Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tapas through the Tulips; Outdoors: You Don't Have to Live in the Country to Have a Cottage Garden. Pattie Barron Meets an Imaginative Continental

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tapas through the Tulips; Outdoors: You Don't Have to Live in the Country to Have a Cottage Garden. Pattie Barron Meets an Imaginative Continental

Article excerpt

Byline: PATTIE BARRON

WHEN Pedro da Costa Felgueiras made his urban garden, he bought little but created much, and in doing so, adopted the basic principle of the country cottage gardener. "It's about make do and mend," says Pedro, who makes and restores lacquerware, and chooses flowers that have the colour intensity of the pigments he uses.

In fact, the urban cottage garden is about make do, and amend. If, for instance, you are in Stoke Newington and not Somerset, like Pedro, you need to blur the boundaries which, in Pedro's case, were the regulation brown fencing erected by his neighbours; he improved on it considerably by painting his side a plant-flattering, soft green-blue.

And when he had an overhanging sycamore tree pollarded, he used the branches to make an openwork rustic fence a little way from the first.

"It's a sort of psychological barrier between me and my neighbours, creating an intimate feeling and giving me a little more privacy."

When other neighbours pulled down a brick wall, depositing the bricks in a skip outside their door, Pedro fished out every last brick, and used them to lay a patio in his garden.

"I've never spent much money on my garden," he says, "but it has evolved over time, as I've come across things." Latest find, also pulled from a skip, is an old galvanised water tank; make way for Pedro's patented water feature.

Honeysuckle, sweet-scented and scrambling, is compulsory in every cottage garden, but Pedro did his research and sought out a honeysuckle that would - and does - perform on his cold north wall: Lonicera tellmanniana, with striking orange tubular flowers.

And his sweet pea of choice, which he grows up branches pruned from a lime tree in his front garden, isn't any of the flamboyant modern cultivars, but the original Cupani sweet pea from Sicily, with intensely purple flowers and the finest perfume of all.

He is as thrifty as the country cottager, too, not just with cash but with space, but then he has to be; his back garden measures six metres by nine metres.

The sun hits the back door and steps of his house, so that is where he grows herbs among the pelargoniums: on the wall, and ranged up the steps of the fire escape. And last year he grew asparagus pea in pots on the windowsill.

"I also grow an olive tree out there on the steps with the rosemary and other sun-loving herbs, so I can sit at my kitchen table and look out on my Portuguese corner."

In true cottage garden style, Pedro grows runner beans on canes, red-stalked ruby chard and tall cabbages with seed from his father's allotment in Portugal mixed in among the sunflowers, opium poppies and delphiniums.

"I love the look of exuberance that comes from growing vegetables, fruit and flowers together. …

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