Tell us a bit about what inspired you to start Linda and how your courtyard oasis came to be?
I’m a plant designer and spend most of my time creating bespoke plant lists and designing window boxes and planters for people who don’t get a lot of light and need help choosing what will grow. Having the right plants, and the right size pots, is key to gardens surviving and makes the difference between having a lush oasis on your balcony or a row of sad, light-starved geraniums.
I love woodland and shade planting and think it works particularly well in urban settings as it softens the hard lines and materials with its beautiful foliage and soft palette of colours. In London, outside space is limited but the benefit of having a small space is you can really see this sort of delicate planting that might get lost in a larger garden.
Linda is based in a friend’s backyard on Scawfell Street and is only open on Sundays from 11-3pm April – September, although it’s always best to check our Instagram as sometimes we have events and can’t open, the rest of the time it’s a private garden. The yard used to be full of junk and has very little direct light but once cleared, painted a dirty pink and filled full of plants it was a total transformation! I really loved how many pollinators found it almost immediately and it just made us think we could use it a shop but also as an inspiration to encourage people to see the diversity of plants that cope on a shady sill or side-return.
We love your mission to help people green up the shadier spots of their homes and gardens, do you have any particular favourites plants?
So hard to choose. I do love adiantum venustum (maidenhair fern) – it’s great in deep shade and not as temperamental as the indoors version although it does have its moments and doesn’t like drying out. Astrantias are great for part shade and come in a lovely palette – the pale greenish-white ‘Shaggy’ is one I use over and over again. Muehlenbeckia complexa (maiden-hair vine) is a rampant climber and looks beautiful tumbling out of a pot. Put all three of those in a large planter and it will look beautiful all year. I’m currently really into mathiasella bupleuroides ‘Green Dream’ – bit of a mouthful I know – it needs some space as it gets tall, but it’s really hard-working and long-flowering. Akebia quinata (chocolate vine) is my favourite climber, it’s got beautiful early dark purplish-brown flowers and the prettiest foliage, it’s vigorous but you can keep it in a large pot to restrain it. I’m a sucker for a simple snowdrop too – I could go on, but I’ll stop now!
Number 1 tip for caring for your shade loving plants?
Just notice them really. It’s the same for any plant, you need to pay attention, see how they are getting on. Plant labels are often very low on information and lots of plants can take more shade than is specified on the label, but if they are looking really leggy and falling over it’s probably too much. Plants die on everyone – I’m not a huge believer in green fingers, it’s more about trying and not giving up. Most plants are more robust than you think, but if it doesn’t make it, have another look at the conditions it has been given to grow in and find something that can cope with those conditions. That’s where it can be confusing for people so our planting plans really help.
We love that all of your plants are grown in England - as we all move to take a more sustainable approach to where our plants and flowers come from, can you tell us some of the benefits of having native grown plants in our gardens and outdoor spaces?
This really needs a long answer but I’ll try to keep it short. It’s just much more sustainable to support seasonal growers in England. Mass-produced plants that have been grown abroad have been grown in large greenhouses in unnatural conditions with lots of chemicals so often fail to thrive once you get them home. They can also carry diseases which our native plants may not have natural defences against – we’ve seen this affect our native trees like oaks and ash particularly badly recently. If you buy something grown and looked after here it’s far more likely to establish itself and survive here. And obviously the shorter the distance something travels the better. Buying local, seasonal plants is far better for wildlife too – so many imported plants have been grown using chemicals. UK nurseries and flower farmers growing plants outside provide far more bio-diversity which is key for all pollinators.
As one of our Hackney neighbours, what are your favourite spots in the area?
I love Hackney Road, it’s still got tons of character and there’s so many places to go. You could spend an entire Sunday mooching around. I’d start at Columbia Flower Market, though you do need get there early as the queue is massive. I’ve been getting calamari from the sea food shop there for 20 years, always helps with a hangover. There’s a great new vintage shop called Vout at one end, the owner has a really good eye and stock changes frequently. If you can’t face the queue and the bustle of the market and want something a bit more considered, there is lots of plant action on Hackney Road. Us obviously, Grace & Thorn for flowers, Conservatory Archives for unusual indoor plants – it’s like a green trail all the way down the road. Plus so many places to stop for food and drink. Morito is always good for a cold glass of wine and people-watching. Lanark have the best coffee and kimcheesey sandwiches and Portuguese Love Affair have the best pasta del natas in the country (officially!). Ion Square Gardens is one of my favourite London green spaces, it’s a tiny wild park tucked between the market and Grace & Thorn, in the summer it’s just full of wild flowers and grasses and buzzing with wildlife.
Want to get to know Linda a little better? Head over to their Instagram or website and say hello! They can help you out with bespoke planting plans and their courtyard is open on Sundays April - September, 11am-3pm (but it's always best to check their Instagram).