Category Archives: Gardening News

Colourful Winter Stems

A mass of winter stems

A mass of winter stems

Colour in the garden can be created in many ways and although flowers are the most obvious, foliage and even stems can produce dramatic effects. None more so, than in the winter garden with thundery skies and low sun. The coppiced new growth of a number of shrubs can be truly striking. Here are just a few suggestions to wet you appetite.

 Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'

Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’

C. sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’: This variety of the native cornus, really packs a punch, the stems do produce a flame effect, with the lower section in rich shinning orange giving way to yellow tips of the younger growth, planted on mass with an evergreen back drop, this shrub sings out on a winter day.

 Cornus sericea 'Flarivamea'

Cornus sericea ‘Flarivamea’

C. sericea ‘Flariramea’: One of the best ‘yellow’ dog woods, this creeping shrub produces dense thickets of coppiced green-yellow stems, looking dramatic in the winter light.

Cornus sericea 'Kelseyi'

Cornus sericea ‘Kelseyi’

C. sericea ‘Kelseyi’: This variety is a good selection for the smaller garden growing to 45/60cm tall, it has golden stems, as with all cornus the new growth gives the best colour.

 Salix alba 'Golden Ness'

Salix alba ‘Golden Ness’

Salix alba ‘Golden Ness’: A vigorous grower makes dense clumps of coppiced stems up to 1.4/2m tall a rich golden colour, a wonderful contrast with groups of other colour stems like C. singuinea. Coppice regularly for best colour and to keep in check.

 Salix alba 'Yelverton'

Salix alba ‘Yelverton’

S. alba ‘ Yelverton’: This is the brightest pure orange of the salix, to grow as a winter stem, as with all Salix it is vigorous and if you don’t want a tree in the middle of the flower bed keep on top of your coppicing.

Rubus thibetanus

Rubus thibetanus

Rubus thibetanus ‘Sliver Fern’: It is a bit of a wild card, growing a black berry as a plant in a boarder rather than for fruit, will have most gardeners running to the hills with fright. But if you have the space and you are good at keeping on top of your garden maintenance then this is a truly striking plant. Tall arching stems 1.5m or taller, produced in dense suckering thickets. The stems are a beautiful dark blue/black with a white bloom and look truly dramatic when added to the rest of a winter stem garden. They look particularly good when under planted with winter flowering Ericas of hellebores. Cut out old stems in early spring and reduce the clump by ta 1/3, every April/ May to keep things under control, also reduce the length of stems in July/August.

Colourful winter stems

Colourful winter stems

The trick to growing winter stems for best colour is to have a strict coppicing system in place. This is for the Cornus and Salix. All the best colour is on new growth. There are two schools of thoughts about how to deal with this. 1) is you cut all the stems on every plant down to 200mm above ground level at the beginning of March. Or you selectively prune. 2) If you have the room to have a massive area of stems then perhaps cut one 1/3 of your plants down as above one year and then the other 2 areas over the next two years. 3) If you have a small garden and you only have one or 2 plants of each variety then consider dividing the plant into 3 and prune over a number of years as per point 2.

Winter stem planting

Winter stem planting

Remember when positioning colour stems the best results are had when having the morning or evening sun shinning on the stems. Or decide to have an evergreen back drop to the groups of stems so the colours glow and can be truly appreciated.

If you would like help producing a winter boarder call Emily 01273 470753.

Marvellous Mahonias

Mahonias as part of a mixed winter planting

Mahonias as part of a mixed winter planting

Mahonias are a wonderful shrub, not only acting as good screening, or boundary planting, but also as a glossy evergreen back drop to flowering perennial through the seasons. But they really come into their own during the mid-winter months, with dramatic and scented flowers. Here are a few of the many varieties on offer.

M. japonica

M. japonica

M.japonica: A large vigorous shrub, up to 1.5m in 5years. With stout stems and upright growth. A very good shrub for boundary planting. The leaves as with all Mahonias are held in spiral rosettes. With large pinnate leaves a glossy mid-green. Scented pendulous racemes of yellow flowers, December to March. Grows in most soils except dry shallow chalk. Sun part shade.

M.aquifolium'Apollo'

M.aquifolium’Apollo’

M. aquifolium ‘Apollo’: Often called the ‘Oregon grape’ as it sprawls along the wind swept coast of it’s native habitat. This more zooped up version of M. aquifolium, is a wonderful garden plant which makes a small spreading shrub, great for ground cover. It has small groups of stumpy pinnate leaves, which turn tints of wine red in the winter months. It has small clusters of golden flowers in March to April. It grows well in shade.

M.media 'Winter Sun'

M.media ‘Winter Sun’

M.media ‘Winter Sun’: A large shrub with upright habit, makes a dramatic back drop to the winter garden. Large spiny pinnate leaves of dark green, with clear yellow racemes of flowers held erect on the centre of the rosettes of leaves. The flowers are very fragrant, a must for planting near the back door or route to the garage. Flowers January to March. Grows well in semi-shade in any water retentive soil.

M.nervosa

M.nervosa

M.nervosea: A dwarf Mahonia, producing a low suckering shrub, ideal for a small garden at only 45cm tall. It has small pinnate leaves to 5cm, which turn a vivid red in the cooler winter months. It flowers late spring into April, with long golden racemes of 20cm. It will grow well in semi-shaded in most soils.

M. japonica Bealei Group

M. japonica Bealei Group

M. japonica Bealei Group: A large shrub up to 2m tall and above, with erect strong stems. With rosettes of medium length deeply toothed mid-green leaves. Short racemes of pale lemon flowers are produced in December to February. This shrub makes a good back bone to a mixed planting. Will grow in most soils, with good moisture, sun or part shade.

 M. x wagneri Pinnacle

M. x wagneri Pinnacle

M. x wagneri Pinnacle: A large striking shrub, with lightly toothed pinnate leaves of mid -green which are a dramatic bronze when young. Golden flowers are produced in dense upright racemes in mid spring, March to April.
* 8 lots of Mahonias.

Rejuvenating Mature Mahonias; although undoubtedly one of the reasons for planting mahonias, is their vigorous upright habit, particularly if you are using them for screening. There is the chance particularly in smaller gardens that you can be looking at a lot of tall ugly stems with a small cluster of leaves on top and the flowers far above sight and well and truly above nose level for catching that striking scent. But Mahonias respond well to pruning, it is best to rejuvenate your shrub over a number of years, a 1/3 at a time. After flowering so late March approximately, before leaf busts, cut down one third of the stems to the required height, just above an old leaf junction, these can be clearly seen in the form of lines and dots encircling the stem. Over the coming growing season the stem should produce a new leaf cluster just below the cut. Repeat the process section by section over the whole shrub over the coming years. If you want to ring the changes, so perhaps having taller stems towards the back of the shrub for screening but leaf and flowers on lower stems at the front, prune accordingly.

 Mahonias on mass

Mahonias on mass

Mahonias are a versatile shrub which are often over looked as something’ green at the back of the boarder, but have far more to offer and should be planted much more widely.

If you would like help creating a winter planting scheme or just re-planting an area of your garden, mid -winter is right slap in the middle of the planting season and now is the time to do it. I know just the person to help you, give Emily a call on 01273 470753.

Autumn Bulbs

A mass of autumn crocus

A mass of autumn crocus

Most people think bulbs are all about the spring, but in fact they can put on a good show in the autumn, Whether autumn crocus planted in sweeps in longer grass or in pots. or striking Nerines planted in flowers beds. These bulbs add a much need splash of late flower colour to the autumn garden.

A mix of Nerines

A mix of Nerines

Nerines are not fully hardy, but in a shelter spot in the south eastern corner of England, planted hard up against a south facing wall, where they can be suitably baked and in gritty free free draining soil, they should do very well. Otherwise they will grow well in tall pots of at least 10 to 12cm tall, in a cool green house or conservatory or sunny porch.

 N. 'November Cheer'

N. ‘November Cheer’

N. November Cheer: A bare stem reaching up to 50cm tall with a wide flower cluster of the classic trumpet shaped flowers in a delicate salmon pink, late October, followed by mid green foliage.

 C. cartwightianus Alba

C. cartwightianus Alba

C. cartwightianus Albus: growing to 8 to 10cm tall flowers produced before the leaves, white with delicate veining. Ideal of group planting in the front of a flower bed.

N. 'Red Pimpernal'

N. ‘Red Pimpernal’

N. Red Pimpernel: this eye popping red Nerine flowers mid to late October reaching to nearly 60cm tall, with a dense head of trumpet flowers. Followed by glossy foliage.

 C.sutivus

C.sutivus

C.sativus: the original saffron crocus, need to be planted deep at 12-15cm and needs a hot and sunny spot. The flowers are a egg yolk yellow with the important bright red stamens that are used in cooking to flavour and colour food. The growing of this crop on mass in the fens is what gives Saffron Weldon it’s name. A great looking autumn crocus which is worth growing for the flower, even if you don’t intend to use the saffron.

 N. 'White Supreme'

N. ‘White Supreme’

N.White Supreme: An elegant Nerine reach about 45cm tall October flowering with clear white flowers in large heads.

 C.speiosu

C.speiosu

C.speciosus: this is the classic autumn crocus and naturalises well, seen growing in great sweeps through grass land. Making a sea of pink-light violet flowers of up to 10/15cm tall in September -October.

 naturalising autumn crocus

naturalising autumn crocus

Crocus grow well in full sun in well drained soil. Both of these bulbs need to be ordered about August for planting late August, follow the suppliers instructions about planting, spacing and depths for individual bulb varieties.

The many shades of Nerines

The many shades of Nerines

I hope I have inspired you to add autumn bulbs to your garden planting. If you want help with revitalising an existing planting boarder or developing a whole new planting area in your garden, the autumn is the perfect time to get planning,designing and ready for winter planting. I can help you, give me, Emily a ring on 01273 470753.

Acid lovers-Shrubs that thrive in neutral to acid conditions.

Acid loving shrubs

Acid loving shrubs

If you are gardening in the weld of Sussex and Kent and other neutral to acid soils, you may feel that gardening is a strenuous contact sport. Battling waterlogged and heavy soils in the winter which can set concrete like in the summer months, this gardening is only for the most hardy, but there are many small trees and shrubs that thrive in such conditions and make all the hard work worth while. Here are just a few to consider.

Hamamellis x intermedia 'Allgold'

Hamamellis x intermedia ‘Allgold’

Hamamellis x intermedia ‘Allgold’: ‘Which Hazels’ are superb shrubs and this is one of the very best. It has an attractive habit growing to a vase like shape with spreading branches. It has round mid green leaves similar to a hazel, hence it’s common name. With good copper hues in the autumn. The main attraction are the very fragrant deep golden spider like flower held on bare twigs in mid-January to mid-February. Grows well in any neutral to acid soil that is water retentive and humus rich, but not water logged. In dappled shade.

 Pieris 'Forset Flam

Pieris ‘Forset Flam

Pieris ‘Forset Flame’: This hansom large shrub is well worth a place in any garden. With glossy dark green foliage, which has striking bright red new growth every spring held as vertical candles above the older green foliage. This new foliage, turns through pink, to white and finally to green as it matures. In April- May it is smothered in pinnacles of dropping waxy white flowers which are almost lilly of the valley like. It makes quite a sight. Grows well in Dappled shade it will tolerate full sun. in acid soil which is moisture retentive but not water logged, with a good humus content.

Fothergilla major

Fothergilla major

Fothergilla major: Is a medium sized shrub which is moderately slow growing but worth the wait. It is a deciduous shrub with round curse toothed leaves that turn a brilliant blood red in Autumn. It has smallish white bottle brush flowers in the summer. It loves a rich acid soil with good moisture and needs full sun.

Magnolia liliiflora 'Nigra'

Magnolia liliiflora ‘Nigra’

Magnolia liliiflora ‘Nigra’: One bit of very good news about gardening on acid soils, is the whole of the Magnolia family is now at your disposal. A beautiful, multi-stem shrub or small tree, this magnolia is a show stopper, with an elegant wine goblet like habit. Mid green foliage that goes a beautiful butter yellow in autumn. In Mid -April to May, tulip shaped, dark rich purple flowers, pale white with in, held upright on the stems. It may even flower on and off right up till August. Likes full sun to a little dappled shade, humus rich neutral to acid soil.

 Kalmia latifolia 'Freckles'

Kalmia latifolia ‘Freckles’

Kalmia latifolia ‘Freckles’: A medium sized evergreen shrub with glossy green leaves. With clusters of white to pale pink flowers with delicate spots of burgundy, flowers are borne on mass in June. It is a striking display. Grows well in moisture acid soils in full sun. Caution all part of this plant are poisonous.

Cornus kousa 'Chinensis'

Cornus kousa ‘Chinensis’

Cornus kousa chinensis; This specimen shrub requires an open situation where is can be the focal point. It is a slow grower but will reward your patience ten fold.. A large shrub or small tree, it has a striking tiered like habit, with foliage held in pairs along the branches. It has rich red autumn colour. Mid summer papery white flowers are produced followed by pimply red round fruit which hang from the branches. Grows in full sun to dappled shade, and in humus rich neutral to acid soils. dramatic addition to any garden.

Dramatic planting with acid loving shrubs and Trees.

Dramatic planting with acid loving Shrubs and Trees.

So if you feel gardening on heavy acid soils has little to no rewards hopefully this will inspire you to think again about your garden.

If you need help with a planting scheme, either new or resorting an existing area, I know just the woman who can help you. Give me, Emily a call on 01273 470753. I will be delighted to talk to you about your garden project.

Restoring a Farm Yard Pond

view from Brye of over grown pond

view from Brye of over grown pond

Client’s Brief: The clients had been give planning permission to convert the Brye/Cattal shed into a dwelling and part of the planning permission was that the disused farm pond behind the Brye should be restored, using natural materials where possible and be planted with native plant species to encourage wildlife back into the pond garden, to produce a functioning habitat. There should be access from the new car park on the higher level above the flint retaining wall and access from the back door of the Brye, as well as the 1m wide side access. The pond and it’s planting should sit the Brye into it’s restored landscape, with a simple jetty out over the water.

before designing beings

before designing beings

Site: The clients had moved into a converted barn next to the Brye, the previous owners had converted the barn and a lot of the rubbish had been dumped in the farm pond. The site was completely over grown, with an existing planted weeping willow tree and a number of other self sown saplings, including hazel, field maple and elm, which sadly was diseased, crowding the edge of the pond. The main body of the pond did not hold water any more despite the high water table and was filled with a lot of building rubble and the side boundary was edged by a ruinous flint wall.

view of pond from Brye before landscaping begins

view of pond from Brye before landscaping begins

Site constraints: The access was challenging being only 1m wide by the side of the Brye. The Willow although a beautiful tree, had it’s roots growing into the pond. No one had any idea how much rubbish was in the pond and how deep it may be. The high water table was a great concern, and would need to be taken into account. The Brye was a good 1.5m above the level of the pond, and in places the pond edge was very close to the boundary, not allowing much room to grade slopes down to the waters edge. The pond had to be restored to the exact same shape and over all depth. The natural constraints which were put on the project by South Downs National Park, we had to make sure we used natural materials, that the disturbance of existing wildlife would be to the minimum and they had a tight rein on the native planting that could be used.

Designing the pond. The first thing to do was to have an ecological survey carried out over 6 weeks to assess what wild life was present. Also a topographic in-depth survey was carried out. Armed with this information and with the clients brief, I was able to start work on designing the project which would still have to go back to the planners. Luckily for the clients there was sadly not much in the way of wildlife present, including the rare great crested newt which would have been amazing to have in your garden, but would have made for an impossibly expensive build.

 

The first challenge was the difference in height, round the Brye and getting access to the garden. So a set of brick steps lead down by the flint wall from the car park to a Broadwalk, with a set of steps up from the Broadwalk to the back door and a set of steps down onto the sloping lawn round the pond. Wood was used as a Broadwalk as the client particularly liked this material and a wooden walkway had passed the initial planning that had been put in years before by the previous owners. Sadly planners change and so do tastes, so it was rejected so a new design of a brick path with brick steps into the garden was produced.

 rubble etc. removed from pond.

rubble etc. removed from pond.

The next was concern about the high water level and the Willow. SDNP planning said they were happy for natural ponds to now have a butyl liner over spread with puddling clay and this is how they restore dew ponds on the Downs. The Willow, was going to have to be root pruned and then have some very strong root barrier placed round the roots on the pond side of the tree. Under pond drainage was need with a pump, to remove excess water from under the liner, this was managed with a pump and floatation devise to keep the water table level below the liner level.

putting pipe work in.

putting pipe work in.

Restoring habitat to the pond. A wide planting shelf of up to 2m wide was to be constructed all the way round the pond and would gentle slope down so there could be different depth planting zones for the aquatic plants. A large bog garden area lined with puddling clay was created so that it could become an over flow area for water above the pond water level, particularly in the winter months when there was more rain. Areas of native shrub and understory planting were designed round the pond to create different habitats. The areas of grass were to have different moving treatments, with different grass lengths and some kept long through the winter months, to produce as many different habitats as possible. Piles of cut grass would be left through the winter months for invertebrates to hibernate and small mammals. The whole ethos of the design was to create new and varying habitats.

 spreading clay liner

spreading clay liner

The clients enjoyment in the new garden: In amongst all the thoughts on native planting and natural build processes, it was important to remember the clients, their family and their clients who would be using the garden, so they could all interact with it fully. Hence the wooden jetty, leading through the bog planting over the water. Also meandering grass paths cut through the meadow grass, leading down to the waters edge and round the blog planting. There will be simple seats set in quite niches where the pond life can be enjoyed.

 puddling clay spread over the pond surface.

puddling clay spread over the pond surface.

Landscaping: It was decide to use a SDNP recommend pond contractor for this very specialist project. It was important that the project was carried out over the dormant season, for both the existing plants and any wildlife, also so the winter rains could naturally fill the new pond.

 moving soil round the site

moving soil round the site

Access was the first problem to be solved. It was decide that a large ramp in earth and hard core should be created, over the top of the flint wall. This allowed the empty top garden to be used as a working area and gave access for the large machines needed to clear the pond and start the processes of re-shaping and grading the pond.

 moving soil around in the working top garden

moving soil around in the working top garden

Once the shape had been produced,all the pipe work needed to be put in place, this was not just the under pond drainage and pump but also a large rain harvest tank which was to collect water from the roof of the Brye and would be used to top up the water level in the pond.

 soil and rubble from the pond being stacked.

soil and rubble from the pond being stacked.

Next the underlay, butyl liner were to go in, next was 80 tones of pudding clay. Unfortunately as this work started what had been a record hot summer and very dry autumn gave way to some very heavy rain, just as the clay arrived, the site turned into a very muddy and difficult place to work.

 putting foundation stones in for the jetty.

putting foundation stones in for the jetty.

As the pond team struggled on they finally managed to finish the landscaping of the pond including putting the large sandstone foundation stones in place ready for the green oak jetty. The jetty had been build to an Arcadia design by a skilled set of carpenter, with no metal fixings below the water level.

Now the pond was ready to fill up and ready for May planting.

 finished pond

finished pond

May Pond Planting: The pond was planted in mid May right at the start of the pond planting season. All the native plants arrived from a local trade nursery that specialises in growing their own water plants. The pond had been pumped out a few days before hand so the water level was just below the planting shelf.

 pond, with water level dropped ready for planting.

pond, with water level dropped ready for planting.

The first plants to be planted were the lilies and other floaters, that had been planted in aquatic baskets. The baskets are lowered to the pond bottom on ropes. The next to be planted are free-floating floaters, these are plants like water soldiers, these are thrown out into the water round the edge of the pond and will float around the surface moving on a gust of wind.

 pond plants arrive.

pond plants arrive.

Then the all important oxygenators are planted, these are in bunches with small metal weights on, again you walk round the pond throwing them in, slowly they sink just below the surface.

lily baskets ready for planting with planting ropes.

lily baskets ready for planting with planting ropes.

The next plants to be planted are the marginal aquatics, the planting areas were marked out on the planting shelf round the pond. The shelf may be nearly 2m wide in places but the plants were to be planted on only 1.5 m wide sections of the shelf and in blocked areas. Native pound plants are very vigorous and can be invasive, so they would easily spread over time.

planting floaters in baskets.

planting floaters in baskets.

Then each area of marginal planting is set out in accordance with the planting plan, and the plants, planted. Each evening as these are water plants and need more water, all the newly planted plants were watered with a sprinkler and the remaining plants waiting to be plated which were in the shed of the willow, to keep them damp at all times.

planting marginal aquatics

planting marginal aquatics

Once all the marginal plants were planted, the bog garden was set out and planted.

marginal aquatics

marginal aquatics

Now the pond is being filled up, and all the clients have to do is watch the new plants grow and breath live into their newly restored farm pond over the coming growing season.

 planting bog plants

planting bog plants

If you would like help and advise on creating a wildlife pond, I know just the person to help you! Give Emily a ring on 01273 470753, to discuss all your pond needs.

 pond planting completed.

pond planting completed.

Coastal Planting

dramatic coastal planting

dramatic coastal planting

Living by the sea, has many advantages, bracing walks and fine views amongst them, but many find gardening in exposed coastal areas a challenge. But it is still possible to have a garden, that can be fully enjoyed and planted with dramatic planting. Here are some plants that cope well with salt laden winds and the hash environment of the sea side garden.

Hippophae rhamnoides

Hippophae rhamnoides

Hippophea rhamnoides: This is a hardy deciduous upright shrub, that lives up to it’s common name of ‘Sea Buckthorne’ .It can become a large shrub or even a small tree and is ideal as a first defence against sea winds. It has an open habit, with thorny dark brown branches and narrow sliver leaves. Late summer clusters of small round orange berries are produced along the branches and persist long into winter. Will tolerant most soils, but is not keen on waterlogging.

Tamarix pentandra 'Rubra'

Tamarix pentandra ‘Rubra’

Tamarix ramosissima Rubra: This seaside classic, produces a large upright shrub with slightly sprawling habit. It has fine mid green foliage borne on shiny brown branches and is deciduous. It is covered in fluffy pinkish red sprays of flowers from August into September. It copes well with sea winds and again is a good shrub to plant around the boundaries of your seaside garden. Grows on most free draining soils, sunny aspect.

 Cistus x purpurens

Cistus x purpurens

Cistus x purpurea: This beautiful medium sized evergreen shrub, grows into a mound of aromatic grey green foliage which is slightly sticky to the touch. It produces large pink/purple saucer shaped flowers. Bourne freely from June to July. It does well in seaside gardens and can cope with sea winds. Grows in any free draining soil. Full sun.

Brachyglottis 'Sunshine'

Brachyglottis ‘Sunshine’

Brachyglottis (Senecio) ‘Sunshine’: This is a must have for any coastal garden, with it’s ability to cope with sea salt and strong winds. A low growing evergreen shrub with a mound habit but happy to spread. Of sliver slightly furry leaves, and clusters of brilliant sunshine yellow daisy like flowers from June to September. Good free draining soil. Full sun.

Centhranthus ruber

Centhranthus ruber

Centranthus ruber: No seaside garden would be complete with out this very pushy and hardy herbaceous plant, it will grow almost any where and with only the merest suggestion of soil, from cracks in the pavement to on shingle banks at the top of the beach. Some may consider it a weed, but a very stunning one it is. Upright growth of mid green with almost succulent mid green leaves, and pink/red wide heads of clustered small flowers freely borne from May up to the first frosts. It is not that long lived, but as it seeds freely, it will always be present. Sunny position, free draining soil.

Eryrgium maritimum

Eryrgium maritimum

Eryrigium maritimum: ‘Sea Holly’ A stunning statement herbaceous plant for any coastal garden. Mid green, and sliver spiky leaves make a base pad from which tall branches of stems with smaller spiky leaves almost like brats emerge, Small multiple thistle like flower heads appear from July, the stems below and flowers turning a silvery blue. The colour and thistles will last into late summer. Full sun, free draining soil.

the very best of seaside planting.

the very best of seaside planting.

These plants will cope well in seaside sites, the trick of planting by the coast is to layer your planting and get good planted wind barriers in place to help protect some areas of the garden, this can of course be a bit of a challenge if you still want your sea view as well. But it is possible to have stunning seaside gardens and great views and even the odd nock out of the wind as a spot to have a patio and garden bench. I hope this has inspired you to think of the potential of your coastal garden. If you need help to create your seaside garden then do give me a ring Tel:01273 470753.

I would be delighted to discuss your garden project with you.

A Traditional Cottage Garden, in Lewes, Sussex

 

 Before work starts

Before work starts

Site: A small walled town garden, with existing brick paths, some now very uneven. With large boundary trees and shrubs. A dark terrace set in the shady section of the garden and overgrown with a large grape vine dwarfing a wooden pergola. Also an existing, leaking concrete pool and mature but overgrown planting in places. The aspect of the site is north facing getting both morning and afternoon sun. With a chalky soil which has been cultivated for many years, but now needs feeding. One side of the garden is next to a busy road, and street furniture needs to be screened from the garden, also the bottom boundary has a large office building, overlooking the garden.

 The morning the tree work and crown lifting are to start.

The morning the tree work and crown lifting are to start.

Client Brief: To produce a traditional garden reusing as much of the existing materials as possible and to produce a design that would be in keeping with an old town house and the walled garden. A cottage garden style of planting was wanted but with the amount of maintenance being kept to a minimum. Also room for a new bike store and a terrace that was in the sun and could sit 6.

 clearance work is finishing and the setting out of the site and foundations for the paving are being laid

clearance work is finishing and the setting out of the site and foundations for the paving are being laid

Design Solution: The old paths next to the house were to be removed and planting was added to the base of the house where possible. A new wider brick path, using the existing bricks was to run the length of the back of the house and be edged by a generous border of roses and mixed planting, with a set of Arches framing the entrance from the kitchen french windows out onto the lawn. A new square terrace for 6 to dine, edged with scented planting, was set outside the study next to the existing concrete pool, which was to be refurbished. The Terrace was now set to get some of the early morning sun and most importantly the evening sun. A lot of the overgrown shrubs were to be removed to allow for new planting and to ‘rescue’ some choice specimens including a beautiful Cornus as a small tree, which was to have an existing  bench set undernether. Removing the large terrace in the shade, meant a central section of the garden could be returned to lawn, giving a greater sense of space in the garden. A new brick stepping stone path leads from the back door down to the back gate. The bike store is hidden at the back of the biggest border, which in time will be screened by large evergreen shrubs.

treated soft wood timber arrives for the Arches and for the made to measure trellis panels.

treated softwood timber arrives for the Arches and for the made to measure trellis panels.

Landscaping: A number of teams with different specialisms were needed for this site. First the Arboriculturists arrived to remove a lot of the over -grown shrubs and stump grind out their bases, they also crown lifted a large Sycamore that dominates the garden and removed the dead from a central ornamental pear ( Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’).

Trellis panels are being erected on the back boundary wall to add privacy from neighbouring offices.

Trellis panels are being erected on the back boundary wall to add privacy from neighbouring offices.

Then the hard landscaping was carried out by Ross and his team of landscapers. First lifting all the existing bricks used in the garden and working their way through them to decide what could and could not be re-used.

The 2 Arches are built, ready for staining.

The 2 Arches are built, ready for staining.

The brick paths were to look as traditional as possible so were butt jointed stretcher bonded, with the terrace edged with lines of brick on edge and basket wave pattern in the centre. There were not enough bricks for all of the paths, so it was decided to get new bricks which matched as near as possible the existing bricks and use these new bricks to build the brick stepping stone path. Ross and his team carefully roughed the edges of the bricks, so they did not look so new before laying them. The effect is very good and I feel sure that in a few years it will be hard to spot the difference between the old and new.

The stepping stone brick path and solid path section leading from the back door to the gate.

The stepping stone brick path and solid path section leading from the back door to the gate.

The building of the bike store, softwood arches and the refurbishing of the pool got under way. The pool was given a new brick edge to link it with the rest of the design, a new pump and filter system and the inlet and overflow sorted, this solved the leaking problem and all the new work was painted in G4 to keep it water tight. A new softwood trellis with squares of 80/85mm, was put up along the bottom boundary to aid privacy from the office block.

The new brick terrace is nearly complete, the existing pool is ready for it's new edging course, pump and filter.

The new brick terrace is nearly complete, the existing pool is ready for it’s new edging course, restoration, pump and filter.

At last all the hard landscape was nearly finished and Richard and his team arrived to start work on the soft landscaping, with the preparation of the planting beds, with ever-edge going in and compost being dug into the beds. Rotavating the existing lawn area and new top soil in places and raking to new levels.

 The plants arrive

The plants arrive

Now for the existing bit, The planting, all the plants arrived from one good local nursery where a large number are grown on the nursery and nearly all the other stock is British grow and the Roses arrived from the specialist rose grower. I had chosen new English Roses so they have all the scent and beauty of old fashioned roses but some good disease resistance and most importantly good repeat flowering. For the arches small cluster rambling roses are being planted. I set to work planting the garden, with the sunny borders filled with sun loving roses, lavender, breaded Iris, Paeony and salvias to name a few. The large shady beds and woodland end of the garden, filled with ferns, solamans seal, hellebores, Anemones and many many more. So even though the garden is not large, measuring just 15m x 20m, different areas have a very different feel, so there is the ability to sunbath, or tuck yourself away on a bench under a tree in the dappled shade.

Tree planting, heping to screen the street lamp over the garden wall

Tree planting, heping to screen the street lamp over the garden wall

The final furlong of course is the lawn, Richard and his team returned, once the planting and mulching was completed to put down the turf and produce the new lawn.

The lawn has just been laid. The finish garden from the back door.

The lawn has just been laid. The finish garden from the back door.

Now all is needed is for the plants to grow and for the clients to enjoy their new garden after 2 months of build with a few delays due to the snow.

 Views of the new garden from the corner near the bike store back to the house over the peacock bench.

Views of the new garden from the corner near the bike store back to the house over the peacock bench.

View over the pool and main terrace.

View over the pool and main terrace.

Paeonias-Flowering Beauty

 

 A mass of paeonia colour.

A mass of paeonia colour.

Nothing says mid-summer exuberance in the garden quite like peonias, whether the herbaceous or the shrub/tree paeonia, their fleeting beauty is to be embraced and celerbrated. Here are just a few suggestions.

 P. delavayi f. Lutea

P. delavayi f. Lutea

Paeonia delavayi f. lutea: This wonderful tree paeonia, it may be a little on the slow side but it is worth the wait. A great addition to the back of the border. Tall up right steam reaching to 2m or above, in dense thickets, with new growth of red stems and deeply cut  leaves. Large tea-plate size sulphur yellow flowers are born freely from late May into June. Grow in full sun and it will be happy in free draining soil from acid to alkaline.

P. officinallis ‘Rubra Plena’

Paeonia officinallis Rubra Plena: Perhaps the most common of garden grown paeonias, this herbaceous paeonia grows to 60/75cm tall, making a sturdy upright clump, with mid green leaves. These crimson double flowers are a splash of colour for the middle of the border. Flowering May to June. Full sum well drained soil.

 P. lactiflora 'Bowl of Beauty'

P. lactiflora ‘Bowl of Beauty’

Paeonia lactiflora Bowl of Beauty: herbaceous paeonia a strong grower to 80cm/1m tall. Mid green foliage. Large sugar pink open flowers with clusters of creamery white central petals, make this a show stopper for any planting scheme. Flowering June to July. Full sun and well drained soil.

 P.lactiflora 'White Wings'

P.lactiflora ‘White Wings’

Paeonia ‘white wings’: this wonderful elegant herbaceous paeonia with dark green palmate foliage has large open dinner plate single flowers with delicate almost paper like white petals and a mass of golden stamnes at it’s cemtre. Flowering June. All good drained soils full sun.

 P. lactiflora 'Duchess de Nemours'

P. lactiflora ‘Duchess de Nemours’

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Duchess de Nemours’: This old garden classic adds a touch of elegance to the mid summer border a stand of stems up to 1m tall with glossy mid green foliage. Large cup shaped flowers of creamy white are freely born from June to July.

Peony border with Paeonia lactiflora 'Kelway´s Supreme', Alchemilla mollis and Geranium magnificum

Peony border with Paeonia lactiflora ‘Kelway´s Supreme’, Alchemilla mollis and Geranium magnificum

They may have gone a little out of fashion in recent years, considered to be a bit ‘blousy’ and fleeting, but I would argue they are a spectacular addition to any mid- summer planting scheme, whether used in a modern block planting along side grasses and over fashionable long lasting perennials or in a more classic traditional planting, they earn their place. The Japanese revere them with Paeonia festivals, but perhaps we can just start to plant them again.

The Spring Woodland Garden.

 

the spring woodland garden.

the spring woodland garden.

The spring is when the understory of wooded areas of the garden come into their own. Whether is is just the corner under a large deciduous tree or a long wooded boundary, with the lengthening days and higher light levels reaching the woodland floor, spring is the main season of interest for these areas in the garden. There are a host of plants that produce high impact in early spring. These hardy plants then cope with the dry conditions and dense shade provided by the tree canopy above latter in the year. Here are some winning favourites.

Ribes sanginum 'White Iceicals'

Ribes sangnineum ‘White Icicle’

Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’: Medium sized upright shrub, with hairy stems and small palmate mid green leaves. The bare stems hang with long racemes of delicate white flowers in April. It copes well with semi-shade so a woodland edge shrub. Soil, fertile. Lots of leaf litter.

Epimedium x perralchicum frohneliten

Epimedium x perralchicum frohneliten

Epimedium x perraichicum Frohnleiten: A small mound shaped shrub, with mid green leaves that are heart shaped, and are bronze when young. This evergreen shrub will cope well with dappled shade and thrives in fertile soil with lots of leaf litter. Small dainty yellow flowers are born on stems above the leaves in April-May.

Geranium phaeum

Geranium phaeum

Geranium phaeum: A statuesque geranium at 80cm tall, with upright stems of mid green palmate leaves with dark chocolate splashes in the centre. This strong grower will cope well with dense shade, and will cope with dryer soils. It has small dark purple flowers mid- May onwards.

 Helleborus argutifolius

Helleborus argutifolius

Helleborus argutifolius: A tall robust Hellebore at 60cm. With pea green stems and leaves. The leaves are deeply lobed with a serrated edge. Large clusters of green saucer shaped flowers, are produced from April into mid-summer. It will cope well with semi-shade but likes a humus rich soil.

Polygonatum x hybridum

Polygonatum x hybridum

Polygotatum x hybridum: Please Note, poisonous if eaten. This wonderful woodland plant adds elegance to your planting tall arching stems to 70cm high with dark green leaves in pairs along the stem. In May delicate drops of white flowers hang down from the arching stems.

Pulmonaria longifolia

Pulmonaria longifolia

Pulmonaria longifolia: A superb woodland ground cover plant, clumps of low growing leaves mid to dark green with white silvery dots. Clusters of small flowers are held on stems above the leaves and are in a vivid shade of blue. Flowering March to April. Grows in dappled to dark shade in a good fertile soil.

Tiarella 'Iron Butterfly'

Tiarella ‘Iron Butterfly’

Tiarella ‘Iron Butterfly’: this clump forming evergreen ground cover plant adds a touch of the exotic to a woodland planting mix. Clumps of palmate bronzed green leaves with dark splashes and thin stems of small neat fragrant cream pink flowers are produced in late spring. Semi-shade in fertile soil.

 the spring woodland understory.

the spring woodland understory.

When planting up a woodland area under trees always plant in small sizes or bare root, this makes it easier to plant between the roots of the trees. Also go for a more natural approach, allow the plants to flow and mix variates, to give a more wild and natural carpet effect to your planting. If you would like help with your woodland planting or any other planting advise and plans then do please give me a ring. Tel: 01273 470753 to talk to Emily about all your planting needs.

Evergreen Hedges-Great and Small.

 

 Evergreen hedges, edging and screening

Evergreen hedges, edging and screening

Hedges are an important part of any garden, from wind breaks, to dense boundary hedges, to the screening of unsightly areas like the compost heaps and shed, to dividing the garden into’rooms’, to the back drop of a border or to an ornamental hedge in it’s own right. A good hedge is a asset in any garden. The evergreen hedge has the added bonus of all year round beauty. There are many to choose from, here are a few favourites.

Taxus baccata

Taxus baccata

Taxus baccata: English Yew, a traditional formal hedge, of up to nearly any height, small dark green needles as leaves, with small red cup fruits (which are poisonous to humans, as are the leaves to cattle and horses) makes a good dense hedge. It will grow on shallow chalk to acid clay and although considered slow, it is faster then you think, and can make a good hedge with in 5 to 7 years particularly if planted as a double staggered row. Sun or part shade. Cut once a year, August.

Prunus laurocerasus

Prunus laurocerasus

Prunus laurocerasus: ‘ Laural’, A good large formal hedge, large glossy emerald green leaves, followed by red/black cheery like fruit (which are poisonous to humans). A quick growing hedge, which forms a dense structure. Will grow in all moist soils and sun or part shade. Cut mid to late summer. Either with shears or a hedge trimmer, if you are worried about the look of cut leaves then you may want to tidy the cut up a bit by using secretors.

Elaeagnus x ebbingei 'Coastal Gold'

Elaeagnus x ebbingei ‘Coastal Gold’

Elaeagnus x ebbingei ‘Coastal Gold’: A good medium to large formal hedge for growing in coastal areas, as it copes well with the wind and salt. Mid green leaves, with a sliver underside and a large splash of golden yellow in the middle of the leaf, gives this hedge a wow factor and can brighten up even the darkest of winter days. Fast growing on most damp soils sun to part shade. Cut Late spring to August.

CoCotonester frigidus 'Cornubia'

Cotonester frigidus ‘Cornubia’

Cotonester frigidus ‘Cornubia’: This makes a wonder free-flowing/informal medium to large hedge. With dark green leaves, sliver underside, the new leaves are held upright on the arching branches like ‘candles’ in the early spring. Followed by clusters of white flowers May- June. However possibly the best bit is the freely born great clusters of red berries that hold on into early winter. Grow on any moist soil. Sun or part shade. Prune carefully only shortening some of the longer branches, with hand tools in December/January.

Berberis x stenophylla

Berberis x stenophylla

Berberis x stenophylla: A good medium sized free-flowing/informal hedge, with the added bounce of thrones, so good for boundary planting or problem areas. Arching branches of small neat dark green spine like leaves, with grey underside. In mid to late spring there are cascades of canary yellow flowers borne freely all the way along the stems. Followed by small blue fruits. Grows in any good moist soil and will tolerate thinner chalk. Prune late summer, taking care to keep the arching habit, prune with hand tools

.

 Hebe 'Red Edge'

Hebe ‘Red Edge’

Hebe ‘Red Edge’: This makes a neat low dense hedge, in curving mounds. Tiny grey leaves with thin red/purple edges which colour more in the cold winter, occasional small white flowers in mid to late summer. Draining soil, with some moister, humus rich. Full sun. It can be tender so do not prune hard or late in the season. Trim, mid summer.

Pittospormum tenuifolium 'Tom Thumb'

Pittospormum tenuifolium ‘Tom Thumb’

Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Tom Thumb’: A superb low hedge, with dense burgundy purple foliage. The new grow is a striking lime green before becoming purple. Grows in sun or part shade, a good draining soil, which is humus rich. It can be tender so do not prune hard or late in the season. Trim mid summer.

 different Evergreen hedges

different Evergreen hedges

Now is a good time of year to plant an evergreen hedge, as long as the ground is not waterlogged or frozen solid, it will give it a chance to settle in before the start of the growing season. Plant either as container grown or normally a cheaper option as root ball stock.

hedge cutting

hedge cutting

Hedge cutting: Think about the time of year you are going to cut your hedge not just for the look of your hedge or what suits you, but more importantly think of the birds. A hedge is a great bird habitat from roosting, to feeding and of course nest building. So all hedge cutting should be out of the way by the second week in January and not starting again until late June or early July. If in doubt, have a look at your hedge with out disturbing the occupants and see that all nests are empty and chicks have fledged before you start the hedge cutter.

 small hedges, for edging.

small hedges, for edging.

So I hope I have inspired you to get out there and plan where your new hedge is going and to get planting. For all aspects of planting design I am happy to help, just give me a ring. 01273 470753.

Now is the time to Design your Garden.

 A modern garden in Brighton.

A modern garden in Brighton.

In the depths of winter, the bare bones of a garden can be seen, those problem areas come a little sharper into focus. The unsightly shed and compost bins, the stacks of plastic pots, that could be better screened. The path that is not quite wide enough now the shrubby has grown and you are walking with one foot on the lawn turning it into a muddy stripe in the winter. The terrace which is not quite in the right place for the evening sun. The planting boarder that has got too wide and difficult to manage and has spread outwards leaving a bare middle with over crowed edges.

The boundary planting which has got to large and has gone from a tall hedge to over powering a large section of the garden. To the line of leggy shrubs and large clumps of herbaceous plants that desperately need dividing to flower well. All gardens however mature they are can need a little redesign and new thinking and this is great time of year to do it.

Landscaping a family garden

Landscaping a family garden

What to consider when thinking about redesigning your garden? The first thing is to get everyone involved who uses the garden, how ever briefly. Get them to write a list of the 3 most important things they would like from a new garden. Compare notes decided as a family what your most important needs are.

 Landscaping has just been completed on this town garden in Horsham

Landscaping has just been completed on this town garden in Horsham

Next, Budget- Costs of landscaping- After care. Now you have all had your wild dreams of grass tennis courts, 100m long herbaceous boarders, ponds and jettys and Jacuzzis, now is the time to think realisticly. First what is your budget? Will it be enough to reasonably build your dream garden? Or is there a middle ground of perhaps having the garden built in stages over a period of time helping spread the costs ( some of my clients go for this option) or could you do some of the work yourselves? I am not suggesting you should become a brick layer every weekend or dig your swimming pool with 3 members of the family on spades for six months. But how about staining your own trellis/ pergola. Doing some of the clearance yourself or carrying out your own planting.

 Small court yard garden. Lindfield

Small court yard garden. Lindfield

Also does everything in the existing garden have to go? This rarely happens there are often existing trees and shrubs that stay or are pruned or crown lifted if they are getting a bit large. Those over crowded herbaceous plants some may be worth dividing and lifting and transplanting to new sites in the garden. Also your existing paving materials may be able to be lifted and relaid and added to. There may be other items and materials in the garden that can be used in the new design.

Lewes Maritime Garden

Lewes Maritime Garden

Aftercare, it is important to be realistic about how much time you have per month to look after your new garden, Sissinghurst is of course lovely and what most people think of when they think of a typical English country garden, but it is very high maintenance and takes a fleet of full time gardeners to keep it looking as it does. So how much time beyond moving the lawn once a week from April to September have you got? Perhaps the higher maintenance plants on your wish list have to go, and instead of the long herbaceous boarders, a good mixed planting of shrub and herbaceous and ground cover and mulch is the answer. With few boarders. Do you need to consider some help in the garden? From a hedge and tree expert who could come and cut the boundary hedges and screening trees. To to more specialist jobs that you feel less able to cope with, pruning top fruit and roes for example. Or more regular help, perhaps the less skilled grass cutting you get a lawn care firm to carry out and you concentrate on the planting areas. Or perhaps you just want to sit in your garden and let a weekly trained horticulturalist take the strain. What ever you decide, it is important to work out the level of care needed and how it is going to be carried out, at the design phase. So the garden that is designed for you not only suits your needs but suits the amount of maintenance it is going to get.

Walled Garden Steyning

Walled Garden Steyning

So start the possess, walk round your garden and look critically at it, work out the areas that do not really work and you would like to change. Think of the areas in the garden that were best to sit in, when you were enjoying the garden in the summer, mark them. Have the family meeting, work out who is mowing and who is hedge cutting and who gets first dibs on the hammock on a summer afternoon. Raid the piggy bank, and decide how much the budget is and who has what skills and what time to help with the landscaping. Now give me a ring so we can talk about your garden project I would be delighted to help create your new garden! Tel: 01273 470753, go on give Emily a ring!

A wildlife pond nr. Lewes

A wildlife pond nr. Lewes

No garden is to big or to small, and lots of clients just have areas of their existing gardens re-designed.

The Autumn Garden: Helping your garden wildlife survive the winter.

A good wildlife habitat

A good wildlife habitat

As the clocks go back autumn is well and truly under way and winter is just around the corner. Traditionally autumn was a time for the keen gardener to cut down, sweep up and make the garden tidy for winter. However our understanding of the needs of the wildlife that live and visit our gardens is much greater and most of us want to garden in a way that will encourage and help the many species that rely on gardens to survive the winter ahead. So here are some helpful hints to help the wildlife in your garden.

 seedheads are an important food .

seedheads are an important food .

The not so tidy gardener: leave herbaceous plant seed heads to stand over the winter, only cutting them down in early spring, these are an invaluable food soruse for birds small mammals and over wintering insects can take refuge through the winter.

toad hibination habitat.

toad hibernation habitat.

Similarly do not go completely mad removing every fallen leaf from the garden, the odd pile at the back of the border, or under the hedge, or piles raked to the edges of paths or in heaps on noncultivated bits of ground are wonderful hibernation habitats for a range of creatures including, amphibians, frogs,toads and newts. Reptiles like slow-warms and of course for small field mice and other mammals as well as a good habitat for intersects of many species.

Try to find room in your garden for the odd pile of small twigs and even logs, again in the corner of a border or down by the compost heap, somewhere where the piles will not be disturbed, if the piles are large enough and have leafs piled through them they may even turn out to be a suitable hibernation spot for a hedgehog to carry out it’s over wintering hibernation. Sadly Hedgehogs are becoming an increasingly rare sight in  domestic gardens and we must all do our bit to try to create the right habitat for them.

a group of 'Bug Hotels'

a group of ‘Bug Hotels’

Many other species will also use these twig/stick and log piles from a mass of different insects to over wintering bees, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians. A more decorative solution may be to hang a ‘bug hotel’ from a fence post or up under the eves of your house roof.

Hedge hog house

Hedge hog house

There are also ready made hedgehog houses on the market, these should be placed in a quite sheltered place away from any disturbance, including the local cats and any dogs. The hedgehog house should be in a position where it will not be disturbed through the winter months and preferable somewhere it can stay long term. The other big problems for Hedgehogs is habitat loss, the domestic garden is an important habitat but with implementable close board fencing now being the norm for garden boundaries rather than the porous garden hedge, the hedgehogs are struggling to move about the garden environment and are not able to have the size of territory they require for a healthy existence. So if you have a sturdy fence then think about cutting a small gap say 100/150mm wide by about the same high or a little bigger at a few points down your fence and on the corresponding side of the garden to allow hedgehogs to freely roam.

 mice nesting in long grass.

mice nesting in long grass.

Grass cutting, consider leaving the grass longer at the edges of the lawn perhaps 4 to 6 weeks growth, to allow a different habitat for over wintering species. Also if possible is there an area of grass that you can let grow to seed and leave uncut till early spring, this will become an invaluable area for insects, reptiles, amphibians and small hibernating field mice, particularly if this taller area of grass can edge a hedge or shrubby area.

a selection of bird feeders

a selection of bird feeders

Winter Feeding, from bird tables to nut and seed feeders to fat balls, and a whole range of bird feeders that are now squirrel proof, the market is flooded with all sizes and types to suit every situation and bird and gardener. Make sure you site the feeders well, not just for your enjoyment to see the birds from the kitchen, but also at a good height where the birds will not fall pry to the local cats. Also put out a low pot or bird bath for the birds, With both the feeders and bird bath it is very important to keep them regularly clean to prevent the spread of disease

So now you have an excuses not to be such a tidy gardener, and I hope these suggestions have inspired you to do your bit in your garden this autumn to help the animal species that live in and visit your garden get through the winter weather, be it a mild southern one or one with the odd attic blast.

For more information see www.rhs.org.uk/advise/wildlife for general information about helping wildlife in your garden. Also see www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife for help and information on bird food types for what bird species and for advise on different types of bird feeders