Monday, November 29, 2004

The Sunflower (photograph)

Originally uploaded by andrewstenning.

An example of Fibonacci in nature.

Saturday, November 27, 2004


Originally uploaded by andrewstenning.



No Distance Left to Run (Fibonacci) 28th nov-04th dec.

‘God does not play dice’




‘Any physical theory is always provisional, in the sense that it is only a

-Stephen W. Hawking

Leonardo Fibonacci of Pisa introduced a number sequence in 1202, the series is simply the result of adding the previous two numbers, and a sequence is repetitively found in nature.

Many flowers have the Fibonacci sequence with their petal numbers, the spiral development on leaves, seed heads, pine-cones ect ect…………….all point to this. The reason plants develop this is due to the way cells divide in the early stages of development, It always gets me thinking and I find it weird that mathematics can help us to understand the morality that underpin the workings of the universe.
1.6180339877 or phi [the golden ratio] designed the pyramids and the Babylonian stela, and this number appears further down in the Fibonacci sequence The golden ratio in the form of a logarithmic spiral appears in the sunflower and in galaxies, works of art music and poetry, It’s a proportion that is natural, it is the lot,
The link of this with our origins our culture and our future are massive! The simple 1,1,2,3,5,8 and so on are becoming impoverished every day slowly suffocating by our ravenous consumption, our planet is becoming less diverse, and we are designing ways of recreating simple natural codes improvising for our own gains, Agro-business establish mono-crop fields that lead to extinction of species, not allowing a continuation of Fibonacci will not lead to phi, and golden ratio we will flout at great cost.
The Christmas just gone was going to have great significance on the theory of Fibonaccio a nine note tune was to be played back to earth from the surface of Mars as a caution of our coming of age, The failed Beagle 2 space lander was imagination at its highest. Colin Pillinger was to open the holy grail of science (The future starts when we find life on mars) and remind us of our basic tenuous existence. Pillinger christened his craft after Darwin’s and he like the ocean going heroes of the past knows the returns are infinite and that we are jammed if we dissolve our obvious ties to nature and the universe. To see number sequence in nature is as important as ‘life as we know it’, and to think that after the creation of our planet other sequences where formed is incredible. I don’t know if the cyclical nature of a garden represents that of the universe, all I do know is we are going in the right direction to find out!.

Photographs and text copyright 2004 andrew stenning

Thursday, November 25, 2004

One big step! (sleepy hollow)

Originally uploaded by andrewstenning.

Sleepy hollow. s.a.d Sleepy hollow. s.a.d Sleepy hollow. s.a.d Sleepy hollow -S.A.D.

Sleepy hollow.
Seasonal affective disorder.

‘There is no coming to consciousness without pain’.
Author: Carl Jung

Thank God there is more chocolate in the shops now!

I work with the season’s good bad and down right ugly. The months from now till March used to be a nightmare but I have learnt to control it. Depression still a taboo of an illness but an illness it is! As serious as cancer and hart disease and as debilitating as a concrete pair of boots. To explain depression is easy it’s the worst of all pains but describing it is imposable without sounding mellow dramatic and selfish. The reason I bring this up is due to an incident close to where I was working last week, ‘a suicide’. For anyone now this time of year turns into bloody chaos, love and giving mixed with bombing and killing it’s confusing. With two much thinking time on my hands its hard to keep the gardeners chin up but somehow the garden does. Depression is when you intimately connect to some of life’s and cultures great works, songs poems art and nature have great depths and become as important as they where intended, friends and family become sorted out into important and non categories and you will here the words ‘bright side’ and ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ a lot. The world around you is distant and you are sealed in a very open clear enclosure.

Seasonal affective disorder if you think you have it! is taken very seriously ‘thankfully’ in medical circles and a GP WILL listen and not think you are ready for a lobotomy, The exact causes are not know but it is thought to be lack of sunlight (vitamin d), a chemical imbalance in an area of the brain called the HYPOTHALAMUS and the fact that you are a living breathing caring human being, but In the depths of depression you are scum and relate to people accordingly, research has shown that exercise is good, which is darn right, however when you are really low you can’t find the energy to turn off the morning alarm let alone go for a run! Catch 22 is here and in everything else you attempt to do. I had a bash from the ‘big D ‘ a couple of years ago and found gardening was my way out, I started to realise how pathetic my insecurities where in the grand scheme of things, Looking at simple importance instead of the crappy clutter was a revelation, My job should be available on the national health. Being outside is very beneficial and watching things grow, nurturing and seeing a side of life a lot of people miss is an important part of the cure. At this time I read many books on the subject by artists, writers, actors, musicians, and always came back to one, ‘Depression and How to Survive It’ by
Spike Milligan and Anthony Clare a frank and sometimes-funny profile of depression which interviews spike on good and bad days, its inspirational, medically correct and there is no mention of spiritual help (it’s practical). ‘Yes it’s true hugging a tree is useless!’

From that day on there have been many lethargic days and like anyone who has to live in the twenty first century depression is always a fragile arms length away. Fish oils are good! omega 3 I have taken for a year and NO alcohol is a must. Living and breathing in the garden takes you away from issues although at this time of year a garden echoes pain, depression and alienation but it is also beautiful and haunting this is something I have trained myself to see.
And come late winter the garden starts to wake and nature sprinkles its magic that represents hope,

• "When I look back, the fondest memory I have is not really of the Goons. It is of a girl called Julia with enormous breasts."


"[The depression] is debilitating and sort of destructive but I don't consider that I'm in any way unusual," "I consider that I'm very lucky because I have a way of dealing with it, which is working. [Using the] highs and the lows too. The lows are when you are like litmus paper: you absorb more when everything is twice as loud and everything is twice as bright."

Thom Yorke - Radiohead

Photographs and text copyright 2004 andrew stenning

November rose

Originally uploaded by andrewstenning.

Monday, November 22, 2004

bankside farm

bankside farm
Originally uploaded by andrewstenning.



Bankside farm.

Twenty-six acres

Set in the north end of Ditchling common this flint walled farmhouse was my home for twenty-one years. My relationship with this house was deep, the farm influenced an entire child and adult, and its surroundings are embedded in history.

Arts and crafts and history
My grandparents lived by nature’s code’s and conducts, the farm had a large garden mainly used for vegetable growing, the land surrounding was rough and unforgiving r but magical, frost and snow covered the skeletal structure of the garden in winter and many cold mornings were spent splitting logs for the large open fire. Life at this time had a precious simplicity you had to do things for yourself just to get the basics. It wasn’t jolly hockey sticks, and the nearest tweed jacket was a mile away.
The surrounding common was a magnet for artists and crafts people and the Bloomsbury group had many connections with them, My grandmother was a weaver and I remember that any free space in the house was packed with wool and spinning wheels. She used to work for Ethel Meriot and designed and weaved patterns for the Royals and anyone else with money, Through her connections she built up an impressive art and craft collection, The shelves in the kitchen and front room were unpretentiously packed with Bernard Leach ceramics and the walls had paintings by Edger Holloway and Eric Gill. Books on art, gardening, farming and writing packed every room,
Outside the front door was Jacobs post, On may 26th 1734 Jacob Harris a smuggler took his packhorse into the stable of the nearby Royal Oak pub and knifed the landlord, the maid and the landlords wife to death, He then robbed the inn and fled. He was caught tried and hanged in Horsham on August 31st and his body was hung on a gibbet outside Bankside farm and this was named Jacobs post. Television crews would visit frequently and on my naughty days (which were very frequent) I would shout and walk in front of the camera so stop the filming, I felt like they were intruding at the time.
The house was supposedly haunted not by Jacob but a woman who suffered from depression she had at one time lived in the house, and was reportedly rich and buried her gains in the garden; I spent a lot of my time looking for this but to no avail.
The manure fed the garden from the yard and the impressive compost heap, which my grandfather called the engine room this was added to 365 days a year. He used to grow all the old favourites and got the seeds from old-fashioned seed companies whom he had used with for years. The vegetable garden was a work of art at all seasons immaculate rows of everything and the soil was black as night. He would never use chemicals and the garden somehow was bug and slug free. The vegetables he grew in the garden lasted most of the year we had a storage shed and things were preserved in sand. Jam and Pickle making was run of the mill as was bread making and butter churning. Everything was organic and. quince jelly was what my grandmother was famous for
In the winter the base of the quince tree was a carpet of white snowdrops then followed fritillaries and wild orchids, the area around the bottom was only mown once a year a job she never let my grandfather do. The roses in the garden were wild and in autumn the enormous bright red hips would appear, I would break these open and use as itching powder at school. Right at the end of the vegetable patch was a yew tree used as camps and climbing.
I had the great freedom to explore my creative interests and garden making, as a very small child I would hinder my grandfather in the garden and he ended up pushing me round in his wheelbarrow to keep me happy so he could get on with his gardening, I see what I do now as a reflection of my time at bankside a home I loved and never to be replaced my own run down dwelling from the past where I live my thoughts memories and philosophy.

Photographs and text copyright 2004 andrew stenning

Saturday, November 20, 2004


Originally uploaded by andrewstenning.

My late grandfathers prize winning crops.


Originally uploaded by andrewstenning.

my late grandfather digging his vegatable patch


PULP (PalP) n. 1. soft, moist, vegetable or animal mater 2. flesh of fruit 3. any soggy mass –vt. 4.reduce to pulp

Diary 22nd-28th November.

‘The newspaper situation’

I noticed last years leaf mould did not get enough water, As I cleared the heap ready for Autumn’s onslaught only the top was the humus-rich black gold. This is one of the problems of a dry Autumn, leaves need water to rot and some more than others, Tough leaves are the oak, horse chestnut and sycamore I always like to try and get these up with the lawnmower so they get well shredded before they go into the leaf mould heap, this has the added benefit of grass cuttings in the mix which makes a much richer leaf mould. I try and recycle all leaves so the even tougher ones like holly and laurel have to be shredded and these go on the compost and not the leaf mould heap. The best leaf mould is made from Oak and Hornbeam shredded with grass cuttings it’s also so much easier for clearing leaves if you can get the mower on the lawn, which has been sort of ‘ok’ to do this year because it’s been so dry. Not wanting to end up with a pile of year old dry leaves next year I have added something else to the mix, ‘paper pulp! I have done this with compost in the past and it works well with the Telegraph on the right hand side and the Guardian on the left, (I have a very open minded heap!). I have never used this compost in the vegetable garden first because I use manure, and second the concern that some newsprint contains Hydrocarbons,toluene,naphthalene and other benzene’s that may be harmful if accumulated in the food chain. The paper pulp was added to my heap after each clear up of leaves about twice a week and is liberally wet and thrown over the top, I will have to wait a year to find out the results but as with everything I do it’s trial and error and can’t do any wrong as the water in the pulp will help a lot. One thing for sure is colour glossies are no good at all, They will have to continue their purpose in life, which is to clutter up the house and give the recycling men back ache!

“Newspaper has personality and personality goes along way”!

Last year I made pots for sweet peas, these where long and thin contained in an old wooden box the roots grew deep and strong through the paper and I had the best sweet peas ever and the pots were free and better than root trainers, sweet pea hate root disturbance so the paper pots are idea and well worth a go. I sowed the seed around this time and kept them in a cold frame with a black bag on top until they started popping up,
Paper is also fantastic for cleaning windows!

Points to note
Last week I noticed the strange early flowering that has been going on, So far I have seen a rhododendron in full flower, daffodils up about five inches and crocus’s starting to poke out of the grass, I have heard that snowdrops are out too. If you no or have heard of anything that is up and about that shouldn’t please e-mail me.

I love the colour black in the garden so for spring I have planted the tulip ‘Queen of the night’ by the dozen, We visited a farm shop last week and all the tulips are on the cheap now and as I have said before you can plant them up to January.

Buy some lily of the valley rhizomes for planting indoors; you can force these into growth buy covering with a black sack. When they start to come up put them in a cold frame! Have a look how much a florist charges for these in spring. You will be glad you grew your own! If you have been forcing hyacinths they should be coming up, bring these into warmer conditions for seasonal flowering.

The site

Two new links have been added to the blogroll on the right. (Links)

1. Gardener’s question time at BBC radio 4 highly recommended. A radio program I have listened to for years, very funny, you can click on this link to listen. Also the best gardening website on www.

2. Fair Trade- make trade fair. With the ‘C’ word coming up next month a fantastic place to buy gifts, An important ‘C’ this year with everything going on as it is .So this site is maybe worth a good look at.

3. This is the last time I mention the ‘c’ word.

4. For gardeners in the UK here is a quote from HRH Charlie

“For good vegetables you must talk to them”

Observer 1986.

Photographs and text copyright 2004 andrew stenning

water & leaves

Originally uploaded by andrewstenning.

'Leaves for sale'

Originally uploaded by andrewstenning.

pulp fiction garden diary November 2004

Thursday, November 18, 2004

ladybird November 2004

Originally uploaded by andrewstenning.

ladybird at take off!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


Originally uploaded by andrewstenning.

‘Design pioneers and the shock of the old’

To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.
- Mahatma Gandhi

A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt

Nature, Culture- Fusion.

‘Design pioneers and the shock of the old’

We are pushing forward in garden design like there is no tomorrow!

I consider my first steps on earth very fortunate they were spent in a Sussex farmhouse with a mature country garden, both my grandparents the gardeners and me the novice, the soil was worked vegetables grow and consumed and plants and tree’s carefully nurtured into beauty. The relationship with this garden was both physical and intellectual; it was a space with soul and a place for consolation I was raised on ‘organic’ food.
My grandfather had seen [like many others of his generation] some of life’s horrors, He was a strong quiet man and is loved to this day, the garden he obsessively worked at day and evening was a distraction from his experiences, the only time I saw him cry and swear was one remembrance Sunday, I was about fifteen and we were in the garden, ‘Why don’t you talk about what happened in the war?’ I asked his quick and stern reply was ‘Because I saw a lot of fucking dead people’. The emotion of that minute lives with me to this day He could get lost in that garden and heel his emotional scars. This is what gardening does, The aesthetics of a garden mean nothing without love, time, memory and nature and garden design in the united kingdom is at the moment dead, I look at the gardens at London’s Chelsea flower show each year they are beautiful and highly impressive ‘(perfection) and pretension’ go hand in hand. There is no lifeblood, sweat and tears and no granddad, Highly stylised they are just pretty sets. You can’t relate them to beautiful art as that they are not. Most of the designs are a pastiche of great artists work and not going anywhere.
However one of the most exciting things about the future of garden design is due to the growth of the Organic movement, as we further shift into century twenty one and world issues dominate we need somehow to come together again, and community gardens do this.
I was excited to see a proposal for the ‘Ground Zero’ site by the New York based Green Guerrillas with Michael Ableman and Martha Tyson, Architect. The design is an urban farm and memorial garden at the World Trade Centre; Individuals can donate handfuls of earth from across America building a garden from soil of the entire nation. This garden will be worked and loved provide food and most importantly be contemplative. It will have that vital connection needed in gardens real people real lives and real passion! And granddads by the dozen. I look forward to visiting the Green Guerrilla gardeners in 2005; they have created a fantastic unique movement with community gardens from East New York, East Harlem to the south Bronx. The gardens are vibrant, educational and grow food for hunger relief. people are encouraged to volunteer to help, If you are interested you can find more info on the Guerrillas by clicking Green Guerrillas on the right links. So if garden design can touch everyman’s lives then we are pushing things forward however don’t expect to see this at the 'greatest flower show in the world' next year.

Photographs and text copyright 2004 andrew stenning

poppy seed head

Originally uploaded by andrewstenning.

life cycle

Saturday, November 13, 2004


Originally uploaded by andrewstenning.

Bittersweet symphonies

16th-22nd November 2004.

The thinnest yellow light of November is more warming and
Exhilarating than any wine they tell of. The mite which November
Contributes becomes equal in value to the bounty of July.

- Henry David Thoreau

This time last year I visited the Turner prize at Tate Britain to see the work of Anya Gallacio, in the confines of the pristine gallery walls was autumn. The exhibit of Gallacio had all the looks and smells of the season.
Anya Gallaccio’s work I can admire and connect too, she works with organic materials that decompose over time which she has no control over. The work is both beautiful and paradoxically ugly in general terms. One piece ‘I’m nobody, who are you?’ was constructed with some ilex twigs with delicate tiny glass berries a vivid red and shouted out from its quiet corner, She seemed to capture this fragile time of year, in the garden things are beautiful in mid autumn’ at last dance’ and to experience and sense this is one of the BIG benefits of that I do. With garden design I always have this sense in mind of all seasons, I feel that plants can provide an Ecocathedral above our own understanding which in turn creates a paradisiacal situation for everything, It’s a lot like art in the respect of what it does to the person experiencing it! .


From the mountains of northern Europe this wild flower has covered some ground, It is thought that auriculas may have arrived in England in the 16th century by the Huguenot silk weavers who where forced to flee France, It was the gardener of Charles 1st who recorded growing and improving them, and real popularity in these plants came in the 18th century and have been developed on since.
The auricula is almost completely artificial and a manifestation of the lives and work of the growers to show them for competition, The artificial is not something I usually warm to but the auricular was the plant that started my fascination with gardening and plants, As a child I had an auricula theatre of my own, having a nine year olds knowledge of gardening I did better than I knew! Growing some great varieties such as ‘Dusty Miller’,’Cheyenne’and Mikado which all flowered and survived my neglect, However three years ago I visited a spring garden show and purchased seven different types including the above hoping to recreate this childhood experience and nearly all of them died within a year without a flower, one or two that made it through and were planted at jobs as a ‘Get rid of tactic’ Last week on November 11th (By default,) ‘the bastard flowered at the wrong time of year in someone else’s garden. So with the law of sod on my side my fascination with this Faberge of flowers has been resurrected. You can not appreciate the floriferous auricular without having seen them first hand, the delicate flowers sit on slender stems have a velvet texture and beautiful old fashioned scent their is also the trademark powdery coating which is dusted like icing sugar over the plant. Auriculas belong to the primula family along with Cowslips and primrose’s and are well worth a try. Not being an all in expert of auricula cultivation it may be worth taking the advice below with a pinch of salt!

The big problem is watering less is more! (Never let them dry out)

I use a mixed compost = one part leaf mould – one part John Inn 2 , also adding some grit for drainage and fish blood and bone as feed.

Best planted in clay pots that can be moved to light and partial shade, and protect from heavy rain. They seem to rot very well when to wet, so a cold frame in winter is ideal. And no water between October and February.

It is well worth visiting a local Alpine nursery as they will be both enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and with small independent nurseries on the slide they will need all the sales they can get.

On the right hand side is a photograph of my Auricula, Also to see more photographs click on ‘more’ at the bottom of this photo set.
You will also notice some links on the right these cover interesting garden and eco sites from around the globe !
Photographs and text copyright 2004 andrew stenning

Auricula Nov 11th 2004

Originally uploaded by andrewstenning.

Canterbury bell November 2004

Canterbury bell Nov
Originally uploaded by andrewstenning.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Yew November 2004

Originally uploaded by andrewstenning.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Yew can be serious! 8th-15th November diary.

Yew can be serious! 8th-15th November diary.

YEW. Botanical: Taxus baccata.

Old Yew, which graspest at the stones
That name the under-lying dead,
Thy fibres net the dreamless head,
Thy roots are wrapt about the bones.


I have been cutting yew hedges this week a favoured of mine to work on, With a very sharp cutter the end result is artistic and the smell beautiful, Cut now they stay pristine all winter and in many gardens where I work this is important as it’s the main structure of the garden during these months.
Yew is one of the few native evergreens in the United Kingdom and is common on chalk areas like the south downs, As it stands it is as atmospheric as the Oak but with a truck of superior beauty, Also fast growing which many don’t believe and a much better hedging plant than the conifer, the wood is extremely durable and elastic and most famous in the uk for its use in long bow making. All parts of the tree are extremely poisonous and cleaning up the clippings in a field of livestock is most important, the only exception is the berry which the birds love Thrushes and Blackbirds can eat the berry however the seed inside is deadly. Despite this yew has been used in cures for centuries and commonly used today in the anti cancer drug Taxol,

In all things of nature there is something marvellous.


This drug works by stabilising cells and has led to a new chemotherapeutic agent called taxanes that stops blood supply to a site of cancer. The new drugs are made from the needles of the Yew and jobs which I have done the fresh clippings are collected for this purpose, There is a company in the uk that does this and also sells yew plants, So if you have a large hedge it may be worth giving them a shout,
Cutting the hedge is hard work on a large job and clearing up even harder so it’s great to do it for purposes. However they will only use the clippings that have at least one year’s growth and like to get them fresh that day.
A fantastic example of English Yew is at Kingley Vale near Chichester, I love this place the wood is left to nature and the Yews are never cut, this is how the trees like it.
William Wordsworth in 1803

There is a Yew-tree, pride of Lorton Vale,
Which to this day stands single, in the midst
Of its own darkness, as it stood of yore:
Not loathe to furnish weapons for the Bands
Of Umfraville or Percy ere they marched
To Scotland's heaths; or those that crossed the sea
And drew their sounding bows at Azincour,
Perhaps at earlier Crecy, or Poictiers.
Of vast circumference and gloom profound
This solitary Tree! -a living thing
Produced too slowly ever to decay;
Of form and aspect too magnificent
To be destroyed. But worthier still of note
Are those fraternal Four of Borrowdale,
Joined in one solemn and capacious grove;
Huge trunks! -and each particular trunk a growth
Of intertwisted fibres serpentine
Up-coiling, and inveteratley convolved, -
Nor uninformed with Fantasy, and looks
That threaten the profane; -a pillared shade,
Upon whose grassless floor of red-brown hue,
By sheddings from the pining umbrage tinged
Perennially -beneath whose sable roof
Of boughs, as if for festal purpose decked
With unrejoicing berries -ghostly Shapes
May meet at noontide: Fear and trembling Hope,
Silence and Foresight, Death the Skeleton
And Time the Shadow; there to celebrate,
As in a natural temple scattered o'er
With altars undisturbed of mossy stone,
United worship; or in mute repose
To lie, and listen to the mountain flood
Murmuring from Glaramara's inmost caves

Many leaves have been collected, putting them in the leaf mould heap. (An area on its own constructed with chicken wire sides and danced on weekly) They rot down well when wet but if it doesn’t rain its important too give each layer some water, Another way to do it is to put wet leaves in a bin bag and make sure you puncture the sides with a fork to let them breath. The grass growth has slowed up but the mower hasn’t gone away when we get a longish dry spell it needs a cut before winter I mow as the weather permits but the mowing season is no longer March-Sept, its Feb-Dec.
I have been doing less watering in the greenhouse; plants like my Brugmansia’s will rot over winter if too wet, and I stop watering the Aoniums. All the small cuttings need ticking over if its not too sunny water lightly one a week. The alpine trough is protected from too much wet, (I have an Auricular one of my favourite plants flowering away in their) We have a lot of rain over the winter and things like Dahlias and gladioli corms and bulbs are traditionally lifted at this time, however for the last five years I have left them and they have been up the same. I tend not to have many rules and believe gardening as an organic thing is all about trial and error.
All the Chrysanthemums look great along with the autumn colour of rich brown sedum. Some of the trees have lost all their leaves the Amelanchier is down to its branches and looks a bit odd now, its not so long ago mid spring when with the fritillaries out around its base it was the gardens star. Not giving up the fight as always are the penstemon I took hundreds of cuttings this year, they are so easy and so good. Like the scabious.

Some things to look out for this week are…..

Seedpods of the Iris, these pop open revealing the berries
Good weather for digging the vegetable patch
If you have turf to lay catch a time and do it this month.

Photographs and text copyright 2004 andrew stenning