Archive | Garden Design

Design, landscaping construction and layouts. Special types of garden and notable design features

Garden Advice to a Daughter

These notes are designed as advice to a daughter who has just moved into a 1920’s house with a long, narrow back garden and a postage stamp sized front grass patch.

Current Layout and Issues

  • The front is open to cats and the quiet road with a footpath at one side leading to the door, edged by a rough hedge.
  • The other side of the front is partnered to a well kept neighbors garden fence and a motley collection of shrubs. Under the bay window is ruble trouble.
  • The extended kitchen at the rear provides a small sit’out’ery  and place for pot plants.
  • A high trellis fence along the length of the garden displays nothing much and there is only a pencil strip of soil at its base.
  • I don’t expect the garden to look like this next time I visit but annuals and begonias can add a splash of colour

Quick Fixes

  • Cut and edge the grass at the front even though the ground is very uneven. Don’t worry about the weeds in the grass until you can call it a lawn.
  • Lower the 6 foot high privet hedge to say 3 feet and make it narrower at the top than the bottom. An ‘A’ shaped hedge is easier to maintain. Privet, Yew and mixed hedges will regrow, only looking rough until next summer.
  • Get the neighbors to cut down the overgrown inappropriate sized tree that is over-shadowing your garden. At best a good trim of over hanging branches would be a start.
  • Get a new lockable garden hut.
  • Clear up old attempts at compost heaps by spreading or burying. I would go for a themo plastic box composter.

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Minimum Cultivation- No Dig

What is ‘No Dig’

  • ‘No Dig’ gardening or not turning over your soil is  growing in popularity with organic farmers and some gardeners. It is a term used for clearing the ground and establishing a minimum cultivation area without digging.
  • The substitute for digging is mulching.  The garden may be covered with paper or cardboard and topped with a deep layer of compost. Worms will help drag the organic matter down into the soil.
  • Plastic sheeting is a poor substitute as it brings nothing to the party but stifles weeds.
  • Alternate layers of manure and straw can help build up the quality of ‘no dig’ soil.
  • Water well avoid walking on the plot and plan to plant through the mulches with minimum disturbance.

Benefits of Minimum Cultivation

  • This form of gardening is less labour intensive compared to dig a spit deep or heaven forbid, double digging.
  • Using a good layer of straw or compost improves soil structure and builds up over the years.
  • The soil remains in good heart and there should be less soil erosion and runoff
  •  Beneficial invertebrates, fungi and earthworms will enjoy the lack of disturbance and repay the no dig gardener with increase fertility.
  • Minimum cultivation reduces the loss of nitrates and reduces leaching.
  • Less wear and tear on the gardeners back.
  • The texture of the soil will become darker and crumbly with a good tilth.
  • Digging can bring up perennial weed seeds that are best left deeper in the soil where light can’t set them into germination.

Book Cover

 

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New Design Ideas to Green Grey Britain

Where to Get New Garden Ideas

  • Your own imagination is the prime source of ideas for your own personal garden.
  •  If you can’t get to Chelsea there are other horticultural and flower shows and many  open gardens.
  • Magazines, newspapers and books can spark off a new thought or provide a combination of ideas.
  • Just walking around looking over walls and fences may give you an idea. I saw some very useful use of trellising offering privacy on a street-side garden without dark dense hedges.
  • Trial and error has been my fall back design method but it is a slow process and after 60 years It is still to produce the goods!

Greening Grey Britain

  • The RHS advocates gardens to help preventing flooding, ease stress and encourage exercise, support wildlife, and be ‘the equivalent of an air conditioning system for our cities’.
  • Decking, block paving and parking spaces have taken over from front lawns and small gardens to the detriment of the environment. Turning grey areas green with new design ideas and plantings can help rectify the damage caused by urbanisation.
  • I had three garages and drives for access but one was a lean too that served no real purpose. I knocked it down and have a pond, some maturing trees and a Japanese area that is  a pride and joy. It’s awkward tarmaced drive was too hard to remove so it was covered in a large mound of soil that became a quick draining alpine zone.
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Yew Tree – Taxus baccata

Yew

Yew are used in many contexts and can feature in natural or formal situations. In the 18th century species of Taxus were brought to the UK from America and Asia to add to our native Taxus baccata. There are now many cultivars of upright, pendulous and ground cover forms of Yew.

Garden Uses of Yew

  • Yew provide evergreen structure to your garden
  • Hedging is an important garden use creating a dense living wall or sculptable feature.
  • Yew is famous for its use in topiary with its ability to take on shape and form and last for many decades.
  • Mounds can be planted with an upright yew underplanted with ground cover Yews.
  • Dwarf varieties of our native Yew include Corleys Coppertip and Dwarf White.
  • Specimen trees can be grown from Taxus baccata varieties such as Dovastoniana, Amersfoort and Fatigiata Aureomarginata
  • In a small garden select slow growing forms of Taxus baccata

Cultivation Tips

  • Yew can withstand hard or even drastic pruning.
  • For a slender upright growing Yew try a Japanese for Taxus cuspidata ‘Robusta’ as a change from the Irish yew. Train young plants to a single stem.
  • Prune annually in late summer. To substantially reduce a hedge cut in April and do half the tree one year and the other half the following season.
  • Well suited to chalky and lime stone soil but not too fussy.

Irish Yew

Golden coloured Yew

See Also

Yew Root and Branch Review

Old Yews

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Garden Sky and Colour Effects

What colour is the sky? A strange question too a gardener perhaps but there are good gardening reasons for asking.

  • The standard answer from a young child would probably blue and that is what we want in summer as a sign of good weather. In winter it may indicate a spell of sharp frosty days. The sky takes on a deeper blue hue that saturates colours from mid morning to late afternoon.
  • Harsh mid day light produces high contrast between light and shadow. This depend on weather condition, because on a cloudy day the light is diffused.
  • An overcast sky is a result of no direct sunlight moisture in the atmosphere or air pollution that causes haze and the sky to appears to be pale blue or even milky white.
  • In the early morning or at sunset your sky can be red, orange, purple and/or yellow  but where I live, too often it seems  to be grey. These colour  arise from the absorption or not of various parts of the  spectrum. This also has a profound effect on how you see the colour of flowers.
  • Blue and white colours are called cool temperatures that tend to recede in a picture. The warm colours of yellow through to red come forward to the viewer.
  • Clouds are seldom if ever white, have a very close look and you will see lots of shades. Grey may predominate but the variety of shades will be multitudinous.
  • Colour temperature is measured in Kelvins

Other Sky and Plant Pictures Continue Reading →

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Quick Guide to Chelsea Designers & Gardens

Book Cover

‘Take Chelsea Home’ by Chris Young shows the “Best Garden Design from the Chelsea Flower Show”. Below is a brief preview of the 2010 gardens and designers.

  1. Tom Stuart-Smith; The Laurent-Perrier a champagne of gardens featuring a woodland of birches.
  2. Roger Platts; The M&G garden roses for the main sponsor.
  3. Sue Hayward; The Stephen Hawkins MND garden with unusual plants.
  4. Pual Stone; Place of Change a large community design.
  5. Leeds City Council; Hesco garden trying to pretend Leeds is  a tourist destination.
  6. James Wong;  Malaysia tourism garden, now here is a tourist destination.
  7. Robert Myers; Cancer Research garden, charities normally perform well at Chelsea.
  8. James Towillis; The L’Occitane garden a landscape of Provence.
  9. Andy Sturgeon; Daily Telegraph garden with international plants
  10. Thomas Hoblyn; F&C Investments garden that should grow better than the investments.
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Gardening as a Business

Book Cover

How to Start Your Own Gardening Business
An Insider Guide to Setting Yourself Up as a Professional Gardener is a useful tutorial if you want to set up a gardening business. I recommend you consider your aspirations and limitations carefully and either set up a ‘Life Style business’ or consider becoming a qualified, professional career gardener.

Life Style Gardener

  • There are many jobs from spring onward for jobbing gardeners. Lawyers hang out a shingle but for gardeners a post card in the post office usually suffices.
  • Labouring on hedges and lawns for the infirm or doing small construction and garden maintenance projects are within the grasp of most hobby gardeners.
  • If your work is good then word of mouth should get you lots of referals.
  • Hourly rates in the North of England vary from £6- £20 per hour depending on the level of horticultural skill, experience and quality of garden. Ask around amongst those already in business.

Career Gardener

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New for Ponds or Renovated Ponds

I may be behind the times but here are some new, or new to me, ideas to enhance your garden pond this summer.

New Pond Design

‘Islandscapes’ and Floating Planters

‘The Next Big Wave In Ponds’ (Oh please) ‘enhance the beauty and biological health of ponds, providing innovative filtration and a lush growing environment for terrestrial plants. lslandscapes offer food and fun for fish, frogs and other wildlife’ according to the blurb on Freedomponds.com
Velda do several floating planters made in covered styrofoam.


Ecopond Tadpole Food

I have to admit to never thinking of feeding tadpoles but if I did here is the answer. Ecopond Tadpole Food provides the nutrition that tadpoles need up to the point where they develop back legs (4-6 weeks after free swimming begins). See also frogspawn tips on Gardeners Tips

Preformed Ponds

Pond

Rubberised or rigid plastic ponds are one of the easiest methods of creating a new pond. I bought one in a kidney shape with 3 different depths created by shelves. It saved a lot of hard work once I had dug an appropriate hole!
In one garden I saw such a preformed pond raised up rather than buried and think that is a creative idea if you can support the weight of water.

Pond Liners

Now you can cover black PVC liners with a stone coating. This makes the black edge of a pond look natural with a pebble or stone finish. Sold in various widths it could be used to finish off a butyl lined pond or as a run off into your garden proper. The brand I have seen is Oase Stone Liner.

All these products are available from the links above or a specialist like Bradshaws of York. Amazon supply the preformed ponds.

Pond Renovation

  1. As winter approaches all ponds need a bit of tlc to see them through the winter.
  2. If removing dead leaves and waste from the bottom of the pond leave the sludge on the edge so any small creatures can crawl back into the water.
  3. Repair leaks to prevent having to regularly top up the water. Evaporation is unavoidable so you may want to think of easy top-up methods.
  4. Create ways of stopping leaves dropping into the pond. Nets are unsightly unless semi submerged. Barrier hedges of box to stop prevailing winds may help.
  5. Make edges safe and secure. Reinforce and renew if necessary any childproof measures.

Read more on Preformed Pond Shapes including installation tips.

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Shrubs to Screen Walls

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You can just make out the wall behind this flowering Kerria Japonica. There are other plants to screen walls but the soil is likely to be dry and impoverished so chose with care.

Kerria Japonica
Planted towards the back of the border this shrubs habit can be scruffy looking and the serrated foliage is rather un-interesting. Kerria loves sun but is drought, heavy clay soil and exposed location tolerant.
Kerria is a tough plant suitable for problem areas that makes it ideal for fast growing screening.

Arbutus unedo
Wonderful all-rounder with reddish stems and good bark, glossy leaves, Lily-of-the-Valley flowers and unusual strawberry-like fruits.

Hippophae rhamnoides, Sea Buckthorn
Lovely silvery leaves and bright orange berries.

Mahonia leaves
Mahonia x media Charity
Vigorous architectural shrub with glossy pinnate leaves and scented yellow flowers in winter.

Daphniphyllum macropodum
Seldom grown evergreen, best grown in shade. Large, handsome leaves and scented greenish flowers.

Fatsia japonica
Often sold as a houseplant but perfectly hardy. Huge palmate leaves give a jungly effect. Does well in shade.

Buddleja davidii ‘Dartmoor’
Fast growing shrub with gorgeous magenta-pink flowers in branching panicles. Great for butterflies and sometimes retains its leaves through winter.

Clematis montana Tetrarosa.
Useful for larger areas that need covering. This Clematis montana provides a spectacular burst of colour in late spring with large flowers an a delicate scent.

Ligustrum ovalifolium ‘Aureum’ or golden privet
Common, but very undervalued — the ‘sunshine’ shrub.

Aucuba japonica ‘Crotonifolia’ or spotted laurel
Tough but handsome with gold splashed leaves and large red berries.

Spotted Laurel

Tomorrows post will discuss Pyracantha

 

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Blue Leaved Plants and Shrubs

Prostrate Juniper

Blue is not the colour you associate with foliage but if you can bend your eyes just a little around the silver – grey through to green spectrum there may be some surprises.

In Praise of Blue Foliage

  • A very distinctive colour attracts the eye in a uniformly green garden
  • Blue works very well with dark coloured leaves such as purples
  • Blue tends to increase the perceived depth of view making blue recede.
  • A fine blue line separates glaucous leaves and silver foliage.
  • Perception of colour is best left to the beholder

Blue Leaved Primulas

  • The bloom or farina on may primulas can look blue. See the Primula kewensis at the foot of the page.
  • Auriculas often display the blue dust.
  • Primrose ‘Arctic Blue’ has deep green leaves but on a frosty morning their foliage turns to shades of icy blue

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Perennial Plant selection from The Oregon

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