A Special Place A Journey, Chorlton, a garden dedicated to the strength and courage of Andy and Victoria in words and pictures.
|Vika holding aloft Allium seed head, garden 2013|
My first call from, and visit to Andy & Victoria seemed to bear all the hallmarks of a couple looking for a more grown up and user-friendly space. It was April 2012 and warm for the time of year. Sitting outside drinking tea we started to discuss what their aspirations for the space were. Mentally I noted the garden was surprisingly long for a town garden and due to the odd layout of a neighbor's garden, seemed to stretch on to infinity. As a result neighboring properties are barely visible in the distance. It was also in a bit of a state. In the ensuing conversation Vicky spoke of the colours and scents from her childhood in Kiev and both stated they wanted a garden with some mystery and magic to it. After a short discussion, which involved me explaining how I worked as a designer, I can clearly remember the moment, Andy moving in closer to the table, looked me straight in the eye and said: “There is another important factor to this project that we feel is important to share with you.” With that Andy proceeded to explain that Victoria was suffering from terminal cancer. And with those simple, but deafening words, the nature of this project changed completely. My mind suddenly struck with the realisation of the fragility and transience of life. A moment of awkwardness, then broken, as Victoria explained that the garden was to be part of a healing process, and would be part of her therapy. From that first meeting Vic displayed a strength and determination to survive and beat the condition if at all possible. For my part I will be honest and say that, on leaving that first meeting, I was not sure if wanted to, or indeed would be emotionally able to take on such a momentous task, along with the inherent responsibility it entailed. More so as I was still grieving the loss of my own brother who had tragically died at a young age. I was also profoundly afraid that she might not live to see the project completed. Following discussion with family and friends it became clear to me that I couldn’t avoid taking the project. What follows is a brief description of the process that followed and the garden that transpired.
During the ensuing design process I couldn’t help but admire the enormous strength of faith that both Victoria and Andy had, and I somehow wanted to reflect that in the designs for the garden. Equally I had this strong sense of a stormy journey. I imagined a platform, a little like a magic carpet, or a ship in a storm flowing along a river before finally coming to rest in amongst a field of swaying grasses.
This journey starts with a path from the kitchen that winds as it goes, revealing a hidden tree seat built onto the trunk of a wonderful old silver birch, a place to sit and contemplate, to catch the drift of sage and lavender in the air. A faint whiff of aniseed from brushed-past fennel whilst the musky scent of peony (a favorite of Vic’s) follows the path, a lazy S, past creeping thymes, sage and box balls, with fruits visible to the opposite boundary beds, a red tomato glistens in the afternoon sun. Stepping up onto the wooden bridge the mood is dreamy. An enclosed raised platform, a sort of transcendental space, hovering just above the ground, suggesting an ability to rise above our situation, taking a view from another perspective. Equally a very old fallen-down hawthorn to the rear area of the garden had its own significance, as it had repositioned its branches to recapture the sunlight from its now fallen place and continued to grow. So the covered seat to this area was designed to incorporate the fallen hawthorn into its structure. Indicative of our human ability to adapt and go on. Meanwhile, a large Fatsia japonica growing to the rear of the area designated for the deck platform is incorporated into the design to now appear to grow out of the platform with deck boards cut to fit around its trunk.
Little splashes of colour catch the eye, the sparkly globe of a purple flowering Allium, a pale iris soothing in silver grass, a dusky pink anemone almost hidden, whilst ferns creep out from under weathered fallen branches. My imagining, it was as if the garden although caught up in a violent storm had continued to grow and evolve in its aftermath. As such it is an affirmation of our very human desire, energy and determination to survive come what may. It is then it strikes me, this is a garden which, similar to life, isn’t immediately visible, but reveals its secrets as you go.
With lots of love and very fond memories,
Vicky this is for you.
David Keegan October 2013
The Garden in Pictures
|First visit view of rear area|
|The tree seat set into Silver Birch|
|A view from the tree seat to floating platform and log store|
|Tomatoes ripening on the vine side border|
|A sea of grass sparkles in the afternoon sun|
|The sun shines bright|
|The winding path|
|A place to sit|
|Seed head in the sun|
|A place to dream|
|Seat set into fallen Hawthorn, a quiet retreat|
|View from platform and log store back to house|
|Flowering Allium, iris and steel blue grass in background|
|The Landscape Design Plan for Garden|