Monday Musings – glyphosate and radical transparency…

It is becoming ever clearer that we really do not know what is actually in the things we use, wear or eat. Not a day appears to go by without a product, formula or chemical being revealed as being ‘possibly detrimental to human health’ (note the possible, and the limitations on ‘human’). We live in a world of complicated concoctions with often untraceable foundations. But, for many, ignorance is bliss. What you don’t know won’t harm you. Well, quite possibly it will.

dandelions

Glyphosate has long been outlawed by organic gardeners for the fierceness and obliterating chemical qualities it has on everything it comes into contact with, but a report issued this week from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organisation (WHO), has categorised the chemical as a ‘probable carcinogen’.

For some, this is no great surprise, but for many this has come as quite a shock, especially as retailers were quick to announce the removal of the products from their shelves. Given that glyphosate is the active ingredient in the majority of weedkillers, including Monsanto’s Roundup, it is far more common an ingredient than you may think, meaning that many gardeners and farmworkers are exposing themselves to the probable carcinogen each year.

So – will glyphosate be banned? Possibly not. There is (of course) a bit of an uproar from Monsanto (what a surprise), plus other European research groups have declared it safe for use, but this poses an interesting question. If there is some risk, is it worth it?

This same question is raised in ‘Ecological Intelligence – the coming age of radical transparency‘ by Daniel Goleman. An empowered consumer is one with the facts, so if there is risk, or a possibility of harm, that consumer may decide the risk is just not worth taking – even if the findings are disputed by others.

This is probably why the big box retailers acted so quickly and publicly when the report was issued on glypsophate. Even if there was the tiniest chance of risk, they certainly do not want to be seen to putting their customers in the firing line.

And what can we do, as the everyday consumer? Well, we can respond in the way that hits the brands the most. We switch brands and make it clear that we are not willing to take on the risk, however small. If we have a choice (and there are natural alternatives to weedkillers, like digging the blighters up), then we are in a position to affect a change. The safe and ethical brands will rise to the top and the Monsanto’s of the world will begin to sink.

Legislation is one thing, but for some, profits shout the loudest. Hit them where it hurts.

no public landscaping? just wheel one out…

There is so much that we missed when we were in Milan recently for the Salone del Mobile – and we are still discovering loads of exciting things that just skipped past without being seen… One such project is the rolling garden by the A4A Rivolta Savioni Studio, which saw moveable gardens literally roll into Milan to create pop up areas of public landscaping.

green design, eco design, sustainable design, A4A Rivolta Savioni Studio, urban garden, Expo Gate Milano, Salone del Mobile, Why not in the garden?, urban garden, modular garden

Constructed from bases featuring old bike wheels, the colourful frameworks of ‘why not in the garden’ featured bench style seating and a variety of plants which could be simply and easily reconfigured into a range of configurations according to the need of the space.

green design, eco design, sustainable design, A4A Rivolta Savioni Studio, urban garden, Expo Gate Milano, Salone del Mobile, Why not in the garden?, urban garden, modular garden

Plus, majority of the plants were edible, which is one of our personal obsessions – bringing the edible back into the centre of public landscaping rather than the usual municipal planting suspects.

Click to enlarge image A4A_whynotinthegarden_07.jpg

The real success of this little pop up though is the incredible flexibility it brought to the centre of Milan, with people congregating in different ways according to the pattern the rolling gardens were laid out in.

We are gutted that we missed this one!

(images via Inhabitat)

Easter gift idea – a membership to the Heritage Seed Library…

Before anyone says anything – we are huge fans of chocolate, especially the organic loveliness from Montezumas in Brighton, but we had a thought about what else we would love to give people as a gift this Easter break. With the front of the studio literally springing up before our eyes, the soil warming nicely and the seed packages mounting up, we will be giving the gift of heritage growing – with memberships to the Heritage Seed Library from Garden Organic.

We are very proud to be members, with our annual subs of £18 going towards conserving vegetable types which are not commercially available any more. Some are UK varieties, some from further afield, but the HSL ensures that these varieties are not being lost forever… Plus, as part of our membership – as well as the warm fuzzy feeling of doing something good, we also get to pick six different varieties from the library each December to grow ourselves.

From purple carrots to purple beans and even long lost fruits such as the triffid like Achocha, we have had the joy (and sometimes despair) of growing over the past ten years or so. Plus, there is nothing quite like putting a variety into the summer village show that has not been seen for a few years, if at all.

So, if you have someone that is green fingered and not a huge fan of chocolate, perhaps a membership to the Heritage Seed Library could be in order?

(images via the HSL)

2014 recap – August – a Cor-ten steel fence…

Today on our recap we are back in August, where things were fine and warm and we were enjoying toasty days outside in our gardens. We found a rather nice fence for those gardens too…

first published August 2014…

Ok. We are bending the rules just a touch today with this fantastic image. Not strictly a wall, today’s post is all about a fence. Constructed from cor-ten steel, the fence has a beautiful rusted appearance and allows it to blend rather beautifully with its location whilst still being a modern take on a fence.corten steel

Designed by Mikyoung Kim, the fence mimics the patternation of the oak leaves which are found on the site of this private residence in Massachusetts. The use of the cor-ten steel means that the structure is still fully stable even with the rusted appearance and does not require any coatings or paint. Even though using a weathering steel such as cor-ten is not the cheapest of options for a project, there is little ongoing maintenance required for the material which is protected by the outer ‘rusted’ layer, which cuts down on both cost and time implications.

It also gives a very lovely shifting colouration which is hard to get in metal but often found in wood, allowing it to feel as natural as possible. It is quite an acquired taste however, with some feeling that cor-ten steel just looks like rusted steel (which of course, it is), but we think that it is a highly versatile material.

And there is nothing wrong with a little rust eh?

(image via landezine.com)

Wednesday walls – espalier apples, alliums and box…

Today on Wednesday walls we are giving you a very brief peek at our new studio, which is finally taking shape and will be open very soon for the Brighton Eco Open Houses tours in the middle of this month. It is an old public toilet that we have converted into a new design studio (in keeping with our upcycling obsession), and as well as having a lovely interior space, we have a lovely exterior space too – which we are filling with fruit and herbs, including espalier apples, alliums and box. espalier apples alliums and box 1Now, you may be thinking where the wall aspect comes in today – well, with our south facing studio we have two walls which are perfect for fruit trees – and specifically, espalier trained apple trees.

The espalier trees not only benefit from the support of the wall (they will be tied into supports on the wall), the fruit will benefit from the heat that the bricks will store.

espalier apples alliums and box 2We have chosen two espalier apples for the front of the studio, which have now been underplanted with Purple Sensation Alliums, Box (which will be trained into spheres) and lavender, to aid pollination. The rest of the planters are now filled with more bulbs, grasses, herbs and fruit – plus there will be seasonal vegetables planted too over the coming months.

As well as the side walls, we have the front facade of the building, which will soon have a kiwi fruit scrambling up the front and a green wall planted above the cycle racks…

So – make the most of your walls for planting – and get fruity!

(photos by claire potter)

 

wednesday walls – a cor-ten steel fence…

Ok. We are bending the rules just a touch today with this fantastic image. Not strictly a wall, today’s post is all about a fence. Constructed from cor-ten steel, the fence has a beautiful rusted appearance and allows it to blend rather beautifully with its location whilst still being a modern take on a fence.corten steel

Designed by Mikyoung Kim, the fence mimics the patternation of the oak leaves which are found on the site of this private residence in Massachusetts. The use of the cor-ten steel means that the structure is still fully stable even with the rusted appearance and does not require any coatings or paint. Even though using a weathering steel such as cor-ten is not the cheapest of options for a project, there is little ongoing maintenance required for the material which is protected by the outer ‘rusted’ layer, which cuts down on both cost and time implications.

It also gives a very lovely shifting colouration which is hard to get in metal but often found in wood, allowing it to feel as natural as possible. It is quite an acquired taste however, with some feeling that cor-ten steel just looks like rusted steel (which of course, it is), but we think that it is a highly versatile material.

And there is nothing wrong with a little rust eh?

(image via landezine.com)

SPOTTED – structures in Arundel Castle Gardens…

Last week we had a very rare day off to visit Arundel Castle for the medieval tournament (which was fantastic) but as well as watching the most magnificent jousting and sword fighting, we also had a very lovely tour of the gardens. We have already spoken about the inspired allium and lavender planting combination that we spotted in the cutting garden, but today we are looking at a few of the structure in the Arundel Castle Gardens

First up is this wonderful green oak arch / walkway that features in the Collector Earl’s Garden, which is beautifully simple, yet also a very accomplished piece of timber structuring.

arundel castle gardens 1

Framing views, the archway and dome provide both focal points and a touch of shade in the otherwise exposed Italianate styled garden. This is a key top tip for spaces of any size – if the eye sees everything at once then a space can feel uninteresting or even a great deal smaller than it actually is. By framing views and breaking up the expanse you create increased interest in any space, whilst also having the opportunity to direct a focus in any direction you choose, such as towards a sculpture or even the view beyond.

arundel castle gardens 4

The timber structures in the space continued with a quite incredible wooden folly, decorated with antlers.

arundel castle gardens 6

And also the fantastic Oberon’s Palace, which featured fountains and sculptures and was surrounded with large terracotta pots filled with cool coloured Agapanthus.

arundel castle gardens 5

But the structures continued into the cutting and edible gardens too, with the imposing green oak arched walkway being reflected in an apple archway, which not only provided a productive architectural element to the second part of the gardens but visually tied these very different spaces together.

arundel castle gardens 2

Covered with (we think) Ashmead’s Kernel, the apple archway also allowed framed views of the historical buildings of Arundel…

arundel castle gardens 3

The Arundel Castle Gardens are all accessible within the entry level ticket and, in our opinion, are one of the huge highlights. There is a stunning amount of variety, and at this time of the year, they are also abundant with flowers and fruits. Plus, the Head Gardener and team are out and about – and were very pleased to impart their knowledge of the space and the gardens to the visitors. We were even given a small bunch of sweet peas.

A wonderful gem of an attraction in Sussex – the Arundel Castle Gardens are beautiful, slightly bonkers and varied. Which in our book is quite a winning combination.

(photos by claire potter)

 

SPOTTED – alliums and lavender…

Lavender is one of those plants which we use a great deal in our landscape design schemes as it ticks multiple boxes. It is beautifully scented, has great all year round structure, is great for bees, is edible and is generally very hardy. What’s not to like really. Plus, you can get it in all sizes and in an increasing amount of shades of whites, blues and purples – even pinks, which are not so much our bag, but hey. Lavender is great.

Another thing that lavender is great for is for growing things through – we have underplanted lavender with dark Queen of the Night tulips before, which worked particularly well as they were not only given support whilst they grew, the colour contrast was amazing and the dying leaves of the tulips (which always look rather untidy) were concealed by the growing lavender. Win win.

alliums and lavender

So we are always looking for other examples of how lavender can be underplanted. Whilst at Arundel Castle this week for the Medieval Tournament we spotted this lovely example in the cutting garden, where dwarf lavender had been underplanted with alliums.

Both the alliums and lavender had gone past their best, but we thought it was a fantastic example of a planting pair. The alliums, which are notoriously top heavy were supported like footballs on top of the lavender and allowed them to remain as interesting structural seed heads in the bed.

Even when the lavender is cut back at the end of the season, the alliums can remain through the autumn to provide continued variation in the flower bed.

A really, really lovely example of pairing planting – we think this could also be used with rosemary, which has a similar growth habit to lavender and is also evergreen. Just keep the rosemary short and neat so the alliums can punch through the green.

(photo by claire potter)

wednesday walls – another type of green wall…

We are rather obsessed with planted, or green walls here in the studio. We think they are a brilliant way of utilising an otherwise abandoned surface for stuff that helps clean the air, is productive, encourages biodiversity or at the very least, looks great and reminds us of the natural world and our passing seasons. So, as we continue to be obsessed with the green wall, here is another, quite stunning example that we spotted over on Pinterest…

La Leroteca / Lacaja Arquitectos, green wall, garden in wall, flowers on facade, wood exterior wall, kindergarten

Situated in Colombia, this kindergarten by Lacaja Arquitectos has a beautifully deep facade which is planted with a variety of flowering plants and herbs. Now, this is a detail that works very well if a projecting planter could be an issue – ie, on a walkway that people could hit their head on, or if a slick detail is required.

The stones provide drainage, and it is likely that the water is allowed to drain from the top planted trough to the bottom.

If you are planning a new, cladded facade and wanted a green wall, then this could be the detail for you…

(image by Rodrigo Davila, via archdaily)

weekend colour inspiration – multicoloured decking…

Today on weekend colour inspiration we are looking at one of the latest projects from Studio Weave – the new roof terrace to the London College of Fashion, which features multicoloured decking laid in a herringbone pattern, more often seen in interior projects.

Studio Weave's coloured decking timber is laid in a herringbone pattern, a nod to London-based Studio Weave's name and London College of Fashion (LCF)'s roots.

What we love about this project is both the pattern and the colours – so often decking is laid straight and one colour, so if your planting scheme is going to be more muted, why not take the opportunity to bring in colour with the floor treatment instead? Personally, we would have put in a few more plants to soften the space a bit and mimic a few of the colours used in the decking, but hey.

Also, levels and layers are incredibly important in landscaping projects to give not only visual interest but also an interesting space to inhabit. With a variety of places to sit, the terrace becomes more flexible and exciting than a flat area of decking.

These sorts of ideas can easily be replicated in a smaller area, so why not add a few levels and a bit of colour to your own deck? Our favourite stains come from Auro – their 160 woodstain is not only environmentally friendly, it comes in a large variety of colours…

(image via Dezeen)

weekend colour inspiration – landscape details…

Today, as it is of course, the week of the Chelsea Flower Show, we are looking at a nice landscape detail we spotted on Pinterest…

landscaping lines

We are big fans of creating lines in the landscapes that we design, both in the detailing and the layout, so we thought that this particular piece of detailing was rather lovely. The grass strips linking into the paving, linking into the cobbles and paving beyond is a very good example of bringing interest to even the smallest of areas.

This sort of design can be used to navigate around an area, designating the walkways, or even areas that you are not supposed to travel within. It can also help to link borders into walkways by allowing planting to drift into the paving areas.

So – not strictly a colour inspiration, but hey ho.

(photo via Pinterest)

SPOTTED – the Brighton Artist’s Open Houses – the Fiveways trail part 2

For our second part of our jaunt around the Fiveways section of the Brighton Artist’s Open Houses we found a lovely little selection of garden ceramics and illustration. In fact, so far we have found quite a few great examples of exterior ceramics this year – all taking references from seed heads or petal formations, but each with their own twist.

First up was the beautiful exterior ceramics of Frances Doherty, which are currently on show at 31 Havelock Road, number 9 on the Fiveways trail this year. They look like massively enlarged close ups of flowers, giving the ‘bugs eye view’ that Doherty looks for in the pieces she creates. The colours are intense and beautifully formed and would look great in a flower bed to give extended interest, particularly in the winter months. 
frances doherty 1

Next we tripped over to 28 Florence Road (which is actually part of the Beyond the Level trail, but hey ho) to see a wonderful range of both painting, illustration and sculpture. We were very taken with the printing and illustration of Jonny Hannah, which had a very voodoo type styling, playing with the iconography of tarot cards in bright and brash paintings. We loved the ‘welcome to dark town’ prints, which each had a different back illustration.

jonny hannah 1

The tarot style painted playing cards were displayed in a large grid formation above the fireplace, which, in itself was very striking, but each one is actually available to purchase individually. Framed up, these little cards would bring a real injection of colour and character to a tiny room. Stunning work and we had trouble choosing our favourite.

jonny hannah 2

Last up, we ventured into the garden, with our pot of fresh coffee and cardamom coffee cake and carrot lime cake (highly recommended!) and enjoyed sitting beneath a fully blossomed tree in the sun, taking in the view of the gorgeous walled garden and the sculptures that were on display from Si Unwins.

si unwins 1Taking another view of the stylised naturalistic, these sculptures were created using centres of carved wood with bent, verdigris patternated copper nails creating the main seed head elements of the piece. Available in a variety of sizes and styles, these sculptures both blended with the surrounding foliage and created a real impact once you spotted them.

A great set of garden ceramics and illustration and definitely something for everyone…Especially if you like cake too. Which we do.

Check back at SPOTTED next Tuesday for the next instalment in our travels around the Artist’s Open Houses in Brighton…

(photos by claire potter)

 

Weekend colour inspiration – a coloured light installation in Berlin

Today on weekend colour inspiration we are looking at something a little different. Using light to create a colour installation. We spotted this lovely installation under a bridge in Berlin, which was nothing short of beautiful.Berlin light installation 2

The linear lights were arranged in a very large, slightly squished circle on the underside of the bridge and provided a beautiful swathe of coloured lights as they grew brighter and faded in turn, creating a phasing effect.

berlin light installation 1

Now, this sort of light installation is perhaps too large for the average residential space, and perhaps a bit too disco, but on a smaller scale, this sort of effect could be used in a stairway, or even in a garden space. Static, or fading slightly would be less distracting, but any coloured light adds real drama to the space.

Give it a go.

(images by claire potter) go see a video of this on our Instagram feed…

the edible city – window shades with integrated growing

Even though lots of us like to eat local, seasonal and fresh, not a lot of us have either the time or the space to grow our own food. Inner city allotments are harder to find (and take up lots of time) and many of us do not have the option of outdoor space at all – especially if we live in apartments or flats. But, fortunately, there are lots of designers who are thinking about how we can tackle this issue with innovative products – and we were delighted when we discovered the Herbow concept by Hsu Hao-Po, Chang Yu-Hui & Chang Chung-Wei – a window shade with integrated growing.

Acting as both as a sun shade and adjustable rain screen, the Herbow is a series of window shades with integrated growing for a few plants to take advantage of the space and resources at hand.

Even though this product is only a concept, there is a definite need for this kind of joined up thinking – solving a few problems with a single product and allowing us to be closer to the production of our food.

(images via Yanko Design)

2014 trends – internal planting gets a boost

We have been watching this one for a while – and participating in it too… the rise of internal planting. Gone are the days of the office with the overgrown cheese plant festering in the corner. Internal planting now entails green walls, lushly planted swathes of greenery in massed oversized planters – even internal planting that hangs from the ceiling.

Threshold 2013. Architecture and Interior Photography by Jim Stephenson

And we predict that the sort of installations that we have been seeing in the offices, studios and retail spaces of late will migrate across to domestic settings on a smaller scale.

As we spoke about with the steampunk trend earlier this week, this is part down to the fact that we are seeing the inclusion of internal planting increasingly in the commercial spaces we are inhabiting, but it is also because manufacturers are beginning to create products suitable for a wider range of applications.

One of our favourite – and one that we used in two projects in 2013 was the wonderful Sky Planter by Boskke (as seen above in our Edible Office installation for Love Architecture Week 2013). An upside down planter with integrated water reservoir, the recycled plastic pot hangs from a braided steel cable and provides a very interesting way to display your plants. Internal planting is not limited to the ‘house plant’ displays of old and there are actually lots of plants, including orchids and even herbs that grow very well in this orientation.

But a post on the increase of the internal planting trend would not be complete without a few words on the iconic green wall.

Whilst the large scale, self watering systems that you see in commercial settings are very, very highly engineered beasts, there are a few options which are far down the complexity scale and give a generally similar aesthetic.

One such option is the Woolly Pocket system, which, in a similar way to the Boskke Sky Planter, integrates a water reservoir to not only cut down on the chore of watering, but provides a clean and neat way to support your plants. Choose plants that cascade naturally (such as spider plants, ivy or drooping ferns) and you can create an opulent feature for relatively little cash. Or herbs in a kitchen? Free up space on the windowcill and do a spot of internal planting on your walls instead.

So, we think that 2014 will be the year that we all get a little greener. In a different way.

(images by Jim Stephenson and Woolly Planters)