Living Wall

I’m sometimes asked about the viability of these beautiful features, particularly as they are becoming more widely used in city centres to ’green up’ our urban spaces. The benefits are many, but how easy are they in a customers’ garden? The only way to find out was to build my own!

After much research I attended a seminar at Scotscape and bought their system, and the essential automatic irrigation was fitted by Waterwell. The plants themselves were sourced from local nurseries and the ferns came from ‘www.shadyplants.net’, an online nursery in Cork, Ireland.

A sturdy frame was attached to two posts, and the 2 x 1.5m living wall system of 140 separate plant pockets was then attached to the frame.

Before planting the irrigation was set up: without this the plants would soon dry out and die.

It was great fun to design the planting scheme, using plants suitable for an East facing, shady, protected site next to the patio doors. This will be on show all year round, so it is important that the wall looks good even in winter. My plant selection included evergreen ferns and grasses, colourful Heucheras, glossy Pachysandra, Vinca minor, purple Ajuga, and variegated Lamium.

Planting the pockets was quite fiddly and took longer than expected, and I had to use a ladder for the highest part. I used ordinary multipurpose container compost, ensuring that the pockets were fully filled so each plant had as much compost as possible. Even so, that only means 1 litre per pocket: not much growing space for plants that could grow over 50cm tall!

I am really pleased with the final result, and look forward to watching the progress of my Living Wall over the winter as the plants fill out and cover the fabric.

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September in the Rill Garden

I was delighted when the renowned garden photographer Clive Nichol came to the garden to capture images of David Harber’s ‘Volante’ sculpture.

Here are some photos by landscaper and photographer Filip Koziel, which show how the garden is developing. It’s been a challenging summer for newly planted gardens, but I think this one is settling in perfectly!

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The Rill bisects the main lawn.

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The pond with bubbling fountain attracted toads throughout the dry summer, and we had to add ‘toad ladders’ so they could get out.

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Looking back towards the spacious terrace.

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The four Obelisk beds form a backdrop for the client’s portrait photography.

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Glorious gold colours from Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ light up the late summer garden.

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Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ and golden Hakone grass light up the shady areas of the garden.

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Hibiscus ‘Bluebird’ and a few late wisteria flowers.

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Acer leaves and trellis shadows.

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Falling petal.

Box moth caterpillar

I have had several messages about this pest which devastates box plants. It has no predators and will quickly eat all the leaves on your carefully tended plants. The weather this year has produced a bumper crop of butterflies and moths, which I've welcomed into my garden. However this unwelcome moth variety appeared to produce it's caterpillars overnight, and they quickly munched their way along my box hedges and my box spheres and pyramids. 

The first image shows the difference between my affected and unaffected box plants.

I hate to use insecticides, but I have found a product that only targets Box Tree caterpillars. I thoroughly sprayed the little devils as directed, and 2 weeks later have seen no further evidence. The neighbours must think I'm very odd: peering into my little hedges on a regular basis! As soon as I see any more, I'll spray again. 

The plants should recover and already show some signs of leaf growth. I'll be watching carefully!

The Rill Garden

A year ago I was invited to see a large garden in need of a cohesive design to celebrate it's history as a vicarage. The landscaping and planting is complete, and I am waiting for the right day (and a mown lawn!) to take perfect photos. These images show the rill, with square pond and fountain, and a spectacular David Harber water sculpture. In time the yew hedge behind the sculpture will be closely clipped, wrapping around the feature.  Mixed planting of Fatsia japonica, Japanese Acers, Hydrangeas, golden grasses, spring bulbs and Digitalis (foxgloves) will form a colourful backdrop. The movement of the water is calming and slightly hypnotic, and will look very dramatic when lit at night.

A snow covered garden

It is always a pleasure to see my gardens in all seasons, and here is a recent on-going  landscaping project in Surrey. The garden still needs to be planted, but for now it looks beautiful.

Water Sculpture

The large garden ongoing project in Surrey continues, with the addition of a water sculpture by David Harber. It was fascinating to watch their installer Dan put it together; it works (phew!) and looks amazing. The rill runs from the terrace to the end of the garden, which will be replanted in spring. Now the pool fountain needs finishing, and the water levels topped up. Although it has integral lighting, we will add further garden lights to wash across the sculpture. 

The making of the 'Wow!' garden

All my gardens seem to gain a nickname. The 'Wow! garden' was named after a request from my client. She wanted a garden that had a 'Wow factor' when seen from the French windows, and the name stuck.

The 'before' images show a garden with a myriad of pots that contained beautiful Hostas, Heucheras and Roses that cried out to be planted in the borders. The brief included a generous dining terrace, a sunken lawn, a gravel seating area in the sunniest part of the garden, and increased privacy. A knowledgeable gardener, my client had a list of 'must have' plants, including Clematis, Acers, a multi-stemmed silver birch and scented trachelospermum jasminoides ( the evergreen Star jasmine), along with Hydrangea 'Limelight' and white Delphinium 'Galahad'.

In the following photos, the garden had just been planted and I really look forward to seeing it again as it matures.

With thanks to the landscapers at Garden Care Contracting. www.courtfarm.uk.com

Living Walls

I've just attended a morning hosted by Scotscape, who make and install 'Living Walls'. I am so inspired that I intend to have one in my own garden, to replace a large climbing evergreen, 'Hedera Lizei' which died this spring.

It will be a 2m square panel, which will take almost 200 assorted plants. I can't wait to try it out so I can inspire my clients to have one too: it's beneficial to insects (particularly solitary bees) and has great health benefits, soaking up CO2 and atmospheric pollution.

Succulent pot

Last weekend was too wet to be out in the garden, so I created a succulent pot to sit on my garden table. I potted up four succulent plants in a mixture of potting compost, gravel and Vermiculite to ensure sharp drainage. They hate to have wet roots. Then I dressed it with more gravel to prevent the leaves getting wet and to set off the grey-green foliage.

It can remain outside until the cold weather sets in, but then it will need frost protection until next spring. Succulents are having a 'moment' according to the gardening journals!   

A retirement bungalow, three years on.

My client forwarded these lovely photos to illustrate her little courtyard garden. Quite a contrast from what we started with three years ago! It had been a bird-free zone despite the feeders, but now she watches as they constantly visit her plants and feeders.

Looking good a year on

It's great to see this garden looking so different now that the new patio dining set has been added. I've shown 'before' photos as a contrast!

Front garden makeover

It's hard to believe this is the same garden. It was overgrown and even dangerous, with a crumbling sunken area and a tangled mess of plants. Drainage was a problem, with frequent flooding into the garage.

The brief included parking for up to three cars, but without looking like a car park. Some planting was requested, with a mixture of evergreens and ground cover.

The final design used varied surfaces, including square and narrow grey pavers, and grey slate chips that could one day be planted.  An alternative would be a large planter in the centre of the circle, perhaps with an olive tree.

The cleverly graded slope, slot drains and soakaway beneath the slate circle solved the drainage problems. The chosen plants included a Sorbus (Rowan) tree that has cream blossom, pale pink berries and firey autumn foliage, several evergreen shrubs and easily maintained ground cover. The plants will soften the hard landscaping in time, leaving plenty of room for off-street parking.

A new design for a large country garden.

It's very satisfying to finish the graphics and illustrations for a new design. There's a kitchen garden, a contemporary garden studio, a generous patio and raised seating around a fire-pit. There's a special Acer border too. The garden is divided by a formal yew hedge, which acts as the perfect backdrop for flowering borders. Although there are already mature oak trees, I've added flowering cherry and crab apple trees for spring interest.

Time to trim Hellebores.

Hellebore flowers are emerging from the ground now. It's time to cut the old leaves to the ground to allow them to show themselves to best advantage. Getting rid of old foliage also deters the fungal conditions that hellebores are prone to. Bin or burn any affected leaves that show evidence of brown streaks or spots. The plants appreciate a mulch dressing later in the year, and a spring feed is beneficial. Having said that, I find that these are among the easiest of plants to grow in a shady site, and so welcome in January. There are many new selections that are bred to face upwards, and lots of lovely shades to choose from. They take a long time to grow from seed, and do not breed true. This is why they are fairly pricey in garden centres. But it's worth buying when in flower so that you can select the best colours. I find the sumptuous dark purple strains can get lost in the garden, so plant them against a lighter backdrop. One of the best new varieties on offer is 'Anna's Red', which will find a place in my garden this year. Taking care of my hellebores is one of my favourite winter tasks, and evidence that spring is on it's way.

The Entertaining Garden

The ENTERTAINING GARDEN in Weybridge

The brief called for screening from overlooking buildings, a large patio, a further dining area, a sunbathing area and a garden room. Lighting was important as the garden to be used for entertaining in the evening.

A clean, contemporary look was achieved with porcelain paving, and raised beds planted with olives, lavender and grasses. There are black bamboos flanking the outdoor fireplace and in front of the white wall, adding texture, movement and screening. A large pergola adds privacy and is painted to match the large garden room. Horizontal trellis is an attractive backdrop to a mixture of evergreen and flowering shrubs, with plenty of ground cover perennials and spring bulbs.

Lighting is used to highlight the eating and seating areas, and adds drama to the planting when viewed from the house.

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Autumn glories.

Autumn continues to blow into my garden The leaves of Acers 'Katsura, and 'Golden Dream' look as good on the ground as they do on the shrubs, and Goosey Ghandi appears to be kicking through them on the lawn. My sculpture 'Far Horizons' wades through the golden grass Hakonechloa macra Aureola, and the sun catches the glowing reds of Acer Griseum and Bloodgood. 

Wood work

There is something warm and lovely about wood carvings. These are on display at RHS Garden Wisley. If you haven't got room for a real horse in your garden, this could be the answer. And there is a lesson in garden design here: oversize any decorative pieces that you place outside.

Summer's last hurrah

Now that we're entering a chilly autumn spell, I thought I'd post some lovely late summer garden colour. These were all looking terrific at RHS Garden Wisley just a few weeks ago. I find that late summer-flowering plants give gardens a lasting vibrancy and tend to keep looking good longer than those that flower earlier. Choose Salvias, Penstemons, Dahlias, Rudbeckias and grasses to compliment the brilliant autumn foliage of Euonymus alata and the Liquidamber tree.          CLICK ON THE IMAGES TO SCROLL SIDEWAYS