Archive for the ‘The Garden’ Category

Maggy Howarth’s Mosaic

Friday, April 16th, 2010


The mosaic which Maggy Howarth is creating for the Victorian Aviary garden is 12 square metres in size, which may not sound much but is the size of the average spare bedroom- in other words pretty damn massive when you think that it’s made entirely of pebbles. I went to Maggy’s workshop today to see how things were coming along. It’s about half finished, with the main part of the design, the Peacock, laid out in one enormous piece outside and the rest , including the border, in sections on several large tables in the workshop. I’m completely taken aback by the intricacy of the work and the quality of the craftsmanship. It’s awe-inspiring. . We checked the time table and Maggy gave a big gulp when I confirmed that the mosaic needs to be at Chelsea for May 13th, which is less than four weeks from now. Mark, her only assistant, is away installing a mosaic in Gatehead. As soon as he gets back, it will be flat out for them both until the mosaic is safely installed.

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Pineapple Chunks at Kirkstone

Thursday, April 8th, 2010


When Sally and I first visited Kirkstone in January it was so cold that Sally’s toes turned to ice and took hours to recover. What a contrast with today- the sun is so fierce that I have to wear a hat to protect my head from sunburn. I’m at Kirkstone with Philippa and Mark for what will probably be our last visit before the show. We have come to discuss the steps and we need to decide how best to lay the slate which will cover them. Nick goes through the options and recommends that we lay the slate in a “pineapple chunk” pattern, which will form a good contrast with the slate on the floor of the Aviary. We try to put ourselves in the shoes of the craftsmen who would have tackled the problem in Victorian times. “Pineapple chunks” is probably not the technical term they would have used. But we get the gist and pineapple chunks it is. Nick has a full size template and lays out the slate as he would like it to be, marking the pattern with chalk. His attention to detail is impressive and after 90 minutes of discussion we leave in good spirits, warmed by the sun.

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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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Chelsea Flower Show Site Visit

Friday, February 19th, 2010


Excitement is in the air as we have a peek for the first time at our “plot” at Chelsea . Philippa and Alex (the show organisor) are pictured here in exuberant mood on Main Avenue in front of what will, in less than three month’s time, become the Victorian Aviary Garden. The site couldn’t be better because we’re on the main thoroughfare close to the main entrance through which 70% of the visitors enter- that’s up to 50,000 people a day.
The only times I’ve been here before have been on show days, when the site seems vast- almost impossible to get round in half a day- but today when there are no buildings or people- or gardens!- the space seems impossibly small. It’s just a gentle stroll from one side to the other.
The video below shows the full panorama, with a glimpse of Philippa, Alex and Mark Richardson (the guy who will be in charge of the build).

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The Peacock Throne

Monday, February 8th, 2010


Peacocks have been a feature of our Victorian Aviary Garden from the start. In our first submission to the Chelsea panel, when the garden was called “A Bird Lover’s Garden”, we had Peacock chairs on the Aviary terrace. The idea of the chairs didn’t survive the first draft but the peacock imagery re-emerged when Maggy Howarth designed her lovely peacock mosaic for the pathway leading to the aviary. Today we have learned that the aviary which inspired ours, the one at Waddesdon Manor, was built in honour of a visit in 1889 by the Shah of Persia, the occupier of the Peacock Throne. The Shah’s host was Baron Frederick de Rothschild, who completed the magnificent rococco structure just in time for the Shah’s visit. This is how the aviary was described by the Bucks Advertiser at the time:
“The enlarged Aviary was only completed just before the Shah’s visit and is now a little showground in itself. There is a superb collection of birds such as parrots, doves and pheasants of the brightest plumage, and with every arrangement for their well being in the shape of lofty caged enclosures. The aviary surpasses that of the Zoological gardens…”
It’s good to think that, however inadvertently, this peacock imagery has been carried forward over 121 years.
My thanks to an article by Sophieke Piebenga in the Historic Gardens Review for these fascinating details.

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Watercolour

Saturday, February 6th, 2010


Tina Bone, who comes from Camberton, Cambridge, down Philippa’s way, has produced this exquisitely detailed, wonderful watercolour of our Victorian Aviary garden for the Chelsea Flower Show. This is the image which will go into the official Show brochure and which will accompany all our press and media releases in the run up to the show. I’d be perfectly happy to rest on my laurels now, but apparently its the done thing to reproduce in real life what you promise in the brochure. Will this be possible, or has Tina set the bar too high? I now understand why so many of the gardens in the show brochure are represented by vague artists’ impressions.

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Maggy’s Magnificent Mosaic

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010


I know I’m biased, but I think this design is stunningly beautiful. This is our first glimpse of the pebble mosaic designed by Maggy Howarth, which will form the 3 metre wide and 4 metre long pathway in our Victorian Aviary Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. All the large show gardens are on Main Avenue and we are lucky to have 15 metres of frontage to Main Avenue next door to Darmuid Gavin’s garden and looking onto the Laurent Perrier and Daily Telegraph gardens which are on the other side of the street. Maggy’s mosaic will be right alongside Main Avenue, along which 150,000 visitors will walk and no doubt look on in awe. If there were any such thing as a show stopper at Chelsea, this would be it.

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