Category Archives: Garden Design

Donald Trump unveils new White House garden design

Trump White House Garden Design

Golden opportunity for garden design lover

The design objectives were to make fellow Americans feel great about themselves, to restore women to their proper place in American life and to show that the garden of the White House can serve a higher purpose than Michelle Obamacare for sustainable vegetables. The designer is believed to have been recommended by a Mr Putin who has an important position in Russia and good taste in golden statues of bimbos.

A cub journalist working for Gardenvisit.com was invited to be a judge on the internal competition for redesigning the garden of the Trump White House in Washington DC. She was flattered but turned down the opportunity when required to wear a gold bikini.

Michelham Priory Medieval Garden

Michelham Priory Garden is a delightfully tranquil moated manor house in East Sussex. What I like most about it is the recreated medieval garden. And what I like most about the medieval garden is the ‘flowery mead’ and the turf seats. Our knowledge of Michelham – and of medieval gardens in general – is not enough to say whether or not the details are accurate. But, to me, these details feel right and this is not a feeling I have about comparable recreations, either by the Garden History Museum or National Trust. Nor do I have this feeling about cathedral cloister garths. They are all managed with lawn mowers and this device was invented in 1830. The usual problem with medieval recreations is that their designers are muddled about the differences between medieval, renaissance and baroque gardens. So they use clipped hedges, which were a baroque feature, to make renaissance-style knot gardens. It does not make sense!

Michelham Priory Medieval Garden

The ‘flowery mead’ in Michelham Priory Medieval Garden

Capability Brown: Lenses on a Landscape Genius Exhibition 22 June – 29 July 2016

Capability Brown designed the landscape park at Blenheim Palace

Capability Brown designed the landscape park at Blenheim Palace


The Landscape Foundation has organised an exhibition of photographs of Capability Brown’s work. It will be on show at the Building Centre, Store Street, London WC1E 7BT, from 22 June to 29 July.
Brown’s reputation has been in flux. Sky-high at the time of his death and at the time of his 300th centenary, in 2016, it had a profound slump from late 18th century to the early 20th century. For artists and novelists, this is not uncommon and re-examinations can be done by examining their original works. For works of landscape architecture, this is scarcely possible, because they are in constant change. So a photographic exhibition is an excellent idea. We can examine Brown’s work at one point in time.
See also
Capability Brown in Kent – book review by Tom Turner
Was Lancelot Capability Brown a landscape designer of genius?

Fernando Gonzalez’ Buddhist approaches to the design of gardens and landscapes

The photograph of Brighton beach, below, reminds me of Fernando Gonzalez’s Pure Land Garden:

Flint meeting chalk on a beach is a symbol of impermanence - anicca" width="900" height="531" /> Flint meeting chalk on a beach is a symbol of impermanence - anicca

Flint meeting chalk on a beach (in Sussex) is a symbol of impermanence – anicca”

Fernando  is  exploring the future role of Buddhism in garden design. The videos, below, have a comment on his 2015 Pure Land Garden and a 2013 interview with the designer.

Fernando wrote of the Pure Land Garden that: A curvilinear white shimmering structure captures the organic shapes of the landscapes and is inspired by nature’s natural rhythms. A planting colour palette influenced by the principal colours used in Buddhist art and ritual, warm yellows, oranges, blues and reds, emerge through a matrix of tussocky grasses. Three multi-stemmed Koelreuteria paniculata , golden rain trees, complete the well-being garden, exploring the potential of harmoniously combining the artificial and natural in a new artistic.

This video shows two contemporary Buddhist-inspired garden designs, at the 2013 Chelsea Flower Show: The Sound of Silence Garden Fernando Gonzalez (interviewed by Tom Turner) and the Mindfulness garden by Martin Cook (a stone-carver and calligrapher).

Was Lancelot Capability Brown a landscape designer of genius?


2016 marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Britain’s most famous landscape architect and garden designer. Lancelot Capability Brown was baptised on 30 August 1716 and when he died at the age of 67, on 6th February 1783, his reputation was sky high. By 1800 his reputation was mud-low. In 2016 Brown’s reputation is, once again, sky high.

In 1987, I had a go at explaining why this happened and, rightly or wrongly, have not changed my mind. You can read the explanation here or listen to an illustrated version on the above video. The short summary is that Brown’s popularity crashed because a change in the predominant understanding of ‘nature’. Even Gertrude Jeykll dissed Brown. His reputation only recovered when Marie-Luise Gothein, Christopher Hussey, Nicholas Pevsner and others appreciated that Brown worked in a classical style. He was not confused about the appearance of ‘wild nature’ or how it should be ‘imitated’.

Tim Richardson Oxford College Gardens – book review by Tom Turner

Oxford College Gardens

Oxford Colleges have plumped for the National Trust Style of Planting design (right) and are lucky to have excellent gardeners (left)

Tim Richardson  (Author), Andrew Lawson (Photographer) Oxford College Gardens  Frances Lincoln 2015 ISBN-13: 978-0711232181

Tim Richardson’s text is excellent.  Andrew Lawson’s photographs are excellent. Tim is the best informed and most readable of contemporary British garden historians. Andrew is a technically skilled photographer with artistic talent. Working together, they have given us a biography and portrait of Oxford’s colleges and their gardens.

Oxford College gardeners have done a great job too, century after century, and Tim does them justice. But from my standpoint they are too fashion conscious and too determined to make the college gardens look as though they belonged to the National Trust. Modern additions would be welcome but more historical traditions could have been conserved.

Plans of All Souls College Garden, Oxford

Plans of All Souls College Gardens. The new plan (left) has no information on planting design. But the 1598 plan (right) is rich in information.

I have three criticisms of the book. First, there is a lack of integration between the text and the illustrations.  Too many of the photographs were taken ‘in the garden’ rather than ‘of the garden’. They therefore fail to illustrate interesting points which the author has made.

A second criticism concerns the specially drawn plans. Plans are very welcome and I wish garden writers made more use of them. But this set of plans does not show the planting which everyone agrees to be a key feature of gardens – and many see as their defining feature. No trees, no shrubs, no hedges, no herbaceous plants. The plans only show buildings, water, paving and a green tone which might be grass. Future historians could have been very grateful for information about the planting design.

A third criticism is the lack of historical illustrations. There are a few – but there are far too few. Oxford is particularly rich in drawings, paintings, engravings and photographs. It would be great to see more of them. For example: p.35 refers to David Loggan’s engraving of Balliol. It is freely available on the web but it is not in the book; p.51 refers to Loggans drawing of Christ Church showing parterres.

One of its most enjoyable aspects is the balance between comment on the colleges and on their gardens. I knew little of the separate histories of the colleges and found that, as well as being of great interest, they helped me make sense of the gardens. Perhaps the title should have been Oxford Colleges and their gardens. A good map shows the locations of the colleges but there are no details of opening times.

Let me conclude by saying again: I really enjoyed reading the text and looking at the pictures.

Alan Titchmarsh on creating a “Stylish Garden”

Hard to know what I would write if the Sunday Express asked me to do a few hundred words on garden design but I can put some helpful advice in one sentence: ‘don’t take advice from Alan Titchmarsh‘. The concept of ‘style’ on which his article rests is of use in understanding garden history and restoring historic gardens but it often leads amateur designers astray. Or maybe the problem is more basic: to do a design you have to be a designer. Many owner-designers have proved that a design training is not essential – and some professional designers have proved that it is not sufficient. But, somewhat tautologically, you do have to be a good designer to produce a good design – and a fixation on styles or ‘stylish gardens’ is unhelpful.

Tivoli Companion,Tim Cawkwell – book review by Tom Turner

A Tivoli Companion Tim Cawkwell

A Tivoli Companion Tim Cawkwell

Tim Cawkwell’s 78-page book Tivoli Companion is, scholarly, enjoyable and puzzling in equal measure. The puzzle, for a reviewer, is the intended audience. I guess I know more about Tivoli than most general readers but a good deal less than those with specialist knowledge of Italian garden history. So perhaps the guide was written for people like me. But, are there many other people like me with an in-between knowledge of Tivoli?
The title A Tivoli Companion is well-chosen, reminding one of Georgina Masson’s Companion Guide to Rome. The Introduction is explicit that ‘this is not a guidebook that will tell you where to stay and what to eat’ but also states that ‘Tivoli is a rich enough place to have its own guidebook’. So is it a ‘guidebook’? Not really. The contents page identifies the main section of the text as an ‘Essay’ and this is the truth of the matter. It is akin to an extended magazine article. About half the text is about Tivoli’s three famous gardens: Hadrian’s Villa, the Villa d’Este and the Parco Villa Gregoriana, with their history and character dealt with rather glancingly. The author’s photographs tell us more but not as much as they could have done with more consistent and informative captioning. The book has only one plan. Hand-drawn and with almost unreadable labelling. But the information is useful and interesting: ‘Tivoli and R. Ariene in 17th century showing channel dug under the town to the NE corner of Villa d’Este’.
Just possibly, the puzzling aspect of the Companion is explained by the information about the author on p.78. Most of his writing has been about cinema. His literary approach is filmic. I am pretty confident that Calkwell’s Companion is, to date, the most extensive discussion of Tivoli’s graffiti in the English language,

A Tivoli Companion Tim Cawkwell CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2015)

The Gardens of Fletcher Steele, Priscilla Elliott – book review by Tom Turner

The Gardens of Fletcher Steele by Priscilla Elliott

The Gardens of Fletcher Steele by Priscilla Elliott


I opened this short book with some puzzlement, wondering why the author wrote it when a longer book had been published in 1989 and revised in 2003 (Fletcher Steele, Landscape Architect: An Account of the Gardenmaker’s Life, 1885-1971 Robin S. Karson). Elliott must surely have read Karson’s book but does not list it in her bibliography.
The explanation of Elliott’s approach lies in her title: her focuses is on the gardens Steele designed. They are explained with quotations from his letters and grainy old sepia photographs from the Library of Congress Archive.
Fletcher Steele’s career has parallels with that of Thomas Mawson (1861-1933). He was born 28 years after Mawson and the comparison is interesting. Both were strongly influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement and by its transformation into another Italian revival. In terms of design quality, the work of both men was less-inspired than the work of Jekyll and Lutyens. But in one respect Steel’s work is more interesting and important than Mawsons. Steele was interested in the modern world and keen to draw upon them. Mawson ridiculed the Art Nouveau style. Steele was attracted by the currents of Art Deco and Art Nouveau and interested in Abstract Art. This helped him achieve something Mawson never managed: a design classic – at Naumkeag – which Elliott sensibly illustrates on the cover of her book.
Though she lists and documents Steele’s gardens, Elliot is disappointingly quiet on stylistic issues and on Steele’s place in the histories of garden design and landscape architecture.
The Gardens of Fletcher Steele, American Landscape Architect by Piscilla Elliott (2014) is published by Guysborough Press 72 Cottage Street Melrose MA 02176

Tour of English gardens around Windsor and Bath

West of London garden tour

The country between Windsor and Bath has long been popular with people who are ‘tired of London’ and many of them have charming gardens made by famous designers. The Windsor to Bath Sisley Garden Tour provides opportunities to see them without the hassles of driving or finding places to stay. The route passes through beautiful countryside, lovely villages and cherished market towns, including Bath, Windsor, Marlborough, Malmesbury and Shaftesbury. The garden tour starts with a pick up from London Victoria Train Station or Heathrow Airport. The week includes visits to:-
Windsor Castle was built after the Norman Conquest of 1066. Set in a great hunting forest, now called Windsor Great Park, it became one of the royal family’s best-loved country homes.
Munsted Wood. This famous garden was the home of Gertrude Jekyll, the most famous Arts and Crafts garden designer and the author of many ever-popular books on planting design. The house was designed by Edwin Lutyens.
The Manor at Upton Grey. Designed by Gertrude Jekyll for a leading figure in the Arts and Crafts movement, the garden is particularly interesting for the planting, which was fully researched and restored by Rosamund Wallinger.
Bury Court. It has a courtyard garden by Piet Oudolf, working with the owner, and a front garden by the minimalist garden designer Christopher Bradley-Hole.
West Green Garden. An old manor house with an admired twentieth century garden by Marylyn Abbott.
Bowood House is one of the best surviving examples of  Lancelot Brown’s Serpentine style of garden design. The serpentine lake and encircling tree belt can be seen from the Italian Garden – which was designed as a stage from which to view the surrounding landscape.
Iford Manor was designed by Harold Peto, an Arts and Crafts architect and garden designer. He owned the house and spent many years collecting statues and other features in Italy. The garden is beside a river in a remarkably tranquil, beautiful and isolated valley.
Stourhead is rightly famous as the best example of a ‘landscape garden’ designed to recreate the ‘landscape of antiquity’ as envisioned by Claude Lorraine and other great landscape painters.
Shute House Gardens were designed by Geoffrey Jellicoe, the most famous English landscape architect of the twentieth century.
Abbey House Gardens were designed by a well-known designer who promoted postmodernism in gardens: Ian Pollard. It formed part of Benedictine monastery before Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and is now a remarakable integration of new and old.
Though not part of the Sisley tour, it is easy to make a post-tour visit to Hampton Court  Palace Garden and the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show.

Bath, in the west of England, could well be described as a 'garden city'

Pinjore Yadavindra Mughal Garden


Pinjore Gardens deserve more recognition as an example of the Mughal style. There is much more which could and should be done but the restoration work already carried out is good and the water features work most of the time. The lower section of the garden is of particular interest and with more work could become India’s best example of the ‘fruits and flowers’ approach to planting design which was once the predominant character of Indian gardens. Constance Villiers Stuart, who made the first serious study of Indian gardens, was well aware of this and wrote about Pinjore in her book: see C.M Villiers Stuart Gardens of the Great Mughals .

Edwin Lutyens read Villiers Stuart’s book when working on the design of New Delhi and Le Corbusier visited Pinjore when working on the design of Chandigarh. She surely influenced Lutyens design for the garden of the Governor’s Place in Delhi – and Corbusier might have done a much better job of Chandigarh’s Capitol Complex if he had learned more from Pinjore.

 

 

Dry stone walling in Crossbones Garden, a 2015 Chelsea Fringe event


Dry stone walling is flexible; it does not use mortar; it is good for wildlife; it is a sustainable. The only minus points arise if fuel is used for quarrying and transporting the stone.
This video is of a Chelsea Fringe event in Crossbones Garden, near London Bridge Station. Participants receive a certificate of attendance at the end of the session. John Holt is a great teacher.

Review of the show gardens at the 2015 Chelsea Flower Show


Please see this page for video reviews of selected show gardens.
I’ve been too hot at Chelsea and I’ve been too cold. On Press Day, in 2015, I was too wet and too windswept. When the sun came out in the afternoon, the Press had to leave so that the Royal Family could enjoy the show. I’m not a republican, yet, but the rain did fall like stair rods. So what of the design quality of the Show Gardens? I thought some of the Fresh Gardens, on Royal Hospital Way, were better than most of the large gardens on the Main Avenue – some of which could be described as Stale Gardens.

Great Garden Design by Ian Hodgson – review

Ian Hodgson Great Garden Design book jacket

Ian Hodgson Great Garden Design book jacket

The Society of Garden Designers has produced a very good book on garden design. I commend it to anyone commissioning a garden and to future historians of garden design.
The section I like best, on Outdoor Experiences, deserves to become a book in its own right. There are only four sections, on Relaxing, Dining, Playing and Bathing.  But there are subsections, so that Dining includes Cooking Outside, Keeping Livestock and Growing Your Own.
This approach to garden design comes, in the UK, from John Brookes. His Room Outside, first published in 1969, launched British garden design on its profression from the Arts and Crafts Style to Modernism. In his introduction to Great garden design Brookes draws attention to the way in which ‘this book breaks down the overall plan of a garden and deals with the various sections and functions it may include’.
A failure to grasp the key principle of Modernism hindered, and hinders, the development of garden design. ‘Form follows function’ is the most convenient summary of Modern Movement principles but caused problems for garden designers. ‘What’ they wondered, ‘are the functions of a garden?’ My criticism of Great garden design is a weakness in the history and theory of garden design.
After Brookes’ Forward and an Introduction by Ian Hodgeson (the author) there is a chapter on Contemporary Garden Styles. A section on Sourcing Inspiration is followed by a section on Choosing a Style – which struck me as a return to the high Victorian eclecticism of Edward Kemp and the Mixed Style. It is followed by a menu of styles. Their names are Contemporary Formal, Urban Chic, Cottage and Country Style, Natural Style, Water Gardens and Subtropical Style. This is a departure from Modernism but I would not call it Postmodern and nor do I think the categories will be of use to those future garden historians who come across this useful and very well-illustrated book.
Great Garden Design was published 5th March 2015 by Frances Lincoln www.franceslincoln.com.

The Manali to Leh Highway & Landscape Change in Ladakh


Taking the footage for this video, in September 2014, was a good opportunity to reflect on landscape change in a hitherto remote region of India: Ladakh. There are many considerations:

  • Ladakh was an important sector on the of the Silk Road Network, particularly for north-south trade and travel between India and China. The video uses quotations from European travelers who undertook the journey c1850-1950.
  • Travel between Ladakh and Pakistan ended with the partition of India in 1947.
  • Travel between Ladakh and China ended with the closure of the border, by China, in 1949.
  • India responded by closing Ladakh to all travel and tourism
  • From 1949 until 1974 Ladakh was cut off and isolated as rarely in its history
  • Since 1974 Ladakh’s economy has become dependent on the army, which invests in roads. The military population of Ladakh is now greater than the civilian population but the army keeps its personnel largely separate from the local people.
  • Ladakh’s other post-1974 economic prop is tourism. In summer there are more tourists than locals in the regional capital, Leh.
  • Westerners, in the main, want Ladakh to remain an undeveloped and traditional region.
  • Ladakhis, in the main, want to experience the ‘luxuries’ of western civilization.

So what should be done? I think Ladakh would have done better, if it could, to have followed the development path of Bhutan. This involves a very cautious approach to development and a concentration on the luxury end of the tourism market.
As things stand, the best approach is probably the adoption a forward-looking development policy as firmly rooted as possible in the principles of context-sensitivity and sustainability. This policy is exemplified by the Druk White Lotus School and its Dragon Garden.
Romesh Bhattacharji, an Indian who knows Ladakh very well, wrote in 2012 of the new roads which will open up Zanskar that ‘Many people, all outsiders typically, I have met, however, also moan about the loss of the traditional way of life of the people of Zanska. The latter want a better way of life than just being museum relics for tourists’ It is a well-aimed criticism. But ‘traditional’ and ‘development’ need not be in opposition: a Middle Way is also possible, by design. The Druk School and Dragon Garden make a cameo appearance on the above video and are explained in more detail by the videos on the DWLS Dragon Garden Playlist.

Cycle infrastructure expenditure in the UK and Holland

Cycling infrastructure in Amsterdam (left) and London's Battersea (right)

Cycling infrastructure in Amsterdam (left) and London’s Battersea (right)

  • The UK spends £2/person/year on cycling
  • Holland spends £24/person/year.
  • So Holland has better cycling infrastructure.
  • The Dutch spend ten times as much on cycling as the British and they have ten times as many urban journeys/person (30%+ vs 3%+)
  • It figures

To make up for years of neglect, the UK should spend £50/person/year on cycling. When UK cycling infrastructure is as good as Holland’s, this can drop back to £25/year.
Just think, about this quotation from a Sky report on The British Cycling Economy.
The proportion of GDP spent on public infrastructure by the UK Government has been lower than government spending in many other countries, averaging around 1.5 per cent between 2000–2004 – around half of the investment occurring by governments in Italy and France. Despite rail accounting for only six per cent of total passengers in the UK, the sector received a subsidy of around £6.5b, almost equalling road investment, which carries the majority of journeys undertaken in the country. In addition, tax revenues from transport eclipse expenditure on transport by £14b, reflecting a net flow out of the sector from receipts. Cycling’s proportion of the UK transport budget is less than one per cent, whilst in the City of London, one of the UK’s larger cycling ‘hot spots’, cycling has been apportioned 0.45 per cent of the £135m transport budget, amounting to around £600,000.54 Currently, 10,000–15,000 cyclists commute into the Capital each day, which has increased by 52 per cent since 2007, and is forecast to quadruple by 2025.55 These macro and micro conditions continue to create the ideal milieu for cycling participation to increase across social strata, with significant benefits.

Lamayuru, Ladakh, social, agricultural and urban change 1926 – 2010

Lamayuru, in Buddhist Ladakh, (1926 and 2010)

Lamayuru, in Buddhist Ladakh, (1926 and 2010)

The left photograph is from Himalayan Tibet and Ladakh: A Description of Its Cheery Folk, Their Ways & Religion, of the Rigours of the Climate & Beauties of the Country, Its Fauna and Flora (by Adolph Reeve Heber, Mrs. Kathleen Mary Heber, Ess Ess Publications, 1926). The right-hand photograph was taken by Nevil Zaveri in 2010. What can we learn from them?
– the town’s population is growing
– traditional architecture is still favoured, but new roads and telephone poles have an ‘anywhere’ quality (they are built and funded by the Indian army)
– Lamayuru is popular with tourists, despite its remoteness
– the expansion, so far, has been on stony ground
– there is a danger of Lamayuru expanding onto its very scarce resource of agricultural land (but there is also a danger of the land being neglected, because it is cheaper to import food from other parts of India)
– either there are more poplar trees or they are being allowed to grow taller for amenity reasons
– the ‘agriculture’ in old Ladakh is closer to what we would call horticulture than to what we call agriculture but if you call the cultivated areas ‘gardens’ it must be noted that their use is to grow food plants rather than ornamental plants.
Dr Adolph Reeve Herber, who took the black and white photo was an English doctor and missionary. He and his wife were based at the Moravian School in Leh from 1912-25. The mission ran a school, which survives, but did not have much success in converting the Ladakhis to Moravian protestantism. Nor did Dr Herber find much demand for his medical skill – because the local people were so healthy. He therefore had time to study other aspects of Ladakh’s culture and environment, including its flowers: ‘At the foot of the high Kardong Pass behind Leh… to mention a few only, are found yellow Iceland poppies, Michaelmas daisies, small deep-blue gentians, forget-me-nots, forming a carpet of blue on the Zogi [Zoji-La] stretches, but replaced by the deep blue of the borage below the Kardong, deep purple orchids, primulas in all shades of magenta and purple, cow parsley, a kind of stinging nettle, asters, saxifrage, vetches, Canterbury bells, and on the Zogi the single anemone and the tall bunched Japanese variety, even the green foxglove and the coarse edelweiss.’
Iris on the Zoji-La (Hooker's?)

Hooker’s Iris on the Zoji-La)

The landscape of housing: Smithsons design and site planning for Robin Hood Gardens


Zaha Hadid: ‘Personally, Robin Hood Gardens is one of my favourite projects.’
Richard Rogers: ‘It has heroic scale with beautiful human proportions and has a magical quality. It practically hugs the ground, yet it has also a majestic sense of scale, reminiscent of a Nash terrace.’
Simon Smithson: ‘I believe Robin Hood Gardens to be the most significant building completed by my parents. ‘
Tom Turner: ‘Sao Paolo could learn a lot from the Smithsons’ approach to planning urban landscape’
Here are 3 videos, by Alison and Peter Smithson, by Jonathan Glancey and by me. I am impressed by the Smithsons and in full agreement with Glancey that (1) I would not choose to live there (2) the scheme should not be demolished – as has been decided (3) it should become student housing, because it is so well suited to communal use. The Smithsons account of the scheme justifies slapping a preservation order on Robin Hood Gardens. The English Heritage commissioners were right about the building architecture being mediocre: the elevations are elegant but the roofs are leaking, the concrete is spalling so that the rebars are exposed, the stairways are pokey, the balconies are usable only for drying clothes (so the residents protect them with bird netting) and a ‘street in the air’ (often with hoodies) is not a nice thing to have outside your living room window. BUT the site planning is excellent. London’s ‘tower blocks’ are usually planned like tombstones in plots of grass. The Smithsons protected against noise and used their buildings, as in London’s Georgian Squares, to define and create outdoor space. I have never seen their hill well used but attribute this to its not being a safe protected space. I also agree with their comment, on the video, that using Robin Hood Gardens as a ‘sink estate’ was not wise. Both these mistakes can be attributed to the housing managers: Tower Hamlets Borough Council. So what should be done now? (1) keep the Smithsons excellent site planning (2) implement Glancey’s idea if it feasible – and convert the buildings for use by a student community (3) otherwise, replace their shoddy architecture with better buildings on the same footprint (4) manage the central space as a garden, instead of as a public park.


Alison Smithson has a strange manner and makes some strange remarks (eg ‘Any African state would have as good a chance of joining the Common Market as London’). But the two of them speak wisely about what should happen to London Docklands.

Jonathan Glancey presents a well-reasoned and well-balanced account of the design.

Garden designs at the 2014 Chelsea Flower Show

Here is a video of the gardens which caught my eye at Chelsea. The aim was to balance the designers’ accounts with critical comments but I have given too much time to their puffs and not enough to myself (!). Shooting the video gives me a keen appreciation of the BBC videographers’ skills – and an envy for the 25 person crews they use for the ‘filming’.

My first impression of the gardens on the Main Avenue was of a nineteenth century style revivalism. ‘Is 1850 the future of British garden design?’ I asked myself? The M&G revival of ‘Persian’ ideas was a prime example in this category – and is not included on my video. My vote for the best Show Garden goes to the Cloudy Bay garden and, nearby, my vote for the worst garden on the Main Avenue goes to Alan Titschmarsh (also not on the video). The ‘hilly bit’ at the back of his design was quite nice but the ‘summer house’ and ‘pond’ were awful. The BBC was right to replace him with Monty Don as their lead presenter but Monty looked frail and I worry that he is taking on too much work. If Monty finds it too much it will be a real pity if they go for Joe Swift as his replacement. Joe’s horticultural knowledge may be OK but his design judgement is jejune. OK, I know it is the Chelsea Flower Show, but I find the gardens more interesting than the flowers and a goodly proportion of the TV coverage is about the show gardens.
See also: Review of garden designs at the 2014 Chelsea Flower Show

London's Olympic Village gardens: an appreciation

QE Park Olympic Village: the charming lane with its rustic cottages

QE Park Olympic Village: the charming lane with its rustic cottages


Making an Olympic Village in the Lea Valley’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was a delightful idea. I love to stroll along a village high street. At dawn one hears the cocks crow and sees the milkmaids setting off for work. The crooked old streets have banks of wild flowers. On a summer’s eve the children play and God, one thinks, must have been in a very good mood when he made this place. Poetry fills one’s heart as one rushes to put down a deposit.
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?

[Rupert Brooke]
***
Nestling amid the trees we see the manor-house, the
abode of the squire, an ancient dwelling-place of Tudor or
Jacobean design, surrounded by a moat, with a good terrace-
walk in front, and a formal garden with fountain and sun-
dial and beds in arabesque. It seems to look down upon
the village with a sort of protecting air. Near at hand are
some old farm-houses, nobly built, with no vain pretension
about them. Carefully thatched ricks and barns and stables
and cow-sheds stand around them
.
[Peter Hampson Ditchfield]
***
Sweet Olympic! loveliest village of the plain,
Where health and plenty cheer’d the labouring swain,
Where smiling spring its earliest visit paid,
And parting summer’s lingering blooms delay’d:
Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease,
Seats of my youth, when every sport could please,
How often have I loiter’d o’er thy green,
Where humble happiness endear’d each scene!
How often have I paus’d on every charm,
The shelter’d cot, the cultivated farm,
The never-failing brook, the busy mill,
The decent church that topt the neighbouring hill,
The hawthorn bush, with seats beneath the shade,
For talking age and whisp’ring lovers made!

[Oliver Goldsmith]
***
The Village Life, and every care that reigns
O’er youthful peasants and declining swains;
What labour yields, and what, that labour past,
Age, in its hour of languor, finds at last;
What form the real Picture of the Poor,
Demand a song–the Muse can give no more.

[George Crabbe]
Wonderful too that our present Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Right Honourable George Osborne MP, wants to give us our first Garden City for a hundred years at Ebbsfleet in Kent – so long famed as The Garden of England. I expect it will be just as wonderful as the Olympic Village – and maybe even as wonderful as the Ajman Garden City itself.
The British government loves villages so much that it wants to expand them all into towns and then into cities. The reason for this is that ‘expanding existing settlements’ is seen as better than ‘building new towns’.