Archive for the ‘Garden Design’ Category


Gardening Can Be Spooky

November 2, 2012

dscf0070.jpgThis year seems to have gone by so quickly and it’s already just gone Halloween, rich with tradition, mystery and symbolism.

Not surprisingly, much of the symbolism surrounding Halloween has connections to the natural world, including plants, fruits and vegetables.

Also it might interest you to know that Halloween is celebrated in some form in many parts of the world, including, Japan, Mexico, Sicily, China, Korea and Sweden among others.

The time around Halloween is a time when plants start to die down as they near the end of a cycle and many deciduous trees and plants drop their leaves for the winter.

For ancient people, this was a time to honour their dead along with the “death” of the year and to offer sacrifices to nature hoping that spring will return with its fresh and welcome bounty.

Many garden plants are associated with this season. Rue, a hardy perennial bitter herb of the Bible was hung in doors and windows around this dark time of the year to deter evil spirits.  Rue has also been used in fall to repel fleas from coming in the house by rubbing areas with the bitter, pungent juice released from a crushed stem.

Sage or Salvia is a symbol of domestic virtue and immortality and was often planted on graves in days of old as it was said to live forever, often thriving on neglect and so be a symbol of life.

Rosemary, often thought of as the loveliest of herbs was brought to England in the 14th century. It had been used for thousands of year before in all of the Mediterranean countries where it was hung over the cradle of infants to protect them from the evil eye. It was also called the bride’s herb, and believed to ward off evil. Burned with thyme and Juniper the smoke was said to get rid of witches and evil spirits and also clean the air in a sick room.

So, if you took part in Halloween celebrations this year, remember that it’s not all just plastic marks, false fangs and pointy hats; there’s a strong tradition that links this spooky festival to your garden.


Indoor Horticultural Styling

October 31, 2012

My love and passion for gardening and garden designing led me to study flower arranging and floristry for the horticultural styling part of my business.

gardenblog78.jpgSo now I not only enjoy the flowers outside in my garden but I can enjoy their splendid beauty and wonderful scent indoors at close quarters.

More and more people are taking up the popular hobby of flower arranging. While it is easy to go along to a florist and buy wonderful flowers, foliage is sometimes limited and can work out more expensive to buy. So why not grow your own?

A garden does not have to be just ornamental it can be functional as well. Many of us grow fruit and vegetables to eat, so how about growing a selection of plants and shrubs that can be used for your flower arranging?

Many of us will have Ivy growing on our gardens, or at least know someone who has, and this is such a useful plant to have in many flower arrangements as it can give a great effect by trailing over the side of a container.

With Christmas coming up, if you spray just the black berries of the Ivy with a silver or gold spray and place it around candles it can form the basis of a very attractive table display.

However, it goes without saying that you always need to take care with such plant / candle arrangement.

Holly is another useful evergreen shrub and tree for its distinctive leaves to use for Christmas decorations.

A versatile evergreen shrub or tree that is number one on my list to have for flower arranging is the Pittosporum tenuifolium with its lovely wavy edged medium size leaves and can fit into numerous types of flower arrangements.

The Eucalyptus gunnii with its distinctive round disc-shaped aromaticwwwgardendesignercouk-18.jpg glaucous leaves will give a more contemporary style to a flower display.

If you constantly harvest this shrub it will keep growing new useful shoots and this will prevent it growing into a large tree which can become too big for the average suburban garden.

For bold foliage go for the Fatsia japonica, with its large finger lobed glossy green leaves, or the Phormium with its broad sword-shaped leaves or the Aucuba japonica ‘Crotonifolia’, the Spotted Laurel with its interesting yellow blotches.

For variegated foliage interest go for the Euonymus fortunei. ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ is green in the centre of the leaf with bright yellow margins or the ‘Emerald Gaiety with its white margin will look really stunning with white roses.

So next time you are given some flowers go out into your garden and snip off some foliage and create an instant lovely flower arrangement to enjoy indoors.


An Orchestra Of Autumn Colours!

October 25, 2012

wwwgardendesigner7.jpgAs I’ve said before, my favourite time in the garden is in the spring but for my husband it is the autumn. He loves to see all the wonderful rustic colours that the leaves turn into before they fall from the trees.

Around this time of the year there are some super trees to provide orange, gold, bronze and crimson colours for autumn interest and on the top of my list is the Acer palmatum atropurpureum, which I have in my own back garden. This will be turning from its usual purple colour foliage to bright red and when the rays of sun shine through it, it is absolutely stunning.

Autumn is also the season for ornamental berries to show off their splendour. The evergreen Pyracantha is one such shrub that has super bright orange berries and can be grown in a shady or sunny position against a wall. The more sun it’s exposed to, the better, brighter and more berries it will produce.

For clusters of red berries Cotoneaster shrubs are good for this and they are easy to grow in any ordinary garden soil.

For really unusual stunning purple berries that are shown off on bare stems go for the Callicarpa shrub. It can grow to a height of thirteen feet and it’s definitely one for my shopping list.

An interesting perennial that comes into its best around this time of the yeargardenblog761.jpg is the Physalis alkekengi, otherwise known as the Chinese lantern, because of its super decorative papery orange calyces, which resemble lantern shapes. This plant is a vigorous spreader, so leave plenty or room for it. It is also useful for dried flower arrangements.

A dainty and exotic looking hardy flowering perennial is the Schizostylis coccines ‘Sunrise’, The kaffir lily. It has lovely salmon-pink showy, gladiolus-like spikes of open cup-shaped flowers that flower from late summer to early winter and it’s good value for money in any flower border.

Another hardy perennial to flower outdoors this month is the Chrysanthemum. There are so many forms to choose from and a wide variety of colours too. Chrysanthemums can also be used as cut flowers to provide some indoor interest too.


A Bright future

October 20, 2012

wwwgardendesignercouk-20.jpgThis is the time of year when many of us start to spend more time indoors and forget about the garden, however, you could save yourself time and money by using the time now to plan your garden for next year.

This is the best time of the year when we should be thinking and planning how we would like our gardens to be and want sort of plants we would like to be growing next season.

Autumn is certainly the garden’s “renewing time”, as this is when we should preparing and improving the soil by digging in lots of organic matter and many of the existing plants in a garden can be transferred and replanted.

This is also the prefect time to plant new trees, shrubs and bulbs. Existing lawns can be repaired if parts are worn out and during this time you could be reshaping your lawn for new flower borders or to completely renew and smarten up your garden.

A well-designed border can really enhance and add interest to the garden. When planning a border consider some of the following elements: what form or shape would you like the borders to be?

A straight traditional border gives more of a formal theme and if it butts up to a lawn then it will be easier to mow. A less formal look is to have curved edges to a border to give it a softer attractive feel and look.

Always consider the aspect your border faces, for example if it is southwwwgardendesignercouk-24.JPG facing it will get hot sun all day and if it is north facing then it will have to have shade loving plants. So therefore it may be preferable to have larger planting borders where the garden get more sun light.

Think about plant and colour schemes; the most popular request I get when I am asked to design planting schemes is for all year-round colours. Now it’s not always possible to have borders in full flower all year round, but the objective to achieve is that there is some form of interest in a border for each month of the year.

The best way to do this is to sit down and with pen and paper and under a list of the months, list what plant will be looking its best during that particular month.  At this stage you should consider the colour scheme as well. Do you want a hot border with lots of bright colours or a soft pastel cool coloured border?

When planting up your border start with your ‘star performers’, those are the plants which are going to be the focal points, then plan for the evergreens as this will provide the back ground and framework to your border. After that, plan the shrubs and perennials to give seasonal interest and finally finish off with the ‘fillers’ such as bedding plants and bulbs.

Even though we’re in the autumn season now, use this time wisely to shape up your garden for next season.


Tiptoeing Through The History Tulips

September 29, 2012

tulip.jpgLast week we looked at bulbs and different ways of planting them, so I thought that this week we could take a closer look at one of the most well known bulbs, tulips.

The Dutch are renowned for their passion for tulips and tulip growing has been a major crop since the 1600s.

Today nearly half of Holland’s flower bulb farms are planted with tulips.  Every year about 3 billion tulip bulbs are produced in Holland and around 2 billion of these are exported.

Surprisingly, tulips are not a native plant of Holland.

Tulips originate from Asia, their prime genetic centre being in the Tien-Shan and Pamir Alai Mountain Ranges near modern Islamabad, close to the border or Russia and China.

Tulips spread from these areas to other regions including China and Mongolia.  A secondary genetic centre developed in Azerbaijan and Armenia and from these area tulips spread to parts of Europe.

Tulips can be found today growing wild in regions of the Balkans, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland and France with one French native being the Tulipa celsiana.  Strangely enough, the natural advance of tulips never reached the Netherlands.

Dutch tulip history begins in 1593 when the botanist Carolus Clusius planted the first tulips in Holland when he was appointed as the head botanist at thetulip.jpg first botanical garden in Western Europe at the University of Leiden.

It was Carolus’ refusal to give his prized tulip bulbs away that fuelled a demand for them as people saw a chance to make money from these new plants.  Unfortunately a burglary of Carolus’ collection followed and this could be said to be the start of the Dutch tulip industry.

The cultivation of tulips on Holland began slowly and at first the tulip was a rarity that only the wealthy could afford with tulips becoming a status symbol.

It wasn’t long before the tulip craze took off.  During Tulipmania, the tulip.jpgrenowned white and maroon “Rembrandt-type” tulip “Semper Augustus” could command a price as high as 3,000 guilders per bulb, that’s the equivalent of $1,500 U.S today.

Only a short time later a similar bulb fetched 4,500 guilder ($2,250 U.S), plus a horse and carriage!  Just like the dot-com crash of the nineties, the tulip crash of 1637 followed the boom.  People who had thought of themselves as very rich were now reduced to poverty literally overnight.

Today, tulips continue to be a popular flower and the Dutch will be forever associated with this plant mainly due to the Tulipmania of the 1600s.

So the next time you plant some tulips in your garden, remember the tulip boom of the 17th century and the extraordinary history of this beautiful flower.


Brighter Bulbs

September 22, 2012

I think that this time in the gardening year is so exciting with the new season of bulbs coming into the shops and garden centres. I’ve just recently treated myself to a bag of tulip bulbs aptly named ‘Red Riding Hood’ which will be a rich red colour with flamboyant bold wide leaves which will have dark maroon markings.

Other bulbs that I’ll be looking out for will be a tall variety of the purple Allium, which is the Latin name for “garlic” and these bulbs are part of the ornamental onion family. I’ll be planting these so that they’ll grow through some silver foliaged plants to make what I think is an attractive colour combination of the lilac-purple and silver colour scheme.

I think planting in combinations can have a stunning effect and it’s fun to experiment with different contrasts, foliage, colours and shapes.

One combination I have in my own garden at the moment consists of black grass, Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ planted together with the almost black coloured tulip ‘Queen of the Night’.

You can tell I love black flowers and plants.

Bulbs are so useful in the garden as they take up little space and are super to use as fillers amongst other plants and like I said, you can create decorative planting combinations with them. Another way to use bulbs is to plant them into pots or containers and use them in the borders where you have gaps and after they have finished flowering you can simply move them elsewhere.

Another interesting way to use bulbs in the garden is to naturalise them into a grassy area. Daffodils, Crocuses and the small variety of Fritillaria with its delicate nodding bell flower heads are great for this.

The secret to planting these bulbs is to just get a small handful of bulbs and throw them down onto the ground and where they fall is where you plant them. This way you will get a more natural look as opposed to planting them specifically in a set pattern.

For those of you without a garden, you can still make use of bulbs, as there are so many that can be grown indoors.

One indoor bulb that’s familiar to many is the Hyacinth, which is often grown in a glass container filled with water so you could see the roots growing. Hyacinths have a wonderful strong scent that can certainly fill the house.

Many indoor bulbs come already planted up in containers and are all set to grow without much preparation, however you can easily plant up your own container with spring-flowering bulbs of small daffodils, tulips, crocuses and irises. Plant some small leafed ivy into the container to add extra foliage interest and voila, you have your own instant indoor mini spring garden.



As Summer Fades…

September 12, 2012

wwwgardendesignercouk-41.JPGAs I see the first signs of the Virginia creeper’s leaves starting to turn red I know that autumn is just around the corner, but September is still a vibrant and colourful month in the garden.

One ‘sunny’ flower that is in it’s full glory this time of year is the Rudbeckia, with the common name of Black-eyed Susan, as it has a blackish-brown centre with yellow daisy-like flowers. These are easy and reliable plants to grow in any sunny spot and can grow up to three feet tall to make a super late summer, through to early autumn, display in a flower border.

Another ‘good doer’ for the late summer garden is the Sedum spectabile ‘Brilliant’, which is a clump forming deciduous perennial with upright stems of fleshly leaves that have clusters of small pink star-shaped flowers. This plant has the common name of Ice Plant, as the glaucous fleshly leaves are always cool to the touch. The attractive flower seed head can be left on the Sedum throughout the winter to give interest and then cut away when they have got too tattered.

A climber that is really showing off in my garden at the moment is the Passiflora caerulea, the Blue Passion Flower. The flower of this plant is so exotic and unusual; I really do marvel at its exceptional splendour. This is a fast growing semi evergreen climber that likes a hot sheltered wall and it produces bright orange plum sized fruits in the autumn. Passion Flowers come in a range of other colours such as white, magenta pink, red and purple, but these are not so hardy as the blue variety.

Another pretty climber which is also useful for summer and autumn interest is the Clematis tangutica. It has these lovely dainty lantern-like nodding yellow flowers that transform into wonderful silky swirls of seed heads. This Clematis can grow to a height of fifteen feet and can be hard pruned down to about a foot in spring to give new fresh growth for next season.

There are many enthusiastic and passionate Dahlia growers and I can certainly understand why they’re so keen about this particular flower. The flower heads are truly amazing and their forms range from single petals, to pompom, ball and to decorative forms.

Dahlias flower from mid-summer to autumn until the first frost and also come in a wide variety of colours from whites to reds, yellows to oranges, light pinks to deep purples and will look super in borders. Most Dahlias will need to be lifted unless it is in a frost-free area. After the leaves have been blackened by the first frost, dig out the tubers, brush off the soil and leave in a cool dry place to dry naturally. Then simply dust with a fungicide, pack in boxes of peat or dry sand and store in a cool dry place. The tubers can then be planted out next spring after all danger of any frost has passed.