Sunday, 22 May 2016

The Boulders. “The Story of a Gardens Lost History”

 The Story of a Gardens Story.

One of the most exciting, and sometimes daunting, aspects of my job is the anticipation of what I will see when I make that first visit to meet a new client. I say sometime daunting, as over the years I have come across some very challenging and unanticipated difficult conditions, from severe slopes, one of my most often presented challenges, to very badly neglected and unloved spaces. Let’s face it you are not going to call a garden designer if you have a beautiful garden to begin. This story though, of the story of a garden, must surely stand as one of the most intriguing I have yet come across.

I got an email inquiry from a lady, let’s say her name is Angela, as she wishes to remain anonymous, and attached to the email a couple of pictures of a garden space with a large quantity of boulders and the remains of what looked like quite a bit of tree surgery. Angela’s inquiry, did I know of anyone who might like to have the stone, or indeed, could I possibly use the stone on one of my projects and could I potentially help with the redesign of the space. On reading the email further it transpired that both Angela and her husband had recently purchased a property, the garden to which they assumed was just badly overgrown. When they said overgrown it turned out they meant overgrown in the sense of a number of very large and dense conifers virtually filling the entire rear garden area. No problem they thought, just get the trees cut down clear the space and return a normal and usable garden. However, nothing quite prepared them for the discovery that lay hidden amongst the dense undergrowth. On clearing the space they revealed the remains of an authentic Japanese garden complete with a mini version of Mount Fuji to one corner. Given there had been no mention of this, either by the estate agent, or in the property particulars, they were somewhat confounded, confused, panicked and not particularly happy, as they did not want a Japanese garden.

On making further inquiry from the vendor, daughter of the deceased, the story of the gardens creation was even more intriguing. The 1980s detached house built in a pretty normal, if somewhat leafy, suburban area of Cheshire had somehow inspired the owner to commission a designer based in California to design and install an authentic Japanese garden, replete with mount Fuji replica, Buddha stone, a very large Koi pond, subsequently filled in, ornate bridge over the pond, a water fall, along with various paths through the space.  Unfortunately the instigator and owner of the garden had died at the very young age of 61 and his wife, having no interest in the garden, donated the fish to another Japanese garden, had the pond filled in,  and promptly forgot about the garden as she sadly descended into a deep mourning loss of her husband. Having passed away quite recently the house was put on the market by their only surviving daughter.

I duly made an initial appointment for a consultation visit with Angela and her husband to discuss possibilities, with an initial view to suggesting they sell the stone to a salvage reclamation yard. The day of my visit was alas another of the all too frequent wet, damp, miserable ones. Even on a wet day though I was intrigued by what I saw, as looking out the window my eyes drawn to the wonderful form colour and texture of the stone, it dawned on me that I just might have a place for some of the larger pieces in one of my other projects that had just completed in Worsley, in Salford, Greater Manchester. Not wanting to pre-empt, I said nothing during that first meeting about possibly using some of the stone, but instead set about discussing and enthusing the possibility of retaining some elements of the Japanese garden in a re imagined configuration, and in particular mount Fuji, which I felt could once again gain significance within this new space.

Meeting with the client in Worsley during the week that followed I shared the story of the Japanese garden, along with my thoughts on 3 of the feature stone, with the proviso I was not at all sure, given the very restricted access, that it would be feasible to get the stone into position, but that I would ask our ever enduring landscaper Kris what his thoughts were. Kris as usual was full of enthusiasm and had replied, as he usually does when confronted with challenge, we will find a way. I joked they would have to do an Egyptian with poles and sacking to carry the boulders, prescient as it turned out.

True to form he did find a way, and the bodies, and the poles, and the sacking, and a brief dry spell, and yesterday, Saturday 21st May 2016 we spent the day both collecting, and then positioning, the boulders in their new home. The uncanny, they look like they have always been there.

Below are a few pictures to visually carry the story of the boulders.

 The boulder that first caught my eye and gave me an idea.

 Mount Fuji laid bare

 The narrowest door presents the trickiest task, how to get over half ton of boulder through it.

 The rain poured down shortly after the job of moving and installing the boulders was completed, good and lucky timing. The lads are still smiling, but probably because they have earned a cold beer!

 The garden with new boulders insitu. The wonderful Orange Azeala mentioned in previous post now in full and glorious flower to the foreground. On first sight it quite literally takes your breath away.

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