Beyond the Window Box

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Some Doors in Piacenza

Colours of Piacenza

A Glimpse of Green 2

Doors Within Doors

A Glimpse of a Garden

Italian Itineraries

A couple of days spent exploring the medieval town of Ventimiglia


and the beautiful botanic gardens at La Mortola….


on the way to Rome.


Spires and street arts in Milan


and surprising Piacenza in foggy December.


A taste of Renaissance grandeur in Genoa


and some steep climbs in the extraordinary terraced landscapes of the Cinque Terre.

Click on any photo to view that gallery or follow the highlighted links to other posts.


Welcome to Beyond the Window Box.  This is a blog about plants and gardens, green places and urban spaces.  The story started on a small balcony in central Paris then ventured out into the streets and squares of the city with occasional forays further afield.  Over the following four years the blog sprouted shoots and branches in a number of different directions and finally uprooted itself to be replanted in North Northumberland.

I’m a lifelong, practical gardener, a botanist and a garden designer, currently living in the centre of the extraordinary city of Paris.  I started Beyond the Window Box while living in the 3rd arrondissement, scaling down my personal gardening activity to fit a shady, second floor balcony and a couple of window boxes.  This blog started as an account of the delights and set backs of urban gardening in a very small space.   When we moved to a ground floor flat in the 5th arrondissement, my Paris gardening scaled up a little to fifteen square meters of ground and four window boxes.


As I adjusted to city life, tending a few plants of my own was an important way of putting down roots.  Exploring the green side of Paris was my key to feeling at home in the city beyond the window box.  I visited well known parks and gardens, city squares and riverside quays.

petit ceinture

I also discovered lesser known green ways, seeking out wild places in the city and getting involved in community gardening projects.  Paris Green gives links to the posts about these different aspects of city green space.

Although, for me, it’s the trees and the green space that make Paris a livable city, I couldn’t keep focussed on the green and growing all the time.  The street scenes and architectural details that make their way into this blog are those that catch the eye of a curious botanist and gardener with an interest in stone carving and a deep-rooted concern for the wider planet.

While I was getting to know Paris, my ‘other garden’ in York was largely fending for itself.  Developed over twenty years, this garden was designed to be wildlife friendly but I’d not anticipated leaving nature in charge quite so much.  For two years I visited intermittently, catching up with changes in my absence, working with the weeds for a while and watching the wildlife.  You’ll find more about this garden in A Wild Garden.

In January 2017 we moved our long term home from York to a small house in Spittal, Berwick upon Tweed with a half acre field and lots of potential.   On visits from Paris I started planting a small orchard and developing a new garden – the first steps for the next twenty years.

Once I’d got the blogging habit it was natural to share some holiday pictures too.  Journeys & Destinations has links to a growing number of posts about plants and green places in France and beyond – Collioure in French Catalonia, St Malo in Brittany, Honfleur in Normandy, the Scottish Isle of Arran, Milan and Piacenza, Ventimiglia and Rome.

Please let me know (by posting a comment at the bottom of any page) if you have difficulty finding your way to the bits that interest you.  And if you’d like to comment on the layout of the blog or its content, I’d be glad to hear from you.


updated September 2020

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