Heat is on

It’s been wonderful working out in the garden in the heat and sunshine.  I’ve been able to spread out my collected materials and see how it might all come together.  Plasma cutting got a little too hot but it’s a nifty new tool for ‘drawing’ ragged edges for the effect I want.

Fiona plasma cutting Lichen-inspired - work in progress

Even more inspired to get on with my final piece after going to a talk by Piet Oudolf in Bruton this week (Kitty Hillier was also there).  His world re-knowned natural garden designs, using grasses as an integral feature, are an inspiration to the owners at Esotera.  Tall reeds and grasses around their large pond will be echoed by the textures and  vertical sense of movement in my giant ‘fallen’ nest.

Willow, weaving and watching the flowers grow.

Under the inspirational shadow of the Willow Cathedral at Longrun Meadow the children settled down to carefully observe their chosen plants and pollinators. The site visits to local cultivated areas were very important research, so the children could learn about the role that pollinators play as well as observe the shapes and colours for their sculptures.


IMG_1625Small       IMG_1638Small

At school, working in groups of three the children began by bending willow to make the framework of their plant or insect. Once the shape was tied in place with string they moved on to the next stage. They carefully inserted garden netting into the hollow frame. This required careful measuring and a degree of manual dexterity to keep in it all in place using sticky tape and string. Then coloured strips from re-claimed fabrics were used to weave the bodies, being careful to match the colours correctly, so that each sculpture looks realistic.



Finally, you have a beautiful finished object ready to be part of the Abundance Pop Up Meadow. In all approximately 40 pieces will have been made by around 140 Taunton primary school children.


The Pop Up Meadow will be visiting  Lyngford Park Craft Day on 6th August 11am-3pm, French Weir Fun Day 11th August 12 noon- 4pm Priorswood Allotments 18th August (2-5.30pm £4 entry, child free)  as part of the National Gardens Scheme, Somerset Square Taunton (by the Brewhouse) 24th August and  Longrun Meadow Fun Day 8th September times to be announced.

Plus, during Somerset Art Weeks, details coming soon.

Photographs by Nisha Haq featuring pupils from North Town Primary School.

a return, loss and gain


An opportunity is given to me, to return to Hadspen to see the garden, and discuss opportunities for filming there.

The house has been for sale for two years, and is now being sold, on the cusp of changing ownership, from over two centuries of being in the Hobhouse family.

For information about the history of Hadspen Garden, please go to this page on my own art and horticulture blog, Inquiline.

I return for the first time in 9 years to the garden.

Half of it is so nearly the same, half of it is so very different.

The smell of the former tea room, as I opened the door to the small empty cottage, is time travelling.

Allium Sicilums are in full flower, bumble bees.

Ancient nails on the parabola wall.

I spend a few hours – longer than intended.

A few weeks later, I receive an email that the new owners would rather I didn’t use any footage that I had filmed there, and that it would not be possible for me to return to film again. Understandable perhaps, given the complex recent history of the garden.  But also short-sighted.

In some ways it was a relief.  Even though I never intended to make any kind of ‘peeling paint’ video about Hadspen, now there was no option, although documentation of the garden as it has changed over time, as it is now, is so valuable and powerful.

I went in through a window.

I stayed too long.  I didn’t stay long enough.

Eyes shut at Hadspen June 2013

penelope and victoria

Two very significant conversations.

The first with Penelope Hobhouse in April.

About Hadspen, and the history of the garden, and her life in that garden. Plants, about the relationship between the gardener and the garden. About Central Asia, tender evergreens, Iranian plants.  Self-seeding plants, and an increasing love for them.  And her allotment back at Hadspen around 2007 (as the garden redesign was happening) sewn only with poppies from Kabul  – poppies that will continue to self-seed around Hadspen probably for years to come.

Talking with her was great. I liked seeing how she gardened now, in her own garden, away from management or expectation, and a sense of knowing exactly what she wants to grow, and to look at.  Cerinthe seedlings around and in the greenhouse.  A shared love of green flowers.

I love self seeders. I do have to edit them. I love seeing where they turn up. I love the fact that they’re happy enough to do it.

Our conversation recalled something Mary Keen wrote in the Telegraph in 2012 in relation to Hadspen and ‘a garden never lasting’ …

“There is an exemplary no-dig patch and until very recently Penny Hobhouse had a plot where she sowed opium poppies collected in Kabul. Now they seed all over the garden in shades of coral and raspberry pink and blackest purple. I suspect they may continue at Hadspen for hundreds of years, like Reseda luteola, the plant Romans used for its yellow dye, which surfaced after the excavation of a Roman site near Cirencester. It is, in the end, the seeds of former crazes that remain in gardens long after the designs their owners planned are blurred with wilderness.”


The second conversation with Victoria Glendinning later in April, who had moved into the Pope’s house when they retired and left England.

Victoria very generously showed me round her garden, pointing out plants that remained, or she herself had acquired when Niall Hobhouse and Nori Pope had invited gardeners to come in to dig up plants from the parabola, before the garden redesign began.  Victoria had prepared a list of plants that she had from Hadspen or from the Popes, and rather brilliantly, had written it in the back cover leaf of the Pope’s book ‘Colour by Design’.

We talked about the plants she had inherited or acquired from Hadspen Garden, in particular some dusty corms in a box which turned out to be ‘absolute thugs‘.

Victoria's list in the Popes book

And Victoria had created a special border which she had titled ‘Homage au Popes‘ –

“They adored plants with dark red or dark foliage, so I moved them all here to this bed.”

Victoria's list of plants

Playing the waiting game……

I intend using reeds as thatching, to cover the outside of the Horn of Plenty.

Ham Wall Nature Reserve http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/h/hamwall/ are willing to let me have as many reeds as I need but, I have to wait until the nesting season is over…..about the middle of August). so I’m now playing the waiting game. I’ve visited the reserve several times to record the growth of the reeds and they are now green and lush. A few more weeks to go…….. DSC_0004






Not there yet, but here are a few photos of my progress over the past few weeks.  I think the correct term is ‘hoarder’… my garden’s been taken over and going a bit wild, but the good news is I have enough scrap steel now!  I would still love to acquire some more copper – especially in sheet or bowl form – if anybody can help?   Will soon be embarking on using my new plasma cutter, which should make the job much easier.  There’s still lots to do.  The real art will be to bring it all together successfully…

Pile of scrap steelWorking out the scale for EsoteraScrap steel ready for cutting Ready for cuttingBeautiful rustGrowing collection of lichenTriffid/lichen