I do love a good before and after photo, as it is all too easy to underestimate the impact of your work without the visual aid. However, in this case, the difference was striking. The bed had a graveyard-like quality due to the vast number of tall, dead flowering stalks of the Anemone. I believe the celebrated garden designer Piet Oudolf said of plants that the “skeletons… are as important as the flowers”. However, in this case, the hundreds of stalks were quite overpowering and nothing like the stunning melange of textures, colours and layers that Oudolf delivers. So they had to go.
Monday mornings are always slightly frantic, largely due to the fact that we have all got a bit too used to waking up later and not needing to be in uniform at 7am. This morning, I started by checking on the sites I had worked on last week. Some areas that had been under fallen leaves for months had accumulated an algae-like slimy substance, which needed to be dried out. After a weekend of airing, the site was safe again and looking great. Someone had even placed my safety cones in a lovely ring around the base of the tree – very kind but a tad unhelpful. A friendly reminder; health and safety signage is there for a reason, not just for fun!
I started the day with pond maintenance. The bulk of the aquatic work I do involves leaf clearance and litter picking. Fortunately for me, today we cleared the leaves from the side of the lakes. Typically, I enjoy getting into my waders and hopping into the water; it feels like an adventure, every time. However, on mornings like this when it’s still dark at 8am and only three degrees, I am very grateful not to be sloshing through the icy water.
When I think about some of the issues I am most interested in, they all come down to the same thing: the natural order has been disrupted. Where animals once fed on vegetation as they moved through the land, boundaries now keep them confined to a space with limited resources to feed growing populations. We often see this as a driving force in elephant culling. Vegetation is destroyed faster than it can recuperate and this leads ecologists to deem a cull necessary – to protect the plants and maintain the ‘delicate balance’.
I found myself crawling under spiny Mahonias and hopping around delicate lillies as I lightly dug over the soil. The sun was out and my pasty arms were as well! It was a lovely day and, while I missed working with Laurence, I loved the quietness of the site and the quirky characters practicing their fencing, wandering through the shrubs and chatting away to me about planting.
I decided to take this past week off social media because the recent news was getting very heavy and I found myself ‘doom scrolling’ a little too much for my liking. It was a breath of fresh air. I spent my evenings being fully present, whether it was revising for a plant ident test or just sitting watching RuPaul’s Drag Race UK (#TeamBimini all the way). So instead of a daily journal, this one is going to be a round-up of the week, including work tasks, college practicals, my own garden work and the new volunteer job I’ve picked up.
While bedding is a pillar of gardening, and in particular European gardening, bedding schemes have long been a point of contention, with some industry leaders suggesting they be totally eradicated from our gardening plans, and others suggesting they be kept for their social and cultural benefits. As with most topics like this, there is likely a happy medium that can be reached to improve certain aspects of life without detracting from others. In this research I will be looking into the environmental, economic, social and cultural impact of seasonal bedding and referencing case studies and garden designers who may have found solutions.
The influence of botanical and recreational gardens on society as we know it today is undeniable; especially in the last 10 months. Indeed, one public park in England saw an increase in visitors of 640% between the summer of 2019 and 2020. In the last eleven months, as a global pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns confined the public to their homes and locales, open spaces and greenscapes have helped to bolster wellness, morale and education. However, this is not a novel idea, as the use of various tools such as design theory and the panopticon effect have long been used to guide visitors spatially as well as in how they interact with displays.
Before I starting this research, I thought algae was just that scummy green stuff that grew on stagnant water. How wrong I was. Sure, it can be the scummy stuff collecting on top of a forgotten bucket of water like a horrible froth on an equally concerning flat white, but it’s also the kelp forests that bring an invaluable food source and habitat to marine organisms. Algae is incredibly diverse and so much more significant to the economy and ecology than I could have imagined. So if you’re ready, let’s dive into the algae, in all its forms.
I like this garden as it feels quite concealed and private and has a lot of variety in terms of planting types, with the bedding, topiary, lawn, trees, coppice and herbaceous borders. There is even a mini topiary maze, although the lockdown hasn’t been kind to it and it is looking more like a thicket than the manicured Buxus it should be.
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