Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How many gardeners do you have? 

None - one of the principles behind the garden is that it should represent what can be done if you roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty and do it all yourself.  I view the garden as a deposit of purposeful activity, not as an object that can be owned, so it would make no sense at all for me to deliberately create the garden and then employ other people to do the gardening.  That would be like buying a jigsaw puzzle and then paying someone to do the puzzle for me.  I also learn best from experimenting and hands-on experience so to get someone else to do the work would be to hand over a priceless opportunity to learn.  I use the discipline of binding constraints to keep focused, efficient and realistic.  They function as the boundary between what is actually achieveable and what is a fantasy, and in this regard binding constraints are the guide-rails of the garden.  No doubt as I get older I will have to soften my "no gardeners or no garden" stance, but I won't give it up without a fight!

 Q: What training do you have?

None directly relevant to gardening and horticulture.  I have a degree in economics which has equipped me with very objective decision making, budgeting, sequencing and analysing skills and I switch into this mind-set to work out how to get ideas off the drawing board and onto the ground.  In terms of acquiring plant and gardening know-how, I just found out what I needed to know when I needed to know it - sort of like building the road you are travelling down from materials found lying nearby as you go.  This might include gardening manuals, reference books, seed catalogues, google searches, and trial and error.  As a general rule I find out the basics then I have a go, with very low expectations of success and very high anticipation of failure, then I analyse the wreckage, tweak the approach for the next attempt, analyse the wreckage, repeat.  Beyond finding out enough to know I am starting my efforts in roughly the right ballpark, I genuinely have no knowledge of the "right way" to do anything.  I do however have a fondness for analysing failures for new lines of investigation - as with a particle accelerator, the bigger the smash, the more can be learned from the wreckage! 

Q: What about chemicals and irrigation?

I welcome all the garden's natural inhabitants (even rabbits!), I don't use artificial fertilizers or pesticides, and I minimize the use of weedkillers, staking and mulches. I've also made a firm rule of not watering anything outside the vegetable garden unless it is newly planted or living in a pot, in a deliberate attempt to kill anything that can't cope with the climate.  I would no more fight against nature in the garden than I would presume to hold back the sea - instead I observe and then try to fit in with nature's systems as respectfully as I can.

 Q: How much did this all cost?

Including the walls which were constructed by a local building contractor, but excluding the greenhouse and the statue of Abigail the Irish wolfhound, the garden cost £100,000 from start to finish, or the cost of one Range Rover and one Freelander, spread out over ten years.  Everything is done as cost-effectively as possible by learning the skills and buying the raw materials wherever possible, including propagating around half of the plants, building paths and laying lawns. My moto is: do it yourself and you get a skill, hire someone else and you get a bill.

Q: Where do you get the design ideas from?

The short answer is that I dream them up as imaginary places that conjure up particular feelings. Please click here to read more about the design process step by step.

Copyright Carol Bruce, 2012