Archive for the ‘The Official Garden Designer UK’ Category


Bright Ideas With Bulbs

March 13, 2012

When we think of bulbs we tend to think of spring bulbs, but there are so many summer and autumn bulbs available to plant out now.

If you didn’t get around to planting your spring bulbs last autumn, garden centres are now selling growing flowering spring bulbs in pots that you can simply plant into your garden for instant colour.

Bulbs are an extremely useful element for the garden as they take up a small about of space and are really useful in filling up spaces around other plants in the border. A useful gardening design tip is to plant bulbs into containers and dot these around the garden wherever you’ve got a dull space and after the bulbs have gone over then the container can be put somewhere out of sight.

bulbs.jpgOne lovely bulb that was a firm favourite of my grandmother, is the Gladiolus. She grew several rows of them to enjoy as cut flowers in the home. The Gladioli is one of best showy blowsy summer bulbs that come in a vast selection of colours.

I think that the stars among summer bulbs have to be the Lilies with their super elegant scented colourful flowers. Most Lilies are easy to grow and will last several years if planted in rich well-drained soil. Just remember to watch out for bright red coloured Lilies Beetles that like to munch on and ruin the plant.

For an exotic bulb you could choose the Eucomis Bicolor, otherwise know as the Pineapple lily because of its resemblance a pineapple. As this plant is quite tender, do plant it in a sheltered sunny spot with well-drained soil and remember to mulch in winter.

Don’t forget about getting some bulbs for late summer seasonal colour in your garden too. You could opt for the bright fiery colours of yellow, orange and reds of Crocosmia, you may know this as Montbretia. Plant this in bold clumps for best effect in your border and they look specatacular as cut flowers in the home too.

For some autumn colour you could go for Nerine bowdenii. This bulb has pretty small scented pink Lilly like flowers on long stems. This cheerful autumn bulb comes in white too and flowers best when the clump has aged and got congested, so it’s very useful as autumn filler in the flower border.

So remember bulbs aren’t just for spring, but can be used to give interest and colour in the garden through summer and autumn.


Image in this article: Photographer: Ian Britton


Let’s Shake Off The Past Winter

March 7, 2012

Spring for me begins in earnest when all the cheerful bright yellow daffodils and early tulips come out in flower and have a stretch and a yawn from their winter slumber. This is such a welcome sight and one that I’ve waited so long for.

Spring is my favourite season as the days get longer and the weather very slowly starts to warm up; definitely a time for shaking off those winter blues.

Regular readers of this column will know that in my own garden I have a Clematis armandii ‘Apple Blossom’ and now it’s blooming with masses of scented pale pink saucer shaped flowers… truly a welcome sight of spring as it looks super festooned over my garage.

feb2.jpgThis is lovely early flowering evergreen Clematis with spear shaped dark glossy leaves and if you want to have some colour later in the season then you can grow a late flowering Clematis through it.

A beautiful specimen tree for great spring interest is the Salix caprea ‘Kilmarnock’. This is a Willow that has a lovely weeping habit and grows to a full height of only six feet, so it’s a good tree for a small garden. This Willow produces pretty grey catkins that are studded with yellow anthers on bare shoots and I think it looks absolutely stunning.

For bold foliage and showy flowers from mid-winter to mid-spring you could go for the elegant Camellia. Camellias come wide chose of colours from white, yellows and in a vast variety of shade of pink through to reds.

This evergreen shrub grows naturally in acid soil but will tolerate neutral soil as long as it’s rich with organic matter. The Camellia can be grown in sun or dappled shade, but plant it somewhere that it is shielded from the early morning sun, as the sun may damage flowers in frosty weather.

One of the early flowering perennials is the Pulmonaria or known as the Lungwort. This flowering plant makes good ground cover. Most varieties prefer a moist shady border but the Pulmonaria officinalis will tolerate full sun.

Many Lungworts are often semi-evergreen and some varieties have decorative leaves with silver or white spots on. The flower is small and dainty and comes in a choice of colours from white, pink, violet, purple, blue and red.

If you are tempted by a visit to the garden centre to buy a beautiful bright early flowering Rhododendron, then it’s best to keep it in a container with ericaceous acid soil and in the growing season give it some nutrients with an ericaceous feed.

For the garden it is the start of the new season and a profusion of spring flowers will soon be brightening up our gardens. Like I say, it’s time to shake off those winter blues and to get outside into the garden for some welcome spring gardening.




March On

March 7, 2012

feb2.jpgMarch heralds the first month of spring and with this month come the longer hours of daylight to get our gardens blooming. However, the weather can still be unpredictable with a mixture of some milder sunny days, bitter cold March winds and even some hard frosts.

If you’re like me, then you’ll be keen to get out there into the garden at the first opportunity on a mild sunny day. Do remember that if you’re not used to gardening, or if you’ve been quite sedentary over the last few months, then do go easy on yourself before throwing yourself into any strenuous gardening jobs that need doing. It might also be a good idea to have some bubble bath soak ready for aching muscles.

There are many jobs that can now be done this month and it’s already the start of the weeding season. So if this is one chore that you would like to cut down on for the rest of the year, then now would be a good time to mulch your borders with a good thick layer of organic matter. Also by applying mulch early spring while the soil is still moist, you’ll help prevent moisture evaporating from the soil.

March is also the time to prune your roses; don’t be shy about giving them a hard prune, as they will reward you with good strong fresh growth and flowers. Prune out any dead or diseased branches and any branches that are crossing or rubbing together. Once you’re done that, stand back and have a good look at the overall form and then if necessary, prune to give it a good shape. Remember to prune on an angle and to an outward facing bud. feb1.jpg

If you have an evergreen shrub that may have now out-grown its place or you would prefer it in another part of the garden; well now is the time to move it and replant it. March is also a good time to lift and divide any overgrown
perennials. Thin them out and replant them elsewhere in your garden or swap plants with fellow gardeners.

Last month I mentioned about making a cloche to cover your soil to allow it to warm up, and if you did this then you can start planting out some young vegetable plants or salad crops. Also around now you could sow your hardy annuals, but do remember to check the seed packet for full instructions. If the weather does warm up this month then it might also be a good idea to give your lawnmower a once over ready for the new season of grass cutting.

So, it’s time to dust off those winter cobwebs, limber up and get ready for the new gardening season. Gardening doesn’t have to be a chore; it’s a great way of keeping fit, toning the body and burning off some of those extra inches that have may crept on over the winter months.



Don’t Just Look Back…

February 27, 2012

Some of our front gardens don’t receive as much tender loving care as they could do. One reason could be because a front garden is often just considered to be a small transitional area that we pass through from the roadside to our front doors. Also many of our front gardens now have to accommodate off-street parking and are often paved or covered over with concrete.

Although our front gardens don’t often get as much attention as they deserve, with a little bit of imagination even the tiniest, shadiest or paved front garden can be transformed with some planting to make the setting and entrance to our homes more inviting and pleasant.

Even just by having two planters on either side of the front door you can enhance the entrance immediately. Take into account the style of your house and choose pots that will suit your type of property. Larger pots preferable to smaller ones as the scale and proportion works better, andfront2.jpg besides, they also require less maintenance than small pots.

For security, I fill my pots one third full of stones, not only to add drainage, but also to make them very heavy to be picked up. If possible concrete in or secure the pots with some form of anti-theft anchor.

For easy care and stylish plants I’d go for topiary Buxus ball, cone or lollipop shapes as they look smart and elegant. Plant around the topiary Buxus with some trailing Ivy and seasonal colourful bedding plants to make a super display.

Hanging baskets also look petty and colourful around a front door but they will need constant feeding and watering. If you only have a small wall area by your front door then you could always put up an attractive wall planter with seasonal planting.

The smallest of front gardens can be given an instant stylish makeover by using gravel, some rocks, planting pots and a few small hardy shrubs. For vertical colour interest plant a manageable flowering climber or wall shrub around your front door.

Remember to plant the base of these plants more than twelve inches away from the wall of the property so their root get access to rainwater, while at the same time keeping the roots away from foundations.

If you must pave over your front garden for car parking, then how about incorporating raised planting beds somewhere?

If your car is going to be parked on a diagonal in front of your house, then how about having a fan or triangular shaped flowerbed in the corner of your front garden to create an attractive focal point?

So, if your front garden is looking a bit drab, give it a spring clean and get imaginative and creative… and give your front garden some kerb appeal.



Goodbye January!

February 6, 2012

wwwgardendesignercouk-42.JPGI don’t know about you, but I’m always glad to see the back end of January. It always feels such a long dull month, however as we’re now into February, the days are getting noticeably longer and spring is just a month or so away.

The crown of bulbs and herbaceous perennials are now starting to break through the ground, which is a welcome sign that the garden is starting to stir and wake up after its winter slumber.

As the days hopefully get a little milder and warmer we can start to get out and potter in the garden. There’s always the general tiding up that can be done anyway this month, and if you haven’t already, then you can now cut back your herbaceous perennials.

At the moment my own Clematis armandii has such a lot of new buds on it and I know it will look gorgeous next month when it will be covered with scented white tinted with pink flowers. This Clematis is a vigorous evergreen climber and only needs to be pruned to keep it in the shape that you want, whereas late-flowering Clematis should now be pruned back hard to a strong new bud about twelve inches from the ground.

One question that I am quite often asked is when and how to get a Wisteria to flower? A young Wisteria plant can take up to seven years to flower and the way to get it to produce more of its wonderful scented pendent flowers is by pruning twice a year; now in February and then again in the late summer.

Check your fruit trees this month if you haven’t done so and prune out any damaged or diseased branches or any stems that are crossing and rubbing together. You can then prune to give your fruit tree an improved shape, the aim being to open up the centre of the tree to allow in more light and towwwgardendesignercouk-41.JPG allow more air circulation in order to keep the tree nice and healthy.

This month we can already start some lawn maintenance and when the lawn is dry enough to walk on, it’s worth brushing off any worm casts. Another job worth doing this month is to dig over flower or vegetable beds so that the soil can settle during the winter rains.

If you’re keen to get your vegetable garden going early then you could buy or make your own cloches with strong wire and polythene. Use cloches to cover up the soil to allow it to warm up for some early sowing of your crops.

If you have any shrubs that may have outgrown their place, then this is a great month to move them to another part of your garden. This week in my own garden I’ll be moving a large Hebe and after the long January we’ve just had, it’ll be great to get back outside into the garden, dust off those winter cobwebs and get some fresh air.


Planning The Year Ahead!

January 25, 2012

flora4.jpgIt’s during this time of year that many of us plan our next summer holidays and possibly reminisce about our last summer’s break.

When I’m on my summer holidays in my favourite parts of the world, I often think how nice it must be to live in the part of the world where the sun shines most of the time, and then I realise how much I would miss what we have here…

… seasons.

It’s with the seasons that we’re lucky enough to have such a wide variety of plants.

I know that most of us hate the dreary winter months, but natural beauty can still be found in our winter gardens. A winter garden shifts its emphasis from the focus and details of leaves, flowers and colour to more of the outlines of solid and definite geometric shapes.

There’s nothing like a cold frosty morning with the garden sparkling and glistening as the sunlight shines on the plants creating a vivid winter wonderland. I think our gardens take on a completely new dimension in the winter, particularly when it snows and it all looks neat, clean, crisp and uncluttered.

If you’re lucky enough to have outdoor lighting, don’t just use it in theflora4.jpg summer nights when you’re outside with friends, turn it on in the winter evenings and enjoy your stunning night-time winter garden. The forms and structures of a garden such as deciduous trees and pergolas become striking canopies covered with frost or snow, and the winter’s low sun angle will create artistic silhouettes and shadows.

Clipped hedging and topiary create prefect shapes and I think they’re the backbone to a winter garden. A well placed statue or an decorative bench will create a focal point and add interest to dull corner and in a winter garden and will come into its own when most of the surrounding plants will have lost their softening foliage.

Certain plants look so lovely when touched by the frost such as the fine foliage or feathery plume seed heads of ornamental grasses or the frozen long pendent catkins that look like hanging Christmas tree decorations of the evergreen shrub Garrya elliptica.

It’s always interesting going abroad and seeing the native plants and even the weeds; some of which we here regard as tropical plants, however it’s always good to come home to my own garden… and of course, the British seasons.

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A Month For Planning

January 10, 2012


January is one month of the gardening calendar year when we gardeners can relax and take some time out to reflect and plan what we would like to do with and plant in our gardens in the next season to come.

I always think that January is great for ‘armchair‘ gardening; looking through seed and plant catalogues and deciding on what we would like to have a go at growing this coming year. Even the weeds in our gardens take a bit of a rest in cold weather around this time of the year, although weeds can be quite hardy and even at this time of the year my eye catches a few that have snuck up.

However, if you do feel that you have been cooped up indoors just a little too much over the festive season, then there are always jobs to be found in the garden.

This month I’ll be planting four semi-mature Prunus Shirotae ‘Mount Fuji’ trees, which with their white flowering Cherry Blossoms will look fabulous alongside the rock and gravel Japanese garden that I am currently creating.

In such Japanese gardens, these rocks represent land or islands and the raked gravel represents the water or the sea.

During January, we can still be planting trees, deciduous shrubs and roses, but pick a nice dry day when the ground is not waterlogged or frozen. You can also prune trees and cut out any dead or diseased branches, but remember to avoid pruning in frosty weather to prevent damage to buds.gardenblog47.jpg

If you’re brave enough, then during January you can get on with any weeding so you can start off with weed-free borders in the spring. Also to warm up, you may consider digging over and preparing flower borders or vegetable patches by incorporating organic matter. The more work that we do during this month, the more benefits and rewards we’ll see later in the year.

Remember that birds are our allies in our gardens. Yes, I know that they may peck at our soft fruits at other times of the year, but birds really are needed to deal with insect pests in our gardens. So this time of year when their natural food source may be a little scarce, give them a helping hand and add a bag of wild bird food to your shopping list. Also, on a cold frosty day put out some warm water for them.

Some people may feel that January is such a long cold and gloomy month and not really fun for gardening. I however think that it’s a great month for planning and tidying and the fresh air is great for chasing away the winter blues. Besides, the days are already getting longer and the crowns of bulbs are pushing through the soil and that means that spring is on its way.

Well, that’s it for another week. I do hope that you had a great Christmas and that this New Year brings you all you hope and wish for.