Inspiration...WILLOW: My obsession of the moment

I have been using willow a lot recently in various forms and it’s becoming a bit of an obsession. It is such a versatile material that combines practical strength with flexibility; it looks raw but has a certain noble quality; it’s a very cheap material but it can look elegant. Whether in its natural form (I’ve bought a few stunning Salix contorta “Tortuosa” specimen recently and used them as focal points), living willow structures or weaved into a hurdle to form a feature wall or fence panels, it seems to offer so many possibilities and uses.

In my latest projects, I’m thinking of designing a structure which would be sculptural while purveying dappled shade on the dining area, a bit like a fluid pergola with an organic form.I haven’t worked out quite how yet….

And then in one of these rare and striking coincidences, I came across the work of the amazingly talented Laura Ellen Bacon while listening to BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour podcast.

I dream that one day I’ll be able to commission her or collaborate with her….in the meantime I look forward to her being exhibited at the V&A from September and will carry on experimenting on a more modest scale.




Gardens look great in winter.  Well, they should anyway. If yours doesn't, here are some tips to let the magic in...

  • Get the structure right.  My gardens have a high ratio of herbaceous and deciduous trees but I always try to get the bone of the garden right with a few strategically placed structural evergreens so that the garden doesn’t look dead in the deep of winter.
  • Don’t cut everything back, retain some seedheads standing tall and proud throughout the winter. Ornamental grasses, perennials such as Verbenas, and shrubs such as Hydrangeas look great even after the flowers have died and very elegant under a layer of frost. Plus they are a valuable food source for birds and provide an overwintering home for ladybirds and lacewings.
  • Attractive bark and silhouette. Choose some trees that look great even after they’ve lost all their leaves such as betula utilis var. jacquemontii, which will brighten up any garden with their brilliant white stems and slender, elegant silhouettes. Multi- stemmed Amelanchier and Acers will also provide interest and look like sculptures. Dogwoods are excellent if you have a large garden and can plant them en mass somewhere with their bright coloured bare stems (as per picture here).
  • Introduce fragrance. Some shrubs are a must (for large gardens only): Viburnum bodnantse “Dawn”, Sarcococca confusa and hookeriana and Hamamelis x intermedia and mollis will surprise and entice you with their exquisite fragrance when all your senses seem to have gone numb with the cold.
  • Get inspiration. Some gardens reveal their true inner beauty on cold and bright winter days. They are worth visiting even when it’s freezing: Hyde Hall in Essex, Anglesey Abbey and Bressingham Gardens (where this picture was taken) in Cambridgeshire.



We came to the West Country for a few days for some much needed exercise and to dust the cobwebs away post-Christmas and before going back to school.  




For once I felt like I had my finger on the pulse when I managed to squeeze a visit to the Design Museum in its new location on High Street Kensington last Sunday. This in itself felt very good, being one of the first few discovering the new museum , but the real treat was the inspired Fear and Love exhibition #FearandLove designed by Sam Jacob Studio.

This brilliant exhibition is such a perfect choice to mark the re-opening of the museum. It sets the tone and gives you a taste of what to expect. I will certainly be keeping a close eye on the future exhibitions program. Its title Fear and Love and its timing are just perfect, genius really, in these strange post Brexit/ Trump times and you leave with plenty to think about.






Finally a hose that's not orange or bright green, and a hose holder that you don't need to hide away.