VERITY'S RETREAT

 

This was a short-term project (completed over the course of a week during the summer of 2016), the brief for which was to produce a new seating area for a well established garden on a Devon farm. The designated plot was a small, sheltered area up against an old sycamore hedgerow on the east side of the garden. The brief required the use of simple materials — as many as possible of which should be sourced from the farm — and that the new area be integrated seamlessly into the existing garden.

 

The client, a keen and accomplished gardener herself, had expressed interest in my approach to the integration of logs in my previous gardens and was keen to explore their use in her own. She had already placed some in a few beds as sculptural accents within the planting, but was unsure of how to use them effectively for structure. I therefore felt that my task was to provide a point of departure from which she could develop this aspect of her own design within the garden. A further key aspect of this project was embedding the logs (retrieved from around the farm) into the space so that they looked as if they had simply fallen there, but in such a way as to provide new beds that could be filled with plants according to the client's own planting preferences.  

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The result was a secluded, relaxing area that I was confident was fully in keeping with its surroundings. Each seat provided a unique and interesting perspective on the rest of the garden, some also yielding framed views of the farm beyond. 

 

The client kindly sent me photos of the area once she had planted it up

Verity's Retreat (the making of)

The original planting consisted of vinca, ferns, and assorted shrubs.

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There was also a very old and rather vicious berberis which would find a new home next to the farm pond.

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The site was cleared, with displaced ferns put aside for replanting in the new scheme.

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The soil was seived to remove remaining vinca roots along with ground elder (which was rife in this area).

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Logs were brought in and I began the task of placing them in the bank.

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Well rotted manure was mixed with the seived soil to enrich it.

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More logs were positioned to denote the seating area and surrounding beds.

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The beds were filled with the enriched soil before the seating area was flattened and prepared for the slabs.

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The slabs were laid in a diamond pattern, small stones retrieved from the seived soil providing a fitting surround.

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Ferns from the original planting filled the spaces between logs.

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The seating was placed and the surrounding area cleaned up.

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The new beds were left for the client to plant up herself.

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The logs

Logs were sourced from a variety of places on the farm:

  • I was invited to raid a woodshed for sycamore and willow logs which were used mainly for shoring up the beds. These will rot most quickly, though not before the beds have become established and (predominantly) self-supporting. And where necessary, such logs are sufficiently easy to come by that they can be easily replaced;

  • I scoured the farm for oak and beech logs from hedges and stream banks. These provided the majority of the more gnarled and elaborate shapes — some of them very beautiful — and were used for interest;

  • a couple of very old collapsed gate posts, rotten at the bases and complete with nails and gate hooks, were incorporated to lend additional character;

  • one root system from a fallen hawthorn was embedded higher up the bank to complement the copiced bases of sycamores in the hedge. 

These were arranged and 'naturalised' in their new homes by being interspersed with ferns from the original planting and from elsewhere on the farm.

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