06.08.18

THE WILDERNESS FESTIVAL

Going a bit off piste here. Not sure I can quite justify any link with garden design but still wanted to share with you. I took my family to the Wilderness Festival for the first time after having heard loads of great things over the last few years. I must say, it exceeded my expectations. And I'm coming back to the desk a better designer. This full immersion into the Wilderness has certainly got my creative juices flowing!

 
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03.07.18

WE'RE GOING ON A JOLLY...TO THE HAMPTON COURT SHOW

Today we've admired the work of some peers, got inspired by some of it, met some suppliers, drank some Pimms (got more inspired), made a few purchases for a couple of clients, drank more Pimms (it was very hot!). In summary a very productive day.  In all seriousness, I only visit one RHS Garden Show a year, as they tend to take place at one of the busiest time for us. This year I couldn't make it to Chelsea but made it to Hampton Court. And I must say, having not been for quite a few years, I much prefer it to Chelsea.

 

 
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27.06.18

BEST KEPT SECRET/ BIG IT UP FOR THE GARDEN MUSEUM

This morning I was so lucky to be able to pop into the Garden Museum on a weekday for a (business) coffee. One of the best coffee in town. Plus I was able to take my coffee out and sit in the sun on one of their deckchairs in what must be one of the prettiest courtyards in London (a lesson in planting design by the iconic Dan Pearson). And I wondered: is this the best kept secret in the city? This place is a gem.

 
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16.04.18

Told ya!

Spring has sprung, at last! East Dulwich, where our office is, looks magical at this time of the year as most streets have been lined with Japanese cherry trees. Like a mini Kyoto...well not quite, but close ;-)

Here is a list of my top 5 Japanese cherry trees, a must to celebrate early Spring each year and lift everybody's spirit at the end of a long Winter: a very inspired choice indeed for street trees, and of course gardens and parks, urban landscapes:

Prunus Sargentii. Great Autumn colour.                                                                            

Prunus Shirotae, vugorous tree with a signature spreading habit.

Prunus 'Pink Perfection". Blossoms later, in May.

Prunus 'Takkasago', the name refers to a song about an ancient Japanese card game.

Prunus Tai-Haku. White blossom against young bronze leaves.

 
 

09.04.18

SPRING PLEASE!!

Desperate for Spring to spring now..In the meantime, this briliant quote from Audrey Hepburn springs to mind (excuse the pun) and reminds me that Gardens are all about seasons and their anticipation, one must never lose hope, Spring always comes...even if it's a bit late..

 
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13.12.17

A HANDMADE CHRISTMAS

I'm rubbish at crafts and even worse at finding time for it but at this time of the year, when it's cold and pitch black at five o'clock, and let's face it (despite previous post), I spend less time in the garden, it suddenly appeals to me. I have also discovered that I get so much pleasure out of displaying my handmade artefacts however imperfect and quirky that I now make sure each December to book a couple of nights in to do just that and nothing else. Well...almost as I have also discovered that I can combine said activity with getting together with a gang of girlfriends and some wine.  This puts me right into the Christmas spirit and I find also helps with calming things down in the manic run up to Christmas. Joyeux Noel! 

The advent calendar is inspired by the brilliant blog, A Quiet Style.  Some of the foliage has been harvested in my garden and some has been bought at the  flower market. 

 
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04.12.17

TIME TO (NOT) PUT THE GARDEN TO BED.

This is a phrase I hear a lot at this time of the year and I find it slightly unnerving. In fact, if I’m honest it’s a phrase that goes completely against everything I believe in when designing a garden. Seasons should feature in gardens, they should be celebrated, yes, even winter. By putting their garden to bed, a lot of people mean tidying it all up, removing all fallen leaves and cutting everything down so that they can forget about it all until the spring. But even if it is true that everything slows down and that most plants and creatures go dormant, there is still life  winter. There is still much to be admired and there are some plants that are in fact at their peak in winter: Sarcococca, Witch Hazel and Viburnum Bodnantense provide fragrance, Hellebores are definitely worth coming close too and many more. I love visiting gardens in winter when everything is quieter and not so in your face.

Some herbaceous stand proud throughout the winter and display elegant seedheads and silhouettes and look enchanting covered with frost (a lot of ornamental grasses, verbena bonariensis, hydrangeas, etc..) .

So don’t put your garden to bed.  On the contrary, leave a pile of logs and fallen limbs in a corner, don’t completely eradicate the mess, leave a bit of it for hibernating mammals and insects. Leave some seedheads on, and don’t remove all the fallen leaves but push them away from the lawn into the beds to provide the more tender perennials with a natural mulch.

 
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19.11.17

ARCHITECTURE AND LANDSCAPE SPEAKING TO EACH OTHER.

I went to Paris for the weekend to visit friends and family and took the opportunity to go and visit the new(ish) Frank Gehry iconic building: The Louis Vuitton Fondation.  I have been meaning to go since it opened in 2014 and I decided I wasn't going back on the train before paying it a visit. I saw it at its best on a very beautiful autumn day: under clear skies and wrapped in the golden canopies of the Bois de Boulogne. The light was surreal and the relationship between Gehry's imposing but elegant monument and the surrounding woods was in perfect harmony: Gehry's reflecting and framing the woods and the woods hugging Gehry's. They were definitely talking to each other as if to say: "Je t'aime, moi non plus".  ;-)                                       

 
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22.09.17

FIELD TRIP TO HAUSER & WIRTH SOMERSET: A MASTERCLASS IN PLANTING DESIGN

This had been on my list for a VERY long time and indeed visiting Hauser & Wirth in Somerset lived up to my expectations. The main aim for me here was of course to visit the Open Field by Piet Oudolf, one of the most photographed and admired gardens of these last few years, designed by one of the most reverred designers and plantsmen. I had indeed seen so many photographs of it but it was well worth seeing it in real life. I left with plenty of food for thought and rethinking how to approach our planting plans. #inawe

 
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13.07.2017

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” specimens 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 a 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 work being exhibited at the V&A from September and will carry on experimenting on a more modest scale.

 
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25.5.2017

CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW 2017

I have mixed feelings about the Chelsea Flower Show I must admit…it seems so disposable and I can’t help thinking of the humongous carbon print when I gaze at show gardens and plough my way through the whole circus and crowd of Pimms.  And frankly it is very much a display of the good, the bad and the ugly. Apologies if I'm being a bit downbeat here but I’d be lying if I wasn’t admitting to these dark thoughts… that aside, it is however a lot of fun and I certainly always discover new plants, materials, crafts, products, meet very passionate and dedicated growers, and always get inspired by some clever details.

I don’t always go as it always coincides with my busiest time of the year, in fact hadn’t been for years but considering how hard we’ve worked these last few months, I decided to treat Lilly and I to a jolly.  I also treated a couple of clients and friends and we had a great day!

Here is a picture of My Best in Show (Breaking Ground Garden for Darwin Property Investment Management Property by Wilson McWilliam Studio).  I loved this garden!  Although I might have been a bit biaised as Andrew Wilson was director of the Inchbald School of Design when I was an alumni, back in 2003. He was a fantastic director, very strict (but fair) while fun and genuinely enthused with a passion for garden design and design in general.

 
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12.04. 2017

NATIONAL GARDEN SCHEME

Now here is an event that I look forward to each year and I can’t express how grateful I am to all the private garden owners who are brave enough to open their gardens to the public in order to raise money for charity.  I admire their courage  - firstly, because it must be scary to invite your garden to be trampled by hordes of visitors when you have spent so much time, often years nurturing and working hard on your beloved plot. Secondly, you are exposing your labour of love to unwelcome comments and criticism as there are always people who think it’s appropriate to show their disapproval. Thankfully most visitors are very respectful and grateful to keep their comments for themselves. 

I thoroughly enjoy visiting local gardens nurtured by their owners and have learned many tricks from skilled and very knowledgeable amateur gardeners this way. I’ve also met professional gardeners while visiting grand schemes and private estates gardens via this scheme. Thanks to this scheme, I’ve had the privilege to visit gardens designed by Christopher Bradley Hole, Dan Pearson and Tom Stuart Smith, all heroes of mine.

So I encourage you to check this link out list of gardens open to the public over the next few weekends.

 
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20.03.2017

LOG WALLS

I like a pile of logs! Log walls have started to feature regularly in my gardens as an ornamental feature in their own right. Logs piled in an orderly manner are attractive and can anchor an area, add texture in the simplest, pared down but yet effective manner. The logs in this picture were sourced from a local tree surgeon, it was just a question of finding a tree surgeon with very particular attention to detail so that the logs had already been sorted in sizes and neatly stored in his yard. I have previously spent hours sorting logs so that they sit well together…never again!

I love the contrast between natural material and their neat arrangement which turns the pile into a feature.  I, of course, also love the fact that I know it will provide shelter to millions of insects (think stag beetles, habitat preservation, etc) and some small mammals. Which of course in my view adds a lot of value and makes them even more desirable as long as the logs are sourced locally (ideally on the developed site) and from a well managed forest.

 
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02.02.2017

WINTER GARDENS

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.

02.01.2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM STONEHENGE

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.  

 
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02.12.16

FEAR AND LOVE

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.

 
 

13.04.16

PAINTING THE MODERN GARDEN

 
 

https://www.royalacademy.org.uk

23.03.16

BLACK HOSE

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