MY WEEK AT RHS CARDIFF 2018 WITH MILLIE SOUTER, GOLD MEDAL WINNER

A wet, muddy, sleep-deprived & intense build of this fabulous design earns the show garden not only a Gold Medal but also the Best in Show & Best Construction awards.

 

I am honoured to have been so involved in the realisation of this striking and well designed contemporary garden by Millie Souter, a former student (Inchbald graduate) and now good friend.

Entered for the RHS Cardiff category 'Urban Regeneration,' it was designed to use inexpensive, accessible materials in an imaginative way. The strongest example of this is the bold use of disused water tanks, which were found while out walking and reimagined into arresting reservoirs with a new folded steel rill as the gardens main feature.

Industrial block work adds clean contemporary lines and emphasises the strong, coherent grid we see on the ground and vertical planes.

All this is softened by rich, textural planting including massed mounds of Pinus mugo and a Rhododendron, contrasting with delicate wisps of Luzula sylvatica flowers and a fluid injection of Euphorbia amygdaloides 'Robbiae'.

My role was multi-faceted but might perhaps be described, in no particular order, as nursery manager, planter, stress absorber, right-hand woman decision maker, encourager, wall scrubber, floor cleaner, mobile phone charger and data provider, banter with the guys provider and evening gin drinking partner.

Whatever my role title, it was an amazing experience for all involved, including the landscape construction team from Urban Landscapes, Cardiff. It was an intensive experience for all the guys but the smiles on their faces when they saw the finished garden made it all worthwhile. The Best Construction award was the absolute cherry on the cake for them. 

Well done to the whole team. And what a team.

So fabulously well done Mille.
 

YORKSHIRE PROJECT UPDATE

Each time I speak to my lovely clients they tell me that the next phase will be completed next season. This has always been the plan. Several times the next phase has been brought forward and my most recent visit saw a painted shed and freshly stacked log pile. 

In a position to take advantage of the current dormant season, my clients decided they would order the boundary beech hedge and multi-stem Amelanchier now rather than wait until next autumn. An exciting, albeit freezing, day's planting ensued.

A new garden is truly starting to emerge from this snow covered site. We were even blessed with a blue sky to boot. 

Installation of the steel Dial structure is scheduled for March and the rest of the planting thereafter. Watch this space! 

 

A DAY WITH FERGUS GARRETT AT GREAT DIXTER, EAST SUSSEX

Integrating and Using Bulbs

What better way to spend a dreary and wet Monday in November than at Great Dixter House and Gardens on a study day led by Head Gardener, Fergus Garrett

Using the gardens and borders at Great Dixter as inspiration, Fergus talked with energy, enthusiasm and enviable subject knowledge through the varied uses of bulbs in the garden.

The program started with a lecture in the wonderfully evocative Yeoman’s Hall, with draughty windows and smouldering log fire and was followed by an afternoon of talks and demonstrations around the garden, all of which provided insight into the Great Dixter ethos of gardening.

Topics covered: naturalised planting in grass and meadows; using bulbs mixed within permanent border plantings; using bulbs as pocket plantings and creating bulb displays in containers. Advice was also given on how to deal with bulbs after flowering and what to consider when buying bulbs.

 A thoroughly enjoyable day of Continuing Professional Development.

From the Great Dixter website: ‘Great Dixter was the family home of gardener and gardening writer Christopher Lloyd – it was the focus of his energy and enthusiasm and fuelled over 40 years of books and articles. Now under the stewardship of Fergus Garrett and the Great Dixter Charitable Trust, Great Dixter is an historic house, a garden, a centre of education, and a place of pilgrimage for horticulturists from across the world.’

THE END OF A FABULOUS YEAR OF TUTORING

Inchbald School of Design graduation at Cadogan Hall, Sloane Square. A very talented and hard working cohort this year with a really strong exhibition to boot. The students have been an absolute pleasure to teach and support and I wish them all the very best as they venture into their varied careers as garden designers.

Graduation Ceremony 2017: Garden Design students receiving their diplomas. All very formal!

Graduation Ceremony 2017: Garden Design students receiving their diplomas. All very formal!

And afterwards, looking happy and relieved.

And afterwards, looking happy and relieved.

SNEAK PREVIEW OF RHS CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW2017

David Dodd of The Outdoor Room very kindly offered to give the students at Inchbald School of Garden Design a tour of some of the gardens being built for this year's show. I tagged along as tutor at Inchbald and curious garden designer.

We had an incredibly wet but educational, insightful and enjoyable visit and are immensely grateful to David and the designers for taking the time to talk to us about their gardens, especially given the encroaching deadline, the torrential rain and their understandable fatigue.

A THOROUGHLY SATISFYING MAINTENANCE VISIT

Yesterday I revisited the Hampstead garden I designed in 2015 to check on its progress and give it a bit of a trim. It was so good to see the lushness and overall natural feel developing as had been requested in their brief. What I found most satisfying was to see the clients so happy in their garden environment and to hear how it has improved their living space.

Hampstead garden growing nicely into its naturalized design

PROJECT UPDATE : SCHOLES, YORKSHIRE

Here are a few images to show the progress from that first snowy visit to take the brief through to completion of the majority of hard landscaping.

Completed Works: The land was gently regraded prior to the design being meticulously set out by the wonderful and patient Glyn Mitchell. He then painstakingly laid reclaimed cobble setts and York stone paving, rebuilt the end of the dry stone gate wall and created a low border wall. Metal edged gravel paths were installed and the borders rejuvenated ready for planting. All this by one man over a Yorkshire winter. I was impressed.

The Next Stage: To complete the black, horizontal slatted shed/log store and install The Dial, a bespoke steel structure that will make sense of the design lines. The final planting plan needs to be confirmed and the garden planted. This stage is expected to happen sometime between autumn 2017 and spring 2018.

The clients love their new cobbled courtyard space, so much so that they hosted a party in April that spilled outdoors. With temporary lighting from the new outdoor electricity supply and a fire pit on the cobbles, the atmosphere was already quite wonderful so we anticipate a very special garden once the plants are in also place and have had time to establish.

DRAWING WORKSHOP AT THE V&A, LONDON

A thoroughly enjoyable day working with artist Mark Stuart-Smith and Inchbald students at the Victoria and Albert museum. What was particularly rewarding was the fantastic teamwork and the amazing effort and results from the group.

In The Hinze Gallery students selected a sculpture and used contour line and shading to create a sense of the three-dimensional figure. 

They then took inspiration from a selection of Constable paintings to practise interpreting trees through emphasis on structure, outer contour, and texture.

The final and greatest challenge was set from one of the bridges where they learnt about vanishing points and setting up a one point perspective to draw the cast court below.

PLANTING IN EAST SUSSEX

A full and fun day planting with Andrew Duff Garden Design.

I must confess to having almost forgotten that 5.30am existed but there was something special about seeing the sun rise on our journey to site and then set again on our journey back to London. Between these two solar events we planted a range of trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials and young hedging. The cold, crisp weather was invigorating and it was rewarding to get my hands dirty and fill my lungs with fresh air.

Old water tank planted with Helleborus

New and existing trees at the end of the day

Siting sculpture in the outdoor setting

Monolith (Optic) 2016, Conrad Shawcross, Frieze Sculpture Park, London

Shawcross has overlaid perforated steel panels to create a monolith that initially appears as an industrial piece of solid utilitarian purposeful material. To enhance this effect he has used special techniques used to camouflage ships.

The fascination with with these beautiful pieces of steel is the way in which they change as the viewer navigates the the sculpture. The Monolith becomes a sublime and poetic form as its surface starts to dissolve through shimmers and oscillations.

Clare Lilley, head programmer at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Frieze Sculpture Park, London,  deliberately sited the Monolith on the most open East-West access of the park for the sun to activate the surface of the work.

Such careful and thoughtful curating is directly transferable to the placing of art, furniture and planters in a garden design. It always fascinates me to see these direct parallels across the art forms.

Blog posts; why the recent hiatus ?

Answer: I was working for Lloyd Brunt Outdoor Design until the end of August 2016

This period gave me the opportunity to work on some fabulous projects from small London gardens to large country estates in Devon, Sussex and Kent to name just a few. I also met some wonderful people and although I am now focusing on my own design practice, there may well be the opportunity for collaborative work between LBOD and LRD n the future.