Category Archives: Garden Design

Let Me Introduce You!

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I thought it was about time I showed you round our garden, so I’ve created a new page to my blog. It’s got a plan and everything! After all, I’m supposed to be able to design gardens, so I should be able to come up with a plan of my own!

If you fancy a look round, take a peek! You’ll find it at And now the plan! 🙂

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A Chocolate Pot

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It’s a wet Sunday afternoon. Nothing much can be done outside – at least with any comfort. So I’m amusing myself, playing around with some of my photos and practicing a new collage app.

Rachel de Thame, on the t.v. coverage of Chelsea Flower Show, did a series of articles, on themed plant collections, one of which was chocolate. For a bit of fun, I thought I’d create my own “Chocolate Pot”, using plants in our garden.

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Let’s start with a climber, to cover the back fence or wall. Akebia quinata, or “Chocolate vine”, is a beautiful climber, with chocolate coloured flowers, that smell of vanilla, in spring.

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Next, we need a backdrop to the border, so we have Cotinus “Grace”, with its beautiful oval, chocolate coloured leaves.

Now for the highlights of the border – the flowers.

Digitalis parviflora

Digitalis parviflora

The “Chocolate foxglove” gives us fantastic spires of chocolate coloured flowers.

Iris "Dutch Chocolate"

Iris “Dutch Chocolate”

Irises always give us stunning flowers, as well as interesting foliage the rest of the time. “Dutch Chocolate” is no exception.

Helenium "Moorheim Beauty"

Helenium “Moorheim Beauty”

We now need a flower to brighten up these chocolate tones, so I’ve introduced a “chocolate orange” element in the form of this orange daisy with chocolate centres. This daisy is a good filler providing a contrast in flower shape.

And now, to finish it all off, we need an edging.

Heuchera "Chocolate Ruffles"

Heuchera “Chocolate Ruffles”

What could be better than Heuchera “Chocolate Ruffles”! A great edging plant with evergreen, chocolate brown leaves (somewhat paler at this time of year, in this photo).

Uncinia rubra

Uncinia rubra

And, to provide a contrast in texture, we could do with a chocolate coloured grass, so this sedge fits the bill!

What a yummy collection for all us chocolate lovers!

As I said, this was a bit of fun, but I think it would work in practice. It would need a sunny site with free draining soil, although the sedge grass may need extra watering. Although shade lovers normally, Heucheras and this foxglove both like sunny conditions as well. The flaw, if it is one, is that the flowers don’t bloom at the same time, but the foliage should pull it all together.

Hope you like my Chocolate Pot! If you have any other suggestions for a theme, please let me know, and I’ll see what I can concoct!

Plans Afoot!

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Well, the garden at the Health Centre, is moving on.

In case any of you don’t know what I’m on about, at the beginning of the year I got the chance to design a Health Centre garden. It was a quadrangle of the most horrendous layout, smothered with a sort of membrane, covered in wood chips and littered with boulders. Not in the least, a pleasing view from all areas of the surgery. “Tombstone city”, as it had been dubbed, was most accurate!

On Friday, I was given some good news – and some bad! I knew my plans had already been accepted, and was waiting to hear about progress. And progress it has! The site has been cleared – done free of charge by the Estate manager, which freed up the money that would have been spent on a gardener to do the job, to be put toward the plants. So now, they have enough money in the kitty for the planting! Exciting stuff! I must now look to fulfill my promise of supplying some of the plants myself, by propagation.

As always, good news comes with bad, and this was no exception. After clearing, they realised it is weed infested – with horsetail! Help! Not one I’ve had to deal with, thankfully, and I believe it to be a bit of a nightmare (pardon the pun!) I need to do a bit of investigation. It will need to be cleared of that before any planting can go ahead.

But otherwise, it’s all exciting stuff! I might be getting my hands dirty soon. Mind you, they usually are anyway, but you get my drift!

On the subject of garden plans, my mum sent some recent photos of her garden. I had used their garden for my final assignment, on my garden design course, and they are gradually creating it a bit at a time. It is a wonderful feeling, seeing what you have visualised and put down on paper, come to fruition. They are modifying certain elements, re the more costly hard landscaping, but I am pleased with the results. So pleased, I thought I might share the current progress. Progress of, not only their garden, but also my attempts with Diptic!

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My thoughts on Chelsea

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No, this is not part of one of the Chelsea show gardens. Since I have no photos of this year’s show, this is the next best thing to introduce this post. This is my “copy-cat” Chelsea border! You see the power of Chelsea flower show?
This small stretch of my main herbaceous border, was inspired by Luciano Giubbelei’s show garden for Laurent-Perrier in 2011, which used a colour palette of pinks and bronzes, apparently reminiscent of rose champagne. This is its second year, and is filling out nicely – definitely all froth and fizz! It has all the Chelsea hallmarks – cow parsley, bronze irises, floaty thalictrums and, of course, the purple alliums!

Which leads me into this years show! As you can tell, I’m a huge fan of Luciano (I’m not name dropping, just shortening it – Giubbelei’s a nightmare to keep spelling! Sorry, Luciano!) I was drawn to his earlier gardens which I saw in magazines, and loved all the formality and straight lines – so minimalist and contemporary (though not for a plantsman!). Since he started showing at Chelsea, he has moved on from his all-green palette, and introduced flowers, which he does so well. This years garden, in my mind, was well worthy of “Best in show”. The pool, which is central to the design, is absolutely stunning. All his straight lines are still in evidence, with the steps in the pool and the adjoining rills. The planting, again in geometric blocks, really softens all the hard landscaping. And the colours are so soft and beautiful. The tree? Well, I can boast, I too have an Amelanchier! The colour scheme really moved away from the Chelsea norm. I loved the creamy whites and yellows, with only a hint of blue, for depth and contrast. And it was good to see lupins make such a statement, after years of obscurity.

Which brings me on to my next view – that of the planting. I’m sure you’ll agree that there are always trends in Chelsea planting. One year it’s the strong shapes of purple alliums everywhere, the next it’s frothy cow parsley. I always believed that the designers were trying to “steer” gardening fashion. However, this year I have heard it mentioned, that it is more likely to be due to the limited number of plant suppliers to the show, dictating the plants available. That makes complete sense to me and could account for it.

I also liked Cleve West’s M & G garden. I loved the modern take on the Paradise gardens of old, all offset by the adjacent wilder planting – the concept of a paradise from the wilderness.

The Daily Telegraph garden was my other favourite, but it seemed to have mixed reports. Some saw it as too perfect and pristine, others saw it as too corporate. I was drawn to it, again, by its formality and straight lines. But the overwhelming factor that hit me, that seems to have produced little comment, was to see a lawn as the centrepiece of the garden for the first time in yonks! Ok, I agree that it was so pristine, that it would not stay like that for 5 minutes in the real world, and it would be high maintenance in this day and age. But didn’t it look wonderful? Although the garden is a very contemporary style, it’s also a very traditional layout. A central lawn, surrounded by borders, and a shaded patio area, complete with seating, water feature and potted plants. I can easily imagine it being a family garden, with a few daisies thrown in. And the box “cushions” at the corners were just so tactile! I found the whole garden very comfortable and usable – though I may be alone in thinking that!

The gardens again, were totally inspirational. It was lovely too, to see the flush of new, young designers this year. Didn’t they do extremely well? Matt Keightly’s garden, “Hope on the Horizon” was beautiful, with its hard granite cubes among soft planting. No surprise it was the “People’s Choice”!

And I want to finish with a few “buzz” words to some up this years trends – blue, plum, lupins. Oh, and if I hear the phrase “push the boundaries” again, before next May, you may well hear me scream!

My cunning plan – An apology!

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It has just come to me, that I didn’t post the Picture Plant List that I created for the plan. (This was intended to give the Commitee some idea of the plants I was considering). After all, this is, most likely, the bit that interests us all. So I must put that right!

The suggested plants don’t all appear in the final plant list, partly due to availability, and partly, how the planting plan developed. Most notably, I couldn’t fit the Perovskia into the planting plan. And this is just a sample – a taster, if you like! Many more plants were added to the final list.

Hope you enjoy!

My cunning plan – The story so far!

Mood Board

Mood Board

I have been busy working on a voluntary project, to design a garden for a local Health Centre. From these “Before” pictures, you can see what I have had to contend with! “Tombstone City” is how the Chairman of the Patient Commitee introduced it!

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If you read my first post on the project, you will know the ideas I was playing with – A “Healing Garden”, with medicinal herbs and plants, A “Memory Garden” with roses and plants donated in memory of loved ones, and a “Serene Garden”, designed as a calm, relaxing space. I opted for the latter.

As you can imagine, drawing up the initial base plan was somewhat on the tricky side – an intricate design to say the least! Lack of funds meant the layout had to stay. My brief was to design the planting for the area. Yes, you are right! Not only is it an uninspiring area of bark-covered membrane, it is also littered with dead tree stumps and drainage covers! I was worried I had volunteered too quickly! You can imagine my relief when I was told they were to employ a gardener to clear the area. As if the clean-up op wasn’t daunting enough, there is no direct outdoor access. It all would have to be removed through the building. (The garden is situated in an internal quadrangle.)

On to my task! I planned to solve the drain cover problem, by incorporating them into a path of stepping stones through Prairie-style planting, to disguise them to some extent. All the boulders would be recycled and employed in the new scheme.

I would use lots of grasses, for their calming movement and sound. Scent would also be an important feature. The colour scheme I chose was to be white, for its cool, calming effect, and yellow, as it is cheerful and uplifting. The second photo shows a perfect spot for a seating area – sheltered, backed by a brick wall, and in full sun. This would be the white, scented garden, with roses and lavender, backed by the beautiful, white climber Trachelospermum. Oh, and, of course, a bench! The main bed in first photo was to have the prairie planting of grasses and mainly yellow flowers, with hints of blue/purple for contrast and depth. The smaller beds would have mass planting of grasses. All chosen to grow easily, with the minimum of maintenance.

With my ideas formed, it was time to put pencil to paper.

First, was to create a Mood Board, to try to convey to the Commitee, the essence of the garden, which is what you see at the top of this post. I did with it a written outline of what I planned, along with a picture Plant List, to give some idea of the planting I was considering.

So then came the main Outline plan.

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Once happy with that, I moved on to the Planting plan, complete with plant list, plant availability, costings, (which incidentally, was on target!) and, to round it off, a care plan. I added into this the possible next step, of adding bulbs to the scheme in autumn, suggesting that these could be donated by staff/ patients, with the aim of encouraging their participation in the garden.

This has all now been submitted. The next Commitee meeting is at the start of May, so now it’s the waiting game!

I have a cunning plan!

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Or at least I hope I will!

I have been asked to create a design for a Health Centre garden – an unpaid venture, but I’m excited nonetheless, as it’s my first, apart from family and friends.

The chairman of the Patient Group for the surgery met me yesterday, to introduce me to the garden. Her way of describing it in advance, was “Tombstone City” and when we arrived, I could see why! It was an internal, open quadrangle, with the strangest arrangement of geometric shaped beds – all wooden edged, with woodchip covered membrane studded with boulders. Hers was a good description! It came complete with drain covers and old tree stumps, and only one poor plant, which I identified as a hydrangea, was struggling to survive.

It would have been a nightmare, trying to measure the beds accurately. Fortunately, the paved pathways – basic and past their past – were a regular 2×2 ft so provided a simpler method of measuring up.

I had an easy ride in a way. As there was little in the way of funding available, due to the money having to be raised, the basic structure had to stay. My task was to provide a planting plan. I had arrived armed with several ideas.

My first idea was “An Apothecary’s Garden – the healing power of plants” showing the wonderful array of plants that can have medicinal properties. It was to be centred around several “Apothecaries Roses” – the very old rose, Rosa gallica officinalis with beautiful, crimson pink, highly scented flowers, followed by rosehips, if not deadheaded. It was to include many flowers with medicinal properties – Digitalis, Vinca, Echinacea to name a few, – along with some of our more familiar garden herbs. I even envisaged designing an information leaflet to go with it, naming the plants, and describing their medicinal properties, to be available if anyone wanted more info.

Another, was a “Memory garden”, possibly a rose garden, with plants donated in memory of a loved one. Maybe though, too down beat, so I dismissed that one. I was looking for something more uplifting, more positive and hopeful.

My third idea, and the one I favoured, was a “Serene Garden” – a space full of tranquility and calm. I wanted to use lots of grasses for their properties of soothing sound, mixed with lots of “prairie-style” plants, in soothing, but uplifting and cheerful colours of white and yellow, with possibly a hint of blue to give depth to the planting. My colleague fortunately liked the idea of that as well. A garden to soothe both the sick and worried patients as well as the overworked and stressed staff!

The aspect of the garden revealed a lovely sun-trap, in a sheltered position. I asked if the budget could stretch to a bench, which I thought would be ideal there and was pleased to hear that would be possible. I want that area to be filled with lots of scented plants, including climbers (Jasmine? Trachelospermum possibly?) against the brick wall.

I finished off my measuring up, and was then shown around the surgery and introduced to the Practice Manager, who seemed very nice and approachable (good for the many visits I may have to make!) and who seemed pleased and excited by what we were planning to do.

So home I went, with all the cogs whirring away in my head. I’m surprised you didn’t smell the smoke! And now to (rather nervously!) put pencil to paper.

I will keep you all up to date with my progress and, hopefully, before and after piccies. Wish me luck!