Remembering Philip Webb 100 years on

2015 signifies the hundredth anniversary of the death of Philip Webb. You may be wondering who this gentleman is and what quite he has to do with you?

Well, Mr Webb was one of the foremost architects of the ‘Arts and Crafts’ movement which dominated our national consciousness  for a brief spell in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century. A design movement, I might add, which still affects us today – most notably our obsession with the pitched roof ‘English Vernacular’ style of house. Again you ask, who cares?

Go to Standen and see what I mean. The superb example of the crafted house and gardens that sits just outside East Grinstead is well worth a visit and is Webb’s most complete design that survives.  Lutyens perhaps is the man that everyone gravitates to when talking of the Arts and Crafts building and there are a few to choose from locally but one should never narrow your horizons to one or two design geniuses. He certainly had good PR and working with Jeykll, he was in good company so you wouldn’t be amiss, but Webb’s Standen is this month’s recommended viewing.

Now July is upon us the soil will be bone dry and hard. The rains that we have at this time of year, whilst heavy and astonishingly dramatic – often being the thunderous type – do not usually penetrate deep. This means that your lawns will be stressed and possibly going yellow. As a result, many of you out there insist on watering the lawn to keep it ‘green and healthy’. But you should not worry. Grass is an amazingly resilient plant and has a natural ability to go into a state of torpor.  Well, yes, you are to some extent helping the plant; but you are doing so at the detriment to us humans. We need water too and with global climate change pretty much a future certainty, wasting it on a small patch of inedible greenness doesn’t make sense does it? With barely 0.02 of all water on the planet available for us to drink, it isn’t good maths.

Better to let it turn yellow for the 3 short weeks it might do so, refrain from mowing it unless it is becoming obstructive and try not to stress it much more than it already is. Grass lawns are you see, a construct of our forebears and of a time before we realised our impact on our environment was so effective. If the great gardeners like Jeykll or Robinson were alive today, they would I have no doubt be using alternatives to the water hungry grass lawns when they could. I have in recent years, removed lawns entirely from some gardens – in others I have replaced them with other plants such as pennyroyal and chamomile, which whilst not as hard wearing and certainly not football friendly, offer a much more beautiful alternative.

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