Sculptural forms – architecture

November 17th, 2015

A couple of weeks ago I found myself in a small clearing in the middle of a forest amidst a medley of exciting experimental buildings. I was at Hooke Park in Dorset, an educational facility owned by the Architectural Association and set in 150 acres of working forest.

The buildings were particularly interesting because they combined innovative architectural design with the use of forest thinnings, timber not usually considered of economic value. Other cheap materials such as fabrics were widely used too.

It just so happens that I am in the process of designing a tractor shed for our old Leyland, now I am seeing all timber buildings with new eyes and am having to revisit my designs.

The visit to Hooke Park was followed a few days later, although only coincidentally, by a film and discussion at the University of Bath on Frank Gehry (Sketches of Frank Gehry – a documentary film by Sydney Pollack).  I have visited the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao twice and each time this massive sculptural building has not failed to impress me however the buildings in the wood also defied the need for straight lines, were more modest and more achievable.

Sustainable sculpture

October 8th, 2015

Sculpture in the garden can act either as a focal point or as an element of surprise enlivening an otherwise dull area of wall or a dark shady corner.  Right now during Somerset Arts Weeks you will be able to see many different forms of sculpture: bronze, stone, steel, wood, ceramic and willow…  My medium is willow and other natural materials (silver birch, leaves, field maple, dogwood…), woven into simple forms highlighting the colours and textures of the materials.

Willow is an amazing material, exploited for its pliable stems and ability to regenerate after cutting.   It has been used for thousands of years woven into functional objects such as baskets, fish traps, fences, tracks for roads over boggy ground… It is a truly sustainable material and traditionally most small holdings would have had their own stand of willow for ongoing repair and making of new structures.

My willow sculptures not only do they slowly return to nature in the garden but often birds nest in them during this process.  I harvest my materials in the winter from the garden, local hedgerows and withy beds on a completely sustainable basis.  Sculptures outside will last approximately 2 years however given a bit of shelter (north facing wall or under a lean-to) will last much longer.

First big harvest

October 8th, 2015

Our orchard this spring was a mass of flower, every single tree flowered and set fruit, it was a sight to behold.  However this meant days and days of hand fruit thinning to ease the burden on each of the young trees.  This autumn the trees looked beautiful as they stood laden with brightly coloured fruit, branches bowing under the weight.

The trees are new cider apple varieties that ripen about a month earlier than traditional cider varieties.   We checked ripeness using the standard iodine test where iodine reacts with any starch in the fruit turning it black or if the fruit is ripe (starch converted to sugars) the iodine does not change colour.   The orchard was harvested last week producing 4650 kilos, our first serious harvest!

Piet Oudolf planting – Bruton

October 4th, 2015

A leisurely start to the weekend with a garden stroll taking in the late summer colour and architectural seed heads.

Aster macrophyllus ‘Twilight’, Thalictrum ‘Elin’stems & Deschampsia grass

“Keep off the grass”

Stachys ‘Hummelo’ seed heads in front of the grass, Bouteloua curtipendula and seed heads of Nectaroscordum siculumbehind

Other plants that caught my eye included:

Aster lateriflorus ‘Horizontalis’ – low growing very dense aster with masses of tiny pale pink flowers October
Eryngium yuccifolium – architectural sea holly with round flowers
Penstemon ‘
Husker’s Red’ – dark red foliage early in year with pink / white flowers. Red foliage in autumn
Sanguisorba ‘Red Button’ – tall growing, small red drumstick flowers October
Molinia ‘Transparent’ – attractive grass
Eryngium bracteatum – flowers look rather like a Sanguisorba
Dianthus carthusianorum – tall dianthus
Serratula seoanei – low growing, dense habit, masses of tiny ‘knapweed like’ flowers October
Selinum wallichianum – soft umbels all summer long

Plants with good seed heads adding depth to the planting design include:
Echinacea purpurea
Eryngium alpinum
Papaver orientale ‘Karine’
Phlomis russeliana
Aruncus ‘Horatio’

What does your garden say about you?

September 21st, 2015

Last week I was shown around a friend’s garden, it was a long garden in a country setting, narrower at the house end (but not too narrow) and a little wider at the far end. The borders were deep and defined by a meandering grass path, sometimes wide, sometimes narrow – a bit like the course of a lazy river. I see a lot of gardens and this was refreshing, it felt peaceful and private, there were several benches and a lovely carved log bird bath which apparently a small frog occasionally visits!

The beds were mostly weed free but there were pockets of bindweed and ground elder – my friend’s attitude is relaxed with regards to these, she deals with them as and when. This is also her approach to the garden as a whole, she looks after the grass path but doesn’t become a slave to the borders. This fine balance of gardening and enjoying the garden is something I think most people fail to achieve, myself included. Wonderfully refreshing, thank you Ann.

Dahlia ‘Blue Bayou’

September 19th, 2015

Dahlias offer a fantastically long flowering season brightening the garden into early autumn. They may not be everyone’s favourite however with the huge variety on offer, it would be very difficult to not find one you like. From miniature pompoms to neat anemones, massive semi-cactus to dainty water lily forms they come in colours ranging from pure white, vibrant orange to deep velvety red.

In my garden I grow Dahlia ‘Blue Bayou’, an anemone type which is very beautiful but it also provides a late source of nectar to insects. This week I have seen a variety of bees, butterflies (comma, peacock) and moths (tiny day time moths as well as larger moths at dusk) feeding from it.

Garden delights

June 19th, 2015

The beauty of a garden never reveals its whole self to you in one visit, tonight whilst spot watering some new plants, a tiny goldcrest caught my attention. Apparently unafraid, it hopped from branch to branch in the Buddleia then flew over me to the pond and back. It was so close I was able to marvel at its distinctive yellow and black striped head and hear its delicate squeaks. This sighting made my evening but there was more to come when later we spotted a resting privet hawkmoth – large, majestic and elegant with beautifully pointed black wings.

Formal and informal – Devon

May 29th, 2015

In it’s first year of planting, this wild flower meadow has been designed to reach right into the heart of the formal garden. From here you can step out over the river to glorious Devonshire meadows whilst insects and birds are invited in with rewards of safe nesting in the walls of the kitchen garden.

This finger like meadow creates contrast with the formal canal, rill and clipped hedges (when they have grown that is). It is planted with 1000′s of spring bulbs and wildflower perennials.

The wildflower mix is from Emorsgate Seeds: Cornfield annuals mix

Client feedback

May 22nd, 2015

21 May 2015 20:29:59


I am simply delighted….. you have re invigorated my enthusiasm – thank

Best wishes

Sarah T.

(This was for some garden consultancy in Sherborne)

Garden design clinic

May 14th, 2015

Dobbies garden centre at Shepton Mallet are organising a Ladies Garden Party Night on 18th June 5-9pm in aid of The Wildlife Trust. The £1 tickets will get you a glass of bubbly, canapes, as well as lots of free events such as a fashion cat walk, sugar craft & flower arranging demonstrations, an endless chocolate fountain… I will be there too offering free garden advice on any aspect of your garden.

Thursday 18th June 5-9pm
Dobbies Garden Centre, Mendip Avenue, Fosseway Industrial Estate,
Shepton Mallet BA4 4PE