Archive | Garden Design

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

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.


Zen of Holland Park Japanese Garden

Holland Park has some Zen like features but fails my Zen test. The classic elements of a successful Zen are stone, sand or gravel, water, plants and space. Then there is a question of balance between yin and yang. Cramped or cluttered gardens inhibit the flow of spirit so space is potentially the key ingredient of a Zen garden.

Stone is a solid yang element to be contrasted to the yin of raked gravel and or water. Stones have personality and should be placed carefully. Plants are not intended to be functional but are integral to the yang of design. Dry gardens replace water with gravel sometimes with stepping stones inset

In Holland Park London not far from Notting Hill is a peaceful Japanese garden. There are numerous features that can inspire your own plans although I draw the line at bringing in a dozen Peacocks to my plot.

Kyoto beach London

One feature I took note of was the beach effect for this pond. It allows birds and invertebrates easy access to the waters edge. Being in the process of installing another pond in my own garden I have built in a beach not dissimilar to this. I bought some butyl line with shingle already attached and shaped it to run down into a preformed pond.
Continue Reading →


Taoist Gardens of the Immortal

Chinese Taoists or Daoists sought to recreate the vision of immortals who they believe live in the Mystic Isles. This perfect land was envisaged as a route to eternal life.
Taoism is a religion of nature where everything has its own spirit and deities reside in natural objects. So Taoists gardens reflect landscapes and gardens that are ‘works of nature’.

Components of a Taoist Garden

  • Water is the core focus of these gardens. A central pool and or a stream and waterfall  provide a focal point.
  • Pools should be a natural shape without straight edges or hard lines.
  • Mountains are featured from rocks often one large rock. Each rock is carefully place to optimise its own spirit. Pitted stones and those worn with age are prized for use in grottoes.
  • Buildings are important as a place to view nature from the best angle. Generally the buildings are clean simple or rustic structures. Imperial gardens were, not surprisingly, elaborate structures.
  • Types of building and structures include verandas, pavilions, gazebos, covered walks, dry boats to extend over water and of course bridges.
  • Borrowed views created by windows and pruning emphasis near and distant views.
  • Contrast is key to providing good feng shui.

Objectives of a Taoist Garden

  • Tao intention is to be the way the path or the road to truth.
  • The ‘simple path’ to return to to the simplicity and naturalness  of the inner pulse of the Tao.
  • The pools often contain Koi to help harmonise the mind to be at peace.
  • If contemplating your own Taoist garden keep it as simple as practical and use nature in its basic and simplest forms.

Kyoto beach London

Flowers and Plants are not Crucial

  • Flora are chosen for shape and scent rather than colour. Plum or cherry trees for blossom and pine trees for height.
  • Plants are used in symbolism. Peach trees represent immortality. Chrysanthemum long life and contemplation. Magnolia beauty and gentleness. Water lily truth and purity and bamboo represents the steps to enlightenment.




Islamic Gardens of Paradise

The seeds of Islamic gardens grew from Persian gardens that were created to be oasis in the desert. Islam spread the sphere of influence to India, Turkey, and Spain from the Taj Mahal to Alhambra.

Key Design Elements

  • The objectives were to create a haven of order amongst chaos.
  • A place to relax and understand the universe.
  • Based on the significance of four items most of the designs are quadripartile.
  • The four key elements include a boundary or enclosure generally of trees. Water channels dividing into 4 parts. A Gazebo or platform for poets to contemplate. Trees and flowers as a fourth element.
  • To readers of the Koran, paradise is a land of rivers running with ‘milk, honey, wine and water.’
  • In the Mogul gardens of India, Persian roses were one of the most sought after flowers

Moorish Gardens of Spain

  • After conquering parts of southern Spain the Arabs brought their distinctive style of gardening. One of the most famous is the Moorish gardens at Alhambra.
  • The entrances to Persian gardens often incorporated highly decorated buildings symbolising the gateway to paradise.
  • Buildings and gardens were often integrated into one experience.

Considerations for Your Garden

  • What symbolisation do you wish to convey. Plan accordingly.
  • It is quite acceptable to incorporate other gardening styles. Some Asian gardens adapted various Hindu influences and European influences may be dictated by growing conditions.
  • Think of a Persian carpet with neat squares combining into the garden space available.

Absence of War or Peace Gardens

Peace is not just the absence of war it can be a reflection of a personal inner tranquility. To many gardeners peace may be a state of harmony with nature. It is a theme of several ‘hard landscape’ projects and sculptural works as shown by the selection of Peace gardens below.

The World Peace Garden Network
You can join this consciousness–raising network of gardens simply by declaring that your own garden, patio, balcony, or subject to appropriate approvals your local public park or garden be made into a World Peace Garden  Bristol Communal Gardens Group & Clifton Gardens Society was designated a World Peace Garden in 2001.

20th Anniversary of Gardens for Peace
This organisation seeks to designate and develop the garden as a place for meditation and a symbol for peace throughout the world. Stron in the USA there is scope to nominate a UK garden via the link above.

The Sheffield Peace Gardens
Are part of Sheffield’s Heart of the City project, a project that has been connected with the City’s economic and cultural regeneration since it began in 1998. Originally a temporary garden within the church walls named St Paul’s Gardens. However the name changed to the Peace Gardens after WWII and a desire for a return to peacetime.The gardens occupy an area of 0.67 hectares with sculptures and fountains.
The Peace Gardens form the central part of a spectacular walk, the emerging Gold Route, taking visitors from Sheffield Railway Station through a series of exciting new developments each with their own distinctive lighting, public art and water features. More information about the Peace Gardens’ History.

St Thomas’ Peace Garden
This is an example of a small public park in Birmingham  designated as a monument to peace and a memorial to all those killed in armed conflict.

The International Peace Garden
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. It was dedicated in 1932 and devoted to World Peace.

Gardeners Tips Peace Gardens.

Find your own Peace in a garden or let us know about other ‘Peace Gardens’ you have visited.

Many hospitals believe in the healing power of nature and the serenity it can provide.

An old cemetery in the heart of Barnsley has develop it into a cleaner, safer environment for the local community.

A guide on how to create a Peace garden from the International Catholic Movement for Peace



Monastic and Medieval Christian Gardens

Romans were were enthusiastic gardeners (not just for the grapes) but when the empire fell gardening collapsed. Then in around the 9th century AD the gardening skills were revived and every town was encouraged to grow herbs, fruit and nut trees.
The formal gardens of the middle ages had an atmosphere of tranquillity rarely equaled and were thought of as  ‘Heaven on Earth’.

Features of a Christian Garden

  • With many features in common with Islamic gardens the Christian monks took inspiration from a revived interest in gardens.
  • Boundaries and square structures were the most common with stone walls used in castles and cloisters.  Hedges, wattle fences, palisades, trellis and ditches were also used as boundaries by the less well to do. The effort was made to make them safe as they were a place of retreat and protection from evil.
  • Simple paths were used to divide up a rectangular space.
  • A medieval garden could be a microcosm of paradise and seen as ‘a recreation of good things’.
  • Raised beds of simple geometric shapes accentuated the impression of symbolically clean lines and at the same time helped drainage for herbs.
  • Covered walkways and arbors created enclosed spaces within the already enclosed space of the garden.
  • Seating was important to facilitate contemplation and prayer.

Monastic gardens

Generally monastic gardens consisted of  several different types of gardens for different and specific purposes. A monastery would typically have a physic garden, plus a secluded garden for contemplation and meditation. There would also be community facilities for separate vegetable and fruit gardens, orchard or cemetery gardens, as well as fishponds and dovecotes.

As recorded on the behalf of St Hildegard Germany’s greatest mystic and God’s companion  ‘The medieval garden, as with any garden, is a work of love. Gardens are instruments of healing, a means to provide sustenance and health, and reminders of our connectivity with the natural world.



The Tea Garden and Tea House

Modern tea gardens may seem to be a contradiction but since the 15th century the wabi tea ceremony has influenced the tea gardens purpose and design. Originally when tea plants (Camellia sensi) were introduced into Japan from China in the 6th century they were the prerogative of the ruling classes and used expensive ingredients and equipment.

The  subsequent simplification was started by Zen monk Shuko Murata. It led to the tea-room’s interior being reduced in space to the bare minimum needed for the contemplation of the relationship between people and things.

Tea House Tatton Park

Key Features of a Zen Tea House

  • As a location for the tea ceremony the core attribute is providing a support for humility. ‘We can’t focus on what is important if our egos get in the way’. Thus the entrance to a tea house is generally so low that you must crawl to pass through it.
  • The tea house should provide the best views for meditation.
  • The objective is to create a hut that emphasises the rustic and humble.
  • The approach to the tea house is through the tea garden. To sharpen the mind and senses the path should consist of a series of detailed views.
  • Stepping stones help to slow your pace  to a speed suitable for meditation and contemplation.
  • Outside the door of the tea room is a stone basin to wash your hands and mouth before the tea ceremony begins.
  • There should be a light or lantern to guide you in the dark.


Other Quotes about the Tea Ceremony

  • “Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage.” –Katkuzo Okakura
  • “The Way of Tea cannot be taught in any book…It is a state of mind. Tea is a living
    tradition.” –Professor Kimiko Gunji,
  • “Holding a bowl of tea whisked to a fine froth…
    Such a simple thing: yet filled with a spirit that
    Reaches back more than a thousand years.”–The Urasenke Tradition of Tea
  • ‘Show them who wait
    Only for flowers
    There in the mountain villages:
    Grass peeks through the snow,
    And with it, spring.’ Fujiwara no letaka

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