Dreams, designs, and dangerous women

 "I am so longing to read about you starting a new garden. Wonderful to see the concepts and ideas developing, happening and growing. What lurked in your mind, unsuited to a completed London garden, that you can now tackle with aplomb, delight and joy?"
Diana of Elephant's Eye, who has been a long-term blogging friend, posted this comment on my last postShe's absolutely right. Things do lurk in your mind. They are filed away for future reference, until one day you pull the idea out, blow the dust off it and see that, yes, this is the time to put it into action.
Just because your garden has a particular style, often dictated by its aspect, its soil type, the local climate and so on, doesn't mean that you can't appreciate a completely different style.
I have a fairly clear concept in mind for my new garden. The actual landscaping may turn out to be slightly different from my current mental picture, but the style will be the same.
I want something that echoes the surrounding landscape. If you look at the pictures below, you can see how the designers have used evergreens, or sculpture, or hard landscaping to provide a contrast to the very soft, pretty planting.
You may think: "Oh, well, I don't have any of those things." But you probably do. You may not have a wall, but you'll have a house wall (at least, I sincerely hope so)! You may not have a sculpture, but you may have a tree, whose shape you can repeat with the right planting.

This is Tom Stuart Smith (above) for Laurent Perrier at the Chelsea Flower Show 2010. I really admire his work, and the more I see of it, the more I love it. I think he is a master of proportion and "punctuation": his gardens look so simple and so artless, and yet the design is very clever. The eye is led exactly where he wants it to go.

Here's another one of my favourite designers: Cleve West, who won Best in Show at Chelsea 2011 with this garden for the Daily Telegraph. The colour scheme here is so subtle - I love the dark red with the misty greys and purples, injected with pops of pale yellow that pick up the colour of the wall. And I like the restraint that characterises Cleve's work - the flat bare wall makes a wonderful contrast to the fluffy, floriferous perennials.

This is a detail from Cleve's garden for Chelsea this year, which also won best in show. It's the sort of planting that looks terrific in any garden, but particularly in a country garden, where it gives the impression of random seeding, but with a strong shape that makes it stand out.

This is Derry Watkins' garden (above) in Wiltshire. Derry runs a nursery called Special Plants and boy, is it special. She also has a wonderful garden on the other side of the house from the nursery. Don't go there. I went, and look what happened to me. I ended up selling my house in London and moving to Gloucestershire, just up the road.

Here we have the "echoing" effect that I like: the humps and hillocks of the plants in this scree bed reflect the curves of the trees and the hills around the garden.

A fabulous yellow kniphofia, with its upright flowers looking like soldiers standing to attention, echoes the shape of the conifer beyond.

Of course, you don't have to use plants just to echo plants. Here Derry has used a rusted iron sculpture as a sort of exclamation point at the end of the border.

And the kniphofia stands guard at the beginning of a path.

Sorry, I can't say anything intelligent about this picture. It just makes me go weak at the knees. What a view. And in the foreground, the angelica has raided the dressing up box and is pretending to be a tree.
Seriously, Derry's nursery has a lot to do with my reasons for moving. I went there with VP (yes, I blame her too) and Marty Wingate back in August, and had a wonderful afternoon being shown round the garden by Derry herself. We got back to VP's house for supper, and I sat there bleating: "I want to live in Derry's house! I want to have Derry's garden! I want to come and buy my plants at Derry's nursery!"
Marty teased me, saying: "You just want to BE Derry!" and VP said: "Well, why not? You could do it, you could sell your house in London, and move to Wiltshire." No, I couldn't possibly, I said, I have to keep working until my kids are through university, and I enjoy my job, and OK, I might get very tired, and I might really miss the kids now they're both off to college and feel that the house is too big, but it'll be fine.
All the way home, driving along the motorway, that little seedling of an idea took root and grew. Marty went off to Edinburgh for the festival, and I got on the internet and started looking at properties.
I warn you: these women are dangerous.


Fairegarden said…
So that is how it began? What a wonderful and exciting new beginning! Kudos to you on making the big change. I want to live there too, and buy plants from Derry and see you all often!
Gail said…
Victoria, I have this image of you as the kid in the candy shop! Clive's gardens are marvelous and Derry's garden makes me go weak in the knees, too. xoxogail
Helen said…
Oh, oh, oh. I might have mentioned before that my earliest memories are of our garden in the Cotswolds, before my parents emigrated to Canada. It has been imprinted on my mind as the ultimate dream. Glad you've been able to live yours.
VP said…
Yep, I can see all of that at Awkward Hill. You also saw something similar to Tom Stuart-Smith's cloud pruning on that fateful day, at The Courts.

Whilst you don't have Derry's view, you do have a gorgeous one - I love the field behind your new house, complete with sheep. It's going to be a lovely task to frame it.

It all goes to show, how we take our place in life completely for granted, but how easily it can change. All in the space of an afternoon :)
Cindy, MCOK said…
Those are my kind of dangerous women!
Mark and Gaz said…
So that's how it all began :) enchanting beginnings and can sense your excitement with your new house and garden.

The style you are planning is definitely sympathetic with your location. Looking forward to your progress, a graduation from urban exotics to country elegance.
James Golden said…
Can't wait to see where you take this garden. You have a winter of planning ahead, I imagine. How large is the garden area?
Kathy said…
Victoria, I have never really considered shape echoes in a garden before. You've opened my eyes. Have you thought about color echoes. I had a similar epiphany regarding color when I read Color Echoes by Pamela Harper. If you can get your hands on a copy I heartily recommend it.
petoskystone said…
Phoo...VP & Marty merely loosed the Wiltshire dragon in your heart. You're the one who let it find your Bibury nest ;)
Diana Studer said…
Was the first puffs of the Wiltshire dragon that made your tropical garden in London. Never thought of echoing shapes, but you do remind me - I was going to pair my wild planting with some topiary (cloud-pruning not cute creatures). Will dust that idea off, and see where it takes me.
You have a lot of stone 'mushrooms' on your terrace? And a butler's sink waiting to be an Alpine trough?
karen gimson said…
Happiness is infectious Victoria. Enjoy your new home, and I look forward to seeing what transformations happen in the garden. All the best. Karen x
Fairegarden: You and yours are welcome whenever you wish, Miz Frances xoxo

Gail: That is so funny! I WAS like a kid in a candy shop. And - I've just remembered - we spent so long looking at the garden and talking to Derry, that I only had 30 mins to buy plants. I was rushing round like a contestant in a game show.

Helen: You must, must come and visit if you ever return to the ancestral acres. Come and visit anyway!

VP: I still think you put something in the salmon...

Cindy: Yes, we bloggers are a very fine example of female feistiness!

Mark and Gaz: I will miss being part of the exotics posse. You'll have to have me as an honorary member.

James: I am useless at working out ground areas, and here the estate agents never tell you how big a garden is unless it's square and they can measure it easily. I reckon about a third of an acre.
I have asked a friend. Pamela Johnson, who is a garden designer to help me with it, because I do think that a trained designer will see solutions and possibilities I won't see. She's helped me solve problems in the past, so I know that we communicate well, and it's good to have an objective eye. But Pamela knows that it won't be a wholesale makeover - we'll do it bit by bit. Slow gardening, she calls it.

Kathy: One of the reasons I like my friend Pamela's approach is that her colour sense is brilliant. She will pick up the purple of a clematis with the purple spots on the inside of a foxglove - that kind of thing. Color Echoes sounds like my kind of book, I'm definitely going to track down a copy.

Petoskystone: That's sweet of you to stick up for me! I keep thinking I ought to discover a downside one of these days, but so far not a single one has occurred to me.

Diana: Absolutely! And two more butler's sinks waiting at home, that a friend gave me the other day from a landscaping job she was doing. I haven't told the removal men yet - they weigh a ton!

Karen: Thank you - I hope it is infectious. I like the idea of sending happiness vibes out into the blogosphere

Christina said…
I remember having a similar conversation in the car driving back from friends; my husband said "what I really want to do is to live in Italy...." The following day I told everyone that we were going. That was nine years ago and the rest is history as they say. Christina
Susan Tomlinson said…
I love the front patio view at the top of the page. I think the move would be worth it for that alone. Just finally got around to reading your last post from Victoria's Garden. I couldn't imagine, either, missing going into an office while sitting at your fireplace. Actually, I can't imagine missing going into an office at all...

Blessings n your new life.
Just hopped over here from your Backyard blog Victoria. How exciting - a new house and garden in the country! Good for you for making the move and changing your lifestyle. I agree, London can be exhausting. I moved up to Suffolk 13 years ago and have never regretted leaving London. I enjoy my visits to the capital now they're for pleasure and on my terms! Your village looks lovely. I look forward to following your progress with a new garden.

Anonymous said…
Just zoomed over from Backyard, too. This is really exciting, and what a lot of inspirational things you've found to get you going in your new garden! I made my own move from London back to the country 10 years ago, and haven't regretted it, wild, windy garden and all. Have fun!
This post made me chuckle so much Victoria - as another Karen said in the comments your happiness is infectious!

I can totally relate to Derry's garden having that kind of effect, I want a nursery "Just like Derrys". Love the images you have posted above, and slow gardening is the way to go.

I think one of the first comments you ever left on my blog in the dim and distant past was when I posted about bluebell woods, just think, in the Spring you will be able to walk in bluebell woods instead of a concrete jungle.
Well, hurray for dangerous women!
Layanee said…
Ah, a simple comment can cause such desirable havoc in life. I will drink to dangerous women and enjoy this new journey through your pictures and blog journal. I just love the name 'Awkward Hill'. So much of life's beauty goes through an initial awkward phase. Cheers!
Rock rose said…
How easy you make it sound. I too am "weak at the knees" when I look at those beautiful gardens. If I were 40 years younger I would tell my husband, "We are going back right now" But then, although I gardened all my life, it seems the thought of gardening in England was not enough to draw me back. Now I will follow your wonderful adventure. The stuff of dreams.
Wow, that's so exciting! I love the photos of the Cleve West garden and as a writer the idea of plants as punctuation is profoundly appealing ... I'm going to go and think about that concept - it's sparked a little revolution in my brain. Good luck with the new garden, I can't wait to see what you do.
Anne Wareham said…
I thought for a moment the first pic was your new garden! As if, eh?!
So glad you left the show gardens behind to discuss Derry's - because (apart from being one of the three gardens in the UK I actually admire) she is contending with the challenge of REAL LIFE. (sorry, but you know what I mean) Which is what you are going to be doing.
Hope to see what your garden's capabilities are soon! XXXX
I can tell you live in a very beautiful part of your country, it is all so charming compared to Canada. Loved the garden pictures, color combos are inspiring.
Diana Studer said…
and in between I have moved. New house, new garden, new blog

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