Gardens on the drawing board

DSC_0012It really is time I dusted off this blog after an embarrassingly long period of neglect. The end of the year is rushing to meet me so this seems a suitable time to take a look at what has been on my drawing board over the last few weeks. But first, I wanted to share photos I took of my garden this very frosty morning. The structure in winter is created by leaving the seed heads on all the perennials and grasses until they become battered or flattened. I also have some evergreens in there to contain all that froth.DSC_0021Some stalwarts such as Rudbeckia and Stipa gigantea are still looking perky in March, but with most things I have a careful chopping-back session towards the end of February. Watch out for over-wintering beneficial insects as you go…they will often have made a cosy bed amongst the papery stems.DSC_0019I also left some apples on the espaliers around our tiny veggy patch for the birds. Their cheerful orange glow lights up that part of the garden like christmas decorations!

So back to the drawing board. Actually that should be ‘boards’ as I have two. One is a massive A0-sized board which is reputed to have been used by BAC at Filton in the 1960’s to design Concorde! It certainly is a serious piece of vintage equipment which lives out its retirement helping me design my larger garden projects. For the last couple of months I have been working on a North Bedfordshire country garden surrounding a stone cottage undergoing major renovations. In its time, this garden must have been very well loved and cared for (and will be again once building work is over) with some interesting shrubs and trees still surviving. One of my favourites is this Clerodendron trichotomum var fargesiiDSC_0026Coppery young foliage, fragrant white flowers and these crazy metallic blue berries in autumn. The owners have worked very hard to reclaim and maintain the best of the original garden and it is my job to help them enhance these fragments and turn them into a coherent design. This will be a family garden of four main parts. A sunny, contemporary courtyard enfolded by the two main wings of the cottage will be built first.

DSC_0006Here is my Concept board for this area of the garden. The ‘before’ photo and the ‘after’ sketch along with the ‘mood’ photos help the client to visualise my ideas. This was presented along with a scaled Concept Plan. This contemporary design will contrast with the character cottage and with the more traditional style of the remaining garden. Three other areas include the main dining terrace with stone-faced raised beds at sitting height, a large area of grass for children’s play behind a curved Beech hedge and a small area of woodland.DSC_0007I presented the Concept before christmas so am waiting whilst clients consider the detail over the holiday. Once I have the go ahead, then the Master Plan and the specifications will be drawn up and quotes can be obtained from Landscape Contractors for construction of stage one.

On my smaller A1 drawing board I have been working on a garden in West Yorkshire that wraps around three sides of a modern stone house. It is very important that this garden is accessible to a powered wheel-chair with some awkward level changes to contend with. Raised beds will bring plants up to nose height and make gardening less challenging. Although we are in the suburbs of Huddersfield here, attracting wildlife into the garden will be important with a small pond, a Silver Birch, feeding stations for birds and a wide variety of bee-friendly plantsDSC_0004DSC_0003I plan to complete Master Plan and Specifications by mid-Jan and we hope to have the build completed and planted up by early summer.

Beyond this, I will be making site visits to inspect the progress of the building of a water-garden in SW Northants and looking forward to planting up a cottage garden for a very talented Leicestershire designer-maker in April. Bring on the New Year!


Curving terraces

Steady progress is being made on the latest of our designs to be built. This is a large country house in a north Bedfordshire village. the ground slopes steeply up and away beside and behind the house and our clients found the views of the grass banks uninspiring. They were also hard to mow and maintain.

We designed sweeping curved terraces retained by stone-faced walls and sleepers. Some terraces will be planted and some will be turfed.

DSC_0112 DSC_0110The construction has been a complex business, made more difficult by the seemingly endless rain last year! A large pond has been dug within the final sweeping curve of the retaining wall. the edges will be planted informally and a large curved deck will appear to hover over the water.

DSC_0114Last November we were at last able to plant out the first area to be completed. This is a steep bank that sits above the stone terraces and was formally an area of weedy turf. We have used a limited palette of perennials which will sweep across the slope in large swathes. This kind of approach is needed for impact when large areas of border are involved.

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Here we are on planting day!

We are hoping that the build will complete in spring and I will post updates as we progress.