There is nothing else for it but to snuggle under the duvet with Matthew Wilson. It may be snowing outside, the sharp, Siberian winds may be screaming past the windows but here, cosy under the duvet, I am seduced by the warm, honeyed words of Matthew Wilson. Seduced and sweet-talked into wanting... no needing.. a new garden to design. This could end up expensive.
Blogwatchers may remember that the Sock paid full price at RHS Wisley (£20) for her copy of Matthew Wilson's 'Landscape Man - Making a Garden' before Christmas as she couldn't wait for it to be available on Amazon or other bookshops who appear to be waiting for the start of the 'Landscape Man' Channel 4 TV series (coming shortly) before releasing it. It was definitely worth the extra few quid to have it early. So here is a Sock-style review of all that you really want to know about Matthew's bookywook - none of the high-falutin stuff.
The book has a nice feel and weight to it and is perfectly proportioned for under the duvet where you don't want to be encumbered with a large RHS Plant Encylopedia or the rather unpleasing 'Ivington Diaries' which is.. er.. diary shaped. On the cover we have a picture of Matthew Wilson looking rather fit in his Barbour jacket (from what the Sock can tell it doesn't appear to have been airbrushed). Matthew smirks like the cat that got the cream - as well he might look happy with his book. A few pages in, another picture, just as gorgeous but with a slightly more quizzical expression. Make the most of these because sadly after that pictures of Matthew are few, far between and small, until we have another one on the back sleeve cover.
All is not lost, however, to make up for the lack of Matthew pics the book is packed with beautiful illustrations (although the Sock didn't think the pictures of Keith Wiley's Devon garden were as good as hers).
The book includes case studies of the gardens which will be featured in the 'Landscape Man' TV series and if these are a taster of what is in store, we should at last be in for a gardening TV treat.
Although the book is an accompaniment to the TVseries, it is much more than that and is an interesting read in its own right, exploring the process of how to design a successful garden. Matthew's writing style is very engaging and the Sock can say that unlike most of her other gardening books, which are used pretty much for reference only, this can be read from cover to cover like a novel.
Unfortunately 'Landscape Man' is leaving the Sock somewhat discontent or at least exacerbating an already started process. The Sock designed her garden some years ago having been inspired by such as Dan Pearson's TV series and dare-she-say-it the early days of 'Groundforce'. Between them they made the Sock realise that her medium-sized terraced house garden didn't HAVE to have the lawn, or as Matthew Wilson notes, a path running the length of it to access the washing line without muddying your feet.
One Spring the Socks sat down and discussed what they wanted from the garden, a list was made, plan drawn up, a cardboard scale model assembled and over the next summer the Socks made it so.
Above shows Sock's garden layout after the redesign - although some things have since changed in the past few years, the layout is pretty much set-in-stone, or brick as the case may be.
At the time the Sock was very proud of their achievement but now believes it fits into the Anne Wareham category of 'Lovely garden' which to the Sock translates as generally pleasing, most people would like it, adds a bit to the value of the house but where is the 'thought', the 'edge'. It is the Project Runway's 'Prom dress' of gardens.. not 'Haute Couture', the America's Next Top Model's 'Pageant Queen' not really 'fierce'.**
Above Sock's garden with dear departed Binki cat. This border 'peaked' some years back and has never really been as good since the Sock started tweaking it.
The Sock still likes her garden and believes she has made good use of the space but can see where it is lacking. No mystery - it can all be seen with one glance. Although at the mid-point between the two brick circles there are cotinus planted at each side which the Sock hoped, when in leaf, would give a tied back curtain effect setting the stage for the back circle, this still hasn't given the garden any real height at this point. Dawn Isaac's recent Guardian blog about dividing up small gardens would have been useful in the initial thought process. The planting is too bitty - the Sock has been greedy to cram all the different plants and styles she likes into a small space so it lacks any continuity. Although it would perhaps look better with a limited colour pallet and some drift planting its not going to happen with this garden as it would restrict the Sock's horticultural retail therapy too much.
Recent picture of Sock's garden
So Matthew Wilson is to blame for planting new ideas in the Sock's mind, a desire to experiment with all those aspects of design that he covers in his book, light, shade, form, content, vistas, focal points and all those things that might give the Sock her coveted vision of mystery. The Sock wants to take her next gardening step forward and this is the book to help her do it.
There is only one thing for it, move somewhere with a large garden waiting to be transformed and have unlimited funds to do so.(Must have a word with the Bedsock.) The Sock now itches to see if she has another garden in her, something bigger, grander, something more 'designed'.
For those like the Sock who spend the cold months just dreaming of a new garden and those about to embark on a new garden voyage get under the duvet with Matthew Wilson NOW!
*HWB stands for Hot Water bottle and not Hot Willing
** The Sock makes no apology for watching these American shows, cut out the screaming and bitching and there is a lot of interesting stuff about fashion photography and design in these programs.