Now just 12 days off of the solstice and i thought it was about time to update this blog as everyone is sleeping in, a rarity with two children under two.
As ever, we have been engaged in a range of projects from contemporary to the very traditional, everywhere in between and even a private playground. It has also been nice to see some of our bigger commissions from the last few years filling out and looking really lush this year. I offer some pictures of where we have been and what we have been doing.
Cornus kousa, atop of the wildflower meadow atop the best garden playground in Cheltenham.
Our party trick – burying trampolines. We have done it a couple of times. It is always much more work than you appreciate but so effective.
Work continues at Yelford Manor. Here the patio is starting to settle in.
A close up of our attention to detail stone work.
This is a transition area in a garden in Cheltenham between the edible and the ornamental garden. Deliberately loose. Forest garden style, you can see Rhubarb, mixing with Chives and Rosemary. Valeriana officinalis used here as an ornamental.
It felt like time for an update of the fun we have been having through the winter. We seem to have been fortunate with the weather which has allowed us to get on with some really good work and the diary is slowly filling up with bigger and better projects for the spring and early summer.
Our newest member, Callum, was very happy with his first garden in Cheltenham
A simple design which shall reveal itself once the summer comes
A surprising scene plant buying in the West Midlands
Last week I took part in the final of the regional Young Horticulturalist and WON! So now i get to take part in the Grand Final; in Norwich against the other finalists from all over Great Britain. The competition is open to anyone over under the age of 30 on July 31st of this year. There were 2000 applicants nationwide and 8, including me, are in the Grand final.
The regional final took place at Pershore college and took form of a question directed or open, buzzer controlled, on a general range of horticultural subjects. There were also a couple of identification rounds, one plant identification and one pest and disease. There were two points on offer per question. The grand final is much the same format however, the winner receives a £2000 travel bursary to study plants where every they may choose. Here are some pictures from the evening.
Sadly, one of the most exciting projects i have been involved with this year i cannot share with you. A wretched but necessary Non Disclosure Agreement was agreed. It has been very exciting….however, i can share with you my latest adventure to Yorkshire. In this secret garden there are some massive two ton lumps of York stone which, when we built the garden a few years ago were craned in. Now the garden needs updating and some smaller stones adding to it. Unfortunately there is no crane so we have to carry them through the house, into the lift and out into the garden. To ensure we have stones of a suitable match which are manageable I went to the same quarry which gave birth to the originals – http://www.randandasquith.co.uk/ up in Yorkshire.
After a tour around the yard we went to the quarry, I was shown a very, very big pile of rocks and told to help myself. It took two days to pick out seven of them.
The dressing yard. This lot was off to Bath.
Err…I want the one at the back please
A 40 ton hand
‘We’re not afraid of a bit of stock,’ he told me
The collection of leftovers was amazing. These bull-nosed steps are now waiting in my lockup for the right project
‘Mud, we do rocks and mud,’ the foreman says to me after i step in a big squashy lump of it
UncategorizedComments Off on Oxford landscaping and Cheltenham wild flower meadow part 1
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have been travelling around quite a few sites over the last few weeks and give the following images of some of the gardens we have built and/or designed. As ever this is such a small section of what we are up to as time does not allow me to photograph or upload what we get up to.
This last image is from a garden we created back in September. The difference in growth rates between this, planted into warm soil therefore allowing root establishment through the autumn and other garden planted later in the winter is huge. We are about a month of the beginning of the flowering proper.