Saturday, May 29, 2010

Chelsea Flower Show 2010

Half way down the motorway I discover my ticket is still pinned to the kitchen notice board. That scuppers my pre-Chelsea supper plans and means a very early morning on Tuesday, 1st day for RHS devotees.

There is always a buzz and even though I know RHS Chelsea Flower show is a humongous marketing, self-promotion and selling event not to mention gross waste of money and other resources in the name of, well I am not sure in the name of what, possibly not good design(!) but that said I am still excited about attending.

It's busy even at 7.35am when I arrive and I begin snapping (photos here) as I wait for my Chelsea companion to battle her way through rush hour after a late arrival at Paddington. I hate being jostled and having only a few minutes to see the gardens so arriving early seems like a good plan. Gardens take time to get to know, to inspect, to touch to smell to engage with. 5 mins jostling with the crowd is not my idea of 'seeing' the gardens, but it has to do as there is no other choice. Being greeted by Roger Platts traditional garden is pleasant if not challenging, beautifully executed and perfectly planted (he gets gold unsurprisingly). Apparently his last garden some 8 years ago was much the same, though I cannot comment as I didn't actually see it.

Tom Stuart Smith wow's the crowd, well he wow's me that's for sure, I want to climb the barrier and wander into the woodland and discover what plants are in there, then dangle feet in the york stone clad pond.

Andy Sturgeon wins best in show which surprises me. Not because I don't like the garden, bits of it are great but having heard much about it pre-Chelsea it feels like a bit of a let down in the flesh (or maybe that should be 'in the cambium'). It is also the first sighting of the ghastly brown/purple bearded Iris.

side note: I feel strongly about it for some reason, possibly because it is SOOOOO tasteless and the fact that there are near 2000 TB's to choose from makes it's appearance almost unforgivable - if anyone gets the impression that I hate this variety, they would be right. It appears several more times in show gardens and stands, though never in quite such an offensive way.

Robert Myers' immense cloistering structures are pleasing except that they turn out to be an almost direct copy of the Australian pergolas, which were put on hold from the year before due to financial restraints in 2009....this makes it somewhat passe not to mention a direct crib.

James Wongand David Cubero's Malaysian Tourism garden also wow's in an understated perfection kind of way. Taking less is more to a perfect execution and filled with really useful plants, if only I knew what they were at the time, I would have been even more impressed. It is fun to watch the BBC filming him on the terraces all of there feet clad only in socks.

We tramped through the entire exhibition missing only the floristry marquee. Loving the Eden projects 'Places of Change' for shear size and statement factor not to mention that the grower and planters were groups of homeless people thus making it less of a money pit and more of a learning and 'growing' experience for those involved. More of this at Chelsea please. We bump into Elspeth, one of last years students doing the showground the other way and pause for a 15 minute comparison of what we have seen so far.

Was I inspired by the designs? frankly? not really. Did anyone break boundaries? well, no not really, was some of it inspiring, well yes of course. Would I like much more information on the day? yes please. Will I try to do it differently when I do a Chelsea garden....well lets see when that happens!

I very much enjoyed Ann Marie Powell's comment that what she wanted to do next year was 'a big garden', it seems to me that most of the successful, visible garden designers are men where as most of the students are women. Glass ceiling anyone?

And of course my real reason for attending is that the plethora of nursery men and women from all corners of the country who bring their finest for our delectation, not to mention endless seeds and big glossy plant catalogues. I could spend a great deal more time wandering the floral pavilion picking their brains

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Exam preparation

Tomorrow we have our final exam which has been hard to prepare for. Last year with RHS exams we had a plethora of past papers to consult and practice with, the topics we studied matching the topics tested. Hard work and a bit of a slog but worth it.

This year our OCGD exam is a bit more of an unknown. No past papers and no more info on what will be tested than "2 hours professional practice and 1 hour of multiple choice" Not entirely sure which specific topics but I suppose one has to assume anything we have studied in the last 9 months. GULP.

My usual control freak, 'study the hell out of the topic' character has just given up and is in 'don't care' mode. No time to revise it all in detail as Project 3 and an exhibition has to be finished in about 12 day time so as it forms only 10 marks out of the 150 it can't be a priority. Shame really I like getting top marks on exams. Oh Well.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

In my 'other life' things are happening

As part of a small partnership I grow Miniature Tall Bearded Iris. We are in the process of applying for, and in fact were provisionally accepted to hold the National Collection of them.

This is the time of year when they all burst into bloom for about a month, making all the slog of weeding, feeding and tending worth it!

Out of 34 varieties 16 are showing their blousey blooms with the remaining 18 either about to burst forth or putting up flower stems.

The full set can be seen on our blog but I couldn't resist this taster

Friday, May 21, 2010

Surveying trees at Harcourt Arboretum

After a race through test on 30 top British native trees we headed out into glorious May sunshine to practice our tree surveying at the beautiful Harcourt Arboretum. Following a tour of the car park area with Teach pointing out what to look for and how best to evaluate each specimen the idea of surveying sites and the trees upon them a lot less daunting. I must admit it helps to be fairly familiar with the species and so have an idea about it's habit and likely age but with a good Collins book no doubt gaps can be filled.

Some fabulous Mature specimens at Harcourt were recorded as we went around individually making our own first tree surveys.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Garden Photography for 2 whole days

I must admit really looking forward to this part of the course. Only 2 days but my favorite subject. An additional 6 people joined our group, all either on next years terrestrial course or following the new online OCGD pgdip course.

Having it broken down into simple chunks and advised it was about Making not just Taking photo's one realises, once a again, that it's not all that difficult to do but like driving you have to learn the basic chunks off pat - remember how terrifying the old mirror signal manoeuvre thing was the first 100 times?! I do - Taking it our into the field was fun but the Oxford Botanic Gardens probably groaned as we descended on it to practice panning, isolating, story telling and action shots.

To tell truth I got a bit flustered, my lovely and reliable Nikon D70 was playing merry havoc once set to the A (aperture priority) setting and though the book covers all settings, once you start fiddling it becomes like winning the lottery with chances of getting it just right at 1:14,000,000

Finally it played ball, sort of and I focused (pun intended) on the subject matter along with the technical side of making the picture.

On our second day the documentary nature of photography featured and telling the story of Waterperry gardens in 8 shots was our task: establishing, overviewing, detailing and of course making it human interest. I met a lovely couple who were interested in what we were up to (20+ camera laden students raised an eyebrow or two) only to discover fellows of the Leica Society. Small world. Better images today although still plenty of scope for improvement on the Landscape work, I am a macro girl through and through and am toying with the idea of acquiring a lensbaby to further those studies.....just need to sell something first.

Final homework was to post to flickr with the results

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Final project moving on a pace

Although the new iMac has yet to arrive (19th May is the big day) I am forging along with what I can do on the now laboring Trusty Laptop.

Hand drawn sections complete and drawn up onto A1 architectural blanks, all to the revised/new ground plan and sketch up fiddled with to reflect most of new design I am starting on the Key Plans and cascade drawings which is the next big chunk of work to knock of the list.

This weeks 2 day photography course is long awaited and in preparation everything is polished, charged and formatted and now packed. Easy to be ready when you're excited about the long days of study (9am-8pm).

From Project 3 - Rural

Sunday, May 9, 2010

iMac i5 !

After a little more research and a few helpful hints from the Vectorworks forums I have taken the plunge and committed myself to an iMac i5 with a bit of extra RAM.

It feels like more of a commitment than just buying some hardware and no I am not talking about the whole Apple lifestyle meme thing either :). It is symbolic of committing to a design career in the garden industry. Thrilling if daunting.

Friday, May 7, 2010


My trusty laptop (TL) has done good service in harsh conditions and has finally met it's match in Renderworks. I have had to admit defeat and resort to checking out the iMac again this evening, online. It does come highly recommended though the question is, which one?

27" screen is a given as part of TL's problem is not enough screen space (a mere 17") for all the palettes and drawings but then which processor and which graphics card. The charming youth in MK Apple store tried to persuade me to go for the iMac quad core i7 (GULP!) which sings and dances and makes tea whilst it renders monster drawings in seconds, it oddly enough has a price tag to make strong men go weak at the knees (and not in a good way I might say!).

So any comments on which iMac I need (as opposed to the aspirational one that is beckoning) would be much appreciated.....

Winding down...apparently

This week has been a lot less tedious than anticipated, mainly because instead of two whole days on professional practice an contract law we had two half days.

Disappointingly there was a no show from the supposed expert in contract law which meant we had a very familiar stand in. It is worrying to discover all this potential litigation lining up against us and almost more worrying because the person talking us through wasn't a lawyer so mostly it was based on experience and educated guesswork.

We all left knowing we will need to get a local solicitor on side to review potential contract issues and the standard T's & C's from the SGD.

Happily I took my cameras along on Thursday so headed out to Waterperry for some spring planting which was good in parts although not as spectacular as their summer borders.

En route home tonight I stopped at the Apple store in MK as my laptop has decided it cannot cope with Vectorworks rendering or site modeling (though it claims to be a gaming PC and has separate graphics card or reasonable spec!) So it looks like business set up costs are going to be earlier and more than expected. Funds are having to be diverted from other projects.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Business Linking...for FREE!

Business Link - A well kept secret, well probably not but it was news to me. Charlotte Rowe told us this was one of the best things she did on finishing her OCGD diploma. In need of cheering up and spending NO CASH I just booked myself onto 4 of the 6 courses starting the week following then end of term 3. Exciting and hopefully enabling and I am resigned to remaining an eternal student.

Monday, May 3, 2010

comments missing

I have made responses to several comments I have received but they have disappeared, apparently an issue with Blogger which is being sorted out and they should reappear in due course.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Landscape brilliant

I am not sure what my peers don't find captivating about this prog. I loved it, the scale of projects at least and a chance to see really huge projects happening. We have been bombarded with the likes of Grand Designs for ages and now finally we, the nation of gardeners, gets something on this scale for gardens and not just public or charitable ones.....

Having watched two back to back at 7am this morning (I know it is Sunday!) I am enthralled by Keith and Ros Wylie in their Wildside Gardens and their insane work ethic. Good for them and how utterly inspiring to those of us at the 'wrong end of youth' to jfdi our dreams. I am hoping they put a PayPal button on their website so I can start canvassing people to donate to help the canyons get completed!

Headingham Castle was also a feat of endurance and one simply has to admire people (Jason and Demetra Lindsay!) with such determination to achieve their goals. Definitely planning to watch the rest of the series even if it's on 4oD.

Charlotte Rowe comes to visit

Finally Friday comes and Charlotte (a fellow student not the alumni one) and I trudge up the hill in the morning, parking for only one student car at Cotuit, en route we make the most of practicing tree idents which we have as a test in a week or so. 30 trees to be ID'd from pictures of bark, leaves and flowers.

The morning is spent with Sally Court, the new VP of the college and a practicing (frantically busy!) garden designer. She is busy busy busy and flitting back and forth to Russia to see clients. Full of anecdotes, her lectures are usually short which is good as most of us are shattered from the last 2 days. We talk briefly about the new TV program Landscape Man, no one seems terribly impressed, I haven't seen it so plan to watch it if I have time.

The afternoon heralds the arrival of ex-OCGD student and probably most notable alumni Charlotte Rowe. A formidable reputation precedes her but she turns out to be delightfully straightforward and frank, without the usual mishmash of illusion and relevant exclusions that seem to be the model so far.

Her trademark work rolls on in a background presentation as she talks rapidly and effortlessly about her rise and current business. I am impressed as she is so honest about how she has come so far apparently so fast. Though it's clear it is down in good part to a lot of hard work and good business acumen on her part and not least that she knows how to play to her strengths.

I am inspired, if daunted as I don't have her credentials, but also breathing a sigh of relief that I have taken the chance to do some work experience with her, 3 days in June.

Glad to get home and plan to take Saturday off.

Project 3 client comes to visit

Following our day of 3d we have a day with the client who is remarkably tolerant and sits through hours and hours of presentations, taking noted and asking lots of thought provoking questions.

We are reminded it is VITAL to meet the client in person and see the garden from inside the house to get the best start on a job.

I am nervous as curvilinear is difficult. DH takes the opportunity to point out the flaws in my ground plan/design in front of the client, which is a bit surprising. Not to worry though as she doesn't really like the rendering or concept and pretty much dismisses the whole thing. Unfortunately, for me, she demonstrates the fact that clients really like representative, fully rendered 3d drawings, so it's back to colored in plans from here on in.
From My Pictures

Happily though I sail though the nuts and bolts of the actual presentation, so much easier to present to a real client than a pretend one.

I am incredibly impressed with the presentations of a couple of classmates who are emerging as clear winners on the design and creativity front. Several people don't turn up due to work commitments (!) and others just don't show their work. Although it is a bit bewildering that not presenting, or even turning up now seems to be a common option I remind myself that I, at least, need the time and deadline to help me engage to the best of my ability.

3D Vectorworks

A roller coaster first week back at college, scrambling to finish something resembling the required documents before a Tamsin led whistlestop tour of Vectorworks 3D.

Our two days has been crammed into one day for some reason which I can't quite fathom, something about 3d VW not being relevant which in fact turns out not to be the case as we wend our way through manipulating contours and building sweeping solids. My laptop, a supposedly wizard gaming machine, struggles to render at times....I ponder changing to an iMac and inwardly groan at the cost.

From Desktop

The course is nothing if not a rapid change of schedule and covered topics.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Inspired by the lighting?

Villa Gamberaia by Balthazar Korab -

At our penultimate masterclass of this year at Oxford College of Garden Design Luciano Giubbilei (pronounced Ju-bbillay apparently!) spoke about his passion and inspiration for the gardens he makes. Starting as horticulturalist at Villa Gamberaia and inspired by the images of Balthazar Korab (and who could fail to be inspired by this genius' images of Gamberaia?!) he studied at Inchbald (94-95) before launching into his, now stratospheric, garden design career. His first client was Kelly Hoppen and as he flipped through image after image of 'small' gardens in Holland Park, Kensington and Chelsea, Nottinghill etc we drooled at his budgets and use of soft and hard landscape materials. Not many designers can say they would fund £3/4 million in plants just to see a garden done, even if the client didn't pay at the end of it.. (they did pay of course and the garden looks divine). Alongside the trademark multi-stem Amelanchier the influences of Gamberaia are evident as is the drive for perfection in each exquisitely executed garden. It hadn't occurred to me that they were flowerless until he pointed out that his Laurent Perrier Chelsea Flower Show garden in 2009 was his first time using flowers in a garden. Hard to believe and yet his experience as a florist (before studying at Inchbald) clearly made him no novice. His genuine enthusiasm for Crocus, who supplied his plants and helped install them (even picking off slugs and every damaged leaf prior to judging!) was a good reminder that finding excellent partners to work with is vital if one is to succeed.

From 2009_05_20_Chelsea

Laurent Perrier Garden at Chelsea Flower Show 2009

If you have not heard him speak, DO. He is engaging and fascinating. His desire for perfection not hidden and his love of his work apparent. The last garden he showed is the beginning of the next phase for him, a vast spread in Morocco, classical, maybe minimal? but ethereal, Pennisetum and pink roses in 10x10m blocks swaying under glorious aged olives, he mentioned only two more species in the planting but that was it.

The appreciation for and skillful use of light shone through again and again capturing that elusive moment when a garden takes your breath away with the glory of nature.
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