Many years ago I lived in Wales, in the green and pleasant Wye Valley. My garden was my pride and joy – endless herbaceous borders, roses scrambling over the cottage roof, sparkling streams wending their way through the melee of colour and overseeing it all, our majestic trees spreading their canopy over the landscape. It was a joyous garden, and in fact, the place where I filmed my first ever TV series, Home In The Country. So gardening, and plants, are very much in my blood.
When I moved to London, my greatest challenge was to be parted from that garden. It felt like a physical wrench. As always, I tried to focus on the positive, and made my Hampstead basement flat into The Garden House, building a mini version of my Welsh garden, complete with gushing fountain, ferns, scented scrambling climbers and even a few classical columns around the pond. The celebrated garden photographer Marianne Majerus came to take photos.
As we edged closer into the epicentre of the metropolis, my ‘garden’ became ever smaller, culminating in the home of my dreams in London’s Belgravia, but no garden to speak of. This was the trade off I had been dreading. How do you inject colour and life into a spot where there is virtually no earth even to plant in. For a girl used to the dark rich aromatic soil of the Welsh valleys, this was anathema.
So I began to think outside the box and ‘faux’ came into my life. What a revelation. Far from the insipid fake flower garlands of my dressing up box childhood, I discovered that faux was a whole new world of possibilities. Faux didn’t just mean flowers either. Faux now encompassed anything from ‘real touch’ flowers (so named because they feel just like the real thing), to ferns, grasses and even whole trees. The ingenuity of this art form (and I used that term advisedly) is such that many faux plants even have real bark stems, and together with their real touch flowers, it is almost impossible to tell them apart from nature’s best. The very latest designs even resist fading in sunlight.
So, armed with my new horticultural weapon, I decided to mix and match. Now, my window boxes have permanently perky grasses, my indoor plants don’t die on me (a cunning mix of real touch orchids and impossible to kill succulents), and I just wish I had thought of using a fake olive tree in place of the real thing, as they are indistinguishable from one another. My office front door sports a pair of planters with faux bay trees but underplanted with real flowers and grasses. Even Henry the Stag in my front garden has been able to enter into the spirit of Belgravia In Bloom, courtesy of Fake It Flowers (www.fakeitflowers.co.uk) with a glorious May bonnet of peonies, roses and foxgloves.
Faux is fabulous AND practical. Embrace it.