Tag Archives: Garden design

The Green Guru and The Potted Garden

I don’t know if anyone has found my other blog, The Green Guru. It’s more about my business projects and hints and tips, and less about me and my own garden exploits.

A young family friend is embarking on her first garden, which is steep (it’s in Bristol) and largely decked, so she has asked me for recommendations for creating a garden in containers. Well, it’s a huge topic, dependent on so many factors, most importantly personal taste, and not easy to cover in one text. So I’m using this blog to try to give her some ideas to get started, and to encourage them to create a garden that they all can enjoy.

If this would interest you, I’d love you to have a look! The link is on my page, The Green Guru, above.

I hope you like it!

Plans Afoot!


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!


My thoughts on Chelsea


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!

All Aboard for Malvern!


At last, it’s time for Malvern Spring Show, or Festival, as they have now re-named it! One of the highlights of our year!
I say “all aboard” as it is an easy train journey for us and so that frees us up to sample some of the other delights of the show. We both love visiting all the show gardens, but when it comes to the floral marquee, “Mr. Chef” loses interest. So he heads off to the Food and Drink hall, which is more his “cup of tea”. Although it’s not tea he’s seeking out! They do have exhibitors of local beers and ciders. And it would be so rude not to keep him company!

But first things, first – the show gardens!
There were 9 show gardens (fewer than in previous years, as we recall), 4 festival gardens and many lovely little school gardens. This is where our future gardeners and designers lie.

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This was the “At Home on the Beach” garden by Villaggio Verde, the olive specialists. Yes, as you can tell by the grey skies, we have not been whisked abroad. This garden was the winner of “Best in Show” and it was easy to see why. The attention to detail was incredible – so much so, that the beach hut was actually selling paella! All it needed was a bit of sun and blue sky, and you could think you’d been instantly transported!


Now, this was another of my favourites. The next best thing to being transported abroad, by the previous garden. Named “A Fruity Story” it showed how a productive garden, complete with fruit, herbs, and salad crops, could still be a relaxing and entertaining area. I loved the intimacy of this sunken seating area, complete with pizza oven (which I’ve more than dropped hints about, I’ve made a direct request for! One can dream!) and comfy cushions. I would certainly love to have this in our garden!


This was the “Blush” garden, designed as an urban retreat, for relaxation, with a soothing colour palette of brown, pinks, and purples. I’m interested in your opinions! I know mine! While it was a very well designed and imaginative garden, and the planting was sumptuous, it was too pink for me! Pink in the garden looks best in the flowers! But it definitely made you notice!

By now, it was time for refreshments, so off to the Food and Drink hall. Once fed and watered, our shopping began. What epicurean delights were there! Our bags were full of sausages, smoked and marinaded meats, Welsh Oggies(which we’d never sampled before – a cross between a Cornish pasty and a Forfar bridie!) and to round it all off, chocolate flavoured with botanicals, such as violet flowers and orange peel with chilli!

At last it was my turn, and back to the Floral Marquee for a serious foray. Of course, I left with some new gems! Goes without saying!

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I came back with Viola “Molly Sanderson”, a beautiful black one, for my cottage border, another Stipa gigantea, and a new one to me, Silene dioica, “Firefly”, a double form of the wild red campion, with beautiful magenta pink flowers. Should look wonderful in among grasses. And it was much admired, on the way home. Boy were we tired, but happy!

Now, this weekend will see these planted, and I have a new “toy” to play with too – show you later! And there’s Chelsea next week to look forward to (on telly – I’m not going!) And sunshine too! I intend to make the most of it! 🙂

Enjoy your hopefully, sunny weekends!

My cunning plan – An apology!


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!



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.


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!


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!