Gardening Update: Rustic roots

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The Independent Online
YOU need an eclectic collection of natural materials to indulge in the rustic style: tree roots, horse's molars, knucklebones, twigs, moss and bark. You also need the mildly batty streak which was much more appreciated and indulged in the 18th and 19th centuries than it is now.

Jean Stone bucked the trend when she designed an award-winning rustic garden for the Sunday Times at Chelsea a few years ago. Willow wattle lined the edges of the pool. There was a decorative larch pole fence and a faintly Gothic gate built round a large tree bole. There was a thatched summerhouse lined with twig work. Because knucklebones and molars were in short supply at the time, the floor was made of sawn logs. Ferns decorated a stumpery and stripped branches of pine made a writhing garden seat.

The originals that inspired the garden are beautifully illustrated and described in Jean Stone's book The Rustic Garden (Batsford, pounds 35). If you like the Swiss Garden at Old Warden in Bedfordshire, you will revel in the book.

A 19th-century Marquis of Blandford went spectacularly into debt to the tune of pounds 600,000 while engaged in rusticating his garden at Whiteknights in Berkshire. It is covered now by the University of Reading, but once there was a rustic bower made from elm, a Gothic bower with three pinnacles, an ash tent - and a rustic orchestra stand capable, said a contemporary, of seating 'His Grace's complete band together with their stands for music'. And this was only the beginning. Practical advice from Ms Stone shows how to take your own happy route to bankruptcy constructing and embellishing rustic bowers.

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