Category Archives: Gardening Advice

How to create your own rain garden

 

Here, Nicky Roeber, Online Horticultural Expert at Wyevale Garden Centres, tells us what we need to know about a rain garden and how we can build one at home.

A rain garden is a small garden, usually planted in a shallow dip, which collects rainwater runoff from hard surfaces like roofs. They’re an eco-friendly way to remove excess water from around your home and can even filter out the harmful pollutants that rainwater collects from outdoor surfaces. This means that less of these pollutants will enter your drainage system and make their way into local streams and ponds. Want to create one of your own? Just follow my advice to plant a rain garden at home.

Where should you plant your rain garden?

Ideally, your rain garden should be planted in full sun or partial shade on a slight incline of 10% or less and in an area where the soil can drain quite easily. You can test how well the soil will drain by digging a 25cm hole and filling it with water. When it empties, fill it back up and time how long it takes to drain completely. For a successful rain garden, the drainage rate should be between 1.25–5cm per hour. If you’re worried about your drainage level, you can mix in some gravel or stones to aid it, but if your garden has heavy clay soil, it’s probably best to find a different location.

To avoid damp and flooding in building foundations, you should try to plant your rain garden at least 10 feet away from your house.  It’s also important that you check that there are no tree roots or underground pipes or wires where you plan to build. You can check this by digging carefully in the area. If the ground is clear, you are free to plant your rain garden.

How big should your rain garden be?

The width of your rain garden will vary based on the amount of space you have to work with, but to avoid it overflowing, it should be around 20% of the size of the roof area. The depth of your rain garden depends entirely on how quickly it will drain. As a guide, it should be between 10 and 20cm deep and the surface should be level.

How do you build your rain garden?

Now here comes the fun part — start digging! It’s important to remember not to compact the soil base of your rain garden, as this will curb drainage. As you’re digging, don’t get rid of the excess soil, as this can be used as a ridge around the lower edge and the sides of the garden to keep it watertight. This ridge should be about 30cm wide and 10cm tall, and well-compacted. You should also leave a slight gap in the ridge around the lower edge and fill it with gravel to allow any excess water to drain out without washing away the soil.  Then, using a trail of bricks, create a path to guide the rainwater from the drainpipe to your garden. Again, you can add some gravel to the entrance of your rain garden to avoid washing away the soil.

What kinds of plants should be in your rain garden?

The kinds of plants you add will depend on your soil and local average rainfall. If your soil will take a while to drain or you live in an area that gets a lot of rain, your garden might get slightly waterlogged, which means you’re going to need to choose moisture-loving plants that can handle being in damp areas for a few days. These kinds of plants include yellow iris, ferns, pendulous sedge, cardinal flowers and arum lilies.

If your rain garden will drain well, but might see a few dry spells here and there, it’s best to pick plants that can tolerate both wet and dry conditions. You could choose plants such as clustered bellflower, geranium and Siberian iris for a bit of colour. Grasses like Korean feather reed grass and tufted hair grass can also tolerate these conditions. If your rain garden is big enough, you could also plant shrubs like dogwood or hydrangea.

A rain garden is the perfect way to filter and dispose of rainwater, helping the environment and keeping your home safe and dry in the process. By following these easy tips, you’ll have your rain garden planted and ready in no time!

HOW GREEN IS YOUR GARDEN? (part 2 of 2) 

As a landscape gardener I always aim towards creating the most eco-friendly gardens as possible. Last week I wrote about how to buy and care for plants in the most environmentally friendly way. This week I’m focusing on what decisions to take when making structural changes to your garden, looking at materials and design alterations.

Timber: timber is a great material to use in the garden, as it is such a natural product. New and reclaimed railway sleepers look great as edging for beds or low level terracing. When selecting timber always look for the FSC or Rainforest Alliance Certification to ensure that it has been responsibly sourced.

Paving: so much paving is imported or manufactured using high levels of CO2 so if you’re considering laying some new paving then a good option would be to choose a UK sourced natural paving slab. Yorkstone or pennant stone are both manufactured in the UK and provide excellent quality slabs that will last several lifetimes.

If you aren’t looking to make major changes to the structure of your garden there are plenty of small changes that you can make to improve your eco credentials. The plants you choose and the addition of bird boxes and bee houses are important (and a whole other subject to be written about). But what else can you do?

Don’t be too tidy: your garden doesn’t have to look a mess but if you leave some of your dead flower stems and fallen leaves on the borders you will provide a natural habitat for insects that will then help keep harmful bugs at bay.

Capturing and reusing water: not only is this eco-friendly but if you’re on metered water it can save you money. Water butts come in all shapes and sizes and if you shop around you can find ones to suit every style and budget. Many of these are made of plastic (plastic again!) so why not repurpose your old rubbish bin, which has been made redundant by wheelie bins.

Remember little steps make big gains so by incorporating some of these changes into your garden you can be helping the environment.

Above all, enjoy your garden.

Brett

HOW GREEN IS YOUR GARDEN? (part 1 of 2)

As a landscape gardener I am aware that the landscaping industry could go further in promoting a more environmentally responsible way of how we create gardens. There is much information out there on eco-friendly gardening – how to encourage wildlife and what plants to grow, but I am turning my focus on the materials and methods I use to build and maintain my garden. Anyone thinking of making changes to their garden, large or small scale, could incorporate these into their schemes.

This week I’ll be focusing on how best to buy and care for new and existing plants. Next week I’ll write about how you can make structural changes to your garden as eco-friendly as possible.

Plastic: no one can escape the damage that plastic is doing to the environment. The shocking statistic that 800 million tonnes of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year and more recently the news that China will no longer be processing a large percentage of our plastic waste is at last making this headline news. Hopefully this will kickstart more soul searching as to how we can do our bit towards protecting the planet. Black plastic seems to be the scourge of the plastic world as so few councils accept it for recycling and yet a high percentage of plants are sold in black plastic pots or trays. One way to avoid plastic pots is to purchase shrubs and trees that are bare rooted or root balled. These can be ordered online, delivered by post and planted when the plant is dormant in the winter. Because they are bare rooted not only do they eliminate the plastic pot but the absence of soil also ensures that they are delivered peat free. I’d encourage anyone who is growing plants from seed to try alternatives to plastic pots – make them from newspaper or even from the insides of toilets rolls.

Peat: peat bogs take thousands of years to form and create unique environments meaning they are often Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Once peat is mined the ecosystem it provides is destroyed. Garden compost accounts for 60% of peat bought in the UK so by switching to a peat free alternative you can do your bit to help protect the bogs. Peat free composts have improved greatly over the past few years and provide a viable alternative. There is talk of a government ban on the use of peat in the next few years. Nothing is confirmed as yet but watch this space.

Fertilizers and pesticides: blood fish and bone is a great organic general purpose fertilizer with no hidden artificial chemicals. A good alternative to chemical pesticides are nematodes which are microscopic worms and provide a natural 100% organic solution to pest control. They are simple to use – select the correct nematode for the pest you want to target and order them online. Then mix with water and apply with a watering can to the area to be treated. Nematodes can be used to control slugs but what really works for me is either beer traps or going out after dusk and collecting them up.

Happy gardening.

Brett

How to choose the right driveway

First impressions are so important and your driveway has a big impact on the look of your house. As an accredited Marshalls Paving and Tobermore Paving installer Brett Hardy Landscapes have a depth of knowledge and experience in installing driveways and we can lead you through the design and construction process to help you achieve the right driveway for you, thus giving you peace of mind that it complies with all the latest Government Legislation and construction standards.

So what do you need to consider when deciding on a new driveway?

  • Do I need planning permission?

This is important. Not many people know that in 2008 new Government legislation was introduced to ensure that all driveways drain into the ground and not down the sewers. This was partly in response to serious flooding in 2007 and also to restrict pollution from driveways (oil, petrol etc) ending up in rivers and streams.

This means that if you are paving over an area of more than 5 square meters with an impermeable surface that does not direct the rainwater to a naturally draining area (ie lawn or flower bed) or a purpose built soakaway then you will need planning permission. An alternative to this is permeable paving where the rainwater is able to drain through the surface and planning permission is not required.

Failure to comply with these regulations could mean that reparatory work is required to comply with the legislation at the homeowners cost so be wary of companies offering cheap prices without the experience to ensure your driveway is installed correctly.

  • What are the options for surfaces?

We can offer the full range of Marshalls and Tobermore products. You can choose from ethically sourced natural stone setts, or a more traditional look of natural stone cobbles. There is also a selection of more cost effective concrete block paving or various gravel options. There are a large range of colours and finishes and we can help you select the best option for your driveway. Also as an accredited installer all Marshalls products are guaranteed for 10 years and Tobermore products are guaranteed for 25 years. We will also guarantee the installation for 5 years.

  • So, what should you do?

At Brett Hardy Landscapes we have the experience to advise you on the design and construction of your driveway to choose the best surface covering for you and ensure that the drainage complies with the correct legislation. If you live in a conservation area then we can advise on any specific local requirements for you as well.

If you want to take your first steps to a hassle free new driveway then please contact us here, email brett@bretthardylandscapes.co.uk or phone us on 01225 789990.

Brett

Driveway using Marshalls Tegula block paviours with drainage complying with SUDs regulations

Driveway using Marshalls Tegula block paviours with drainage complying with SUDs regulations

Cobbled driveway showing drainage complying with SUDs

Cobbled driveway showing drainage complying with SUDs

A QUICK AND EASY GUIDE TO PRUNING

Autumn is a great time to get out in the garden and give it a thorough tidy up before winter sets in. As part of this tidy up you should be pruning back your fruit trees and Wisteria in order to maximise fruit and flower production for next year. Late summer to early Autumn is a good time to be doing this pruning. I am often asked how and when to prune various plants so I have started posting tutorials on YouTube showing you what to do.

Check out my latest tutorials:

Simple guide to pruning a climbing Wisteria plant

Simple guide on how to prune a trained apple or pear tree

The basics of pruning are really very simple. Both of these YouTube tutorials last under 3 minutes so do give them a look and please do subscribe to me on YouTube so you don’t miss out on any more of my ‘Simple Guides’ in the future. Happy pruning!

Brett and the team

Up the garden path

Paths.  Yawn.  On first consideration – boring.  However a path can be a garden’s backbone – essential in giving definition, dividing or uniting elements as well as providing access.  A path is one of the most prominent design features of a garden, and ideally it is decorative as well as durable.

A slippery, cracked & poorly designed path in need of a re-vamp.

A slippery, cracked & poorly designed path in need of a re-vamp.

A badly designed or poorly maintained path can “undo” the whole garden, dragging it down to look shabby.  In addition paths can become hazardous if they are slippery or uneven.

When designing a path I avoid a dead straight line as this cuts the garden unless I am using it for dramatic effect.  Soft curves are much better and more interesting.  If you are using slabs then the angle of the path is dictated by the curved slabs available – never try and cut a curve yourself, it won’t work.  A professional design trick is to vary the width of the path – for dramatic effect designers will widen the path slightly when coming to a focal point in the garden or when approaching steps or a patio.  The narrowing of a path away from the house will also make the garden appear longer.

The width of the path is important – do you want it as a functional path to get between beds as with a vegetable plot?  I advise a width where it is easy to kneel comfortably between beds – most gardeners advocate at least the width of a wheelbarrow or 2 ft/60cms.  Although you may want as much space as possible for growing plants and want to keep paths to a minimum, you will regret it later if the path is too narrow.  A rule of thumb used to be that the more a path is used, the wider it should be – and 4ft was a good width for two people.  However with a range of materials available a narrow path can be as durable as a wide path.

Materials used for the path have to be right for the garden style – and should either complement or deliberately contrast with other hard landscape features.  In addition the materials should be appropriate for the amount of traffic the path has to withstand.

Here are my pro’s and con’s with popular path materials:

Gravel – gravel will travel unless edged properly. It is relatively cheap, comes in a range of soft colours, and is ideal for light to medium traffic.  It is not ideal for sloping paths (rain will wash it downhill), for coming up to the house (it will be walked in), and it can be used as a litter tray by cats, and small children cannot resist playing with it.

A nice cost effective gravel path.

A nice cost effective gravel path.

Sharp edged gravel will lock together and not move around as much as smooth gravel.  Weeds eventually creep in. My favourite is 10mm or 20mm golden gravel because of the warmth of the colour.  Gravel works well in either formal or informal gardens.

Concrete – this used to be unpopular as can look plain and because of its permanent nature – but those were the old days and concrete now can be fantastic in modern or highly stylized gardens and has become trendy again.  It is ideal for heavy traffic, can accommodate interesting design shapes, curves and angles, and is the most low maintenance of paths.

Contemporary looking concrete steps and stepping stone path

Contemporary looking concrete steps and stepping stone path

A colouring agent can improve the colour and the surface can be roughened before setting to give texture and better grip.  Concrete begins setting in two hours.  As there is little room for error I would advise using a professional landscape gardener to lay it.

Bricks – an extremely ornamental but expensive material.  This works best for narrower paths and is good for light to medium traffic.  The use of red brick is very popular in pottagers, cottage gardens, country gardens and vegetable beds.

Brick paths can be used to great effect

Brick paths can be used to great effect as seen here

There are traditional design patterns such as running bond (see photo), which can be used for straight or curved paths and which draws the eye along it, or parquet and herringbone which are used for larger areas and are more ornamental, giving a formal look.  Bricks work well when combined with slabs and concrete.  A firm foundation is necessary and weather-proof bricks are needed to withstand frost.  Again I would advise getting professional help.

Earth paths – these work very well in sheltered gardens with good drainage and a lot of sun.  They give a rustic effect, are low maintenance if the soil is compact, and complement a naturalistic planting style.  The path shown here was in “A Perfumer’s Garden” at RHS Chelsea this year.

'A Perfumers Garden' -RHS Chelseas 2015

‘A Perfumers Garden’ -RHS Chelsea 2015

Green paths – grass, thyme, chamomile or clover – either singularly or in combination, provide soft walkways through borders and work well for light traffic.  These are cheap but are high maintenance as they need mowing, and regular aeration to avoid compaction.  Also there is a danger that, even with edging, the plants can invade beds.  Anti-slip grass mesh, or grass pavers, can provide a stronger pathway for medium traffic.  This provides a more solid foundation allowing the grass to grow through.

Slabs – including pre-cast paving slabs, Porcelain, natural stone and pre-cast paving. In my previous blog, “The Crazy World of Paving”, I explain about the differences between natural and pre-cast slabs.  Natural stone – such as sandstone – gives a very stylish, expensive look – but it is hard to cut cleanly, is heavy and needs a lot of foundation preparation.  Pre-cast slabs come in a variety of styles and colours and are much cheaper and lighter.  Slabs are ideal for medium to heavy traffic but must be laid correctly to avoid issues of puddles, drainage, cracks and sloping.  A softer effect can be created by allowing plants such as thyme to grow up between cracks. Stones may need to be treated to avoid algae and greening.

Mulched paths – in the larger garden centres there is a growing choice of mulching materials made from wood.  These can range from simple bark chips to wood shavings to bio-mulch.  The more chippings, the better the drainage and the suppression of weeds.  Bark chipping paths are usually good for 2 – 3 years, are cheap, and don’t need a lot of site preparation – they can be laid in a shallow trench over landscape membrane.  The chippings can also be composted after use.

Bark mulch paths are cheap and fit a woodland setting.

Bark mulch paths are cheap and fit a woodland setting.

These paths work well in wildlife gardens, allotments or between raised beds, and in “wilderness” areas.  They are good for producing pathways that softly blend in with the planting.  However, as with gravel, the chippings may travel or attract cats.

Rounded stones or cobbles – these have become unfashionable in recent years but can look amazing when combined with other materials, such as rounded polished stones, modern slabs or bricks.

Cobble paths can be highly decorative.

Cobble paths can be highly decorative.

Set in cement the cobbles can give a soft informal path of muted colours, however they can be uncomfortable to walk on and slippery when wet or icy.

Setts  – these are small paving blocks made of stone, or imitation stone.  They are like small bricks and can create a lovely tapestry in either formal or random patterns.  They are hard-wearing and highly decorative – but they are expensive, fiddly to lay and may become uneven over time.

At RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year I was very impressed with how paths had been made glamorous (but not very practical!!).  Chris Bearshaw incorporated water jets in his path – which although highly slippery – made the polished stone shine and glisten.

This years Chelsea Flower show garden entry for Chris Beardshaw featured water jets in the path.

This years Chelsea Flower show garden entry for Chris Beardshaw featured water jets in the path.

Paths needn’t be boring.  They can be fun, they can lure, they can be pretty.  So look at your garden path with fresh eyes – you never know where it may lead you.

Bye for now – Brett

 

 

Planting for Shade

At this time of year when our sunlit beds and borders are ablaze with colour it is easy to ignore the shady corners of the garden.  But there is no reason why these should not quietly shine too.   All it takes is good design and careful plant selection.

There are different types of shade, so first of all define which one you are dealing with.  Light, partial, moderate or deep?  As defined by the RHS I will be addressing deep or moderate (dappled) shade that receives no direct light at any time of day.

Spring is the best time for shade loving plants as they have evolved to flower before the leaf buds break on the branches above them.  I advise people to be content with a pretty display in Spring and then let your shady areas take backstage to the sunlit borders.   This doesn’t mean they should look patchy or awful – they can still be interesting and look great.  These are a few ideas:

Ground Cover

Vinca minor 'Ralph Shugert'

Vinca Minor ‘Ralph Shugert’

Ground cover plants are programmed to spread.  I advise against Hedera helix (ivy), Hypericum (Rose of Sharon apart from @Hidcote’ which is well behaved) and Vinca major (periwinkle) as they are difficult to control.  I like Vinca minor ‘Ralph Shugert’ as it is not as invasive and has a silver variegated leaf which works well in shade.  Lily of the valley is good but needs moisture especially when setting flower and takes a couple of years to establish.  I usually turn to the Ajuga reptans and Lamiums.  My favourites are Lamium maculatum ‘Pink Pewter’ for its silver leaves and long flowering period.  I also love Ajuga reptans ‘Chocolate Chip’ – for the name and for its intense blue miniature spires.

Ajuga reptans 'Chocolate Chip'

Ajuga reptans ‘Chocolte Chip’

Lamium maculatum 'Pink Pewter'

Lamium maculatum ‘Pink Pewter’

 

 

 

 

 

Impossible shade

For me this is shade under an evergreen conifer.  The ground is dry, dark and covered in acidic needles.  I would not try and grow anything but rather hide the damage.  For these areas I would propose planting pots (but avoiding hostas).  I like Tiarella “Inkblot” with any of the purple leaved heucheras, with a small silver leaved trailing ivy or dwarf Japanese painted fern, Athyrium ‘Silver Slippers’.  Add impatiens for a splash of colour or begonias but they will need watering.  In my mind, ferns are fantastic.  They work in pots, are structural and can work by themselves or be combined.  I particularly like Gymnocarpium dryopteris and evergreen Blechnum spicant.

Gymnocarpium dryopteris

Gymnocarpium dryopteris

 

Athyrium 'Silver carpet'

Athyrium ‘Silver Carpet’

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Large Dark Corner

This is the area of shade that isn’t under a canopy but still in shade, like a north-facing fence or corner between two walls.  Hydrangeas (provided the ground is not too dry) are made for this type of area, as are Camellias, Sarcococcas and Viburnums.  Although some websites recommend fuchsias and skimmias, I find that these work better in partial shade with more moisture.  Another favourite that gives winter interest is Garrya eliptica- or the silk tassle bush.  Like some of the viburnums however, this can become enormous so give it room.

Viburnum acerifolium

Viburnum acerifolium gives spring blossom, lovely lush green leaves in summer and spectacular Autumn Colour.

Year Round Interest

It is possible to have year round interest in a shady bed, but make sure that the bed is annually well prepared with moisture retaining, rich compost.  Most plants that have adapted for shade are woodland plants that grow on soil full of organic matter.  By replicating what nature provides in the wild in your garden, you will have a better chance of success.

Spring:  It’s all about bulbs.  Take your pick from shade loving primroses, wood anemones, cyclamens, English bluebells, snow drops, dogtooth violets, and winter aconites.   These can peep up through evergreen ground cover of the Ajuga and Lamium quite happily.

Summer: Think foliage not flowers.  I like silver variated foliage to lighted up a dark corner (but golds work just as well) or lush, green shiny foliage to reflect the light.  I choose heucheras, tiarellas, epimediums, any brunnera macrophylla – good, hardy, low maintenance perennials that deliver and all of which work well together in different combinations. The perfect tried and tested combination is Alchemilla mollis with any of the long flowering purply-blue Geraniums, like ‘Johnson’s Blue.’

Alchemilla & Geranium

Autumn: Japanese anemones flower late summer into Autumn and come in a range of pinks and whites.  Foxgloves that have been cut down after summer flowering sometimes have a second autumnal show.  The Autumn crocus is reliable, and I like Colchicum luteum, though it may flop.

 

Colchicum luteum

Colchicum Luteum

Height can be provided by Polygonatum (Solomons Seal) in late Spring, followed by Digitalis (Foxgloves) and then with Japanese Anemones in late Summer/Autumn.

Planting combinations for dry shade

White and purple Hellebores can be followed by a combination of Geranium phaeum ‘album’ and/or ‘raven’, mixed with Tiarella ‘Neon Lights’ and Heuchera ‘Cajun Fire.’

Another combination is Lamium ‘album’ which goes well with Geranium maculatum.

Dicentra ‘Bacchanal’ goes with Epimedium ‘Lilafee’ and can be mixed with Lamium album – this works in a pot or bed.

Dicentra 'Bacchanal'

Dicentra ‘Bacchanal’

 

Epimedium 'Lilafee'

Epimedium ‘Lilafee’

The soft lilac of Lunaria redivia works well with the blue spires of Ajuga.

Finally, in summer a mix of  Astrantia major ‘Sunningdale variegated’ and foliage from Tiarella cordifolia creates a summer tapestry of foliage and flowers.

Astrantia 'Sunningdale variegated'

Astrantia ‘Sunningdale variegated’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dicentra 'Bacchanal'

Dicentra ‘Bacchanal’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next blog:  How to Choose your Path

THE INSPIRED BY CHELSEA BLOG From “Designer” to “Do-able”

Back from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show I am fired up with inspiration and new ideas.

 

It fascinates me that there is definite “trending” in plants every year and this is very apparent at RHS Chelsea.  This year there were the usual purples, whites and zippy greens, but there were more powerful splashes of colour using Primulas, Geums (Totally Tangerine and Princess Juliana), Irises and Foxtail Lillies.  Grasses had a shout too (especially silver green varieties of Deschampia) and also ferns as foils were back in fashion.  I was drawn to the sinister but beautiful darker ports and burgundies.  There were the usual suspects of Geranium phaeum, Cercium rivulare and red astrantia contrasted with hostas and euphorbias.  But there were some more unusual appearances from the gorgeous Papaver “Blackcurrant Fizz’, some sumptuous burgundy irises and the amazing Angelica sylvestris “Ebony”.

 

Morgan stanley Healthy City Garden

Morgan Stanley Healthy City Garden by Chris Beardshaw

 

This year it was not the planting but the structures, walls and seating that inspired me the most.  It reminded me that good garden design ought to be focused not just around the plants but also on features that contribute aesthetically and functionally.

 

Walls and fences are as important as staging to the cast of plants in the border and nowhere is this more apparent than at Chelsea.  These seemingly impossible and impossibly expensive backdrops need not be reproduced but could be adapted and downscaled to fit in a more modest garden.

 

There is inspiration to be taken by Marcus Barnett’s De Stijl inspired panelling which acts as a backdrop both to the planting and seating.  This could be reproduced using panels on an existing wall, by painting onto a wall, or even just etching black lines on a white concrete wall.

The telegraph Garden by marcuss Barnett

In contrast to the modernity of the De Stijl panels is this simple, rustic wall in the L’Occitane Garden.  I love the contrast and “soft” texture of the wall that makes it a subtle non-intrusive backdrop to the planting.  Again this would be easy to replicate in a quiet corner or along a boundary and would work equally in a town or country garden.

Beautiful textural wall in the  “A perfumers Garden in Grasse by LOccitaine” – Chelsea flower show 2015

This “chimney” caught my eye – I love the use of the wall buttress against the wooden fencing  – the dry-stone brickwork is cleverly repeated in the edging of the gravel path – and it adds height and solidity to the ethereal soft planting below.

 

Royal Bank of Canada Garden by Mathew Wilson

Royal Bank of Canada Garden by Mathew Wilson

In the Viking Ocean Cruise garden most eyes were upon the mirror sculpture.  However look beyond to the purple panelling – this works with the wooden decking – the key is in the symmetry of all the pieces working together.  This could be reproduced with formal planting of box and silver birch in a city garden, or would also work with a cottage garden border.

 

Viking ocean cruises garden

Viking ocean cruises garden

In addition to walls and fencing, most gardens incorporate a seat or seating area.  Again I was inspired by how seating spaces were created as well as the materials and aesthetic design of the seats themselves.  I think the best was seen in the L’Occitane Garden – I loved the deceptive simplicity of the layout of the garden and how the seating seemed casually placed under the shade of the tree, but was actually the focal element of the planting and framed by the walled rill.

 

Secluded seating area in the "A perfumers Garden in Grasse"

Secluded seating area in the “A perfumers Garden in Grasse”

This feature caught my eye and I love its duality.  There is the modern and the traditional – i.e. the concrete on top of the rustic dry stone walling.  There is the dual use of it being a wall and a seat together.  Finally it would work as a standalone feature in the centre of a lawn as well as infront of or behind a border.  Simple but multi-functional.

 

Multi functional bench in the Cloudy Bay Garden by the Rich Brothers

Multi functional bench in the Cloudy Bay Garden by the Rich Brothers

Although we can’t all have the wonderful outdoors room of Adam Frost or the fun and functional glass bubble of the Rich brothers we can always incorporate some design element from RHS Chelsea into our gardens.  We love the “wow” factor plants provide because it’s not permanent – but surely we can incorporate a more permanent “wow” into our gardens with a seat or wall or path?  Or it could be something subtle to compliment the ‘wow” of the our plants.  It is far more do-able than perhaps we think.

Bye for now  – Brett

Next blog “Wonderful waterfalls and water features”

 All photos courtesy of the RHS – check out www.rhs.org.uk/Shows-Events/RHS-Chelsea-Flower-Show for more information and inspiration

HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF THE RHS SHOWS

It’s beginning – the buzz, the build up …  not the General Election but something of far more interest to gardeners – The RHS Flower Shows.

Although most media coverage is centered on the RHS Chelsea and RHS Hampton Court Flower Shows, there are a range of RHS Shows all over the country that start in February and finish late October.

Show garden at Hampton Court flower show 2014

Show garden at Hampton Court flower show 2014

These are my top tips on how to the make the most of the RHS Shows

  1. Consider all the RHS Shows 

Because of the difference in locations and season – each RHS Show has its own distinct character and thus each one is well worth visiting.  Don’t be disheartened if you missed out on Chelsea this year – I guarantee that you will enjoy and learn just as much ambling around the (often muddy but somehow more “real”) RHS Malvern Autumn Show.

  1. Package them up with other attractions 

Location may seem off-putting – but the advantage about the RHS Shows is that they are held at the same location and (more or less) run on the same dates every year – so it is possible to plan in advance.  For example, if you live miles away from Woking, the trip to the RHS Wisley Flower Show may seem excessive.  But surely it is worth the expense of an over night stay when you have the beautiful garden of William Robinson’s Gravetye Manor only 49 minutes away, with also Sissinghurst and Great Dixter less than an hour and a half away?  That surely must be the gardener’s dream horticultural excursion!

  1. Research 

Your first trip should be to the RHS website.  This lists all the facilities of each RHS Show, will preview the Show Gardens, will list all the exhibitors and will often include a history, interesting facts, photos – in fact you can even pre-buy souvenirs to save queuing on the day.

Show garden at Chelsea 2006

Show garden at Chelsea 2006

  1. Useful Things to Take
  • For some reason it is always cold at an RHS Show – so take an extra layer of clothing and thermal socks.  I went to RHS Chelsea in 2013 and although the weather was glorious, my feet were numb by the end of it.
  • A thermos flask is a great idea to save queuing.  I wouldn’t recommend lugging around an entire picnic but definitely a small thermos flask (which can be refilled).
  • A fully charged mobile phone is invaluable.  I take literally hundreds of photos of plant combinations that I like.  I also take notes on my phone of plant names, nurseries and suppliers – saves the bulk of a camera and notebook and pencil.
  • Binoculars – a small pair are really useful for scrutinizing details

    The crowd in front of our 2012 show garden

    The crowd in front of our 2012 show garden

  1. Talk

Gardeners belong to one of the greatest fraternities on the planet.  We are all in it together – the battle against slugs, the ravages of drought, and the joy of a newly opened peony.  The camaraderie of the punters at the RHS Shows is amazing.  Everyone stands back for one another for photos, there is a silent law about how long one can stand in the front row of a Show Garden, we all want to spot a Gardener’s World presenter, and we disdain the selfie-taker.  So it’s easy to talk.  I learnt more about Antirrhinums talking to a little old lady of eighty in the Floral Marquee than from any book.

If a designer seems approachable, then talk to him or her.  They love hearing feedback and answering questions about their concept.  Obviously don’t ask them about which clematis would they recommend for your garden shed or how do they feel about not getting a Gold Medal, but ask about why they chose certain cultivars, or what inspired their planting combinations.  When I designed my RHS garden for BBC Gardener’s World Live, I loved hearing peoples’ opinions and answering questions.

  1. Know what you want out of it 

Do you want inspiration for a shady corner?  Do you want to know what to plant as a foil for your alliums?  Are you contemplating a pond?  Or do you want to drift around and simply be dazzled and inspired? To get the best of an RHS Show it is very useful to clarify your own gardening objectives beforehand. I always want to see the new plants that are being revealed.

  1. Doom or Bloom?

When I talk to people at the end of an RHS Show I tend to see one of two reactions – either

“OMG I’m such a rubbish gardener.  I’ve just realized how awful I am.”

Or

“OMG I can’t wait to get home and put that combination of the fern, the hosta and the purple thingy together, under that evergreen clematis I saw.”

The most important way of making the most of an RHS Show is to let it inspire you.  Let it excite and motivate you.  For that reason I can’t wait to visit one.  And urge you to do so too.

Bye for now – Brett

P.s. My earlier blog – “Eco-gardens – The Future is Green” talked about greening up front gardens and driveways.  I’m delighted to see that the RHS has launched its 3 year “Greening Grey Britain” Campaign.  Go to www.rhs.org.uk/greeninggreybritain for more information and ideas.

The Crazy World of Paving – A Guide To Choosing the right Patio Slabs for your garden

Frequently I am asked by clients “what are the right patio slabs or stone to use?”  I always say that there are four main factors:

  1. Style – this should link with the style of the house and garden. Should you be looking at traditional, rustic riven or modern sawn faced types of stone?
  2. Colour – as well as choosing a colour you like – ask yourself whether you want to have a colour that contrasts with, or complements, the existing walling of the house and garden. Or more than one colour.
  3. Function – what is it going to be used for? How much traffic, footfall and weight will it have to endure?
  4. Cost –the cost of the stone in a landscaping project is usually only 20% (approximately) of the total cost – the majority of which is in labour and other materials. So going for a more expensive stone may not impact dramatically on the cost. sunny border of Mediterranean style plants

One good rule of thumb re: design is that small areas suit smaller stones and slabs, and vice versa.  Large stones in a small space can look wrong proportionally.

Another thing to consider is how the stone will weather – the more porous the stone, the more green with algae it will go.  Generally concrete stone tends to fade and natural stone tends to darken with weathering.

The main selection is between natural stone, reconstituted stone and Porcelain.

Natural stone tends to look better – each stone will have its own individuality, its own texture and colour, which overall can give a marvelous finish.  It is high quality, hard-wearing, and – sadly – more expensive.

FairstoneLimestoneRusticOchre

Natural stone can be imported or from UK quarries.  Indigenous readily used products include:

  • York sandstone
  • Portland stone
  • white and blue lias
  • Welsh slate.

The benefit of imported natural stone, such as Indian sandstone, is that it is much less costly than indigenous stone due to cheaper production methods.  Look out for ethically sourced stone from suppliers such as Marshalls who are now working with UNICEF.

Reconstituted stone 

There are many products made of reconstituted stone:

  • Wet cast (tends to weather slower and has a smoother look –Premium product– big variety of products)
  • Pressed concrete slabs – cheap and can give a very neat, uniform look , cheaper product (whether smooth or textured/riven)
  • Blocked paviours – usually used for drives because they are so strong but can be used for patios due to their decorative effect. Concrete and clay forms in many different sizes, finishes and colours.
  • Impressed concrete –can be created to look like natural stone, or slabs. Dye is added to colour the concrete surface. Saxon Natural Drivesett Argent Dark

Porcelain paving

  • Porcelain stone – Relatively new product designed for outside use 20mm thick in many sizes. Very robust, less slippery than concrete and stone, lots of finishes from smooth to textured – Very good resistance to staining. Mid-range price

And finally – one thing to consider is how much “give” does there have to be in the surface?  On drives, large slabs may crack as they are very rigid and may have to bear a large uneven weight over their surface.  Smaller elements such as block paviours are better suited in this situation as they can flex slightly due to the base make up and so are less likely to crack.

Sourcing patio slabs and stone has never been easier and there are dozens of products available. I would look at the practical elements before the aesthetic – because, with so many products out there – you are bound to find the right colour and texture – it’s much more important to pick the right stone.

Bye for now

Brett

Next post: 20th April