Attending Glee, the leading garden and leisure industry show, was a great opportunity for Nathan Dodd to spot trends and anticipate products that will come onto the market in the near future.
Chilstone have been crafting fine architectural stonework since the 1950s, Nathan James Dodd and David Coton paid a visit to their Kent HQ to discover the techniques that have made their products so successful.
We were expecting to find a workshop busy with skilled craftsmen at work on the huge variety of Chilstone cast stone creations. This was certainly true but what came as a pleasant surprise was that surrounding the workshop was a 35 acre woodland and beautiful show gardens that are open to the public.
Displayed throughout the gardens, opened by Alan Titchmarsh in 2007, is an array of temples, bird baths, sundials, benches, fountains and benches that are all created by hand using Chilstone's unique reconstituted stone.
It was explained to us that, although extremely popular in the Victorian era, manufacturing ornaments with composite stone had died out until Michael Dibben, the founder of Chilstone re-invented the process.
Now, Chilstone products can be seen throughout the world, for example at Hammenhog in Sweden and Japan's Barakura Gardens, and in this country's great gardens including Kew, Hever and Warwick castles, and Kensington Palace.
The reason for their success is clear to see. Handmade, the highest standards of craftsmanship are utilised, with the fine textured surface allowing great attention to detail. This results in an ornament that is virtually indistinguishable from carved stone
Often inspired by research into classical subjects and the work of respected designers of the past, the Chilstone Vine Urn as an example originates from one dating back to the 17th century in Lancashire.
With a finish closely resembling Portland stone, although other colours are available, the spontaneous arrival of lichen and moss forms an antique appearance that blends in with the landscape remarkably quickly..
A Chilstone ornament would be ideal to enhance any garden, and commemorative plaques are often set into a piece to mark a special occasion.
To find out more about their impressive range, go to www.gardensite.co.uk
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