Monday, August 1, 2011


Over the last few months I have been extremely fortunate in working with Adrian Fisher Design on a maze for the National Trust at Speke Hall. This opened on July 8th. What a great learning curve and a fantastic experience to create such a long-term legacy in todays world which seems to focus increasingly on short-term solutions.

I was lucky enough to work with brilliant contractors (Wright Landscapes) who made the journey to Liverpool more than worth while. The project was completed on time and looks fantastic - so a huge thank you guys! We have gates, bridges, puzzles and wind vanes. We overcame archaelogical constraints; the weather (incredibly hot and then cold); planning concerns and all those wonderful bits and pieces that go with working on a project! But I hope that you think, looking at the pictures, it was worth it. Do go and visit Speke Hall - it is a medieval miracle just behind John Lennon Airport in Liverpool. An interesting juxtoposition if ever there was one!


So much has happened since May.... The Chelsea Flower Show, the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (my favourite); new work, new interests as well as old passions.

Chelsea was interesting; I am not sure how much I actually enjoy going there (sacrilege I know) although I do love being made to think about design and the use of plants. The one garden for me that was simply the best was Diarmuid Gavin. Not the pod (I won't say what I thought of that) but the wondrous way he used grass, box, conifers to give distance and perspective. For me it was the highlight of the show. (see top picture)

As always going to Hampton Court was a two edged sword. Mainly because I am not exhibiting. I love the adrenalin rush, the behind the scenes fun and drama, the camaradarie. Going on the first day is simply not the same. And besides which there are too many people. I know I am turning into a selfish old lady - perhaps I have been in the country too long! There were some gems of gardens - in particular in the Concept Garden category and the small gardens. I loved the heather wall (shown on the right of the bottom picture), and found the garden focusing on the war in Afghanistan a fantastic juxtoposition give the desert quality of the garden situated as it was under Hampton Court's luscious limes (see top left).

What has been wonderful to see though is how 'grass' in all its wonderful forms has now made it into mainstream planting. Now all we need is to see shrubs included as well!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I know that there will be an outcry in the media tomorrow after the shocking revelations this evening about the abuse in care homes. If nothing else it underlines to me how vital is the environment that we live in and the environment that those who are mentally vulnerable live in. I know how very lucky I am to be able to improve people's lives through the creation of gardens that make them feel secure and safe. I also know how brain injury, disease, and neurological illnesses can make people uncomfortable to be around. We are simply not good at dealing with mental illnesses; however they occur.

I am fortunate enough to see the transformation in people's lives when they can engage with a garden whether it be looking at flowers, feeling the grass under their toes, or digging a bed. Getting outside, having a routine, watching things grow produces a deep seated satisfaction within us - whatever our mental state. Surely horticulture should really start to be used as a mainstream therapy rather than being looked at askance by mental and healthcare charities/institutions.

Friday, May 27, 2011

New beginnings

I am ashamed to admit that this is almost the first time since January (cannot believe the picture of Fizz in the snow) that I have sat down to write a blog. So much has happened, changed and moved forward.

Firstly I have moved to Wiltshire and into a delightful cottage (well bungalow in fact) that sits on the side of a hill with the most wonderful views; birdsong and neighbours.

Secondly I am now doing more project management (including mazes)- life never stands still and am simply loving my work. My learning is on a huge huge curve and life is exciting and challenging. I am still involved in brain injury work and love it - it makes me feel humble when I realise how challenging this condition is for families and loved ones; it certainly makes me incredibly grateful for my life and what I have.

And thirdly, I had time to go to Chelsea....... interesting.... some great ideas, and some not so good. I am just so so so grateful that I did not have to design, plant, construct a garden in those conditions. As always I am full of admiration for the contractors who make impossible designs a possibility. Always underappreciated and underrated - you deserve gold medals for dealing with the logistics, conditions (and dare I say it.... designers!!!)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It is so good to be alive day!

There is no doubt that working out on the ground keeps me sane. Today was positively mild at about 10 degrees, and whilst admittedly wet or rather damp there are signs of life everywhere. I have seen my first snowdrops; the bluebells are starting to push their way through the ground as are the crocus'. Why I wonder have crocus' become so unfashionable. They are some of the unsung heroes or heroines of the plant world. They come in stunning colours in either spring or autumn, and what to my mind is one of their best features, is that their leaves are fine and not that noticeable so there is hardly any mess to clear up. And they proliferate like mad. The secret is to plant them quite deep so that the birds don't eat them. Mind you, I have had my Jack Russell help herself to a few......... Don't be fooled by the black ear and nose - she has a degree in low canine cunning!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Happy New Year

I feel that I should start the New Year off with an apology and not a new resolution. I have been out of communication for several months - all of which convinces me that time is passing faster and faster - for a number of reasons. Primarily, I have been in the throes of passing part of the business over to Carolyn Powell at Shrublands all of which has now happened, and we are both looking forward to a fruitful new partnership. And secondly, I have been working on several new projects, trying to start my correspondence design course (I live in hope), and organising my life. And in all of this of course we had the huge snow fall, which was simply wonderful, amazing and spectacular. If it is going to snow it might as well do it properly. And to be truthful, I am very fortunate having lived part of my life in Scotland, so am not unused to snow and ice. And if we think about it we used to have a fair amount of it (well if you are my age you will remember it!). But we have become so used to balmy winters that we have forgotten the days when we all used to wear 5 layers; lose 30% of our garden plants; have to put water out several times a day for the birds; and regularly take the ice off the windscreens. The upshot of it all is of course that when spring comes it is all the better for it. I have attached a few photos of some of the area around us, which looked absolutely stunning in the snow.