Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Under the Duvet with Matthew Wilson

The Sock has been snowed in with two stir crazy cats and no Bedsock.  What is a Sock to do to keep warm at a weekend when Spook has stolen her HWB*?

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 Boy Bedsock as some have suggested.

** 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.


Helen/patientgardener said...

I'm really looking forward to this series. My garden would also be described as 'lovely' by Anne Wareham for the same reasons. Try to be edgy but my plant collecting habits are at odds with it.

Karen - An Artist's Garden said...

Just skimmed through your post, and it is so interesting that I am going to have to come back later and fully digest it.

James A-S said...

Don't knock 'lovely'.
Lovely is good.
Lovely is definitely not something upon which scorn should be poured.
Lovely can also have edge and push and oomph and all that stuff.
While you were under the duvet did you get a chance to check his tattoo? rumour is that he has added Alastair Darling to the S-Club7 lineup.

Arabella Sock said...

It's not just SClub 7 tattoed on his butt, James, I just happened to notice the entire membership of the Goombay Dance Band singing 'Seven Tears' tattoed on his

Arabella Sock said...

OOps - I got interrupted. Now where was I? I'm not knocking lovely gardens at all, far from it and I am always very pleased and gratified if someone else thinks my garden is lovely. I'm just bored with it and there is nowhere to go unless I take Plant Mad Nige's advice and fill the whole thing with heuchera containing gabions. Hmm.. now that is an idea..

Ms B said...

Hmmmmmmmmm, not mushroom there then was what I thought when I read your title.

I know what it's like to have a brilliantly designed (!) yet little garden. You get itchy fingers & want to just change stuff just for the sake of change but it can't be done too easily & I don't have much brickage to deal with. That is why I get overly excited when I decide I can dig up a bed & introduce a bit of something slightly new.

Any advice you need..........hahahaha!

WV is affluis which means having lots of money available to completely re-vamp your garden or ideed buy another one.

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

What the Hatman said, with bells on!!! (Except for that bit about the duvet and stuff.)

I understand why you are a bit bored with it. What is lacking is height and some strategical placement of hedges, fences or what have you to stop you from seeing the garden in one go.

What you could also do is make your garden cat escape proof (easily done with a garden like yours) that way you don't have to worry about your sweeties coming to grief. Just a thought!

BTW is that new garden series going to be on the Beeb or not?

Claire Potter said...

I echo the comments above. 'Lovely' is nothing to be belittled, or shovelled away for the sharp, crisp and 'informed'. Not everything can be everything all of the time.
True spaces speak about the personality, passion and place of their location, and as we change, so do the foundations of what we consider 'us'. Design is only a reflection of a particular pinpoint in time - there is no such thing as 'timeless design'.
If you think you need to change the garden, it probably is just that you have grown with it and fancy a new hairdo. or something.
tasty post.

James A-S said...

If you need an expert eye then I happen to know that Claire Potter lives close and is reasonably priced.

Just remember that she has a selection of long swords so pay your invoices when asked.

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

Oh I loved this post - new book and new series to think about, Matthew Wilson, musing to be done about your garden. I think yours looks really good, lovely even. Can't you keep the hardlandscaping and make a couple of big planting changes? I used to have small gardens and bewailed the lack of a grand canvas. Now I have two acres of sloping, scruffy field and have no idea where to start. Never satisfied.

James Golden said...

It IS lovely. Some strategically placed small trees for mystery, less infrastructure, some ragged edges? Cheaper than moving. Thanks, yet another book I want to buy.

Arabella Sock said...

I can't really see us moving in the near future as out of the choices of "where we would like to be" and "where it is actually feasible for us to be" Brighton still comes top. I think for me it is the idea of never having another garden to design, something larger so I could find out if I actually had any more ideas in me.

In the event this dream of 'land and dosh' ever did come to fruition I was wondering whether I would employ a designer to help draw the ideas out of my head. Matthew covers this in the book and I thought this quote was interesting

"..for every great garden made solely by its owner is a garden made by a designer working under the benefaction of an enlightened patron."

I could definitely go in for a bit of enlightened patronage and would see it as part of the creative process plus the fun of sharing my ideas and being guided towards new ones.

matthew wilson said...

My dear A, firstly my thanks for such a lovely review! You are most king. Now then, whilst the tattoo probably does resemble the Goombay Band in their pomp in the seductive half light of your boudoir/sockery, a closer inspection would have revealed that it is in fact a rendering of all the BBC GW presenters, past and present, in the style of Mt Rushmore. When I flex my buttocks just so Peter Seabrook seems to be mouthing the word 'Peat'.
With regard to your garden, Claire and James are on the money (annoyingly James so often is...) and Claire is quite right that if you feel it is time for a change it isn't necessarily to do with a shortcoming of the garden, more that you are ready for something new. You certainly shouldn't feel disheartened by something that has given you such pleasure. You should see my garden - it's rubbish!

Arabella Sock said...

Oh dear, Mount Rushmore, Peter Seabrook - too much information. There's always someone has to go that bit too far!

I wasn't fishing for compliments about my garden but it is gratifying to have them anyway. Anyway I have a new look for it now as it is covered in snow and the borders may well need overhauling when I lose all the tender stuff.

aspidistra said...

Never mind all this garden talk, I just love the Spook pic. Any chance of going into the cat loan business? Say, 50p an hour, you could probably get him over here by lunchtime if you go by bus, nevermind the snow. It would be like social services, helping the snowbound and needy keep warm. Please?

the cycling gardener said...

I too have a garden that is too small for the satisfaction of my creative juices so I inflict them on other people instead. I am truly heartened to read Matthew thinks his garden is rubbish. Mine is frequently cluttered up with plants residing in pots bound for clients and the line and form of my carefully thought out borders destroyed by impulse buys and plants I just have to have a go at growing . I really should know better. What’s that old saying about cobblers and their shoes?

Arabella Sock said...

Aspidistra don't be fooled. Spook may look sweet (and he is very photogenic) but he can be an absolute little beast! He has 3 modes, asleep which is good, affectionate which involves clinging to me like a limpet for hours and me having to disentangle myself from him every time I need to move which gets a bit wearing, and scavenging for food which is terribly annoying! He found a block of parmesan left out on the surface for a few minutes whilst I answered the phone and by the time I came back it was completely covered in scratches and toothmarks! Plus he is discovering his voice and vocal range which he employs at some length whenever he is thwarted in his evil endeavours!

Denise said...

I love your garden, a comment which I know doesn't help your dilemma much. I've started to tear mine up too (coincidentally, composed of brick circular paths. Hmm...) Any chance a property on either side of you goes up for sale in the immediate future really cheap? (I have daydreams like this all the time...) Then there'd be scope for mysteries, corners to turn, etc.

Arabella Sock said...

Ah Denise we think alike! I spend a lot of time fantasizing what I would do with the next door neighbours garden which is an overgrown mess. She is quite elderly and doesn't do anything in it. Last year I asked her if she would like to sell me the back half of it which would have left her a more manageable sized garden and released some cash to her which she is short of. She wouldn't go for it unfortunately as it would decrease the value of her house and I'm not sure that we could have afforded it anyway. It was a shame as I had already planned all sorts of good things for it!