Archive for the ‘garden design’ Category

What does your garden say about you?

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Last week I was shown around a friend’s garden, it was a long garden in a country setting, narrower at the house end (but not too narrow) and a little wider at the far end. The borders were deep and defined by a meandering grass path, sometimes wide, sometimes narrow – a bit like the course of a lazy river. I see a lot of gardens and this was refreshing, it felt peaceful and private, there were several benches and a lovely carved log bird bath which apparently a small frog occasionally visits!

The beds were mostly weed free but there were pockets of bindweed and ground elder – my friend’s attitude is relaxed with regards to these, she deals with them as and when. This is also her approach to the garden as a whole, she looks after the grass path but doesn’t become a slave to the borders. This fine balance of gardening and enjoying the garden is something I think most people fail to achieve, myself included. Wonderfully refreshing, thank you Ann.

Pub garden

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

Last autumn I designed a pub garden, the brief changed many times as did the budget, eventually I only worked on the concept and planting.  I planted in April this year, in fact the budget was so tight I even raised  a lot of the plants myself.  Yesterday I was passing by and was delighted to see how established the planting is  looking, it struck me that the strong organic shape of the paths had a hint of Oudolf Meadow about them  (Piet Oudolf’s new garden at Hauser and Wirth near Bruton)!

Wildlife garden progressing well – Devon

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

One year on in the build, two years on in the design and we are almost ready for planting.  The garden has been levelled, using low retaining stone walls, into 4 separate gardens based on the original slope of site.  A rill garden, a canal and an upper pool garden will all be enclosed with yew hedging this autumn.  The majestic kitchen garden lime mortar walls are almost finished.  There are many beautiful details in the stonework in this garden and a huge boulder serves as a stepping stone through the canal via the central axis path.

This is a wildlife garden designed for low maintenance and low impact on the environment.  The canal already attracts swallows, they create stunning acrobatic displays as they swoop down and drink from the canal.  All the pools have egress points for the creatures it may attract.  The kitchen garden walls have nesting holes built into them, all the other walls have recessed pointing to encourage plants to grow in them and to offer shelter to small creatures.  Lime mortar  is used throughout.  Lawns will be planted with daisy and Prunella and cut less frequently than most lawns.  There will be trees and hedges which are beneficial to wildlife on so many different levels and borders will be planted with plants providing a long season  pollen and nectar.

Months of hard work have gone into this garden already by an excellent team of builders.  The design of the garden is the result of a partnership between myself and my client – a very exciting project.

Building the garden – Devon

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

This garden is progressing well after the wet weather halted work between December and February.

Early stages of the rill garden in October 2013

The rill garden in May 2014 awaits the custom welded liner.  Steel edged beds will be planted with pleached Malus.

Water 2 – the eye of the landscape

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

Water is the eye of the landscape” this is what my lecturer Peter Thoday used to tell us. Reservoirs, lakes, rivers, the sea and even our small garden ponds; they never fail to demand our attention, their magical surfaces reflecting the moods of the weather and the shifting shadows of the surrounding landscape. Up close we are drawn to peer into the depths or maybe indulge in a bit of wild swimming.

This medium, the source of life on our blue planet, can be manipulated endlessly to create sound, habitat, irrigation, etc… and the garden at Shute House ( Donhead St Mary, near Shaftesbury) illustrates this rather well.

It was at Shute House that I found myself on a winding path through a lush grove of Camelia and Prunus laurocerassus which opened onto a deep circular pool, squeezing me and the path up against the overhanging greenery. The crystal water was deep with hints of turquoise as it disappeared from view.

In the 1960′s, garden designer, Geoffrey Jellicoe used the water from this spring fed pool, weaving it around the modest sized garden in the form of pools, canals, musical waterfalls and rills before releasing it out of the garden through two more pools in the water meadow below and eventually into the river Nadder at the bottom of the valley. An ingenious use of a natural water source in a hillside garden and described by many as Jellicoe’s ‘masterpiece’.

Be inspired! Water in the garden does not have to rely on a natural spring or stream, nor on a pumped system from the mains tap.  It falls freely from the sky, can be captured and used in our gardens creatively.  Nigel Dunnett, of Sheffield University, designs with rainwater to create  “rain gardens”, magical!

Garden under construction – Devon

Friday, December 6th, 2013

The recent spell of dry weather has allowed Dave and his team to make good progress on this exciting project.  It is a year since I started work on the plans, now plants have been lifted, the site cleared, top soil and subsoil relocated into neat mounds nearby, all the marking out is done plus some of the leveling, the concrete foundations for the rill, pools, canal and upper pool are in, the topiary and pleached hedges  have been chosen…. 

During my site visit earlier this week a JCB gently hummed away as it excavated trenches for new yew hedges, blocks were being laid for the rills closeby and lazer levels beeped at all corners of the gardens ensuring the design is implemented to +/- 3mm precision.


Glorious summer borders, Shepton Mallet

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Bright colours, exciting shapes and textures looking good in the sunshine.  Planted 18 months ago, these beds are laid out in a grid of beds which act as an informal division between a small orchard and vegetable garden.  The beds provide a long season of colour and interest from spring right through into the winter months.


Garden sculpture

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

My garden sculptures in client’s garden.  The sculptures have been in situ for 3 years now, they are set at the front of the client’s home and are lit at night from within.

Universityof Bath landscape

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Clipped, undulating and densely planted with trees, the size of a village and the population of a town, this is the University of Bath campus today.  A man made landscape that I still recognise 30 years on although the infrastructure has morphed and grown as numbers of students have quadrupled.

I fleetingly wish I had taken photographs 30 years ago to compare with today but 30 years growth doesn’t make that much difference visually in a landscape where trees are the dominant component.  Here trees are packed into small courtyards, they clothe buildings, they spring up through the main campus concourse from a lower ground level, they provide cool shade in the summer, filter the blustery wind of this elevated site, they help to reduce energy loss from buildings, provide wildlife habitat, they breath out oxygen and their roots hold the soil together where JCBs have been at work.

The trees on this campus, are mostly native species, they link with the landscape beyond, serve to enhance views from buildings and also reduce the impact of the buildings when viewed from the wider landscape.  There is even a section of woodland that has survived from before the university was conceived.  Large rocks, indicative of the geology of the site, are used sculpturally throughout the campus to create focal points, retaining walls and impromptu seating.

Originally the campus was designed as a cluster of academic teaching blocks and study bedrooms around a central concourse which separated pedestrians from vehicles.  The cluster of buildings, known as the ‘mega structure’, provided shelter from the exposed down land hill top and was designed to be approached from the south through the man made ‘parkland’ landscape.  50 years on, buildings have expanded in all directions creating a central ‘parkland area’ to the campus with woodland fingers reaching in from the perimeter.  

Tough, reliable, functional, easy to maintain although relatively unexciting shrubs such as Berberis, Lonicera pileata, Symphoricarpus, Cornus, Pyracantha, Hedera and Prunus ‘Otto Luyken’ are clipped into hedges and mounds to define areas, provide ground cover under trees, line roads and paths…  Swaths of spring bulbs bring the contoured mounds to life in spring whilst some of the newer landscaped areas use plants which reflect modern trends (e.g. grasses) and the campus holds the National Collection of Taxus which was laid out in the central parkland area about 30 years ago by Bill Bowen.    However there is one bed which, to my mind stands out as rather out of place or dated, it is a bed of winter flowering heathers close to the lake.  I am assuming this bed is a nod to the early days particularly as it is along the original path leading up to the main concourse from the south.


What I like about this campus is that the essence of the central parkland area has remained unchanged, which is important for returning alumni.  I like the density of tree planting, the use of rocks, the great swaths of bulbs and the mounds at the eastern end of the campus.   

The mounds add height, obscure views, create bunds to slow water flow thus helping to avoid flooding and to allow natural seepage into underground water systems, in my mind they create intrigue and interest by blurring sightlines.  It must be said however that blurring sightlines isn’t always desired in a public landscape as it calls for reliance on adequate and accurate signage which can in turn detract from the landscape.

The future

This is a dynamic landscape and as such one mustn’t get too sentimental, for example when I visited recently I saw that approximately 200 trees had been felled, long rows of stumps in a large car park which has been earmarked for new accommodation.

The plans for the future of the campus are laid out in a comprehensive master plan document (see below) which makes interesting reading.  It emphasises that the parkland campus is a great asset to the university, providing cycle routes and a network of paths for recreational use, there is even a map showing ‘lunchtime walks’.


Garden design in Somerset

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

The winter months are a perfect time to plan a garden. During the last 4 months I have spent many days at my drawing board whilst the rain beat against the window and the gardens across Somerset lay water logged.  I have of course on occasion got wet; site visits, rain coats and muddy boots are a part of the job however it is best to keep off wet soil (as its delicate soil structure is easily damaged) so having a desk full of projects was perfect. 

Recent projects include a wonderful large private garden in Devon, a corporate design and build around a new health centre and three small private gardens in the Blagdon and Wells areas. 

I love the early stages of the design process, working to the brief whilst setting my imagination free, experimenting with ideas, shapes and form to produce a series of concepts for each client.  Working up the concept sketches into final  drawings is more detailed work, slower, more intense but most satisfying.  Of the above projects, one is complete (built, planted and growing), 2 are in progress (sites cleared, levelled, water features being installed) and 2 are waiting for the landscapers to begin work.

Now that we have had a couple of dry weeks, I am torn between my drawing board and my own garden.  At least the days are now getting longer so I will be able to snatch the odd hour here and there and be able to keep everyone happy!