Aspirational Garden Purchases…

Winter can be a difficult time of year for us gardeners. Opportunities to get out in the garden are not hugely frequent and it’s easy to get in a slump and some winter blues. So, we need to be thinking about exciting things, shiny things and cool things. Dare we say we need to be thinking about expensive things. We’re taking about aspirational garden purchases or things we would dream of owning. The things we see in glossy magazines or on cool websites that tell us what we need in our lives right now. We know that many of these things are beyond our financial reach but it’s nice to dream if only for a little while. So without further ado we present you with some of the things that, if we had the means and the space we would love to own.

Working at Home

Our  office is at home. Whilst we are out and about a lot, we still require an office at home to both facilitate the design of gardens but also for the day to day administration of our business. Now our office is not a bad office, in fact it’s quite a nice place to be but we still wish we had incorporated the space in the garden for one of Archipod’s stunning new custom built offices.

Image courtesy of Archipod

Image courtesy of Archipod

They come in two different sizes, 3 metre and 4 metre diameter and prices start from £15k excluding VAT.

Image courtesy of Archipod

Image courtesy of Archipod

 

Taking the inside out

One of the most talked about purchases we have seen recently has got to be the concrete chesterfield sofa by Gray Concrete. There’s no doubt that, as a focal point in a garden it’s a real head turner. The detailing is incredible down to the inclusion of a 50p concrete coin stuck down the back of its cushions. It’s remarkably comfortable too, so we’re told.

Image courtesy of Gray Concrete

Image courtesy of Gray Concrete

Geodesic Domes

There aren’t many greenhouses that would generally be regarded as exciting. Don’t get me wrong now; sowing, nurturing and growing your own covered crops IS exciting, it’s just that greenhouses generally aren’t and incorporating a greenhouse into a garden normally involves some form of aesthetic compromise. I don’t think it should though, hence my love of the geodesic dome.

Image courtesy of Solardome

Image courtesy of Solardome

With a design that’s based on 1960’s NATO radar enclosures it is both robust and graceful and the manufacturers claim it has several benefits over more traditional greenhouses including more even heat distribution, better airflow and enhance wind and storm resistance. Prices start at £9.5K excluding VAT. Visit Solardome for more information.

Garden Art

Not many of us contemplate having art in our gardens which is something I find strange. Consider if you will that we will have seating, dining furniture, cooking equipment and even lighting and sound systems in our gardens as well as our houses does it not seem like a logical progression to have forms of artistic expression in the garden too. Whilst oil paintings and watercolours won’t fair too well in the UK climate there are an abundance of artists and sculptors creating art for use in your garden. Whether it’s using stone, wood or metals they can be a real statement in any garden.

Image courtesy of Steve James Sculptor

Image courtesy of Steve James Sculptor

Deal in abstractions

Modern gardens have to be flexible. You can design a garden to allow comfortable seating for say four or six guests but what do you do if you occasionally have more than that number over. Do you rummage through the garage or shed to fish out some aged, rusty folding deck chairs which, in practice, are more lethal than they are comfortable necessitating that your guests have tetanus shots before sitting. Or worse still do you lay out the faded green plastic seats that you hung onto for this very reason. The trouble is you had no space in the shed to store them so they’ve sat behind the shed for twelve months and need to be jetwashed before they get near a human posterior. Jetwashing plastic chairs isn’t enjoyable. What you need is seating that not only gives you flexibility but that are also attractive pieces to have in the garden when they’re not being sat on.

Dutch Summer have released what they’ve called the BUX seat (above and below). A chesterfield pouf inspired by a box tree in a variety of finishes and colour combinations.

Image courtesy of Dutch Summer

Image courtesy of Dutch Summer

Italian design house Pedrali have manufactured these stunning 17th Century inspired chairs in either black, white, smoke or transparent. Manufactured from injected polycarbonate they are suitable for use both inside and out and are very lovely indeed.

Image courtesy of Pedrali

Image courtesy of Pedrali

So let your ambition over the ensuing weeks and months be to dream of what you could have in the garden as opposed to the ice-age we are living with just now. To quote the Marquis De Vauvenargues “The most absurd and reckless aspirations have sometimes led to extraordinary success”

Thanks for reading.

 

All at Vialii

Vialii Garden Design – How We Got To Where We Are… (Pt1)

I was laying some Indian sandstone slabs the other day and in a moment of quiet reflection and whilst I gave my lower back a brief respite I got to thinking about how I ended up doing this? How did I end up not just building gardens but designing and building gardens? Before I go much further I would like clarify that my idle pondering was in no way negative. It wasn’t a case of my tired mind and midriff screaming “how the hell did I get HERE!” as grey rain poured down. It was more of a “I love what I do” kind of wondering as the winter sun warmed my face(1). Anyway, in case you’re interested, this is how we got to where we are…

A sandstone patio built by Vialii

A sandstone patio built by Vialii

I haven’t always done this. In a previous life I was a civil and structural engineer and before that I was a draughtsman. Structural engineering isn’t the most glamorous of professions; they don’t make movies about structural engineers(2) and you tend to live in the shadows of the all-powerful ethereal beings that are Architects but it had its rewards and not all of them were financial. In fact, barely any of them were. Unfortunately, over my last few years in the profession I slowly came to the conclusion that the career was no longer for me. The job wasn’t exciting me anymore and I couldn’t really see a way that it could get the blood flowing again so with a heavy heart and much trepidation I gave up, what many deemed, a perfectly good career.

How we got to where we are: My garden in Kennet

My garden in Kennet

I was a already a keen amateur gardener and enjoyed spending time tending and controlling my third of an acre plot but I had no inclination of setting up my own business when I gave up engineering. I had no inclination to do anything career-wise at that point. I spent the next three months catching up on various projects, both inside and out and had a thoroughly enjoyable time doing them too. I built a workshop, re-modelled areas of the garden, nurtured and harvested fruit and veg and planned for the next years harvest. When the projects were done, however, my thoughts turned to more long-term intentions.

Gardening, at this point, still wasn’t a forerunner as a career option although it was up there. Basically I had whittled things down to three choices(3). In no particular order, these were as follows:

1. Farrier – I owned a 16.2hh grey mare and loved all aspects of owning a horse so I seriously considered becoming a farrier. Trouble was the one year’s training and subsequent four years apprenticeship required to become one. Plus, it’s way harder on the back than gardening if you can believe that. Oh and you get kicked by horses…

My horse Meg

My horse Meg

2. Chef – I loved to cook, and still do I might add, so I had the whimsical notion to become a professional chef. It was only when I really got down to the nuts and bolts of it and I established that it would involve incredibly unsociable working hours, relentless pressure and a high cost to train. It didn’t take long to kick that one into touch.

3. Gardener – As mentioned earlier I already enjoyed gardening. I found it relaxing, therapeutic and incredibly satisfying, even after a hard days graft. My knowledge of horticulture was beginner but was always expanding. My equipment levels were adequate although some new acquisitions and upgrades would be required. I already had some startup capital behind me so it quickly became a no-brainer to setup a gardening business..

So, in early 2006, with vigour in my soul and enthusiasm in my heart I launched what was then called Wee County Gardening(4). A van and trailer were purchased, leaflets and business cards were printed, business courses were attended and word was passed around. I’d like to give a hearty thanks at this point to my friends and neighbours of the time as they did a great job with word-of-mouth promotion which allowed the business to quite quickly get established.

The Wee County Gardening van

The Wee County Gardening van

At it’s inception the business was purely garden maintenance. Whilst I would happily carry out all manner of landscaping in my own garden I lacked the confidence to carry out the work for others. I hugely undervalued my own skills to the point where I deemed them not worthy of paying customers. I passed on all manner of landscaping requests and basically talked myself out of a large chunk of turnover in that first 18 months of business. Doh!

The pivotal turning point for both myself and my business was in May 2007. On a starry Wednesday night, on Stirling Castle esplanade I met my now wife, Jill and I have no proper measure to tell you how much she has transformed both me and my business since that fateful evening.

We got married in our garden in 2010

We got married in our garden in 2010

Before I gush any more about my beloved I need to pause for a moment because as I read back over this post so far I realise two things. Firstly, my business has been going and growing now for over five years, Whoop, whoop indeed. Secondly, this blog post is getting a bit on the long side. So, with this second point in mind I have made the Tarantino-esque decision to split this epic into two separate, but equally enjoyable (hopefully) posts. It seems like a suitable cliffhanger type moment to bring this edition to a halt and I just hope that I’ve left enough mystery and intrigue to bring you back next time.

So without further ado I’ll sign off. Take care everybody and I’ll see you next time.

Michael

Vialii Garden Design

p.s. As I write this I’m listening to ‘Elephant’ by the White Stripes (in tribute to the news that they split yesterday)

Footnotes

(1) Please don’t be under the illusion that I have never screamed at the sky berating my choice of vocation. It happens on occasion especially when the grey rain pours down.

(2) Only two instances of structural-engineers-in-movies spring to mind.

i) Tim Robbins, posing as an engineer, played the delightfully evil terrorist mastermind Oliver Lang in 1999’s Arlington Road and

ii) my personal favourite, Johnson; the pale-faced, wire-rim spectacle wearing, structural engineer skulking in the shadows at a tiny square desk who informs Steve McQueen and Paul Newman that the floor joists in the Promenade Room can withstand the explosion of the water tanks in Irwin Allen’s classic “The Towering Inferno”.

(3) Technically there were four choices but “option 4 – returning to my earlier engineering career” has never really been an option I seriously considered.

(4) The ‘Wee County’ is Clackmannanshire and the business name gave the impression of a nice local gardening business. It worked well too.