Archive | Garden Design

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

Small Spaced Kitchen Gardens

Where space is limited or very limited there are still many ways to create a productive kitchen garden.

Optimising Space for your Kitchen Garden.

  • It seems common sense to plan to use what you have available. That covers layout, sequential growing and innovation.
  • If you have a ‘general’ garden then you can interplant kitchen plants eg herbs with box hedges, colourful veg with annuals and fruit trees instead of conifers.
  • Substitute kitchen garden plants for other plants and features as they did when digging for victory.
  • I grow potatoes in old compost bags and pots on my many paths.
  • Other garden veg can be grown in pots even runner beans. Another plant I am having success with is tumbler (Cherry) tomatoes in smallish pots. The are compact easy to grow and are currently producing lots of small sweet fruit.
  • Chose plants and varieties that grow and mature quickly eg salad, radish courgettes and edible flowers.
  • Herbs can be grown in slender strawberry pots with several opening spaces.

Small Garden Fruit

  • Dwarf rooting stock has opened up the opportunity to grow and pick fruit from  small constrained trees or shrubs.
  • Trained apple, pear or currants can be grown as cordons, espalier or fans against a wall. I have also seen a gooseberry grown this way. ( Cordons are diagonal branches that are only allowed short laters, espaliers are grown with a vertical and one or two level branches forming a cross).
  • Grape vines normally need a lot of space but with rigorous training and the right location you can succeed in a small plot.
  • Soft fruit including strawberries and blue berries are ripe for pot growing.
  • I would always find space for rhubarb but that is due to my ‘pie fetish.’

Conifer Corner in Poor Shallow Soil

There are 7 or 8 different conifers in this photo from a total of 16. The whole bed is roughly rectangular 6 yards by 5 yards. It has one unusual feature in that the soil is very shallow and poor.

The Beds Origin

  • Originally the area was a tarmacked drive that was not used or needed. The answer should have been to dig it up, and almost one third of it was, but my tactical bad back intervened.
  • The solution was to buy a large lorry load of top soil and make a hump of soil that we called our rockery. The drainage from the start was excellent.
  • The depth was 1′ at the edges and may be 2′ in the middle. With a few rocks it looked like an alpine garden without the real height.
  • Alpine enthusiasm waned after several years and some dwarf conifers were planted for coverage in the now compacted and impoverished soil.
  • Little or no fertiliser has been used in 20 years but in dry summers there has been some occasional watering.
  • Despite all this the conifers survive and the prostrate spreading junipers grow year on year.
  • The rockery stones provide stepping off points.
  • Some bulbs were planted but only grape hyacinths seem to have thrived. Patio roses succumb to black spot.

As was 10 years ago at the start of the conifer plantation era.


  • Plants want to grow and will adapt to many conditions as this bed demonstrates
  • Losses have been minimal and most conifers still seem happy.
  • It remains to be seen how the roots of any shrub to be replaced will have grown through the tarmac and substrate. It may be hard to dig out but not as hard as clearing all the original tarmac in one go. The disposal of just a part was a job in it’s self.
  • The lack of soil depth has turned the taller growing conifers into partial bonsai and all the better for that.

Overhead view of the same garden bed five years earlier.


Lily Ponds Starting to Look Good

July is the season to look out for mature lilies in older ponds. There is nothing to beat the calming influence of a white lily on a pond of still water. Of course not all ponds are and remain tranquil. This smaller pond on Filey cliff tops acts as an advertising hoarding for ice cream. Who invented ice cream for dogs? It is already enough to encourage kids to splash in the pond never mind dogs.

 Waterlily Tips

  • Waterlilies need a position in full sun to flower at  their best.
  • Waterlilies need calm, still water. Warm water and light provide the best conditions.
  • Even deep varieties can’t grow when the water is more than 5 feet deep. Most varieties grow happily in 3 to 4 ft of water if allowed time to establish.
  • Waterlilies are best planted from late spring to mid-summer.

Lily Pond Tips

  • Do not allow trees to over hang a pond
  • Keep fountains and running water away from lilies as they do not like disturbance or flowing water
  • A base of natural clay and silt are the best medium into which you plant lilies
  • Read Gardeners Tips
  • Aim for a minimum two thirds water to one third water lily and you will get the best reflections.

Burnby Hall Pocklington

Burnby Hall Yorkshire (above) has two magnificent lakes holding a national collection of Water Lilies.


Massed Bands of Flowers

I think some of the best garden displays come from a mass of the same plant grouped together. I don’t often practice what I preach being a well known doter-in who squeezes plants into a small space.

These black viola Molly Sanderson’  look almost black when clumped together and the light is bright. The plants self seed and last for a few years.

Your massed plants do not need to be in the ground, a group of pots can get a vibrant display together. It is an opportunity to experiment with colour matches and variety.

Perhaps given the ‘massed bands’ title I should have shown some trumpet flowers!


Green and Red Compliment your Spring Garden


The two best complimentary colours are Red and Green.  There are many ways this is demonstrated in the spring garden and they will be sure to draw compliments. The Peonies are just opening under a bit of shelter and shade.


The early Rhododendrons escaped frost damage and the red flower is set off by the texture and green of the healthy leaves.

This flowering Quince gave strong colour before many leaves had opened light green but the surrounding grass had been trimed with neat lines in the lawn and the effect was stunning.


See also Colourful Tips for other complementary colour combinations.


These lime green leaves are complementary to the Azaleas bright vermilion.

Some of the best art work by Georgia O’Keeffe is her paintings of Red Poppies. I recommend you try growing Oriental Red Poppies the for your Red – Green garden.

See also Colourful Tips for other complementary colour combinations.


Some colour schemes should never be seen

How do you plan a colour scheme when gardening with a wide palette of colour. The answer is to use complimentary colours that are directly opposite on the colour wheel. This give a lie to the old phrase about red and green which is about dress sense rather than gardening nous.

Other colour combinations that work well include yellow and violet or deep purple and for the adventurous blue and orange.

wallpaper tulip

Continue Reading →


Design Tips for a Physic Garden

Chelsea Physic garden

The design of the Chesea Physic Garden dates back to 1673 when it replaced market gardens and orchards on the same spot alongside the Thames. Intended to be a physic garden ‘pertaining to things natural as distinct to metaphysical’ it is exceptionally practical rather than being design led.

Design Features With Appeal

  • Many excellent descriptions of plants with their practical or medicinal uses, in my view put it ahead of the RHS show gardens.
  • Rectilinear beds are arranged and labeled in botanic classification.
  • Old walls and old trees give shelter and help create a micro climate but there are also hot houses for exotic tropical plants.
  • Because the garden is not about gardening in a modern sense there are many features that need to be studied to take in the benefit from a visit to the garden. I liked the slate beds for pot plants, the variety of berries and seedheads (see below) and the statuary.

Incorporate Helpful Plants

  • Plan your garden with a good herbal or read up on plants before you select your range of subjects.
  • Consider viewing points and natural aspects of your garden.
  • A few of the plants that profit from being grown together include:
    • Marigolds and roses, aphids are lured naturally by roses, and these feed on the flowers and leaves. By planting marigolds around the roses, they will keep at bay insects.
    • Garlic, when grown in annual and perennial gardens, aids in warding off insects that feed on leaves.
    • Monarda or Bee Balm is not only an herb but also a striking flower, and this plant draws bees, and butterflies to the flower garden to assist with pollination.
    • Dahlias hold off insects and enrich the soil with nitrogen but otherwise are big drinkers and feeders. Continue Reading →

Forty Garden Types

There are as many types of garden as there are gardeners but they can be grouped into families you could also say genera, species and hybrids but that is getting picky. The two most important garden types are your garden and my garden which is a definite hybrid.

If you take issue with my selection or know I have ignored a favourite garden type then send us a comment.

 A Selection of Garden Groups or Types

  1. Peace
  2. Zen
  3. Taoist
  4. Islamic
  5. Monastic
  6. Mythical
  7. Spiritual
  8. Rain
  9. Topiary
  10. Serene
  11. Secret
  12. Inspirational
  13. National Trust
  14. International and any specific country or continent garden
  15. Romantic
  16. Unusual
  17. Memorial
  18. Italianate
  19. French
  20. Water
  21. Seasonal
  22. Climatic
  23. Landscape
  24. Rock
  25. Sunken
  26. Vegetable
  27. Cutting see also flower gardens
  28. Fruit
  29. Public
  30. Private
  31. Children’s
  32. Wild
  33. Tropical
  34. Forest
  35. Indoor
  36. Species gardens -rose, heather etc
  37. Herb
  38. Knot
  39. Botanic
  40. Healing
  41. Walled
  42. Heritage or historic
  43. Era indicative – Edwardian, Victorian, WWII etc
  44. Weather constrained – sunny, shady
  45. Dry
  46. Bog
  47. Alpine
  48. Royal

See our list of tree related areas.


Peace Gardens as Memorials

There are many gardens and monuments dedicated to Peace and they are worth seeking out when you are on your travels.


In May 1999, His Holiness the Dalai Lama opened and consecrated the Tibetan Peace Garden next to the Imperial War Museum, London, UK and it has been enhanced by Arabella Lennox-Boyd. The original contains Buddhist features including a language pillar and at its heart the Kalachakra Mandala associated with world peace. Eight meditation areas surround this main monument. Four modern Western sculptures representing Air, Fire, Earth and Water have been carefully located to the north, south east and west. If this all seems a bit too much and you just want a quiet, soothing walk, head for the inner gardens which are scented with herbs, jasmine, honeysuckle and roses. An outlying landscaped area is also great for ambling around.
There is now a circular paved space surrounded by double rows of Hornbeam Carpinus Betulus and a number of Betula ermanii and B. Utilis in numbers important to the Buddhists and the concept of peace and tranquility. 6,7,8,12,16,21,37 & 49.

The International Peace Garden dedicated in 1932 is a memorial to World Peace. It lies along the world’s longest unfortified border and encompasses a 2,339 acre Botanical Garden. Between the State of North Dakota and the Province of Manitoba this garden is a well frequented site maintained jointly by USA and Canada. There is another International Peace garden in Salt lake City Utah. Continue Reading →


Kelp Forest and Seaweed Growing

It may seem unusual to feature a subsea area in a  series about gardens but this post may provide some food for thought. The oceans and seas are still capable of surprising us with a bountiful harvest including new and exotic eating experiences.

A Kelp Forest

Kelp Facts

  • Kelp is part of the brown seaweed family phaeophyceae or laminariales. There are many different genera and species that grow in shallow, temperate saline water.
  • All Kelps are seaweeds but not all seaweeds are Kelp
  • Kelp captures and stores carbon
  • Kelp provides shelter for numerous fish species. It is also a breeding ground for juvenile sea creatures and a key part of the ecostem. The fronds or leaves sway in the temperate waters across the globe including thearound the UK.
  • The stipe or stalk stretches down to root in the seafloor anchoring the plant around rocks and boulders.
  • Iodine is present in Kelp along with many other important minerals. There is dramatically more calcium in Kelp than a similar volume of milk.

Is Kelp Good For You?

  • Kelp, produces a thickening agent used in ice cream, toothpaste and other products.
  • Some kelp species are eaten in salads and as edible decorative wrapping for sushi rice.
  • Kelp is used to produced Soda ash by burning.
  • These uses makes it a progressively more valuable commodity. Harvesting these sea-vegetables by hand sustains several coastal communities. Mechanical kelp harvesting is too intrusive, damaging of future crops and the ecosystem but it is on the increase.

Seaweeds are primitive sea plants

  •  There are at least 10,000 different species of seaweed
  • Salads can be made with Sea Lettuce or Purple Laver.
  • Laver bread is made from seaweed.
  • Agar and Carrageenan can be extracted from seaweed for use is used in the production of  paper and toothpaste.


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