An upfront confession: I’ve never seen nor heard of any of Derek Jarman’s films. A film director before my time. I first heard of him after reading about his home, Prospect Cottage, found in Dungeness on the south coast, a couple of years ago. Quickly I became obsessed with the garden and our friend David gave me Jarman’s book about it as a gift. While short, it’s one of my favourite gardening books – or any book. Continue reading At the end of the earth, plants – Prospect Cottage, Dungeness
One of my bugbears around Chelsea time are the naysayers proclaiming the gardens are unrealistic and impossible to recreate at home. You know what I always say to that? Poppycock! (Incidentally, what is a ‘poppycock’ or am I best not asking?) Continue reading 15 sensational plant combinations you can try at home from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017
The Chelsea Flower Show is nuts. People on stilts dressed only in flowers, cactus jackets, astro turf lions, stands of rare plants grown to utter perfection by collectors and nurseries, every millimetre of gardens designed and fussed over, landscaping built in a week to be knocked down a week later, flowers arranged into hats… Continue reading 23 things at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017
There are some garden designers we see at RHS shows regularly. James Basson is one that came on my radar in 2015 with his naturalistic, authentic style that really stood out from the gloss of the rest of the show. Like a fine wine, at first I was unsure if I liked the style but I have grown to truly love it. Continue reading James Basson’s road to ‘best in show’ at Chelsea Flower Show 2017
It’s hard to take in the brain blitz that is the Chelsea Flower Show in one day – particularly when you keep bumping into Joanna Lumley and Mary Berry – so I’ll reserve full thoughts for later blog posts. Please check back in the week for design and plant picks. For now, I thought I’d quickly share some highlights from the press day today. Continue reading RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017 – Press Day Highlights
In a few weeks the above Chelsea grounds will be filled with the wonders of the plant world. This year will be my fourth visit to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show – hard to believe. It’s an interesting milestone by which I can measure my advancement in garden design. Continue reading RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017 – what to expect?
One tip I’d like to share is: do not visit more than two gardens in one day otherwise the third will inevitably have the least of your attention. This is what happened when we stumbled upon Le Jardin Secret on our last day in Marrakesh. Continue reading Marrakesh (Part Five): Le Jardin Secret by Tom Stuart-Smith
There’s one thing I will guarantee right now: you are going to see many more green flowers this year. In magazines, on TV and at the design shows. For gardeners it’s like we’ve discovered a new seam of Jade, luminous gems that really do grow on trees. Continue reading Let’s make green flowers our naughty little secret
Winter is a fresh season. Everything is stripped back, cleansed and reset for the coming year. It’s a time when bold architecture comes to the fore, as the below 30 photos gathered on mine and Chris’ travels around London this winter testify. Continue reading 30 unreal photos of London garden design in the dead season
Jardin Majorelle is best known today for being owned by Yves Saint Lauren, who famously saved it in the 1980s from both disrepair and developers building a hotel on the site. It was made however by a French artist called Jacques Majorelle who began creating this unique garden and house in the 1940s. Continue reading Marrakesh (Part Four): Jardin Majorelle
The second oldest garden we visited was by far the most visually arresting of designs. It is immaculate and inspirational. Yet it is marred by a multifaceted dark past which I find hard to ignore. Built around 1867, you will never forget a visit to the beautiful Bahia Palace. Continue reading Marrakesh (Part Three): Islamic tiled courtyards at Bahia Palace
I’ve wanted to visit Marrakesh for about ten years, drawn by its bright colours. What I hadn’t appreciated is its rich gardening culture, as popular today as it was in the city’s ancient past. The oldest garden we visited on our trip was that of the five hundred year old El Badi Palace next to the Riad Badi in which we stayed. It’s enormous. Continue reading Marrakesh (Part Two): blown away by ancient Islamic garden design at the El Badi Palace
At the weekend my Instagram buddy lamaisonbleue tipped me off to the fact the Crossrail Place Roof Garden at Canary Wharf had opened. Despite the construction of this £500 million station being heavily featured on TV (for its genius balances and weights to deal with changing temperatures in weather) I’d somehow missed its grand unveiling. Chris and I rushed to the scene on Sunday to check it out. Continue reading Crossrail Place Roof Garden, Canary Wharf
Back in November Chris and I had the opportunity to spend a sunny Autumn afternoon at Stowe in Buckinghamshire (a short drive from where I grew up). I can’t say we fell in love with the place but it’s an interesting exercise in seeing and experiencing first-hand the fundamental building blocks of landscape garden design. Continue reading Landscape design at Stowe Garden in Buckinghamshire
I used to be a foliage boy. I’ve changed (well, a bit). In the past I saw flowers as extravagant, expensive purchases that didn’t last for more than a couple of days. Now I grow my own – especially the flowers I like – my world is different. Bringing flowers into the house is fun and highlights the strength, colour and architecture of each flower – particularly the Dahlias I love. Fresh, they last for ages too. There’s something so precious about a flower in a little vase. Showing off each individual flower was my key discovery, rather than losing them in a large bunch. Focus on fewer stems is purer, bringing out the fragility and wonder. Here are some of our cut flowers from our garden and allotment this year. Continue reading Why I’ve fallen for cut flowers
On Saturday 26th November 2016 the SGD hosted a conference about the use of shrubs in gardens. I went along hoping to learn the names of some of the multi-stemmed specimen shrubs / small trees we often see in show gardens. Which I did, before the day turned into a rallying cry to designers to think again about shrubs and break free from the New Perennial Movement (which focuses primarily on the use of perennials and grasses). Continue reading Out of the shrubbery into the scrub
We all have them, a list of plants we dislike. Yet every now and then something happens that turns our opinion on its head. Could it be that for plants, hate is the first sign of love? Continue reading Have you ever changed your mind about a plant you hate?
My mum and I share the same birthday, bonfire night. We love it, so Chris and I drove up to Yorkshire to enjoy it with my family. On the way home we had to stop in Birmingham and woke to a sunny winter morning shining light on one of the most creative, greenest and modern art packed city centres we’ve seen for a while. Continue reading Library of Birmingham’s rooftop secret garden and futuristic municipal design
Down the side of our Victorian maisonette is a narrow alley way. It’s where I started our garden so I know its seasonal patterns well. The side wall is pretty much south facing so gets blasted with full sun in the summer. The alley is only 1.5 m wide at one end and 2m wide at the other. The six foot boundary fence creating full shade on the other side. This creates two opposing conditions packed tightly next to each other, something very common in urban gardens. Continue reading Having fun with shade and sun
This week Apple reopened its flagship London store on Regent Street after months of renovations to reveal the focal point as none other than indoor pot plants on a gargantuan scale. An indoor avenue of twelve Ficus maclellandii ‘Alii’. Continue reading Apple iTree: the botanical trend reaches new heights with Ficus maclellandii ‘Alii’
Time is a wonderful gift, it changes things. None are more aware of this than gardeners. Continue reading Beauty of life in all its stages (4 Macauley Road, Clapham NGS)
After learning of The Homewood while studying garden design history with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, I finally visited the National Trust owned modernist house and garden in Surrey to see it first hand. Continue reading Modernist garden design at The Homewood
This year I took on my allotment and I designated one bed for garden design experiments. Deeply inspired by Planting in a Post Wild World and then seeing that principle in action at Nigel Dunnet’s design in the Barbican I’m focussing on creating a plant community with drought tolerant plants and grasses. I’ve grown everything from seed or plugs as I do with all plants to fully understand them. So this year it’s (as expected I should add) looking quite bare… Continue reading Living on a prairie (part 1)
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The other week Chris and I went to RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show where two things stood out: sunken gardens and garden art. Continue reading That sinking feeling – RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show
As part of the RHS Level 3 course we have to learn about different garden design eras, one of which is medieval. Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, has an 11 acre site that has been cultivated since the 15th Century in medieval times. Unfortunately, though understandably, none of those elements remain. In place is an extravagant site with interesting plays on plantings. The gravel garden felt Mediterranean and has given me ideas for our own garden (I’ll always associate gravel like that with my first visit to East Ruston Old Vicarage). In particular, to my eye, the stand out features right now are some simple but beautiful experiments with grass. Continue reading Lambeth Palace Gardens
I’ll have more blog posts this week with my photos and thoughts from the Chelsea Flower Show 2016, but I wanted to quickly share my initial impressions from the show today – the trends that jumped out at me. Have I missed any? Please let me know in the comments below. Continue reading 7 Trends at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016
This gallery contains a selection of my favourite garden design from 2014 and 2015. Photos are from the last two Chelsea Flower Shows, Sissinghurst, Nyman’s, Great Dixter, RHS Wisley, Kew Gardens, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Cragside, Biddulph Grange, Sky Garden, Garden Museum, various local NGS gardens, Regent’s Park and random locations in London and Brighton. I hope you find it all as inspirational as I do. Continue reading Photo Gallery: My favourite garden design inspiration from my travels
Last year was my first trip to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, it changed my world. This year, it didn’t have the same gobsmacking impact, but I could appreciate what I was seeing much better. The gardens I enjoyed more – the ones I liked the most had a story, like a fantasy world set piece, which is what I think a garden should be. Because… why not! Continue reading 15 Things at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015