Friday, October 30, 2009

Week VI, already

Busy week this week. Wednesday began with an early start, 04:30, to get over to Oxford in plenty of time for a 09:00 start on the SketchUp training day with Tamsin Slatter. An interesting day and certainly one where I learnt quite a few good short cuts and techniques to improve the existing drawings. Even attempted a spiral stair case successfully!

Thursday and Friday were filled with hand drawing techniques and an introduction to Chartpak Markers. I struggled with perspective drawing technicalities. Jo Chance passed on a good set of techniques but doing it by eye was far more successful for me than all the measuring and planning. No doubt with some practice I can make it work. Thankfully CK sat next to me both days and proved a fount of useful tips - she has taught this particular skill to interior design students for about 13 years apparently!

Rendering, or coloring in, was fun and some of the years of sketching through art A' level and a design degree, came flooding back. I really enjoyed this day, although the scent of acetone had most of us wild eyed and a tad headachey.

From My Pictures

Now I just have to knuckle down and get the UP1 design tweaked and humanly possible to build, re SketchUp'd, Rendered, Elevated and that'll be homework done ready for the next annihilation, sorry crit next week

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

SketchUp moves into the realms of fairly do-able

I completed a redraw, from scratch, of my revised design in about 3 hours this afternoon, which I am feeling a little smug about. I layered the hell out of it and it made it so much easier to manage amendments. I might even begin to say I like SKetchUp 7, might even say it's fun to use!

From My Pictures

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Brother MFC - 6490CW only 'speaks' German

Just moments ago I discovered my NEW all singing, all dancing A3 Brother MFC-6490CW printer has all the print settings and help text in German, handy... NOT

Perhaps it is not so all singing and dancing, unless of course you're German speaking GRRRR

Sunday, October 25, 2009

SKetchUp Training

Just completed watching 4 hours, 1 minute and 39 seconds of online training. Feels like a great deal more than that and probably is if I include trying out each exercise, even so it feels like MUCH more time than a day (FTE)

Worth it though :)

......I know, I forgot the clocks changed last night so up too early for a Sunday

Friday, October 23, 2009

Orchard Dene Plantswoman

I enjoyed the morning of presentations from Chris Marchant of Orchard Dene nurseries. She's the main reviewer of our soft landscape portfolios so probably someone to impress with our plant knowledge and depth of understanding when it comes to the 'green decorating'.

CM was utterly impressive, Latin plant names rolling off her tongue like a native she whipped through travel snaps of planting combos in far away places, directing us all to observe wherever we go. Which is of course great advice as we build the palette of ideas for future works.

The afternoon was located at the nursery, which was a mare to find for some reason, Daniel took us to the house NOT the nursery which was a mere stones throw away to a local, quite a bit further to a non-local. On arrival the acres of block planting was very exciting for a plant-a-holic like me.

It was great to hear about the running of the commercial nursery, from order taking through to pick and delivery. Then of course the skills required to schedule all the propagating and plant care that they undertake.

From 2009_10_23

A potted version of 'how to soil prep, layout (below) and then plant your planting plan....

From 2009_10_23

and if you can't for some reason then how to ensure your contractor does it right, (ok does it your way!) giving your 'green decorations' the best possible chance to get growing once planted.

From 2009_10_23

Funny to hear comments from CM that completely contradict D's point of view, which he had warned us about, another step in the "listen to the advice and then make you OWN choices"

Fabulous nursery, really glad to have met CM as no doubt she will be invaluable as a resource in the future.


The process of review was different yesterday, much faster, in most cases, and some clear direction. Great to see everyone's worked up designs, and mood boards, so many idea's and some recurring themes.

That said I got off remarkably easy. I wasn't expecting " yeah that works, good ideas" and from both. "Planting needs work" from one and that's the truth!

Actually I was pleased D told me to ditch one part, the green roof. Couldn't let it go with out a push but as he said it I realised it was the best thing to do.

PT brought up the topic of deliverables which are due in 3 weeks (YIKES!) and we now have a clearer but not definitive list of deliverables for the Urban Project 1.

1 point perspective elevation (learning that in next weeks studio session)
a sketch plan
3 SketchUp print outs (B&W?)
The above presented on an architectural blank, which needs some text (transtext) about the brief and solutions

Then a functional diagram (bubble!) and that's it I think, better go check it out.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sketch Up Mastered

Well sort of!

4 hours of toil last night produced a credible version of my Design Project 1 garden design.

OK the textures need some work but the block design program does make the 2D plan come to life and I certainly realized a few changes were required as I built it in 3D.

Lets hope 'Teach D' approves.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Computer and Cash flow

The crashing of my computer on an almost daily basis is triggering my worries about £££ or the lack thereof. I simply cannot afford to buy a new computer at the moment.

It's actually not the computer that is the issue but the techs who keep screwing up by not finishing the job properly and thus causing further probs and consequent re-vists and more days without the beloved machine.

So far it's been:
- new heat exchanger for the CPU - 2.5 days
- restore to earlier working version when USER ID vanished - 1 day
- 2 days with the machine switching itself off every 15 mins due to fan not working at all.
- re-glueing of HE with proper bond as the glue had melted due to heat in unit (DUH!) - 1 day
- several failed restores, no e-mail

Simply not taking it back to these clowns, ever again.

Have resorted to the internet for a solution which is easier said than done. SketchUp 7 turns out to have some V flaky coding on the in/un-Install coding which may or may not be causing further issues GREAT.

If I manage to make the homework deadline of Thursday I will be pleased.

On the up side my lappy has never been so cool and quiet. The HE obviously is doing it's funky stuff!


RHS Wisley
From 2009-10-19

A dreary day with some drizzle greeted me at RHS Wisely which is just off the M25 south of London. Amazingly the car park was half full. School visits and elderly groups making the most of the Autumn fair.

Wisley has its great formal herbaceous borders edging the large formal pool, maybe that should be mini lake(!). Almost gone over after an early frost last week but still some good colours to be had and bulky plantings full of penstemon, dahlia, geranium, verbenas, agapanthus, canna, helichrysum over the structure of the evergreen hedging behind.

My main focus was to head down to the Oudoulf borders beside the Glasshouse. And, although dead they were stunning. The Fagus sylatica, Hakonechloa macra and Sarcoccoca confusa beds were looking wonderful after a drizzle of rain to gloss them up, even minus the fat white alliums of summer, they remain my favorite planting in Wisely.

The huge arch of grasses, Eupatorium, Euphorbia etc that enclose the lake in front of the glass house showed off how well the collapsed death state can be if done considerately. But no doubt a bold gardener is required to bear this state of decay for very long.

Pleasantly surprised by a few of the Acers doted here and there and the overall hue of golden bronzes and purple reds.

The Savill Garden

The Savill Garden

From 2009-10-19

My first trip to Savill just 3 junctions North from Wisley, indeed I have never heard of it before this week! Fabulous visitor centre and plenty of new planting going on. 35 acres owned by The Crown Estates (in other words the reigning monarch) much woodland and several large heavily planted border areas with a good sized glass house.

Though a mere few miles up the road from Wisley they had clearly had much more severe frosts and the huge dahlia displays were frost burnt, much of the borders are tender, canna, dahlia and so on and were looking quite sad. Borders seem to be in colour palette and I imagine a few weeks ago they were completely spectacular, they were still interesting from a combination point of view and certainly a place to come for the summer section of soft landscape portfolio.

One area that still looked good was the gravel/grasses area, a bit wild and coastal but the grasses looked great against the pale gravels and showed off their spreading techniques.

Again big vista up and down the water courses, plenty of Autumn colour. Bit pricey ast £7.50 and not part of the RHS scheme.

Grasses Grasses everywhere.....

Knoll Gardens

From 2009-10-19

A & S visited Knoll in the summer and raved, simply RAVED about the grass plantings, the Roy Lancaster put it in his Top 10 for Autumn in October 2009 Gardens Illustrated so it was really getting into the psyche. With Sunday predicted to be a 'good' day and at least 2 more Autumn garden border sets required for the soft landscape portfolio driving the 7 hour round trip became feasible! A little crazy, but feasible. I picked up AL, almost en route, and we headed down in early morning sunshine for the Dorset countryside.

Neil Lucas' garden turned out to be much smaller than I thought it would be a mere 4 acres. That said it is packed to bursting with grasses and stunning views into the garden and borrowed landscapes.

Autumn is the perfect time to see it with many of the grasses producing fluffy seed heads from the fronds of flowers, a light wind and some afternoon sun helped with the dappling light qualities so desired in plant photographers, at least by me!

It was certainly a lesson in how many and how similar grasses can be, Miscanthus up to this point had been a group fo 4 or 5 plants for me, ha ha ha there were so many in this garden all similar-ish and all different species or variety. Making notes on plant names and image numbers became much more important than usual!

There is a charming set of waterfalls in a far corner, planted with wetland and rockery plants below it, behind a large conifer hedge, is a formal grass and sculpture garden bordered on one side by a tall wisteria covered arch. Sitting down for a moment at the top of the waterfall pools the sun burst from behind the clouds and the view down across the ponds, through the formal gardens and beyond opened up. It shouldn't work this juxtaposition of styles and plantings, but it does and it makes it feel much bigger than 4 acres.

I enjoyed hearing the plant sales team telling a customer how to prune the grasses she had just bought.
"Take it down in spring, to the ground" she said, the customer looked a little dubious and her colleague chirped in
"we do it with a hedge trimmer actually, takes no time at all!"

The customer laughed, having just spent several hundred pounds she was certainly NOT taking a hedge trimmer to them, no way!

Planting planning

D said very early on no knowledge of plants in required for this course, it is not about horticulture and I begin to see how on could be a garden designer and Not know a thing about plants.

The basic principles are that there a 5 plant sizes represented in circles (to scale) 2m down to 300mm, trees are shown as a black cross but assumed to be 5m+ canopy, climbers shown in solid triangles and bulbs as shade over an area... the central point, tip or cross marks the planting spot. These shapes are laid out pleasingly in the sketch plan and same species/cultivar circles are grouped with a linking line. This is still a theoretical plan as no plants are actually assigned yet, it is still in the space design level of the process.

From 2009_11_10

Actual plant combos can the be 'copied' from successful designers and books such as the RHS Planting Combinations by Tony Lordor Piet Oudolf - Designing with plants

Remarkably simple and no doubt efficient in reality if a little uninspiring for the plant-aholics in the group.

Section Elevation and Sections

Had a break through today with these. Worked out how to draw them more neatly and quickly. pics to follow might help explaining how.

Now I need to work on my garden graphics style!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Week III or is it IV?

Well it appears SketchUp is mostly for the 'boys' on this course. I loathe sexist statements and abhor the generalisation in most cases but the fact is that out of 16 people the 5 of 6 men managed a sketch up show and tell and only 3 of the 10 women managed it. That's much better uptake on their part. I do wonder at statements like 'men are better at levels' than women. Balderdash!. Some men maybe, but some women may knock their level socks off!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I.T. never works the way you think it is going to!

I.T. deep sigh.

I think of myself as someone who is not in the least flummoxed by IT. I am so wrong sometimes! On Sunday the lappy began to make weird noises, like a small growling cat inside the rubbish cooling fan. I ignored it, SOP for me with computers (!). By Tuesday it was really making A LOT of noise and getting a bit grumpy when it had to do anything. So I succumbed and shipped it off to the local, highly recommended Informatica 2000. They fixed it at moderate expense telling me the heat exchanger in the CPU had 'gone'. I am inclined to ask 'where exactly did it go?, Malta?, Alaska? maybe Australia?' but I resist once more knowing it is childish and not in the least bit funny to anyone but me. I realise I should have sent it back to Acer when it first had the overheating problem, it was within the warranty time and they would have fixed it for free. I simply assumed it was bad design having the fan on the base of the machine, oops.

I pick it up today, no noises, well not many, one of the 3 chaps in there tells me that the unit is discolored having got to temps of 85 degrees when it should be no more than 35. I wonder how he can know this, does it have a little temp gauge inside saying, 'really bloody hot in here' or some such? I keep my mouth shut and nod apologetically. He offers me some gadget to keep it cool. I refuse thinking amazon or ebay will sell it cheaper.

I notice the logon is not quite right and ask why, the answer is not totally clear but I figure I can fix it when I get home, WRONG.

I get home and it turns our somehow they have removed a registry entry for my user, meaning my user info cannot be found and it creates a temp account. Oh all the info is there but good old windows can't recognise it as belonging to my user. I waste an hour trying to fix it and give up. I'll call them on Saturday and they can fix it. HO HO HO.

Later I ponder if I know anyone who could fix it with me on the phone, I know two people who could probably do it in their sleep, but have spoken to neither for months, ok more than a year in one case, so I decide this is not a good plan. Roll on Saturday.

In the meantime I have completed homework for the week, my own garden site surveyed, who knew I had a sway back fence(!), the design for Urban Project no 1, more of the timeline after coming across a fabulous history of architecture for Noddy (oh ok by DK!) which gave me the whole 20th Century and some of the 19th too and finally started some notes on the essay.,.... Phew. All that and a new garden client for 1 day a month. Up to 2.5 days a month which all helps to stop the flood of outgoing cash, in theory

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Waterperry Gardens, Oxfordshire

After a minor panic about the soft landscape portfolio images for Autumn I rearranged my schedule on the weekend to visit Waterperry Gardens in Oxfordshire.
From 2009-10-10

Recommended for it's borders by CH, wife of Principal D, in her 'Garden of the Month'.

Weather was mixed but thankfully good enough for some dead images certs for the folio. Bumped into at least 2 fellow students, SE and her gorgeous family, TR and saw from a distance NC. We were all out to make the most of our last few autumnal weekends.

The herbaceous borders are all but done although the gone over Eupatorium pupurea and Solidago's were looking as good deceased as they would have full of life set off by the somewhat lively Wisteria which was looking remarkably verdant for this time of year. The simple scale of the borders and plantings was very satisfying.

Rounding a corner or two the grasses (Miscanthus malepartus and Carex ???) alongside Sedum 'Autumn Joy' and Phlomis saria looked equally striking and offered good views back across the aster filled herbaceous borders.

An interesting if odd mix of combinations and as an autumn garden certainly well worth the 90 min trip.

Oh and 2 people go free on and RHS card :)
Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 9, 2009

Running measures and triangulations

I have to crow today about being the first person in studio for two days in a row. This is a first for me as normally I have the furthest to travel each day and a park that is a good 10 minute walk away.

Our first client and site survey yesterday. After a short lecture on triangulation, running measures and direct measures we headed out to Project 1, an urban garden location. A brave client indeed to have 16 garden design students tromping about the modest boundaries trying to herd one another to get correct-ish measurements whilst battling with the over/undergrowth.

Attempting not to miss anything we would need later as no one wants to be ringing the client to ask 'if you could just pop out to re-measure for me...' how embarrassing!

Note to self: find friendly local Land Surveyor.

What questions to ask so all the relevant information is gleaned, "a conservation area?, great, oh and a water feature? sure, no maintenance? SURE..." and on it went. Luckily the tutors asked the Q's we forgot or didn't know to ask. After several years consulting I am used to playing a tag team game when interviewing clients this 16:1 was rather more than I was used to.

Drawing up the site survey overnight was a good exercise in seeing how to be better prepared for next time and taking pointers from C, an interior designer of many years, on short cuts to a good site survey.

After some serious persuasion by D we changed plans from a visit to the Oxford Botanic Gardens and ended the day in the Angel & Greyhound pub for a class get together, seems to be a tradition on the middle evening.

C and I stayed at Pickwicks B&B which is ok, not as great as I the lovely Henley B&B, and wireless that didn't work :( but ok, good breakfast, friendly people AND close to college. This part of Oxford is rather bereft of reasonably priced well appointed places to stay. I am staying at The Fleece in a couple of weeks time and although not close am hoping for MUCH better things from them.

Homework from last week was interesting to see. Drawing up a Speed Designed a garden. So many variations on the theme. Checking out other peoples work and although no feedback at all from the tutors it was never the less good to see what really worked well, and of course what worked less well.

This week it's designing for the Urban Project 1, site surveying our own gardens, more timeline - I have to complete the 18th Century section in the next two weeks(!), research an essay topic relevant to Garden Design in the 20th Century and, um and um... I am sure there is something else in there.

A busy 5 days ahead and that's without work & social life

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Greystone Day

How industrious do we look?!


A good day, well half day but filled with information about Picasa, Editing, PPT, Vector Works and Sketch Up. A great deal to take in and I'm glad I spent time familiarising myself with at least some of it. Today encouraged a shift in gear to really get to know all the packages.

Rain stopped play in the garden photography front although walking down to cars thorugh the damp forest was heavenly.
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Settling into the space

I am currently working from the dining room. All my books line the shelves and the oak table is plenty big enough for drawing board and computer, the light is good and it's close to the amenities!!.

Next week I am moving upstairs to the office, however first I need to recover 'the office' from the 'clutter' that lies, in an organised fashion, within but recover it I will. I have a plan, a shredder and determination amongst the small arsenal of clutter clearing tools and will be rid of the unwanted, unused, unloved 'stuff' in no time.

It feels like a good thing to have a room dedicated to the purpose and set up for the purpose. Maybe I won't lose so many things as a bonus into the bargain!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It's hard to deny

It is indeed hard to deny just how compelling this PGDipl course at Oxford College of Garden Design is and the projects we're completing. I find myself planning books to read on trains, radio programs, TV programs - I watched TV for the first time in 2 weeks yesterday but it was Phillipe Starke doing an 'Apprentice style' TV program for product designers so that feels not too far from the subject of modern design.

The experience of being able to immerse oneself completely in a subject one enjoys, to explore many aspects of it is quite novel for me. A couple of more experienced friends have warned it may lose it's glamour and this is when the determination to succeed must kick in, but frankly I have done jobs in the past that I have loathed and done well at them, somehow I cannot imagine it ever being as hard as that. Call me an optimist.

My laptop is pared down, defragged (twice), almost backedup online and majorly cleansed in preparation for the lectures tomorrow. I have fiddled with Picasa and Flickr, blospot and my .NEF images because I can't wait until tomorrow to get all the info (impatient moi? VERY)

Now I need to dig out my manual for my 'old' D70 and work out another level of detail on getting more saturation in my images

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ben Nicholson round II

It's 23:18 on Saturday night and I have spent almost the entire day cutting and sticking last weeks homework again - by request - THIS time in mounting card. PVA is the devils work as you can't move it once it's down without it leaving gross marks on the card AARRGHHH!

3rd time of cutting it all out I used the repositionable spray mount, fabulous stuff!

Of course it looks more like everyone elses now so I suppose that's the aim achieved. It looks ok.
From My Pictmotions

I have managed to lose my gorgeous Rotring compass set, left at OB studio and mislaid my Bar compass which, although I was convinced it was here, it is not. I have now written my name on every item of equipment, per S's suggestion, should have done it last week.

Note to self, be more careful!

Next job, onto this weeks homework. Housework, laundry, family and food shopping will have to wait!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Week II part 2

Good and Bad design is so wonderfully subjective. Thank heavens we don't all have to like the same things. Today's lecture on Modern art and the influence it had, brought questions about what was good and what not and from the replies it was clear people had different views and sometimes they were opposing. No one is right or wrong it is simply different.

I was struck again by the inherent beauty of the Landscape Movement this time Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water concrete building. Beautiful and yet impractical and yet, well hauntingly beautiful in it's physical space. It shouldn't be, it materials are an aberration in nature and yet it isn't once you see it. Design paradoxes.

The weekend bodes quiet, good for contemplation of other peoples design successes. Gaining much needed inspiration for the homework project, our first garden in total. From squares and rectangles to a 3d space with elements of water, planting, lawn and paving/path.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Week II - part 1

Travel & Parking = bete noir. That is all I am saying on that front.

Having printed and read notes for GD 103 and 104 we started on GD 101 and 102. Not to worry though, AM wandered through the centuries (6000bc to 1600ad) with engaging enthusiasm and not one of us fell asleep (per his prediction!). The Timeline project launched and the essays giving an intriguing offer to write on a subject of our choosing related to gardens or the 20th Century. Something we're interested in and perhaps will become expert in. The example of 'Concrete and its role in the Modern Garden Design' was perhaps not to my taste but mayhap someone will chose it!

A quick session from D to give clarification on the expectations for our soft landscape portfolios - one the season, one plant/color combination. This is going to be a lot of work and with some work they will be magnificent presentation packs.

Ben Nicholson
projects were so varied and interesting to see everyone's interpretation. How I missed the words 'mounting board' I don't know so mine was a tad flatter than the rest. It seemed others finished the in almost no time, if tales are to be believed, making me think I am a more than a tad slow at the cutting and sticking side of projects. Hope not to many more of them in the pipeline!

And a note to any prospective clients, you WON'T be getting these as an optional extra ;)

Downloaded the flickr uploader for XP which apparently can't see .NEF images, GROAN. Maybe its my settings??. So much for being an IT whizz. Today is more like IT Idiot!

Picasa tagging images from yesterday visits. Rousham truly was glorious. Especially those Dahlia....

From 2009_09_30
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