Archive for March, 2010

The Aviary takes Shape

Friday, March 26th, 2010


It wasn’t until I saw it assembled today for the first time (without the roof or any of the joinery) that I realised just how impressive a structure our aviary is. Impressive, firstly, in its bulk- its huge, far larger than I had envisaged. Impressive also in its solidity- it is made of solid steel and the structural engineer who came to assess it today only had to whack it with his foot to conclude that it’s never going to fall down. Impressive, thirdly, in the quality of its craftsmanship- the detailing is astonishingly good. I will be very proud, when it leaves here for Chelsea, to think that the workmanship is all Cumbrian.

The next step will be for the steel to be galvanised. It’s being dismantled today and will go to the galvanisor on Monday, so that it will be ready for Philippa and Mark to view it straight after Easter, by which time the roof should be ready.

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Springing to life

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Two days into spring and a realisation, having just flicked through my calendar, that it’s only six weeks before we are on site to build the garden. After weeks of frantic planning and discussions, it seems almost ethereal that this garden which has been buzzing about in my head for so long is getting closer to realisation.

Plants are growing happily, although I have no idea at this stage what is going to make it, and what isn’t. A visit next month to Hampshire, where most of the plants are, will put the front runners on the starting block. I was asked by a journalist recently which plant will be a ‘must have’ at the show this year: selecting one plant is a challenge to a self-confessed plant nut but then, I quite like a challenge. I think it will have to be the voluptuous Paeonia ‘Sarah Bernhardt, seen in the photo above in a client’s garden in Hertfordshire. She’s very sexy and will look perfect lounging around in the borders of our Chelsea garden.

Jonathan rang me excitedly yesterday to say the main structure of the aviary, which is being built by craftsmen in Cumbria, will be put up at the end of this week. The ornate decorations and roof will follow, but at least we’ll get some idea of the size of the building. Mark Richarsdson, landscaper, and I are going to Cumbria after Easter for a flurry of visits to see the aviary progress, visit Kirkstone to look at the slate and see Maggy Howarth and the mosaic. Mark is busy working on some templates for the terrace steps to send to Kirkstone so that the steps will fit perfectly on site, rather like a jigsaw puzzle.

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Maggy’s mosaic takes shape

Thursday, March 11th, 2010


Maggy Howarth, who is making the mosaic path which leads from Main Avenue to the Aviary has sent us an exciting progress report. Here’s what she has to say:

‘I had a day out getting the coloured rocks for the peacock’s tail; there’s a glorious Aladdins cave in Yorkshire where you can buy exotic rocks & gemstones from all over the world…. I came back with aventurine (soft bottle green) & amazonite (pale aquamarine… or swimming pool green) & lapis lazuli.. Brilliant blue. All very extravagant, but we need the colours. They are at this moment rumbling away in my big tumbler, & will need a few more days yet to make them like “pebbles”.’

The photo is of the little birds which will be used in the border. The whole process of drying, then firing, glazing and firing again takes about three weeks and Maggy can’t start work on the border until they are all ready. See the posting on February 2nd for a drawing of Maggy’s design.

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Buddies

Monday, March 8th, 2010

Less than two months to go before we are on site at Chelsea to build the garden! Where did the last two months go, I ask myself? There has been a flurry of e-mails, phone calls, visits here and there and endless meetings in the quest to get the garden’s components up and running. Plants were sourced and ordered in January with most of the perennials being grown for us by Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants in Hampshire. I spoke to Rosie Hardy this morning and joy of joys, buds are emerging from pots of brown soil! Paeony and Iris experts Kelways are growing these for us and the ferns: another phone conversation with Dave there who said that the paeony buds were starting to poke up in the pots and the ferns were coming on very well. April will see me flying down to Hampshire and Somerset to check the goodies out but the the feedback is…” a few more weeks of this warm sunshine and the plants will look great”. Must remember not to do too many of my rain dances, then. Luckily, the trees and hedges are local to me at Deepdale Trees in Bedfordshire but it’s still not worth going to see plants until next month.

Ah, now I know where the last couple of months has gone – I’ve been wishing it away waiting for spring!

The photo is of one of our trees, Mespilus germanica (Medlar). This was taken in May last year and shows the pretty white flowers which, fingers crossed, we should have in bloom for Chelsea. It makes a very decorative tree in autumn with stunning colourful foliage and unusual edible fruits, although I have heard them described as looking like cat’s bottoms!

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