It was all a bit last minute to be honest and the inner cynic faffed about whether I should afford this day in the Gloucestershire countryside, wandering round the country garden of writer and designer Mary Keen along with Dan Pearson, probably just some very tolerant professionals making money for a good cause but not a great deal of content? But the lure of Dan Pearson was too much to resist, so the 3rd to last place was booked and I was en route to the deepest cotswold village of Duntisbourne.

The Garden Museum have a program of events this autumn conceived it seems by a number of people and organised by Christopher Woodward and his team. This, the Gloucestershire study day, followed a nursery visit and garden day near Henley and precedes a walk in several London square gardens in October. I must say I will be much more proactive in attending next time because these are truly hidden gems of days.

Christopher Woodward, capturing the day

These are not only places that one cannot normally visit but they are visited with people who either own and manage them or who have conceived and built them and so on both counts they understand the measure of the garden, not just the physical elements but the non-physical elements, the spirit, the atmosphere, the magic of them. At yesterdays study day I had the good fortune to be in Mary’s garden group (6 of us) and hear her talk of her garden and it’s atmosphere, to watch her interact with it as she walked through, sat on a beloved seat talking about current projects in her garden, pointing out beloved elements for us to notice and reminding us that this is a garden for her and her family not a garden made for a client. The Gardener’s Garden. Like a person’s home or library I think a gardener’s garden tells you of the person, the spaces they make, the attention that is lavished or not and where their focus is. It’s very personal to be introduced to a garden in this manner.

Mary's group discussing edits...

Hearing how both Dan and Mary work with clients was a delight and as  a new-ish  designer good to know that even the best come up against the challenge of client management and they both said this is a key and vital part of a successful practice. Both incredibly generous with their resources and information showing us client briefs, final Master plan presentations and explaining in some detail how their process works and who they work with.

Dan's garden group 'presenting ideas'

I felt mostly like a greedy sponge soaking it all up and tried not to scribble too furiously and make too many demanding enquiries, but believe me this is hard when faced with enormously interesting, widely accomplished articulate people who are keen to communicate, there is so much to ask and to know, one day is simply not enough!

The attendees seemed to be garden designers in the main, with one or two interested amateurs – as they described themselves – which made for interesting questions and conversations. In particular during our group exercise to consider options for an area Mary wants to update in her garden. Again in the afternoon discussions designers asked questions on challenging aspects of current projects, mainly about planting I must say!

Strong recommendations to stick to you guns on a plant and to wait for the right one, even if that is more than a year, to use the right nurseries, Orchard Dene got several mentions, and to start small and denser and to edit later. Indeed to expect to edit at regular intervals and to communicate this clearly to the client well in advance, to engage a ‘buy in’ so that early on, even the non-gardeners will know that their outside space will evolve and entwine itself into their hearts in a way that their shiny new kitchen never can.

The Old Rectory location was enchanting both inside and out, it was incredibly welcoming and not at all intimidating (well maybe a little) even being asked to ‘present design ideas’ to two such notables. What a marvellous day indeed and Mr Pearson if you ever consider taking on a planting design/ planty intern please let it be ME, I can WILL travel!

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