George Barnes


Latest posts by George Barnes

10 returned

Greatest Gardens Week 3

Posted: 20/10/2013 at 22:00

Thanks for that I'll give it a watch and compare notes!

Greatest Gardens Week 3

Posted: 14/10/2013 at 22:13

I've not been there but it will be one for the list.

Greatest Gardens Week 3

Posted: 13/10/2013 at 20:34

Week 3 – Villa Del Balbianello, Lake Como, Italy

Weather – Warm and Sunny

This week, I’ve gone all international! When I set out on my quest to find the Greatest Garden, I had planned to limit my exploration to the UK only, and now at only three weeks in, I can’t resist but to share this Italian gem.

The Italians have an unexplainable knack for doing things well; they are the best dressed, best designers and per capita, they have the highest numbers of perfect hairstyles. So as I bask in the Italian sunshine, I’m not surprised when I stumble across the magnificence of Villa del Balbianello. I instantly wished that I was wearing a pair of cream chinos and a pale lemon sweater casually draped over the shoulders of an oxford blue shirt, as this place oozes sophistication.

Positioned on a steep outcrop, overlooking Lake Como, the villa was built in 1787 on the site of a monastery for a wealthy cardinal, but now it’s in the hands of an Italian version of the National Trust which is very similar to ours, but they are less beard and ham sandwich and more designer stubble and linguini.

Once inside, a series of narrow pathways guide you through the steep terraces and luckily, from most positions you are able take in the spectacular views across the lake, and when the sun is dancing on the surface, it is truly one of the best views you could ever imagine.  Clipped hedges bordering the paths and planting beds create the traditional feel you’d expect from the garden and the villa itself, but the swathes of structural, mono coloured planting gives the garden a contemporary freshness which shouts that this landscape is prepared to adopt forward thinking design styles and not be too bogged down in its heritage.

The gardens at Villa Del Balbianello are spectacular; they work in a harmonious unison with the villa and its associated outbuildings. In some grand houses there is a clear definition of where the building ends and the garden begins, but here, the two seem to envelope each other in a way that can only be achieved through generations of attention to detail and carefully considered planting decisions. There are many different aspects from large lawns to private viewing platforms but one of my favourite areas is its very own little harbour where you can imagine yourself arriving on a classic Italian sports boat and casually hopping through the ornate cast iron gates to meet a stunning Italian beauty, unfortunately, the reality is that I arrived on a ferry boat with a mixture of pasty white Brits and badly dressed Americans! Well I can dream can’t I!

So, I must leave it there and I definitely recommend a visit and even though this one is international, as Greatest Gardens go, this is definitely one of my front runners.

Ciao for now

GB

Greatest Gardens Week 2

Posted: 06/10/2013 at 19:21

Week 2 – Cannon Hall, Cawthorne, South Yorkshire

Weather – Overcast

Recession, huh, what recession? Are the words you say to yourself as you drive through the entrance to Cannon Hall and observe as the entire population of Yorkshire fights for spaces in the ever expanding car park. Luckily for me though, this mass swarm of Yorkshire folk is not there for the gardens, they are there for the farm shop and café, so as they all swoop down on an organic lasagne, I casually slip off to check out the gardens.

Set in mature parkland extending to around 70 acres, Cannon Hall surveys its surroundings through unobstructed views of South Yorkshire and the fast flowing river that defines its boundary.   Having grown up not more than five miles away, Cannon Hall was definitely my old stomping ground, I played sports there, walked there and I even tried to impress a girl with a picnic there (Hasten to say, the relationship didn’t last!). But as always, the gardens seemed to pass me by, you see, the section of garden that I’m about to describe is behind a huge wall (It’s a walled garden) and one can easily walk straight passed it, especially if you’ve got a romantic picnic on your mind! Once in, you feel that you’ve gone back in time, old green houses and potting sheds are in various states of repair and all of which adds tremendous character to the space. Along the boundary wall is a fantastic array of espaliered fruit trees which include the largest collection of pear varieties in England and they all look as if they have been given specific instructions to not let the wall fall in on the rest of the garden, and they’re doing a pretty good job too! The garden isn’t the traditional square or rectangular shape either, it looks as if it has grown as organically as the planting it harbours around the traditional farm buildings and what was once the estate manager’s cottage.

The planting is a mix of herbaceous borders and kitchen garden favourites, with a few water plants which soften the edges of the ornamental pond and gives it a real vitality. But it is the fruit trees that really stand out for me, with all the different varieties from plums to cherries and apples to pears; you would have your very own fruit salad!

As with many gardens, there is much more to see at Cannon Hall than I can write about here, so it is definitely worth a trip, but I will just issue this one warning to the ladies, beware of cheesy chat up lines during picnics!

Bye for now

GB

George Barnes' Greatest Gardens

Posted: 29/09/2013 at 17:43

Week 1, Alhambra Garden, Roundhay Park, Leeds

Weather – Sunny and Hot

I have always been aware of Roundhay Park, in fact, my first memory is of the words “Michael Jackson Roundhay Park 1988” which was carved by a crazed fan into one of the wooden café tables, I must have only been six years old at the time, but that memory has always stuck. I might just add, I wasn’t actually at the concert at the age of six, I was tall for my age but that would have been pushing it! I must have gone with my parents in the weeks following “MJ’s” big appearance.

Anyway, since then, I have returned to the park on a number of occasions (That sound quite sinister) to walk the dog (That sounds even worse!). No honestly, the park does offer first class dog walking facilities.

I was always happy with what the park had to offer; wide open spaces, well maintained grass and above all else, a feeling that this park was being used, but little did I know that I was merely scratching at its surface! (Not literally, that could have been classed as petty vandalism).

Whilst doing a bit of landscape design work, I was fortunate enough to spend a morning in the park, and it was at this time that I realised what I had been missing out on. Having been shown through the park by a knowledgeable local, I stopped in amazement as I laid eyes on the Alhambra Garden which is tucked away in a small corner of the park, partially flanked by tall manicured hedges. When I say I couldn’t believe it, I mean it. Maybe it was because the sun was shining and the air was warm, but I felt like I had been transported to a garden in the grounds of a 16th century villa on the shores of Lake Como. Obviously I hadn’t, but that’s what it felt like. I had to stop myself from greeting people in Italian, actually, on one occasion, if I had, I would have got away with it, as I saw someone from my local pizzeria and I think he would have appreciated my attempt at Euro integration.

Once inside the boundary hedges, one by one your senses become activated; the vibrant colours come first with the unmistakable sound of water on water from the dancing fountains snapping at its heals and then finally, the scent of a thousand flower heads fill the nostrils and reminds you of the intensity of nature’s perfume.

For those of you who are wondering if I activated the last sense, taste, well I did, but that was with a generous helping of carrot cake in the garden café, first class!

As with all successful gardens, a rich palette of textures which complement each other seamlessly, offer the visitor a truly calming experience. For me, as I’m a die-hard paving fan, the combination of terracotta tiles and traditional Spanish ceramic tile tacos, really stood out and provided a subtle stage on which the planting could really shine. And then of course, we have the water. A long thin channel which stretches the length of the garden creates an amazing centrepiece and with the water being circulated by the many fountains, you get a sense that the garden is constantly evolving.  

Deceptively, the Alhambra Garden echoes all the design features of a 13th century palace, but it is only a mere 14 years old. The garden was added to the park in 1999 and has been designed to replicate the gardens at the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. This is where the more observant of you will point out my lack of culture and laugh at the fact that I thought the garden reminded me of Italy!! Well it did ok!

Of course, the Alhambra Garden makes up just a tiny proportion of Roundhay Park and to talk about every section would take far too long for this post. So I urge you to take a visit if you’re in the area and furthermore, I would definitely recommend that yo

Designing a Garden Centre from scratch

Posted: 19/09/2013 at 22:08

I know I posted this a few months ago so sorry for repeating it, but I thought it is very apt!

The Nation's Love Affair

As a nation, we have often been regarded as dog lovers, tea lovers, useless lovers and also garden lovers and today it is the latter that I most want to focus on. We would all like to think that we are as green fingered as the next man, but when we look at the houses and gardens around us, it is quite easy to see that we are more like a village or small hamlet rather than a nation of garden lovers.

This is why I am going to make this claim. We are not a nation of garden lovers; we are a nation of garden CENTRE lovers. That’s it, we are obsessed with spending every un-worked minute, casually browsing the endless displays of pitch forks and gas barbeques, knowing full well that the more time spent planning where the decking will go, the less time spent turning the borders and digging up weeds.

Now, I don’t blame people for choosing this addiction, as I have to admit that I am also an addict and no amount of self denial will change this fact.

I am an addict, I feel liberated for saying that. In fact I might even form a support group so we can talk about petrol hedge trimmers whilst slurping a cup of tea and munching on a sports biscuit. (Biscuit may vary) 

What is it that we adore so profusely about the garden centre?  I found myself trying to answer this question a few weeks ago and I came up with: plants, hanging baskets, tools and country clothing, but then I realised, I had forgotten the most integral part to any self respecting garden mall (sorry, centre) and that is the café. People, old and young, flock to the café to queue for their cup of Earl Grey, homemade soup & a roll or may be a flap jack, which will need a good twenty five minutes to work around the mouth before you can even think about swallowing. 

The garden centre cafe is slowly taking first place in the race to become the hub of the social community. When once it could be said that the local pub filled this role, it is the garden centre that is taking the baton and leading us all to a life of fertilisers and scones. 

Is this a bad thing? Well who am I to judge? All I can say is that, I for one enjoy this craze and I hope that it lasts. Oh and if there are any garden centre managers reading this, please, moisten the flap jacks.

GB

Spring Time

Posted: 21/04/2013 at 20:43

Spring Time

I am going to be typically British here and talk about the weather, but in a good way!

I, like most of us, enjoy the seasons that our island’s position throws our way. When it is nearing the end of summer, I look forward to the fallen brown leaves and pub lunches next to the first wood fires of autumn. After spring, it’s all excitement as to whether the BBQ’s will get an airing in between the heavy downpours of summer (I managed it once last year). But my favourite time (you’ve probably guessed this by the tile!) is spring.

Each year, the first few days of spring feels like an absolutely new concept to me, I’m so used to the long dark winter that I start to forget that there is something fabulous, waiting around the corner.

For me, the start of spring is when the clocks go forward and the inconvenience of losing an hour in bed is more than offset by the arrival of this new season. In the space of one day, we are transported from winter to spring with the nights becoming lighter and the trees starting to parade their new plumes of leaves. The feeling of leaving the office in the daylight is one of liberation from the dark grasp of winter and the commute home becomes less of a mad race to your front door and more of a leisurely cruise with other road users franticly flashing at me due to the fact that I have my lights on unnecessarily (Force of habit, it has been a long winter you know).

Along with the lighter nights, comes the warmer weather and with both of these working harmoniously together, we get long grass. Spring also signifies the start of the mowing season; it is where we fight our way through boxes of old glass bottles and newspapers which we should have taken to the tip weeks ago to finally reach the lawn mower which rests silently under a fine layer of dried grass, ready once again to return to its weekly duties. The smell of cut grass is one of life’s true joys (Hay fever sufferers, you may disagree!) and when the mowing is over we can actually start to enjoy our gardens once more. This is what we garden for, this is why we sweep leaves in autumn and brave the cold in the winter, because we want our gardens to be in the best possible condition for when we can actually enjoy them.

So let’s raise a glass to spring time, the season when people are happiest and our gardens start to pay us back, but don’t forget to reserve a little bit of excitement, as summer will be just around the corner. Brollies at the ready everyone!

Happy Spring Time

GB

It Doesn't Always Have to be an Afterthought

Posted: 14/04/2013 at 00:04

If considered in detail, landscaping can be the ultimate compliment to the building in which it surrounds. It doesn’t only have to be about soft landscape either; many schemes are let down due to the poor quality of paving materials, step details and street furniture, as they are usually left as a last minute job towards the end of the project. If a landscape architect is involved with a development from the early stages, these details can be designed and specified to tie the whole development together.

I know what you are thinking, the landscape does not earn any real return for the developer and yes I agree, but it does make the building more attractive to investors and tenants and it could be the decider between two alternative options. It also creates an environment which will attract further investment in the future as more businesses wish to locate around an active commercial centre.

If the landscape is left to be a mere afterthought which fails to integrate with the development, we are sadly left with an outside space which is underused and unmaintained which unfortunately accounts for about 95% of our public spaces which have designed within the last 50 years.

Do we really want to leave a legacy like the one our forebears of the late 50’s and 60’s left for us?

The Nation's Love Affair

Posted: 13/04/2013 at 23:16

Many thanks for your compliment Gardening Grandma

The Nation's Love Affair

Posted: 11/04/2013 at 23:09

As a nation, we have often been regarded as dog lovers, tea lovers, useless lovers and also garden lovers and today it is the latter that I most want to focus on. We would all like to think that we are as green fingered as the next man, but when we look at the houses and gardens around us, it is quite easy to see that we are more like a village or small hamlet rather than a nation of garden lovers.

This is why I am going to make this claim. We are not a nation of garden lovers; we are a nation of garden CENTRE lovers. That’s it, we are obsessed with spending every un-worked minute, casually browsing the endless displays of pitch forks and gas barbeques, knowing full well that the more time spent planning where the decking will go, the less time spent turning the borders and digging up weeds.

Now, I don’t blame people for choosing this addiction, as I have to admit that I am also an addict and no amount of self denial will change this fact.

I am an addict, I feel liberated for saying that. In fact I might even form a support group so we can talk about petrol hedge trimmers whilst slurping a cup of tea and munching on a sports biscuit. (Biscuit may vary) 

What is it that we adore so profusely about the garden centre?  I found myself trying to answer this question a few weeks ago and I came up with: plants, hanging baskets, tools and country clothing, but then I realised, I had forgotten the most integral part to any self respecting garden mall (sorry, centre) and that is the café. People, old and young, flock to the café to queue for their cup of Earl Grey, homemade soup & a roll or may be a flap jack, which will need a good twenty five minutes to work around the mouth before you can even think about swallowing. 

The garden centre cafe is slowly taking first place in the race to become the hub of the social community. When once it could be said that the local pub filled this role, it is the garden centre that is taking the baton and leading us all to a life of fertilisers and scones. 

Is this a bad thing? Well who am I to judge? All I can say is that, I for one enjoy this craze and I hope that it lasts. Oh and if there are any garden centre managers reading this, please, moisten the flap jacks.

10 returned

Discussions started by George Barnes

Greatest Gardens Week 3

Traveling the World in Search of the Greatest Garden 
Replies: 5    Views: 339
Last Post: 20/10/2013 at 22:00

Greatest Gardens Week 2

Travelling the UK in Search of the Greatest Garden 
Replies: 1    Views: 267
Last Post: 06/10/2013 at 19:59

George Barnes' Greatest Gardens

Traveling the UK’s Greatest Gardens 
Replies: 1    Views: 379
Last Post: 29/09/2013 at 17:58

Spring Time

The Joys of Spring 
Replies: 7    Views: 407
Last Post: 22/04/2013 at 11:02

It Doesn't Always Have to be an Afterthought

The Importance of Landscape Design 
Replies: 1    Views: 379
Last Post: 14/04/2013 at 07:48

The Nation's Love Affair

What We Love Most About the Garden 
Replies: 14    Views: 495
Last Post: 13/04/2013 at 23:44
6 threads returned