Grow London Contemporary Garden Fair on Hampstead Heath celebrates all things green

Paul Holt, creative Director of N1 Garden Centre preparing for Grow London

Paul Holt, creative Director of N1 Garden Centre preparing for Grow London - Credit: Nigel Sutton

London’s contemporary garden fair returns to Hampstead Heath this week with exhibitors from near and far and a busy programme of talks, demos and classes; from how to sow seeds to making your own herbal remedies.

The Grow London Garden Fair opens tonight and runs until Sunday. Hampstead heath, London, UK 19 Jun

The Grow London Garden Fair opens tonight and runs until Sunday. Hampstead heath, London, UK 19 June 2014. Guy Bell, 07771 786236, - Credit: Archant

The Grow London Contemporary Garden Fair returns to Hampstead’s lower fairground on East Heath Road, from June 24 to 26.

Whether we are talking of plants, tools, furniture or accessories, there is a cool, fashionable edge to this show, with an emphasis on quality and contemporary design.

Understandably, a lot of the businesses who take the trouble to travel up from the shires of England, and from further afield, are thinking optimistic thoughts of the London £.

But then so, too, may be the exhibitors from nearer to home.

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Paul Holt, the genial Creative Director of Islington’s N1 Garden Centre, seems to have his finger on this sort of pulse.

Big indoor plants, he says, are desirable in the ex-industrial living spaces of Hoxton and Hackney.

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They will also, doubtless, be looking desirable on the 6 x 3.5m display stand he will be mounting for the fair, with its décor “picking up on the Tribal Trend” … (“Stripes, geometric, roughly African” was his helpful elaboration).

Paul gave me the briefest outline of his gardening career to date.

The horticultural industry is so anxious about recruitment that any number of variations on this theme would surely be welcome.

Paul grew up in Tiptree, Essex, where he earned pocket money picking the “Little Scarlet” strawberries for the famous Wilkin’s conserve. Aged fourteen he was already crazy about house-plants and had started collecting them.

He went to study horticulture at Writtle College, stayed with it, and now manages N1 Garden Centre and its sister, W6 Garden Centre.

N1 Garden Centre is a delight to visit, a mix of the fashionable and the unassuming – “there’ll be garden plants on our stand as well”, says Paul, as if that might be a comfort.

Throughout the Fair there will be talks and demonstrations.

Jekka McVicar, the well-known herb grower and writer, will be there on Sunday 26.

From 1 – 2pm she will lead a master class for 12 people (first come, first served) on “How to Sow Seeds”.

From 3.15 – 4.15pm she will give a talk about how she started her herb farm. I had a quick ‘phone conversation with her.

Thinking of Londoners short of garden space, I asked what she would recommend for a window sill/balcony herb garden.

Here’s her advice … Choose herbs that you’re going to use, eg chives, thyme, oregano, mint, French tarragon, and grow them in separate pots to prevent one from swamping another.

Water them in the morning before going to work, to keep them going in the heat of the day.

Doing it at night may give them a chill.

There is little point in my repeating the story of her herb farm when you can hear it better from her, but one chance remark she made did chime in with the aforementioned anxiety about recruitment to the horticultural industry.

Jekka has been running her herb farm for years, so is naturally taking stock of how to keep it going – the real problem, she says, is finding people to do the work.

It seems that they may want to work in gardens, but not in nurseries, or they may want to come for a year to learn, but not to stay.

Or, I suppose, thinking of Paul Holt, may prefer to work in a garden centre.

This conundrum apart, Jekka’s work is really inspirational, and it will be a great chance to listen to her at the Fair.

Also on the herbal theme, Vicky Chown and Kim Walker of Handmade Apothecary will lead two Herbal Walks on Hampstead Heath, Friday 24, 2 – 2.45, Sunday 26, 1.30 – 2.15, and two workshops on making Soothing Sleep Sachets, Friday 24, 11.30 – 12.30, Saturday, 25th, 2.30 – 3.30pm.

We featured their (very enjoyable) Herbal Walk last year.

It’s a pleasure to see that two other young women we featured last year, sisters Helen and Vicky Tate, will be back with their stand from Lime Cross Nursery, specializing in conifers. Grow London Thurs 23rd Charity Garden Party Preview 6 – 9pm Fri, 24, Sat 25, Sun, 26, 11am – 6pm.

Ham&High readers can get half price tickets at £8 (plus booking fee) valid for any day excluding the Charity Preview, using the code: HANDH16.

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