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!
Do you get annoyed when almost all television programs on garden design look at large gardens and don’t include ideas for small gardens? And yet, because of the limited space and planting options, this is one of the most difficult areas of garden design.
When I designed my RHS small garden I was very conscious that every decision I made was crucial as with a small space there is no margin for error – mistakes stand out. First of all I looked at the advantages that small gardens offer:
they are usually sheltered from direct sun, wind and frost
they can be easy to maintain
they offer a perfect space for scented plants to work well
walls and fences offer workable structures for vertical planting.
The next step is to decide how you want to use the space. In my experience the most common “wants” from a small garden are somewhere to escape and a picture – something that looks good from the house all year round. With that in mind, I would like to offer my “golden rules” with regard to small garden design.
The right choice of plants – plants really have to earn their keep with several seasons or a long season of interest. Foliage lasts longer than flowers and is just as important as it gives texture, contrast and visual interest.
If you have a poor looking plant don’t be merciful – no room for stragglers in a small space – get rid of it and plant something that looks healthy and vibrant.
Consider large plants or plants with large dramatic foliage. Large plants can make a small space look larger and provide perspective, more so than using lots of small, low growing plants.
To “light up” shade use plants with shiny surfaces, or silver or gold variegated foliage – especially to contrast with plants such as Hostas and ferns.
Use colour to create depth. Hot colours in pots close to the house, such as reds, oranges and yellows, can be eye catching and contrast with softer pastel background colours creating an illusion of depth.
Don’t be tempted to use too many materials or plant types as this can look fussy. Clever minimalist planting and a pared down choice of materials can look better and more classy.
Use the verticals without compromising the floor space. Put up wires and trellis on fences and walls to support climbers. An arch, a bamboo wigwam, or even a couple of inexpensive wall pots can look great and introduce height and pull the eye upwards.
Play tricks with perspective – Setting the paving on an angle can make the space feel bigger by using the diagonal distance instead of front to back or side to side. Mirrors, well placed ornaments and unusual features can also make a garden seem bigger.
Blur the boundaries with planting to blend with the surrounding landscape and gardens. For example, it’s easy to make a neighbour’s tree complement your planting and contribute to your garden visually. Hiding the boundaries makes the garden feel bigger by extending the view beyond your fence or wall.
And finally – pots! There seems to be a heavy reliance of pots in small gardens. They can work well as they can be moved, replaced and provide tiered planting, but they can look cluttered, stain the patio, crack with frost, hide pests and can be high maintenance with regard to watering. Be selective and use with care! Choose similar colours and larger types.
In the next few weeks I will return to small garden design, providing more detailed information about plants that work well in small spaces. But this has to be all for now – the days are getting longer and there’s much to be done.
Until next time – Brett
Next post “Choosing the right paving” – 19th March.
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 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.
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.