Unusual moments from the past 50 years.
I’ve been really fortunate during much of my working years.
Meeting famous people,
Visiting simply amazing homes.
Helping Buy & Sell some truly amazing homes
Designing & building some fabulous landscape projects all over the world.
A big thank you.
First though, a really big thank you.
To all my incredible staff during all this time. I could not have done any of it without their help and encouragement.
I was indeed fortunate to employ some highly skilled, extremely talented, great folks.
During these, many years.
The team was rewarded with a huge number of awards for our work. – 17 National Awards, and 3 Chelsea Flower Show Awards.
Here are a few of the prestigious ones that came with extremely unusual moments:
Now in no particular order, more, just how I recollected them are some of those events.
The Tower of London
Here a straightforward design and install for an irrigation system, we were the first Toro residential dealer in London.
The irrigation systems were for the Moat & the Queen’s terrace. (that’s just outside where you queue to go in to see the Crown Jewels).
We were not allowed to cut into any of the building’s fabric, or into the stonework. In addition, we had to find a place to hide an 800-gallon water tank with a pump along with all the switching gear. This had to be accessible for future maintenance.
Once the design was completed. There followed the setting out of the irrigation lines.
These were completed and trenching begun.
A Collection of Bones
We had just started to trench the main lines when suddenly we exposed a collection of bones – human bones.
When this happens it’s extremely wise to contact a few people you might not otherwise know.
In no particular order, they were the facility manager (they have a wonderful name at the Tower for this person – The Keeper of the Keys), the coroner is next, and then the local constabulary.
Although it was very doubtful that this was indeed nefarious unless the bones were very old!
They turned out to be the remains of a priest. Who had been a chaplain and was buried there in the mid 20th century.
Then everyone sort of forgot where he had been laid to rest.
As the area was close to the infamous ‘Block’ we had to wait until everyone had left.
We rather gingerly, and carefully gathered what remains we could together.
There followed a quiet re-consecration service.
A New Power Station by the River Thames.
A tad more mundane. Having just completed a large ‘cut & fill’ project, covering many acres.
The area was the setting out ground for the entire power station project.
All the metalwork for the project was stored on this area during construction for the new power station.
Just as we prepared one area, about 30 acres for seeding.
A military land rover pulled up, out jumped an officer and team from the bomb squad. I kid you not !
They had been alerted by an old lady across the way (about 1/4mile).
She had just recalled (after almost 35 years), that a flight of German bombers, had dropped their loads of bombs.
Just where we were working during the War.
So the ‘sappers’, were obliged to dig around for a few days, messing up our seedbed as you can see. T
hey failed to find anything and left.
Some ten years later, whilst preparing for the new Queen Elizabeth Dartford bridge, 15 or so unexploded bombs were indeed found in the hedgerow not 70ft from where the bomb squad had poked around and we had adjusted the levels by 3ft !!!
Only in the USA… well maybe not!
I was called over to the USA to visit a huge private estate.
Moving truly huge trees
It was to see if we would like to be involved in a project involving large rocks and trees.
A very wealthy gentleman was in a hurry to complete a fully mature landscape – he’d been working on the project for about 10 years, so it probably wasn’t that much of a hurry.
When I arrived he was indeed pushing the landscape construction boundaries.
This tree was about 600 tons in weight. Perched at least 15ft in the air. The “hardwood stacked columns” were due to stay in place.
Then then the ground would be backfilled with soil. Irrigation would extend into the tree to a height of 40ft for a number of years, to assist with establishment.
As we approached, the site manager, who I was traveling with, was asked by the foreman.
If the position of this tree was ‘OK’. He was asked how far off the angle was – you can see the tilting in the hessian covering the rootball.
The reply – “about 6 inches” The site manager then said, “no it had to be closer.”
This one comment made me think that this project was due to be ongoing for a long time, one to avoid.
Here’s a picture of an even bigger tree moving down the road on the same site……
It took about 2 years to prepare each tree for lifting. We actually drove underneath this monster in a Ford F250.
I know what fun……..
Lambeth, South London
Back in the days when unrest descended on London. (A polite euphemism for Riots in about 1980).
We had an unusual project in Lambeth. – An area that had been called ‘The Peoples Democratic Republic of Lambeth – by it’s then ultra left-leaning leader ‘Red Ted’ Knight)
It was to be a children’s play area with a huge wooden stockade,(long gone I suspect).
As you can see from the picture the logs were huge some 16ft tall and at least 10-inch diameter.
All pressure treated so they would last a long time.
A small scuffle
They had just been delivered to the site when there was a particularly vigorous riot.
Cars were turned over and set alight, windows smashed, the police station attacked, that sort of thing.
I was comfortably at home watching it all on television when my insurance broker called me in a panic at 7 am to ask how things were.
Then he told me he forgot to put my logs (those 16ft monsters) on ‘All risk” as I had requested the day before.
It’s funny how you get to hear about these sort of events if you engage the locals.
Later that day I did go and visit the site.
All was perfectly fine, apart from 4 or five burned-out cars in the surrounding streets.
There was the little matter of 15 rapid deployment police vehicles with full riot shields carrying about 10 fully protected policemen surrounding my site.
Speaking to a local he explained that “they would never harm something intended for their children !!”
It could have been a right proper panic as we say!
The hardest part of the project was to figure out how to pick up and place these huge poles.
We had to keep the tops level. A bobcat with a then newly added 4 in 1 bucket worked out just fine.
Mind you, tracking over the soft ground in wet conditions makes a terrible mess.
Destroys the soil structure, slows the progress down and makes a site look pretty dirty – best to try and avoid if possible.
A project requiring some real ingenuity.
Another prestigious project – A large roof garden on top of the Museum of London.
It was tracing the history of London’s plants and gardens from the middle ages to the present day.
As is always the case working in odd places there are a few obstacles to overcome.
In this instance it was access… the access was a smoke vent set halfway up a wall in an underground car park.
The tunnel extended some 27ft, before the main vent went to the garden area.
Our challenge to move over 400 tons of materials through and up to the roof without damaging all the cars around.
Here’s a picture of the roof before… over the years it had become overgrown and very untidy.
We have cleared all the old planting, set out the new layout.
Then we laid the paving, lined the planting beds with a hardwood framing.
In this picture, the soil ameliorate is being added to the flower beds.
Our access is from the scaffold bridge we built from the basement fire access.
I’m the guy with the bald head in the suit in the middle of the folks on the left.
Yup had to wear a suit in the City of London. I drew the line at bowler hats!
The Completed London’s Pride Exhibition
Below is the finished result.
Which was open to the public for 6 months. My company supplying the staff that took folks around the exhibit.
This project covered close to 27,000 sq ft.
( well ok the ladders were removed and the gate swung back into place..)
It was projects like these that honed our problem-solving skills.
Do drop us a line if you would like to ask a question or have a request.. or take a more in depth look at my adventures in landscaping over the years
We soon discovered that the modular layout of the green walls worked superbly for Green roofs.
So in 1994 we designed and built this award winning Green Roof in central London.
Beautiful landscapes take time, professionalism & commitment, from the owner, the designer, the builder and the maintainer.
Unlike almost any other purchase a homeowner can make, an external project involves nature, nature has a habit of seeking attention often !
So let’s take a moment to walk into my life as they say.
There is a well known expression ” The customer is always right” – this is very true. It is essential to build the customers trust, and not lose it, for once gone events have a habit of sending everything as we say ‘Pear shaped’ …. today, let’s stay positive and explore some experiences….
I only know ‘My’ experience, which to be fair has been fairly extensive, as well as fun, over all very enjoyable, with the odd heart stopping moment, which we will discuss later.
My school days, yes ,I was privileged, were at Bearwood College, it’s a school in a beautifully laid out estate. Designed by The Rev Gilpin back in the early 1800’s for John Walters the founder of ‘The Times’, – some 500 acres, at school we were expected to do Estate work on the huge grounds once a week to help maintain the appearance of the school around the mansion house.
So as a youngster for 2 hours every week we played at aftercare of a huge Estate – I’ve just interviewed a colleague who did this for real as a Head Gardener of a 12000 acre estate, with among other things a 44 acre formal garden, this after years of designing spectacular award winning gardens, it’s a fascinating interview, as the estate is probably the busiest in the world with many events attracting over 100,000 visitors at a time, there is a motor racing and horse racing circuit within the grounds ! – you can hear Alan shortly on Growing Trends Podcast
During my vacations to earn additional pocket money for school – the Tuck Shop was stocked with all things fattening, that us kiddies always preferred to real food ! No just kidding.
I worked with a friend in his dad’s business of Forestry – we planted new woodlands in the winter break, did more planting in the spring break, then weeded the newly planted woodlands with a long handled hook in the summer break – it was heavy work but very rewarding, the ploughman’s lunch with a pint of shandy at lunchtime sitting out in a pub garden in the summer was glorious, however toasting your homemade sandwiches over a small twig fire in the depths of winter, cold, soaking wet, drinking peppered hot bovril wasn’t quite the same, especially as your toes were on the verge of frostbite !
Even the summer days had their own special moments…
“That is until you came across a wasp’s nest buried in the ground in your row as you cut down the foxgloves, brambles, and other assorted weeds a swarm of angry wasp’s chased you along your row, which I might add was almost always a vertical hillside ! The really scary one was, when a pheasant launched itself at you as you almost chopped its head off ! It used to take me a few minutes to calm down from that – you never ever hit the bird, or really saw it, but you sure heard it, and it was a huge blur as it flew past you.!”
After leaving school, working for a year at an Estate Agent’s introducing clients to property investments, helping sell houses and commercial properties all around the Thames valley.
I heard about a new landscape course at Merrist Wood College, was accepted, and spent three years really enjoying myself earning a College Degree in the process !
The course was so good, everyone of us was head hunted way before the course finished, well, now that I come to remember Bill, he had the new MGB sportscar, decided to buy a yacht and sailed off into the yonder, never to be heard of again !
Subsequently I discovered how much fun it is to have a yacht and go sailing !
I spend a further three or four years in a London Borough’s parks department learning some serious construction techniques – they called us Landscape technicians. There were six of us, in the group, when four of us left and the fifth joined the ranks of the clergy, one of the original six is still there so Ian must have 43 years of service ! It took almost 12 full time jobs to replace us !
We learned a huge amount, it was a great place to learn, with lots of variety, seriously engineered construction techniques, a dedicated to us work study team, so we knew how long items took to build.
Overall though it lacked the ability to really expand ones horizons, beyond parks, open spaces & schools, so after three years it was time to move on.
Private practice was a completely different place, armed with the knowledge of how to build to an exacting commercial standard – something that held us in very good stead as we built our company, we did something probably unique at that time, we deliberately concentrated on Design and Build we won one award after another, ( currently 17).
We achieved this mainly because we created a standard working method, for our staff, we used standard details that we documented,. Most importantly we loved to experiment with new ideas.
No we didn’t do this ! This is a planning ‘item’ in Oxford, but I bet you took a couple of looks at it !
One of the first A-ha !!! moments was Dri-lay drives, it happened because a client asked for a brick drive with a dark mortar joint.
We duly designed and installed the drive – which took two men 10 days just to point by hand !. This seemed a waste of potential profit , so recalling our local authority days the next one we tried was with the dri-lay method we had used in parks, the very first project saved us over 50% of the normal time to complete !
One of the design features we added, was a ‘canted’ brick edge, when ever possible this served two purposes, it was visually very attractive, catching the eye, creating a visual movement.
More importantly for the housewife, it was a superb aide memoir when driving onto as if you got too close to the edge the powered steering ‘tweaked’ enough to prevent you from driving into the landscape – this produced lots of customers from recommendations..
Below you see the first ‘dri-lay’ natural brick drive, we used a harder brick at first as the clay bricks tended to snap if you applied too heavy a vibration – after a while we figured using a rubberised mat would alleviate this issue.
The bonus to us, the first drive took 2 weeks to complete, this one was finished inside 4 days !
I well remember driving to a large concrete manufacturer of paving and blocks in 1984 and asking for help with our advertising budget – in those days the firms would pay a percentage of your advertising if you mentioned them. Anyway we went up to Derby from London ! gave a presentation on ‘Designer Drives” , it blew them away and we were politely told that the market didn’t exist. – a year later we had 5 crews constantly working building Dry lay drives, so many firms were starting to see the market potential. that we moved up to bricks.
By then we offered Block Drives, Brick Drives and for the really discerning Granite Sett drives – I have to say a granite sett drive looks quite exceptional
We also learned a valuable lesson, as we didn’t want to just build drives, we broadened what we offered clients, adding canted brick edges, specially designed recessed manhole covers, multi coloured drives- which then became ‘brindled.’ As the manufacturers caught on.
Pictures of our drives appeared on advertising brochures from those very companies.
Our next Aha !!! moment was the recessed manhole cover, which we made ourselves at first..
See if you can see the second one in this picture above! This project was one of the first where we used a specially made stock brick the yellow is the kiln dried sand we used to brush between the interstices.
and the final result ..
We designed & built lots and lots of drives…100’s of 1000’s of square meters in area.
We learned some valuable time saving lessons, the best looking was always bricks laid 45 degrees from the road direction, they took longer and required much more cutting, so warranted a slightly higher charge, but they almost always looked better.
Natural bricks are not a standard size, so after about 6 ft (1.8m ) of one direction the joints tend to start running out of line so be careful how you set out. Oddly 45 degree herringbone actually helps to hide this visual effect.
I have to admit that it has, and continues to be, an awful lot of fun and enjoyment, not to mention the satisfaction that comes from achieving a well thought out and attractive scheme, or seeing a client years later saying how much they have enjoyed what was done, how well it has lasted.
A case of “Quality is remembered long after the price has been paid.”
I’ve always adopted a slightly different approach with private clients as I felt that most were not highly conversant with contractual law, or quantity surveying, always striving to give sound , honest advice, and maintain a high quality finish no matter what….
How is it that some projects just look wonderful and others just ok ?
The answer is in the detail and the finish.
There is also no doubt in my mind that, the more experience one has, the greater the ability to be able to produce , not only an award winning scheme, but also to ensure that the design is both workable and economically viable – of course if money is no object ? – I have personally worked on a few projects where money was not part of the equation, oddly they didn’t work out any better than a well designed and thoughtfully implemented scheme.
Some more A-ha !!! moments later , especially as we have grown longer in the tooth, we become smarter and now obtain patents for our “A-ha !! ” moments.
In the meantime do listen to our interviews at Growing Trends
Drop me a line if you have a question or request.
We would like to hear from you with ideas, comments and suggestions for our shows drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
We have been making changes to Growing Trends our internet based radio show, which we started back in 2015
Time to Eat – All about growing Herbs & Vegetables
Gardenesque – Everything to do with Gardens & Landscapes
World Wide Wesponsibility – A more serious look at sustainability and how we might all help our planet.
Face Time – Interviews with experts on topics of interest
Book Reviews – Interviews with authors of books relating to the environment, nature and garden landscaping.
Perhaps we could interview you for our Face Time segment? …. just drop us a line and we will contact you.
Many years ago, we often introduced new ideas and products into our designs on a fairly regular basis. Some were because we developed our own ideas, products and subsequently ‘different’ offerings, we then ‘sold’ them to our customers.
When we started offering irrigation systems, we had to find a way to sell them to our more affluent customers, without making the costs too high, but most importantly by not disrupting or destroying the landscapes we had put in only a few years earlier.
We achieved this by finding a rather interesting hydraulic mole from Germany that used compressed air, it worked really well at a depth of 900mm and was pumped a distance of around 5m , which when reversed pulled the water pipe back through the drilled hole. This simple tool saved huge amounts of time and reinstatement costs – more importantly it amazed our clients who were thrilled that we could install such sophisticated systems without a huge amount of disruption.
Next came low voltage lighting systems, which made landscape lighting safe and easy to instal, the picture below isn’t our work it’s a Park in Paris, but it serves it’s purpose quite well.
Today we seem to have slowed down on major changes or have we?
Commercially vertical walled gardens are becoming quite popular and are definitely a recent development.
Whilst in Gardens we have built for over 30 years eco friendly ‘Green Retaining Walls’ such as this one
Roof Gardens have been around for years, we were designing and building them back in the distant 1980’s
Home owners are developing a taste for their own food production.
Herb & Vegetable gardening is becoming very popular today.
I’m seeing a huge demand for food production, but currently the solutions are traditional cold frames, cloches or greenhouses, all very time consuming and with varying degrees of cost.
Today with all the concerns over GMO crops, with apparent excessive use of pesticides, more and more people are either buying from local organic farmers or starting out on the incredibly satisfying journey of producing their own fruit and vegetables.
We’ve been developing an easy to use kit that makes selection, planting and growing much easier and for a much longer time frame.
We call it ‘Hort Cuisine’ our way of saying it’s fun, friendly and offers tasty treats when you gather your crops.
The patented system enables almost limitless combinations of plants to be selected, enabling designs for any climate region.
Creating those beautiful ‘Knot’ gardens just became a simple process.
So here are a few questions……
What new ideas have you seen recently?
What would you like to see developed?
In the last 5 years what is the best landscape invention you’ve seen?
What would your customers like to add to their garden landscape?
Drop us a line with your replies we will have a follow up blog shortly.
or follow our internet radio show at www.grotrends.com
Changing a Landscape.
Starting with an existing landscape is always a challenge..
How do you develop an idea?
Does it just grow on you?
I’ve often been asked this seemingly simple question
‘Where do you find your inspiration? ‘ or perhaps it might be
‘ Where do you get your ideas from?’ .
At first it was from seeing new things and figuring we could apply them to specific projects we were working on, albeit with a different slant, or approach. As we gained more and more knowledge ( experience) we instinctively knew what would work and what would require more thought ( more thought equates to time, experimentation and thus expense) – That’s not to say we didn’t make errors, because we surely did, luckily most times these ‘mistakes’ were of a limited nature, involving us spending more time than we expected.
I’ve always been happy to let staff experiment as long as there’s a learning process, in which they figure that making the same mistake more than once is avoidable. I’ve also found that the good old notebook and pencil is an invaluable tool, even today, writing information down has saved all manner of accidents from occurring, both financial and construction wise.
The beginnings of a well
The finished well, using bricks, oak and peg tiles.
Today our emphasis is firmly on simplifying ‘How to ‘ , in particular , with the huge changes to the worlds weather, we’ve been working hard on adapting our patented techniques so that home owners growing their own veggies & herbs in a quick ,efficiently and simply method as possible.
We are also close to enabling an 11 month growing cycle for anyone living in zones 5 and above.
Using well tried & tested, mainly low tech solutions , to achieve this.
Our “Hort Cuisine Kit” will be available soon !
Using our internet radio show & this blog , has enabled us to reach hither too undreamed of audiences across the world – currently we have been listened to or read in 43 countries, so a big thank you to you all for keeping on reading.
We would love to hear from you – Ann my co – host and I are hoping we can find as many ‘Granny Growers’ as possible and link them to ‘Growing Uppers’ ( our grandchildren ) , so that the knowledge, skills and techniques learned over generations of growing our own food, can be passed down before we all succumb to the mass produced, widely transported, heavily chemically sprayed, produce that has changed our once balanced diets.
“We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot.” – Leonardo Da Vinci
Living a healthy lifestyle can mean many things, regular sleep, exercise, reduced stress, enjoying work, balanced eating, learning something new everyday, exploring new sights, meeting friends & relatives or a gentle stroll around a park.
Almost all involve going outside at some stage, or even spending time outside. Like this walk across the Jura Mountains in France.
When we were kids we used to dig in the ‘dirt’ , now it turns out this passed beneficial microbes to us. Plenty of microbes on the Farm.
Today we hear of parks and recreations departments that are banning pesticides and herbicides from play areas, and sports fields – 40 years ago we were more concerned with flint stones breaking the surface of the grass and ‘skinning’ kids knees when they played sports.
Field hockey needed a very even playing surface of grass to be played well, so it was often heavily compacted and over fed to keep the grass green & growing !
Research shows time and again how beneficial taking a walk in a woodland is, or sitting under a tree, or making a garden or landscape.
Yet most of us, move from one hermetically sealed air conditioned room, to our hermetically sealed air conditioned car,
to our hermetically sealed air conditioned office – is it any wonder we are losing a connection with nature?
Those folks lucky enough to live outside cities and away from the urban sprawl , are indeed fortunate.
They can leave windows open at night, refreshing the air inside, removing stale contaminated air, rarely using air conditioning.
We figured a hedge around the house and a tree canopy above was more than enough to reduce the inside temperature 20 degrees or more. It creates its own microclimate between the hedge & the house.while also providing a fair degree of privacy.
The planning process hasn’t helped much either with 140ft set backs, single story developments , individual car parking areas for each business and strip malls, that encourage you to ‘hop’ in the car to go from store to store.
Then same style sub divisions, with all vegetation ‘stripped’ , the topsoil structure almost non-existent at the construction stage, then hardly any landscaping to create interest, shade, or harmony with surrounding areas.
In fact it wouldn’t be too far to say that the effect is boring !
I wonder how many years it takes before this picture changes?
All this contributes to built in obsolescence within 25 years, the developments have very little diversity of style and worse a total lack of walking from home to the stores, – one of the healthiest pursuits for us all.
One of the major advantages of living in towns or cities is this easy connection with homes, stores, work places and amenities.
We all tend to be creatures of habit, so this routine is a hard one to alter
There are signs of a healthier approach.
Mass transit provides a wealth of benefits, less pollution, easier and quicker commuter travelling, safer travelling, an opportunity to connect with fellow citizens. A more relaxed journey.
Green walls in the urban environment soften an otherwise ‘hard’ landscape, reducing the carbon footprint of the area, making a much more ‘pleasing’ view.
Roof gardens make a more focused impact, they improve the carbon foot print, offer a new habitat and an amenity for the buildings users.
It seems all those ideas, methods and activities from yesteryear were not all that bad for us.
Our connection with nature is again expanding with more and more people exploring the option to grow their own food, or seek out farmers markets.
I suspect for this to become even more popular there will be a need to initially at least simplify the mysteries of growing your own?
The Community Garden or Allotment is a great way to learn the ‘tricks of the trade’ – these are either individual growing areas ‘Allotments’ or the more common these days communal ‘Community Garden’
Of course there is the local ‘Pick your Own’ farms for all those inseason goodies.
From ‘Farm to Table’ might be best said as from ‘Grower to Consumer’ – if this were local, it would have a huge impact on carbon emission reductions ( a lettuce travels 1400 miles to reach your table, not sure how that could ever be described as fresh!).
The more we as professionals make this process easier the greater the likely uptake by households in towns and cities, where new skills will need to be developed.
A really easy start.
A stacked group of herbs, perfect for a compact space.
or much more complex, this lovely exhibition garden shows how to create small garden boxes of produce.
Now all we need is a simple method for the consumer… It will need to have an option which includes a growing medium as many urban yards have very poor soil conditions.
This system can be found at www.picagardi.com
Using a unique patented layout grid. enabling almost anyone to place plants in the correct positions is an option.
Listen to our up coming internet radio show all about developing gardens at www.grotrends.com we call it ‘Hort Cusine’ !
The very popular and effective Square Foot Gardening Foundation, developed by Mel Bartholomew has been around for many years, with countless books, examples and users.
As has the New Organic Grower & Four Season Harvest to name but a few from Eliot Coleman, an amazing grower in Maine.
It’s time to really try and add herbs & veggies into our urban landscapes.
We as landscape professionals need to promote home grown food more when we plan new landscapes for clients.
I’ve been really surprised at all the positive comments the site has been generating from everyone – Thank you all so much, it’s fun to write, improves my awful spelling, maybe my grammar as well ?
You can let me know on that one !
Some of you asked if I would make it possible to donate on this site, I’ve tried to avoid that, as well as adverts as I was trying to be impartial, with the content.
As you may know we do have a fun internet radio show, where we interview folks from around the globe about their Gardens & Landscapes.
When we started this radio show the aim was to find interesting people who had a passion for their Garden or Landscapes. Little did we know what would happen. In just a few months we have an audience stretching across the globe in 43 countries.
We soon added a web site www.grotrends.com to provide details of schedules, information on guests and sponsors, and a growing information area with details of techniques, ideas and examples of projects.
The show Growing Trends concentrates on the clients, the designers, the creators, the maintainers and the experts that help them, we would welcome any suggestions on who we should contact – the schedule is filling quickly, which brings me on to how you can help.
We have two one hour shows a day seven days a week, with a little funding help we can update the interviews more often, and tell the story of you, or your friends work, or your garden or landscape.
Can you help us in just a small way ? Contributing just $5 ?
Here’s the link to StartSomeGood the crowdfunding source we are using for this fund raising campaign
Growing Trends is fun, friendly, informative, interesting, amusing & entertaining.
This one acre pond has a water change almost once per hour !
A final interesting project from just outside New York. This fully structural gravity wall is almost 27ft high !
Note the access is less than 4ft !
We really would appreciate your support, so we can interview maybe you, or your colleagues or friends, across the globe – thank you all for your support & comments.
You can also find us on Facebook
Ann & Chris.
It’s been 40 years since I first grappled with a traditional planting plan. All those lovely latin names – like Fagus sylvatica, Fritillaria meleagris, etc.,
In the drawing office, it was a matter of using a thick graph paper so the electric eraser didn’t make lots of little holes in the paper as we repositioned plants, or corrected the many mistakes or changes in mind. Sometimes we used a plant stamp, then labelled by hand. As you can see interpreting the labels isn’t easy.
The whole process was time consuming, difficult to make into a quality finished drawing.
This next version once CAD was introcuded is a combination of hand drawn and CAD drawn, easier to interpret, but still not easy to set out.
On site, in those days these were cumbersome beasts, usually printed on dyeline, so it was dark, difficult to read with scribblings and such in the margin, fragile, and ruined once wet. Wrapping in plastic sort of helped, cutting into smaller sections then laminating was better..
Wielding one of these around on a damp morning picking out the plants, with the planting foreman, and then placing took for ever.
Trying to mark off those plants you had placed and then moving on to the next batch, with a few areas missing….
For some odd reason even though the nursery managed to price all the plants, they never seemed to be able to deliver them all to site completely in one go, or even to the company yard, so the whole process was both time consuming, expensive and worse annoying to a client who by now had had enough of three or five members of staff working in what was their space.
I hear a gentle nod of agreement or perhaps sigh of frustration?
It got so bad that we used to change our standard estimate to something like..
” To carefully prepare ground, incorporating peat and fertilizer at each planting station, to supply & plant in ‘xxx’ number of flowering & ornamental shrubs, carefully watering in on completion, then applying a 50 mm depth of planting mulch”
Here’s a plan without specifics..in this case a veggie garden area.
This gave us a contractual escape clause, but wasn’t what we wanted to portray to our clients. We even tried to restrict the planting selection to plants we knew we could obtain, but designers & clients have pet likes and dislikes being restrained to just a few varieties caused all manner of objections!
We even tried an even more generic look – with areas just designated for planting.
We also found most of our clients actually really wanted to do some of the work themselves, the idea of planting was often the most appealing, as the ground was prepared, the turf laid and all the ‘hard’ structural stuff was completed. The feeling was that just a bit of planting wouldn’t take long and they could then say ‘we did this ourselves’….
There was one small issue, understanding the ubiquitous planting plan. Setting out plants in the damp, with a tape, scale rule and a large piece of paper was a task best left to the experts.
We solved this problem with our Weekend Planting Grid. A really easy to understand ‘garden bedding system’. Today we even have this simple system patented, it’s even incorporated into one of the more easy to use CAD programs.
The system cuts setting out times in half, for anyone, acts as a landscape fabric or paper mulch, reducing weeds and watering and makes the whole process as easy as 1,2,3 ! – costing only marginally more than just a landscape fabric.mulch.
No longer do you need a setting out plan, just a plant position is all that is required.
It makes it very easy to place the plants in position, so now any combination of annual, bulb, corm, perennial, shrub, even tree can be used with little risk of them being placed incorrectly. In fact there is no need for a planting plan at all ! Just a series of grids will do. The fabric is left to act as a landscape mulch mat, preserving water and reducing weeds, all it requires is a 2 inch layer of mulch to keep attractive.
If you use the CAD program you can design your own arrangement , create them with photorealistic images and then print out their positions. The CAD program automatically generates the grid layouts, positions the plants, prints out a planting position list, even prints out a plant label with position for the plant pots, then generates a quotation and plant care notes – amazing really !
Difficult to set out designs are now easy…
Complicated Herb and Veggie gardens are a breeze. With positions shown on a simple patented grid system.
Even more fun is the simple PicaGardi that you can download and use it’s available on the iTunes store, Google Play and Amazon
We are planning a Growing Trends radio show just about design and designers soon, we would love to hear your comments, suggestions & ideas.
Ann & Chris
Ann & I have been simply amazed by the interest in our blog & our Growing Trends (click on Growing Trends to go to the site) radio show. Thank you all so much, we have been listened to or our blog read in over 40 countries in just the last three months.
As we plan the next series of shows & blogs, we thought we would ask you our readers & listeners if you would like to participate.
So, if you would like to be part of the show, all we ask is for an interesting ‘garden or landscape’ project,preferably with before & after pictures, together with a short note about how you were involved in the garden or landscape. – we do have a small request to ask.
Please could you send your description in English ?
We will pick a selection and the very best responses, who will be invited to participate in some short interviews for a show.
Some suggestions to get you started.
Some of our more successful blogs have been when we have shown ‘Before’ and ‘After’ pictures of projects. Here are a few to give you some ideas, Let’s start with the usual mess that greets the team. Here’s a before picture just as the machinery arrives and the builder leaves…….
Here’s how we were able to transform the mess above into a peaceful oasis, of course everything has to dry out first before you can work the magic, then the skills of the team are paramount to obtaining a ‘finish’
This next one, is actually in a book by Prince Charle called ‘A Vision of Britain’, we also received an award for the work. The very heavy clay was not easy to work with. As usual the builder created a huge mess.
The landscape architect for the project, Ian Doughill is seen carrying out a post completion inspection. We maintained the site for a couple of years to ensure complete establishment.
This exhibition site is both world famous, fun, hard work, but immensely satisfying to participate in.. a before picture of the Chelsea Flower Show. It’s not your usual mess this time, just an organizational nightmare, with so many firms attempting to bring in supplies and complete their superb work on time.
The outlines of the garden can just be seen, with the low wall taking shape on the left hand side. We build a full 6ft (1.8m ) high retaining wall with 3ft (1.2m ) side wall to ‘enclose’ the garden.
The space has been transformed in three weeks for just four days of exhibition, when over 110,000 people will visit and millions view on television
If you have some ‘Before’ and ‘After’ pictures you would like to share, Ann & I would like to hear from you, just send us a reply with a some contact information on the form below.
We are always looking for sponsors to help with the running costs, this year we thought we would try a small campaign on StartSomeGood.
Our radio show is starting it’s fall funding campaign you can find details at Growing Trends .
Ann & I thank you all so much for your support and comments.
There are a number of reasons why, let’s start with this picture of a French Restaurant not that far from Lyon.
Natural materials, always weather well, they tend not to lose their colours so quickly, being much less affected by UV light. The wood for instance changes colour slowly, blending into the other colours, with a softer patina. The natural stone stays basically the same colour apart from the addition of dirt and moss etc., the rendering isn’t really natural, it was something started in the 1950’s for some reason in villages throughout France, some have returned to a more natural stone look by hacking the rendering off, others as here have allowed the rendering to weather and blend in.
Of course it helps to have the walls half covered in virginia creeper, with the windows festooned with trailing geraniums. The over all effect is soft on the eye and pleasing.
When selecting materials for a project, it’s always a good idea to see what natural ones are available first.
All the materials in the picture above are ‘natural’ as you can see they have a softer look to them.
They ‘weather’ in much better and seem to last longer.
This beautiful driveway was constructed with natural bricks to form the rain water gulley run offs – it actually took three bricks to form the channel.
The top wearing surface is a double coated natural dried Pea Gravel that has been applied with fibreglass rovings and a special binder to form an impervious surface. Surfaces like this need to be re applied every 5 years or so to keep up appearances.
The beauty of such a surface is that the gravel isn’t likely to ‘fly around’ much, and the surface lasts longer because it is more or less water proofed.
This attractive Gravel and Granite surface, will basically never change colour, it will always looks warm and inviting, sure it will need some aftercare to keep weeds and encroaching plants at bay, but it will be the same in twenty years time as it is today.
This secret garden, is really easy to construct, its basically larger gravel rolled into the soil, with stepping stone flat rocks leading to a a stone bench with a small statue acting as the main focal point… a great place to listen to Growing Trends our downloadable internet radio show.
Here we used a low natural stone rockery with a low bridge across a pathway around the garden, as a starting point for an artificial stream, adding differing sized stones and rocks into the stream bed to create a natural appearance.
We will be having an interview with an ex Head Gardener of one of England’s great Estates shortly.
Do listen to Growing Trends and let us know what you would enjoy hearing about.
Ann & Chris
Today you can chuckle at my expense !!!
Designing & Building award winning landscapes has been a very rewarding, satisfying, fun filled occupation, of course there have been days one prefers to have skipped or passed by, yet more where looking back it was quite amusing now – I’m sure you too have a few you could share with the growing readers too.
So Ann and Chris are making you an offer you cannot refuse? – well perhaps you can !
Here is the challenge. If you have an amusing enough incident and you share it here by way of a comment,
Ann & I will call you ( we will have to keep this to an English conversation for now) , we will give you at least 5 minutes to describe in your own words the Opps! moment, you may also give your business a gentle plug!
Hows that ?
So let’s get the ball rolling with some of those Opps ! or “Out take” moments that have happened to me.
“Hook – Up”
The first that I remember wasn’t actually related to horticulture it was whilst working during a summer recess from college, working as a summer assistant lock keeper,on the River Thames at Mapledurham, which I think is in Oxfordshire, as I recall a quite well known movie was being filmed at the time called “The Eagle has Landed”, just across the reach from the lock.
On this particular day, there was lots of action and noise from the film set, lots of tourist and regular cruisers plying up and down the Thames. The lock is quite large – from memory nearly 200 ft long and about 16ft wide with a 5 ft rise and fall. Because we were busy we were packing in the boats. Anyway, having filled the lock with boats I opened the sluice gates to let the water out and let the lock water level fall around 5 ft, as this happened I was distracted by the filming. the next minute I turned to see all the boats hooked up with no water beneath! … not a good position to be in !
It took some time to undo the resultant mess….
Sticking to water… one night I was making a visit to a potential client on the way home, it was around dusk, the home owner was a banker, they had a lovely home in Chislehurst, Kent. After a brief talk we took a short stroll around the garden as dusk was fading, it was a long time but it was quite dark by the time we headed back to the house.
For some reason, I was talking to the client side by side one moment and the next I was treading muddy water, tearing though a rather decrepit swimming pool cover having missed the dog leg steps on the poolside.
The water soon reached my waste, and my suit took on a rather unusual color and smell..meanwhile the client rushed indoors exclaiming I had fallen into the pool, which brought the whole family out giggling !.. somewhat soaking I drove the last 15 miles home. We ended up completing the project, one of the requirements was to break out the miscreant swimming pool !
On another occasion we were contracted to dredge a small lake and construct a weir. ( a pond is in my definition an area of water in which you can throw a stone over it to land on the other bank. A lake is where the stone falls into the water). So dredging a lake is a task, requiring a variety of big toys… in this case we arranged with the local waterways folks to block ( legitimately) the upper inflow channel, allowing the water in the lower lake to fall around 8-12 ft which would allow the use of a piece of equipment similar to a dragline.
Unfortunately, whilst we knew the plan, the water folks knew the plan and the parks department knew the plan, nobody had told the security guys – who “unblocked’ the upper lake outfall late in the night, thinking some vandal had blocked up the outfalls !
So after about two days of working we returned in the morning, to find the lake full of water , the equipment marooned 50 ft out in the lake,with their tracks buried and the mud slowly engulfing the cab.. some drastic action was needed, a very heavy lift truck was used to winch out the equipment, and we changed our method of removing the silt,to pumping the now slurry into a temporary lagoon to dry out before carting away.
“An up-lifting experience”
The next was a tad more mundane, well it started that way at least. We had just completed a large ‘cut & fill’ project covering many tens of acres on a setting out ground for a new power station, we were preparing one area of about 30 acres for seeding when suddenly the bomb squad pulled up, I kid you not…
Here is an English sapper exploring on the site !
Apparently they had been told that a lady across the way ( about 1/4mile, you can see the block in the distance) had just recalled a flight of German bombers had dropped their loads of bombs in the 2nd world war ,just where we were working some had failed to explode…
so they dug around for a few days, messing up our seed bed and left, when they failed to find any …..
Some ten years later, whilst preparing for the new Queen Elizabeth II, Dartford bridge, the said 15 or so unexploded bombs were indeed found in the hedge row not 70ft from where the bomb squad had poked around !!!
It was a very useful do not ASSUME moment … you know the meaning don’t Assume as it makes an “ASS out of U and ME”
Enjoy the week !
Ann & Chris