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Archive for the ‘‘Duncan Heather’’ Category

I came into the garden design industry with a passion for houses, design and nature but very little knowledge of horticulture. I have always gardened – but it’s not until I started learning about plants that I realised how little I knew. Our college planting tutor was Chris Marchant from Orchard Dene Nurseries – anyone who has been taught by her cannot fail to be impressed by her knowledge and passion and I found her incredibly inspiring. A couple of things really stuck in my mind from her lessons; the importance of looking – really looking – at colour, texture, the way light might pass through plants to how they grew in nature and even what worked in a painting. She also likened planting design to musical composition, with repetition and rhythm being key to the composition working. Taking this on board, on my drive to college one morning, I spotted the young, lush leaves of a plant on the roadside, pulled over and took a branch in to show Chris – I didn’t know what this lovely plant was that graced the verge to Oxford – she glanced at it… “Common hawthorn, Craetagus monogyna”…oh – I could have crawled into a box – I knew so little! However – I have moved on – and 3 years after this distinct lack of knowledge I like to think that I’m getting better and am really delighted every time I look at a plant and know what it is.
Cretaegus Monogyna
At college we learnt mostly about herbaceous perennials, which was fantastic as they are so diverse and can add so much seasonal interest to a garden. But I soon realised that most of my clients wanted low maintenance, year round interest from their gardens. So I had to learn about shrubs – in fact listening to Andy Sturgeon speak last year, his thoughts were that shrubs would be a big trend from now on as they have been slightly over looked in recent years.
I bought Shrubs by one of the UK’s leading gardening experts, Andy McIndoe. and got reading. At the same time a unique online gardening school, My Garden School, was being set up by Elspeth Briscoe, a friend and contemporary of mine whilst at the Oxford College of Garden Design, and the college director and renowned garden designer, Duncan Heather. I saw that they had a shrub course run by Andy – which I signed up to and have just completed. You get access to an audio lesson every Saturday for 4 weeks. I found the course incredibly convenient – you can listen whenever suits you – and even do 10 minutes here and there when you have time. Although I like being in a classroom situation where you can discuss matters with other people – this is a totally different experience – but very good if there is a subject you want to know more about from the comfort of your garden bench!.
What I think makes My Garden School really stand out is the quailty of the tutors. Having personal access to some of the best minds in horticulture and design is a gift. The course had assigments to do each week which are not compulsory, but well worth doing for the personal feedback, advice and tips that you get back.
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The BBC team from Gardener’s World got in touch with me a couple of weeks ago saying they were interested in covering the background and build up of my show garden.

This was pretty unexpected – I thought there may be some coverage during the show but had no idea that this kind of feature would happen. So we had a ten hour day of filming today which was fun, exciting and exhausting.
I’m fortunate to live close by to my tutor Duncan Heather who is the director at the Oxford College of Garden Design so we were able to do the majority of the filming in his stunning garden. When I initially thought of studying Garden design, I went to meet Duncan at his house, and was so inspired by what he and his wife Carol have created. They have impeccable taste and the garden is truly awe inspiring. It has been beautifully thought out and is a very relaxing space to be in. Sculpture is planted discretely amongst the trees, plants and woods, there’s an exquisite formal pond, picture perfect walled kitchen garden and a wilder beech wood.
We then moved onto my rather underdeveloped (as yet) garden to film all the plants I’m growing for the show and on to my carpenter’s workshop to see my bar unit. Then back to catch the evening light at Duncan’s, a few more walking shots around the garden, a glass of Rose, and home again – back to reality and still lots to do with 2 days left until the build starts.
I’m looking forward to seeing the film crew again up at the show with the finished article – it’s got to look good now…

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