Archive for June, 2013

PicPost: Multi Story


Chas Spain

Good art keeps you warm..’ Andy Goldsworthy

Challenge for this week was to create a transient artwork in a public space using only the materials found in the environment.

With tutorials on Jeanne-Claude and Christo as a benchmark, it was just a little bit intimidating to decide where to start.

Some of their works were 20 years in the planning.

Sometimes when I draw or paint in public, people are quite nice and stop and chat. Other times I feel they quite studiously keep their distance ..

So I found doing something a little more unusual – albeit very simple – to be quite a challenge. Of course Melbourne is no stranger to people doing strange arty things.

My simple effort below was inspired by the superbly marked leaves of a eucalypt clearly trying to outdo its nearest neighbour – the architectural rubric cube in the Carlton Gardens.

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A short, easy to understand video from the UK Meteorological Office

A Roof Garden by Hugo Nicolle Design

A Roof Garden by Hugo Nicolle Design

This ‘snippet on style’ focuses on gardening above ground – roof gardens (including ‘green roofs’), balconies and vertical gardens. Growing plants above ground has been going on for centuries: e.g. the ziggurats of ancient Mesopotamia and the Villa of the Mysteries in Roman Pompeii.

Roof gardens

A roof garden is any garden on the roof of a building. Roof gardens can be of ornamental value – especially in urban locations where no ground level garden is available. They can also play a part in:

  • providing food – Trent University has a rooftop garden which provides food to the student café and local citizens
  • temperature control – plants can help to reduce heat absorption on buildings (so reducing the need for artificial air conditioning), achieving a cooling of the environment by between 3.6 and 11.3 degrees Celsius
  • controlling and harvesting rain water run off – where urban areas are increasingly hard – surfaced, roof gardens can delay peak run off and so help to prevent flooding, as well as retaining moisture for later use by the plants.
  • adding to the appearance of a building
  • providing habitats or corridors for wildlife
  • recreational opportunities
PicPost: Up on the roof

A great place to grow vegetables

Cultivating food on the rooftops of buildings is sometimes referred to as rooftop farming, and is usually done using special systems such as hydroponics, aeroponics/air-dynaponics or in containers. These systems can also help to reduce the stress on the roof that would otherwise have to carry a depth of soil over its whole surface. Sometimes as well as using the space on a roof, additional growing areas are added as ‘air bridges’ between buildings.

In creating a roof garden there are several important factors to consider:

  • primarily the bearing capacity of the roof structure – this can be designed to be minimal, so really creating a ‘green roof’ (bearing about 100-300kgs per square metre) or ‘stepable’ (bearing over 300kgs per square metre)

  • prevention of roots and water penetrating the roof structure

  • the inclination of the roof (this should not exceed 30°)

  • the altitude of any attic, etc.

Roof gardens are likely to feature more and more in major cities – 80% of Singapore residents voted for more roof gardens in the City’s future plans. The containers/planters on a roof garden may be designed for a variety of functions and vary greatly in depth to satisfy aesthetic and recreational purposes. These planters can hold a range of ornamental plants: anything from trees, shrubs, vines, or an assortment of flowers. Where aesthetics and recreation are the priority roof gardens may not provide the environmental and energy benefits of a green roof.

A 'green roof' made up of various succulent plants

A ‘green roof’ made up of various succulent plants


Once again you need to be aware of how much weight your balcony can take, so seek structural engineer or architect advice if you’re unsure. Balconies can be used for both ornamental or food plants, but it’s worth thinking about your layout before you start. To maximise growing space,  suspend window boxes along the balcony edges, place soil-warming terracotta planters in the sunniest patches, and put lean-to shelves against the wall to accommodate extra pots. Here’s a video about setting up a balcony garden using permaculture principles.

Vertical Gardens

For those who live in small apartments with little space, ‘square foot gardening’, or (when even less space is available) vertical gardens or ‘living walls’ can be a solution. These use much less space than traditional gardening – square foot gardening is said to use 20% of the space of conventional rows and ten times more produce can be generated from vertical gardens. These also encourage environmentally responsible practices – eliminating tilling, reducing or eliminating pesticides, and weeding, and encouraging the recycling of wastes through composting. Some of the most familiar vertical gardens are called ‘living walls’ – a concept where low growing and small plants are placed into a matrix which is then fixed to a wall. Such designs can be immense in size, covering the entire sides of buildings. They are also increasingly being used inside building spaces, such as foyers and receptions, to create a contemporary and eco-friendly ambiance. There is a trend towards more living walls in people’s homes. This has led to many companies now providing products which create a vertical garden to liven up the side of a house or patio, and platforms of pots which can be planted with herbs and vegetables on a balcony. Some of my own articles feature the use of old pallets for vertical planters and these too can be considered as ‘living walls’ and are a useful addition to conventional ground level gardens as well as homes which lack much outside space.

There are clear advantages to vertical gardens:

  • creating growing space where normal ground level space is restricted

  • offering a green outlook to those who want to avoid views of concrete and bricks

  • creating spaces which are beneficial to both mental and physical health

  • making it easy to grow food plants such as herbs and salads

Sources and links:

Wikipedia – roof gardens

Wikipedia – green roofs

RHS- roof gardens and balconies

The Roof Gardens- Kensington

6 green roofs you can relate to

How to design a roof garden

Vertical gardens

A garden on your balcony

Balcony Garden and rooftop garden ideas

10 Inspiring Balcony Gardens

Green Roof and Green Wall ona Sydney high rise building – David Eugene

Other articles in the ‘Style Counsel’ series:

Foliage Gardens

Family Gardens

Productive Gardens

Japanese Gardens

Country Gardens

Modernist Gardens

Formal Gardens

Mediterranean Gardens

Cottage gardens

Old School Gardener

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PicPost: Dodman's Rest

Tombstone at Weybourne, Norfolk via

‘A dodman (plural “dodmen”) or a hoddyman dod is a local English vernacular word for a land snail. The word is used in some of the counties of England. This word is found in the Norfolk dialect, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Fairfax, in his Bulk and Selvedge (1674), speaks of “a snayl or dodman.”

Hodimadod is a similar word for snail that is more commonly used in the Buckinghamshire dialect.

Alternatively (and apparently now more commonly used in the Norfolk dialect) are the closely related words Dodderman or Doddiman. In everyday folklore, these words are popularly said to be derived from the surname of a traveling cloth seller called Dudman, who supposedly had a bent back and carried a large roll of cloth on his back. The words to dodder, doddery, doddering, meaning to progress in an unsteady manner, are popularly said to have the same derivation.

A traditional Norfolk rhyme goes as follows:

“Doddiman, doddiman, put out your horn,
Here comes a thief to steal your corn.”

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894

The ‘inventor’ of ley lines, Alfred Watkins, thought that in the words “dodman” and the builder’s “hod” there was a survival of an ancient British term for a surveyor. Watkins felt that the name came about because the snail’s two horns resembled a surveyor’s two surveying rods. Watkins also supported this idea with an etymology from ‘doddering ‘ along and ‘dodge’ (akin, in his mind, to the series of actions a surveyor would carry out in moving his rod back and forth until it accurately lined up with another one as a backsight or foresight) and the Welsh verb ‘dodi’ meaning to lay or place. He thus decided that The Long Man of Wilmington was an image of an ancient surveyor.’

Source: Wikipedia

PicPost: Veggy Heaven

from, via Growveg


‘Iron Man’ Gorilla outside the County Council tent- one of many hand painted gorillas that have just been put on display around Norwich in aid of a local children’s charity.

Yesterday I spent an enjoyable day at the Royal Norfolk Show, the County’s long established ‘agriculture plus’ event that has its own show ground at Easton near Norwich. My main reason for being there was to help man the ‘Master Gardener’ and ‘Master Composter’ stand, offering information and advice about growing food at home and, of course, how to compost effectively.

Before this afternoon stint I was able to stroll around, camera in hand, and soak up the atmosphere on this first of the two day show. Over both days the organisers are expecting around 90,000 people to attend, and they are aiming to ‘break even’ financially. It’s interesting that the show has managed to survive the tough financial times as some other county shows have folded completely due to dwindling attendances, not moving with the times or a lack of facilities to cope with poor weather. No signs of that at Easton, where there was a busy, joyful atmosphere, especially as the weather (until the very end of the afternoon) was warm and sunny.


As expected the crowds were a curious mix of ‘old and new’, or perhaps more accurately, different social groups  – the well dressed ‘County Setters’ in their blazers, shirts and ties, flowery hats and summer dresses (most involved in farming in some way), alongside groups of school children and more casually dressed families, teenagers and older couples. A microcosm of the local community in what remains predominantly a rural, agricultural County. Of course an agricultural show wouldn’t be the same without the ranks of huge and intricate machinery, some old, some brand spanking new as well as age-old crafts like horse shoeing and sheep shearing – including an impressive display by the Gressenhall Fam Manager, Richard Dalton, using a set of 100 hundred year old hand cranked clippers!


It’s always impressive to see some of the ‘beasts’ entered for the various cattle, horse, pigs and other animal competitions and the efforts put into their grooming and presentation for the judges. On the horticultural front there was an impressive floral display in one marquee, including some delightful orchids, chrysanthemums and looser mixed arrangements of garden plants nicely in flower and leaf. There were also some amazing floristry displays and the usual competitions for different types of home grown fruit and veg- some impressive Gooseberries caught my eye in particular. I managed to come away from the Norwich and Norfolk Horticultrual Society ‘plant tombola’ with a hand full of very nice seed packets, so I now have a supply of purple Pansies, Amaranthus, Morning Glory and Carrots to add to my seed bank!


And the varieties of food on offer reinforced the summery feel too – tumblers full of freshly cut fruit, strawberries and cream and of course ice cream a plenty. And not wasting food was one of the key messages of the Norfolk Waste Reduction Team’s display, which also hosted the Master Composter/Gardener stalls, along with some fascinating crabs illustrating the work of the Fisheries Conservation Agency. This was a great draw for the children who continually asked ‘which one is the most dangerous?’- in truth none of them really, as despite their fierce looking claws, the staff were able to pick them up to show the to the crowds without any apparent fear – or nipping!


My afternoon was spent talking to show goers about growing their own food and composting. I had some very interesting chats including a teacher from a local High School who teaches horticulture there and sounds to have a splendid school garden, several couples about starting or improving their compost, helping children to make paper pots and sow seeds to take home (along with all the other ‘trophies’ they collected from the stalls at the show), and other show goers clearly just enjoying growing their own food and with whom I shared tales of the late spring, compared potato growth rates and discussed rhubarb diseases.  The next door County Council tent with which we were associated also put on a splendid carousel of displays and activities (including live music) illustrating the array of ways in which the Council serves Norfolk – in fact it (and we) were so good that the whole stand won the Show’s top prize for ‘trade’ stands, so congratulations all round!

So, as you can tell, I had both a very pleasant day out – and one that boosted my energy, interest and optimism for gardening!

Old School Gardener

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That Bloomin' Garden

food bank garden

When growing a vegetable garden its important to note how choosing the location of the garden has an effect on plant growth. I planted a raised bed of squash and zucchini plants at our community garden at least a week before my garden at home. Our community garden is in full sunshine and very open meaning its exposed to winds at all times.

squash plant

But take a look at the plants in the beds today and you will see there is something seriously wrong.  We have new soil but so does everyone else who gardens at the front of the garden and their plants are doing well. So the soil is most likely not a factor in why the plants aren’t thriving. I water regularly so that is not an issue. Here is my theory. I think that being at the very back of the community garden, the raised garden beds…

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