Monday, October 4, 2010

Southport Flower Show 2010 - How to build a Show Garden in 1 Week...

Hi everybody, sorry for being a bit late with the news but I have been incredibly busy with finishing the course and submitting my last piece of work – the soft landscape portfolio.

As you might have read in April- Momo and I won the 2010 Student Garden Design Competition for the Southport Flower Show. The price was 6000GBP which we used to build the garden at the show (19th-22rd of August 2010). The runner up was Selma Klophaus from the University of Weihenstephan (landscape architecture), Munich.

It was a great experience and I would love to give you some details on how we did it.

WEDNESDAY, 11th of August: After we both arrived we had a meeting with Lisa Taylor (Marketing Southport Flower Show) and Ian Hunt (the carpenter we asked to help us with all wood works) and visited the site- a cute 6x6m corner spot.

THURSDAY, 12th: When we arrived most of the other gardens were already nearly finished and already in the planting process- ups, pressure was up! Especially when Ian told us he would be coming on Sunday to start working on site.
Lisa told us that the garden has to be finished on Wednesday 1pm as the judges arrive around 2pm. Ok, we thought- easy!

When Keith (angel of the Southport Flower Show ;-))) ) came to first spray the plot, take of the lawn and then digg out what we wanted to be the pond we started to be very excited as this would really bet he first garden we build from scratch with our own hands!

Ian was so nice to drive us around Southport and show us garden centers where we could find sand and stones that we still needed to order.
Also we managed to rent a van to drive down to Oxfordshire to pick up the plants we had ordered in May.

FRIDAY, 13th: Bad omen... We spent the whole day on the road just to find out that the plants we ordered were not very well maintained and look absolutely awful. They either did not grow very well, or had already flowered. We were absolutely devastated as the planting was so important and finding the right plants in this short amount of time seemed to be absolutely impossible. Driving back north we made plans but our mood was not very positive.

SATURDAY, 14th: After a short night we unloaded the van to see our neighbours at the show laughing at us...especially as the Southport mail promised to show exciting flowers and plant combinations this year! OMG.

Chris Ashcroft, a local landscaper offered help and spent half a day to drive with us to some nurseries where we found some useful plants but most of what was offered was already over or did not suit our theme: coastal.

SUNDAY, 15th: At this stage I would like to mention that we love Southport! It is beautiful, the people are incredibly nice and helpful and even the weather was not too bad.
Ian and his team started building the pergola out of reclaimed wood, we mainly used euro palettes for the fence and also for the board walk. 

When Ian saw our plants he doubted the garden to look good. (Luckily he told us after everything was finished...)

So we went together to some more garden centers and finally found – expensive- but nice plants that would suit our requirements and would look absolutely awsome in the right combination. Coming back to the site the pergola was up and the ponds  filled with nice soft sand before we put the liner in. 

MONDAY, 16th: Time is running. We picked up the last plants at some nurseries but then faced the next challenge- it seamed to be impossible to buy grey/white or silver sand! All the sand we got offered was either yellow or red.

Massam supplies was the place to go to and Steve and his team tried everything to find the sand and pebbles we wanted. They ended up ordering sand from Yorkshire which got delivered the next day, one day before judging, phew.
The rest of monday we spend with emptying and filling the ponds to make the water look clean, which was not very easy but the guys from Tarleton Specimen Plants showed us a trick: you simply take a sheet of newspaper and carefully slide it over the top of the water. All the oily bits and pieces will stick to the paper!

Some last bits and pieces for Ian to change and prepare for tomorrow, including to wooden planters for  the two shrubs we bought- oh yes, he loved us ;-)...
When it started to get dark we had no light, so I drove the van to the plot to be able to see what I was planting. But wonderful Keith gave us a hand again and installed our private moon...
We worked until midnight when it rained so heavily that we walked home.

TUESDAY, 17th: By now we ran out of clothes, all wet and dirty- yak.
Arrival of pebbles and silver sand- we do not have enough! Arg.
The pond liner shows. Ian goes to the super market to buy aluminium foil and we cover up the pond liner. It will do for 3 days of the show...

We would normally suggest the use of aluminium sheets or stainless steel. The aluminium foil bounced back the light in the water and made the silver sand more shiny. Filling up the ponds and then facing the last challenge: The Door!

I always wanted to have a mirror door and Momo and I had some discussions about it. Ian had prepared a door for us and put mirror foil on one side but then ran out of foil and have a guess: no more foild available anywhere in Southport.

We then decided to spray paint the door. In the hardware store we found a bargain door for 15GBP which we bought plus a load of spray cans and Momo stared spraying the door.

The other landscapers kept coming to watch us and to offer help, which was very nice.
Momo started with the last planting. We took out the plants of their pots- normally you would plant them including the pots- but we wanted to have them more dense. It is quite amazing how many plants you can fit into one bed!

Worked again until midnight before falling into bed.

WEDNESDAY, 18th: Judgement day! We were sooo excited!
When we came to the site the water was gone low very much and we filled up the ponds again. Putting up the hammock that I prepared with a friend at home in Germany- she had sewn it out of marquee fabric to make it water proof and then I had friends from sailing who would help putting holes and strong eyelets into the corners. But would it be strong enough to hold me? It was! And also very comfortable! As it was windy and the hammock was flying in the wind I made little pebble weights to put at the corner lids.

Alright dear judges, we are ready!
Motivated by our competitors who thought we deserve a gold medal we went back from lunch to pick up Momo’s shoes just to see the judges in front of our garden. They kicked the door!!! They tried to open it- the sculpture! We should have taped it but were so speechless that we could not think quickly.

THURSDAY, 19th: The show started. David, the chief manager of the Southport Flower Show came arund to hand us our medal: Bronze. I can not describe how awful we felt, especially when seeing who of our competitors got golds...

When the judges came around to talk to us, we received the feedback:
-       The door is not functional.
-       When you stand in front of the door, you can nt see the garden. (???!)
-       The pebble package is a japanese symbol of „no entry“ – we should consider this fort he next garden we build.
-       The planting is great but does not correspond to our initial planting plan. (the one from March)

Fortunately one of the first visitors was a Supervisor from the Tate Liverpool who absolutely loved our garden and praised the harmony and balance of colours, planting and materials.
I mentioned this to the judges and gues what they said: „You should exhibit at the TATE then, shouldn’t you?“

Gavin Dermaid, one of the most famous garden designers came the next day to our garden and gave us the best advise: „Never listen to judges but stick to your ideas and your design.“
He liked what we had done and praised the garden at the Ladies Day Lunch later on.

Over all we were happy with our first garden and so were the people who visited, some liked the door, some not but on all of them I could see a change of facial expression when they came near our garden, and that was all that mattered to me! They were happy. What else do you want to achieve?!

We would like to thank the following people for their help and support:
Lisa Taylor, David Jackson, Keith, Tracy and Steve from the Ambassador Townhouse (awsome!!!), Ian Hunt and his team, Tarleton Specimen Plants, Lady Green Nursery, Chris Ashcroft, Muddy Boots, Massams Supplies.

photographs: Alex Lehne, Momo Pino, Southport Flowershow

Friday, July 16, 2010

Prunus Laurocerasus

Getting closer to finish my garden design course I feel becoming very popular amongst family and friends... ;-)
Everybody all of a sudden feels the urge to have his/her garden designed, or mostly just ask for help with this or that little problem.

Last week I was asked for my opinion about a nice non-see-through hedge. I suggested anything but prunus laurocerasus which- I was then told- is very modern and "IN" in Germany these days. (Maybe because it is so expensive?)

I just remembered my tutor who said: Use anything but this plant for a hedge as it looks awful when you cut it.

Well, people say you just have to trim it then with small sissors so you don't see the cutted leaves- who has the time for this?! especially if the hedge measures 30meters...

I wonder what your experience says: Good hedge plant- bad hedge plant?


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Chaumont Garden Festival 2010

The International Garden Festival was created in 1992 around Chaumont Castle on the side of the Loire river. 
Every year it offers an tribute to garden design with a new theme that changes each year. This years topic was "Body& Soul".

The gardens are made by architects, designers or artists- often strange, entertaining, futuristic or really weird but nevertheless very inspiring. 
Trees are painted red, big pictures are hanging between them in the forrest, chairs are standing on top of a lake, a grand piano between an ocean of flowers while you listen to Jazz music...
Every garden is different, from very simple to absolutely incredible and unbelievable. It is worth going! And I will be back next year for sure.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

End of the Year Exhibition

In June we had our end of the year exhibition with more than 200 people visiting.
This years course had 16 students with all different backgrounds and nationalities. It was so interesting to see how we all interpreted the same tasks in a different way and how much each of us established an own style already.

The exhibition showed part of our sales portfolio that we can use after finishing this course for our own business. An external examiner came to judge the quality of the work which displayed a selection of all the work completed through the year: design exercises, 3 real gardens and their design including architectural and construction drawings in CAD, perspective and rendered drawings, planting plans, specifications, photography, history timeline and moodboards.

Project 1 was a tiny Oxford Courtyard Garden of a house build in the 1980's with first floor balcony, no existing link into the garden which made all of us decide to introduce a staircase that would make it easy to access the garden from the kitchen and living room.

Project 2 was a small 500square meter country garden in Oxfordshire requiring a new garage, workshop, conservatory and kitchen garden.

Project 3 was a 2.5 acre country garden in Oxfordshire with existing jacuzzi, party house and tennis court. The client requested a conservatory as well as a lake. It was a big challenge to achieve a nice and smooth link between house, jacuzzi and tennis court but I am very proud about my design (which the external examiner also pointed out :-) ) My nicest compliment was : "John Brooks would be proud of you." What else do I need?!

This link leads you to a video made by Duncan Heather, principle of the Oxford College of Garden Design:

A big thank you to all my class mates for all their support during this fantastic year in Oxford! It was great studying with you and I enjoyed the time a lot.
Also thanks to all our teachers, guest lecturers and supporters (Garden Design Guru Duncan Heather, Vice Principal Sally Court, Garden Designer Amanda Macrae, Architect Michael Reed, Vectorworks Lady Tamsin Slatter, Famous Garden Designer John Brookes, Horticulture Expert Chris Marchant and Orchard Dene Nurseries, Architect and Construction Expert John Heather, Artist Jo Chance, History Expert Alistair McVean, Main Organiser and Powerlady in the back Carol Heather) who made the impossible possible ;-)) to change a sport scientist into a garden designer ;-).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

1 acre - a combination of art and healthy thinking

Interview with Johanna Braun

When I went to visit the Oxford Art Week Festival  (still up until the 31st of May!) I also had a look at the Oxford Brookes University BA Fine Art Show 2010.

The first exibitor that got my attention was Johanna Braun with "1acre". I was very happy to meet her in person and funny enough she is from Freising, near Munich which is about 30 minutes from my home...
Johanna combines art with ecological and healthy thinking and her attempt of showing this was so unusual and "awakening" that I would like to share it with you.
When you got to the Richard Hammilton Building you would see a strip of fabric running away from it into the landscape. Once following it you were lead to a table with fresh homemade bread (german style and soooo yummie! -recipe further below...) and also fresh homemade butter. Apparently it was a 1 acre walk and it was interesting to actually "feel" the space and size of land that could feed you for one year.
Inside the building on her booth you could see bags full of seeds as well as handmade paper bags with prints of sprouts that belonged to the seeds that were inside. Each labeled with an important information about the actual plant. And I want to point out that everything was home- and handmade!
Alex: What did you do before you started studying at Brookes?
Johanna: After completing my Abitur (the German equivalent of A-levels) I cycled round the south bit of England and volunteered on some farms as part of the wwoof scheme. On one in the oxford area i liked it particularly, so the 3 months i initially wanted to stay became a year during which i found out about the art programme at Brookes.

Alex: Your work is called 1 acre - What is the main intention?
1 acre is roughly the amount of land one person needs to grow enough food to live from with kind of "reasonable" diet. With that I mean you wouldn't have to be vegan or vegetarian but meat would need to be consumed in a conscious way.
The agricultural land worldwide divided by all the people on the earth would give everybody a share of two acres which is more than one would need.
I am interested in the relations of what we have /what we want/ what we actually need/ what we appreciate.
I marked an acre on the ground which you can walk along to get a sense of that space that could cover all your essential needs. I think the appreciation for those essentials has become very low, they are somehow taken for granted even if they are the ones we depend on.

Alex: What was (or still is) your inspiration?
Johanna: I grew up on an organic farm in Bavaria where the connection to the food i eat is very easy to make. I am moving back there now long term because it is very important and exciting for me to see and take part in what's happening in the different seasons.

Alex: We really loved the printed seed bags, very beautiful! How did you make them?
Johanna: I made paper from hemp fibres and printed a macro picture of a seed with some information (from history, legends or its agricultural/ nutritional properties) about this particular seed. Inside two sheets of paper I sewed a few real seeds so you could see their actual size.
With that i wanted to show the power and potential which is hidden in those little seeds.

Alex: We followed your track all around the campus and tasted your bread- sooo yummie, do you have the recipe for us?
Johanna: The bread is made with a sourdough starter.

- Make this by mixing flour and water together to a pancake-like consistency and put in a jar covered with a cloth.
- Leave this to ferment in a warm place and add some more flour and water everyday.
- After 3-5 days you have a slightly vinegary smell coming from it- lactic and acetic bacteria which will later make your dough rise.
- You start by refreshing the starter with some flour and warm water which you leave to ferment for about five hours, until you see bubbles on the surface.
- Then mix half of this starter (the other half keep in your jar in the fridge and keep for your next batch which you start at the refreshing stage. This way you can keep using it indefinitely) in 400g flour of choice with 2 tsp salt and more warm water to make a very soft and sloppy dough.
- I added some walnuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
- Knead for about 10 minutes, then cover and let to rise at room temperature until it is about doubled in bulk.
- Shape it into a loaf and leave to rise again for about half an hour.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven on the highest possible temperature and bake for 10 mins on very hot, then turn down to 180 degrees and bake for another 25-30 mins.

I used Heritage flour from The Oxford Bread Group which consists of  different ancient wheat, oat and rye varieties. It is very wholesome and lots of people with wheat intolerance have been able to have this unlike intensively bred and refined flour that is ususally available.

Alex: Did you also make the butter yourself;-))) ?
Johanna: I made the butter from cream from North Aston Organics, whose milk and cream taste amazing because the cows are being fed exlusively on the greens and grass of their meadows.

English double cream is easy to use, just whippe it until it starts to get slightly yellow and crumpy and you will see water being extracted (buttermilk). You can either through the buttermilk away or drink it which is very healthy. Wash the left over with cold water until the water becomes clear. Knead the rest until the last bit of water comes out. É voilà! 

Alex: How long did it take you to prepare the exhibition?
Johanna: I had about 4 months to prepare this project. 

Pictures by Johanna Braun

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bread from The Town Garden

Went to see my favourite shopw in Oxford on the weekend again: The Town Garden in North Parade with owner Jebs to buy fresh organic cauliflower and the yummie bread which I enjoyed this morning.

Yummie! And what a wonderful start into the day... It is a "heart bred"- makes eating it even more enjoyable...;-)

The sandwich recipe:
1 thick slice of the Town Garden organic white bread
mixed organic lettuce
1 slice organic mild cheddar cheese
2 slices of organic british ham slightly roasted in a pan
1 fried freerange organic egg
pepper and salt if you like

If you wonder why I only use organic food: it tastes better and is more healthy. If you think of yourself as a bin- think about how much junk you put into yourself every day! Food should keep us alive and give us energy. So how much energy would you get from (for instance) an animal that was kept inside only and fed with rubbish inappropriate food from suppliers from the other end of the world?
I prefer an egg from a happy chicken and not from a sad one. Because I believe the egg can not have much of happy energy... :-)

And I get always asked where my never ending energy comes from, hey people...maybe thats why?
By the way, white bread now and then does not harm you, but I generally use whole meal rye (the german style ;-) ) but the balance makes life wonderful, doesn't it?

Apparently Jebs found some new suppliers for bread in pots! :-)) Look here....

Enjoy your day!

Garden Design Exhibition

Hi everyone,

this years Oxford College of Garden Design Student exhibition will be held on June 17th in the new college buildings for next year - I am kind of jealous! Very nice, very old- here you get the typical "Oxford College- Feel".

And because its is another hot day today I will go and get ready so you can see all my wonderful work on the 17th...lots and lots to do. See you there!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tree Survey at Harcourt Arboretum

The final lecture (quite sad!)of this years Garden Design Course covered the topic "Tree Survey" and started with a test about the 31 most common trees in the UK. We actually all did quite well remembering common and latin names ;-) thinking for instance of Harry Potter ( Fraxinus Excelsior)...:-))) Thank you Tracy, I will NEVER forget that plant in my life, as well as the alnus glutinosa...(not telling what we thought of that one actually...)
We then went to Harcourt Arboretum, part of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden- the oldest Botanic Garden in Grait Britain with a history of 380years.

The task was to survey 10 trees in hight, branch width, stem diameter, physical and structural condition and then finally grade them...poor trees were like models on a catwalk ;-) And yes, the grading is a little bit subjective as the tree can be not super healthy but if you find its structure interesting and like its character because it add architectional interest to the garden you might give it a better grade.
The bluebells were out as well as the azaleas...colours and fragrances, absolutely beautiful!

It was a great way to finish this one year course, the sun was out and I actually experienced my first hot day in England!
A stroll through the garden made this day perfect. I have seen my first Snowdrop Tree (Halesia monticola, USA) which is stunning!

They are rare and you might only find them in larger gardens and if you think we have time off now to rest...WRONG. But the bench was nice anyway...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Photography Course at OCGD

During our photography course at the Oxford College of Garden Design Giles Heather told us all about the tricks in garden and plant photography. It was very intensive but a lot of fun and I got the know my camera but also realized that there are a lot more toys to buy...;-)

One task was to go to the Oxford Botanical Gardens and take several shots:

 Panning Shot 

"Don't give a dame" Shot

Small Depth of Field Shot

 Freeze Action Shot

Slow Action Shot

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Winner of the Student Garden Design Competition- Southport Flower Show

Momo and I started talking about doing this competition when I took over her room in Oxford...It was not easy to prepare all documents as Momo now lives in Canada so we had to overcome the time difference. But it all worked out fine! We won and are very happy.

The topic of this years competition was COAST. Our idea was to "enlarge" the 6x6m garden by shallowed water ponds, a pergola with hammock above pebble planting and a deck walk leading from a chrome door- that reflects water and sky- to the hammock.

I am very excited to see it all finished ;-) and I am very glad to have my colleagues from school who help with ideas and searching material.

The Southport Flower Show is actually the UK's largest and friendliest, independent flower show on 34 acres with around 80.000 visitors over 4 days. It starts on august 19th, hope you all come and visit! :-)))
More information you can get on

Here is the press release from Southport Flower Show (Chris Corfield):

A TOUCH of international class will be gracing Southport Flower Show this year.The winners of this year’s Southport Flower Show Student Garden design competition have been announced, with this year’s top entry showcasing the best in continental cool.

A team from the Oxford College of Garden Design (OCGD), consisting of Momo Pino, 32, from Croatia and Alexandra Lehne, 34, from Germany, won the competition with their design based on the show’s theme of Coast. The team of judges congratulated them on the high caliber of their entry, and praised the winners for their use of both conceptual and sculptural elements in their design.

The competition challenges design students to create an exciting and unique garden with a budget of £5,000. The winning design is then brought to life and displayed in front of over 75,000 people at the Southport Flower Show, which runs from August 19 – 22.

For one half of the winning team, it was a chance to improve on last year’s second place finish. Momo, who was highly commended for her 2009 entry, said she was happy to go one step further this year: “I made a few mistakes with my entry in 2009. It was unrealistic in terms of budget, so I made sure that this year our entry was within budget without losing any of the flair that made our design stand out.”
Momo, currently living and working in Canada after finishing her course, will be flying over to the UK to oversee the building work on the garden. She said: “I was sceptical about the design at first; it took some convincing from Alex. I wasn’t sure it was ‘showy’ enough for a show garden, but Alex had the vision and it has paid off for us. I can’t wait to see it finished and on display.”

The pair, who will also receive £1,000 in prize money, embraced modern technology to work together on the designs, often working on the same project despite being thousands of miles apart.
Alexandra said: “I am so happy we won; it will be so exciting to see the final design built and displayed among all the other wonderful things on offer over the weekend of the show. "
“You can have brilliant ideas but they don’t always work in real life, so this competition gives us a chance to show people that we can not only manage the whole process, but also that by being positive you can make great things happen. It will also give us the opportunity to start our careers as garden designers with an award-winning first item in our portfolio!”

Duncan Heather, from OCGD, said: “Competitions such as this one are invaluable to designers like Alex and Momo."
"It’s a fantastic opportunity for them to demonstrate what they’ve learnt and also gain the credibility needed to forge a successful career in garden design.”
Building work will start on the winning design in the last week of July, and will be ready in time for the show’s grand opening on August 19.

So far we got press featured here:
Horticulture Week
Garden Design Guru

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Olafur Eliasson

Today I came across another intersting artist- Olafur Eliasson: born in Copenhagen with islandic background and now running a studio with approximately 35 people (artists, architects, scientists, art hisorians etc.) in Berlin and also teaching at the Berlin University for Arts.
He is famous for his artistic works that always include physical phenomen of nature- water and light, movement and reflexion.
In his project "Green River" from 1998-2001 he coloured rivers in Tokyo (Japan), Bremen (Germany), Stockholm (Sweden), Moss (Norway) and Los Angeles (USA) green. 
Imagine to colour water features in gardens a particular colour!

I also love his Ice Pavilion that he built for the Reykjavik Art Museum in 1998. I know it is spring but how "cool" is that?! Just a different kind of sculpture...

Unfortunately I am not allowed to show pictures from his homepage on this blog but if you are interested, this is the link to the green rivers:  "Green River" Moss, Norway 1998

He is currently running an exhibition about Berlin in Berlin, started on April 28th 2010.
You can buy his books at Amazon:

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