The Barnsbury group of the National Open Gardens Scheme invited the public in to see four private gardens in Islington yesterday. One belonged to potter Peter Willis, whom I studied with at Harrow. Peter has created the perfect London Garden, adapting to the limitations of plot size and shade, and a particularly troublesome local limitation, the deadly honey fungus, Amarillaria mellis. Peter says, “The structure of the garden is a compromise between my intentions and unplanned deaths from Amarillaria and is more a composition in leaf textures than flowers.”

There is a good selection of Japanese maples, which survive shade and through their leaf shapes and varied colour give interest throughout the year. “For me,” says Peter, “Acers are especially rewarding plants in a garden like this, beautiful for far longer than many flowers and especially so when first in leaf.”


There are good ground textures too, and Peter has compensated for the smallness of his garden by boldly planting tall trees, which gives it greater size through height. At the end is his small studio, cleverly built in an L-shape round the trunk of a tree. Being a lazy gardener, I asked Peter how often he had to work in his: “A bit every day.”

The tall, droopy tree is Cupressus cashmeriana. Peter planted it 24 years ago, little expecting it to survive out of doors.
The pottery studio, arranged round the trunk of a tree.

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