Vivienne Westwood in my Garden

by Ryan Lewis

The fashion goddess that is Vivienne Westwood, or Viv as I like to call her, has recently unveiled her new Manifesto. Titled ‘Do It Your Self’ Viv suggests that fashion should be less about the recent move towards 'throw away' philosophies, where people buy cheap items and throw them away after a short period of time, and more about recycling, quality and utilising key pieces.

Within this campaign Viv also insists that recycling and sustainability should be included wherever possible. The quality or key item should remain within the collection and reused within different settings throughout different times and fashions. Alongside this, and something that is to be expected of the high Dame, is the need for individuality and reflection of self. The new Spring/Summer ’09 manifesto can be found here:

What has this got to do with gardening?

'What has this got to do with gardening?' I hear you ask. Well, quite a lot actually. The key messages that Viv puts forward can be interpreted and applied directly to gardening. Other issues such as recycling, sustainability, quality, staying power and versatility, which are all included in her latest manifesto, all impact on garden design and planting. These are topical issues within society and horticulture and as such, these should bear heavily on our choices and decisions.

What can we do in the garden that incorporates Viv’s philosophy?

Firstly, we look at the use of key pieces and quality items. This can relate to good quality specimen plants; be it large or small, herbaceous or woody, or hard landscaping be it a patio, sculpture, etc.

A key piece would need staying power in that it is there for all seasons; hence it’s recurrent nature and versatility when used in new schemes or changing garden fashions.

A good example of a key piece would be a large evergreen shrub/tree which would add structure and permanence in the garden or a focal point such as a piece of garden art.

Key Pieces

Follow Ryan's advice and purchase one or two good specimen plants. One large red acer will have more impact than four or five smaller plants. Other plants to try are Cordyline australis, Cupressus sempervirens, Prunus 'Kiku-Shidare Sakura', Kniphofias, Agapanthus and all types of topiary.

Save money by recycling

Secondly, as a garden comprises more than one element, it will need additional planting or landscaping. This is where recycling can come in very handy. When applying this to planting, propagation is one of the easiest and cost effective ways of increasing stock, and lets face it its an incredibly sustainable way of maintaining a plant filled garden. Utilising opportunities to acquire free plants and landscaping materials, such as plant swaps, Freecycle, or friends and family, will also enable you to put more resources towards key pieces.

Many shrubs are relatively easy to propagate from cuttings and most perennials respond really well to division. Have a go at plant propagation and share your plants with others on plant swap sites. Use peat-free compost when potting up.
Using other people's leftover landscaping materials is a great, cost-effective way to get the garden you want and it keeps bulky waste out of landfill.
Visit Freecycle to find out what's on offer in your area.
Other ways to go greener in the garden include composting your household waste, using a water butt to collect rainwater, watering your plants with dish and bath water, using recycled wood to build containers or decking and choosing organic and recycled products.

Reflect your personality

Finally, the most important component of the garden should be you. A garden should reflect your personality, style, and tastes. After all, if we all followed fashion and the media as directed wouldn’t it all get a bit boring?

I say we take influence from the Queen of fashion and for that matter any influences that promote individuality, sustainability and longevity. We have so many influences and yet so few that aren’t solely focussed on commercialism.

Ryan's Gardening Style

A garden that reflects your own personality and style will ultimately be one in which you feel most comfortable. So don't give in to trends and build your garden around you.
Ryan describes his garden style as 'cottage-fusion' mixing traditional and contemporary elements. He showcases his garden and blogs about gardening at Ryans' Garden. Visit his site to see cottage-fusion for yourself.

'Vivienne Westwood in my Garden' is reproduced courtesy of Ryan's Garden. Ryan Lewis gardens in West Glamorgan, Wales and blogs at Ryan's Garden

Vivienne Westwood image by BitchBuzz courtesy of Flickr.
Red acer and woodland images by K.Tuck at


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