Appointing a Garden Designer

Appointing a garden designer for the first time can be rather daunting. Mostly, our new enquiries are from recommendation, which to us, is the best form of introduction. 

Clients are impressed with our work and are happy to pass on our details to family, friends and neighbours. 

The design process can often be quite a lengthly practise from initial meeting to completion of planting. We offer an after care service and this means that our visits to the garden and to see you continue long beyond the implementation of the design. This means we get to know each other pretty well!  

Project Progression

It certainly needs to work both ways, that we both feel that we will forge a good professional client/designer relationship so that the project progression is as smooth as possible. 

You have contacted us in the first place, to allow us to support you in achieving a fantastic, creative outdoor space. Whatever size that may be, you would like to collaborate with us and take advantage of our creative, professional experience.

Working Alongside your Architect

If you are having house re-modelling, we always recommend working alongside your architect from the outset. Your home and garden should work as one. Steps out, driveways in, paths and views from the house amongst many other elements should all be considered as one. We are very experienced in this and strive to work together to achieve a wonderful, cohesive space. 

Appointing a Garden Designer? at what stage?

Clients often ask themselves when should I appoint a garden designer? The answer being, from the outset of you making your new home plans.

Don’t wait until the building work is complete. Even if you do not plan to implement the garden plans straight away, it will mean that you have a firm plan in place. Your architects can see what our intention is, for the landscaping around the building. The dull stuff like the drains and the siting of manhole covers for example, will have an impact on the garden design.

Guidance and Experience

We offer much guidance and experience to ensure that you feel supported and guided through the whole process by way of our professional yet approachable ethos. 

We would be delighted to discuss your requirements with no obligation. 

Winter Gardens Stand Strong

In the Depths of Winter the Winter Gardens Stand Strong

As the season changes and the colder weather wraps its chilly breath around us, winter gardens stand strong. Offering sharp silhouettes and crisp outlines, the trees cast stunning, long shadows in the low, winter sunshine. It always reminds me how important they are in our landscape. Even in small gardens, they offer shelter and nesting spots for birds as well as berries and seeds providing crucial food for our feathered friends. The mesmerising movement in their branches remind us of the icy winds outside as we spend more time inside the warmth of our homes. 

A great website listing the best British winter gardens to visit is https://www.greatbritishgardens.co.uk/seasonal/winter-gardens.html 

Natural Blanket 

Layers of leaves left on borders will protect your precious plants through the freezing temperatures, acting as a natural blanket. More tender plants, such as agapanthus and dahlias in particular will benefit from an additional mulch. In the South-East, I never lift anything and it copes well with being left in the cold ground. as you start your garden tidy in spring the leaf fall can be cleared. Leave your perennials to stand tall so they also will protect the new growth below. 

Winters Decay

When we design new planting schemes, we always think about how the plant will look during the winters decay. This is as important to us as the other three seasons. Such beautiful, sculptural forms can be achieved by so many plants. The white dusting of the morning’s frosts can be truly spectacular. Yet it is the evergreens that hold their own through the winter months. Standing proud in the space that they share with spent flower heads, their smug beauty creates a strong backbone to the garden. 

Visiting a Garden in Winter

True inspiration can be achieved by visiting a garden in winter, wrap up warm and feel energised by the shape, outline and contours of the landscape around you. 

Some beautiful winter gardens I have visited are:-

https://www.hants.gov.uk/thingstodo/hilliergardens
https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/mottisfont
https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hinton-ampner
https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/wisley

Seeking Shade

Seeking shade in the garden. The comforting warmth and feel goodness of the sun can’t be under estimated, but seeking shade in the garden during these hot spells seems a necessity at times. As we are more conscious of the ill effects too much sun can have on our skin in particular, a shady refuge offers a welcome cool place to retreat.

Seating Spots

We will consider strategically placed seating spots around the garden that will take advantage of tree canopies or a cooler aspect in your outdoor space. A pergola can provide a sense of shelter and a fantastic point to gather for meals with friends and family. Designed with your garden and needs in mind, we can incorporate a whole new space for you to enjoy, not only suggesting the structure itself, but how it will sit within the whole garden. We will consider the surrounding planting and access to the area as well as the material that will form the ground level.

Shade Planting

Often thought of as a tricky consideration, shade planting can be achieved with thought and meticulous choices. Popular selections are woodland plants that thrive in dappled shade such as Digitalis (foxgloves), Euphorbia robbiae (wood spurge) and Aquilegia . Then following article also has some good suggestions : https://www.theenglishgarden.co.uk/plants/10-shade-loving-plants/

We always recommend irrigation through all planted areas.
These plants can be beautiful and lush, as well as strong in their individual form, creating a stunning scheme in a spot less bright from the sun.

Living Parasol

Seasonally, the sun shifts its duration, strength and height. In March a tree offers scant shade, whilst in June it is a large, living parasol. In the space of five years, a carefully chosen tree can become provide natural shade from an area that was once before in baking sun.

Dappled shade is produced by trees with fine foliage or elevated canopies. A heavenly place with lots of light but without searing sunbeams.

A shade garden will be a brilliant and welcome asset to your outside space. A sheltered, “cocooning” place that not only offers lower temperatures but a sense of calm and peace.

Summer Garden Party Preparations

Summer garden party preparations under way. It may be difficult to envisage a summer garden party after such a deluge of rain, but we are confident that the weather WILL improve and memories of last summer’s heatwave are not so distant. 

It is the time of year when you may be having a big birthday party, wedding or similar celebration in the garden and it really needs to look its best. Such an event is often a good excuse for the garden to take priority as it can sometimes get overlooked. 

Planning is key

Usually, we are given plenty of notice so that we can prepare and plan the garden so that it may look its absolute best. Planning is key!

Budget, client brief and date of the event is priority. Who will be attending, will there be any children and what time of day are important considerations. Once the date is set we can consider, amongst other things, what plants in particular will look their best at that time of year, and work out a schedule so that we can work together with a methodical and practical approach. 

Hard Landscaping Tweaks

It may be that you are not considering a whole new design, you may just need some hard landscaping tweaks. The terrace may need re-pointing, that bit of wobbly wall may need re-building or you may be considering adding a pergola for shade. All these smaller improvements enhance the garden in a practical and visual way. We can help  guide you to get the best out of your garden so it look smart and tidy within your budget. 

Lighting the Garden

Depending on the time of day, you may wish to include lighting the garden. This enhances the garden dramatically, offering an added dimension and there are many options and styles to choose from. Festoon lights simply hung in trees and groups of tea lights or lanterns on tables offer a stylish, thoughtful, relaxed atmosphere. You may already have garden lighting but wish to improve or add to it. We can again guide you and recommend our garden lighting expert to assist you. 

Planting

Improving the planted areas in your garden will transform the overall feel of the space. Using existing planting and just adding to it or creating new borders are really beneficial. We can offer guidance and planting plans for you following detailed discussion of the look and colour scheme you may wish to achieve. It is important for us to think about what will look best on the day of the event but also the longevity of the design. 

Carefully placed pots and planters grouped together will completely transform a dull terrace and offer not only colour but height and fragrance. 

Furniture

We can help you to consider the furniture for the garden. It may be that you need additional seating or more formal table and chairs. However, we sometimes suggest using cushions on a raised bed as a perching spot, bringing indoor furniture temporarily outside, hammocks, beanbags, throws and cushions on the lawn. Obviously, it depends on the occasion and the guests but we can inspire you to use what you may already have at home. Simple benches in maybe a spot you had not considered before, offers new views across the garden and also a quiet spot for those guests that may want to take five minutes away from the crowd. 

We are working on some very special events through the summer and relish in each one as they are so individual. Happy, family events that are memorable for all deserve some extra input to make them so. 

We always enjoy working on such wonderful projects, hearing the de-brief feedback post-event and the fantastic pictures makes all the hard work worthwhile. 

Plants looking good in May

Plants looking good in May. During the month of May as the weather warms and the days lengthen, it is great to consider what’s looking good in the garden right now. Looking at one of our on going projects, I have been watching one of the large borders and studying its progress each week. Back in May 2018 we planted up this West facing border. As we move into season two, I notice how (with garden irrigation and regular maintenance, including a hefty dose of mulch), it is establishing and gently maturing as we had envisaged.

Top Three

There are many to choose from. These top three plants are looking particularly good now, and are three of my personal favourites. They are all very individual in their habit, form and colour yet work wonderfully well in this large border. Plant in groups for maximum impact.

Sky Blue

Camassia cusickii (Cusick’s Camass) is a bulbous perennial with long racemes of thirty to one hundred star shaped sky blue flowers. Held by stout yet willowy stems and open sequentially from bottom to top. Blooming in late spring/early summer, they appear above wavy margined foliage. Camassia are a striking feature in the garden when the summer perennials have not yet hit their stride. They grow 60-75cm tall and will naturalise easily in full sun or part shade with moisture retentive soil. However they like to be drier through their dormancy. They really look spectacular planted in drifts and they mix beautifully with other late spring flowering bulbs. 

Peachy-Orange

Geum “Totally Tangerine” (Avens) is a clump forming herbaceous perennial noted for its long flowering season. They have an abundance of upward and outward facing peachy-orange flowers from late spring to early autumn. If you keep dead heading them, they really will last that long! They have branched sprays which rise above the lush mound of deep green, fuzzy leaved foliage. Totally Tangerine is sterile and will not self seed. It will grow up to 75cm tall and enjoys full sun or part shade in well drained soil. A beautiful, adaptable plant that will add a wonderful splash of colour as well as be a real magnet for bees and butterflies.

Tall aromatic

Angelica achangelica is a tall, aromatic, perennial herb with attractive rounded umbels up to 10-15cm across. White or greenish tiny flowers appear in early summer and are borne on hollow, bright green stems which are sometimes tinged purple. Angelica has a liquorice taste and it has long been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. The leaves are great in salads, the stalks may be crystallised in sugar for cake decorating as well as the seeds being used for flavouring liqueurs. The root was thought to protect against the plague, hence its name “Angelica” due to its angelical virtues. It will bloom from early to mid summer reaching up to 180cm tall and needing full sun or part shade in rich medium to wet soil. 

A striking variety that provides incredible plant “sculpture”

For more top May flowering perennials check out

https://www.countryliving.com/uk/homes-interiors/gardens/…/best-plants-for-may/

Garden detailing

This type of garden detailing is very satisfying. Our clients wished to personalise their garden by incorporating a bespoke design within the brick entrance pad to the front door. It not only offers a personalised touch but will afford a completely unique point in the garden. The property is certainly quite unique in nature, almost quirky, with plenty of different building materials making up various additions to the original late medieval farmhouse. 

Courtyard Garden 

We are currently landscaping the courtyard style garden at the entrance to the property. Visitors approach the beautiful timber front door via a brick and flint path. Our design opens up the entrance threshold providing a greater circulation space, whereas before this space had been quite cramped and unattractive. A limited plant and colour palette will help to enhance the flow and aesthetic of the design.

Entrance Design

We choose a geometric pattern that sits in a symmetrical way against one another. Warm red creasing tiles laid on edge are inset within a bed of knapped flint. This tile colour compliments the surrounding clay pavers. The colour tones and materials selected tie in with those on the house. The design provides a simple yet strong statement as a first impression approaching the property. The construction is well underway as the images demonstrate. The garden detailing is bringing this project alive and we are delighted with the progress so far.

www.chelmervalley.co.uk

Garden Construction Work

Garden construction work moves forward. Visiting this week to monitor the garden build progress, much has been achieved in seven days. It is great working with a regular landscape team, as we can not only rely on superb workmanship and detail but fantastic communication. This is something we pride ourselves on and understand the importance of keeping the project as stress free for the client as possible. This can obviously be achieved with clear direction and organisation. 

Brick retaining walls

The low brick retaining walls are now two courses high. The clay bricks themselves have been selected carefully to compliment the style and age of the house. They also tie in with the clay pavers that we have used in other parts of the garden. Soft in tone with a very slight colour variation will mean they will blend in seamlessly to the design. We are also using these clay pavers as the path material in a basket weave pattern and also brick with a flint inlay. We have discussed the  heights and positioning of the recessed wall lights from our lighting design, again considering all these little details make a huge difference to the end result. 

Gate sub-frame

Our blacksmith has now sent the underground part of the beautiful bespoke metal gate. This has been positioned carefully and set in concrete before the concrete pour for the paths. When the gate arrives, it will then fit securely onto a strong base. Designed at our Surrey studio and made at a Herefordshire forge, it will be centralised onto the property’s chimney breast on one side and a yew hedge on the other, affording access through to the parterre garden beyond.

We are looking forward to our next visit to see further progress. A small area of garden, but one with many quirks due to its’ age and location. This certainly makes for a characterful space and one with much individuality. 

Garden Build Progress

Visiting after one week, is it great to see the garden build progress so positively. Much has been achieved and the dig out is now complete. Now down to solid chalk and it always surprises me how much material comes out of a small garden! It is fortunate that we have not had to consider getting rid of this waste which is always such an expensive exercise. Instead the spoil is being recycled to form a new bank on the boundary of another part of the garden. We always strive to re-use where appropriate to save on costs.

The mini digger is now redundant, we had to hire the smallest one to fit through the garden gate to access the site. Concrete has now been poured to set the foundations of the new low retaining walls and steps. String lines are fixed to set the paths out. Conduits have been laid for the lighting cabling and irrigation feeds. Final tweaks on the setting out are being finalised. We always find it such a beneficial role as project monitor, we can fine tune any part of the design and talk through any queries that the client or landscaper may have.

Minor adjustments and alterations

There are always minor adjustments and alterations once the work is underway, solving these now is imperative to the success of the on-going project. Even a few millimetres out on a path or border can alter the whole design. This can only be recognised on the ground. No mater how accurate the survey and drawings we compile are, there may be some slight tweaks to make.

As the build progresses, we keep close contact with the client so that they are fully “in the picture” as to how everything is going and we will raise questions with them if need be. A collaborative approach keeps the whole team up to date and the project moving in the right direction.

Looking forward to next week’s site visit and updating you on the next blog.

Bringing Garden Designs to Life – The Build Begins

I am writing this, as the first in a series of blogs. Showing the process of bringing one of our garden designs to life. From paper, through the construction stage and onto completion.

You’re using a garden designer and after weeks of planning your garden with us, the build begins. Budgets have been set and agreed. Drawings have been produced and deliberated. Many decisions have been finalised, on details that you never even knew existed, let alone had to make decisions on. We guide you through this process, always working with you in a collaborative way. By appointing us, you appreciate that our knowledge, experience and creativity will ensure that you achieve a beautiful garden.

However, it is still nerve racking for you, the client, to see your outdoor space suddenly become an unattractive area of “mess” as the build begins. Machinery moves in, plants move out and the setting out and excavation begins. We are extremely fortunate to work with such excellent landscapers, who are not only hugely talented in what they do, but are excellent communicators and considerate to where they are working. And so, the collaborative approach continues, often with the inclusion of additional sub-contractors such as garden lighting and irrigation specialists.

Problem Solving

In the process of bringing garden designs to life, there always will be an element of problem solving required. We adopt a proactive rather than a reactive approach, working closely alongside the contractors, identifying potential issues before they arise. In this way we are able to come up with suitable solutions ensuring the project remains on track. This week for example, we uncovered a 41.5 metre deep well which was not on the survey! There will always be an answer to the situation, something may have to move slightly, however it is always important to consider how that may affect the whole garden design, not just the area in the immediate vicinity. Moving a path by 50mm can put the whole design out. This is again where working closely as team with you, the client and the landscapers will always pay dividends.

Mud and Mess

Obviously you have to crack a few eggs to make an omelette, and so all this mud and mess will be worth it. While it can be difficult as you look out to try and visualise how that current landscaping work will ever evolve into the garden envisaged on the beautifully rendered, scaled drawing. As the levels are set and the excavations continue, you will be able to see how your garden is taking shape. Each stage is exciting, even if the current stage is a wet and muddy one. Each week huge progress is made. The transformation continues as the design emerges out of the ground. With each and every decision you made with our support, you are well on your way to that beautiful garden been realised.

International Women’s Day

As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2019 on March 8th, I thought about writing this blog on a distinguished, female garden designer. It would have been easy to research and tell you interesting facts about that individual, but then in fact, I thought I would write about my own experience of being a woman in the wonderful world of landscaping and design. I’m not a feminist whatsoever but there are some illustrious female traits worthy of acclaim. 

My journey began after a career as a nurse. I needed a change and a new challenge but more importantly to be outside and nuture the creative talent that I felt I had bubbling. For me, the nursing profession in the late 80’s and 90’s was predominantly a mainly female affair. 

Here and Now

Nowadays, I find myself in a mostly male dominated working environment from my wonderful designer colleague to landscapers, nurserymen, lighting and irrigation specialists, landscape supplies, reps and many others. As a woman, I feel you have to be of strong stock in this business. Assertive and confident in your approach yet thoughtful and considered. A good listener, reader of body language and excellent communicator. In fact all the skills I acquired whilst nursing, good, solid transferable skills! 

It goes without saying that you need to be physically strong to be working in a garden, yet emotionally strong to deal with issues as they arise. These sometimes need resolving immediately and on the spot with clear, concise solutions. Teamwork is key and it is always good to know what amazing support I have. 

My last working week consisted of so much variety which is what I thrive on, no two days are the same.. ever. A good heady mix of research, design, client meetings, contractor meetings, Sketch Up training, a network event and planting plans. As well as the usual humdrum (yet necessary) emails, phone calls, social media and blog updates which gently rumble in the background like my stomach when I haven’t had time for lunch!  

Moving Forward

Being a sole trader of a small business is tough, your motivation and drive cannot falter, which leads me onto another important aspect – time management. I am getting better at this, not at punctuality, I’ve always been rather efficient at that but spreading the workload in an effective and logical way.

I am not one to sit still, if I am sedentary there is always a task in hand or thoughts of one. Realising that starting very early, working through lunch and finishing late is not productive. Super woman I am not, but I tried to be! Breaking the week into manageable chunks is the way forward and it pays off. I am much more productive at work but also more available to fulfil my other roles as mother, sister, partner, aunt, godmother, daughter and friend, which is actually the important stuff.

I feel very lucky so far, to have met so many great people along the way and as I celebrate 10 years of business I applaud and celebrate International Women’s Day.