A garden that goes with the grain.

Scree garden and grain silo at The Cottage Herbery

This unique landscape speaks of its farming heritage by taking cues from the agricultural buildings, which have been left in situ and reclaimed by time, the elements and its hospitable owners, Rob and Kim Hurst, who have upcycled on a grand scale.

Steel structures, like the monumental Dutch barn, which once housed a hop machine, have been partly deconstructed and repurposed as rustic garden rooms and prodigious plant supports clothed in colossal climbers.

A scree garden seamlessly segues into a swimming pond, serving up a coastal vibe in this exposed site beneath big, blustery skies. A grain-silo-come-beech-hut, is home to a fanatical filtration system, which preserves crystal clear waters.

From its peat-free beginnings in 1976 to the numerous awards, including Chelsea Gold Medals, this inspiring family-run nursery, in the Teme Valley, continues to set the gold standard for growing quality herbs, aromatic plants and hardy perennials.

The nursery and garden are not usually open to the public, instead offering garden and plant enthusiasts the opportunity to visit, usually followed by teas in the barn or garden, if weather permits. For further details visit: www.thecottageherbery.co.uk

Published!

There are no words to describe the immense joy I feel about appearing in the My Real Garden book, alongside its creators Ann-Marie Powell and Tamsin Westhorpe, and the rest of the contributors in our My Real Garden community.

Writing a book is tough enough, but when you factor in the pressure of having to crowdfund the publishing costs, collating contributions and an impossibly tight deadline, it’s a miracle that we have it in our hands at all!

I have nothing but pride and admiration for what our community have achieved, together, for Greenfingers Charity. It’s a beautiful memento of a life-affirming year, and I am just so privileged to be bound together with you all.

When I began creating my garden, I never imagined that it would be leading a chapter on Tropical Retreats and the close connections it would bring me, be that on Instagram or the gardening community as a whole.

In these pages I take you on a journey through my garden and discuss my love of lush, architectural foliage, planting for pollinators, my passion for ponds and healthy, happy hedgehogs. I even share my tips for growing space-saving vegetables.

Compassion for my community shines through, be that my love for Leasowes Walled Garden or how a pandemic inspired the Plant a Thought project, launched to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week.

I am now part of a philanthropic phenomenon, where kindness is king and people in the community send you handmade bunting to help you celebrate this special occasion. WE DID IT!

The book will be exclusively launched through British Garden Centres Group. Retail outlet details can be found on http://britishgardencentres.com. It will go on general release through Amazon from 1st April 2021.

Your purchase will support Greenfingers – the wonderful UK charity that funds magical gardens in children’s hospices, giving life-limited children and their families precious time together.

Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf

Another wonderful evening in the company of my horticultural hero, where I went on a second journey through all four seasons, during the most inspiring and profound portrait of my garden idol and guru, in Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf​. I had been waiting to see this film, following my pilgrimage to Oudolf Field, at Hauser & Wirth Somerset​ – a garden Piet considers his best work yet – which features in the film, from its inception to maturity. 

As we witness the passage of time from seedling to skeletal stem, Piet personifies the process in his own inimitable way, reminding us that plants, like people, pop up like faithful old friends, each year, seeing out the seasons with us, and sharing our moment in the sun. This sublime showman’s sense of self has been shaped through a sentient study of the seasons, observing the cycle of life, which he uses as a metaphor for our own transient existence.

In Thomas Piper’s thought-provoking biopic, Piet challenges our perception of beauty, and demonstrates the dignity in decay, reminding us that every season should be celebrated for its unique qualities, be it those of the plants that display them, or the plantsmen and women who ‘conduct’ this symphony of the seasons. You’ll leave a little richer for this maestro’s musings, and you’ll never look at a plant in the same way again. 

High Line highlight was right on track for Platinum Award

Titled after its namesake, the ‘High Line’ in New York, this collaboration between Dan Ryan and the team at @designitlandscapes_ and Lucy Bravington of @lucybravington_design at Gardeners’ World Live, took its cues from the industrial heritage the High Line is a product of, employing structures and materials evocative of its transport links and theme of travel.

The pale granite paving has been laid on the diagonal to the proposed property, which increases the sense of space in any garden of diminutive dimensions, and also provided a ‘platform’ (no pun intended) for the contrasting corten steel elements, which unified the design and drew the eye through the garden.

A pair of cleverly engineered benches, constructed in such a way as to defy gravity, echoed those at the High Line, and emphasised the diagonal as you travelled from one to the other through the corten steel circle between. The naturalistic planting treatment, inspired by Piet Oudolf’s prairie-style planting, alluded to the ebb and flow of a disused railway.

This is a garden that’s going places!

Rustic-chic retreat makes a statement

Next up in the Green Living Spaces at RHS Malvern Spring Festival, mentored by Jamie Butterworth from Butterworth Horticulture, is the ‘Mediterranean Terrace’. 

Designed by Gabriella Pill, whose choice of russet tones were echoed in the interior decoration, it provided a sense of cohesion, which successfully unified the indoor and outdoor spaces. I really loved the evocative, rustic treatment, which was offset by the cool backdrop of white rendered walls and paintwork, with construction by Keyscape Design and Construction. 

It was an artfully curated space of architectural planting, from the statement Trachycarpus fortunei (chusan palm), and its stripy, stripped stem, to the burnt orange accent of the Iris Germanica flowers, which sat well with the red Acapulco seating beneath the driftwood pergola. 

From the Cretan terracotta pots, by Pots and Pithoi, to the beautiful Bearded Iris and Agave, I’m definitely taking away some styling tips from this Mediterranean masterpiece, which was awarded a Silver-Gilt medal.

Studio garden draws on Native American settlements

First up in the Green Living Spaces at RHS Malvern Spring Festival, mentored by Jamie Butterworth from Butterworth Horticulture, is ‘An Artist’s Studio at Home’.

A collaboration between Jessica Makins and Stephanie Tudor, this garden defied its diminutive dimensions by confining seating to the sidelines, in a clay-coloured, cob bench combo, by Jeffrey Hart at Hartwyn, consisting of cleverly integrated cushions and natty nooks, which smacked of New Mexico and its ancient Pueblos. 

Heath Sawn Sandstone, with its uniform dove-grey colouring, by London Stone, teamed well with the organic cotton cushions and kept things light and airy. A natural, unpainted wooden pergola, connected to the studio, defined this area and echoed the treatment on the window frames and doorway.

Ethical AND exciting – yes, those two really can coexist – this dream space, inspired by the life and work of artist Georgia O’Keefe, stole the show with a contemporary palette of grey-green planting and monochromatic blooms, which would inspire any painter who took up residency in this garden’s artfully accessorised studio.

Well-deserving of its Gold and People’s Choice awards, don’t you think!

A Garden of Quiet Contemplation

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I’ve admired the gardens of Peter Dowle, from Howle Hill Nursery since my inaugural visit to RHS Malvern Spring Festival, in 2016, when his garden ‘Reflections of Japan’ won Gold and captured my imagination with its aspirational Acers and expanse of water. In subsequent years, his gardens have continued to inspire me and have even graced the pages of my garden design assignments, in which I’ve referenced his expert use of focal points, water and naturalistic planting. This year was no different.

Under the banner of his new venture, Leaf Creative, his 2019 Gold-award-winning garden, ‘A Garden of Quiet Contemplation’, was more formal than those of late, but his signature style was written all over, featuring the elements that I have come to know and love, and included the beautiful sculpture of ‘Zephyr, mistress of the wind’, by Simon Gudgeon Sculpture, atop a circular infinity pool.

The ‘Kast Dark Grey’ Porcelain, by Mandarin Stone, provided a stylish and non-slip foil to the soft landscaping, and looked beautiful wet or dry. Accessed from multiple angles, and perfectly integrated into the wider landscape, it was easy to see how this garden would form part of a larger space, but delivered the seclusion required to experience this garden in quiet contemplation, as intended, which won it ‘Best in Show’.

Mindful moment at Malvern Spring Festival

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I’ve been pulled in all directions, lately, that it’s been difficult finding the time to be mindful, and truly present in the moment, but if ever a garden symbolises serenity and inspires self-care, this one does. The Spirit of the Woods, by Peter Dowle of Howle Hill Nursery, is more than a gold award-winning show garden; it’s an experience.

The moment you step onto that jetty, and look across the lake to the meditative mask, created by sculptor Simon Gudgeon, you disconnect from the baying crowds and reconnect with nature. Framed by the naturalistic planting, which blends seamlessly with the landscape beyond, it evokes empathy from the viewer as you become a reflection of the scene and intimately acquainted with it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to get up close and personal with this vision in the valley, such was the demand on its Designer, but it was so wonderful to witness its whispering waters, which spoke to so many, who may have needed it more than I did, from a young boy in his wheelchair, to many more who hugged its shores as I looked on from a distance. A sight to behold.

RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2017

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A selection of stunning show gardens from the RHS Malvern Spring Festival, yesterday. I have a particular soft spot for the Molecular Garden (bottom right) and had the pleasure of meeting one of its Russian designers, Denis Kalashnikov, to pass on my congratulations. But, the ‘At One With… A Meditation Garden’, by Peter Dowle, really stuck a chord with me (top left) and was the perfect way to conclude Mental Health Awareness Week. The gardens were all really rather good, though, and there was something for everyone. 

Modern Gardens Magazine

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It was a lovely surprise to have received a mention in Modern Gardens (April 2017 – Issue 13) and see what everybody else is getting up to in the ‘WE LOVE OUTDOOR LIVING’ section of its magazine. This magnificent monthly chimes perfectly with my belief that gardening should be accessible to all and provide an opportunity for rehabilitation and reinterpreting an age-old British pastime. It’s packed full of inspiring projects and scintillating shares by readers of all means and backgrounds, breaking down barriers and adding to the sense of belonging and community, while giving you aspirations for your own garden. I love it!

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Within the past 8 years I have spent a great deal of my time completely reworking a pre-war garden, retaining and reusing existing materials and sympathetically incorporating a number of new materials, design elements and specimen plants. The design of this garden has water at its heart and features exotic planting and Eastern sculptures alongside more traditional influences and planting schemes. I created this circular paved seating area, adjacent to the pond, choosing furniture that adds height and elevates me above the water. The burnt orange of the Hemerocallis fulva ‘Flore Pleno’, the brilliant red of Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’, and the hot pink of the Drosanthemum were new additions, last year, successfully transporting me to more exotic climes.

Exotic entertaining

Hemerocallis (Daylily) and Dahlia have both undergone something of a revival of late and I can’t think of enough superlatives to sum up these show-stopping sirens. Take Hemerocallis, for example – yesterday, they were nowhere to be seen and today they’re trumpeting temptresses! Individual flowers are short-lived, (hence their name) but plants can produce a profusion of flowers, in succession, which could last for many weeks. Hemerocallis fulva ‘Flore Pleno’ certainly packs a pyrotechnic punch: like a dragon, spewing forth flames, it’s exceptionally exotic-looking and befitting of its primarily Eastern Asian roots, where dragons are usually a beneficent symbol of fertility, associated with water and the heavens. ‘Flore Pleno’ certainly fits the bill!