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Wendy Shillam
An urbanist by profession and a lover of city living by temperament.
Interests: Coffee in any square or friendly coffee shop, eco-living, DIY, vegetable growing on my roof garden, cooking for friends, I write fiction as a serious hobby, Out and about I love walking, sailing, sightseeing, Give me a sunny beach and a thick paperback and I'm a happy sandgirl.
Recent Activity
Today, for the first time the garden looks really wintry. Leaves have been falling and now only stems remain on most of the climbers. The constant rain of recent days has caused everything to sag and drip, as if the plants are tired of summer, tired of growing. The rooftopvegplot is, fundamentally, a summer exercise. Even though I extend the season with herbs and perennials and even though the greenhouse soldiers on, there is less reason to sit up here now – and on a cold, wet day, only a hardy soul would do so. But there is always some bounty in the winter months; I could pick sage, or parsley, wild celery or thyme. Even the odd Russian kale and chicory are soldiering on. In the greenhouse lettuces and tomatoes are still cropping. But some of my autumn crops have been devastated by slugs. And I, distracted by family... Continue reading
Posted Dec 6, 2014 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Dear Jeremy, Its a strange thing that these ideas were around right at the beginning of our careers and don't seem, even now to have received general acceptance.
It's worth trying to track down. It wasn't expensive when it came out. So it would be a snip now! But Meg, next time I see you, I'll lend it to you.
My studio is full to the brim with groaning shelves. My book collection includes plant encyclopaedias, gardening how-to books, coffee table tomes, rich with illustratustrations of unattainable horticultural splendour and hundreds of gardening memoirs. I'm not about to throw them away, but having just re-read a slim volume my father purchased in 1969, I wonder why I ever bothered to buy any gardening books of my own, since that date. It's a stylish paperback, of 64 pages in length, written by Peter Shepheard and published by the Council of Industrial Design - the forerunner of my sometime employers, The Design Council. Shepheard was that rare thing, an architect of buildings and of landscape. After a shining university career, he became a successful practitioner, founding the company Shepheard, Epstein and Hunter. By the sixties he had become something of a TV celebrity as well. But neither his fame, his business acumen,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2014 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Thanks for that recommendation. It takes a year to find out if your seeds were good. Nothing like a personal recommendation to save all that wasted hassle!
Toggle Commented Oct 20, 2014 on Seeds of Hope at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
The autumn fall is magnificent in its beauty. I think that beauty stems from its fleeting quality, as inevitable as any other fall from grace. The leaves on my rooftopvegplot have begun to turn crisp and brittle. The green seeps out of them. Their colour goes from russet, through purple, to orange and gold. A few bright nasturtiums beacon red and yellow in the gloaming of the evenings. Red tomatoes glow on browning vines. They taste delicious at this time of year. Is it their scarcity that we savour? But however beautiful autumn may seem, it is always sad. I try to console myself with hopes of spring. Fruitfulness at this time of year is far more positive. It is not the fall of leaves, but of seeds that brings optimism. On my desk, casually laid out upon a hand-written recipe for madeleines are a few withering rose-hips. A spray... Continue reading
Posted Oct 20, 2014 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Some gardeners decide how posh you are by the number of topiary peacocks you have in your garden, others will count the water lilies on your pond, or the sheer number of different perennial grasses, arranged – ‘Oh so randomly’, but for potagistas like me, none of these measures can apply. In the old days perhaps, it was size that mattered. But today I think one of the quintessential veg tests is in climbing vegetables. So for those of you who aspire to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, I thought a quick round-up of what has gone well this season, on the trellises, would be of interest. The most important lesson I’ve learned this dry autumn is just how much vegetables need watering in a garden like mine. I’ve been watering by hand all summer, and I’ve noticed the improvements over the automatic system. I went away for a fortnight,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 5, 2014 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Autumn sowing. Winter harvest. Greens, lettuces, mizuna, spinach, lambs lettuce, mache Continue reading
Posted Sep 2, 2014 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Courgette Tromboncino d'Albegna Distinguished; respected; eminent; venerable. What a word is august? But its reputation as a month, for being the height of summer is not really so well deserved. In Britain, August Bank Holiday is associated with sultry days, picnics destroyed by squalls, children sheltering from rain under beach umbrellas and not a ray of sunshine. This year we’ve had a noticeable decline in temperatures. Sometimes the mornings have been clear and warm, then by lunchtime clouds waft in. But in spite of these showers, I’ve needed to keep watering. This rain doesn’t soak in, instead it sizzles on the hot decking and evaporates up into the clouds again, ready to pour down on some other unsuspecting souls. The heat of the city, billowing upwards, creates huge thunder clouds. Another August Bank Holiday nightmare. It seems that this year we’ve been affected by something called the Spanish Flume. Hot... Continue reading
Posted Aug 23, 2014 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
What to do with a glut and why the hygiene police musts put you off bottling and canning. Preserving strawberries, tomatoes and peppers. Continue reading
Posted Aug 7, 2014 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Well said Julieanne. Let it be our secret!
Toggle Commented Jul 20, 2014 on Eat my Garden! at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
We all try to create our own little piece of Heaven don't we?
Toggle Commented Jul 16, 2014 on Of Bugs and Beans at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
High summer, beans, French Beans Cosse violette, Wineberry. Pollination of runner beans. Continue reading
Posted Jul 13, 2014 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Hi Chris, I'm pleased that this article seems to have struck a chord with many people. Let's keep spreading the word - and (I suppose) the muck! Wendy
Toggle Commented Jul 1, 2014 on Eat my Garden! at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Hurry up and get qualified Caro! And keep sneaking in the fruit and veg. What could look nicer than cardoons or artichokes in a mixed border? We need more designers like you. Wendy
Toggle Commented Jul 1, 2014 on Eat my Garden! at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Dear Frances, Thanks for your comment. So true! Power to the people indeed! Wendy
Toggle Commented Jun 30, 2014 on Eat my Garden! at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Why do professional gardeners look down their noses as this type of garden design? The gardening profession, as opposed to the amateurs, is composed of two very different creatures, those who grow and those who plant. Even today there still seems to be a barrier between the horticulturalists and the designers. This split is cultural, ingrained and, in my view, counter-productive. This realisation was most strongly driven home to me the other day, when I attended the open day of a famous horticultural college that shall remain nameless. I wandered into the design studio to be confronted by rows of small garden designs that were frighteningly reminiscent of Chelsea. The same symmetries, the same plants, the same old themes. Even though these were all urban scale domestic gardens, I was shocked to see a complete lack of edible plants, let alone natives. None of these gardens had compost heaps, or... Continue reading
Posted Jun 29, 2014 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
“Welcome to the rooftopvegplot!” How many times have I said that over the past few days? Our Chelsea Fringe open days are now finally over. So exhausted was I that and for a day or two afterwards, I did nothing but lie in a darkened room being dripped chilled white wine intravenously. Apologies to my dear blog readers, for having to wait so long for a line or two. I’m going to make it up to you though. This is going to be a mega blog. I wrote a description of the garden for visitors and I’ve adapted that- with accompanying images – for your delectation and delight. DIscussing a point of interest with the gals! I hesitate to call it a walk around the garden as that would take all of thirty seconds. It’s so small (another thing that surprised people) but as Naomi Schillinger said, “You have everything... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2014 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
The openings went really well, thanks for asking. But today I was a pale imitation of my normal sparky self! It was all I could do to rise momentarily from a deck chair to pick some of those luscious broad beans for lunch. It was worth the superhuman effort (!) They were soft and delicious. Hope you too had a great weekend. Wendy
Toggle Commented Jun 8, 2014 on The Calm Before the Storm at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
It was lovely that you could come and look around. I'm always very happy to share knowledge. Good luck with your own new garden:)
Toggle Commented Jun 6, 2014 on The Calm Before the Storm at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Tomatoes standing to attention in the greenhouse, awaiting visitors inspections. Can you spot the fruit? This is the big week; the week that we’ve been working towards since February. This is the week that we open for the Chelsea Fringe. We chose to show for three afternoons, Thursday 5th, Friday 6th and Saturday 7th June from 1.00 – 6.00pm. Mike spent all weekend clearing the potting shed. My rooftopvegplot is unusual in that you have to walk through the potting shed to get into the garden. So old canes where cleared out, pots were stacked and tools polished. I’ve primped and pruned the plot so that there won’t be a lettuce leaf out of place by Thursday. The seriously tidy potting shed Allowing people into the veg plot is rather different to opening a flower garden. It feels as personal as if I’m revealing my underwear drawer to the public.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2014 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Dear Lana, Excellent to hear that you are putting your balcony to good use. Hope the bugs aren't too much of a problem. You will be able to view the video on Mark's website (link at the top of this blog) in a few weeks time. There are loads of other videos and lots of useful information on his fantastic website too. Best wishes Wendy
Toggle Commented May 30, 2014 on Why do I do it? at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Thanks Claudia, One day I hope you will come and take a mint tea with me in the garden:)
Toggle Commented May 30, 2014 on Why do I do it? at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Why grow veg in the city? Continue reading
Posted May 22, 2014 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Spring has sprung, its Chelsea Flower Show week! Continue reading
Posted May 19, 2014 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT