a press pass for the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show out of his pocket and my name was on it to write about and photograph the show for LLO!

I want to thank Stephanie and Jorge for the opportunity of visiting the Flower Show and as I promised, here’s my view of what was going on this year at the show.

A Cool Garden (22)Photo: A cool garden designed by Ruth Marshall

A Cool Garden (11)Photo: A cool garden designed by Ruth Marshall

A Cool GardenPhoto: A cool garden designed by Ruth Marshall

The planting scheme gives this garden by Ruth Marshall a rural aspect which is emphasised by the use of natural materials. The creative water feature and the glass panel bridge are worth highlighting.

A room with a viewPhoto: A Room with a View designed by Mike Harvey

This gold medal winner garden by Mike Harvey was built with a low budget using reclaimed materials. The array of colours of the plantings looked gorgeous.

A valley gardenPhoto: A Valley Garden designed by Sophie Walker 

The large textures of the plants used in Sophie Walker’s garden reminded me of the subtropical gardens we have in Tenerife. I particularly loved the use of the still water surface where plants and light reflected.

Ashes to AshesPhoto: Ashes to Ashes designed by Bruce Waldock

The theme of this garden by Bruce Waldock – another gold medal winner – was the threat of Ash dieback in the UK for which the designer suggests a hopeful green and happy ending.

AthanasiaPhoto: Anthasia designed by David Sarton

One of the reasons I enjoy so much the flower shows in the UK is because of the differences between gardens back in Tenerife and the ones in the UK. It’s not only the species used but the planting schemes are so distinct. This garden by David Sarton is a good example; the relaxed and natural composition makes me want to just sit on one of those wooden cubes all afternoon.

August 1963 - I Have A Dream (2)Photo: August 1963 – I Have A Dream designed by Stephen A Ryan

A much more contemporary garden, Stephen Ryan’s design is worthy of the silver gilt medal it was awarded.

Between The Lines (1)Photo: Between The Lines designed by Maurice Butcher

Bugs in Boots (2)Photo: Bugs in Boots designed by Caspian Robertson

Here is another low cost garden with a very good result by Caspian Robertson. Love the natural appearance of the planting scheme and the detail of the “hanging basket”.

Desolation to Regeneration (1)Photo: Desolation to Regeneration designed by Catherine MacDonald

Desolation to RegenerationPhoto: Desolation to Regeneration designed by Catherine MacDonald

Catherine MacDonald’s design was rewarded not only with a gold medal, but this garden also won the Best Conceptual Garden award. It was very much a show garden, with sounds and smoke effects.

Four Corners (2)Photo: Four Corners designed by Peter Reader

Four CornersPhoto: Four Corners designed by Peter Reader

Again, Peter Reader’s garden is one that just makes me want to lay back and relax.

Home Spun (1)Photo: Home Spun designed by Kasia Howard

I have to admit I didn’t like this garden by Kasia Howard too much during the show, but now I’m looking at the photographs it has so much creativity that I feel I didn’t pay enough attention to it. It’s a bronze medal garden winner.

In At The Deep End (5)Photo: In At The Deep End designed by Peter Cowell & Monty Richardson

In At The Deep EndPhoto: In At The Deep End designed by Peter Cowell & Monty Richardson

Peter Cowell and Monty Richardson’s collaboration is another low budget garden with a spectacular result. They achieved a lovely effect with the planting space between the steps.

Layers and Links (3)Photo: Layers and Links designed by Raine Clarke-Wills

Macmillan Legacy Garden (1)Photo: Macmillan Legacy Garden designed by Rebecca Govier – Green Edge Garden Design

Mid century modern (1)Photo: Mid Century Modern designed by Adele Ford & Susan Willmott

Mid century modern (2)Photo: Mid Century Modern designed by Adele Ford & Susan Willmott

I liked the bright coloured design of Adele Ford and Susan Willmott’s garden. It is full of energy. So did the judges because this was a gold medal winner and the Best Low Cost High Impact Garden.

The Ecover Garden (1)Photo: The Ecover Garden designed by Matthew Childs

The Ecover Garden (2)Photo: The Ecover Garden designed by Matthew Childs

A gold medal and Best Show Garden were awarded to designer Matthew Childs. Sponsored by Ecover, this garden was all about sustainability.

The Garden Pad (3)Photo: The Garden Pad designed by Dan Bowyer

Dan Bowyer’s design was one of Jorge’s favourite gardens. Though I didn’t go inside it, I guess It must be lovely to sit in this hollow patio with all those plantings around creating a perfect sense of privacy while you enjoy a glass of champagne.

The Hot Stuff GardenPhoto: The Hot Stuff Garden designed by Victoria Truman & Liz Rentzsch Garden Design, Marcus Foster

The McCarthy and Stone Garden (3)Photo: The McCarthy and Stone Garden designed by Chris Beardshaw

The McCarthy and Stone GardenPhoto: The McCarthy and Stone Garden designed by Chris Beardshaw

The corten steel structure centred all the attention of this gold medal show garden by Chris Beardshaw. I’ve been to Chelsea Flower Show twice and it still amazes me how they get all the big trees and hedges to look as if they have been there for ages.

The QEF Garden for JoyPhoto: The QEF Garden for Joy designed by Heather Appleton in association with

The QEF Garden for Joy (1)Photo: The QEF Garden for Joy designed by Heather Appleton in association with

I especially liked the cooper screen and the weaved structure around the plantings of this design by Heather Appleton, although the most important characteristic was that it was a fully accessible garden which is unfortunately not very common in my home town.

The singing tree (1)Photo: The Singing Tree designed by Clive Mollart & Clive Scott

Tip ot the IcebergPhoto: Tip of the Iceberg designed by Caroline Tait & John Esling

Willow PatternPhoto: Willow Pattern designed by Sue Thomas

Vestra Wealth's Jardin du Gourmet (1)Photo: Vestra Wealth’s Jardin du Gourmet designed by Paul Martin

Vestra Wealth's Jardin du GourmetPhoto: Vestra Wealth’s Jardin du Gourmet designed by Paul Martin

Now I’ve had the opportunity to visit three flower shows in the UK I’ve noticed I prefer show gardens where you can find inspiration for future works. This garden by Paul Martin is a good example!

To end this post, here are a few more photos from around the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show just to show you it’s not only a garden show.





Monty Don
Oh! By the way, we spotted Monty Don at the show (above). For those of you that are not from the UK, he’s a famous television presenter and writer on horticulture.

Thanks Alba!

Find Alba on her garden design website, Facebook and Twitter.

A Year and a Half in London: A Guest Post by Carolina Baker

A guest post by Carolina Baker who can be found on Facebook and writing in her blog, Falling to Fly


This month marks my year and a half of living in London and surprisingly, it’s starting to feel a bit more like home. Maybe this has been a catalyst for the new risks that I find myself taking on an almost daily basis. Some may seem small, but life changing change starts with small, daily, changes.

Here’s how my life has become more London based than ever before.

Daily Java Jolt – I used to be a daily Starbucks fanatic. Until, I discovered the deliciousness that is Monmouth Coffee. I was enthralled by the smell, the care, the queue, and the taste of their coffee. A few weeks later, Evan introduced me to Taylor Street Baristas  and I was also hooked. Since giving up Starbucks altogether, my effort to visit different places around London has doubled. I’ve exposed my taste buds to wonderful things like salt beef bagels, salted caramel cakes, and organic mountain eggs. – A few weeks ago, I was restless, I wanted to meet new people, and I needed inspiration. I took the plunge with Meetup. I found a great writing and reading group, and I immediately signed up for their events. Before I go any further, I need to confess that even though I come across as extremely confident, meeting new people and putting myself in situations where I have to interact with strangers scare me. The days of the events, I found multiple excuses not to go, (“I have to get on the tube,” “I’m tired,” “It’s raining,” “work delayed me”) and the only reason I didn’t listen is because I bartered with my fear. I told my fear that I only had to show up. And we both agreed that the act of showing up was pretty harmless. Once I was there, speaking to people was pleasant.

Yesterday, I even got my writing critiqued and the feedback was positive. And a fellow member asked me if I was going to stay after for a drink. I declined, but made a promise to myself, that next time, I will stay and socialize. On Thursday, I’m having lunch with a fellow member who is also itching for life change. I’m proud of myself because I’m the one who reached out and I am the one who organized the date.

A great consequence of traversing London for these meetups is that I’m becoming more comfortable finding my way through the city. First time visits do require a printed google map, but I can usually rely on memory for any meetups that come afterwards. I’m also enjoying checking out new venues (shooting star pub, tidbits, and Timberyard) that I probably wouldn’t have stumbled upon on my own.

I guess my first year in London was all about healing myself and my finances, and for that, I needed to keep my focus inward. I had a simple routine that included walking to work, exercising, working full-time, and travel. Since taking care of the fundamentals, this year’s focus is about exploring my home city and meeting people that inspire me to propel my life to the next level.  In doing so, I know that my ties to London will always remain strong, even after Evan and I leave the city for South America.

Guest Post: London vs. New York City

I’ve known the fabulous (and sometimes fabulously controversial) Sarah T Schwab since were were sophomores at university. We were both English and journalism students, both working on the campus newspaper and had a lot of other similar interests. When we graduated, I moved to London and Sarah to New York City. Over the years, she’s visited London quite a few times. Her last visit this side of the big old pond was in October, just before I went to see her in NYC. We found ourselves discussing the two mega cities we live in and all of their similarities and differences. Inspired, she’s written the following guest post for LLO.

Words by Sarah T. Schwab

1) Tea/Coffee
New Yorkers drink 6.7 times as much coffee as do people who live in other major cities, according to Massive Health’s iPhone app, Eatery, which had users snap 7.68 million pictures of everything they ate over the course of five months. In contrast, Londoners simply adore their tea – it is said that five cups is the average amount consumed by people each day, with some people drinking up to 15 or 20. I think that the different drinks of choice say volumes about each city. A cup of tea has less caffeine than a cup of coffee; it’s meant to be sipped, not gulped: New Yorkers rush, Londoners rush too but may take more time to smell the roses, or wisteria, or whatever else is growing in their English gardens.

2) Buildings
At 1,250 ft (381 m) at the 102nd floor, New York City is home to one of the tallest buildings in the world: the Empire State Building. At the time of its completion in 2013, One World Trade Center will be the third-tallest building in the world by pinnacle height, with its spire reaching a symbolic 1,776 feet (541.3 m).
In comparison, London’s tallest, The Shard, stands at 1,016 ft (309.6 m) at its 72nd floor.
This lone comparison of building heights is a good comparison for the way the rest of the city is built. Manhattan is an island wholly composed of very tall buildings. There are brownstones and six-story walk-up apartments too, but they’re typically nestled between their looming big brothers. By contrast London is famous for their shorter Georgian and Victorian houses. Most skyscrapers are isolated in the financial district.

3) Public Transportation
Underground: Whether one calls it the “tube” or “subway”, underground transportation is quite different. In London the latest tube is open until 1 a.m., whereas New York subways are open round the clock. Another difference is the seats. Perhaps it’s because of the high volumes of homeless and mentally unstable people roaming New York, but the seats are plastic. The tube’s seats are cushions made of moquette fabric, which is made from a wool nylon face with interwoven cotton backing.
One similarity between both undergrounds: annoying weekend construction leading to line and station closures or delays.

Above ground: Red double-decker buses have long been a staple of public transportation in London, largely due to the narrow roads and tight winding surface streets in city centers. Bus height averages about 14 feet tall. New York has articulated buses, which average 60 feet long (there are also shorter buses whose length is 40 feet). They are called “articulated” because the accordion-like bend in the middle lets this bus turn corners. There are some double-decker buses in the city, but you’ll only see tourists in them.

4) Wi-Fi
It’s fairly easy to find Internet cafés in London – one rarely has to walk more than a few blocks before stumbling on one with free Wi-Fi. Besides a friend’s apartment or random cafés in the Lower East Side, Starbucks seems to be pretty much the primary Wi-Fi cafe outlet in New York City.

5) Women
While traveling in Cambodia this past summer, I met a Londoner named Kier. “American women are so forward,” he said.
Studies show that the majority of college-bound American women aren’t searching for future husbands like they once were. They’re there to acquire the tools necessary to obtain a good job. Anything that might get in the way of that is an unnecessary hurdle (i.e. relationships).
In this month’s issue of The Atlantic magazine, the article “Boys on the Side” looks at the current landscape of the “hookup culture.” Author Hanna Rosin writes, “For college girls these days, an overly serious suitor fills the same role an accidental pregnancy did in the 19th century: a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future.”
Casual relationships happen all over the world. And of course it depends on the woman. But in general I think New York women are being socialized to tolerate a higher level of sexual crudity than other cultures, and are therefore not shy about taking what they want in comparison to those in some other cultures.

6) Penises
Although it is difficult to obtain definitive figures since there is no central agency requiring this, the Centers of Disease Control published a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in 2007 that found the overall rate of circumcision in the USA was 79 percent. In New York City, NYC HANES data shows circumcision rate to be 74.5 percent in US born men and 36.8 percent in men born elsewhere. In comparison, the 2000 British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyle found that only 16 percent of men older than 16 were circumcised.

7) Nightlife
The general closing time for pubs is 11 p.m. in London. If people want to continue drinking, they need to go to a club. Most New York drinkeries close at 4 a.m., whether they have a dance floor or not.

8)8) Advertising
New York City is notorious for its visual pollution. Granted the entire city isn’t like Times Square, but advertising is everywhere: buses, subways, taxis, even people act as walking, talking advertisements. The Shuttle from Grand Central to Times Square is always clad floor to ceiling with one prominent theme.
There is definitely plenty of advertising in London, but it’s much tamer and more limited to certain areas.

9) Street music
I saw more bagpipes during my recent five-day stay in London than I ever have in my life. And they were always on the street. In comparison, the saxophone can be heard everywhere in New York City: on street corners, in the subway, in Central Park.

10) Swearing

Ten Common New York swear words:

1) Fuck you

2) Slut

3) Shitfaced

4) Asskisser

5) Bitch

6) Lardass

7) Deadbeat

8) Redneck

9) Retard

10) Cunt

Ten Common London swear words:

1) Piss/bugger off

2) Slag

3) Wanker

4) Pissed

5) Sod

6) Bollocks

7) Bonk

8) Bloody

9) Fanny

10) Munter


For more from Sarah, visit her website:

I know there are plenty of New Yorkers living in London (ahem, Carolina, Lara, Stephanie, etc…) who read LLO (and probably some Londoners who have ended up in NYC as well). I’m curious to hear your comments on this and whether you agree or disagree!

Guest Post: An English Parisian back in London

Taking a breather from the jubilee weekend patriotism for something *gasp* French…

French singer at Columbia Road MarketPhoto: French musician in Columbia Road Flower Market by Nicola Albon


Guest Post Written by Tim Green

Paris: 5 hour working days; London: 9 hour working days,

Paris: 2 hour wine lunches; London: lunch is for wimps

Paris: long picturesque walks home; London: cattle truck home

Paris: Couture and color; London: Macs and shades of black

Okay, I exaggerate. But for the transigent soul who has experienced the quirks, the belle air and vitalities of a Parisian lifestyle landing back in a a cold wet London proved a horrible shock. Where were the little bakeries with their scents of fresh bread wafting into the air, where were the macaroon shops, the little winding streets I knew, the small bars with surly waiters serving bordeaux to rambustuous patrons on cobbled streets?

Well actually this and a lot more does exist. And in its droves. For much of Paris is already here, you just need to know where to look.

The French have come over the channel in their masses in the past decade. Indeed London is said to be the sixth biggest French city in terms of French population now– not bad considering the traditional (and mostly mythical) enmity between the two nations.

I too found myself taking this path over the sea three years ago. I was lured back by the excitemenet of seeing again whatLondon had to offer me after a ten year hiatus and the challenge of leaving a life I had grown used to. And it was a challenge indeed!

First call was a job. Having a helpful recruitment agency in London was paramount– luckily my Parisian friend Guy recommended me the perfect one– and they found me a copywriter job in the fashionable East end. This part of Londonhas some real Gallic atmosphere. Restaurants such as the piglovers delight Brawn in Colombia market (authentic pigs trotters), Boundary in Shoreditch or Les Trois Garcons stab at what seems to be a national preoccupation for the French side– namely eating. But despite their endeavour these places lacked something of the real authenticity of a Parisian traiteur with its ancient oil stained walls.

London’s answer to St Germain is Hampstead in north London, THE enclave for the French. Famous footballers, rugby players, bankers and vedettes have made this their home in recent times. I found Hampstead to be neat and refined– more tranquil than the Montparnasse but lacking the artistic atmosphere of the hilly French arrondissement. Still this leafy zone has some Parisian-lite food places like La Cocotte or the bemusing Cafe Rouge, a cliched Godard film set full of screaming children.

Beyond food and Londoners have embraced French fashion with a newfound vigour.

Go to central London and you will find many of the high-Paris fashion shops. But apart from the typical names in Bond Streetyou also have the smaller cult boutiques and labels– APC on Dover Street, Le Mauvais Garcon in Spitalfields or Aime in Notting Hill.

I was soon getting into the swing of things with the food and fashion though I lacked a certain something. Then one day my friend invited me to dine with him south of the river in Clapham. He took me to a place called Gastro— it was amazing. Just as though one has been transported back to le coins of St Germain itself.

Here is one of the best French restaurants of the whole city. Dark, smouldering and classic, beautifully balanced menus and wine served in those crappy half-cracked glasses exactly as they were in the Marais! Nothing had prepared me for this beautiful slice of Paris in London. And then after that we went around the corner and finally I found the macaroons I craved in the aptly entitled Macaron. Rows of them!

It seems my life here is now complete.


Tim Green is a copywriter and supports media recruitment agency

Guest Post: Tom Church presents uHouse

As you and I well know, living in London is expensive and finding an affordable place to stay can be incredibly difficult. There’s no doubt about it. A student from University College London (UCL) has created a website that he says will help make life a bit easier for anyone on a budget when it comes to flat hunting. And so of course I’ve invited him to write a guest post telling us more about his site and the story behind it. Meet Tom Church.

The first bedroom was more like a prison cell. 9ft long and 6ft wide, it was one of eighty-six identical rooms along a single corridor. “Welcome to your university accommodation”, smirked the security guard. There were two bathrooms and one kitchen shared between forty-three ‘flatmates’. And this kitchen only had one mini-fridge and microwave. The whole place was noisy, dirty, and quite frankly disgusting. But I loved it.
Londoners can make anything fun, and that year I spent in university-provided accommodation was one of my best. Yet it was also one of the most expensive. Before moving in, I had been naively made to believe that £155 a week for that room was “about right” in London. Remember; no living room, no outside facing window, no sleep. Yet, with an interest-free student loan coming in, who was I to complain? The contract was signed, bags packed.
Friday Night BluesPhoto: Friday Night Blues by Karva Javi
Five months later, sitting by a cash-machine, a homeless man asked if I had any change. It was the same man that always asked me for change, and this time, as I was checking my balance and taking out some cash, I would oblige. Then I double-blinked. The on-screen balance read £55.
With a month to go until my next loan instalment, I was broke. I had to get two part-time evening jobs to pay the rent whilst studying, and it was here I learnt that I was not alone. This story is very, very common amongst London students – especially those from overseas. London rent is just too expensive.
The Courtain
Photo: Courtain by s_mahela
However, every problem has a solution. For the last two years I’ve been researching the London rental market and think that I have it. And through Stephanie’s great blog, I would like to present it to you. How can you make London rent cheaper? There are three answers:
  1. Share the flat
  2. Live further out
  3. Look really hard
My solution combines all three, and here it is: (yes, .co).
uHouse lists all the affordable properties to rent in London. It searches the listings of all the small estate agencies in London, and picks the few houses that are within a budget: £650 per month per person OR LESS. It allows you to contact the estate agent/landlord directly, so there’s no middle man, and it’s entirely free to use. There’s even a Facebook page so you can keep an eye on the best flats as they come up.
The streets of London
Photo: The Streets of London by Gautier Houba
uHouse is my thank you gift to the Londoners that made my stay very enjoyable despite some prison-like conditions. I hope that you will find it useful, and if you do find a place to live through it, don’t forget to thank Stephanie for allowing me to write this guest article!
Find it, love it, live it.
Tom Church