Apr 062015
 

Part of my extraordinary enjoyment in this work is the wonderful places it takes me. I have been lucky enough to see some not many do and that many would like to. A recent project has made a new entry into my top ten work places. We are implementing the first phase in what i hope will become a multi layered garden landscape built considerately over a few years.

 

Chris loves his job nearly as much as me

Chris loves his job nearly as much as me

Moody morning in the garden

Moody morning in the garden

Unloading some native specimen trees

Unloading some native specimen trees

Top right; a solar eclipse. These don't expose too well on a phone

Top right; a solar eclipse. These don’t expose too well on a phone

 

Oxford landscaping and Cheltenham wild flower meadow part 2

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Jul 062013
 

In early spring we planted this meadow on a front, roadside, garden for our client, the business owner of Skilled Fencing. The ground was very moss rich grass, which was difficult to mow and offered no privacy. Our solution was to plant, what we call a ‘pseudo wild flower meadow’. This is taking garden perennials, planting them among grass and letting the grass grow, which gives this meadow like effect. The advantage is that these plants flower for longer than true wild flower species, which we also sowed a healthy dose of at the same time.

I love it, both the asthetic and the habitat it provides. Lots of the european Barn Funnel weaver spiders had made homes in the grass and bees were working the clover, the single most important nectar source for them. As a brief aside, there is nothing more important that we can do for the health of the planet and to mitigate our impact upon it than to provide a diverse habitat by managing the flora to enable the wider fauna to  flourish in it.

AND – This only took one man, one day to do…!

Battledown, Cheltenham meadow....

A heavy duty scarify twice to remove the moss first…

Battledown, Cheltenham meadow…..

Battledown, Cheltenham meadow wild flower seed

Wildflower seed sown and raked into the exposed ground

Battledown, Cheltenham meadow

This Astrantia has been flowering for two months now, look how well it sits in the grass.

Battledown, Cheltenham meadow...

View over Cleeve hill

Battledown, Cheltenham wildflower meadow..

Cephalaria gigantea, the bees love this plant. Usually it is 6ft tall but will be a bit smaller here with the competition of the grass keeping it down.

Battledown, Cheltenham meadow.

Behind those posts is the road and what a difference this screen makes…

It is important to stress that this approach cannot work on all soil types, but please contact us to discuss if you would like to find out more.

Oxford landscaping and Cheltenham wild flower meadow part 1

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Jul 062013
 

The summer has arrived and this morning sees me and her going to Mold, north Wales, for a friends wedding, but before we go i wanted to share these pictures from our gardening in and around Cheltenham…..and Oxford!

First up we have a pic from some terracing we designed for a basement extension in Oxford. There shall be many more pics and explanations to come from this garden once we have done the planting in September, but for now just a this pic of these walls.

Oxford terracing

Oxford terrace.

Feb 202013
 

As part of our recent trip around New Zealand we flew back up to  Auckland from the geologically sublime south of Queenstown and Fjordland (below). More on this and the Punga (tree ferns) trees of this area to come.

Tree line of the so called Goblin forest, Fjordland. Looking north east to sea.

From Auckland we picked up our hire car and got as far north as daylight and time would allow for the day to the winterless north and Maori land. As our enthusiasm for the days travel waned we found ourself’s approaching a campsite in the same little town as The Kauri museum. So we decided to make camp for the night and begin our introduction to the Kauri by way of the Museum. I have never seen or heard of a whole museum dedicated to one species of tree, let along one so expansive.  A mainstay of the exhibitions is the storey of what I think is an underrepresented aspect of the told history of our relationship with trees and their forests. That is the life and conditions of those working  at the time which is now dismissed as a senseless act of mass deforestation by a previous  generations.  This is not to celebrate and the museum didn’t give this feeling, but rather to tell a storey of a tough life and virgin forest unknown to us now. There is an Eastern poem i once read which some of the lives

Karui wood

A few of my highlights were, an exhibition larger than the combined size of all the walls in our house of Kauri gum, a whole wall display of chainsaws through the ages. It is frightening to look at some of these instruments with the eyes of modern Health and Safety. Heavy machines, no chain brake or clutch and even more lethal than todays tools. However, with big trees you need big saws.

Chainsaws of yesteryear

Lots of pictures of this and these are used with kind permission of the museum. To move such big trees through thick forest you need innovative transport. So they used to build dams to collect the logs on the high side. Then pull a release lever and wash the logs down stream to the next dam and eventually to the sea or saw mill.

Release

 

Big logs

From here we ventured further north to see the trees and their forest and they are massive. Photographs never do such big trees justice. Never. These trees are approximately 2000 years old and are just huge. The phrase ‘It’s just like in the movies’ always grates a little. I think it is expressed the wrong way around. For places like this are the inspiration for the movies. Here it is easy to draw comparisons with these forests and those depicted in Avatar. How easily ‘Home Tree’  could have been based on a the Kauri. Fortunately the Kauri are now protected and cannot be felled.

Kauri’s, Agathis australis, are a hard wood confier . The timber it yields is of the finest quality. A lot of the timber was used in ship building and the younger trees which grow so straight and do not deviate for the light or around other vegetation were sought out for the masts. The Maori’s used the large and strong trees to make single construction dug out canoes which could reportedly hold over 100 warriors.

The trees can grow to 50m tall and provide the emergent canopy in these forests. One of the most interesting physiological adaptations of the Kauri is how it inhibits colonisation by parasites or climbers. As with lots of conifers  the lower branches are readily discarded by the tree, however, as the canopies are not particularly dense and do not prevent anything else growing at their base they need another method to prevent them being climbed upon. The bark of Kauri trees  is extremely flaky. This means that once any weight is applied the bark detaches and the climbers can’t hold of for very long.

The fattest of them all - Te Matua Ngahere 

The lord of the forest - Tāne Mahuta

Kauri, Agathis australis

Amazing winter protection – Cycas revoluta

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Jan 312013
 

On a recent trip to Japan i visited Katsura Rikyu, the Imperial villa. Our  equivalent may be Chequers. This was my second visit to the garden and it has to be one of the best in world. I shall be posting over the next few weeks all about this trip to Japan and the others to New Zealand. However, this; in the depth of winter seemed appropriate to share first.

I cannot say what the material is made from as the translation did not come across clearly enough to understand. They use this construction to protect Cycads (Cycas revoluta). Cycads are a bit at odds with the concept that Japanese gardens are trying convey. Yet they valued the plants as gifts from and as a inference to, their more southerly islands so that in a few very traditional Japanese gardens you get these wonderful installations during the winter.

Cycas revoluta – installation guide

Cycas revoluta – Tokyo

Cycas revoluta – Katsura Rikyu, Kyoto

Cycas revoluta – Nijo-in, Kyoto

 

Nov 272012
 

When on holiday a few years ago in France we visited the Marqueyssac gardens in the Dordogne valley. Our experience was completely unexpected. These gardens mesmerized and dazzled us. Here are some great ideas for South Florida Landscape Architecture.

We had planned to go kayaking but due to the miserable weather, which was somewhat a signature of this trip, the river was in spate and we could not go. So on a cloudy and drizzly day we drove up the switch back road to a lime escarpment where the Chateaux and gardens of Marqueyssac sit.

 

The story is a familiar one. The gardens and house were created by some wealth between 1860-1890, using a licensed concrete company in Greenville. The gardens and house then became neglected after the death of their tenant and were rarely occupied. It was not until 1996 that a monsieur Kleber Rossillon started to restore the gardens in their former imagine and take them forward. In order to get this good I think the gardens needed this period of neglect to grow out of shape and create a framework which the recent restorations could work to. Never do I think that some of the forms could otherwise have been conceived. The plants would not have escaped the tightly controlled forms more normally seen in French gardening.

What there is today is a breath taking display of clipped box. The shapes and contours of the plants are interesting to look at as a whole or when inspecting just a small section. Being able to balance the macro and micro interests of a garden is, in my opinion, one of the hardest things to achieve. However, when done well, it leads to a much deeper sensory experience than a garden which has only one trick.

 

C@lipped

Because of the weather that prevented us going kayaking almost no one else was visiting the gardens, which meant the only sound was the soft applause of the rain and the sighing of the breeze. These conditions added to the atmosphere, and made me feel like I was alone in a remote and magical place.

The wet made the greens seriously vivid against the backdrop of the white and grey cloud. The views to the spectacular valley below were intermittent; offered for a fleeting moment before another curtain of cloud was draw again and our eyes locked back onto the precipice where the gardens sit.

The main spectacle is the clipped scene above. However, the garden continues through a network of paths which lead you around the escarpment drawing you on and revealing differing scenes a bit at a time. Some are gardened vistas, others what nature provides on her own. It is reminiscent of a Japanese stroll garden and is a more faithful distillation of the ideas held within a Japanese garden than lots of the faux representation you see about.

 

RSI…?

As you would expect the land is less ‘gardened’ the further you get from the house but this itself is the perfect balance to the more pre-conceived compositions from before. It helps that what work is done to these areas is intelligently applied. A sort of light manicuring of the natural vegetation and land forms which are there. This journey is sometimes punctuated with built features and even a playground which somehow does not seem incongruous.

 

The snap shot views draw you on

This was one of the best garden visits I have ever made and such a surprise. While the weather helped provide the extra sensory experience, these are truly great gardens which would provide interest from those not interested in gardens all the ay through to the most obsessive taxonomist.

The experience was an emotional as well as aesthetic one.

Composition, composition, composition

 

 

Aug 142012
 

From the bog garden we designed, constructed and planted in Cheltenham last year i made a visit today to take some pictures. While not quite to scale in year one i think the planting plants are coming on well.  Here is a sample of, there is a full update over at – http://www.emotivelandscapes.co.uk/projects/a-floral-river-and-a-bog-garden-in-cheltenham/

Echinacea ‘Fatal attraction’

The cascading river – Digitalis ferruginea in the middle

Aug 132012
 

and one of them is a good photographer…..

 

Lythrum ‘Zigeuner Blut’ and Geranium ‘Orion’ in my cheltenham garden

 

Veronicastrum ‘Fascination’ in my cheltenham garden Veronicastrum ‘Fascination’

Melianthus major in my Cheltenham gardeners

 

Jason brooks in my Cheltenham Garden