Back at the Palace….

So I’m back.

And you know what…. it feels great.

There I was on Wednesday morning. Panicking in traffic on the M25, crossing the Thames with the irregular outline of the palace against the sky to my right, parking the car, heaving bags and cases and presentation boards out of the boot, staggering through the security barrier. It was good to find that the old place hasn’t changed much while I’ve been away. But then it has been there for several centuries so I suppose it was unlikely to get up to much in a few months. The mellow brick, the clustered chimneys, the ring of the flagstones under my feet as I walk through the dim corridors, the smell of woodsmoke from the Tudor kitchen as it gears up for the day’s visitors, the way the light falls in the courtyards – all still the same, all still wonderful in the pinch me I can’t quite believe that I’m here way. I’m happy to be back again.

What is different is that, when I climb the stairs up to the KLC studio, the sign-in list by the door has got eight names on it rather than eighteen, and the faces when I go in are new and different. Annie is there for the Crane Park presentations, but no Humaira. Instead Juliet and Philippa and a new bunch of fellow students to get to know. It doesn’t take long though. We’re all in the same boat.

So at last I got to present the dreaded Crane Park Project and hand in the dreaded Construction File. And I’m so glad I did. Because they were both a huge amount of work – and I’ve been hard at it since Christmas finishing off what I started in the summer – so it would have been an awful waste of time not to hand them in and…. get them marked.

Hmmmm…. that’s the bit yet to come. Not looking forward to that bit quite so much. Still it’s done. And it’s a great feeling to have got the other side of both projects.

Because you know something…. I’m feeling really pleased with myself. Because in the course of doing these godammned, are you kidding me, you cannot be serious, this is a crazy amount of work, projects, I found out that I’m capable of an awful lot more than I ever thought. Which is what this course is all about.

So for starters there’s Vectorworks, the movie. Well not actually a movie, it’s a computer aided design package thing. Which when I started out was like trying to learn a foreign language, where nothing made sense, and when I did learn how to do even the most basic thing I had forgotten it by the following day. Well you know something – I did sixteen construction drawings with it. And used it in the Crane Park project to draw up an admittedly basic plan. And I discovered how great it is for doing planting plans. I didn’t do all the fancy stuff that some of the others did to such great effect. But hey I’m an old dog learning new tricks. What do you expect?

Then there’s Sketchup. Another computer design tool that had me a bit stumped. But hurrah for Sketchup for Dummies. So aptly named in my case. Because I used it to help me with my 3d perspective sketches. And it was a bloomin’ miracle. See….

Crane Park sketchup drawings colour version

This is a very basic rendering of my plan – which was based on the Shot Tower at Crane Park as the centre of an explosion with shock waves radiating out from it.

The other thing I did which I have never done before was make a model. This was the thing that finished me off in the summer. But luckily I took photos before I chucked the whole thing in the bin. So I was able to use it in my presentation this week.

IMG_1276Compared to the models that some of the others made – particularly Delphine’s which was a thing of absolute beauty – mine was…. well pathetic would be a fair description. But I did it and it kind of showed me something about the site and my idea. So not a complete waste of time.

And there were the watercolour illustrations of my concept.

Scan 2 And the sketches of my ideas for the burnt wood bridges and benches and fences throughout the site.

And then there was ‘The Dossier’. The leave behind folder to go with the presentation. I used Ipages to do it. That’s Ipages to the uninitiated. I hadn’t heard of it either. It’s a wonderful tool for pulling together images and words. And it allows you to put together a presentation which looks…. well see for yourself.

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When I gave up work fifteen or so years ago we were still handwriting documents, giving them to our secretaries, who typed them up and gave them back to us. We corrected them, gave them back, and finally we had them in our sweaty little hands. But only words, no pictures. And no clever stuff like colour and different fonts and sizes and moving bits around the pages. So this is like magic to me….

So I’ve learnt a hell of a lot. And it all came together this week. And now we’ve got our next project. Which is an absolute peach. Because it’s at the palace. It’s the private garden outside the offices of the chief exec and other members of staff. How awesome is that.

So hurrah for garden design. And boo to the old me who wanted to give it all up. There’s life in the old dog yet….

Ever increasing circles…..

This blog is taking on a life of its own. It’s expanding.

It started out as a way of recording my experiences as a trainee garden designer at KLC. But along the way other things have crept in. And recently they’ve been threatening to take over.

But I don’t want you to think that, just because it’s the summer holidays, the course work is taking a break as well. Oh no….

Because there’s the dreaded Construction File to complete, which I’ve been working on since term ended. I’ve still got 11 CAD drawings to do – which I keep putting off, because CAD and me are not exactly what you could call the best of friends… and I know it’s going to be painful.

Then there’s the work experience. Regular readers of this blog may remember that I was supposed to be going to Great Dixter for two weeks. I had to pull out of this because my father in law died, but I did get to spend a wonderful week at Long Barn, Vita Sackville West’s first garden after she left Knole. Of which more to come in later posts….

And running alongside everything else this summer is the project that we have to be ready to present on our first day back in September. Which is no small ask….

This week I’ve been working on the 3D model we have to make as part the project. And it’s been a tortuous experience. There are people out there who are good at this sort of thing. I’m not one of them. I went out last weekend and spent my life savings on tissue paper and plasticine, and anything else that looked like it might help me to build my dream garden in miniature. On Monday morning I went to the little shed in the garden where I work feeling quite excited. The excitement lasted about five minutes.

By Wednesday morning I was on the verge of packing the whole course in. You should have seen the state of my shed. There were bits of torn up tissue paper, drinking straws cut into pieces, broken cocktail sticks, lumps of plasticine, cardboard. It was like the scene of an explosion in the Blue Peter studio.

Which is ironic. Because explosions are what my project is all about.

Crane Park in Twickenham, the location of Project Number 4, is the site of a gunpowder mill which closed down in the early 1900’s. Making gunpowder is a dangerous business. While the mill was in operation there were numerous explosions, some of which could be heard as far away as Heathrow. And over the lifetime of the mill seven workers died.

It was this aspect of the site that caught my attention. So, at the start of the holidays, I began to research explosions. And while I was away in Majorca I spent many happy hours on the internet (feeling uncomfortably aware that some big brother somewhere was aware of the person in Puerto Pollenca typing ‘gunpowder’ and ‘the aftereffects of explosions’ into Google). And this was how shock waves became the theme of my summer.

There was one picture in particular that caught my attention. Not because it was useful for the Crane Park concept –

shock waves but because it made me smile.

And I got this idea in my head that while we were in Scotland I should try and persuade the rest of the group to re-enact a ‘shock waves’ moment on the beach up there.

Which is how it came to pass that, if you had been on the Achnahaird beach near Alchiltibuie on a particularly blustery day a couple of weeks ago, you might have been a little surprised to see ten fifty somethings drawing circles in the sand and leaping into the air.

First draw your circles....
First draw your circles….
Practice your jumping,,,,
Then practice your jumping,,,,
Now altogether....
Now altogether….
I said all together.....
I said all together…..
Don't think the dogs quite get it....
Don’t think the dogs quite get it….

Ok so maybe the jumping isn’t quite as accomplished as the original….

But if anyone else happens to find themselves on a beach with nothing better to do….

Just remember you don’t have to be young to have a laugh.

Chelsea….

OK so the Queen might have been at Chelsea today. But the Kings were there first….

Yesterday afternoon Graham was at Stamford Bridge watching Chelsea beat Everton. And I was at the Flower Show getting a sneak preview.

KLC students are helping out on the show gardens of Ulf Nordfell, Christopher Bradley-Hole and Marie Louse Agius. So we were there yesterday for our briefing.

Christopher Bradley Hole briefs us
Briefing from Christopher Bradley Hole
Gussy, Katarina and Alex
Gussy, Katarina and Alex

I’m going to be working on the Ulf Nordfjell garden on Friday.IMG_0637IMG_0641

Some of us are fronting Christopher Bradley Hole’s immaculately presented garden.

Still waters...

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And five years ago Marie Louise Agius was one of us – so it’s a real buzz to be helping on her garden.IMG_0415

KLC rules OK!

My First Job

I’ve got a client…. a real client… a client with a garden…. a client who wants me to come up with a design for her garden. I AM BEYOND EXCITED……..

A couple of weeks ago I went to a terraced house in Hampton Hill to meet its owner Jill Watson. Jill is a good friend of my good friend Hilary. Jill wants somebody to help her turn her garden into a space that lives up to the inside of her house. And the person she wants to help her is …. ME.

It feels like this job is made for me. I know this part of the world really well – Jill’s house is only a mile or so away from the house I lived in when we were first married, the house where my son James was born. And it’s just up the road from Hampton Court where I’m doing my course.

And Jill’s house is lovely – inside it feels airy and spacious with a real sense flow. The materials used are beautiful, the colours restful and welcoming. The garden is south west facing and – on Friday morning in the spring sunshine – surrounded by trees bursting into blossom.

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So here goes. New career here I come.

Watch this space ……