Frog-marching and ‘Peter Pan’ tadpoles – 8th March

I had a run-in with a ‘knot’ of toads at the weekend. Like me, they were heading down my parents’ tarmac drive – I was heading to the house to watch some Saturday night TV and they were heading to the pond to bonk and spawn eggs.  It was lucky Dad had his headtorch on – we spotted six…

Wildlife gardening on rubble from the Blitz – 1st March

Barbican Wildlife Garden has grown over the rubble of buildings bombed during the Blitz. Pavements and offices where people used to live have been replaced by grasses and trees that look like they’ve been there for ever. The garden is home to long fingers of ivy, flecks of spring flowers and two ponds filled with frogs…

The hairy glory of a pussy willow waiting to bloom – 15th February

London is bathing in the first signs of spring and crocuses, snowdrops and daffodils are adding flesh and colour to green spaces. The skeleton of summer is starting to form.   Look up and you’ll see pussy willow have popped out of their water-tight winter pods. These buds – which are flowers before they’ve bloomed…

Life that lies within churchyards – 11th January

Gravestones get their own liver-spots as they age – scatterings of lichens which are often as old as the stones upon which they live. Wildlife in some of London’s churchyards has been left undisturbed for nearly 1,000 years. These ancient habitats have disappeared from elsewhere in the city as homes and offices squeeze in. A…

Nature’s Christmas decorations – 21st December

London plane trees hang out their own baubles for the festive season. Unlike our Christmas decorations which are on show for just a few weeks, these spiky balls cling on to the tree right through until March or April. The bobbing baubles are packed with next year’s seeds and are a reminder during these dark months that spring…

Feeding London’s birds over winter – 8th December

I live by St Bartholomew-the-Great church which was founded in 1123 by Rahere – a monk who was formerly a courtier and jester to Henry I. In the garden of the church is a 100-year-old mulberry tree which has become beautifully crooked and gnarled with time. The tree is near the site of a medieval Mulberry garden…

Foraging for Hyde Park’s sweet chestnuts – 23rd November

Sweet chestnuts were introduced into the UK by the Romans who ground their nuts down into flour. The southern European native took to its new home and quickly spread through woodlands. In Hyde Park a row of around one hundred sweet chestnut trees were planted in the late nineteenth century. They are on the north…

London’s natural litter – 16th November

Leaves age gracefully and are often at their most beautiful at the very end of their lives. When the tree has taken in all the nutrients it needs, the skeletal leaves drift to the ground. Some people bag them up and leave them out for binmen like ordinary litter. The roads and cycle paths are normally raked clear by the council….

In defence of autumn slugs – 8th November

Everyone hates slugs. They look disgusting and have little respect for vegetables on private property.  Eccentric English gardeners have tried all kinds of hacks to get rid of them – from using egg shells to copper tape to plain old poison – but these slimeballs refuse to go away. There is, however, something admirable about London’s molluscs – especially at this…

Making house plants multiply – 2nd November

London is home to an eclectic mix of plants from all over the world. Nowhere is this more true than in our taste for tropical house plants. From Caribbean yucca to Chinese money plants to Mexican parlour palms, I am one of many Londoners whose flat is stuffed with strange-looking visitors from foreign lands. According…