Monthly Archives: February 2015

Landscape Gardener or Builder?

How some builders leave the garden!

How some builders leave the garden! OK this may be a bit extreme but you get the picture.

Picture the scene…

Mrs Jones has just had her extension completed and is sitting having coffee with a friend.  “I have to get the garden done now,” she says, “do you know any good landscape gardeners?”  “Oh no, don’t do that,” says her friend, “they’ll cost a fortune. I know a builder who will do it for half the price.”  “Well,” says Mrs Jones, “all I want is a simple patio with a wall, and a couple of steps up to the lawn.”  So she calls the builder.

Fast-forward five years.  The patio has a big puddle problem, the slabs have weathered to a dull brown, and not much grows in the flower beds.  The patio only looks good three months of the year but even then Mrs Jones doesn’t sit outside.  Things would have been so much better had she used the right person for the job.

So, why choose a landscape gardener over a builder?

These are just a few reasons:

  • Soil- it’s very complicated. There are issues with drainage, structure, and compaction. Often a builder will throw all the soil that has been dug out for the foundations into the flower beds, mixing top soil with sub soil and rubble.  Mrs Jones is then surprised when her new plants (which weren’t cheap) struggle.  In addition there are different types of soil, and each will react differently to being built upon.  Hence Mrs Jones’ patio has sunk in places – causing puddles.
  • Drainage – this covers everything from run-off water, to position of down pipes from the gutter, to drainage in the flower beds and compliance with the latest Sustainable Urban Drainage regulations (SUDS) another topic for later….

    A drainage channel connected to a soakaway at the front of this driveway  to comply with the Suds regulations.

    A drainage channel connected to a soakaway at the front of this driveway to comply with the Sustainable Urban Drainage (SUDS) regulations.

  • The right materials. A landscape gardener will have a broader knowledge of landscaping products, and will know, for example, how stone weathers, which materials withstand frost, how timber reacts to the elements, and even which type of gravel to use.  It is important that the right materials are used so that the patio looks good year after year, and holds up to the elements.
  • The “wow” factor. Perhaps the strongest argument for a landscape gardener is their experience and knowledge with regard to design. And not surprisingly we can present options to save money due to our experience. Did Mrs Jones really need a big, block patio for an outdoor eating area? Is the patio in proportion to the rest of the garden?  Are the slabs and bricks used, and the style, in keeping with the house? A landscape gardener can provide more design options, which means scope to save money, to maximize the outdoor space, and to incorporate a design “wow” factor bang on trend.

    RHS Show Garden Silver Medal Winner by Brett Hardy Landscapes

    An RHS Silver medal winning small space garden with impact we designed & built at the BBC Gardeners’ Live show at the NEC in 2012. This garden titled the ‘Water Wise Garden’ highlighted how rainwater can be collected discreetly & how waste grey water can be cleaned by plants and re-used in the garden. 

At first glance a landscape gardener may seem more expensive because we do it right, but in the long term, we are better value for money, can provide outstanding design, know the right materials to use, and know how to avoid future problems.  Mrs Jones wouldn’t choose a seamstress to upholster her sofa, or an electrician to fix her boiler.  The right person for the right job means the right result.

Bye for now – Brett

Next post – 5th March – Small Garden Design.

Eco-Gardening – the Future is Green

All hail Bristol – this year’s European Green Capital.  Bristol is the first UK City to earn this prestigious award, gained by its exceptional environmental, sustainable and eco-friendly commitments.

As a landscape gardener I am becoming increasingly interested in how to implement eco-friendly and sustainable ideas and practices into the garden.  I strongly believe that this is the main area where gardening is going to evolve, and much that I see at the horticultural and RHS Shows supports this.

Ecologically friendly gardening is not a new concept – for many years now we have been:

  • using non-peat compost
  • using less plastic and choosing biodegradable products
  • collecting rainwater
  • planting drought tolerant plants and planting for wildlife

but I’m interested in what we will be doing in the future.

How we may all be living in the future with gardens in the sky to produce our food.

How we may all be living in the future with productive gardens in the sky to produce our food and help to purify the air..

One area of change will be our front gardens where simple changes can make a huge difference.  How can we do this?  I encourage clients to “green up” their front garden space with plants that both tolerate pollution and simultaneously help reduce pollution.  Good pollution tolerant shrubs include hydrangeas or dogwoods, or evergreens such as Skimmia japonica, Aucuba japonica or any of the Euonymus fortunei varieties, all of which are hardy, low maintenance, easy to prune and have attractive foliage, stems or flowers.

Plants can also be used to control the environment by acting as an insulator against exterior walls by trapping air against the structure. They can also reduce the heat gain in summer by shading and moisture loss from the leaves. Admittedly this is not often required in this country but may become more of an issue if global warming takes hold. There is even research under way for the next generation of cheap Photovoltaic panels which mimic the photosynthesis cycle and store unwanted energy as plant starches instead of using inefficient current technology batteries. The mind boggles!

Green wall designed by the pioneer Patrick Blanc. These walls help to clean the air and provide insulation and help modify the temperature in summer. They also look far nicer than stone or concrete.

Green wall designed by the pioneer Patrick Blanc. These walls help to clean the air and provide insulation and help modify the temperature in summer. They also look far nicer than stone or concrete.

Back down to earth the functionality of front gardens does not prevent eco-friendly opportunities.  For example it is now possible to have an eco-friendly drive.  This is a drive made from a porous or permeable product that allows water to drain back into the ground, thereby purifying it and preventing the run-off into drains and possible flooding.  Porous drive options include:

  • Using a permeable concrete or asphalt.
  • Using grass, growing through a durable mesh or grid.
  • Special pavers with gravel filled gaps between and gravel beneath.
  • Paving only the car tyre tracks and having planting in between.

    Cut a strip out of the centre of the drive and plant with low growing low maintenance plants. Acts as drainage strip and looks great.

    Cut a strip out of the centre of the drive and plant with low growing low maintenance plants. Acts as drainage strip and looks great.

Looking to the future there is one innovative material that I can’t wait to use – carbon dioxide absorbing concrete.  It’s been in the production stage for many years – but it now looks very close to becoming readily available.  Not only is the manufacture of the concrete more eco-friendly as it emits less CO2 during its production, but the concrete actually absorbs CO2 as it cures and continues to harden over its lifetime.

The eco-friendly approach is very important in the materials we use. I always try and source in an eco-conscious way, whether this means using locally produced aggregates such as gravel and paving, or timber that has been produced in a sustainable way.  I try and buy from local trade nurseries that have grown the plants themselves – and this benefits my clients as they get plants that can cope with local conditions.

Eco- friendly gardening is something that I am very passionate about and will be returning to in future blogs.  The great thing about it is – big or small – we can all make a difference by doing something we love – planting.

Bye for now

Brett

Next post – 19th February – “Builder vs Landscape Gardener”