Getting into final year

For those wishing to follow my musings and panics during my final year then you can follow me at

I will be back to blogging here in June.

Chelsea 2012

Chelsea Flower Show marks a seminal point in my year. It comes at the end of the spring rush to get gardens tidied up and marks the end of my academic year.  Its one long exhalation of relief on all counts.


This year though the only thing I could say about
Chelsea was weeds.  I was really disappointed.  Don’t misunderstand me, I am not criticising the naturalistic approach, I’m saying that if

you are going to take this approach to Chelsea you need a spin on it.







I am all up for naturalistic planting and using the garden as a wildlife haven, but this is Chelsea. I feel naturalistic planting gets really bad press for exactly this reason, it looks like a bunch of weeds.  To create an aesthetically pleasing naturalistic garden is a huge amount of work.  Alternatively you can leave it to go wild, but not when people have payed £50 a ticket to see it.

I’d love to see Chelsea getting a bit more cutting edge.

There was however one stand out garden for me. “Quiet Time: Korean Demilitarized Zone Forbidden Garden” was designed by the environmental artist and garden designer Jihae Hwang. It marks 60 years since the start of the Korean Conflict.  This was a really atmospheric and detailed design and execution.

The design sets out to highlight the tension and lasting effects of the Korean conflict. I feel the garden demonstrates the beauty of nature contrasting with the destruction of conflict. The attention to detail in this garden is stunning. There were soldiers jacket buttons on the path, dog tags hanging from the barbed wire and messages in bottles from separated relatives and friends trying to get in touch.

The planting was an excellent display of native Korean plants that had been able to takeover in the absence of human presence.  

The stream running through the garden signified nature defying barriers of human conflict. You could certainly feel the love and tension within this reconstruction of the Demilitarisation Zone.

This garden was affected by conflict right up until the show’s opening.  It’s main sponsor was the Arts council in Korea, but 4 weeks before the start of the show the minister was jailed and the sponsorship was revoked. The build contractor put an add out on craig’s list and volunteers came forward to build it.

The garden was awarded Gold and the Presidents Award.



An oasis of calm in the springtime madness

We decided to take a break from out slightly frantic spring rush this evening to see Dan Pearson as part of the Charleston Festival.  If I am completely honest Dan is a gardener that I didn’t fully engage with up until recently.  I think Dan has a very special, mature and modest approach to gardening and design. 

Dan’s ethos is that a garden is an oasis and sanctuary.  It gives one a space to think in a very over-stimulated world.  A garden holds it’s own time, space and reference.  Dan is fascinated by guerrilla gardened spaces and how an area of planting can bring the seasons to you, especially in a built up city.  It brings you back into the present and reaffirms the impermanence of life. 

He talked about public projects he had done such as Maggie’s Center in Charing Cross and private gardens he had created including his own.  His focus for his new book “Home Ground: Sanctuary in the City”.  In this garden he has such enchanting spectacles as Wisteria floribunda ‘Alba’ climbing up the back of the house and a hedge made from Phyllostachys nigra which he has pruned to just leave these fabulous black stems moving with life.  His garden was a completely encapsulating space where you could forget about the city and exhale for a while.

I think it’s quite unusual for Dan Pearson to give talks but for me it was really really inspiring.  As a gardener and designer it’s all too easy to create your gardens with a view to pleasing your client.  It’s all too easy to use generic, cultivar, low maintenance, long flowering, high performing planting  forgetting about the anticipation and excitement of planting something really special that will only flower once but my goodness it will flower spectacularly. 

Dan is headlining a day seminar in London this week so I shall report back soon with more pearls of wisdom.

What a year

As the light fades on 2010 I finally have time to reflect, and what a year it’s been.  The snow at the end of November meant we were working right up to Christmas.  So Christmas has been a lovely time for rest and reflection after completing work and university deadlines.

In a year in which we saw a new coalition goverment (which feels very conservative), air travel ground to a halt with the eruption of a volcanic ash cloud, Spain won the world cup, the country ground to a stand still with the coldest December for 150 years and Heidi Joyce Gardens had it’s strongest year yet. 

 We have gained some really exciting jobs this summer including the restoration of a fabulous garden in Ashurst Wood and our first commercial maintenance contract for a block of flats in Kemp Town, which we have already started to transform.  Happy days.  I have successfully completed my first year and part of my second on my BA in Garden Design at Hadlow and Miranda is well underway with her RHS level 2  at Plumpton. 

So here’s to 2011 and a very happy, prosperous and healthy new year to you all.

The answer is blowing in the wind

I am in my second year of my BA Hons in Garden Design and we are currently studying hard and soft landscaping.  We were given an article for further research which I thought was so fascinating that I had to post and share it. 

Trees in the Urban Heat Island

Urban Heat Islands were discovered as early as 1810, the main identifying features are an overall increase in temperature over surrounding rural areas, but the most marked increase being in the temperature over night. This occurs because the materials used in buildings have a higher thermal conductivity and heat capacity. Waste heat is also generated through urban usage. Large expanses of tarmac contribute to the urban heat island around the edges of towns and cities. Often the extent of the temperature difference is masked as the recording system for many cities is based in parks – out of the way of normal urban life.

There are issues with this raised temperature

  • The growing season is longer, so a wider range of plants from warmer climates can be grown.
  • Change in the localised climate – monthly rainfall is greater downwind of cities, between 48 and 116% mare rainfall, even 20 -40 miles away the rainfall can be 28% greater.
  • Wind patterns vary
  • Cloud and fog can form in localised areas
  • Greater incidence of thunder
  • Low air quality – more respiratory disorders
  • High death rate in hot periods

Mitigation methods

There are many ideas about the design of cities, the buildings and the materials used in cities that will reduce the urban heat island effect, in terms of the landscape the use of tree planting is the single most important factor. There is a plan to increase the tree cover in London by 15% by 2025 by planting 2 million trees, an additional 5% more greenspace will be added by innovations like green roofs after that. The benefits of tree planting in urban areas follow 

Economic benefits

The economic benefits of trees have been understood for a long time. Recently, more of these benefits are becoming quantified. Quantification of the economic benefits of trees helps justify public and private expenditures to maintain them. One of the most obvious examples of economic utility is the deciduous tree planted on the south and west of a building. The shade shelters and cools the building during the summer, but allows the sun to warm it in the winter after the leaves fall. The physical effects of trees–the shade (solar regulation), humidity control, wind control, erosion control, evaporative cooling, sound and visual screening and pollution absorption.

Air pollution reduction

As cities struggle to comply with air quality standards, the ways that trees can help to clean the air should not be overlooked. The most serious pollutants in the urban atmosphere are ozone, nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphuric oxides (SOx) and particulate pollution. Ground-level ozone, or smog, is created by chemical reactions between NOx and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the presence of sunlight. High temperatures increase the rate of this reaction. Vehicle emissions, emissions from industrial facilities, fuel vapours, and chemical solvents are the major sources of NOx and VOCs. Particulate pollution, or particulate matter is made up of microscopic solids or liquid droplets that can be inhaled and retained in lung tissue causing serious health problems. Most particulate pollution begins as smoke or diesel soot and can cause serious health risk to people with heart and lung diseases and irritation to healthy citizens. Trees are an important, cost-effective solution to reducing pollution and improving air quality.

Trees reduce temperatures and smog

With an extensive and healthy urban forest air quality can be drastically improved. Trees help to lower air temperatures and the urban heat island affect in urban areas. This reduction of temperature not only lowers energy use, it also improves air quality, as the formation of ozone is dependent on temperature.

As temperatures climb, the formation of ozone increases.

Healthy urban forests decrease temperatures, and reduce the formation of ozone.

Large shade trees can reduce local ambient temperatures by 3 to 5 °C

Maximum mid-day temperature reductions due to trees range from 0.04 °C to 0.2 °C per 1% canopy cover increase.

Temperature reduction from shade trees in car parks lowers the amount of evaporative emissions from parked cars. Unshaded car parks can be viewed as miniature heat islands, where temperatures can be even higher than surrounding areas. Tree canopies will reduce air temperatures significantly. Although the bulk of hydrocarbon emissions come from exhaust pipes, up to16% of hydrocarbon emissions are from evaporative emissions that occur when the fuel delivery systems of parked vehicles are heated. These evaporative emissions and the exhaust emissions of the first few minutes of engine operation are sensitive to local microclimate. If cars are shaded in car parks, evaporative emissions from fuel and volatilized plastics will be greatly reduced.

  • Cars parked in car parks with 50% canopy cover emit 8% less through evaporative emissions than cars parked in car parks with only 8% canopy cover.
  • Due to the positive effects trees have on reducing temperatures and evaporative emissions 50% canopy cover over paved areas is mandatory in Californian car parks.

The volatile components of tarmac evaporate more slowly in shaded areas. The shade not only reduces emissions, but reduces shrinking and cracking so that maintenance intervals can be lengthened.


Active pollutant removal

Trees also reduce pollution by actively removing it from the atmosphere. Leaf stomata, the pores on the leaf surface, take in polluting gases which are then absorbed by water inside the leaf. Some species of trees are more susceptible to the uptake of pollution, which can negatively affect plant growth. Ideally, trees should be selected that take in higher quantities of polluting gases and are resistant to the negative affects they can cause.

A study across the Chicago region determined that trees removed approximately 17 tonnes of carbon monoxide (CO), 93 tonnes of sulphur dioxide (SO2), 98 tonnes of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and 210 tonnes of ozone (O3) in 1991

Interception of particulate matter

In addition to the uptake of harmful gases, trees also act as filters intercepting airborne particles and reducing the amount of harmful particulate matter. The particles are captured by the surface area of the tree and its foliage. These particles temporarily rest on the surface of the tree, as they can be washed off by rainwater, blown off by high winds, or fall to the ground with a dropped leaf. Although trees are only a temporary host to particulate matter, if they did not exist, the temporarily-housed particulate matter would remain airborne and harmful to humans. Increased tree cover will increase the amount of particulate matter intercepted from the air.

Large evergreen trees with dense foliage collect the most particulate matter.

The Chicago study determined that trees removed approximately 234 tonnes of particulate matter less than 10 micrometres  in 1991.

Large healthy trees greater than 75 cm in trunk diameter remove approximately 70 times more air pollution annually (1.4 kg/yr) than small healthy trees less than 10 cm in diameter (0.02 kg/yr).

Biogenic volatile organic compounds

One important thing to consider when assessing the urban forest’s effect on air quality is that trees emit some biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs). These are the chemicals (primarily isoprene and monoterpenes) that make up the essential oils, resins, and other organic compounds that plants use to attract pollinators and repel predators. As mentioned above, VOCs react with nitrogen oxides (NOx) to form ozone. BVOCs account for less than 10% of the total amount of VOCs and BVOCs emitted in urban areas. This means that BVOC emissions from trees can contribute to the formation of ozone. Although their contribution may be small compared with other sources, BVOC emissions could exacerbate a smog problem.

Not all species of trees, however, emit high quantities of BVOCs. The tree species with the highest isoprene emission rates should be planted with caution:

Trees that are well adapted to and thrive in certain environments should not be replaced  just because they may be high BVOC emitters. The amount of emissions spent on maintaining a tree that may emit low amounts of BVOCs, but is not well suited to an area, could be considerable and outweigh any possible benefits of low BVOC emission rates.

Trees should not be labeled as polluters because their total benefits on air quality and emissions reduction far outweigh the possible consequences of BVOC emissions on ozone concentrations. Emission of BVOCs increase exponentially with temperature. Therefore, higher emissions will occur at higher temperatures. In desert climates, locally native trees adapted to drought conditions emit significantly less BVOCs than plants native to wet regions. As discussed above, the formation of ozone is also temperature dependent. Thus, the best way to slow the production of ozone and emission of BVOCs is to reduce urban temperatures and the effect of the urban heat island. As suggested earlier, the most effective way to lower temperatures is with an increased canopy cover.

These effects of the urban forest on ozone production have only recently been discovered by the scientific community, so extensive and conclusive research has not yet been conducted. There have been some studies quantifying the effect of BVOC emissions on the formation of ozone, but none have conclusively measured the affect of the urban forest. Important questions remain unanswered. For instance, it is unknown if there are enough chemical reactions between BVOC emissions and NOx to produce harmful amounts of ozone in urban environments. It is therefore, important for cities to be aware that this research is still continuing and conclusions should not be drawn before proper evidence has been collected. New research may resolve these issues.


Trees make little difference to noise levels, it may be that not seeing traffic will change the perception of the noise but a screen has to be 50m wide to screen from noise as leaves are simply not dense enough to screen effectively.

Written by Caroline Jackson, Lecturer at Hadlow College

There’s change in the air


In the second week of August I noticed a change in the air which could mean only one thing.  Autumn is on its way. If like me, you are lucky enough to sleep with doors and windows wide open, it’s that moment when you wake and need to put a cardigan on.  There’s an indescribable but unmistakable chill and freshness in the air as Mother Nature lets out a large sigh after her energy spent yielding. 

And what a summer it has been.  We have had a great dry summer down on the South Coast, with a bit of a glitch in August which has given the earth a great soaking and push for the final harvest.  The harvest has certainly been fruitful. The hedgerows are laid with fruit as far as the eyes can see. I can’t remember a time when I ate so many blackberries.  I have such a fruitful yield that I have decided to have a go at Blackberry Vodka.  I will have to wait till Christmas to taste the fruits of my labour.  I thought I would include the recipes.


Sterilise a Kilner jar and add 350g of granulated sugar, 350g of berries of your choice and a litre of medium quality Vodka.  Stir every day till the sugar fully dissolves and then stir weekly for a few months.  Keep in a dark dry cupboard.  The infused Vodka will be ready after 3 months and will last as long as you can resist. It’s a good idea to place a bit of masking tape on your Kilner jar with your recipe proportions in case you want to adjust it a little next year.   

I am going to have a go with Damson Gin and Sloe gin this year too – in for a penny, in for a pound.  It is also a fabulous excuse to take Amos (the dog) off for a good woodland hike to gather the fruits. Damsons are ready about now but you may have a job to find a wild damson tree.  Sloes are ready from now till January, some say you need to let the frost get them first, some say they are fine to pick now. 


Very similar method to the berry vodka,  just make sure you prick the damsons or sloes with a fork or needle.

1 lb of  damsons or sloes, 4 oz of white granulated sugar and 75cl of medium quality gin

2-3 drops of almond essence only with the sloe gin

Shake the kilner jar till all the sugar has disolved.  Leave it in a dark cool cupboard for 3 months.  You need to strain the grog through muslin anytime between 3 months and a year later.  The longer you leave it the better.  The grog will last years!

Happy harvesting and infusing y’all


It’s gonna be a merry Christmas

Go Brighton Go

Britain in Bloom award ceremony will take place later this month in Birmingham. 

Brighton and Hove have entered as well as areas such as Brunswick and Kemp Town. 

We were involved with the Brunswick trail getting St. Nicholas Church ready for judging and as always assisting Peggy Thomas in whatever way possible at the Waterloo Street Community Gardens. 

I really hope we win as I feel the council have done some magnificient planting this year. 

The Old Steine, Level and Fountain have never looked better and the wild flower planting along the Lewes Road was uttlerly inspired. 

It cheered up many a journey to Lewes for us and hundreds of other commuters. 

It really does bring home the importance of bringing the community together and making it an area to feel proud of.

The council are always keen to get feedback from residents about the work they have been doing within the plants and parks sector.  After many phone calls and redirections I found the person to speak to about this and he told me that if you email cityparks@brighton/ they keep all your feedback on record and therefore can show management that the work is not going unnoticed by the electorate!  It’s how the system works.  So if you fancied emailing that would be just great.

A wonderful tribute

Congratulations to Andy Sturgeon on winning “Best in Show” for the Telegraph Garden at Chelsea today.

 This is Andy’s first commission since the death of his partner Sarah.  Sarah died last summer of a heart arrhythmia leaving him with 3 small boys.  Andy wanted to dedicate this garden to Sarah.

The garden is a contemporary gravel garden with corten steel screens.  It represents choices in life.  “I’m interested in the idea of life taking you down different paths” he told the telegraph. When entering the garden one is faced with different pathways.  However even if you choose one path you still get glimpses of others as the cortens block off and open up other vistas.

Chelsea Glorious Chelsea

The Alliums are up which means just one thing – it’s nearly Chelsea Flower Show. I have my ticket for Saturday, I am saving already for the 4pm sell off.

Great Great Dixter

Last Thursday, I was lucky enough to see Anna Pavord and Fergus Garrett recalling their memories of the Amazing Plantsman Christopher Lloyd. 

I followed Christopher Lloyd’s writing in the Guardian on Saturday for some years before and up until his death in February 2006. In fact it was at Great Dixter whilst organising tulip bulbs that I decided to retrain and become a gardener.  I think Christopher Lloyd was the greatest plantsman of our time and a fascinating character. I feel very strongly that Christopher was not only ground breaking for his time but also had the rare quality of gardening instinctively and not worrying if he went against the grain.  To watch modern gardeners such as Toby Buckley, Charlie Dimmock and Diarmuid Gavin churning out the same old ideas that are low maintenance and don’t support the local flora and forna, there was none of that with Christopher. Christopher Lloyd gardened with a deep passion and knowledge, not forgetting good old fashioned hard work. Modern gardens have become so bland and monotonous, Great Dixter stands proud of that.  Christopher was his own man with no rules and restrictions.  He wasn’t frightened to try something and if it didn’t work he would experiment again.  This is how his garden evolved from a classic Lutyens arts and crafts garden to its current magnificence.

Christopher Lloyd started writing in 1957 and wrote for Country Life, The Garden, The Guardian as well as many of his own books including “The Well Tempered Garden” and “Successional Planting for Adventurous Gardeners”.  He also taught at Wye College.  Christopher Lloyd moved gardens out of flat pastel planting schemes into bold block colour schemes with reds, pinks and oranges in the same borders.  He was also the pioneer of tropical planting, something that is taken for granted now.  Christopher believed a garden was an area of theatre and performance, an area to combine vibrant block planting with naturalistic self seeding. 

Christopher hated the word subtle and all it represented.   He was attracted to strong, adventurous and exciting people.  He was a generous, hospitable and articulate host who filled his house with any who caught his eye and accepted his invitation.  He corresponded regularly with gardeners and students with a love of horticulture and a freeness and eloquence of language.  He used to play plant charades with his house guests, bursting into the kitchen, pulling a pose and shouting “What am I?”

For those interested in gardening, may I highly recommend Great Dixter. The entrance with the meadow pathway is stunning.   They have made some wonderful changes to the beautiful 18th centurycountry house.  When Fergus first started working with Christopher Lloyd, they decided to dig up a traditional (but diseased) Rose garden and replace it with a late summer/ autumn tropical border. 

The Garden Museum in London have organised an exhibition of Christopher’s work and writings. The exhibition runs till September 12th, see my links page for the website.  It’s a great insight into a truly great plantsman and writer

I can happily wax lyrical about Christo for quite a while so I will leave you with an anecdote from Fergus Garrett. 

Christopher Lloyd was visiting a derelict house and garden.  He noticed an unusual  Bamboo in the garden and started digging it up.  Before long a security guard appeared.  Christopher turned to him and said “Can I help you?”The guard replied “Can I help you?” Christopher replied” Is this your bamboo?” The guard confirmed it was.”It’s very badly looked after” Christopher said whilst continuing to dig it up. 

It’s clear to see from Fergus and Anna’s recollections that Christo held a very special place in their hearts.  It was great to get such a wonderful insight into such a fantastic man gardener who regularly broke the mould.

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