Archive for January, 2010

Lost in a Forest

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Bedgebury National Pinetum

The weather so amazing, last weekend, we leapt into the car and made a dash for Bedgebury National Pinetum, in deepest Kent. Mounds of grey, semi-melted snow ringed the car park. With so many 4×4s, its streamlined wooden visitor centre and people struggling in or out of bright, sporty clothes – mountain-bikers and joggers – the atmosphere was reminiscent of an end of season ski resort. An ancient woodland site, bought by The Forestry Commission in 1924, the pinetum is home to more than 10,000 trees: mostly pines – lots of them – that have been planted to replace the native ones.

The thaw had not penetrated the darker recesses in the more densely planted areas. We struggled through and over hummocks of frozen heather, ducking our heads in, out and below the dense foliage of the magnificent trees – ambivalent toward whatever the weather threw at them – in all their winter glory, searching for plant labels. Annoyingly, our having gone there with the specific purpose of photographing as wide a variety as possible, named specimens were few and far between.

Once edited, a selection of those trees we did manage to identify will appear at www. In the meantime, if anyone can identify the dwarf bush above, please let me know what it is.

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Green Shoots II

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

A Few More Thank Yous

There are a few other former colleagues and friends, who generously contributed to helping me get started on my new career, the names of whom I should have included in my first post: Green Shoots, on December 28, 2009. Former German Marie Claire editor-in-chief and Weltbild (More about Weltbild magazine in a future blog) publisher and editor-in-chief, turned editorial consultant, Barbara Kraus published my first garden images in Germany and encouraged me to write. Sarah Miller, editor of Condé Nast Traveller published my first major pictures and text story in the UK, generously commissioning me for further projects. Former jewellery editor at Tatler, now creative head at newly relaunched Fabergé, Katharina Flohr inspired me with the confidence to produce still life images that combined jewellery with exotic plants, watches with giant clocks and handbags with rings, bracelets and necklaces for her pages. Good friend and Wallpaper* editor-in-chief, Tony Chambers gave me great moral support as did indepedent PR and photographers’ agent, Josephine Dunn, formerly of Graff Diamonds. The photographer, Simon Wheeler, urged me to take up photography, professionally, and supplied essential advice on equipment. Lee Pears, deputy art director and Tardejo Ajodha, senior designer at Tatler, guided me through the complexities of buying programmes and computer hardware. Former wordsmith at Tatler, Jane Hoare kindly looked over some of the website text.

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A Little P’zaz

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Less and More – The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams
Design Museum, London, 18 November – 07 March 2010

Good design is innovative.
Good design makes a product useful.
Good design is aesthetic.
Good design makes a product understandable.
Good design is unobtrusive.
Good design is honest.
Good design is long-lasting.
Good design is thorough down to the last detail.
Good design is environmentally friendly.
Good design is as little design as possible.

On their way up the stairs to the exhibition, visitors cannot avoid coming face to face with Dieter Rams’ Ten Principles of Good Design – they are pasted up in perfect alignment across the wall of the landing. I struggled to get through the group of exotically-clad, extravagently-quaffed, British art students diligently copying them down.

I’m a fan of Rams’ work and believe him to be one of the best and and most influential designers of the last 50 years. I have owned several of his beautifully-designed products and enjoyed looking around the show.

Maybe it was the cold weather outside, or some emotional reaction to the harsh economic climate but, on leaving, I found myself yearning for brash colours, spontaneity and a little p’zaz.

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Brutal Neglect

Friday, January 1st, 2010


The Barbican Conservatory

A few years ago, I was invited to a party for the photographer, David LaChapelle, at the Barbican Conservatory. Whether LaChappelle’s dynamic, colourful work was on show in the gallery, I can’t recall, so overwhelmed was I by the party’s spectacular venue.

The Barbican Conservatory, opened in 1984, in the heart of the City of London, has over 2,000 sprawling tropical plants and full-height trees and is home to finches and exotic fish. Apparently, the original plan was for residents to be given keys to visit whenever they wished – the privilege was never granted – the governing body decided to rent out the conservatory for conferences and private parties instead (which it continues to do). The general public are allowed access, for free, but only on Sundays from 11am to 5pm; however, due to a complete lack of any sort of publicity (curiously, there is virtually no mention of it on the Barbican website), this quiet, beautiful space receives few visitors. Recently, on the warm, sunny Sunday I returned to photograph it  – and I stayed the full duration – apart from a young couple, plus the two little girls accompanying them and three people in their early twenties, who looked like students, all of whom were there for less than an hour, the woman on reception and one gardener, I was had the place entirely to myself.

As a testament to what we are in danger of losing, I offered my pictures (see a selection at Pedro Silmon Garden Photography) to a major interior/design/architecture magazine, who, quite rightly, turned them down because everything it does must be ‘new’. I offered them to a well-known and respected architecture magazine but, in order to publish them, they needed a topical ‘peg’. The sad fact is that devoid of publicity and the all-important visitors it needs, the Barbican Conservatory will die. I would hate my pictures to become sought after for its obituary.

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