Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Stowe Gardens - Buckinghamshire

What a privilege it is to be able to walk around a garden that was created 300 years ago.
With an abundance of purpose built monuments, ornate bridges, waterfalls and Gothic temples you could be harsh enough to call it the Disney Land of the 18th century. However, this would not do justice to the workmanship and political and moral stories woven into the landscape here; I wonder if some of our modern tourist attractions will still be standing in 300 years time?

Various famous Garden Designers of the 18th century worked on the gardens, the most famous being Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. This resulted in the gardens being laid out in 'The English Landscape Style', which we now naturally think of as synonymous with large country estates. Before this the gardens would have been very formal with borders laid out in symmetrical patterns and having hedges or fences between the garden and the rest of the estate. The idea of The English Landscape Style was to create sweeping vistas and blend the surrounding countryside with the pleasure gardens.

Today we may think of a garden feature as a water fountain or pergola but if you were a rich Viscount in the 18th century then a garden feature may well comprise of a church, folly, monument or even, as in Stowe, a Gothic Temple. These building have been used at Stowe to create stunning views as you walk around the landscape. There are very few areas of the garden where you don't catch a glimpse of some fabulous building or happen upon a long avenue with a classical temple as its focal point.

One monument of note is The Temple of British Worthies. It contains busts that themselves would be valued work of arts. Here they sit in a grand curved wall and look down on you as you marvel at their grandeur and muse their influence on our lives today.

The garden is set out so as to take you on a moral journey, weaving you amongst trees and around lakes that separate the vice and immorality of The Temple of Venus and the moral aspirational intellectuals at The Temple of British Worthies.

This garden is so grand and contains so much hidden meaning that this taster does not do it justice, I hope to return and bring you a 'Stowe Gardens part two' one day.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Winter Countryside - The Lakes, Cumbria

My winter walking holiday in The Lake District revealed a stunning landscape as well as some ideas that can be used on a more domestic scale. 

Snow Day

I was lucky enough to get a day where the landscape was transformed into a magical winter wonderland. When the world is transformed into black and white a whole new perspective of form is revealed and colour takes a back seat. 

Seating and Sculpture
Sometimes it is better to think laterally about garden features; a bench doesn’t always need to be an off-the-shelf wooden bench. Working with the landscape and taking inspiration from surroundings can result in a far more interesting and interactive space.

Garden Buildings
You might not have room for a boat-house but this does show us that garden building such as sheds and utilitarian structures can actually add to the landscape and improve the space.

Colour and Texture
The middle of winter may be thought of as dreary combinations of browns but we can use this to our advantage when showing off bright greens or splashes of colour. A bright strong stem or shot of Lichen green can look stunning against a winter background.

Indoor Plants
Bringing plants inside the house, especially where you have a view through to your garden blends the border and brings the outside in. Not only this, but having some plants in the house will improve your air quality and generally make you feel better.

Inspiration from Nature
Man may try to dominate the landscape but whether you are in the countryside or the city you will see signs that inevitably nature will claim it back. 

Monday, 2 October 2017

Mottisfont - Hampshire

On a gloriously sunny day that had the crisp onset of autumn in the air I visited an intriguing garden nestled on the River Test in the Hampshire countryside.
People have been gardening at this idyllic slice of Hampshire since the 13th Century but the layout we see today is more recognisably Georgian with its parkland and walled garden.

One of the most interesting and special parts of this garden is the unusually large walled garden. There is something rather grand and yet intimate about a walled garden. The walls themselves are filled with history and have stood steadfast and protective for hundreds of years while successive inhabitants have tended and reshaped the transient planting contained within them; if only these walls could talk what a tale they would tell.

Mottisfont may be a large country garden but there are still ideas and inspiration that can be adapted to any size garden. I particularly liked the timber poles lent against the old walls to provide informal climbing support for Roses and Clematis.

Trees play a major role in this garden and this was particularly prevalent on a sunny autumnal day. With the blowsey flowers beginning to fade and take a back seat the autumn colour of the turning leaves and the interesting bark of the specimen trees took their position as the star attraction.

Although not a feature that most of us have the benefit of, I had to mention the natural spring or 'font' that gives Mottisfont its name. I have never seen such crystal clear water in my life, the deep pool that feeds the River Test looked as if it may have been made from a thin sheet of perfect glass.