2011 has started with a bang. Sorry, that should be BANG!
I have two great new projects just starting which could not offer greater contrast, and which will allow me to create gardens in my own style, gardens that reflect my philosophy and interests as well as, we hope, satisfying the requirements of the clients.
The first project is for a city centre courtyard. The site is compact and urban - the main challenge will be to create a sense of peaceful retirement from the surroundings, creating sufficiently large entertaining spaces and using low-maintenance greenery to define the spatial organisation. There is a lot of scope for finely detailed hard landscaping within a Modernist ground plan of contrasting foliage, and room to play with the overhead plane using small trees for dappled shade. I see this garden as a contemplative retreat from the world outside, and hope to create a beautifully tailored finish for the clients.
At the other end of the spectrum is the biggest project I have yet tackled: four acres of virgin Oxfordshire countryside set between Sites of Special Scientific Interest on the outer edge of a village. This site is the blankest of canvases - there are two trees on site, the rest is mud. Where to start? A designer approaching a new project would start by looking at the house, the surrounding neighbourhood, the vernacular building style - trying to find any point of reference on which to hang an initial idea for their design: in this case the whole thing has to be created from scratch. In the absence of even a house (as yet unbuilt) the only cue is in the countryside - shallowly rolling, with native hedging separating fields this is subtle, undemonstrative country, lacking big dramatic views and features, but quiet and strangely comforting: you are in no doubt that you are in the very heart of England. My initial proposal has taken the very sensitivity of the site as its core premise. Everything I intend to suggest will have respect for the site, a recognition of its previously agricultural use and an eye to subtlety - gentle effects amplified by repetition and variations on native plant communities.
In their different ways these two projects are equally exciting and their design will give me a great opportunity to explore two completely different garden idioms.
I'll keep you posted as the year progresses!