Monthly Archives: February 2009

German garden design and garden tours is most grateful to Marija Calden for help with adding new gardens updating Garden Finder entries for Germany. See for example: Karl-Foerster-Garten and Kloster Seligenstadt. Marija’s  help  is particularly welcome because German gardens attract less international attention than they deserve and, for example, less attention than the gardens of Italy, France and England, resulting in fewer German garden tours. Yet no one can doubt the country’s deep love of nature in general and gardens in particular, nor the technical expertise of Germany’s landscape architecture profession.  And the design quality of the best German gardens (eg Sans Souci, Herrenhausen, Whilhelmshoehe) is very high. So what’s the problem?

My explanation is that too many German gardens are run by municipalities as public parks. As Jane Austen might have said “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that two old ladies can maintain a garden in better condition than a dozen youths  with the latest equipment’. Love and knowledge are better tools than brawn or engines. Furthermore, a garden requires enclosure. If greenspace in towns is not fenced or walled it is not garden space. It is public open space. The example of Japan provides support for this explanation. Everyone knows of the matchless standard of care in Japanese Gardens. But what of Japanese public parks? Their management is slightly worse than in a typical industrial country: not as good as in most European countries and not even as good as in the public parks of Eastern China.

A garden is a special kind of place. It always has been and it always should be – different.

Updated world garden finder

usda_hardiness_mapAt last! We have published the updated World Garden Finder. The page has been re-deisgned and we have added some 1,500 new images since January 2009, bringing the total to over 5,000 images.  The images come from photographic trips and other sources: we are particularly grateful to Karl Gercens for his enormous help with American gardens. Piet Oudolf once said that ‘America is not really a gardening country’ but Karl does much to prove him wrong. Every country needs to garden in its own way and Piet Oudolf would be on safer ground if he said that American gardens are different from North European gardens, much as the gardens of South Europe differ from those of North Europe. Two of the things which make American gardens different are the climates (as shown on the USDA Hardiness Zone Map) and the different social mores. In Europe, garden walls and fences are the norm. In America, it is considered an unfriendly gesture to put a fence round your front yard – despite the fact that ‘yard’ means ‘enclosure’.

Notes to everyone, regarding the World Garden Finder:

  • if your country is under-represented in the World Garden Finder, please contact us and advise what gardens should be included in the next update.
  • if you manage a garden which is already in the Garden Finder, please contact us to request a login, so that you can keep the opening details up to date and add your own Head Gardener’s comment (see for example: Chesters Walled Garden)

An excellent landscape design for the King Abdullah International Gardens

kaig_aerial_02_smallHaving slagged off the design of their capital city, I am only too pleased to congratulate the Saudis on the design of a new Botanic Garden. It reminds me of a photograph from the Hubble Space Telescope – perhaps of a swirling galaxy. This is highly appropriate for a garden which looks back to the origins of life on earth and forward to a more sustainable future. Siteworks began in 2008  and the expected construction period is 3 years.

The landscape architect and project team leader  for the  King Abdullah International Gardens was  Nick Sweet of Barton Willimore.  Some 150 hectares of the 160 ha site will be planted with indigenous species. They will be watered only by stormwater outlets and treated sewage effluent generated on site. All the power will be solar, all wastes will be recycled and 93% of the construction materials (by volume) will be obtained from the site (rock, stone, gravel, soil). Only electric vehicles charged from the solar array on site will be used for visitors.  What more could one ask? I have  every hope of it becoming that rarest of rare delights: an excellent work of landscape architecture.

PS to King Abdullah: next time Saudi Arabia needs a New Town – make sure the design team is led by a landscape architect. You can expect the most favourable benefit: cost ratio for any project in your Kingdom’s recent history.

Trafalgar Square as a garden


Charles Barry’s design for Trafalgar Square was inspired by the gardens he had seen in Italy and designed in England (including Shrubland Park and Trentham Gardens). In essence, Barry followed Repton’s theory that an important building, like the National Gallery, should be fronted by a terrace. The original idea for a Square in this position had come from from Humphry Repton’s partner (John Nash). A traffic island for 150 years, the Square was rescued by Normal Foster’s part-pedistrianization scheme of 2003. The point Fostor neglected is that garden squares should have flowers.

My suggestion is to grow the flowers in pots and arrange them on the great sandstone slabs in front of the National Gallery. When the space is required for another purpose, the pots can be moved.

If the authorities won’t permit  a radical transformation, perhaps they would allow a Classical Vase to stand in front of the National Gallery.

of moon gardens and men


Visualisation of the entrance courtyard (1)

should probably add some notes but its been a mad week and i’m tired. one thing springs to mind. following Christines notes about water fall, it could be important to work a drainage scheme into the design, in which case we’d need to find out what gradients (if any) are present. i suspect site conditions are going to place restrctions on our planting scheme, esp if we want to stick to the white theme, but thats something i’d like to work out once i’ve got the layout nailed. (besides, i suspect out of the three of us Tom is the most proficient plantsman!)

all comments/criticisms welcome, by the way!