Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring is apparently delayed by a few weeks!

From 2010-04-01

According to one or two of the top public garden spring is somewhat later than usual, even down in the normally clement Cornish regions. So in view of this how about some Hellebores to cheer us all up? Detailed by the Telegraph Garden section in Feb they should still be showing their glory if all is somewhat late.

"Hellebore extravaganza, Feb 15, 11am to 4pm, Goodnestone Park Gardens, Wingham. Talk on hellebores at 12.30pm by Tim Ingram (ticket only). Specialist nursery displays and sales of winter-flowering plants. Adults £5, seniors £4.50, under-16s £1

Bosvigo, Cornwall
Special hellebore day, Feb 14, 10am-4pm, Bosvigo House, Truro, in aid of Shelterbox. Newly created woodland walk through drifts of snowdrops, hellebores, wood anemones, epimediums, erythroniums and scented narcissus. Refreshments available (01872 275774;

Ashwood Nurseries, West Midlands
Hellebore weekends, Jan 31 & Feb 1, Feb 14 & 15, 10.15am to 3.30pm, Ashwood nursery, Kingswinford. Guided tours (1h 30m), no need to book, go ''behind the scenes'' and learn about the hellebore breeding programme. Entry £2, proceeds to charity (01384 401996;

Harveys Garden Plants, Suffolk
Hellebore open days, Feb 20 & 21, 9.30am to 4.30pm, Harveys Garden Plants, Bury St Edmunds. More than 1,000 hellebores for sale each day, advice and practical demonstrations, guided tours at 11.30am, 1.30pm and 3.30pm. Free. (01359 233363;

Coton Manor Garden, Northamptonshire
Open for snowdrops and hellebores, Feb 14 to March 1, 11am to 4pm, Coton Manor Gardens, Coton. Entry £3 (01604 740219;

RHS Wisley Plant Centre, Surrey
Hellebore heaven, Feb 14 & 15, 10.30am to 4.30pm, Wisley Plant Centre. Demonstrations at 11am, 1.30pm and 3pm by expert grower Hugh Nunn and Chelsea gold medal winner Richard Bramley. Hellebores on sale. No booking required, free entry (01483 211113; ).

Broadview Gardens, Kent
National collection of hellebores, Feb 15, 21, 22, 28, March 1, Broadview Gardens and Hadlow College, tours at 11am and 2pm, flowers on sale at Broadview Garden Centre. Entry £3 (0500 551434;

Renishaw Hall, Derbyshire
Fanfare for spring, Feb 22, 11am to 3pm, Renishaw Hall, near Sheffield. Gardens and woodlands full of hellebores, snowdrops, bulbs and more. Specialist nurseries, refreshments. Entry £3 (01246 432310;

Coolings, Kent
Hellebore weekend, today, 9am-5pm, tomorrow 10am-4.30pm, Coolings Garden Centre, Rushmore Hill. Hellebore display and sale. Free (01959 532269;

National Collection, Staffordshire
National collection of species hellebores, open Saturdays in Feb/March, 10am-2pm, Hazles Cross Farm, Kingsley. Entry £2, plants for sale (01538 752669;

This website with links to specialist nurseries and growers will keep you up to date on the latest star plants:

Does modern Garden Design have longevity?

I am mid research on an essay about longevity of land art but it strikes me that, as a designer, I should be aiming for longevity in my garden design, although modern families move relatively regularly (in approx 5-10 year periods - source: 29/3/10) the number of years that equate to longevity might be a discussion point. So with this in mind should the aim be for a more relative longevity? one that is in relation to how long the client will reside in the house?

Of course under the OCGD philosophy the design anchors the house in it's environment so if this is successful, then the longevity might expect to be greater as new owners will enjoy the well designed gardens as much as the person moving. In theory!

Gardens Illustrated featured Timothy Mowl, Professor of History of Architecture and Designed Landscapes and Director of the MA in Garden History at Bristol University he is in the process of writing about the gardens of each county. A slow process by all accounts. So he is setting the scene of garden history before talking about the modern garden. The focus is apparently on gardens with potential longevity but that are falling in to disrepair. Is this because they are gardens and require constant attention? or simply that they are gardens and therefore not fixed entities but living breathing ever changing creations and is that not what makes them so appealing and compulsive?.

I am also surprised by the number of people following MPil and PhD's in and around garden design and I am inspired.

Do people really respond and donate to the 'Charity of Me' requests?

I was reading a funny article about a shepherdess who had her wedding dress woven from the wool of the sheep she bred and in the comments was an link from a blog. I followed it and noticed that the woman, and actress in Canada had a donate by paypal button.

I wonder if people really do donate 'to the arts', as she put it.

There was the tale some years ago of the woman who found herself up to her eyeballs in debt from her own spending habit, now a book and a movie I believe, and at the time she created a website (Save Karyn)- pre-blogging days - to document how much she had made, saved, spent daily and how much people had donated to her. She paid it off in the end, then made a truck load on the book and film rights :D

I maybe adding this 'charity of me' idea to the blog, well, it could help me while I get started make a living as a garden designer!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

First Commision almost done!!

My first commission is coming along well. The planting plans are completed in Vectorworks and a few extra drawings have emerged as I think through the actual delivery of the work for the client.

So also prepared is a laying out plan, gridded up to enable a fast and accurate laying out of the planting, a 'before' sketch plan/site analysis which shows which plants will remain in situ and which will have to be removed, or moved.

It is very exciting to be working for a 'real' client and it is quite different when you are being paid for it. Just as I suppose it is quite different when you are paying for a service, you tend to value and appreciate it much more.

Further to this I received another inquiry for some work in London which will be a different challenge and an exciting one. If this keeps up I may well turn out to be gainfully employed for most of 2010!

From Planting Plans

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Why do I need a land surveyor?

The Leica Total Station

The last lecture of the week and indeed this 2nd term was with Land Surveyor Ian Humby. He has developed his practice to specialise in surveying things us garden designers crave on a survey. Not just levels and trees and so on (topographical survey) but house doors and windows, guttering, roof lines and even the facia (Measured building surveys).

Speaking at rate he guided us through 'why' to think about shelling out for a land surveyor in the first place and some of his examples were pretty shocking (one had approx 8-10m 'missed' on both sides of the 'already surveyed' garden another had buildings positioned quite differently). Although he did finish that section showing a survey by another garden designer that was almost perfect (!) to show it is not impossible for us to do well.

There were idiot proof ways for us to make our surveying better (equilateral triangle math and bean sticks rule!) and a revision of some of the finer points of using a Dumpy level and the popular zip level.

His own surveyor kit, a Leica Total Station, was most impressive although the price tag clearly makes it for professionals only!

Apparently a Dumpy level (150x cheaper than surveyor kit!) is perfectly acceptable but you should consider yourself reasonable at math - which I do, so I am off to source one this weekend but will be longing for the Total Station in reality.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Is an Electronic plant catalogue a barrier to sales?

I have recently been trying to gather catalogues in preparation for projects with small and big planting areas. However I am now reliably informed, and have found in actuality, that many nurseries no longer print catalogue but have them on line either as flippable PDF booklets or an online search. I groan.

A great idea not thought through IMO.

Great not wasting the planets resources, not costing the company money on sending catalogues to people who won't ever really use them. Not so great for the designer though. The down side for the 'professional' user is
a) an expensively coloured 100+ page document to print on their own printer at home costing a great deal more in home printer ink and the quality is usually not great in colour repro. So in reality it doesn't get printed and hardly used - not good for building business.
b) 'flipping' through electronically is not the same as flipping through a paper copy, and frankly having several catalogues open at once on a computer is confusing and memory hungry - read NOT efficient use of my time and resources.
c) online only catalogues, well this is like going grocery shopping with a list and then sticking to it, you buy whats on the list and nothing else, no inspiration, no exploration, no business development.

Personally I am more than happy to pay for a colour catalogue and have monthly price/stock updates by email. It's business after all.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

You tube gets the masterclass

Extracts of the Brookes masterclass are now available on You Tube. Oxford College of Garden Designers now leading, not just keeping up with, the 21st Century!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Masterclass with Anthony Paul

Another long time designer with 30 years under his belt Anthony Paul spread his enthusiasm for bringing true creativity into outside spaces as he talked us through his beginnings and major influences. Bringing with him a plethora of books for us to pour over, getting glimpses of artists who work is firmly bedded within the natural landscape. Artists such as Goldsworthy, Serra, Long, Randall-Page and others.

It is exciting to think our work could include inspirations from, or actual pieces by, these incredible creatives. His home is a testament to this enthusiasm as he and his wife, Hannah Peschar, open their gardens in the form of The Sculpture Gallery which displays the work of many artists within the natural landscape.

With so many diverse projects Anthony Paul has developed a strong philosophy about his work and his way of working, he encouraged us all to consider where we have come from, life experiences that have molded us, what has influenced us and how we might bring that into our design work. That in itself was inspiring for me as I find myself often dropping my past and starting again. A revelation, that it should, could all come in as part of who I am as a designer (the best ideas are the simple ones!)

Our final speed design exercise showed us all that we are indeed creatives and not simply becoming technical experts. And his critiques? Well they were delightfully and surprisingly positive.....

Friday, March 12, 2010

Meet the Designer masterclass with John Brookes

Oxford College of Garden Design is hosting a series of meet the designer talks on Thursday evenings at St Hughs, Oxford. This week the Garden design legend John Brookes was the speaker. The mentor of our Principal, it was clear why such strong friendship and professional admiration has developed between them. John Brookes is undoubtedly one of the most influential garden designers of the late 20th century, renown for his design work, his teaching and his numerous books and writings. Brookes in person is a delightful and knowledgeable speaker, with a charming, understated humor flowing easily as he recounts stories of projects, clients and beloved gardens.

As he talked about his work over the last half century it struck me that what makes him a legend is probably his ability to work with people and transform their dreams into something universally elegant and appropriate to the building in which they have made their home or their professional workspace. Once can imagine that he is a consummate diplomat in the face of awkward clients and suppliers.

An uplifting and inspiring evening that has inspired me not only to examine his work and philosophy in more depth but also to get out there and design, write and photograph as much as possible, to be seen!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sometimes it's about being in love with a fish!

This talk is inspiring and makes me consider what is possible to achieve in our world in unexpected ways.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Writers block...

Apparently I don't just have designers block I also have writers block atm....

The large Oxfordshire garden that we have been tasked with deisgning using curvilenear principles is proving challenging. DH assures us it is a learning curve that some have scaled in record time and some are struggling to even find the base camp. He says it took him 6 years to master, how we can even begin to master it in 3 weeks is something of a mystery to me but master it we must.

A the spring weather hits so does the pull to be outside gardening, crouching over a drawing board or computer day in day out is more difficult!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Missed Ecobuild....bad move!

I noticed on other blogs that an exhibition called Ecobuild had been on, and I managed to miss it. There must be a list somewhere of all the good exhibitions (for garden designers) to attend, does anyone know of one?

Maybe I could start one here? but then I would have to remind myself to look them up instead of simply logging them as interesting!

Do post links to interesting shows here.
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