My Eureka Moment….

So – to borrow from the Olympics – I’ve negotiated the rails, executed a couple of backside 360s, a pretty spectacular frontside 720, and the finishing line is in sight.

Project 5 is presented and put to bed, and we’ve had a few days to dust the snow off our bobble hats and clear the ice from our goggles. Tomorrow we pick up the brief for the final part of this mad, bad and dangerous to know….

….garden design course.

Ok, so I know it’s not a dangerous sport. But it hasn’t half felt like it! In the course of the year I’ve laughed, cried, decided that garden design most definitely wasn’t for me, dropped out, and dropped back in again. I’ve cursed, thrown things, had several nervous breakdowns…. But I’m nearly through. And the last few weeks have been a bit of a revelation for me. Because I’ve realised that…. you know what…. I can actually do this thing.

It took Project 5, set at the beginning of this final term, to show me the light. Our brief was to come up with a design for the private garden of the Chief Executive and Information Department Staff at…. drum roll…. the one and only, wonderful Hampton Court Palace. My favourite place…. How lucky was that…..

It wasn’t an easy brief. Oddly shaped garden, split into three awkward areas with limited access, which needed pulling together and turning into an inviting space to tempt the staff outside to use it, while delivering year round interest for those inside looking out while they worked. They wanted fragrance, cottage style planting, places to sit. All this had to be achieved without obstructing the view of the building from the outside. So quite a challenge.

But you know what…. I did it. I came up with a concept, design and a planting plan that really worked. That had cohesion and flow and functionality. That I would have been happy to see turned into reality. And that has given me great confidence.

Ok so the presentation of the concept was…. well let’s be honest…. it was pants. Because I came up with the concept, layout and planting in reasonably good time. And then spent the next couple of weeks doing battle with the technology.

Computer aided design – three words that strike fear into the depths of my soul. I lost entire planting plans never to be found again. Spent days trying to work out why I couldn’t get the plants to appear with their names. Prepared lists and schedules in one part of my computer that I simply couldn’t find out how to transport into a place where I could print them out. Things appeared in one shape and size on my computer screen and came out of the printer looking completely different. It was a nightmare. But in the end I managed to produce a master plan and a planting plan.

Master Plan/Hampton Court Project

So I’m getting there. Slowly, in my own time. There is light at the end of this particular tunnel. I won’t get a good mark for my presentation. But that’s fine. Because now it’s just a question of polishing up my skills. You can learn this stuff, this computer generated, bells and whistles, walk me through a 3d model of your design, technology. It’s not rocket science. (Ok so maybe it is. But it’s rocket science for mere mortals like me.) The important thing is coming up with a good design in the first place.

And I can.

Time on my hands…..


For the first time since Christmas I’m enjoying that rare and wonderful thing – a bit of time on my hands without a deadline to meet. And OMG – how good does it feel. If nothing else it’s worth doing this course just to appreciate not having anything to do.

I know there’s the Construction File to get started….. And there’s all the sketching, and watercolour and pastel and pantone practicing that I haven’t been doing over the past few weeks…. Then there’s trying to get to grips with the computer aided drawing programmes…. And let’s not forget Mint Tea and Sympathy at the Chelsea Fringe Festival, which some of us are helping with the weekend after next. And then there’s the Chelsea Flower Show (where I’m going to be handing out leaflets on the Ulf Nordfjell show garden on the Friday). So it’s not like I’m going to be bored….

But hey. The sun’s been shining. The birds have been singing. And we’ve been out in the gardens at Hampton Court. On Tuesday afternoon, (after we’d spent the morning presenting our designs for the Concept Garden Project,) we were rewarded for all our hard work with a session outside with Amanda to learn about pruning. It was one of the rare occasions when I didn’t have my camera with me. Big mistake. We wandered through the Wilderness Garden. It was glorious. You should have been there…..

But I did have my camera with me the week before when we went back to the Privy Garden with Debbie in our Garden History lesson. When we went to the Privy Garden last term it had been a cold, grey winter’s day. And I hadn’t been a fan. But you know what, I think I might have changed my mind…..IMG_0539


The truth they couldn’t hide.

Now we get down to it.  Now we uncover the truth….

The timetable said Practical Horticulture with Amanda. An afternoon session in the Palace gardens.

Go to the Twentieth Century Garden, they told us. It’s a beautiful day. You’ll really enjoy yourselves.

It all seemed so innocent.

But this picture tells a different story.


Remind you of anything……

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And the smiles on the faces of our so called tutors…..


They look so friendly, don’t they?

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If only you knew….

The Great Vine

If you go to Hampton Court…. or should I say when you go to Hampton Court… you have to go and see The Great Vine.

On our first day at KLC we were given a tour of the Palace gardens. And as part of our tour we went to see this venerable plant.

The Great Vine was planted in 1769. That makes it 254 years old…..

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The Great Vine has its own glasshouse – and a dedicated expanse of richly fertile looking soil outside the glasshouse where the roots of the vine are fed and watered.


The Great Vine also has its own specially designated carer, a charming lady whose job it is to look after this ancient plant. She took us in to the hallowed glasshouse and told us all about its history. I thought she looked remarkably relaxed. Because if it was my job……

The Great VineHas she seen The Little Shop of Horrors? How does she sleep at night? If there was ever a plant with attitude this is it.

And even if it doesn’t turn round and look at her like she’s dinner, what happens if it starts looking a bit peaky? This vine is the largest grape-vine in the world. It’s 254 years old.

That’s one hell of a responsibility…..