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The Cotswold Gardening School ~ fizzy feelings and big ideas

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Some people I know can walk into a garden and get an instant sense of what needs to be done in order for it to be a more aesthetically appealing / functional / floriferous space. I am not one of those people, so I did not consider myself a prime candidate for garden design but it turns out that all I needed was the right process. The Cotswold Gardening School and the superb teaching and guidance of Caroline Tatham and her guest tutors have shown me that I can produce garden designs to a professional standard. Not only that but I have experienced an extraordinarily exhilarating outlet for my creativity not felt since my Art and Design Foundation course 25 years ago.

One of my recent designs for a Cotswold Gardening School project

It was those ‘fizzy feelings’ that Caroline talks about when you first arrive that got me hooked on this course in particular. I had the most enormous fun completing my Art Foundation National Diploma and I compare my experience on the Cotswold Gardening School One Year Professional Garden Design course to that year when I was eighteen. Students are encouraged to experiment with shape, colour and texture in a way that is very similar to Fine Art courses. This part of the course has come very naturally to me and I hope that I will carry on finding inspiration outside of the horticultural world that will inform future garden and planting designs.

A gardener’s colour wheel at Snowshill Manor, Gloucestershire

Once Cotswold Gardening School students have found an image or another form of inspiration, we study that image for shapes, colours and textures that can inform how we then begin to design a garden. From these early stages we can then form a ‘big idea’ from which the garden can really take shape. We are told to keep that ‘big idea’ at the forefront of our minds all of the way through the design of the garden. The best garden designs stay true to this one strong idea.

Snowshill Manor, Gloucestershire

National Trust property Snowshill Manor in Gloucestershire is an example of a house and garden tied by the singular vision of its former owner, Charles Wade. So strong was his ‘big idea’ (in this case, an Arts and Crafts style stage set for his enormous collection of treasures) that you can feel his presence nearly 70 years after his death. My latest big idea stems from the client’s wish to have a natural swimming pond incorporated into their garden design. This desire has led me to look closely at artist Miranda Carter’s work. Miranda is also an open water swimmer and has based her latest series of pieces on her experiences swimming outside in all seasons.

‘Aqueous II’ by Miranda Carter

Miranda kindly let me share her studio space recently so that I could observe her process. She even allowed me to have a go at painting and mark making using her materials. This has given me a deeper understanding of how she works and I hope it will, eventually, lead to a strong garden design. Miranda has invited me back to share her space in a few weeks time, when I am deeper into this latest project. I will be writing more about this collaboration in future. Perhaps when it comes to fruition and I have more of an idea how it will shape my garden design for this project. In the meantime, I’ve got my ‘big idea’ ~ open water swimming and the art that it has inspired ~ and plenty of fizzy feelings so I’d better get on with it and channel them into my work.

Miranda at work in her studio