Finding [urban] Nature

So it’s all over, and what a fantastic experience! I came away with a Silver Medal, which I’m chuffed about, but I’m even more pleased with the public’s reaction. I had so many positive responses, many visitors said it reminded them of their childhoods playing in similar spaces, something which I never expected. It is very difficult to design a garden which provokes memories and I’d seemingly created one by accident. It highlights that perhaps brownfield sites could be accepted by the wider public as social spaces in our urban environments.

Now the show is over I’d like to share a few of the plans and sections, which hopefully showcases my thoughts, and how the design carried on evolving, even as it was being built. A blackboard features in ‘Finding [urban] Nature’ at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park, which wasn’t included in the initial designs. As we were construing the garden we’d realised that the green screen panels were 1.2m wide, not the 1.5m I’d drawn them in the plans below. A quick brainstorming session and the blackboard was born – it goes to show you that designs are never static!

 

Plants for F[u]N

I’ve got a confession… I’ve been struggling to settle on the plants for my show garden. I must have chosen a two dozen species, only to change them all again. Admittedly I’ve made it hard for myself as I’m really trying to focus on the plants that grow on wasteland sites. It’s also that my planting scheme goes against all the advice I’ve been given about show gardens – plant densely as possible, up to 30 plants per metre – or get the very best, vibrantly healthy plants you can, both bit of advice runs completely counter to brownfield sites. Because of this I have adapted some rather bizarre thought process. One of which has me pretending to me various different species of plants, to try and work out if plants of the same species should be distributed sparsely, or hugged close to each other. The other method is spending hours standing in the empty urban spaces sketching, taking photos to try to work out the patterns, which has earned me some odd looks from passerby, and winds up my girlfriend when I want to go home by a slightly longer route to the place which inspired my garden, to see how it has changed with the season.

Brownfield sites are particularly interesting, as they are usually located in populated areas they contain an interesting mix of native species, alongside escaped garden plants, something I have tried to capture in my scheme. The brief for F[u]N imagines that this is a space that has been occupied by a community group, who have gone on to add some of their own plants to the eclectic mix.

I’m happy that the garden is pushing me to improve my ecological and cultural knowledge of wasteland sites. I feel that I’m learning so much more than just plant names (although I am enjoying this…), it’s one of the many benefits of taking part in Young Designers. Did you know, for example, many weeds were once considered medicinal? Or that you can trace some weeds to far away lands (many common weeds were inadvertently brought over by the Romans when Britain was part of their empire)? Primarily for me, it’s interesting learning about how many of the plants on brownfield sites are super useful for pollinators and their offspring, and are refuge for nature in our urban areas.

RHS Young Designers 2018

I am absolutely delighted to say that I am one of these years RHS Young Designers. In its tenth year it’s a competition for under 28s to design and build a show garden at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park.

My garden, ‘Finding [urban] Nature’ is the culmination of the last few years of my work, starting with my architectural thesis ‘Changing Urban Nature, using the biophillia hypothesis’. The garden, unlike my original thesis aims to explore the value of existing nature in cities, rather that superimpose biophillic-planting schemes on urban areas. F[u]N is inspired by urban brownfield sites and their importance as ecological refuge for nature. The scheme imagines an established community group who have taken over a brownfield site to create a social space with an allotment, thanking full advantage of the unique plants that thrive with in the environment.

I really hope to make a point with this garden that we should make the most of plants that thrive within these urban conditions, rather than superimposing ‘garden-style’ planting into urban areas. Often you will find the beauty of gardens is the people who occupy them, and the way interacting with any kind of nature makes us feel.

Swiss Roll

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Swiss Roll is one of my favourite cakes that can only be truly appreciated if it is home made. Simply made with a layer of raspberry jam, I guarantee it’ll make anyones day!

Cinnamon Knutar

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A delicious cinnamon-cardamon bun that gets its distinctive form from being tied in a knot (knutar is swedish for knot). Flavoured with cardamon and butter filling, with a yeasted cinnamon flavoured dough.

Delicious with a cup of black coffee as part of a fika break!

Nibbling Corn

 Later I’ve been pushing myself to focus more on creating scenes with my watercolours. In the past I’ve tended to stick to characters on a background of plain paper. To a point I think this works quite well, however in order to build atmosphere and a sense of space the characters need an environment to live. 

Perhaps longing for summer my mind looked towards corn fields. The corn allowed me to really focus on scale and perspective createing an exciting scene that starts to tell a story.

 

Plants!

In the past, my blog hasn’t mentioned my love of plants. Below are collection of some of my plants over the last couple of months.

Thankfully my job allows me to increase my plant knowledge. Working as an Urban Landscape Designer I am able to discover which plants work best in cities which have to contend with pollution and a lot of trampling on!

I have a particular passion for orchids, which are steadily increasing at a worrying rate! Although some people think they are hard too look after, they are relatively easy to care for, requiring watering just once a week, and in return they’ll reward you with months of flowers.Of my orchids the Phalaenopsis are the least fussy. They’re also the most common with many supermarkets stocking them year round. I have recently bought a new Dendrobium and a Cambria-type, so am looking forward to seeing how they grow.

So far I’m not having much luck with Dendrobiums, as the first one I bought a year ago hasn’t re-flowered. Apparently in order flower, they have to have a colder period where you water them less. The other dendrobium started wilting once I’d got it home, with the leaves turning yellow. However this seems to be because it was over-watered whilst at the shop, it seems to have picked up after being allowed to dry up.

Semlor

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I’ve made these before a couple of years ago, but these are so delicious they’re worth another mention! Traditionally in Sweden, Semlor are made on Shrove Tuesday, just as we have pancakes, however a lot of swedes eat them right up to Easter. They are yeasted buns, made in a slightly different way to normal bread, with butter and milk being melted at the beginning and yeast stirred into this, along with flour, sugar and spiced with cardamon. I used the recipe here, which worked well!

Nature in Nottingham

‘“Do you know anywhere green I can sit?”’ 

This question by a passing tourist, lunch in hand, outside Nottingham Contemporary started it all.

Where was there too sit in Nottingham, most cities have some sort of park or green space to enjoy the sunshine. Sure the city I did my degree in had Market Square, which I believe is quite successful, but I know it has its opponents. And it has Colwick, the Canal and the parks to the north of the City but these were underused, and the legacy of the Victorian age. What I decided was needed was 21st Urban Park, one that didn’t not reject the city, by set a precedent of a truly green site.

The images that follow are from my university thesis project title ‘Changing Urban Nature, using the Bioaphilla Hypothesis’. Without boring you senseless The Bioaphilla Hypothesis is a theory coined by Edward O. Wilson that argues that humans have a innate connection with Nature (I always think of it as you’ll never find anyone who hates nature), as such there are many benefits to be gained from exposure to nature. Recovery times in hospitals reduce, the rate of crime decreases, workers are more productive, theses are many benefits that its supporters argue can be gained.

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View of Lace Market

My proposal was for a Botanical garden in Nottingham that would regenerate the area below the Nottingham Contemporary. Located within walking distance to the City Centre and at the time a derelict site, it would provide a place to learn about plants and a space to enjoy being amongst green space within the city. The proposal was sensitive to the view of Lace Market from the train station (which may be in threat if the new college is built there).

I believe the proposal explores what could be done with space in the city to make a difference, rather than for purely commercial gain, it would be a park to be enjoyed by those who visit Nottingham, a new Sherwood Forest perhaps?

Blueberry and Mango Loaf

Preheat oven to 180c, line a 2lb loaf tin and put to one side.

Cream together 70g soft brown sugar70g molasses (molasses adds a bit more richness) with 140g unsalted butter, until light and fluffy. Add to the mixture two beaten eggs a bit at a time. In a separate bowl weight out 140g self-raising flour1tsp baking powder, and your spices, see below.


Sieve your dried ingredients into your other mixture and fold in. Now add one mashed banana50g chopped dried mango, a handful of blueberries, stir all together. Spoon the mixture into you prepared cake tin, smooth top and bake for around thirty minutes, or until a knife comes out clean when inserted into the centre. 

Remove from oven, cool on a cooling rack.

To make the icing mix 50g icing sugar with about 3tsp water, drizzle over the top and finish with dried mango, and a few blueberries.

The Adventure of a Sad Dragon

The Sad Dragon is another of my characters that arose from doodles. He isn’t often a happy chap, but in his wake he leaves happiness (he’s the guy that goes round in spring planting all the daffodils dont’cha know?). Quite regularly his friend Squirrel is found trying to cheer him up with a cup of tea and a slice of cake! After one such event Squirrel goes missing so Dragon sets off to find his little red-tailed buddy!

The Adventures of Squirrel!

Meet Squirrel! He’s a crafty little guy, who likes adventures and helping people (and other creatures out). Squirrel has turned up in many of my doodles for a number of years, I’m not exactly sure where he came from, but recently I’ve been pushing to create a story for him to feature in, so keep an eye out for him!

Spring is on its way!

 On a recent visit to Kew Gardens, London I found this little guy buzzing around, which means Spring is well and truely arriving! 

Spring is time for a new start, I’ve been neglecting this blog since November, it turns out! My aim is to get back into the swing of things, really focusing on design and using my blog as a way of improving not my design skills. This Spring I hope to continue share my crafted exploration of Nature, Baking, illustration and other crafty projects!

 

Pottery

Occasionally I feel the need to find a new hobby to try out, this time it’s pottery! It turns out it’s really hard! Every step you take has to be perfect and any false move can destroy the pot you’re working on instantly! You soon learn not to become attached to what you’re working on until it’s fired and on your mantle piece! It was really good fun though, and would encourage anyone to take it up, it’s really quite therapeutic!

 

I wish I could say these are my four best pots, bit after 4 weeks, they’re the only ones I made!

 

Halloween!

I love Autumn, but never really got into all the ‘festivities’ including Halloween. But this year I was invited to a proper Halloween house party where they went out! (It was hosted by an American after all). Here is the pumpkin I carved!

I did a (half) Marathon!

Don’t ask me what gave me the crazy idea of doing the Robin Hood Half Marathon. Before signing up I’d never done any running of any sort, so it really was a moment of madness when I paid my deposit 3 months away from the race. Following a plan from BUPA I started with a 10 minute run. It seems ridiculous now, but at the time I struggle with it (I guess it proves that if I can do it anyone can!). Over time I increased the amount I ran, adding 5 minutes, till I was running 5K, then 10K and finally a half marathon.

If I were to give advice, I would keep an eye on what you eat. It wasn’t till I upgraded my phone and got one of those fancy tracking apps that realised I was burning up to 1000 calories on a run! Definitely could have maximised on the cake eating!

I completed it in 1h39, a time I’m really proud of!

 

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Coconut Ices

Ahhh sweeties! For me an essential summertime treat. These are particularly easy to make, and are a joy for wee ones to help out with as there is no cooking, just mixing the ingredients.

Coconut Ices
Coconut Ices

In a large bowl sieve 400g icing sugar, then mix in a 400g tin of condensed milk and stir with a wooden spoon until everything is well combined, this does take a bit of effort so bare with it! Next, gradually add 400g desiccated coconut (here I abandoned the spoon and used my hands) mix/knead in all the coconut until well mixed together. Take half of you newly formed ‘dough’ and push into a 20cm x 20cm, quite deep baking tray lined with clingfilm. With the other half add a small amount of pink food colouring and knead until the colour is consistent. Take medium sized balls and place these onto the the white ‘dough’ careful not to push too hard and ruin the layers. Allow to set for around about 2hours, or overnight.

Once set, cut into small squares and place into little paper cases.

Enjoy with Strawberries at the end of a picnic.

Beef and Mushroom Pie

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It’s taken me a while to put this up, mostly because I made it on a weekend were is was miserable an rainy and seeking comfort food, then the following week summer arrived and comfort food was completely out of my mind.

This suet crust pastry pie is filled with beef, mushrooms and a bit of bacon I had left over, delicious hot or cold on a summer’s day walk.