Archive | Garden Design

Design, landscaping construction and special types of garden

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



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


Perennial Plant selection from The Oregon


Streamside Gardens to Delight


If you are lucky enough to have a stream running through your garden you can plant many colourful plants at the side.

Plants for a Streamside

  • Primula Candelabra hybrids look special in spring and early summer. The flowers appear on the 18 inch stems in tiers of red, yellow and orange.
  • Many Iris varieties are at home by the side of water. The Siberian Iris sibirica can be yellow, white, purple or blue and the sword shaped leaves grow well in moist soil. Iris laevigata flowers purple and can grow right at the margins with its feet in 3-4 inches of water.
  • For soft greens, Alchemilla Mollis grows almost anywhere in my garden and Hostas also like a moist soil.
  • Astilbe can be a fine herbaceous plant with fern like foliage and plumes of frothy flowers.
  • For a bit of annual colour you could sow Mirabilis jalpa the Four o’clock flower growing to 3-4 feet tall with some Impatiens accent series for a lower grower.
  • Bugle is good for ground cover Ajuga reptans Burgundy Glow for blue flowers and tricolured leaves. Persicaria superba has pink flowers later in the year and spreads well.
  • For a tree in acid soil the Amelanchier is hard to beat with flowers, berries and coloured autumn leaves or the Spotted laurel and Black Pussy Willows both like a moist soil.

Other Tips for Gardening by a Stream

  • Plants that prefer dryer conditions should be planted higher up the banking.
  • Give plants enough space to develop, the moist and humid conditions will generally encourage lush growth.
  • Beware fast flowing streams and those likely to over flow there banks lest they wash away your prize plants.
  • Foliage and texture can be as important as colour but a bright splash (no pun intended) of yellow or bright white can be reflected by the water.

harlow-carrHarlow Carr Candelabra primula by the stream 2008.

Read more about Wild Iris on Gardeners Tips.


Ideas for a Shady Border


Plant selection

  • Plant tall flowering shrubs to bring a splash of colour to a dull corner or to make a shady border come to life. Hydrangea macrophylla or Rosa Rugosa will suit. More shrub ideas
  • Taller perennials and other to consider include Astible, Lilies, Ligularia or Foxglove.
  • Hostas and Hebes both do well in shade and if it is dry Eupohorbia polychroma and Iris foetidissima would work.
  • Try something a bit architectural such as Bears Breeches Acanthus mollis with tall flower spikes in summer and famous shaped leaves. Echinops globe thistles would be an alternative and Crocosmia has sword shaped leaves.
  • A smoke bush tree Cotinus coggyria is a good purple leaved shrub with airy pink/white

Planting Tips

  • Avoid planting too close to large trees as the roots take all the water. Anemone hybrids survive the dry but may not reach their full 3′ height.
  • Remove weeds and incorporate compost or manure to retain what moisture it can.
  • Plant shrubs in Autumn to give the roots chance to become established. Continue Reading →

Ground Cover for Formal Gardens

Vinca ground cover

Formal gardens generally rely on geometric shapes and repetition and so you may not think about ground cover in these situations. Balance and proportion are also key features of a formal garden and generally have fewer species of plants than may be found in in informal gardens.

With the structure of a formal garden in place from paths and symmetrical beds in squares, oblongs or circles you can then consider appropriate plants. The ground cover should complement the focal plants in colour, leaf-shape and height. They should also be manageable and not prone to take over or the formal effect may be lost.

  • Liriope spicata or Lily turf  is evergreen with neat, low, grassy foliage. It can be left undisturbed for many years to form low-maintenance ground cover in beds of its own, or in light shade beneath trees or shrubs.
  • Sempervivum tectorum and Hens-and-Chicks are small scale spreaders that may combine with Aremria maritima to create clear outlines in concentric shapes within a formal layout.
  • Saxifraga umbros or London Pride is apt to wander over path edges but is an easy to grow and gives prolific, spreading ground cover.
  • Hellebores and Hostas can also work well or Barbara Ellis in her book  ‘Covering Ground’ recommends Tiarella cordifolia the Allegeheny foamflower.

Colour may not be the key issue in ground cover for a formal garden but Blue grass Festucu glauca can be massed planted so that clumps join together. Other grasses to consider include Hakonechloa macra or the lower growing sedges Carex pensylvanica.

Continue Reading →


Crocodile Garden Design

London basement garden

Any space bigger than a bottle can be used to create a garden. This London tennament had a basement flat twelve feet below the pavement and about 5 feet wide. Despite those limitations there was an exotic rock pool, obligatory ferns and phormiums and the London Lizard, the Camden Croc, or the Admiralty Arch Alligator.

Designing with Humour

  • Are the bars on these windows to keep the residents in or the London wild life out
  • A light touch when adding whimsy to a garden can add many a smile to the passer by
  • New materials can be introduced like this fibre glass sculpture
  • Painted pottery Gnomes are not to everyones taste but Gnomes need homes
  • Bruce Lawton’s Zen garden design tool is a bit of a spoof

Ideas Growing Hostas


Facts about Hostas

  • Hostas are attractive foliage plants that prosper in the shade from spring to the first frost.
  • Hosta varieties vary in height from the Blue Angel at 4 feet to  Thumb Nail at 4 inches.
  • Blue green and yellow leaved hosts all like water and the yellow & gold leaved varieties will stand more sunshine like Sun Power .
  • Varied textures are available from smooth, crinkled, puckered and leathery all  to tempt you.
  • Hostas do not seem to die of old age and require minimum maintenance.
  • Continue Reading →

Pond Water Features

If you want a cheap and easy water feature bury half a plastic dustbin in your garden. Fill it with rain water from your butt. If you use tap water it will have to stand for a week or more before introducing wild life and will probably go green with algae.

There is still plenty of frog spawn about in local ponds. You can make an escape bridge for the frogs by laying an old log over a corner of the pond. Natural rainfall will replace most of the evaporation except in summer when I let it reduce in depth but you can top it up from the hosepipe. The depth of the old bin makes a safe environment for aquatics but be careful with babies and young children.

We have used our pond as a home for goldfish that the children no longer want. They  lasted several years until they reached a size that the Heron liked. Similarly with golden Orfe they lasted many years and enjoyed basking in the sun on late summer evenings. The pond was mainly sheltered from the direct sun and is a feature in a wooded are of the garden.

Tips for Ponds

  • I find most of the recommended tips are of marginal benefit
  • A floating ball has never prevented a freeze up – but I was lucky not too loose any fish due to ice
  • Netting to stop leaves was also more trouble that it was worth – every couple of years I fish out the ‘sludge’ from the bottom and leave it very close by for creatures to return to the pond.
  • Marginal plants and moisture lovers need more water than the overflow from this type of pond provides.
  • Oxygenating plants work best if they grow below the surface. One of the most vigorous and recommended is Elodea crispa (Lagarosiphon major)

Charlie Dimmock may not approve but as a pond starter kit this is a cheap and quick option. I see you can now buy a Charlie Dimmock Gnome but I think that would end up in my pond

Tommy, Alan and Charlie

In a well known water feature a Gnome was placed on a rock in the center of a pond – The feature was called ‘Gnomeman is an Island’

Two Garden Gnomes walk into a bar. The third one ducks.

Gnomes grow a vegetable that helps brush your teeth – ‘Bristle Sprouts’


Conservatory Plants

November is a great time to plan next years plants for your conservatory. I would go for ‘shock and awe’ with some bold colours.

Lantana camara is worth the space in your cool conservatory where it will bloom from spring to late summer. It is evergreen and flowers best with good light. You will often see it in  Mediterranean gardens. There are numerous colour forms for this plant but my favourite is an orange flower changing to red.

Jasminum polyanthum is a favourite evergreen, twining climber. It has big clusters of white flowers tinged pink throughout summer. The heady scent permiates the conservatory especially in the evenings.

For winter interest Correa harrisii is a small evergreen shrub with an abundance of scarlet flowers during late winter. The leaves are narrow ovals with hairy undersides. Fragrant pink flowers are grown on Luculia gratissima.

Good partners for next summer are Cassia obtusa with deep yellow flowers contrasting with the purple-blue flowered evergreen Brunfelsia pauciflora.


Greenhouse Tools and Equipment

Good Ventilation

You need at least one roof ventilator and one side ventilator to get good air changes. The roof ventilator is the most important for allowing hot air to escape. Windows at both sides of the greenhouse can be beneficial. Louvered windows are very useful as they are easy to operate and I find hinged windows less stable in wind. Automatic ventilators are available that open the window using a plunger system. Obviously the door is a great ventilator and should be left open when temperatures reach 80 degrees or humidity is 100%. I have never needed an extractor fan but for a large greenhouse a slow moving fan can help some crops.

Temperature Control

A max/min thermometer should be suspended near to greenhouse plants at eye level on the northside of the greenhouse. Digital or traditional versions are available.

Insulation by plastic double glazing on a simple frame will help heating costs but cut down on the suns rays. Bubble wrap is another product to consider and if that cuts down on too much light it can be restricted to the north wall.

A warm greenhouse needs minimum temperatures of 55° F, a cool greenhouse may only need heating in winter to retain 45° F. Electric fan heaters are the popular choice as they also help move air around and you don’t need to move fuel around. Paraffin heaters are cheaper to buy and run but they produce water vapour that can encourage grey mould. Similar issues arise with bottled gas heaters. Piped hot water is a luxury but apart from the cost of installation there are few draw backs.

I also have an under soil electric heating cable for starting seeds and cuttings. They put heat exactly where you want it and are economic to run.

Staging and Shelving

Benches or stages are needed to be able to work at a comfortable height and increase the working area as you can use underneath. Wooden slats, mesh or solid benches are available. I use slats on a bench down the north edge of the greenhouse. A collapsible shelve allows you to grow more tomatoes when spring plants are finished.

I have an alluminium frame greenhouse and there is a neat plastic device that fits anywhere there is a bar. It allows you to string or suspend from. This cedar greenhouse from Alton looks good and shows ventilation and staging


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