Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Turning Pro?

I have been in discussion with a photographic agency specialising in flower images this week.  They are interested in my work and I will be submitting a selection of photographs for their appraisal early next month.  The process has made me re-evaluate what I do, and it's clear that I have to focus hard on making pictures that are of the best quality, that are a distillation of my style and vision. 
Whether what I produce will appeal to the picture editors of magazines and big companies I don't know as yet - I just know that average images will not suffice, and that more effort has to go into each and every one.  The photos today are the result of a session with these factors very much in mind, with every aspect considered far more carefully than if these were simply for my own benefit.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

On Form

Asthall Manor, near Burford, is home once again to a terrific collection of sculpture in stone.  Every other year the grounds are filled with a collection of inspiring and surprising works that are placed sensitively within the framework of this essentially English garden, drawing the visitor through the space and punctuating the views out across the Windrush valley. Twenty-six artists are represented this year.
The house, home to Baron Redesdale and his brood of Mitford offspring in the early twentieth century, now has a garden, constructed in 1998, by I and J Bannerman.  This couple, known for their blowsy formal-informal country-house style work on large projects - their best-known work is for the Prince of Wales at Highgrove, and demonstrate just how good a garden can look when it refers to the history of garden design while also updating the execution.  Clipped evergreens, placed to give contrast in leaf size and texture, delineate the space, with an abundance of early summer planting billowing about within and around - roses, paeonies, astrantias, alchemilla.  The planting is deceptively simple - great effects are achieved by having slightly different coloured forms of the same plant in close proximity - and the relaxed feel is due to self-seeding, carefully edited to leave paths just clear enough to negotiate.  The garden links to the surrounding countryside through areas of beautifully managed meadow planting, with densities of native wild plants that are just not found in the wild any more.  The garden is apparently maintained by a single gardener.
The sculpture is mainly abstract in nature, and the pieces sit quietly in groves of trees, emerge from swathes of meadow or dominate areas of lawn according to their character.  They have been placed with a sure eye, and accentuate the formal vistas within the garden or act as a counterpoint to a great view across the Cotswold landscape.
The show goes on until 11th July.

Paul Ridley Design

Monday, 14 June 2010

Garden Visiting

Gardens are open up and down the country.  Every week during the spring and summer thousands of private gardens are thrown open as part of the National Gardens Scheme, with private homeowners kindly sharing their garden with the general public.  Often a village will have co-ordinated opening, to make a visit well worthwhile. 
My nearest village had an open day on Sunday, with a number of gardens on show and teas in the church hall.  Variety is the key to open gardens - size of plot, planting style, plant collections and mood are all different, and there is something for every visitor to learn.  With a couple of designer colleagues I spent three hours logging hard-landscaping details, some intriguing plant combinations and a couple of very distinct design approaches. 
The dominant theme is, of course 'English Country' - roses are at their pristine best just now, with Nigella, catmints, Alchemilla, Campanulas and Geraniums all contributing to the look which is an essential part of the cultural scene both here and abroad, where it has so many other adherents.  There is a welcome move to extending the season in herbaceous gardens, with grasses and the later flowering families of perennials, but there is little to beat the early summer combinations which have defined the English style for the past century.  This is the look that has made British gardens famous, desired and emulated across the globe, wherever conditions allow.
There are garden makers with very different ideas and priorities, however, and the most striking of these yesterday was a garden, now about five years old, created in oriental style.  Working from an existing Japanese maple and a horizontally trained juniper, this garden was in a distinctly Japanese idiom, without being an exact copy.  No stone lanterns or bamboo water pourers were involved, but the scale and arrangements of the planting, the use of paving and pebbles and, particularly, two beautiful rectangular boulders, smoothed by river water, serving as steps between the levels of the site all contributed to the mood, evoking the contemplative gardens of the East without being a slavish fake.  It felt the most coherent in design terms, as one would hope - a single aesthetic and concept, followed through faithfully and maintained by the owners in the true spirit of the original design.
In another garden on a sloping site down to the river, bold terracing allowed for areas of very different feel - some formal, others less so, with the riverside meadow space home to large single-species groupings of shrubs, with pathways meandering between.  The image is from this same garden - the fruits of Chaenomeles, brown-purple in their immature state, against a sunny wall.
Paul Ridley Design