Thursday, October 21, 2010

Knoll Gardens & Neil Lucas

Grass man Neil Lucas is a joy to listen to. Interesting and humorous and incredibly knowledgable about his topic...GRASSES of course.

About 20 'garden designers' and hangers on followed him and his assistant Luke around the glorious Knoll Garden this afternoon soaking up the knowledge and even asking one or two pertinent questions.

The gardens look spectacular at the moment and apparently will do so long in December. If you haven't been GO GO GO. The Euonymus make it worth while and that's before you set eyes on the sweeping grasses and trees.

Managed to escape with no more than 3 plants which is an achievement.

Panicum Heavy Metal,  Molinia arundinacea 'Karl Foerster' and Miscanthus nepalensis with it's frothy bronze fronds...of course division will be taken from a friends hoard of 4 grasses, so in reality there are 7 new additions to be squeezed in come spring!

was inspired by the Paperbark Mulberry
and the pruning techniques

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

RAM's and Windows XP

Well as I discover more and more about hardware supporting software it all seems to get more complex. I discovered yesterday that although I upgraded the RAM on my lappy last year from 2gb to 4gb becasue I am running Windows XP as my OS (therefore 32bit) it cannot optimise the increased memory but can only use 3.something of it...darn no wonder it failed with renderworks, if only I'd known I could have simply upped the OS and the RAM instead of buying the Mac i5..........ok well thankfully I didn't know so got the joyous i5 as compensation for my own lack of research!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Well here I am .......employed!

I know a bit of a shock for me too dear reader.

One minute I was hot footing it down the self employed, starting my own business route and the next I have a job, well a 6 month full time contract with a possibility of a permanent role later. And yes as you ask, as a designer/project manager. Of course there is the usual trial period while we both suss out if it's a good fit but even so it has been a remarkably quick process and I find myself in a company where I will learn ALL about the build side of things, assuming the trial period is successful!

Exciting (read terrifying!) and a challenge to be sure.

Monday, October 11, 2010

DO you know which soil you are on?

Do you know which soil you re on? quite possibly but when it comes to being a Garden Designer soil-scapes can change pretty fast.

This little tool from Cranfield University is rather a godsend for these matters.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

OCGD going from strength to strength

Having completed the OCGD Post Grad Diploma in September, 'coming down' has been a bit more drawn out than I thought it would be!

Duncan (the college principal) has completely revamped the course and started the first online 'virtual reality' course which runs alongside the terrestrial 'real reality' version now located in the beautiful Maplethorpe building of Oxford's St Hughs college. No wonder they have DOUBLED the student numbers for this years courses!

Lucky for us, the OCGD alumni, that we have full access to this excellent set of material AND the forum that goes along side it AND all the masterclasses running this year, and of course, our ongoing and inspiring, Flickr group still loaded with new imagery. So my withdrawal symptoms from all the intense studies, practicals and academics can be soothed somewhat by a moderate amount of immersion in all things designer-y

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Coming soon

A new educator is about to hit the web, reportedly the end of this month. Backed by some serious design and horticultural clout, not to mention the web savvy marketeers,  it should be worth the register and a follow: Find them at:

Friday, October 1, 2010

Have you seen the Garden Museum or Piet Oudolf?

No? Well neither have I but both will be remedied at a 'members only' lecture hosted by the Garden Museum in October entitled Going Dutch: Piet Oudolf - His Life and Work
Am thrilled to now be described as a 'Country Friend', of the Garden Museum, which sounds so Jane Austen!
All the other lectures are sold out, unsurprisingly, due in part no doubt to a large editorial in the Telegraph on Saturday
Note to self: buy the telegraph on Saturday!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Are design competitions worth the time and effort?

I am just back from the post office more extortion as they extracted the cost of getting a competition entry submitted in time. OK so it's my own fault for leaving it until the last minute but really, £5.05? for delivering an A4 envelope, a light A4 envelope, to an address a mere two counties away?!

That said I am thrilled at the achievement of getting not one but two essays/articles written in the last few weeks. I'm not that hopeful about winning anything or even being placed but on a personal level I am proud of myself for knuckling down and writing first a Historical Review of a local National Trust garden, Wimpole Hall and secondly, perhaps even more surprisingly, for sitting down this morning at 7am and writing solidly for 5 hours to produce a creditable 2000 words on a garden visit I made in late summer, The Dorothy Clive Garden in Shropshire.

Am now wondering how it took me 4 weeks to write the first one which was only 1300 words longer! I am going to blame the research angle entirely, and yes the research took weeks :)

After the remains of today off, next week I am thinking about getting started on an entry for the Chris Beardshaw mentoring program.

Oh and once the results are out I'll publish both here, if of course they don't win awards and thereby publishing restrictions ;)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Noel Kingsbury

Should really have posted the day I got back so inspired was I, but life got the better of me and here I am 6 days later putting finger to keyboard ( pen to paper sounds so much nicer!).

Organised by an SGD member in Bishops Stortford some 50+ designers arrived at Writtle enthused about the lecture from Dr Noel Kingsbury.

Not quite sure what to expect I was surprised  by how youthful he seemed - I am becoming increasingly ageist it would seem! His credentials seem to stretch forever and his comment that he began a nursery at the same time as Carol Klein started her Devon nursery, made me do a double take.

A fascinating and thought provoking lecture ensued as he covered succession, right plant right place and how to actually do that well. Asking us to consider the effects on maintenance (reduction!) and longevity (much longer) of our designed gardens should we take this approach.

As I am sure you know by now I am more plants than design (sorry Duncan!) and as the day went on I began to realise that a passion for plants can really enable a vision for design or maybe that should be a creative expression. Really understanding my media (the plants) and what makes them work well is going to unlock a whole world of possibilities. Because lets face it whilst many new varieties pop up at our yearly RHS shows, in the main, new genus and species do not get discovered every day and even if they did, the time to the typical gardening market is S L O W W W W.

We spent the morning in a darkened lecture theatre where I learnt that Dr K could do with some help on his powerpoint presentations though obviously not the content therein. In the afternoon we wandered through the rather fabulous gardens of the college, putting what we had learned in the morning into practice and trying, in our smaller groups, to identify the various types of plant matter and it's growing patterns.

Obviously the opportunity to ask as many questions as you like to someone as knowledgeable as Dr K was brilliant and I felt that spark of excitement when you know you've met a kindred spirit, an inspiring and gifted teacher and consequently someone you can learn a LOT from.

I now have all his books (slowing working my way through them!) and will be keeping an eagle eye out for further opportunities to take courses with him.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Web Site Designer

Well I am officially working with a small local-ish company to design my corporate ID and if we work well together and the quote for web design is within budget we will do the website together too.

Have to say it was a pleasure to meet two clearly clued up desinger-y types with a non nonsense, no fuss approach, a beautiful inspiring 'office' space and clearly an understanding that for a truly good design, being functional is vital - I hark back to a previous professional life where the founders company motto was heartwarmingly focused and simple:-
"Functional should be beautiful and beautiful must be affordable"

The process of finding SuttonCo was an interesting one that led me to scads of 'local' web designer sites which were hideous and not remotely fit for purpose not to mention ugly, ugly, ugly!

Reminding me AGAIN that good design, be it website, corporate, interior or garden is not as common nor easy to find as one might think it would be. But I do say thank heaven for the web otherwise I would not have found them nor been able to research them through blog and social media and guys and gals social media marketing works!

In between times I have been back to some gardens for a second photogrpah, and look, Wisely and The Savil last week and Wimpole Hall yesterday. When I get 5 minutes I will post images

Monday, September 13, 2010

Website Design

Moving into the next phase of the transition to Garden Designer has me researching not only web designers but websites and I am surprised by the number of eminently capable designers who do such a poor job of designing their own website.

It  si as if they throw out all the principles they have leant and, well, and what?!

Today I came across a real classic, oh it's elegant the person is a top designer who has won awards and plenty of press BUT BUT BUT, their internet showcase fails to deliver anything but a suspicion that their web designer took them for a ride, an expensive one!.

Text banged up against a table edge on one side and miles away from the other - making it look mean and out of proportion, so much flash you give up  after the first 3 pages, content text so small, text so similar in tone it is barely visible on the page and content so 'blah blah blah' you switch off before the flash even finishes :), headers the change from a readable font to an illegible one as you 'roll-over' it - probably the ' clients choice' but it remains a poor one.

Ok enough of annihilating this designer sites - and no I will not say who's it is...well unless you offer bribery then I might consider it.

It is not the first, nor the last to demonstrate such a clear ignorance about the medium in which they are marketing themselves. Web goers are a short attention spanned lot, and I include myself in this, we want it NOW, we want it CLEAR, we want it to scream WELL DESIGNED and we do not want pretension - unless it is of the uber cool variety!

Needless to say I am still hunting for my 'within budget' web designer......

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Can it really be done?

Well here I am done and dusted. Final project, the soft landscape portfolio, printed packed and posted. A sense of overwhelming relief followed that final piece of information landing in the right place but it wasn't until posting it that the real sense of 'it's done, finished' hit me.

SEASONAL PLANTING:160 plants over 4 seasons

COLOUR THEME PLANTING:120 plants over 10 colourways

A certain gapping hole which of course will be filled in coming weeks with planning and progressing a new business, MY new business. But I have to say it has been a whale of a ride and a great deal more work than I imagined possible to cram into one year (well 11 months tbh) and a great deal more in terms of deliverables and learn than I also thought possible.

I've enjoyed the blogging and the sense of achievement at completing the course and now putting it into practice and making a success of my new business is the next stage.

New blog(s) to go with the new business.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Which books get you enthused about plants?

In the middle of prepping 20 planting plans (!) and I am knee deep in fabulous books, spread open with sticky notes all over them identifying perfect combinations and possible plant choices. My current favourites are:

With Beth Chatto's wonderful planting schemes detailed

Predictable in places but mostly glorious ideas

Dreamy is indeed the word though the cottage garden features so heavily in UK examples one could be led to believe that's ALL we can do!

I'm in a Piet phase so though I gather things have moved on I am still lusting after these planting schemes ;)

Any other recommendations would be happily explored

Earth Clock - not on topic but fascinating nevertheless

Friday, August 13, 2010

Glorious Shropshire summer days

A short stint of house and chicken sitting for friends in sunny Shropshire allowed me ample time to pad round some glorious gardens (including The Dorothy Clive garden and Wollerton Old Hall) in the environs. The last one was Trentham Gardens a huge estate with some spectacular gardens. Think mature meets modern. I visited in the winter last year and was breath taken by Tom Stuart Smith's Italian Garden borders so felt a summer visit to see it all in it's full glory was both appropriate and frankly a must do whilst staying less than an hour away!

It was heaving with families and kids, HEAVING.  I headed along the Trent beside the frothing grass paths and sculpture.

Sculpture and Grasses

Coming upon the Piet Oudolf borders is a delight they tantalise along the river path  inviting you to explore the wide paths and deep, blocky planting. Somehow there is something much more satisfying about big blocks of plants, not 3's, 5's 8's per Fibonacci but 34's, 55's and 89's (also Fibonacci's but bigger :) )

Piet Oudolf borders

Swathes of Echinacea, White Swan and purpurea and probably several other so (no plant list :( ), Eupatorium purpureum, Solidago, Achillea, all colours and sizes, bluest Salvias, stands of Monada's, and pink/purple Liatris amongst them and then, of course with blocks of grasses to form backdrops and punctuations in the floriferous groups.
Birch copse with grasses

Two smallish copses of birch (Betula utilis and nigra I think) underplanted with grasses promise of future season when they will join the mature canopy of trees that dot the gardens. Seeing the layering of the plantings against the well established shrubs and trees re-inforces the vital importance of seeing the planting scheme within the whole environment.
Stretching on forever

This section of garden is maintained by 1 full time and 1 part time person plus volunteers which surprised me. It's pretty weedless and looked in excellent shape given the time of year and recent dry spell. I was lucky enough to speak at length with the gardener about her plants and the maintenance of this beautiful series of borders. Her enthusiasm for the plants and the development are infectious and lead one to imagine it will indeed develop over time and not remain static.

beautiful blooms

Crossing the paths into the Italian Garden proved something of a disappointment though. They just didn't look great. The planting was bitty, or so it seemed, there were a lot of unfilled gaps, collapsed plants that were still flowering and shockingly weeds at eye height. OK I am not a weed snob and know it's impossible to maintain a completely weed free environment but 5'6" (eye height for me!) flowering dandelions? c'mon! that's just poor management!

5'6" Taraxacum officinale - DANDELION!

At the time I thought the whole area looked unkempt - hardly appropriate for the formality of the space - but looking back at shots it doesn't strike me as so uninspiring. Maybe it felt worse in comparison to the boldness and striking planting of the Oudolf borders, maybe it was simply a hard year for the plants in that area. But uninspiring it was.

Italian Gardens

Italian Gardens

scale of planting in Italian Garden

and can I just say Trentham what on earth possessed you to plant this up in the upper (Italian) gardens? talk about poor juxtaposition!

hideous bedding in upper Italian gardens

The 100 ideas gardens on the whole were not worth photographing, which is  a mean thing to say but they were so badly looked after - think dying plants, weeds, gaps, dead plants, broken fences, that I was shocked they were clearly starting to hard landscape for new ones. This was such a change from my December 09 visit when they were all looking full of promise and good structure.

WHICH just goes to show one season does not a good garden make!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Seasonal portfolio in the print

After a moment of blind panic yesterday at the printers todays news came a s a delightful surprise. Not only was the quality of the print out fantastic and not in the least bit line-y (as we were worried it might be yesterday)  but the first few pages look completely amazing, and the cost is about half what I had anticipated.

I'm really excited about seeing it finished and am onto part two though it is still more challenging due to having to limit my plant selections to 6 per colourway!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Do you know what this is?

An alternate title could be ' It's not enough to know the Genus!'

I am mid way through the Seasonal portfolio and struggling to identify some of the flower images. It is of course great exercise in plant identification but sometimes one needs outside help. Time as ever is against me so I am asking for help.

Tweeters have been brilliant with speedy replies and suggestions so I am hoping that blog readers will be able to help to.

These are my current challenges.
Geraniaum himalayense? perhaps? perhaps not?

???? some sort or rudbeckia? or helianthus?


Veronica spicata?

all help gratefully received :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Going cross eyed with photographs and plant details

The final project of the PG Dip Residential Landscape Architecture course is a soft landscape portfolio (SLP). What is this? Well it forms two parts, the first part is a seasonal portfolio showing 4 'spectacular' borders for each season. Along with this is a detail page with 5 plants, from the border, detailed in terms of height, spread, water, soil type, hardiness, pH level and origin of genus oh and light levels, then a selection of 5 alternative plants. So that 4 borders and 40 plants per season plus a key and some fancy graphics!

SLP part two is much harder, which is why part 1 is being done first, this consists of colour themed planting plans. 10 sets of colour ways, 5 plants per plan (that's tough!) and one plan for shade one plan for full sun. Same plant detailing and same set of alternatives. So 20 planting plans and 200 plants to detail yes 200!!!!!!!

I should mention that we are expected to have photographed all the images ourselves - hahahaha

Happily I am more than 2/3rd of the way through part 1 just detailing plants and dreading the slog of part two. It's a great way to learn my plants and to understand them better but GODS it is a LOT of 'virtual cutting and sticking'

Portfolios are ordered and a schedule for printing is set. It is going to cost a fortune to print professionally but they will certainly be exciting things to show to clients. In fact I already have extra sets of borders to include. 16 simply isn't enough!!!

I am resisting showing an example because I hope mine will be individual, here is an example of the enclosed plant images

Sunday, July 18, 2010

One of the top 10 gardens per the Telegraph readers... what do you think?

Coton Manor in Coton, Northamptonshire is one of MY favorite gardens. I have even gone as far as to buy a season ticket, so much do I enjoy this garden and it's plantings.

"Originally laid out in the 1920's by the grandparents of the present owner, the garden has been developed and extended by successive generations capitalising on its natural setting, attractive views and abundant water. " literature from Coton Manor

The rich yellow stone walls of the house are literally coated in roses and an enormous wisteria with a raised patio skirting the house and flooded with pots of brilliant coloured geraniums. What a welcome and it certainly entices you to chose your direction carefully because there are at least 3 to chose from. I have a preferred route but tbh I usually head away from any other visitors as quickly as possible. Disappointingly Coton Manor now forbid the use of tripods - same old reason yawn. which of course on a grey damp day like the day I visit makes it all but impossible to take a good distance shot. They rather smugly point out that all the website images are taken without a tripod, I, rather impolitely want to point out to them that they have the lucky position of being there all the time and can whip out a camera whenever it suits them and especially when the weather is fine! I have to drive nearly 80 mins to get there and though it may be fine at home and forecast fine there sometimes IT RAINS and we have to try to make the best of it. Out of over 350 shots taken about half are blurred due to weather induced low light. Whinge over.

The dell gardens falling down the backside of the gardens are glorious in their damp shady conditions. At their best in the rain I have to say. Breathtaking planting and inspiring combinations. I do like seeing how it progresses and am amazed at the transformation since end of April when it was all but bare, now it is cheek by jowl planting and greenery/puple-ery. 

The wildlife is a flamboyant as ever although the chooks apparently don't like the rain and scurry helter skelter across the lawn as the heavens open. The flamingos are less fussy and they stalk about munching in their orangey-ness. 

Herbaceous borders are stuffed, a bit collapsed and being tied up and late 'chelsea chopped' as I glide about in my rain mac trying to protect my camera from the elements.

Then the nursery stuffed to the gunnels, more heaven.

What is not heaven is the lack of promised plant list and the apathy of the staff member about it's reproduction this season (let me say it is early July and they remain open until October!). So no plant list and no labels on plants.

 For any garden opening to the public let me say this is a pet hate of many visitors, they do not care if you lose labels, that your plant list is out of date and someone forgot to reorder it, they have travelled to pay and see this garden they want to know what the damn plants (cultivar!) are! 

Despite the grumps above this is a garden worth going out of your way to visit, and more than once if you can. STUNNING

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Are we done with the moral high ground in this country?

Flipping through the Society of Garden Designers magazine, Garden Design Journal August 2010, last night I began to read Tim Richardson's piece at the front. He always amuses me and it felt like the right tone to set before drifting off to sleep. NOT SO this time.

I was shocked and admit still am to discover the depths to which the RHS and associated bodies have dropped. I am talking about show garden judging. Yes the old chestnut that raised it's head publicly at last years Hampton Court flower show.

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2009 - sparks fly in The Daily Telegraph Gardening Theatre

Chief Assessor for Show Gardens for the RHS, responds to Tim Richardson's criticisms of the RHS judging process.

Not only has nothing been done to raise the morale and ethical tone of the situation, indeed it appears to have worsened!

The chief assessor and show garden judge, yes he can sit in both camps!, who also happens to be head of a new garden design school - no potential conflict of interest there then - is, and I quote "putting himself forward as a designer for next year's Chelsea". One assumes he will relinquish head assessors role then but there is nothing confirmed in the article to say this.


I hear you ask. Well apparently NOT.

I am obviously not the only person who can see the blatant conflict of interest not to mention appropriateness in this example but it is only one example of a repeated pattern. Be a show judge and then drop out for  a year and design a garden for the show. A model apparently followed by a number of award winning designers it would seem.

If we Brits used to pride ourselves on our ethics and the moral high ground we followed and demonstrated to the the world, then what in heavens name has happened here in one of our most trusted and loved national bodies? Have they lost sight of basic common sense. Do they not see how difficult it is for the judges to remain impartial and even if they do manage this task, how it will be perceived by a wider, public audience. Have they not noticed the recent political scandals around expenses and conflict of interest?

Of course the wider public is probably blissfully unaware of this conflict of interest. The BBC production on the big RHS shows does not even touch this aspect of the show scene, no real mention is made of either the process of assessing and then judging or of the individuals who judge/assess yet it lauds the winners again and again. Which given the current situation is probably understandable because frankly, it seems pretty hard to defend.

Sadly for me all winners could be tainted with this brush until there is a clear stated and observed line between entrants and assessors/judges, the judges are from a wider variety of associated industries and have a more international flavor. Oh and conflict of interest is both CLEARLY stated and dealt with.

I find later in the magazine that the French are doing it FAR BETTER than us, non c'est vrai, in the form of Chaumont. Exhibitors cannot return for 3 years, to allow new talent to have a chance and assessors are taken from a wide range of expertise including the arts, horticulture and medicine. This year 4 landscape architects, a neuroscientist, an author and a psychiatrist. Now that's what I call diverse!

A career limiting blog post? will I be blackballed by the RHS? perhaps. But one has to ask why this is allowed to continue almost unchallenged.

Do you dear reader find it acceptable?

Do you like me want to have full disclosure and visibility?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gotta love Google Analytics

No doubt you will have noticed the change of template which I am happy with, once a year isn't so bad, but with it I forgot to update my google analytics code which is embedded into the html code of the page - not as hard as it sounds honestly!

Consequently I lose a day or two of analytics, or 'who is visiting' stats, which is fun to review.

The tutorials to get the right code back up are so simple and easy to find I have to say it's a pleasure which is not something that can often be said about help tutorials online!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fellows' Garden, Clare College, Cambridge

A rather last minute trip to Cambridge last week offered the chance to visit The Fellows Garden at Clare college.

How UTTERLY spectacular they are, nestling just across the bridge from the Old Court of the college they stretch along the Cam. Re-designed in 1947 by Professor E.N. Willmer, a fellow of the college it shows of stunning herbaceous borders, a tropical planting, sunken garden and a secluded green and white walkway and sitting area.

From Collages

Well manicured and clearly well tended the gardens are a treasure trove of unusual plants collated in interesting and striking borders.  No wonder they feature highly on gardens to visit before you die!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

How wild is your wildlife garden?

It turns out after two years plonking every possible plant I can get for free or grow from seed into my tiny patch that something of a wildlife haven has emerged and whilst I should say this is all calculated and planned, in truth it is not.

Having gained my little collection of local beasties - two toads, a gaggle of single bees (Apis melliferaapis) in the bee hotel, swarms (not literally of course) of bumble bees, hoverflies, ladybirds, spiders of all shapes and sizes and many other insects who pop up unexpectedly from under pots and trays. I am delighted at how well they all get on together. Of course I am thrilled with the arrival of the toads as this means the demise of slug city - yehaa!

In honor of the toads arrival I am building a small water feature which will consist of an small upturned dustbin lid, some water and a small up and over ramp for easy toady exit.

One toad lives in the cold frame, he refuses to leave even though I have built him a ramp. The other lives under the bee hotel pedestal ( a bin) at the other end of the garden.

From 2010-07-10

Last night was the first time I had seen bees going in and out of the bee hotel, and I saw 4 on about half an hour, each heading into his/her own little pad brilliant.

From 2010-07-10

Happily the gardens is full of varieties of shrub, tree, and flower nectar and with neighbours on either side who have flourishing mature gardens and a large tree lined park two gardens over they have plenty of local food sources.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Final postings

Well I must say it has been kind of fun posting some of the ups and downs through the PG Dip course as part of the 'projects' we were meant to complete.

And as the course is now all but over, one project left to complete, postings and the blog will be coming to an end, probably one or two more entries for completion!

A new blog will be rising through my new website - - once it is up and running and I hope some of you will join me there. It will be focusing on topics and tips for the month including a top garden to visit and monthly garden tasks that you might want to consider, plus some good finds on the supplier front and maybe the odd anecdote on the project front.

Thank you for your comments and feedback and for reading thus far.

Exhibition fallout

I am demoralised having seen a posting and publicity round by the college principal featuring exhibition work from only a few people.

Lots of pieces but from a few people.

To then be asked to 'promote' it is really a bit much.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

comments.please !

I have changed settings on the comments, which I should have done ages ago, I hadn't seen that it was asking people to register to comment...duh me...all changed now, at least I think so

down to Dixter

I must admit that two gardens in one day is a bit much and after the frustrations and disappointments of Sissinghurst I had high hopes for Great Dixter home of the late Christopher Lloyd with unconventional and supposedly spectacular gardens.

It was easier to find and MUCH less hectic than Sissinghurst and if the gardens are the comparison point there is no earthly reason why. Dixter is by far the more impressive place. The mock tudor Lutyens house sits within its surroundings perfectly, conjuring up images of the rural idyll that it may or may not have been in it's origins.

From Great Dixter

The sunk garden was by far my favorite spot and my first port of call it is striking all at once. The colours. The level changes. the buildings surrounding it. The views through it. The planting. The colour. I will admit to be a bit taken aback by the chaotic-ness of it all plants seemingly jumbled in together in ones, twos and maybe mores, colours clashing and offsetting and fabulous contrast of form and shape. I was making photographs and this makes me look more carefully, but there is a point where I simply had to stop shooting and just revel in the gloriousness of the plantings - I am a plantaholic, no apologies there - I walked around it three times in different directions, sat in the barn-ish building to one side and breathed it in. I suspect this is not the plan for this upper pathway as it is narrowish and one needs to navigate flopping plants with one's footsteps but nevertheless it was enthralling.

From Great Dixter

Stepping through the walled gateway into a courtyard of rather garish pots was a contrast and not necessarily welcome yet the paving here was intricate and to be marvelled at - and photographed of course. Down on into the back gardens and more contrast and rule breaking to be seen. The last 3rd was right up against the 2nd and 1st thirds (if you are a designer you will know this rule of thirds, if not...well you only have to ask!)

From Great Dixter

I should have followed a map but wandering took me through a tropical garden sheeted in shade cloth to protect the plants from the scorching heat into more meadows and across a brick path back up to the long borders. FIlled with colour and vibrant flowerings the wide borders show off the Great Dixter style in a truly unforgettable way they lead up to a bench which was occupied on both my meanderings so I didn't get to sit and just admire but I did stand a stare for a long time, camera in hand.

Walking up through yew hedges (Taxus baccata) on impossibly decorative and yet functional steps into the orchard continues the magical feel of the place, tiny pathways - yay plants rule! - leading behind borders and around borders and through borders.

From Great Dixter

Swathes of floriferous herbaceous and shrubby perennials making their sumptuous summer statement.

From Great Dixter

The high garden was too chaotic for me, undoubtedly plantings of note but chaotic and rather hysterical, if planting can be hysterical. There seems no rhythm here, structure but a bit more of a conglomeration without the story. perhaps I needed longer to understand it.

My second favorite part is the bench facing the topiary garden between house and nursery. An Alice in Wonderland-esque spot with towering topiary yews and meadows scrambling at their feet. The cat and I, for they have a cat or two here, sat and watched the world go by. Cat was watching for ice cream laden punters, to sweet talk into a mouthful or two of creaminess I was hiding from the heat of the day and reading the Dixter booklet.

From Great Dixter

This was my favourite garden of the day though even here not one plant tempted me.

Sizzling Sissinghurst

A friend just pointed out I was two weeks too late and he was right, two weeks in the south makes all the difference apparently...but let me start at the beginning.

Traveling to Sissinghurst on a Friday morning is no mean feat 3.5 hours of traffic mostly M25 chaos, in the hot sun too. The gardens of the National trust only open at 11am which seems late and odd as it's not a great time to see a garden, in the heat of the day but still there are clearly priorities to be observed and visitors are not top of the list.

It was disappointing to be 'informed' at the entry gate that no tripods were allowed due to the smallness of the gardens (?) and the vast number of visitors. I was also suggested I 'pop back' on Wednesday when the garden was closed - handy - then I could use the tripod. After a conversation with staff it turns out this might be a photography day but they weren't sure and it's not advertised by NT - nor is the fact that you can't use a tripod in the gardens. Frustrating but bearable if this was a 'house rule'. What made it annoying was seeing two other visitors with monstrous tripods perhaps they had special dispensation? who knows.

It was a nice garden but not that exciting floriferously. The usual suspects to be seen, roses, delphiniums, lupins, salvias, a few grasses. The white garden was 'over' with fairly gappy borders although several of the other areas, cottage and herb gardens, remained interesting. Of course the structure is there and some excellent specimen plants in mature and full glory but but but....hmmm a bit institutionalised? and one has to ask should the institution of the NT really be in charge of what used to be the playground of the elites of the Bloomsbury set?

From Sissinghurst

The White Garden

From Sissinghurst

Camomile seating in the herb garden - but under no circumstances sit on it!

From Sissinghurst

It was calming and predictable I suppose typical of an NT property, although I must say I was surprised to be told, on one notice board, not to smell the flowers as it might cause damage? It seems these gardens are too popular for their own good and people are now in the habit of trampling them with tripod and boot to smell or photograph. Perhaps I went on a quiet day as I gather from that normally it is rammed.

From Sissinghurst

I managed several good shots minus people so it must have been quiet!

From Sissinghurst

No-one in sight!

I imagine if they opened, in summer, a little earlier and closed a little later they might have a less over-crowded garden.

off next to Dixter

Thursday, July 1, 2010

SLP and garden visiting

Off to Sissinghurst and Great Dixter tomorrow to photograph their borders for our final piece of work.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Business linking?

Attending the first of the business link courses was exciting. Only 7 out of 14 turned up which was a shame but it was an extraordinarily hot Saturday so probably not that much of a surprise.

Really it was more of a 'things to consider' event for those who have just started thinking about new businesses and indeed I was the only one who had actually committed to starting. Nevertheless fun to hear all the varied ideas for new businesses.

The business plan is underway as is searching and applying for local new business grants!

Work experience

I was lucky enough to have two days with Charlotte Rowe and her assistant last week. Full days with site visits, clients, 3d modelling and planting plans crammed in.

Interesting to see a thriving practice on a day to day basis how hectic it is and how much work goes into all those fabulous looking gardens not to mention the PR & marketing of the brand.

Great to learn some SketchUp tips from Tomoko and also to be able to pass some on!

Seeing gardens that have yet to be photographed was a treat sadly my camera card decided to develop a fault so I lost all my images :( I will have to wait to see them in print sometime in the coming year.

Are herbaceous borders still PC?

The day after a big downpour of rain is not usually the best day to visit a garden full of herbaceous borders however we have had so much sun and heat of late that my thinking was they would be perkier and less wilty than they have been laterly.

After a cool start the sun battered down in the huge circular herbaceous gardens at Angelsey Abbey. Not a spot of shade to be had on any of the benches. It looked, as a whole fabulously floriferous and he budding Hemerocallis (day lily) and Crocosmia (montbretia) promising great things to come later in the season. But really, on closer inspection it is somehow odd to find every plant so ferociously staked and tethered into place. Each delphinium had a pole, the Thalictrum flavum subsp Glaucum staked similarly. Others with more stamina, Echinops, Achillea and some monstrous Cephalaria were un-bound and none the worse for it. With such dense plantings it seems a laborious task that fetters the view, does it really need to be like this?

I can hear the head gardeners railing that it must look good at all times and the only way to stop delphinium flop is to bind them mercilessly to a pole. Indeed at well over 2m I suppose their weight would make them susceptible to sharp gusts of wind though shelter from the thick 3m high Fagus sylvatica hedge must provide some protection?

It just seems too much somehow. I like my delphiniums un-hampered and elegantly swaying in the breeze although truthfully mine (also pacific giant) rarely last in the garden for long and are cut for floral gestures and grandeur inside the house

SGD Photo competition

Each year the Society of Garden Designers hosts a series of competitions for students to show off their work. This seems to be aimed at final year students in degree courses given time scales but some of the OCGD year of 2010 will be entering examples of their work this year.

The Photographic section is due today, 30th June, and I sent of the required CD (well DVD in fact) yesterday with almost all the competition information filled out!

The night before we had an exceptional downpour of rain followed by weak early morning sun. Perfect for flower shots. So in my PJ's I pottered in the garden at home currently burgeoning with floral offerings and shot a fabulous Philadelphus which has lurched to my side of the fence from next door. They have hacked it into submission on their side, on mine it flops and flows with abundant white blooms.

I often shoot in the garden in the early morning, camera and sometimes tripod in hand. I sit on a chair waiting for the sun to pas the big Bay Tree and filter over the roof tops for just the right amount of light on a subject. A south east facing garden turns out to be delightful it terms of good morning light!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Strutting your stuff.......

The final exhibition (some 20 marks of the whole) was hosted yesterday at St Hugh's College in Oxford. Beautiful airy light room with ample parking directly outside, next years students are very fortunate to have this as their new venue for studies.

Anticipation was high after a late night helping friends complete some documents for the big hand in, we arrived to erect boards and gather our 9 month hard work onto big blue boards for inspection and admiration from friends, family, examiners, tutors and other interested parties.

It is always exciting to see what other people have come up with and our exhibition stands were no different each had his or her own feature and layout and selection of work. One person covered the entire blue board with wall paper, to tone down the vibrant colour, some had photographic banner boards with their shiny new logos and evidence of photographic excellence, there were an assortment of wonderfully creative business cards and of course the work.

To see it all displayed together is striking, how far we have all come and how much we have all achieved. Each one knowing his or her own struggles but all showing highly competent work to the public and no one failed to impress.

In the morning the friendly external examiner chatted to each of us about our work, our journey and our strengths. A positive experience and the first of many unguarded compliments about my work.

Duncan and Carol kicked the more public events off with champagne and thank you flowers and suddenly there was a flow of guests and visitors. Talking to people about my work was interesting and their comments sometimes surprising. I was genuinely surprised by how many people commented on the quality of rendering as I haven't felt it was that appealing to anyone but me!

later in the afternoon our essays, freshly marked, were handed back and having gained a distinction I was completely thrilled.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

and on a completely different note.....

How about this for a fabulous idea for wedding favours......not that I am planning on getting married but the idea is transferable to other gift givings methinks!

And they got them from......

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Moody Board

How I hate the mood board and it seems it hates me right back!

I completed 4 in one evening, late in the evening and although they look, to me at least artistic and moody I am clueless as to whether the 'client' will think they capture the mood of the garden.

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

planting plans ...DONE

Planting plan around the hot tub deck, 1 of 12 plans for project 3.

Final straight is in sight amazingly. Planting plans completed this evening and VW sheets all tarted up beautifully to look elegant and professional.

It did occur to me that whilst I am struggling away vociferously through the course and the trials it has brought, I have in fact learnt and ENORMOUS amount and am incredibly proud of the work I have achieved, ok so it's not perfect but it's first stages of a new career, it's not likely to be perfect, just yet anyway. I suppose that is something else I have learned how to let go of being perfect and to prioritise enough to get things complete.

The exhibition preparation might even get a whole 5 days...maybe 4 is more realistic though.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

the cascades

Cascade drawings complete. I cannot quite believe they are all completed, just need to be printed and bound and they are done.

Cascade drawings are the lower level of details required by the contractor, setting out, drainage, paving, contour and level changes and so on down to the tiniest detail in construction drawings.

A whole bunch of admin correspondence is also complete and the todos list is looking possible - almost!

No letting up though, having seen a couple of ex-student websites clearly the competition is high so a good final mark is vital.

Competitive moi?! I think so!

last legs?

As I head into the final week of the course, well the course before the Exhibition I am realising there has been no down time to speak of since December. The garden, mine that is, is looking a bit bedraggled. Plants flopping where they want, things in need of pruning lolopping wildly wherever they find some light and seedlings (weedlings!) spreading madly. NO TIME NO TIME. I have sat staunchly at my lovely new iMac for about 2 weeks now producing key plans, setting out drawings (curvaceous HELL), cascade drawings, a specification document. Amidst all the fiddling with found errors and fixing found problems.

I resolve to find some work in the coming months to make me practice practice practice all the technical sides, something possibly uncreative but where I can hone my skills, my experience so that this all becomes second nature and not a dive for folders and files from college lectures.

I am pleased with some of the results although tbh atm I have no idea what the whole will look like as Friday is the day for printing it all out and collating. (Thus leaving myself 5 WHOLE days for exhibition prep).

Planning permission, finalising letters, finishing mood boards, finishing planting plans - doing the drainage (does a chalk slope really NEED drainage I keep asking!?), title blocking it all and making sure the cross referencing matches up. As I found out in my first design career the job is much more about execution than creativity...and I used to think I was good at execution, not so certain now, but more practice will help that I am sure.

Last night as I was put the finishing touches to a construction drawing (above) and in true multitasking form chatted to my great friend Ju in New Zealand (it was 1am)I realised I was quite pleased with the result.... I might even say it looks quite professional!
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