The first time this really entered the forefront of my mind was when Porky Hefer started making human-sized birds nests to hang in trees. Brilliant. You can curl up, sway gently and quietly observe the birds from your own nest – quite magical.
I started wondering – what makes the magic? And actually, I think it’s letting go of a fundamental element. The ground, to be exact. Leaving one’s comfort zone. It’s this that makes rim-flow pools in apartment blocks so gorgeous and glamorous. The feeling of hanging off a cliff edge with just sky around you – below as well as above. Something as simple as a hammock strung in the trees can make this essential difference. Crossing water on a series of floating stepping stones; even the act of walking over a little bridge takes one into a different zone. Your children climbing a ladder into a Wendy house on stilts instead of predictably on the ground will give them far more pleasure and set their imaginations soaring.
‘Getting off the ground is provocative and stimulating, and sets one free’.
Of course, any kind of tree house is wondrous. For example, the Mirrorcube room at the Treehotel in Sweden is a contemporary take on the tree house (pictured). Ones that I have been involved with offer something for all generations – a place for childhood bonding and significant firsts or rethinking one’s life in some way. Somehow getting off the ground is provocative and stimulating, and sets one free. Roof gardens also offer the sensation of being off the ground in quite a sophisticated manner. They have very special powers and feel somehow young at heart, unexpected and edgy. And very cosmopolitan. They are responsible, too, in a green way and, of course, the views are spectacular. New York roof gardens are justly the stuff of legends and have been groundbreaking for generations, whether drop dead stylish or a chaos of food crops. They are also the must-have garden of the moment, especially when getting there is a bit of an adventure. Think a stainless steel, almost vertical, ladder rather than a predictable lift.
My absolute favourite fancy at the moment is garden towers. Riversfield Farm in the Natal Midlands has one – inspired by David Hicks when he designed the garden there. I keep wanting to install windmills as focal points in the farm gardens I am designing at present. They are so evocative, practical and are dying out. And they move, like a piece of kinetic art.
Read more about Riversfield garden in Remarkable Gardens of South Africa by Quivertree Publications. To get in touch with Franchesca visit franchescawatson.com.
Photography Lindman Photography; Courtesy of Treehotel