GROWING COMMUNITY

It was so exciting to return to RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival and see friends again from the horticulture community and to meet new ones too. As an allotment holder myself I am focussing on this area for my first blog from an RHS show this year. I work my allotment with my wife on no dig, organic and permaculture principles, so it was fantastic to see the No Dig Allotment Demonstration Garden inspired by Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty showcased at the show.

For those new to the no dig method it turns conventional fruit and veg growing and gardening on its head. By not digging you will not only save your back but most importantly you will not be not be disrupting soil life, which is the important micro-organisms, fungi and worms, that help feed plant roots. In a small handful of soil there are an estimated 10 billion bacteria and 1 million fungi. In that handful of soil are more living organisms than the total number of human beings on earth. By choosing not to dig the soil, this in itself sequesters carbon, as soon as the soil is disturbed carbon is released. Understanding this is so important to the health of the planet as we currently grapple with the climate emergency. The key to no dig is mulch, mulch, mulch and reap the benefits of soil health which translates to your health, spend less time weeding and watering, it really is a win win way of gardening.

Over the past year and a half my own allotment has been a place of solace and healing too. Last year my brother was hospitalised with Covid and spent 2 months in ICU in an induced coma and on a ventilator. When he was finally discharged I went to pick him up in London and brought him home to our house for his recovery. We fed him a plant based organic diet with produce and herbs grown fresh on our allotment, even down to making fresh nettle tea from our allotment, yes it’s a herb and a medicine and beneficial to wildlife, you will have also seen it on the No Dig Allotment at Hampton. When he was strong enough he wanted to come with me to the allotment and I will always remember his comment that “this was so much better as all our raised bed aisles were packed full of healthy home grown produce”. He really appreciated the space up there as he has no garden, just like one in eight of the population of the UK. He spent all his time recovering from his ordeal in our garden and at the allotment and thankfully his recovery has been remarkable through this. I have valued this space too as a place of solace and for my own mental wellbeing during this period as I then sadly lost my father last September which was a tough time for all the family.

It’s the reason I was really drawn to spend the most time at the allotments, community and schools area at the show as people shared their stories and experiences of what community spaces and growing meant to them. There really was the biggest buzz at the show here as it was always busy with people sharing their experiences and visions too. When I chatted with Sara Venn about the show, I had said that the main show gardens were aspirational and out of the reach of the majority, Sara commented that this area was completely inspirational, which it truly was. The majority of the people I chatted with about the show had found this area the most interesting as there were so many ideas to take away with you.

I often see plastic pots on the tops of bamboo canes on allotments, how much better to use cork.

Repurposing empty plastic peat free compost bags as grow bags.

Reusing tin cans as containers for growing lettuce and plants in.

There were really wonderful bug hotels, my favourite ones were in the schools section. The Bugamid of Giza was really clever as it not only had places for insects and wildlife but also showed complex mathematics and geometry in its construction.

This telephone box must have been fun making at school too.

Loved this dual purpose insect hotel that was also a hot compost heap growing a squash plant.

Flowers grown in old metal mop buckets, great repurposing.

Herbs grown in old painted watering cans.

It’s so important to have wildlife areas in our gardens, allotments and community spaces as seen here on the No Dig Allotment. Nettles are not only useful to make your own nettle tea fertiliser, they are a good tonic for the body too. They are especially needed by beneficial insects such as ladybirds and butterfly’s and seed eating birds, plus nettles can be used to make cordage and clothes.

There were so many clever and inspirational ideas to take away from the show.

This old rhubarb forcer is used as a water station for birds and insects by using an old terracotta saucer filled with stone chippings.

Allow some plants to run to seed and save the seed for sowing and sharing at local seed swaps. Swapping seeds with other gardeners in your local area is a good way to increase the variety of what you grow, as well as a good opportunity to pass on Heritage seed varieties, preserve seed sovereignty and to exchange gardening tips. Plants that run to seed and grown in your local area will have adapted to the soil and climatic conditions. Last year there was a major seed shortage as more people wanted to grow their own. Along with seed exchanges, local allotments and community spaces can organise areas where if you have grown too many seedlings for your own use you can leave them for others to take, this worked really well at our allotments in Stroud last year.

Love flowers and veg, grow them together for cut flowers,

for pollinators

or as companion plants.

Use roofing spaces for sedum roofs.

Create ponds for our aquatic friends after all frogs will eat slugs and snails.

If you don’t have the space horizontally try vertical gardening.

Healthy microgreens can be grown at home in repurposed containers.

I was shown around the Alton Local Food Initiative (ALFI) display.

They enable and encourage their local community to get involved in growing and eating locally grown fruit and veg by having plots and planters around the town and taking over disused plots of land for growing food crops, which reduces food miles and makes locally grown food accessible. They are one of many such community groups around the country involved in this type of action, reclaiming land and making positive change in the local community.

The whole allotment, no dig, community and schools space at the show really was a meeting place for nurturing ideas, sharing knowledge, stories and experience, a big reason why this area was so popular with visitors. The No Dig Allotment was a place you could walk through the garden and see it from the inside, it was very interactive, with talks scheduled each day from various inspirational speakers. These spaces inspired you to get involved in your local area and to make positive change and most importantly be part of the movement and growing community.

Please share any resources and links in the comments box below so that myself and others can visit and I’d love you to share what gardening, allotments and community spaces mean to you.

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Look Back at Chelsea Flower Show Gardens

Photographer: Stephen Studd - The David Harber and Savills garden, view through corten rusted steel screens towards the Aeon sculpture, planted with Lupinus 'Persian Slipper', Aquilegia 'Blue Barlow', Aquilegia 'Nora Barlow' - Designer: Nic Howard - Spon
The David Harber and Savills garden: Designer: Nic Howard

As a garden photographer one of the joys of the Chelsea Flower Show is getting early access at 5.30am to witness some beautiful sunrises over the show gardens. With such a large catalogue of images I’m looking back at the past 5 years of gardens at Chelsea, a time that camera sensor technology really advanced too, allowing shots like these sunrises.

Photographer: Stephen Studd  -  The M&G Garden, view of Forest of Dean stone path and patio, oak garden wall, Aquilegia chrysantha, Briza media 'Golden Bee', Euphorbia wallichii, Phlox divaricata 'Clouds of Perfume', Quercus pubescens - Designer: Cleve We
Designer: Cleve West

RHS Chelsea flower show 2015 The M&G Garden – The Retreat - designer Jo Thompson - sponsors M & G Investments awarded silver gilt medal
Designer: Jo Thompson

Photographer: Stephen Studd - The Breaking Ground Garden, Sunrise over the garden, Stipa gigantica, Melica altissima 'Alba', Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna', Salvia greggii 'Nachtvlinder', Verbascum phoeniculum 'Violetta', Pimpinella major 'Rosea', Designer:
Designers: Andrew Wilson and Gavin McWilliam

Photographer: Stephen Studd - The Resilience Garden - Border pla
Designer: Sarah Eberle

Photographer: Stephen Studd  -  The Telegraph Garden, view of bronze coated fin panels, limestone path, Isoplexis canariensis, adobe wall, Maytenus boaria, Quercus ilex, Schinus molle, -  Designer: Andy Sturgeon - Sponsor:  The Telegraph
Designer: Andy Sturgeon

Paul Hervey-Brookes Associates, 11 Lansdown, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5 1BB, England, UK. landscape garden designer Viking Cruises Wellness garden gold medal RHS Chelsea Flower Show London UK 2018 photography by Stephen Studd photographer, Built by Gar
Designer: Paul Hervey-Brookes

As an organic allotment holder I am always on the look out for gardens that incorporate growing fruit and vegetables. In 2017 the BBC Radio 2 Chris Evans Taste Garden designed by Jon Wheatley really had it all.

The Welcome to Yorkshire Garden designed by Mark Gregory in 2018 had a beautifully compact veg patch under a cascading Wisteria.

For small urban spaces Tom Massey found a great solution for growing your own.

A hand woven wicker compost heap was a novel idea on the garden designed by Ann-Marie Powell.

Photographer: Stephen Studd  -  The RHS Greening Grey Britain Garden, woven willow compost bins, insect hotel on side of shed, Digitalis purpurea and cow parsley - Designer Anne Marie Powell - Sponsor: RHS

The cut flower garden by Sarah Raven was a delight and packed with colour.

Matt Keightley’s Radio 2 Texture garden had to have the best garden wall award.

Photographer: Stephen Studd  -  The BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine Texture Garden, Stone path, concrete wall inlaid with moss balls, Acer Griseum, Euphorbia 'Fens Ruby',  Euphorbia 'Whistleberry Garnet', Cirsium rivulare 'Atropurpureum', Stipa tenuissima, CalaHis planting in the garden was also exquisite.

I’m always fascinated by the seating used by garden designers, my all time favourite were the granite boulders by Darren Hawkes.

Stephen Studd - The Brewin Dolphin Garden - granite stone carved seats on patio area, dry stone wall -Designer Darren Hawkes Landscapes - Sponsor Brewin Dolphin awarded gold medalHere’s a selection of some more.

A garden which took me back to the colourful Mexican palette I encountered on my travels was the Beneath A Mexican Sky garden designed by Manoj Malde.

Favourite water feature was Jo Thompson’s natural swimming pool, one day I’ll have my own it’s on the tick list.

Stephen Studd - The M & G Garden  The Retreat -wooden jetty over natural swimming pond pool, water marginal plants -designer Jo Thompson - sponsors M & G Investments awarded silver gilt medal

These other water features I really liked.

First sauna in the garden at Chelsea, Paul Hervey-Brookes one was very enticing.

Paul Hervey-Brookes Associates,  11 Lansdown, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5 1BB, England, UK. landscape garden designer Viking Cruises Wellness garden gold medal RHS Chelsea Flower Show London UK 2018 photography by Stephen Studd photographer, Built by GarFor the inner child in you, who didn’t want to climb up in to the tree house designed by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge with Andree Davies and Adam White.

Photographer: Stephen Studd -The RHS Back to Nature Garden – w

During lockdown many of us are having to work from home, Chelsea had some great spaces for garden offices.

Another on my to have list is the shepherd hut by Plankbridge, office or hideaway, tbc.

Photographer: Stephen Studd - The Supershoes, Laced With Hope Garden: urban garden wall with graffiti, curved wooden bench, mixed border planted with Lupinus 'Towering Inferno', Lupinus Desert Sun', Lupinus 'Masterpiece', Geum 'Cosmopolitan'. Poppies, Al

With climate change a reality, al fresco dining areas are increasingly important areas of the garden. This one designed by Tony Woods had an outdoor kitchen, edible living wall and had water conservation at it’s heart. 

The RHS Greening Grey Britain Garden also had water conservation at it’s heart and creating spaces that are beneficial to wildlife.

Naturalistic planting is becoming more evident at Chelsea, a technique that I use in my own garden. It has been backed up in numerous studies that the colour green promotes quicker healing and recovery from illness and is also good for mental well being and stress reduction.

This softening with green can also be used in urban landscape design and community centres.

Finally the plants are the real show stoppers at Chelsea and here are some of my favourite views over the past 5 years.

x

Don’t you just love Chelsea.

Photographer: Stephen Studd - The Supershoes, Laced With Hope G

Really missing Chelsea this year and seeing lots of friends there and coming home with bags full of design ideas, but looking forward to next years. Do check out this years RHS Virtual Chelsea by clicking this link.

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Capturing the Beauty of Plants

In the February issue of Outdoor Photography magazines Holiday & Courses guide, I give my tips for capturing the beauty of plants.

Digital photography holidays, tours, workshops courses to Cambodia, Vietnam USA and landscape photography workshops courses in the UK, Wales, Gower

After 30 years as a professional travel and landscape photographer I have a good understanding of the natural world, having spent many a day bunkered down and immersed in the natural environment with my Mamiya 6×7 camera (pre-digital) waiting for the right light conditions that I wished to capture. So when I was approached to produce photographs of plants for a book 10 years ago, I jumped to the challenge. It led me down a whole new branch of photographic exploration, plant photography.

As with any aspect of photography, after initial trials you find your feet and style. My approach to plant photography really moved on from the initial commission for the book. I am far more interested in the art of plant photography and what makes one photograph really stand out from the others?

There are certain elements that you need to consider when making a great shot.

  • Explore your subject before rushing to photograph it, walk around and see what you are drawn to, see how the light plays on the plant. Think about your composition, how is the subject going to fill the frame? Backlit flowers will always look good if the petals are translucent as it accentuates the colours, giving off a luminescence and showing off the patterns. Don`t be afraid to try out different angles, getting down to the same height as the plant is very effective, or look up to flowers from below them.

plant and Flower photography workshops courses with Stephen Studd of Digital Photography holidays

  • Time of day is an important consideration when taking your photographs. Harsh midday sun makes most subjects look unflattering. Early morning or late afternoon are the best times of day as the light is warmer, less harsh and the colours of the plants look richer.

Iris close up

Mornings also tend to be less windy, flowers are hard to photograph when they are moving around too much. Windy days are the toughest to photograph flowers on, unless you choose to use the blur creatively with a slower shutter speed.

  • Weather conditions are most important. Most people are surprised to hear that overcast days can be very beneficial for plant photography. This is because clouds act as a perfect light diffuser, creating even lighting and saturation without the worry of harsh highlights or shadows.

plant and Flower photography workshops courses with Stephen Studd of Digital Photography holidays

  • The background of your photograph needs consideration as untidy, busy, cluttered backgrounds kill a shot as the viewers eye gets distracted away from the subject. If there are shadows use them to make the subject stand out, or move in closer to the subject with a tight crop.

Dahlia "Bobby Dazzler"

  • For close ups I would always recommend the use of a tripod, they allow you to frame the plant perfectly and keep the image sharp. Also, look at the flower you are photographing to make sure it is free of blemishes or missing petals.

plant and Flower photography workshops courses with Stephen Studd of Digital Photography holidays

Experiment and have fun, try out new angles, backgrounds and processes you might be surprised with the results you obtain capturing the beauty of plants.



Flower photography workshops can be found on my website www.stephenstuddphotography.com

Photography holidays & courses to Cambodia,  Vietnam, Marrakech the USA and the Gower, can be found on my website www.digitalphotographyholidays.com
‘May the light be with you’

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IGPOTY – Flowering Agave – behind the photo

Pleased that I have been Highly Commended in this years International Garden Photographer of the Year competition, in the wildflower landscapes category with this shot taken at the Grand Canyon in the late afternoon.

Grand Canyon National Park USA IGPOTY Stephen Studd Wildflower landscapes

After I had driven to an observation point I went for a look around the area to see where the late afternoon light was hitting for a landscape photograph.

On top of a steep rocky outcrop I saw the small agave plant with the tall yellow flower head shining brightly in the sun that was hitting it. I immediately thought that it would be a great image to take for the IGPOTY competition. There was a fair bit of cloud around so I had to move quickly as it looked like the sun would disappear behind a cloud at any moment, plus the nearest rocky outcrop was starting to go in to shadow.

Setting up my Canon 6D camera as quickly as I could on top of my Manfrotto tripod, I waited until the sun was at the base of the Agave whilst still lighting up the flower head. I had positioned the camera so the flower head sat in the shadow of the background of the Grand Canyon between the two sections that had sunlight on them, that way the flower head would really shine out of the shadow. I also chose to take the image in portrait orientation as I liked the tall flower head against the backdrop of the vertical cliffs, emphasising the height of the Grand Canyon against a moody looking sky.

As my camera was on the tripod I could keep the ISO down at 100, I set the aperture at f22 as I wanted a very large depth of field with the flower head in focus to the furthest point you can see in the distance which is more than 70 miles away. I also used a 0.6ND soft graduated filter to keep all the detail in the clouds.

Within 5 minutes the scene was over as the sun disappeared behind the clouds.

If you get a chance to see the IGPOTY exhibition at Kew I would thoroughly recommend a trip to see it. Not only will you get to see the beautiful exhibition and prints, but also the very inspirational grounds and plants at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London.


I lead photography holidays and workshops in Cambodia, Vietnam, Marrakech the USA and the UK.  www.digitalphotographyholidays.com

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Flower photography workshops

Great to see my flower photography workshops were featured in the Sunday Times.

Bluebell woods flower photography workshopsin Gloucestershire UK England garlic woods Stroud hosted by Stephen Studd photography

 

This spring I have some bluebell woods

Bluebells flower photography workshop and courses in the UK England, Forest of Dean Gloucestershire digital photography holidays tours workshops holidays vacations

 

and wild garlic woods

flower photography workshops Wild Garlic (Ramsons) in wood Stroud Gloucestershire Digital photography holidays courses tours workshops

photography workshops in the Forest  of Dean  and Stroud, Gloucestershire. Full details can be found on my website: www.stephenstuddphotography.com

Sunday Times article by Wellywoman blog


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Are you sitting comfortably, Malvern Spring Festival 2015

With Malvern Spring Festival’s 30th Birthday just finished and Chelsea Flower Show looming, I wanted to share my seating highlights from Malvern this year. So take a seat and follow me round the show gardens that had seating areas.

Perhaps my favourite seats were these two cube ones made from 250 year old oak in the ‘Constraining Nature’ garden designed by Kate Durr Garden Design and sponsored by Whatley Manor and Ucare, which won Best RHS Festival Garden award and a gold medal.

RHS Malvern spring festival 2015  Constraining Nature designed by Kate Durr Garden Design Best Festival Garden award and a gold medal

For a small space garden they fitted in perfectly, the texture on them adding to their visual effect within the garden.

RHS Malvern spring festival 2015  Constraining Nature designed by Kate Durr Garden Design Best Festival Garden award and a gold medal

Another set of oak cube seats were in the ‘Genetic Conservation Garden’ designed by Tessa & Caitlin McLaughlin. The charred oak seats were designed by Chris Nangle.

RHS Malvern spring rhs show 2015 'Genetic Conservation Garden' designed by  Tessa & Caitlin McLaughlin.

These oak benches designed by Rodas Irving featured in the ‘Beating the Blues’ garden designed by Emily Sharpe, which won a Silver Gilt medal and also the Festival Gardens, RHS People’s Choice award.

Malvern spring rhs show 2015 'Beating the Blues' garden designed by Emily Sharpe, which won a Silver Gilt medal and also the Festival Gardens, RHS People's Choice award

A Gaze Burvill oak bench seat featured in Lisa Burchill’s ‘Out of Darkness’ garden.

RHS Malvern spring rhs show 2015 Lisa Burchill's 'Out of Darkness' garden Gaze Burvill

There was a corner seating area in the sunken part of the ‘Cornerstone’ garden designed by Pip Probert of Outer Spaces garden design, which was made from oak and stone.

RHS Malvern spring rhs show 2015 Pip Probert 'Cornerstone' garden Outer Spaces garden design Silver Gilt

RHS Malvern spring rhs show 2015 Pip Probert 'Cornerstone' garden Outer Spaces garden design Silver Gilt

The ‘Cotswold Way’ garden designed by Amy Perkins sponsored by Cotswold Estates & Gardens, had a Cotswold Stone bench.

RHS Malvern spring festival 2015 The Cotswold Way garden designed by Amy Perkins Silver Gilt and People's Choice best show garden

This was inside a covered seating area overlooking the garden. It won a Silver Gilt medal and also the RHS People’s Choice award best show garden.

RHS Malvern spring festival 2015 The Cotswold Way garden designed by Amy Perkins Silver Gilt and People's Choice best show garden

As an allotment holder who gardens organically with permaculture principles I am always drawn to gardens that have sustainability at heart. Hannah Genders ‘The Journey’ garden had a bench made from reused materials. The garden is to be rebuilt at Saint Michael’s Hospice in Hereford after the show.

RHS Malvern spring rhs show 2015 The Journey Garden designed by Hannah Genders Silver Gilt

Finally the ‘Bees Knees’ garden had to be my favourite garden designed for bio diversity and for pollinating insects. The seating here had to be the most portable of the gardens as the garden had a summerhouse with a giant honeycomb insect hotel.

Malvern spring rhs show 2015 The Bees Knees silver gilt designed by martyn Wilson

As I live in Stroud which became the world’s first bee guardian town, I watched with interest at dawn as the first pollinating bees started to arrive in the garden, as they had found a real treasure of pollen rich flowers. The garden was designed by Martyn Wilson of Wilson Associates Garden Design for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

Malvern spring rhs show 2015 The Bees Knees silver gilt designed by martyn Wilson

I look forward to next years 31st Spring show, next stop 5 days photographing at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London, keep an eye out for my blog.


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