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 - www.rosewarengardens.com - 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 http://www.gardenvisit.com/blog/2009/07/17/please-do-not-visit-sissinghurst-castle-garden/ 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.
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