Category Archives: 4. NURTURE – gardening, home decoration, teaching others

Me and my plant pots

The HPL gets her Glee on – Popchoir in Clapham / Dulwich / Croydon

Singing in a group is fun. Remember what it was like at school – those magnificent men in their flying machines, twinkle twinkle little star, morning assembly with its hyms. We forget we used to sing every day. Although opportunities to sing as an adult lessen, we love it when we do – at rugby and football matches, in church singing hymns, a late night burst on Singstar. I love nothing better than a night of karaoke. My song? Perfect by Fairground Attraction – apparently I am a wonderful singer after several vats of wine. And of course I’m a diehard Glee fan, and love musicals – particularly My Fair Lady and I was picked to be third Puerto Rican dancer on the right in our school’s version of West Side Story – but oh how I longed to be Maria, I knew every line.

So when a friend mentioned she went to a group called the Popchoir just off Clapham High Street on Tuesday nights, I wanted to try it out.   Led by the very glamorous Helen Hampton, who has an impressive CV of working in pop and musicals, in the taster class I went to (8-9.30pm) we did several songs from musicals and the world of pop. We did a Muse song with lots of fist-clenching, a mash-up of Oasis and the Carpenters (strange but worked), the Cee Lo forget you song with nice swingy dance moves, and a song from the musical “Chess” that I didn’t know before but which was beautiful. I hear they’ve even done Gaga and Britney *screams*. We were around 40 girls and 1 bloke (not one for finding a date, ladies!) and split into different groups depending on your voice range. No audition. Phew.

I was struck by how nice everyone was – chatting and laughing during the rehearsal and inviting me for beers afterwards even though it was my first time to rock up. And I really enjoyed the singing. I picked it up fairly quickly by singing along with the girls next to me, and found myself belting out the notes by the end, really enjoying the gorgeous harmonies we were making. Sadly terms ends in July so I decided not to sign up while wedding season is in full flow, but term starts again in September and I’m in for signing up for every Tuesday. The cost is £108 per term which is great considering how many sessions you can come along to, and they participate in various community concerts throughout the year. If like me, you watch Glee and think “I should do THAT!” then I’d definitely recommend it.


The HPL urban garden

So Spring is sprunging in my little London garden and it looks fantastic. The daffs and crocuses I planted a couple of years ago are, as ever, popping out all over the place, and the bulbs I bought last year from Portobello Market with mi madre have appeared, to my complete surprise as I forgot I’d even planted them. That’s the fun of gardening – some of your hard work doesn’t show until much later on and when you least expect it. Its also such a peaceful way to spend an afternoon.

So Titchmarsh style, what should one be doing in the garden now? God knows – the planting of Spring bulbs should all have been done around September so all we need to do now is enjoy it really*. And we just need a little more sun and a few more degrees and its almost BBQ and Pimms time all over again.

*this is based on no knoweldge whatsover. We should probably be pruning and like weeding and stuff as well.

London garden – Autumn

Can’t believe how red the leaves are – ridiculously pretty. And can someone tell me why I’ve got mushrooms growing?! Only experience of field mushrooms is, ahem, picking season of the magic variety at Uni. Any info gratefully received.

London garden update and Croxted Road garden centre, Herne Hill

The nurture side of the HPL rules has been lacking – my little Brixton garden was looking shockingly bare and weedy, I’ve had several plant fatalities (turns out basil isn’t quite as hardy as I previously thought) and I’ve not put enough time and effort into looking after it all. But a visit from mi madre, some time taken out of busy London life, and I’ve managed to make the garden look lovely in the space of one weekend AND got a suntan in the process. Here’s how:

1. Go to a good local garden centre where there are people on hand to tell you which plants are hardy, can live in crap soil in the shade without regular watering, etc, and who can help lug your compost and plants to your car. We went to Croxted Road garden centre in Herne Hill on Sunday afternoon and were really pleased with it – loads of choice, cheap and healthy plants, lovely people working there who can answer all your questions, and easy parking.

2. Pick a mix of different plants for your garden/windowbox. My choices were based on (i) things that don’t die easily (budlea, hydrangea and mint which apparently grow like weeds, perfect) (ii) things I like cooking with (mint and parsley) and (iii) a mix of colours, textures, ferns and flowers to make things interesting.

What I bought sitting in my garden ready to plant: mint, parsley, lavender, a ferny tree thing, budlea, hydrangea, a green plant thing and a red fern thing

3. Get a glass of wine/beer, roll up your sleeves, work out where you’re going to put things, plant them and water them. Then sit back and admire your fabulous handiwork and enjoy your lovely garden! You should probably water at least once a week and add fertiliser every few months.

London garden – Spring has sprung

A wee update from the garden.  This is what I love about gardening – the hard work you put in takes a while to take effect, but when it does you feel excited and proud, which is why it forms one of my happiness rules.

As you may remember, I did some tidying work after winter – clipping off dead bits to make the plants healthier.  At the moment, life appears to be coming back (phew – thought I’d killed off the climbing clematis from over-pruning) and the garden looks very pretty, all new shoots, new life, emerging flowers.  Here’s the results from the work I did last month:

1. The hydrangea


Clipping off dead bits


2.  Climbing clematis

Before – ressembles my hair in the morning

After tidying – follwed by panic that I’d managed to kill it

Now – not dead thank god

3.  Other signs of life

Nurture – Gardening London Style

As you may know, one of the HPL Rules is to plant something and nurture it – which has been proved by happiness experts to increase happiness.  Inspired by Penny Golightly’s windowsill gardening, I decided to do some gardening this weekend. I’m in my early thirties thank you very much, but I really enjoy gardening – it takes your mind off absolutely everything else and is very rewarding – whatever you put in you get back out.  I know very little so what I do is based entirely on trial and error and tips from my mother.

At this time of year, gardening is more manual labour and maintenance – cutting out dead bits of plants and preparing the ground for the wonder and growth of Spring.  Here’s how I got on:

1. House plants (status – pretty much dead)

I wouldn’t call these an unmitigated success, but I have managed to keep these two plants living (a peace lily and bamboo).  Ideally I want the peace lily to flower, but it hasn’t done so for 2 years now.  Anyway, I put in some plant food and water, talked nicely to them, and cut off any brown leaves.  Grow my pretties!

Rather less successful:

Yes these are almost dead.  The first was a gorgeous pinkie green fern which didn’t survive winter, and the second was a peace lily.  Both I cut all the dead bits stuff off and added some Miracle Gro (“miracle” being what is needed) and have hoped for the best.  By the end of the week if not growing, I’ll have to say goodbye.

2. The garden (status – spring has almost sprung, heavy cutting back needed)

Good news is that the daffodils and crocuses that I planted rather haphazardly 2 years ago are popping up yet again (plant bulbs in September and wait for spring, no other maintenance needed really) .  Can’t wait til they all come out.

Also good news is that you pretty much cannot kill rosemary.  It is the only herb apart from chives that I planted that survived winter (bye bye mint, basil and lemon thyme – sorry my flat isn’t big enough to take you indoors over winter).

I then did some maintenance on my hydrangea which is incredibly hardy and re-grows beautiful blue/pinkie flowers once I cut the dead ends off.  See before and after:



I then totally cut back my clematis which I failed to maintain much last year but which grows green and healthy over my side wall, and produces these these pretty little white flowers in summer. 

Before (yes I also removed the light stick, leftover from the last party we had)



After – cut right back

I found this very therapeutic to do, and I’m proud of the results.  I’m hoping it will grow back strong and healthy and I’ll then intertwine it more in the lattice.

Photos to come throughout the year on how it develops!