gill moore photography

Archive for the 'gardens' Category

Spring Snowdrops @ Rode Hall Gardens, Cheshire …

Just as the green fields here are being invaded by crocus and daffodils, I thought I would post up some shots I took a few weeks ago featuring two of the earliest British native spring flowers.  Can you believe it is the start of summertime next weekend and nature is certainly doing its best to cajole us all into life.


The shot above is actually a snowflake (I think?)  from my very limited knowledge I believe it is unusual to see it facing upwards.


The extensive National Trust gardens at Rode Hall, near Congleton, are famous for their spectacular displays of the delicate snowdrop.  The sight of the bobbing white bell-shaped flowers heralds the end of Winter and the beginning of some warmth.  The shot above is a section from a wonderful swathe of snowdrops in a sheltered spot quite close to the main house, these plants were right at the peak of their powers a few weeks back.  On close inspection you can start to discover the subtle differences which signal the different varieties.

The names are fantastic, sounding more like racehorses than flowers including “Lady Beatrix Stanley”, “Merlin” “Primrose Warburg” and “Mighty Atom”.  The study of snowdrops seems to attract those with a competitve nature, followers are called ‘galanthophiles‘ (taken from the flower’s Latin name) and some collectors think nothing of spending £150 for a rare bulb.

If you fancy a trip out to see one of the lesser-known Cheshire Gardens it’s well worth it and after strolling the grounds, be sure to leave time for the wonderful pairing of a pot of tea and homemade scone, jam and cream before you head home.  You know you want too!

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Patrick Blanc to be featured on a Gardeners World Special this week ….


from the BBC website:

Last year Joe Swift described how back gardens are being sold for development, reducing the amount of green space that oxygenates our cities and soothes our troubled souls. But instead of beating his chest and saying how terrible this is, he heads off to discover how to grow gardens where land is scare. In France, he visits the Parisian botanist Patrick Blanc’s famous hanging gardens, which use an ingenious irrigation system to grow plants on vertical walls. In the UK, he meets one man who has cultivated a jungle on his balcony, and another who has a garden of succulents growing on the dashboard of his van. He also meets Nigel Dunnett from Sheffield University, who is an expert on green roofs – a way of turning the humble house roof into a demi-paradise; an industry that is booming.

This Special Gardeners World show will be broadcast this coming Friday, March 20th 2009 on BBC Two @ 8pm, definitely one not to miss!

For more information on Patrick Blanc and his amazing work with Vertical Gardens read my post from last year here.

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How does a rather excellent real ale and the UK’s largest sedum roof go together?


I recently saw a very large and impressive sedum roof at the Wildfowl and Wetlands site at Martin Mere, Lancashire. It got me wondering who can lay claim to having the largest sedum roof in the UK?

I felt sure it would be housed somewhere like the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth (Wales) or maybe one of the large regenerative building schemes undertaken over the last few years for eco-friendly social housing or public buildings?

I did find a few nice examples of sedum and regular green roof schemes:

Certainly quite a number of educational buildings such as St. Martins-in-the-field Girls’ School, London roof and one at Cambridge University plus many new build schools across the country.

The well-known Eden Project has a small green roof, the most picturesque I could find was the Gallie Craig Coffee Shop, Drummore, Scotland. Wow, I SO want a hot beverage there now! :-)


Sometimes the choice to create a green roof was by necessity, such as the restaurant within St. James Park, London; any design for the new roof there had to blend in with the surrounding parkland or it would not gain planning permission.

An award-winning illustration on my doorstep here in Manchester is the Norman Foster designed scheme called Budenberg HAUS which has 4,500 square metres of green roof sited on the edge of Altrincham overlooking the Bridgewater Canal.


The largest UK green roof (not wholly sedum) is at the Rolls Royce factory near Chichester which has a huge roof space measured at 40,000 square metres.

Eventually after a fascinating journey delving into various schemes I found a winner … and a real-ale brewery at that! Any real-ale fans will have heard of Champion Beer Brewers Adnams who are based on the Suffolk Coast in Southwold. In 2005 beer sales were up and faced with this growing demand they realised that a new distribution centre was required.

Adnams website lists their environmental goals “We aim to manage our impact positively on the social, natural, and built environment” and on this newbuild project they certainly went for it, not only creating the UK’s biggest sedum living roof but also building the Centre predominently from bricks formed using locally-grown hemp, lime and chalk.

These building materials certainly earn green brownie points (sorry I couldn’t resist!) but they also add effective functionality. Acting rather like a cellar, it maintains a steady 11 degrees celsius temperature within the warehouse, and means there is no need for expensive air-conditioning units. Heating for the offices is provided by solar panels. Though the initial build for the scheme was higher than a conventional approach, is has meant running costs are nearly half what they were at the Brewers smaller previous warehouse. So in the long term it will result in a considerable cost saving.

The roof itself is predominently sedum. These low maintenance, fleshy, thick skinned succulents have excellent insulation properties and also help filter out air pollutants. The plants are low maintenance and usually require no artificial irrigation, they absorb sound (useful in an urban environment) and can provide a habitat for birds and wildlife. The Adnams planting scheme also included regional wildflowers and wild grasses to supplement the sedum and to blend more naturally with local flora.

However, Adnams may soon be knocked off the top of their green perch. Work is ongoing on a scheme in Hemel Hempstead for a new Indoor Ski Centre. The sedum roof here will be a jaw-dropping 21,500 square metres and is set to open in the summer of 2009.

I have rather skirted over the pioneering use of the hemp and lime bricks on this project, but that is only because I am planning a longer post on this Stone Age plant and it’s modern applications in the very near future.

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Harvest time – The Abundance Scheme : a cracking idea.



I like simple ideas, I like good ideas, I like even more people who follow through on simple good ideas. “The Abundance Scheme” originated in Sheffield in 2007, it sounds like a great idea and below is a concise explanation detailing what it is all about:

    “Abundance is a project to harvest the seasonal glut of local fruit like apples, pear and plums. Each year hundreds of fruit trees go unpicked either because people don’t notice them, may not be physically able to harvest them or there are just too many fruits at one time. Abundance is a team of volunteers who have been helping harvest city fruit and redistributing the surplus to the community on a non-profit basis”

In Sheffield they use a mobile fruit unit to distribute anything surplus for free and it isn’t just limited to newly picked fruit, it can also be in the form of jam, pickles or vitamin packed fresh juices.

The Sheffield Scheme proved so successful it has now sprouted an offshoot in Manchester called Abundance Manchester. Over the last month or so a group of volunteers have been collecting boxes and boxes of Mancunian fruits, mostly apples and pears by the looks of the pictures on their site but I can only applaud what seems like a cracking effort.

People contacted the organisers from sites around the region, many around the borders of the River Mersey including Chorlton, Didsbury and Stockport. Volunteers then arrived with picking gear and bike trailers to transport the goods to needy groups around the region. Some lucky recipients include The Early Years Nursery School in Didsbury, the Red Cross Destitution Project based in Harpurhey and Cornerstone in Moss Side.

If you have (or you can recommend) a good site which has an abundance of food then you can log the details onto the Abundance Manchester website. It could be anything from an allotment or an old fruiting tree in your own garden. It has been a bumper year for many harvests, so even one tree can yield a surprising amount of goodies. I hope the scheme goes from strength to strength.

12 Nov 2008.  Just spotted the River Cottage (Channel Four TV programme) has picked up on this scheme there is a nice piece on their website if you follow this link.

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Creative Studio sharing … a Danish example but it needs a green roof!

Maybe one day I will dabble in a bit of studio sharing. I often think it sounds like a stimulating and fun environment to work within, different creative skillsets all housed in one building with the possibility of collaboration plus the practical benefits of sharing facilities. Whilst savouring the wonderful design work on the bloesem site, I discovered a successful creative workspace enterprise called ‘Lynfabrikken’ (the lightning factory) based in Denmark.
I suppose the closest thing we have here in Manchester would be The Craft and Design Centre but it rents out only small units and does not have the space to attract photographers/musicians/film-makers. Maybe Islington Mill has the potential to grow into something bigger, though the Danish example seems to have a more central location and therefore the ability to morph itself into trendy cafe, place to be seen plus a gallery and performance venue. Lynfabrikken is open to the public with opportunities to buy and view unique work and provides a meeting spot for all the creative tenants and their clients.
I shall carry on with my idealised daydream for the Perfect Studio ….
Of course it would have to utilise all roof space, maybe a green living roof similar to the Unicorn Grocery roof project in Chorlton, their site has a live web-cam (you can actually control the camera movements!).
The Unicorn scheme provides a green escape for their employees and was designed specifically to attract the rare black redstart, a bird happy in the urban environment but rapidly disappearing from the UK. There have been reports of at least one breeding pair of these birds this summer in the centre of Manchester (near the CIS building) so maybe they will wing their way over to Unicorn one day soon.

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International Garden Photographer of the Year 2008

The International Garden Photographer of the Year Competition is one of the most prestigious photography contests  and the Overall Winner this year features the above stunning scene from a Japanese Garden.  Australian photographer, Claire Takacs, managed to be in the right place at a wonderful time AND possessed the skills to create a beautiful evocative image.  What is it about trees and snow which combines so perfectly.


Talking of trees, allow me to point you in the direction of Paul Debois.  He has a series of black and white images taken with a pinhole camera in the Portolio Section of the IGPOY competition (click here to view) which I just adore.  Yes, the winning set of shots is beautiful but (in my humble opinion) Debois’ work is more deserving for top spot as it is individual, highly creative and skilful and possesses the ability to move you into another zone.  I have always liked Edward Steichen’s work and it was no surprise to read that Paul Debois’ “Pinhole Impressions” has a dab of Steichen inspiration behind it.


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