This time of year, a walk down the Harringay Passage can be a feast for flower lovers with little wildflowers pushing up through the cracks and boughs heavy with roses and other bright garden flowers reaching over fences and garden walls.
I took a short walk from Umfreville to Warham this week, taking snaps of some of the highlights
Bear's Breeches are such beautiful flowers and there's a particularly fine clump in the planter at Umfreville (shout out to whoever keeps those planters looking so nice); roses are a big theme all down the Passage, these pink pretties greet you as you enter the it. Don't forget to admire the plucky little plants that cling to brickwork and push through cracks. This is ivy-leaved toadflax (a naturalised plant originating from the Mediterranean) which has heart-shaped edible leaves and delicate purple flowers like miniature snapdragons.
"Cymbalaria … runneth and spreadeth on the ground and clymeth and hangeth on walls even as Ivie or Chickweed doth, the branches are verie small round and smooth, limmer and pliant " John Goodyer, 17th century botanist
Burgoyne to Cavendish
Who doesn't love the smell of privet, the quintessential British hedge denoting boundaries and easily clipped? The garden varieties are more likely to be imports from Japan and Korea rather than our native privet, it is tolerant of pollution, fast growing and dense which is why suburban Britain loves it so much I imagine.
Definitely a native species and as tough as old boots, the bramble is in blossom and peeping out from fences and over walls. Beloved of bees and other insects and the bearer of delicious fruit it is an essential in the wildlife garden and makes an excellent "natural" barbed wire on your boundaries. Even the devil cursed when he fell into a bramble bush.
Cavendish to Duckett
An embarrassment of riches in this stretch with more gorgeous roses, alliums tucked in with wild black horehound and deeply coloured hollyhocks in the planters but the absolute star of this stretch is the massive hydrangea evoking Japan with its huge heads full of delicate colours towering from a garden which borders the Passage. Duckett to Mattison
Some stretches take a little more work but nature will usually find a way despite high walls, broken glass topped and barbed wire. Little buddleja shoots finding the wall mimics their natural cliff habitats colonise the stones.
Out in the planters more glorious Bear's Breeches (or acanthus) this is really their time. Its foliage was so beloved by ancient Greeks that it festooned their temple wall ornaments, friezes and columns.
Lovely little heads of knapweed pop up, a native flower that is superb for wildlife, rich in nectar and pollen, its seeds loved by visiting goldfinches and other seed eating birds
Mattison to Pemberton
A lone nipplewort toughs it out in the school Passage, with tiny dandelion like flowers. The English name 'nipplewort' derives from its closed flower buds, which resemble nipples. Because of its resemblance to nipples, under the doctrine of signatures it was once used as treatment for breast ulcers.
It is the lavatera in the planter which stands out here. As tall as a small tree, bright pink and full of flowers it is stunning and even the normally unbeatable hollyhocks can't compete.
Pemberton to Warham
The Buddleja that greets you as you enter this part of the Passage is glorious but then, thanks to some very aggressive chopping down of the foliage in this section, it is a bit sparse. There was some wonderful mature ivy that housed many small beasts and birds and the great hedge was home to dunnocks but it's all chopped back to the wood, so you have to look for tiny greenery at your feet or perhaps admire the pretty little ash on the left.
The lack of trees and greenery in Warham around the Passage can also mean that this feels like a burning desert but a couple of things are clinging on despite searing heat, drought and lack of mature tree cover. Plucky old lavender and small but perfectly formed hollyhocks give a temporary shelter to passing pollinators but its a tough life on the edge.
Anyway next time you have ten minutes, try a flower walk down the Harringay Passage and don't miss the lavatera, hydrangea and glorious acanthus.
Wow. That’s a beautiful flower trail Liz, and so informative. I will be treading in your footsteps soon to enjoy these delights
This was really lovely and informative to read. A bit embarrassed by our efforts on Warham
I (tried to) name all of the plants from Warham up to the postbox on Beresford yesterday for my baby as we walked (olive, jasmine, bramble, fig, multiple roses, ivy, etc).
Looking forward to another post from you (hopefully) to see what we got right and definitely what we missed!
The Warham planters seem to have died and I think they are going to need some intervention to recover. The soil is very depleted I think and needs to be fed (if anyone wants to see to a soil without worms, Warham is exhibit A). So some manure/organic matter needs to be added and then maybe some drought-proof (and thief proof) plants. If anyone has any ideas and wants to get involved in rejuvenating the Warham planters, let me know. I live next to them and do my best to keep them litter free and tidy but I think they need a bit more than that now.
Ah, you're the plant fairy...thank you for keeping them going. With kids and disability, I'm definitely not the one to be active in supporting. Fingers crossed others can join. They really do make everything more verdant and joyful
Yes, unfortunately I'm the only Warham plant fairy left now as over the years the rest of the gardening gnomes have moved away. They used to be much more impressive than they do now.
Hoping that people see this post and feel moved to do something, no matter how small, to bring them back to their former glory.
A really lovely post Liz, good on ya ! But I can't recall in my Harringay life (50s/60s) noticing such beauty along the passage. Maybe I was of a less appreciative age though ?
This seems an improvement.
A lovely post though I had no idea Buddleia's natural habitat is cliffs. I always thought it was native to derelict buildings in Liverpool :)
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