Archive | Garden Design

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

Garden Seats to view Cyclamen

The 18th century Union Jack Gardens at Wentworth Castle were originally called the ‘wilderness’. It was dense with shapes, texture and contrasts of shade and light. Now it may be a suitable place to take a seat in the garden and see the original Yew trees and the variegated ‘creamed’ Hollies.


Wentworth Castle starts with an invitation to take a seat while you admire the unusual grounds. The seats are unusual too!


The living plants are less unusual but in the stumpery there are shaped tree roots riven from the soil and replanted upside down. This fails to affect the well mulched cyclamen growing from what must be substantial corms.


Gardeners can be a hardy lot but you need a hard bottom for this type of seating.


More traditional cast iron seat. Why do we paint them and other garden items in Wedgewood Blue?


Cyclamen mulch is made from coarse wood and bark chippings

In the last year the renovated garden originally designed in 1707 was forced to close. The Yorkshire Post reports ‘Talks are underway to secure the future of the only Grade I-listed landscape in South Yorkshire, which is said to be “nationally significant” for its extensive monuments including some of the earliest follies in the country. In an irony which would not have been lost on its founder Thomas Wentworth, who only built the estate due to a bitter dispute over the inheritance of the family seat at Wentworth Woodhouse …’ Sadly there has been no progress and I have to rely on my old photographs.

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Raised Beds

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Cottage Garden and Annuals Triptych

This is a series of 3 photographs of my favourite cottage garden on Main Street Menston. Late summer each year will see me leaning over the Yorkshire stone wall to admire the ‘gaudy’ collection of flowers that create one enormous display.

Design Features

  • The hard landscape is suitably constrained and smacks of belonging to a true plantsman or plantswoman. The red brick from the family home and a small section of slatted paneling limits the borders of this front garden.
  • The garden barely needs to borrow from the surrounding landscape but the old grey Yorkshire stone walls add a timelessness to a short lived period of glory from the plants.
  • Like my garden this garden suffers from a drain cover in an inconvenient spot but it is as disguised as practical with the wooden hooped barrel used as a plant pot. (How else can they get more flowers on show?)
  • The central bed is designed as a lozenge rather than a more normal oval or circle. It works well and allows the gardener access from all 4 sides.

Flowers on Display

  • The main feature is not of structural plants or herbaceous perennials but the selection of  bright cheerful annuals.
  • Wispy Cosmos and Nicotiana edge over the roadside wall on which I lean to take these three photographs.
  • Good strong yellow flowers predominate and link the whole composition together. I particularly like the Tagetes, Marigolds and Rudbeckia .
  • It would be churlish to mention the grass which is in fair condition towards the end of summer.
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Large Scale Water Features

Moon pond water feature with pheasant – early spring at Studley Royal Ripon

Probably a bridge over a thousand years old at Fountains Abbey Nr Ripon. The Snowdrops set off another far older water feature with a bridge that was destroyed in the reformation in the 16th century. The snowdrops are probably related to the first known cultivation in 1597.

Posidon or ‘Neptune’ by Oliver Andrews standing in the middle of the Moon Pond after the restoration of the 18th century pond that had fallen into disrepair.

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My Ground Cover Ideas

Ground cover plants are designed to do what they say in the title. They can cover the ground by design, happy accident or conscious neglect.

Creeping Jenny

Benefits of Ground Cover

  1. Treasure the ground cover plants that clothe the soil and rocks with leaves or stems preventing wasteful moisture loss.
  2. Ground cover reduces weed seed germination as the seed can’t reach the soil. Any weeds that do grow will likely be smothered or hidden from view.
  3. Most ground cover will flower and even foliage only plants are more aesthetically pleasing than bare or patchy ground.
  4. Ground cover is useful on hard to access land such as scree or steep slopes.
  5. Ground cover may creep or mound but most will grow lower than one feet high and be ornamental.
  6. They are easy to maintain with an occasional clipping after flowering or an edging trim to keep them in control.
  7. Ground cover can support wild life and help create a special habitat.

Hart’s tongue fern Asplenium scolopendrium

Selected Ground Cover Plant Species

    1. Ajuga reptans like plenty of water to produce purple-green leaves and spring flowers of blue spikes.
    2. Erigeron karvinskianus has small white flowers like lawn daisies. A copious self seeder.
    3. Lysimachia nummularia also called creeping jenny for reasons you will discover as it moves around your garden. In summer it has numerous smal,l yellow flowers.
    4. Sedum acre or Stone crop is a popular low growing succulent for ground cover.
    5. Stachys byzantina has grey wooly leaves on 6″ high stems. They look like Lamb’s ears hence the common name.
    6. Often excluded from ground cover plant list is lawn grass. I guess meadow achieves a similar purpose.

Saxifraga

Happy Accidents

Many times a garden will develop its own style with a series of what I call ‘happy accidents’. Looking at ground cover I would include the semi-evergreen strawberry with its habit of forming runners in my list of accidents. Other ground hugging evergreen plants include a range of recumbent or prostrate dwarf conifers such as Juniper horizontalis or Juniper squamata blue carpet.

Whilstnot planted as ground cover I notice saxifrage, Euonymus, Bergenia and even clumpy Dianthus are all fulfilling the cover role. The special evergreens have the edge over plants that loose there leaves in winter but I have some great covering clumps of cyclamen at the moment. Ivy, I would not consider a happy accident more a gardening disaster.

Pink Flowered Strawberry Lipstick

Conditions for Good Ground Cover

  1. There are plants for most circumstances and conditions. Problem areas of poor soil and poor access are often the drivers of the decision to plant ground cover.
  2. Heaths and heathers are good for soils with acidic ph and will cope with a comparatively low top soil on top of stone or rubble. Some ferns may be suitable in these conditions.
  3. Flowering ground cover generally appreciate full or partial sun with a soil that retains some moisture.
  4. Damp conditions offer there own challenges and plants from the primula, iris, polygonum or marsh marigold families may suit.
  5. Once the ground is virtually covered you may not want lush growth and for that a reason I do not apply extra fertiliser as it is not required.
  6. Delineate the boundary of the ground cover to give a smart appearance.
  7. If you are happy with an informal aspect allow several varieties to inter-mingle.

Book Cover

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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.

Continue Reading →

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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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