The Vouchers

Today’s weather was dull, and I can no longer ignore the acute pain I have been experiencing in my right knee and shin for a few days now (I know, I know, I should have rested it before now), so I stayed in and scanned a batch of colour slides from July and August 2008.

I only lived in Sutherland Place, W2, for three years, but during that time I served on the Westbourne Neighbourhood Association Committee, and for two years running was prevailed upon, in company with another member, to judge the annual Garden Competition. This residents association is keen, along with other environmental issues, to preserve the character of the gardens in this tiny area of West London. One threat comes from owners extending their basements under the gardens which then have to be paved over. We focussed on the very small front gardens and even smaller window boxes, given that most people were out during the day and we relied on photographic evidence to make our selections.

Here are a few of those photographs: Garden Competition 7.08 001Garden Competition 7.08 003Garden Competition 7.08 005Garden Competition 7.08008Garden Competition 7.08010Garden Competition 7.08013Garden Competition 8.08014Garden Competition 8.08015 2

Garden Competition 8.08016

The third and fifth pictures give some idea of the size of most of the front plots. The second shows what could be done with pots on paving.

The gardeners, by the way, did not enter themselves, and did not even know there was a competition, so were both surprised and delighted to receive their prizes. There were two categories to be considered, the window boxes, and the overall gardens. I printed up all the pictures, discussed them with my colleague, and presented the front runners to the committee where the final selection was made. Pictures six and seven are of the same, winning, garden. In the bottom left of the vertical image can be seen a set on steps leading down to the basement. Plants lined the steps and the concrete at the bottom, giving the whole display a great sense of depth. For this reason it was an unanimous first choice. The garden featured in the first photograph defied categorisation. All there was to this was the railings and steps down to the basement door. Pots stood on every downward level, and were fastened in tiers to each metal upright. There was hardly any room for feet on the way down to the flat.  Because this superb effort could not be pigeon-holed, three prizes were offered that year. This was the third, unique, winner.  I can’t actually remember which was considered the best window box, but, for its delicate palette merging with the lace curtain behind it, my choice was the last option above.

The penultimate photograph portrays a garden that was not considered eligible, because it was that of an hotel.

Now we come to the prizes, and the reason I chose to feature this batch today. Jackie and I keep a stock of cards for all occasions, some created by ourselves, and others from various sources. Searching through these recently, I came across three identical cards with envelopes. It had been my task to buy the tokens of our appreciation, to be reimbursed by the Association, and to deliver the surprises to the unwitting entrants.


Clifton vouchersI bought the prizes, but when it came to their delivery, I couldn’t find them, so had to purchase replacements with my own money. I wonder whether, seven years on, Clifton Nurseries of Little Venice would honour three £20 gift vouchers?

To return to 2015, this evening the herbal flavouring of Jackie’s excellent Bolognese sauce had greatly benefited from a further twenty four hours infusion. It was served with tricolour tagliatelle and tender green beans which, with the rich red tomato base reminded me of the Italian flag. Syrup sponge pudding and custard was to follow. Jackie drank Peroni, whilst I chose Llidl’s Bordeaux Superieur 2013.




  1. What lovely mini-gardens! As a fellow small-space gardener, I appreciate the colourful and creative efforts your London neighbours put into ‘greening’ their outdoor spaces. It all helps provide food for pollinating creatures and I think also it makes a difference to a neighbourhood when people lend a little love to the outdoor areas of their properties.

  2. I like that last window box; it’s not difficult to line a row of pot plants together but to select plants that go so well together and have them in flower at the same time…umm tricky; maybe they were bought on the same day the photo was taken? 🙂

      1. I know; I was only joking. I think it is the best way to judge a garden competition though of course every garden has a sweet spot in a year so some may present well in spring and others in autumn, for example.

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