Monday, 1 November 2010

Garden Design

Week 4

Last week we were led through the maze of garden design theory and practice by Garden Designer, Diane Pyper.

We considered articulation of space, understanding of form (both in layout and in plant shapes), sense of movement and creating an ambiance as elemental constituents of good garden design.  Formality, informality, symmetric and asymmetric design, use and purpose all joined in as major contributors; with location, soil, sunlight and surrounds completing the pieces of the puzzle.

Our practical application of this new knowledge is to be put to use in re-designing an existing space to become a new RBGE’s ‘Physic Garden’. This will be created within the demonstration gardens on the north side of the giant Beech hedge between two opposing walls: a long straight yew hedge and a holly hedge with a noticeable ‘pregnant’ bulge. Laid out between them at present is the long bed of an original ‘Herb Garden’ with two smaller rectangular beds opposite. Planted in the 1960’s, little design has been applied to the space or the planting, so we started by completing a survey as to what was still standing.

As imagined, a war between the herbs had ensued in the intervening years, with a number of ‘thrivers’ evident (lemon balm, mint and tarragon) and a handful of survivors; St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) and Burdock. Quite a few from the original list seemed to have been overwhelmed (or whacked) leaving little or no trace of their existence but notable by their absence.

Ensconced across the grassy path in their own corner, a coven of poisonous plants Deadly Nightshade (Atropa Belladonna), Datura and Chinese Rhubarb (Rheum Palmatum) were doing exceeding well – a multi-tiered bed of fragrant sweet peas notwithstanding. A lone yew still stands sentinel over the last bed filled mostly with Floxglove (Digitalis purpurea) and a profusion of Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis). We pondered the decision making of the original designer – to give a display of culinary herbs?  To warn parents of the evil nature of others? Or a simple sampler of ‘garden herbs’ then available?

Our day finished with a demonstration by Diane of the process of thinking, drawing, reviewing and finalising a garden design plan.  Far removed from the verdant outdoors, this involves a full packet of coloured marking pens, rolls of tracing paper, compasses, stencils and an inmate ability to draw. Each one of us must produce a (viable) design by end of November – let the competition begin!

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