Magnolia soulangeana Borzoni flowering at Borde Hill Gardens

He had breath like fruitcake and gossamer

I am quite techy. Even though I seem to be rubbish at keeping this blog regular.

I love shiny iThings and can find my way round the internet without stumbling too often. However, there are things I cannot get the hang of and one of those is doing garden plans on my computer. I have spent many happy hours in the tender care of Tamsin Slatter (Queen of Vectorworks) but it has just slipped away from me the minute I left her office. This slight lack of retention is one of the things that worries me more than anything: the reason that I worry is not really because I may forget who I am or whether I like pudding but  because I fear that, when the time comes for me to be asked to be on Strictly Come Dancing, I will immediately forget the correct steps to the Paso Doble the minute I leave the rehearsal room. I will then arrive at the Tower Ballroom and only be able to shuffle from one foot to the other.

Maybe with a bit of nodding and swaying . Like a geriatric emu in a cable car.

The Judges will be coruscating in their critique and I will become the slightly sad and rhythm free old bloke who gets voted off in week two.

This is the stuff of nightmares.

But back to Vectorworks and the point in question. The main problem is lacking the time needed to practice: given two or three weeks of concentration then I would probably get the hang of it but I do not have two or three weeks to spare at the moment. It is also yet another sign of ageing, I cannot assimilate these things as fast as I used to do. You can see that the whole idea of computer aided design is awakening many sleeping demons and feelings of on rushing mortality. I am pretty sure that that is not really something that was intended by the inventors.

I have to admit publicly that I am happiest with a pencil. Not just any pencil but a combination of a very handsome Rotring that was given to me by my able assistant, Selina, and a box of well sharpened red and black HBs. The Rotring is surprisingly heavy and could probably kill somebody if thrown accurately at a vulnerable pressure point. The red and blacks are cheap enough to be scattered everywhere so one is always within reach. I also have a box of coloured pencils with which I can discrimate between green stuff and brown stuff. Finally I have boxes of Tempo felt tip pens (in black, blue and red). Using this ununremarkable arsenal I then scribble sketches on bits of tracing paperand send them off to clever (younger) people like Selina, Helen or Jens who are then very tolerant and turn my daubs into neat computer plans. I have surrendered on this matter totally and without too many regrets; the designs are, after all, still mine.

However, I must say that, at least in the field of garden design, too much of the fizzing white heat of technology can sometimes become confusing. I have been privileged to be on the selection panels for various RHS Shows this year and  I worry that designers are losing touch with simplicity. We were assailed with slightly too colourful 3D Sketchup designs which, in a bid to be cutting edge and exciting sometimes became confusing. Computer design is amazing and can make everything much  more wonderful but…

Keep it simple, people, do not forget the humble pencil.

While I have your attention: we did a new Three Men Film the other day: for the National Gardens Scheme and featuring the amazing Penny Snell who has just stepped down from being chairman of the NGS. As an example of her indefatigability: on the day we filmed she had been up since 4.00am going to market, filmed with us (which involved her smoking for the first time in fifty-five years) and then went off to a book launch in the evening. Joe, Cleve and I, meanwhile, were having a cup of tea and a lie down. Here is the film.

I am listening to He’s a Rebel by the Crystals (from the soundtrack of 20 Feet from Stardom – which you should see if you can).

The picture is of Magnolia soulangeana Borzoni which was flowering at Borde Hill Gardens the other day. It is a pretty marvelous thing with a scent redolent of the the more perfumed parts of the Italian Renaissance.