Category Archives: Plants and Planting Design Level 3

Lazy Sunday afternoon?


As some of you know, I’m in my second year of a Level 3 Certificate in Garden and Planting Design qualification at Capel Manor college in Regents Park.

Whilst last year was about plants and planting (and I was in my element) this year is all about the physical rather than planting design, and for Assignment 2 we were required to construct a scale model at a scale of 1:50 to illustrate the concept of ‘mass and void’.

What with spending a lot of last weekend in the car transporting a 12lb salmon from Basingstoke to Kent (don’t ask) I was rather behind, and so the majority of this weekend has been spent on the assignment.

I got the main part of the model made yesterday but then got a little carried away with sofa cushions, lavender hedge and the Duplo veg patch and before I knew it it was lunch time.img_1350

Which would have been fine, but I still had to knock up the scale drawing.img_1354

Only the final A2 sheet with details of the materials used to pull together before the Wednesday deadline.

Meanwhile, shame about the bulbs still sitting in the box they were delivered in a fortnight ago….

Beth Chatto – an inspiration


The final assignment for my ‘Plants and planting design‘ course is to design the planting for a dry garden and so, in preparation, on Saturday morning the class converged at Beth Chatto’s garden in Essex.

The area relevant for our assignment is the Gravel Garden, created in 1992 on the site of the original car park, from 0.75 acre of sand and gravel.  Here Beth has created a garden where plants are only watered when they are first planted, after that they’re on their own and, bearing in mind the rainfall here is the lowest in the country at less than 20 inches per annum, they have to be tough.

And what an inspiration!  Not only were there wonderful long views of contrasting form and texture (something I still struggle to achieve)IMG_0302





but endless clever combinations to admire at much closer quarters.  These included many Anemone pavonina – here with spiky yukka and grasses,IMG_0307

here with NepetaIMG_0327

and here, with Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ picking up the colour of the central bosses perfectly.IMG_0310

As well as the Anemones, colour was also provided by dainty bulbs – species tulipsIMG_0306


and Fritillaria pontica (look how the purple sage echoes the colour of the stripe).IMG_0309

I was so taken by this beautiful oxalis, O. obtusa I treated myself to one in the nursery.IMG_0344

Away from the Gravel Garden, the mood is calmer and cooler.

The Water Garden was created by damming a spring fed ditch, and the resulting ponds create the correct environment for numerous water loving plants includingIMG_0361

wonderful Gunnera tinctoria, just emerging,IMG_0355

Lysichiton americanus, right by the water’s edgeIMG_0368

and wonderful ferns.IMG_0378

There were dozens of just emerging Hostas in the shady areas, but this clump was well advanced (and immaculate!)


As in the Gravel Garden, there were yet more close quarters combinations to admire. Here a patchwork of Pulmonaria, Forget me nots, Drumstick Primulas punctuated by emerging Digitalis foliageIMG_0366

Erythronium with (um!) shrub,IMG_0367

Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’ picking up on the lovely dark blooms of the TrilliumIMG_0375

Euphorbia wulfenii with Fritillaria imperialis ‘Maxima Lutea.’  (Why have I never seen that combination together before?  And why, when I usually find Crown Imperials rather stiff and waxy, do they look so good here?)IMG_0371

and the identically coloured yet completely contrasting forms of Heuchera and Uncina rubraIMG_0352

And to finish, what’s so special about this?  It’s Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy,’ not yet in flower and now surrounded by an area under redevelopment.  However, it’s special to me as it’s the plant I remember most vividly from my one previous visit to this garden with my lovely mum in the early 1990s.

The memory stuck with me and I planted my own Cercis, chez Duver Diary, 20 years later.IMG_0376

With thanks to Beth Chatto for endless inspiration (I think I’ll remember rather more than just the one plant this time!) but also John, for being our patient and knowledgeable tutor, Helen for the lifts and last but not least, Rosy for bringing cake!

Back to school!


So, did any of you read this article in September’s RHS Garden magazine?IMG_8952

Or see these adverts in the gardening press?IMG_8953

Well I did, and one thing led to another…

The Garden article, by Ade Sellars, described his experience during the past year studying for the RHS Level 2 course at Capel Manor’s Regent’s Park campus at the age of 43 (ha, baby!)

It was interesting for a couple of reasons, firstly, I was feeling rather envious of my daughter heading off to uni and a whole new world of people and knowledge, and secondly, I’d heard of Capel Manor but had no idea it had a Regents Park campus.

A little research established that the RHS 2 course was running on a Tuesday evening, one of the days I’m in London, so I went along in my lunch hour to enrol.  By extraordinary serendipity, Andrew, the chap I needed to meet with, was tied up with someone else, so I picked up a brochure and started reading about the other courses they ran, and one immediately caught my eye – ‘Plants and planting design’ (Level 3).  A quick chat with Andrew established that I’d need to persuade Capel Manor’s head of Garden Design that I was capable of a Level 3 course (with no previous relevant qualifications) and a sort of telephone interview took place the next day.  I gabbled about my love of plants and planting, and promised that my maths and art were sufficiently good that I would be able to draw to scale(!) and I was in.

I actually missed the first two weeks as I was away, but have now been to two classes and am absolutely loving it.  Spending an evening talking Latin, with lovely, fellow plantaholics, and looking at photos of gorgeous planting, with an informed tutor explaining all from a design perspective.  What’s not to like?

This weekend saw me completing my first assignment, and the time flew by in a flurry of research, planning and drawing.  And do you know what I found hardest?  Drawing the bloomin’ circles!  Who knew?

Roll on next Tuesday.IMG_8955