Garden Water Features

How To… Use Water Features In Your Garden

Andrew Duff

Water features of any size are a great asset to the garden.  Not only do they provide a focal point but they also give a sense of well-being. Whether still or moving the tranquil effects of water can calm or uplift any space.

For the small garden think about scale.  We assume that a small garden requires small features and that everything needs to be in proportion.  This makes the space seem even smaller, a sort of miniature garden.  So, have fun and take a risk!  Large sculptures or pots add a sense of drama.  Large leaved plants backed with smaller leaved plants help accentuate the depth, making the garden seem larger.  Do not limit yourself to a very small water feature; for water to work well you need at least half a metre square of surface area.  And remember the rule about using an existing measurement – try the door or window width or even a path dimension; coordinating measurements will anchor any feature you choose to introduce.

So, have fun and take a risk!  Large sculptures or pots add a sense of drama.

Materials are important. Do you want the feature to stand out or blend in?  Link back to a material that is already in the garden in order to harmonise. If the house is brick introduce brick again.  For a cottage garden galvanised metal or rusty steel can be both contemporary and traditional.  Is your water feature flush with the ground or is it raised?  In a small space a raised pool often works better.  A 1 m2 pool raised 450mm high provides an exciting focal point, is large enough for dramatic reflection and, the rim is the right height to sit on and enjoy.

Fountains can make or break.  Think subtle and sophisticated.

A large fountain in a small pool is totally out of scale.  Try a small bubble fountain fixed just under the water’s surface; the jet will gently babble away creating a calming movement and sound, or use a very fine jet and keep it simple.  One arching spray of water on the centre is more than adequate. For a Mediterranean feel locate a jet in each corner of a square or rectangular pool and aim them to cross each other. The Alhambra Garden in Spain is a great resource for inspiration.

Still water requires a little more maintenance to keep it clean and it will also evaporate quicker.  A little black dye will help heighten the reflective qualities and stop algae growing.

The Alhambra Gardens in Spain

Do not overcrowd a pool with lots of plants; remember the design mantra that less is more.  Again think scale. You don’t want a miniature water garden, but you do need to choose plants that are appropriate to the pond size.  Miniature water lilies can work well if planted alone. For contrast plant large oval-leaved Hosta around the edge and sword-shaped Iris directly into the water.  If you are looking for inspiration I would suggest visiting the flower shows or have a look at their websites – RHS Hampton Court Flower Show is generally the best one for water-plants.  (Try not to look at the larger water gardens; this is not the look you are trying to achieve.)

Safety, with water in the garden, is paramount.  A raised feature is safer, especially if you have young children, but I would always insist the client has a metal grid fitted just below the water surface so that if a child falls in, the grid would protect them.

The History and Application of Wallpaper

Jacqueline Duncan: Lecture by Diana Lloyd – The History & Application of Wallpaper

Jacqueline Duncan, OBE, Dean of Inchbald visited the Mendip NADFAS (National Association of Decorative and Fine Art Societies) Branch recently to listen to a lecture on the History and Application of Wallpaper given by Diana Lloyd.

Long ago Diana was a particularly successful student at Inchbald; shortly after completing her course she started lecturing at the Victoria and Albert Museum on glass. She became a regular lecturer on decoration at Inchbald and soon took over the Directorship of the History of Design Faculty. With the advent of children she pursued an independent career as a lecturer on the Decorative Arts and her range is very broad, as NADFAS members across the UK will know to their benefit.

Diana is renowned for forensic research into her subjects and a sparkling delivery which captivates her audiences’ attention. I was particularly interested in the manner in which she handled her subject, bringing a fresh perspective to the fascinating story of wallpaper’s origins and subsequent decorative history.

The NADFAS organisation, founded some years after the 1960 foundation of the Inchbald School of Design, has made available a wondrous programme of lectures dedicated to the Arts, and promulgated both education and enjoyment in this wide subject, making it available across the UK to so many people of all ages and interests.

Jacqueline Duncan

Inchbald Online Spring Induction

The Inchbald held the Spring Induction for the Online courses in Interior and Garden Design on 25 – 27 April.

This is a three day introduction to the designing eye, supported by extensive instruction in the Inchbald teaching/learning methodology.

The programme includes the London Walk comprising a day spent visiting the art and architectural wonders of this great city, together with sketching exercises in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Students have the opportunity to meet and socialise with their tutors, who will pay such an important part in their life during the Courses.

This group includes applicants from as far away as Australia and Egypt, Dubai and Europe. The mix of nationalities and cultures enriches the online experience, which is forum based, so that students and tutors are interacting with each other, exchanging views and information, throughout the whole course. Many overseas students attend the inductions, but where this is not practical there is a special Online Induction session designed for them.

There are a number of courses of varying length available to those who wish to study design on line; Inchbald has now been educating students in this manner since 2007 and their studies are proved to lead to successful and rewarding careers.

The Spring intake of the Inchbald Online Courses left very happy – ‘it was more like a holiday’ said one of them. That is the joy of working in design related subjects – it is life enhancing.

How important is CAD in the creative process?

“But surely CAD is critical for our portfolios ” say my students.   Certainly it’s important: once mastered it is an easy and professional option but there are other considerations in the creation of good design.  As a tutor I have heard this comment many times and I am certainly not alone; design tutors everywhere will be familiar with the resistance to drawing skills, the reliance on digital technology.

So before the Digital Crusader derides my point of view let me explain.  I am not against technology and the advent of the digital age.  In fact I encourage and welcome it, but in the student’s evolution into professional designers there are other important lessons to be learnt.

It is a tutor’s responsibility to encourage students’ investment in vital core skills and these include conceptual thinking, supported by drawing and sketching.  These are attributes which will lead to a proper understanding of their profession, including their role as a designer and their responsibilities to their client.

I was encouraged recently by an article in the RIBA Journal (April 2017) by Pamela Buxton reviewing the work of Deanna Petherbridge.  A passionate advocate of drawing throughout her working life, Petherbridge describes the importance and relevance of drawing when discussing her work, expressing concerns about the ‘loss of value placed on drawing as designers increasingly rely on computer-aided design – particularly the loss of the immediacy and sense of scale that drawing on paper encourages’.  Pertinent for me however was Petherbridge’s observation that, whilst using CAD, designers are ‘always at second or third hand – the (computer drawing) system has been set up by someone else. You think you’re controlling it, but it’s controlling you’.

Increasingly within the teaching environment I find myself straining to express the relevance of investment in fundamental core skills before the countenance of digital software.

The design profession must take some responsibility for the determination of students to be more ‘Tech-Savvy’.  Studios automatically assume CAD skills when interviewing prospective employees..  Whilst this in itself is a necessary and valuable skill, it should never be at the expense of the development of young designers.

Too often the disappointing result of students’ work is the consequence of a rush towards ‘an impressive digital presentation’, with students seemingly convinced that it will sway opinion in their favour when pitching for their first position of employment.  It certainly helps but there is much more in the training of a designer.

Cultural awareness supported by reading, personal experiences gained by travel, and the capacity to make mistakes and recognise them as such are key development factors.  These are all discussion points capable of further elaboration within the learning environment and they provide a framework to build upon.

Thus I would urge more time spent on research and drawing skills, both important and primary functions for any student.  Swanky digital presentations can easily obscure the true substance in the work.  Experienced potential employers will see through the superficial success and make decisions about how they perceive employment capability.

Consider the further impact from the new ever-emerging technologies such as virtual reality presentations, currently a big buzz in the profession.

The ability to immerse clients directly into the spaces that they will inhabit, walking from room to room, able to make first hand decisions about what they are likely to receive from the designer can only further engage the dialogue between the two parties.  However it remains the case that without core skill developmental capabilities, it may also highlight the lack of substance.  The challenges we face in in our personal development are really about continuing to challenge ourselves.  Debates about what software to master, whether it is AutoCad or Vectorworks, are not really the debates that we should be having.

We must never lose sight of the ability of these digital programmes to enhance, but only enhance, the viability and visibility of our own, cultivated, potential creativity.

Computers are the brilliant products of a brilliant mind.

Computers do not design.

Tony Taliadoros
Senior Lecturer
Inchbald School of Design

RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Andrew Duff: How to make the most of RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017

Marcus Barnett, Inchbald School of Design

With the RHS Chelsea Flower Show just around the corner I would encourage you to visit if you can.  This year the RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs from 23rd – 27th May 2017.  Chelsea is the main event in a garden designer’s calendar and a rich source of inspiration.

As with any great show it is essential to plan ahead.  The RHS Chelsea website is excellent for this; it lists all the individual show gardens, their designers, a drawing of the garden and the plant lists.  It also lists all the main exhibitors from the garden furniture stands right through to the nurseries in the main marquee.

My plan of action is to print off the map well in advance:  this gives me an opportunity to plan a route through the site.

I start with the main avenue and those jaw-dropping show gardens, then work my way through the main marquee for a little light relief where I look at the nursery stands before embarking on the smaller gardens, the exhibition stands, and finally the gardens set amongst the woodlands.

Serena Fremantle, Inchbald School of Design

Don’t forget the gardens are not always as they might seem; lots of the show gardens have their plants forced in heated glass houses or held back in a refrigerator so you can never be sure that the planting combinations you see are realistic.  Instead look at flower shape.  A few years ago Luciano Giubbilei’s blood red peonies and bronze fennel were amazing, this can easily be reproduced with roses or other round flower shapes with grasses.

Make sure you grab a plant list. 

The designer or a member of their team is often on the garden and there is always the chance to ask them questions. That is what they are there for!

Watch for colour trends – last year’s brilliant-white and plum-red stole the show.  The year before acid greens and pale blues worked their magic.  Check out quirky ideas such as different mulches, different path edges and other innovations.  Look at style.  There is often a certain style running through the show; last year it was very strong and proud, all making a statement.  This year I predict an altogether softer approach.

If you have not been able to beg or borrow a Chelsea ticket this year, all is not lost.  The RHS website is still worth researching and you can get tickets for the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show, which although it doesn’t have the same kudos as Chelsea, it is equally interesting and informative.

Inchbald Seoul

Inchbald launches a new garden design school in Korea – Inchbald Seoul

Inchbald was founded to provide professional education for aspiring interior designers. With a great personal interest in gardens and landscaping, founder Jacqueline Duncan extended the programmes to include the study of Garden Design and our graduates have gone on to spectacular careers.

Inchbald has always attracted an international student body, which in itself offers greater diversity to those studying here, and in 1992 Inchbald was approached with a view to establishing a link with a school in Jeddah in order to start an Interior Design department. The Future Centre (Jeddah) is now a well established success.

Inchbald is now collaborating with Master of Arts in Garden Design graduate Young Ok Kim to start a Garden Design School in Seoul, a challenge which is most exciting and which we are sure will prove to be just as popular and successful as the Jeddah establishment.

Inchbald Seoul is launching its first course, a six month Diploma, on 12th May 2017.

For further information please see below:-

Tel:  + 82-2-722-1121

Easter Activity: Gardening With The Children

Easter is great time to get out into the garden but remember it isn’t just the adults who can help, involve the children!

Create a composter…

As the buds are bursting with new foliage start to clear the old leaves, which have covered the ground from winter.  If you have room start a leaf composter, this is a good way to return the goodness back to the soil and the kids can learn too.

Check out this one on Eco Friendly Kids

The main event – Easter Egg Hunt…

The Easter egg hunt is a clever way of getting all the family outdoors in spring.  Remember hide them well, think about giving them clues to their whereabouts.  Use plants as clues for example the egg is in amongst the daffodils or hanging from the rustling bamboo, this helps to nurture an early appreciation of nature embedding a natural respect for the environment.

Getting your hands dirty…

Children love digging – a quick trip to the local garden centre to stock up on some early summer blooms will allow the kids to interact with the garden.  A trick is to buy small and watch them grow.  This will encourage the children to nurture.  Get them to measure the plants once planted and keep a record of their growth.  Give them their own plot they will learn the hard way that plants need care in order to flourish and it also gives them a sense of ownership.

Children love digging in the garden

Look out for dead growth, as plants awake from their winter slumber it is easy to spot those areas which need pruning away.  Remember to edit rather than prune, you want to retain a more natural look rather than conform to a ball shape.  The current trend, seen in the upcoming Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show gardens, is for a more informal approach to gardening so relax and enjoy Easter.

Book Review: Alvar Aalto Architect

Alan Hughes reviews Alvar Aalto Architect by John Stewart

A retrospective commentary on an architect’s work is not such an unusual idea but in the hands of John Stewart this consideration of Finland’s greatest architect/designer turns into so much more.

Mr. Stewart, at the launch of the book spoke emotionally yet with some humour about how his determination to write a biography of the man, as well as the architect, tempered his forty years of hero worship of Aalto.  However, what he has crafted is a wonderful exploration of Aalto’s creative persona, his struggle to be successful and his battle with ego and perfectionism, adding a special dimension to the story which is partnered by a comprehensive consideration of his design output.

Illustrations are equally revealing with images of Aalto’s work accompanied by drawings and personal photographs, some published for the first time.  The context of the work is very well researched and presented giving a clear sense of how Aalto fits into his time and Stewart is full of anecdotal and intimate moments from the family and private life of one of Finland’s most recognised sons.  In the year that marks the 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence this publication is very much in context.

Published by Merrell, London

The Manipulation Of Space With Colour

Alan Hughes discusses Tinie Tempah, colour psychology and how an interior designer can manipulate space with colour.

The concept that music can stimulate certain areas of the brain has prompted research by a team at Reading University to explore this theory.   English rapper and songwriter Tinie Tempah volunteered to undergo brain scans whilst listening to music and conclusions indicate that we are all fired by the impact of sound.  Certain areas of the brain ‘light up’, as we listen and the investigation is set to determine why these specific areas respond. This could be a clue as to which areas house our emotional responses and may begin to explain if particular areas of the brain are tuned to specific reactions?

The study attempts to quantify and measure personal reaction in a scientific manner, even though the effect may be no more dramatic than a ‘goose bump’.  

Tempah himself relates the analysis to his own compositions more immediately, stating that he needs the music to capture a feeling.   The scientists at Reading University however, aim to identify the level of activity in stem, cortex and cerebellum and the results of this exercise will impact on our perceptions across a wider field.

It comes as no surprise to the designer that sensory stimulus has an emotional consequence.   In spatial design a similar reaction can be provoked by colour and as the composition of the musician can be further inspired by music, so the Interior designer reacts to the stimulus of colour and can learn to manipulate space with visual impact.   The designer’s ability to assign colour for a purpose beyond cosmetic should be a major element in his or her perceived style and skill.

The educational centre in El Chaparral designed by Spanish architect Alejandro Munoz Miranda uses coloured glass in the communal corridors to elevate the students’ mood between classes

We are bombarded by stimuli on a number of levels and on a constant basis.   Initial impact is strong but this is reduced by repetition and, if you wish, familiarity.   Thus we experience a difference in brain activity between first impact and subsequent experience.  Nevertheless the impression penetrates more deeply into the brain than mere pleasurable response may suggest.

This information is not really new.   Many studies have shown that colour affects the heart rate, the recovery rate of patients, the behaviour of prison inmates and indeed the overall mood of the viewer.   Given this subjective reaction, the possibilities are interesting.   Once the student grasps the principles of colour and the differentials between aspects of warm and cold, advancing and recessive shades, so It becomes possible to change perceptions of form and scale with informed colour disposition.   Could anything be more empowering?

Fashions will come and go but the study of colour and its relationship to light, is one of the most important subjects in the lexicon of design education.

Read more about Tine Tempah: Mind-Blowing Music here.



Collectors & Collections

Jacqueline Duncan OBE on collectors, collecting and the Mostyn Reception at the British Museum at which the renowned clock has its annual winding.

Contemporary interior designers today show a marked disinterest in the use and beauty of antiques; I begin to wonder if the antique market will be saved by the enthusiasm of the Collector.

This was brought particularly to my attention on 23rd February 2017 when I was privileged to be invited to the annual winding of the Mostyn Tompion, now a prized feature of the British Museum’s spectacular Clock Collection.   Probably now the finest horological collection in the world, a major part of it was formed by engineer Courtenay Ilbert and acquired by the Museum in 1957 on Ilbert’s death.

“There are plenty of people who still enjoy the challenge of acquisition.”

Collectors fall into categories, but they share a single minded passion for their specific interest, whether it be diamonds from Golconda or pottery shards from Troy.   In Courtenay’s case he was intrigued enough to purchase a tray of watch parts in a jewellers’ closing down sale in order to see what he could make of them.   Within the week it is said that he had restored the muddle into three watches; at the time he was still at public school, aged about 13.   Childish fascination turned into obsession and he was to pursue his accumulation of items concerned with the measurement of time until he died in 1956.   A qualified engineer, he remained committed to the mechanics of his clocks and watches: the cosmetic grandeur of jewelled watches and wondrous clock cases was of secondary importance.

“Collectors share a single minded passion for their specific interest.”

On one occasion in 1910, buying a newspaper in a booth in Piccadilly, he saw a new watch for sale for 2/6d.   He bought it, pointing out later that he didn’t think that finance and manufacturing would ever again so coincide as to produce a very complicated product at such a very modest price.   The cheap Piccadilly watch shares space with, among many hundreds of examples, James II’s personal pocket watch, a spectacular clock by Nicholas Vallinn, clockmaker to Elizabeth I and the smallest Tompion known, devised for travelling with its own travelling case in the age of carriages.

It was always the ingenuity that held him spellbound, rather than the cosmetic or associated appeal and this is a collection that represents an international review of the measurement of time.   It is easy to say that there is less opportunity for collectors like Ilbert, but this is really not true and there are plenty of well informed people who still enjoy the challenge of acquisition.

Thomas Tompion’s famous year-going Table clock, made for William 111 in 1689, with a lavish case by Dutch architect/designer Daniel Marot – now known as the Mostyn Tompion and displayed in the British Museum

The Mostyn Tompion is a year going spring driven table clock made by Thomas Tompion, known as the Father of English Clockmaking. Created for the Coronation of William III in 1689, it remained in the King’s bedroom until his death.

Guests at the Mostyn Reception in the Museum are allowed to turn the key once to augment the annual winding ceremony, and with other (and with great caution) I did just that on February 23rd.   If the Museum holds its next reception later than February 2018, Mr Tompion’s clock will still run on beyond its stated 12 month cycle.

Not at all bad for a clock created nearly 350 years ago.


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