Thursday, 14 January 2010

Stepping up the details

I sat drinking my Chamomile tea in the lovely contemporary restaurant at Anglesey Abbey on Monday when Mark Richardson, landscaper for the Chelsea garden, looked me in the eye and said: 'So what was the step height in Victorian times and what style was the over-hang?' A quick chat with Jonathan Denby, Victorian gardens specialist extraordinaire and my co-designer, resulted in an excited phone conversation last night.

We'd already decided on curved steps up the terrace where the aviary will sit in all it's sumptuous splendour: 'Curved steps are Gertrude Jekyll's favourite design for gardens' said Jonathan reading from her book on landscape details she wrote with Christopher Hussey, Garden Ornament. Apparently there's a whole chapter on steps and it begins: 'The decorative value of steps consists primarily in the alternation of horizontal bands of light and shade - shining treads and dark risers. If this is always borne in mind, the right proportion of rise to tread will follow naturally'. It seems we have Mark's question answered.

The terrace on The Victorian Aviary Garden at Chelsea is paved with Cumbrian slate and the raised drystone wall made from limestone. Back to Monday, and Mark wanted to know if we had any 'used' i.e. weathered stones suitable for the wall. Over to Jonathan again who happens to have some dismantled drystone walling available from a garden being re-designed at one of his hotels in Cumbria. It's slate not limestone, but we could have a mixed wall in the Chelsea garden. 'Take some photos and bring some stone samples to the next meeting!' I instruct him.

I was keen to have a flavour of Cumbria in the Chelsea design to reflect the sponsor, South Lakes Hotels, and because I was so charmed by Jonathan's own garden at Yewbarrow House at Grange over Sands when I was last there in early September. The photo above shows a beautiful drystone wall in the Yewbarrow House garden and we're hoping to get the same craftsman who built this to do the terrace wall for the Chelsea garden.

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