Hugh, Jenny – tell us – what are you doing for the Phoenix garden right now?
Hugh: We’re doing the last of the planting for our summer flowers and vegetables at the moment. Most of the garden’s herbs and vegetables are used by the Café Bar, so we’ve been working with Dan [head chef] to plant what the kitchen would use in the summer menu.
Jenny: We’ve chosen plants that are generally easy to grow, like courgettes, lettuce and radishes. Lots of herbs too, like coriander, chives, oregano and basil. We also painted the planters themselves in pink, purple and blue to make the garden area more summery.
What’s the reaction been to your work so far?
Jenny: Really positive! Whenever we’re outside working on the beds, people often come up and ask us what we’re doing. It’s lovely to see people stopping to talk about gardening.
What plants would you recommend growing in a city garden?
Jenny: If you only have space for tubs, go for herbs and tomatoes – you’ll always find a use for them in the kitchen.
Hugh: You can raise anything if you have a bit of garden space! I’d recommend a book called ‘Square Foot Gardening‘ by Mel Bartholomew that has some great tips for city gardens.
If I wanted to get into gardening, where’s the best place to start?
Hugh: Garden Organic’s your best bet. They’re a charity that promotes organic gardening in the UK and they work with local communities. And the Royal Horticultural Society, of course, or your local allotment association. There’s no point reading books, you’ve got to get out there and do it!
Jenny: Well, actually, I remember a few years back I did a couple of excellent gardening evening courses. So if you prefer to start with a theoretical approach, that’s a good experience.
If anyone out there fancies growing their own veg, what’s the best crop to start with?
Hugh: Potatoes! If you have rough ground, they’ll sort out the soil for you and get rid of weeds. Excellent starter crop.
Jenny: I started with tubs of salad crops like radish and lettuce. They spring up in two days, which is always rewarding.
Do you keep your own gardens at home?
Hugh: Of course! I particularly like my fruit trees and bushes – I’ve got redcurrants, blackcurrants, grapes, apples, pears, you name it.
Jenny: My favourite thing about my garden at the moment is the bees’ nest. We built a bamboo house to attract the bees, and they’ve started moving in. If you provide a safe habitat, you’ll encourage all sorts of wildlife – that’s something anyone can do.
Can you recommend any films about gardening?
Jenny: ‘A Little Chaos’, the film with Alan Rickman and Kate Winslet that came out recently, was an enjoyable watch. Although, for the discerning gardener, you might spot in one scene that Kate’s character uses a 21st century saw – a little anachronism there!
What’s a good way to get kids involved?
Hugh: Give them a little space of their own in the garden, give them some seeds, and don’t interfere – they’ll love it. Sunflower seeds or packs of mixed annual seeds always go down well.
What might we see in the Phoenix garden over the coming year?
Jenny: In October we’ll be starting the winter planting. Last year we covered the soil over to let it regenerate, so I’m looking forward to getting some winter plants out. I imagine we’ll be putting some colourful flowers in, as well as winter greens and cabbages for the kitchen.
Our garden’s new summer look helps to keep our Café Bar running and our food fresh.
To find out more about what makes our Café Bar a great place to be – including draft beers, children’s activities, and daily specials – check out our page.