Creating a Drought Tolerant Garden

A gravel garden is a great option if you wish to create a low maintenance or Mediterranean style garden. These types of gardens use plants that are drought tolerant, which reduces the need to water regularly although some minimal weeding may still be required.

By choosing the right hard and soft landscaping, a gravel garden can be beautiful, practical and attractive to wildlife.

When planning your garden, the soil is the first thing to consider. If you have clay soil, you will need to add plenty of organic matter as a lot of the plants used in a Mediterranean style of garden prefer a sunny spot with well-drained soil.

Next decision is the gravel – there is a vast array to choose from. With different sizes and colour, there should be something suitable for everyone’s taste whether that be traditional, Japanese style or an industrial look. I would suggest getting a sample of the different types you like and taking them home to try as it will look different in your own setting.

When choosing the type of gravel, its also important to consider if it will be walked upon as angular medium grade gravel is easier under foot. Plus, if you use small (10mm or below), you could find your garden is suddenly more attractive to cats!

Any surface dressing helps shade the soil and keeps it cool which prevents it from drying out as fast after rain or watering and this allows more water to go into the ground for later use. Adding large stones and pots not only creates an interesting focal point, it can also decrease the quantity of water needed as the soil dries out less quickly.

After levelling and raking the surface of your garden border, lay landscape fabric over the surface and cut a cross in the fabric and place your plant through it. Once all your plants are in place you can gently add your chosen gravel to a depth of around 5cm. It’s cheaper to buy gravel loose rather than in individual bags (which also cuts down on plastic waste).

So once you’ve chosen all your hard landscaping materials, the exciting bit is the plants which will bring it to life!

What plants are suitable for a gravel garden?

There are many plants that are well suited to dry, drought like conditions. As a general rule of thumb choose plants with the following attributes:

Small leaf – such as Verbena bonariensis, thyme

Silver leaf – Olive tree and Lavender

Thick leaf – Sedum, Sempervivums

Hairy leaf – Stachys byzantine commonly known as lambs ears which are so soft and tactile.

When planting small plants they can become swamped by gravel, so plant them so that that they are raised slightly above the level of the gravel.

The Contemporary Version of Border in a Box is ideal for this style of garden.

Gravel garden grasses phormiums

This is the Contemporary Design & has just been planted

 

Carol Klein’s Top Tips for Autumn Colour in Your Garden

Carol Klein on stage RHS Malvern Autumn Show

Carol Klein’s Top Tips for Autumn Colour in Your Garden

I had the pleasure of meeting the Gardeners’ World presenter Carol Klein at the RHS Malvern Autumn Show 2019.

As we sat down to talk behind the main stage, one of Carols colleagues shouted over and asked Carol if she had a sewing kit in her handbag, Carol replied “No, but I’ve got a boiled egg, babybel and a piece of chocolate!” So now you know what Carol keeps in her bag… who knew!!! It certainly broke the ice as I found it very funny.

Carol is a regular visitor to the Malvern Shows and loves the people and plants, she says it’s very down to earth and loves mingling with everyone in the floral marquee.

But we all want to know, what’s in Carol’s garden right now that’s looking good?  Here’s what she had to say about some of her favourite Autumnal flowering plants.

Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii

Rudbeckia yellow daisy

Carol loves this plant as it’s such a ‘sunny’ autumnal flower and grows well in her gardens heavy soil. She went on to say they’re really easy to propagate and it’s best done in the spring.

They are a perennial which grows to around 60cm tall, with dark oval hairy green leaves and bright yellow daisy flowers which bloom from late summer to mid-autumn. Ideal for clay, loam or chalk soils in full sun or part shade.

Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea ‘Edith Dudszus’

Molinia Edith Dudszus moor grass

Commonly known as Moor Grass. This grass turns gold in autumn and she loves how it tumbles over in the border and can easily self-seed.

This grass can grow in any moist but well drained soil in full sun or part shade, but prefers neutral soil.  It grows to around 90cm tall so it’s ideal for mid/back of borders. It’s deciduous and its best to remove any dead foliage and old flowered stems in spring.

*TOP TIP* Carol loves Asters and has a top tip of combining similar flowers of different heights to give a tiered effect.

Aster × frikartii ‘Mönch’

Aster blue daisy

The word Aster comes from an ancient Greek word meaning star, Carol went on to explain where the variety name came from and it’s an interesting story.  But in a nutshell a Swiss plantsman called Frikart created three new cultivars, naming them after Swiss Mountains: ‘Mönch’, ‘Eiger’ and ‘Jungfrau’.

Monch is a bushy perennial that grows to around 1m tall, likes full sun and is happy in loam, chalk or sandy soil. It has pretty lavender-blue flowers which bloom from August to September. Loved by pollinators too!

Symphyotrichum ‘Little Carlow’ (cordifolius hybrid) aster

 

Aster Little Carlow blue daisy

This aster (shown in the back of this photo) is also a bushy perennial that grows to around 90cm tall. It’s happy in most soils – clay, loam, chalk and sandy so long as it’s moist but well drained. It likes full sun or part shade. It may need staking. It’s also easy to propagate in the spring too.  It has pretty violet-blue flowers which bloom from August to October.

What an interesting insight into Carols garden and her advice on propagation is invaluable, she said it’s simple but as asters put all their energies into flowering late in the season, means it’s not until spring that their new roots begin to grow. Chop up an aster in autumn and your divisions may well sulk and possibly die.

We crammed a lot of information into a short space of time, and I would like to thank Carol for sharing her fabulous tips and knowledge with me.

If you would like to see the National Collection of Asters, please visit Old Court Nurseries and The Picton Garden in Malvern, Worcestershire – it’s a beautiful garden and you can buy Asters too!

Further reading on my blog – https://borderinabox.com/autumnal-asters-add-colour-garden-borders/

Rudbeckia yellow daisy Picton Garden

Aser blue daisy

 

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Aster

Toyah Willcox and her beloved trees

Toyah Willcox medlar tree

I had the pleasure of chatting with Toyah Willcox the fabulous singer/songwriter. Her biggest hits include “It’s a Mystery”, “Thunder in the Mountains” and “I Want to Be Free”. We have a mutual love of gardening and so I asked her what her favourite flowers are and she told me all about her garden and her beloved trees.

“Our garden is not only a sanctuary of peace and quiet, a respite from the awful world of mobile phones, a place where Mother Nature still holds court; it is a place of constant rejuvenation.

At my grand age of 61 I am still surprised by the seasons and how a garden has so much to offer even in the short daylight hours of the winter. I often walk in my garden thinking “so little time so much to learn!”

Latin names will always escape me but I have huge respect for plants and how they fill their space, names aside I love the benign presence of all plants.

Living in a place where gardens in the past 100 years have evolved from allotments, to orchards to places of leisure I am keenly aware how non local plants have found their way into our lives.

I adore our neighbours Magnolia sitting within the same space as many pear trees. So we are about to install three mature Magnolia, which will probably have to be delivered from the river at the bottom of our garden.

In our garden are many varieties of apple, pears, peaches but also old traditional trees such as our Medlar. I am hugely protective of it. The Medlar fruit was a medieval delicacy and it conjures images of servant maids gathering the fruit as it becomes over ripe to turn into a sweet jelly not dissimilar to Quince.

Another outstanding tree in our garden is a Mulberry that must be about 300 years of age. Again I feel like a temporary guardian watching over it, knowing that when this tree was planted, all that time ago, the journey it had made as a sapling was from far afield as France…at least….might even have been farther.

But the crown in our garden is a triple plane. This huge magnificent tree is given regular health checks by our tree specialist, to the point we could be called over protective.

Large trees are part of my childhood and as someone who travels the world I am keenly aware that large trees are getting rare. I am hugely grateful for the trees in my garden that are so much older than me…. I love them in spring, when their foliage is bright; I love to draw them in winter when they are dormant.

They majestically watch us and I enthusiastically watch them!”

I would like to thank Toyah for sharing the story of her beloved trees. If you would like to know more about Toyah, she has a great monthly blog on her website –https://toyahwillcox.com/

If you would like to include these trees in your garden, here is more information:

Mespilus germanica – Common Medlar

Medlar fruit tree

Medlars are ornamental, flowering trees with a good autumn colour and edible fruits – although very tart.  They can grow to a height and spread of 6m x 8m. They prefer full sun or light shade away from strong winds.

The best time to plant a new tree is between November and March. The fruits are ready to pick in late October or early November when they are about 2.5-5cm across, although they are not fully ripe. You can leave fruit on the tree well into autumn to develop flavour provided there is no danger of frosts.

Morus nigra – commonly known as Mulberry

mulberry tree fruits

The mulberry tree is deciduous and has a spreading habit. It grows to around 8m x 10m and becomes crooked and gnarled with time, making an architectural feature. It tolerates a range of soils and can be grown against walls too.

It’s good to note that fruiting may not begin until eight or nine years after planting, so you will need some patience! The Morus alba is the tree loved by silk worms.

Magnolia

Magnolia stellata white flower

There are around 200 different types of Magnolia – with different growing habits and flowers, so you should be able to find a suitable tree regardless of your size of garden.

I like the Magnolia stellata, with its striking white flowers in the spring. You can keep it as a bushy shrub or let it grow in to a tree – its ultimate height and spread is 3m x 4m.

Platanus × acerifolia – commonly known as London Plane

This tree is ideal for urban environments as it is resistance to pollution. It has 3-5 lobed leathery leaves which turn orangey-yellow in autumn. It grows to 35m tall and can live for hundreds of years.

London plane tree

London Plane tree leaf

 

 

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BBC Gardeners World Live Beautiful Border, Jar of Life

 

What goes into creating a Border in a Box product?

Border in a Box garden design worcestershire

What goes into creating a Border in a Box product?

Ever wondered what goes into making a product and how it gets to market? It’s something that never crossed my mind until I started my business a couple of years ago. It has been a steep learning curve and the amount of thought, energy and money that goes into all the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff was a bit of a shock, so let me share the journey and process with you…

Turning the idea into reality

I had a problem with the garden when I moved into my new-build property – I had no clue where to start! I didn’t know what plants would grow well, I didn’t know what plants would look good together and to make matters worse, I had next to no money.

So when I came up with the idea of a kit with a ready-made planting plan that detailed what plant goes where and a shopping list of what to buy, it was a simple idea that I thought would be easy to create and help everyone else in the same boat as me.

However, the initial designs took over six months and thousands of pounds of money to create and here’s why:

  1. Market assessment – had the product been created by another organisation? If so, was I reinventing the wheel or was it a new idea?
  2. Creating the contents – I had to come up with a list of plants for each design then draw all the plans. Everything had to be designed for someone with zero plant knowledge, skill or desire to research. It had to be a simple to follow plan that could be implemented in a day without a huge price tag.
  3. Sourcing suitable packaging that looked appealing and eco-friendly but also budget friendly – this turned out to be my biggest issue.

Once I had this information, I needed to turn my ‘scribbles’ of ideas into a product. This was beyond my skillset, which meant finding someone to work with who had the talent and expertise to help me.

Brand identity

I needed to find an amazing brand ambassador who could take my ideas and create a gardening gift – I wanted something that the recipient would love to receive and feel excited about creating their own garden.

This involved the creation of a logo, icons, fonts, colours and designing the packaging. I had no idea how much time, effort and money would go into this part of the process.

It was imperative to get this right as it would lead onto the creation of the website and product itself, so it’s a key part of the process and needed time to create. I also had to be mindful that more time spent with other designers, the costs increase. So as a sole trader, you have to be careful with your investments as it’s easy to get carried away and run out of cash in the early stages.

I also invested in protecting my intellectual property by trademarking my logo and joining ACID, which is an organisation who helps protect businesses like mine – they have some amazing lawyers who advise how to protect a brand and product. There are plenty of stories how David has taken on Goliath and won. So it’s worth the membership fees.

Cottage garden border in a Box Border in a Box cottage garden

Original packaging on the left replaced with new eco-style packaging on the right

Packaging

Coming from an IT background I had no idea where to start with sourcing my packaging – I relied on internet searches and also my network who recommended various suppliers.

I expected to find ‘off the shelf’ suppliers for all my products to keep costs low, but nothing was suitable, so all the packaging has been designed and created to my standards. This all took a vast amount of time and increased the cost of the products due to being bespoke.

Everything I do, has to be good quality and beautiful. I currently create everything from my kitchen  table, so nothing is mass produced.  All of my suppliers are based in the UK and it’s all printed on FSC card and paper.

I also have to pay for everything up-front so juggling stock and sales is tricky – creating a new product means there is no sales history, so you have to guess how much stock you need to purchase. It’s also likely that it will cost more when buying small quantities.

Another area I hadn’t considered was how to post the gift to ensure the product arrives safely. This is one of my largest costs – at first the boxes were deep and cost £3.45 just in Royal Mail postage, which was without packing material costs or the time and expense it took going to the post office. I learned that it helps to create letterbox friendly product as it can reduce costs.

Marketing and PR

When I first started I went down the traditional route of advertising in magazines and I spent hundreds of pounds per advert but received zero orders. This had to change – I had to find a cost effective way to raise awareness.

Eventually I met a PR guru who provided (paid for) advice on how to get my brand out there. It was worth every penny and it enabled my meagre/non-existent budget to go further. Border in a Box has been featured in many glossy magazines, trade journals, national and local papers.

Border in a Box Country Homes and interiors magazine

Border in a Box featured in Country Homes & Interiors magazine

I write a lot – I never expected that I would write articles, blogs or website content, but it’s a large amount of my day-to-day work. It can be time consuming too – for example the regular newsletter I create will take at least a day or two per month. Choosing photographs and getting them re-sized to fit takes enormous amount of time, but I love doing it. It is something I could outsource, but it keeps me in touch with my clients and potential clients, which is important to me. I also write a monthly gardening article for the Pershore Times.

There are many markets and shows to attend – which can cost anything from £600 upwards and that’s before any thought has gone into the design of the stand, stock and promotion – plus travel and accommodation. That is a lot of sales before breaking even!

Nikki Hollier, Border in a Box, Theo Paphitis, #SBS, Autumn Fair, Nancy Poller

Winning exhibition space at the Autumn Fair, NEC, Birmingham thanks to Theo Paphitis

Selling via marketplaces such as Amazon is a great idea, and depending on which one(s) can cost around 25-30% in commission, plus a joining fee and/or monthly fee.  I must admit, I thought it would be simple to do – but trying to stand out in a crowd is difficult. Anyone can pay to get onto the front page but depending on what page, what day, time etc it can burn a hole in your budget within hours, so it’s imperative to do your homework beforehand.

When working with a market place they all want a particular style of photography to fit with their brand and ethos. This means professional product photography as you need to make the products look fabulous – as the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression! A half day with a photographer can cost anything from £3-400 upwards. It’s worth the investment but it’s another cost to budget for.

product photography Terry Livesey

Product photography with Terry Livesey

Winning awards is great PR and also a morale boost. Within a few months of launching Border in a Box I won ‘Garden Product of the Year’ with Country Homes & Interiors magazine. Closely followed by #SBS Winner by Theo Paphitis. Then launching on Not On The High Street. A few months later I won the WINN award for innovation with the prize money funding my show garden border at BBC Gardeners’ World Live where I won Platinum and Best Border (and featured on the TV show). I turned this garden into the Wellbeing Border to enable people to recreate a sensory garden at home.

Website

I created my own website at first – I thought it was pretty good considering it was a ‘cheap and cheerful DIY’ company to host my website and I simply added my own text and photos to the template. However, I couldn’t use my font and colours from the branding project, which felt like a waste of money and investment, so I started working with a specific website building company.  It was a huge investment for me, and one I wished I had waited a bit longer for, but I felt it would increase sales but it didn’t. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but it all turned out OK in the end. It ended up costing £thousands which created another hole in my budget.

So when you add-up all of these investments, it is eye-wateringly expensive.  You only have to watch TV programs like Dragons’ Den to see how much money the entrepreneurs invest into their dreams to realise it’s not for the feint-hearted!

So if you have an idea for a product or service, do your homework but follow your heart as you never know where the journey will lead!

 

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white fence with pink roses, alchemilla mollis and salvia caradonna

5 Plants to add drama to your garden borders

5 plants add drama to garden border

If your garden needs a bit of drama to liven up the borders, there are plenty of plants to choose from to give a striking focal point, no matter what the light levels or soil type you have – here’s five of my favourites and there will be at least one suitable for you:-

Colocasia esculenta

These plants can be grown from a bulb so are cost effective to buy and grow. They have amazing ‘elephant ear’ shaped leaves and will grow to around 1.5m tall and up to 1.5m wide. They are happiest in part shade in a sheltered spot.

When planting the bulb, which is approximately the size of an avocado, it can be confusing as to which way up to plant it – the holes are where the roots will emerge from and the concentric rings will be where the leaves sprout from.

colocasia bulb elephant ears green leaves

colocasia elephant ears large green leaves

 

Gunnera manicata

This looks like giant rhubarb! It will grow to around 2.5m tall and up to 4m wide – so a big space is needed for it to thrive.  It likes a permanent plot in moist and nutritious soil. It’s a perennial which means it dies down during the winter months. It grows well in full sun or part shade in clay or loam soil.

gunnera large green leaves

Canna indica ‘Purpurea’

These bulbs will add a touch of the tropics to your border and pots. This particular variety has large bronze leaves with a purple stripe with vivid orange/red flowers. It grows to around 1.6m tall and 60cm wide. It loves full sun in fertile but well-drained soil. It’s not frost tolerant, so it will need protection through the winter. A stunning flower though!

orange flower canna banana plant

Stipa gigantea

A fabulous semi-evergreen grass which grows to around 2.5m tall and has arching stems of oat-like flower-heads. It looks stunning in the winter with frost on it, so it’s a great year-round plant for texture and interest. It loves full sun in fertile well drained soil and can tolerate sand, loam or chalk soil.

stipa gigantea grass oat flowers

Cynara cardunculus

Commonly known as the globe artichoke and is one of my favourite architectural plants to look at.  It has enormous silvery green leaves and grows to around 1.5m tall and 1.2m wide. They have huge purple thistle-like flowers from June to September. They also look wonderful throughout winter. They need full sun with fertile well drained soil (loam, chalk or sand)

globe artichoke purple thistle

 

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salvia astrantia corokia

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019

RHS Chelsea Flower Show lemon lupins

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019

WOW the Chelsea Flower Show was fabulous! This year’s theme is definitely about back to nature with woodland style gardens and natural materials used on all the gardens.  Colourwise there was lots of whites, lemons and pale colours with a few gardens having a strong dark purple and burgundy shades – very beautiful colour palates. I arrived early which enabled me to have a good look around at the show gardens and take some great photos, so have a read of my review and how you can apply some of their design styles to your garden without breaking the bank!

The M&G Garden – designed by Andy Sturgeon

Gold Medal & Best Show Garden

This garden was about rejuvenation and how plants colonise a space.  The large and very striking black sculptures made from 50 tonnes of sustainable burnt-oak timber represented a rock formation Andy had seen in Australia. The paths and steps were made from English ironstone which was a neutral earthy tone in colour to offset the lush green plants.

RHS Chelsea Andy Sturgeon

RHS Chelsea Andy Sturgeon plants

Top Tip #1

If your garden is more courtyard than rolling hills, you can take the burnt-oak timber idea and use smaller wooden posts placed through your garden border – as demonstrated in this display by Daisy Roots Nursery in the Great Pavilion.

RHS Chelsea Daisy Roots nursery black posts

The Resilience Garden – designed by Sarah Eberle

Gold Medal & Best Construction Award

RHS Chelsea Sarah Eberle

Created to celebrate the Forestry Commission’s centenary, and demonstrate the challenges facing forests of the future. It also shows how woodlands can be made resilient to a changing climate and the increasing threats of pests and diseases.

The silo made a striking focal point, especially as it made a creative home office space, although I don’t think I would want to be inside there during a thunder storm!  The trees used in the design were a mixture of native and exotics such as the Araucaria araucana, commonly known as the monkey puzzle tree.

RHS Chelsea Sarah Eberle show garden

I loved the planting which included Echium russicum which contrasted beautifully against the lime green Euphorbia’s, blue Linum and pink Ragged Robin.

 

The Greenfingers Charity Garden – designed by Kate Gould

Silver Gilt Medal

First impression was WOW, I loved the beautifully planted border at the front – gorgeous lemon lupins with white roses and bearded iris. My eyes were then drawn to the back of the garden with the geometric style green and grey striped tiles up the back wall and gorgeous Angelica with lime green flower heads. The trees and shrubs enclosed the seating area to make it feel cool and relaxed on a hot sunny day – and also provided privacy if it was located in an urban environment.

RHS Chelsea Greenfingers charity

Above the whole garden was a balcony which was reached via a lift – all created to make the most of every inch of space available in the garden.

RHS Chelsea Greenfingers charity show garden

Top Tip #2

If you have a small and/or narrow garden, you can make the most of your space with vertical planting. This can be achieved with climbing plants, or create a living wall using ready-made systems like the one used in this garden for the The Montessori Centenary Children’s Garden, by Jodi Lidgard, another Gold Medal winning garden.

RHS Chelsea vertical garden

Kampo no Niwa – designed by Kazuto Kashiwakura and Miki Sato

Gold Medal.

My photographs don’t do this garden justice – this was one of my favourite ‘Space to Grow’ gardens. It looks effortless and a relaxing place to be.  I loved the green oak pergola and the water feature that simply flowed through a rhyll to a tiny pond. Beautiful.

RHS Chelsea Kampo show garden

This garden was designed for a practitioner of Kampo, which is a traditional Japanese herbal medicine. Each plant used in this garden, such as mint, provides a healing tonic to aid digestion, aches & pains and fevers.

RHS Chelsea Kampo water feature

Top Tip #3

Create your own herb garden in pots and containers and place them by your kitchen door for easy access when you’re cooking.  I love to grow mint in pots as it smells lovely when you walk past – to make a fresh mint tea, place a few sprigs in a mug and pour on boiling water and leave to cool slightly before drinking.

Hooksgreen herbs blackcurrant mint

The Welcome to Yorkshire Garden – designed by Mark Gregory

Gold Medal and the People’s Choice Award

RHS Chelsea welcome to Yorkshire

You can’t fail to be impressed by this amazing garden – it looks like it has been dug up and transported to Chelsea.  The attention to detail is mind-blowing.

The garden was demonstrating the history of Yorkshire and how the canals were an intrinsic part to the success of the County and developing the industry in the area.  It included a lock keepers cottage and its garden with beautiful veg and a natural habitat of wild flowers mixed in with some cultivated varieties.

Top Tip #4

I loved how the paint colour around the windows and door were co-ordinated with the Lupins and Delphiniums. This idea could be replicated at home easily with using furniture cushions matching your flowers and painting the garden shed – although you would need to ensure the flowers are in bloom all summer!

pink flowers and cushions

photo: Courtesy Karen Chadwick

Plant of the Year 2019

Every year the RHS chooses a ‘Plant of the Year’ – here is the top three:

In third place – Agapanthus ‘Fireworks’

In second place – Digitalis x valinii Firebird

And in first place – Sedum takesimense ‘Atlantis’

RHS Chelsea Sedum plant of the year

 

There were so many beautiful gardens and planting schemes, here’s a few more photos from the Show:

Natural gardens:

Bronze medal – The Savills & David Harber garden

RHS Chelsea David Harber Savills garden

RHS Back to Nature garden designed by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge with Andree Davies and Adam White. No medal as it was an RHS garden.

RHS Chelse HRH Princess Catherine show garden

Viking Cruises: The Art of Viking Garden designed by Paul Hervey-Brookes. Gold Medal

 

RHS Chelsea Paul Hervey Brooks

Further Gardens & Installations

This garden commemorates the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings and aims to capture the disorientation and terror of the brave young men landing on the Normandy beach in hail of bullets. It was made from steel washers, and was designed by John Everiss. Stunning and thought provoking.

RHS Chelsea D Day sculpture

I also loved this highland cow sculpture from one of the trade stands – how lovely is he?

RHS Chelsea cow sculpture

This planting combination was by designer Chris Beardshaw – another Gold Medal garden.

RHS Chelsea Chris Beardshaw

I loved the water feature of this perspex panel in the Silver Gilt medal winning garden by David Neale called The Silent Pool Gin garden, with lots of plants used in gin making. Lovely!

RHS Chelsea Silent Pool gin garden

There are still many photos I could show you, but if you would like more details about all the gardens, check out the RHS Chelsea website https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show/gardens for more inspiration and ideas.

 


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salvia astrantia corokia

RHS Malvern Spring Festival, Worcestershire 2019

RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2019

RHS Malvern floral sign

The opening day of the RHS Malvern Spring Festival was fantastic! As you would expect, the show gardens were my priority and they were all of an exceptionally high standard.

Here’s an overview of my favourites;

The Leaf Creative Garden: A Garden of Quiet Contemplation – Designed by Peter Dowle.

Awarded a Gold Medal and Best Show Garden – understandably so as it was beautiful and definitely created a sense of calm. Being able to gaze across the garden and reflective pool to the sculpture of a dancing ballerina, created by Simon Gudgeon made a stunning focal point.

The planting was a mixture of perennials and semi mature shrubs, such as Japanese maples, Box and Cornus along with Digitalis Purpurea, Anthriscus sylvestris and Thalictrum. It was all set off beautifully against the back drop of the Malvern Hills.

RHS Malvern Leaf Creative show garden Peter Dowle

RHS Malvern Leaf Creative show garden

 

The Orange Express Garden – Designed by Villaggio Verde.

Awarded a Gold Medal. It tells the story of fruit production in a remote part of Spain, where a cooperative of growers built a small railway to transport their goods to the market.  The attention to detail was outstanding and it all looked like it had been there for many years – from the Spanish newspaper in the latrine, to marks along the wall where the chairs would have naturally left a mark. This level of detail is what the RHS judges love as it all adds to the story of the garden.

The planting included fruit trees – lemon, pomegranate, plus pistachio and Villaggio Verde’s olive trees, as that is their specialisation.

RHS Malvern Orange Express Show garden

Orange Express show garden RHS Malvern 2019

 

The Habit of Living – A garden in support of Diabetes Uk. Designed by Karen Tatlow and Katherine Hathaway

Awarded Silver Gilt Medal and Best Construction Award. This garden was definitely one of my favourites. The aim of the garden was to raise awareness of the charity and highlight the scale of the condition which affects more people than cancer and dementia combined.

At the start of the garden it has a narrow path surrounded by plum and purple coloured plants such as Heucheras and Sambucas nigra, which flowed past the seating area with a lovely water feature. The path widens as ‘managing the condition’ becomes easier which is demonstrated by the softer and lighter colour scheme of blues and whites flowers such as Iris’s, Geums, grasses and Artemesia.

 

RHS Malvern show garden Diabetes

Diabetes show garden RHS Malvern

 

The Green Living Space Gardens

The Green Living Space gardens started out as shipping containers and were adapted by the designers to show with a bit of imagination a small space can be transformed easily into a beautiful outdoor piece of heaven.

Defiance – Designed by Sara Edwards

Awarded Gold and Best Green Living Space.  It’s based upon a London balcony with the owner being plant obsessed and craving green space in the city.

It had a stylish concrete wall to one side with a wooden pergola across the width of the garden. It was filled with lush tropical planting which contrasted beautifully with the pale grey colour of the container and concrete pots.

The planting was architectural palms, Phormiums and ferns which created lots of texture, colour and height. Sara also used trailing plants across the pergola which softened the edges and she also added a small pond with a large concrete planter which added a further sense of calm.

RHS Malvern Defiance show garden

Defiance show garden RHS Malvern pond

 

An Artists Studio at Home – Designed by Jessica Makins in collaboration with Stephanie Tudor

Awarded a Gold Medal. I loved the colour palette of neutral grey/green planting with highlights of dark purple from the soft Anthriscus and poppies to the almost black centres of the Euphorbias. The wall to the side was made of earthy clay with a seating area and inverted shelves containing white objet d’art.  It created a really relaxed vibe where you would love to sit and draw or read.

Artists garden RHS malvern 2019

 

RHS Malvern clay wall

 

Artists show garden RHS Malvern

Congratulations to all the other garden designers:

Gold Medal – The Mindset by Anna Galagan

Gold Medal – What If in support of Rees Foundation by Sebastian Conrad

Silver Gilt Medal – Mediterranean Terrace by Gabriella Pill

Silver Gilt Medal – The Macmillan Legacy by Gary Bristow

Silver Medal – Grace & Dignity by Lucie Giselle Ponsford

Silver Medal – Ikhaya: Home by Stacey Bright

Silver Medal – The Redshift by Julie Bellingham

Silver Medal – Zeta: Memories of Home by Anastasia Yakovleva

There is so much to see and do whilst at the show such as the Floral Marquee which is full to the brim of stunning plants you can buy from unusual pelargoniums by local nursery Fibrex Nursery to air plants and cottage garden favourites – and everything you can possibly think of and more! It really is a plant heaven and you can spend ages browsing and chatting with the nurseries.

The schools gardens are also a treat to see – it’s so nice to see young people getting into gardening and is filled with enthusiasm with their works of art.

There’s also plenty of shopping for everything you need for your garden from machinery, to glasshouses to ornaments and water features. There is so much to see and do which makes this event a real highlight on the calendar and well worth visiting.

cor ten steel sign

Macmillan show garden RHS Malvern 2019

Lupins

Hooksgreen herbs blackcurrant mint

RHS Malvern floral marquee echeveria

 

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Five things to consider when designing a patio

planning a patio paving

Designing a patio

When I’m designing a garden, a patio is usually top of the list of ‘needs’ as everyone wants to be able to sit somewhere comfy in the garden. But then comes a whole list of decisions on what materials to use, where to place it and budget.

So here’s my simple guide on things to consider when planning your patio.

Position

The size of your garden might dictate this decision for you, but if you’re lucky enough to have a choice, then you may want a couple of areas to sit – one for shade and one for sun. Take in to consideration any views to enjoy or privacy from neighbours. Alternatively you could create a gazebo around your patio with a moveable fabric canopy to protect you from the rain or extreme sunshine.

gazebo with retractable canopy

Size

What is the patio going to be used for? Tea for two, family get-togethers and how about an outdoor kitchen?  Bear in mind you will need approximately 1m space around your furniture to allow the pulling out of chairs from the table comfortably.

Nikki Hollier Border in a Box RHS Malvern show garden white seating

My first show garden at RHS Malvern 2016

Style

A patio is usually an extension of the interior, so flow from one to the other ideally should be seamless. There are lots of materials and colours to choose from so your style of home needs to be considered so it creates an cohesive look. The planting can soften any edges and create the ‘vibe’ you desire whether that is modern, tropical or cottage style.

There are many ways to create the desired garden patio such as the size of the slabs/paving stones. You could use different sizes or several kinds of products such as this example by Digby Stone

Digby Stone  grey paving

Materials

There is so much choice which can be overwhelming. The most popular choices are gravel/chippings, natural stone, porcelain, decking (composite or natural wood), slate, concrete or brick – but there are many more options. Then you probably want to think about the style and finish – such as using a mixture of materials to create additional interest and texture. Although gravel is usually the cheapest product to use, it’s difficult to place chairs and tables comfortably on (and tricky to walk on in heels!). So to keep costs to a minimum, you could create the centre of the patio with paving with gravel around the edge which also adds texture and colour interest.

Pip Probert Outer Spaces patio paving

Photo courtesy of www.outerspaces.org.uk

 

Budget

That depends on the size and materials you decide to use. This is where working with a garden designer can add value to your project and help define a beautiful space for you to relax in within your budget. Done well, it can add value and/or sale-ability of your home.

This photo is a beautiful example of a dining area and relaxed seating area all coordinated using different sized paving and materials. It is functional and easy on the eye which is created by using muted colours.

Digby Stone patio paving

Photo courtesy of www.digbystone.com

Next steps…

One of the most expensive parts of the project is the labour, so to keep costs down; you could do it yourself, and also use rectilinear products. This means there is less cutting and wastage of materials to create your patio.  Also if the garden is on a slope it can add further costs as you may need to remove some soil plus you will need to consider what drainage and levels are needed, so working with an experienced landscaper can reduce hassle for you and give a professional finish.

Thinking about the bigger picture and planning your garden before starting the project will save money (and stress) in the long run. Gather images of gardens and paving ideas beforehand so you can understand what kind of styles you prefer.  I use magazines and online images to create a mood board, which helps to clarify my thoughts.

Once you have an idea and have whittled it down to a couple of products, ask for some samples (which may need to be paid for) and see how they look in your garden.

My friends at Digby Stone have created a patio planner, which is a really useful tool to help you visualise your garden along with a pricing tool and also the aggregates required to complete the project. Their website has some really useful ideas on laying patterns, maintenance and how-to guides. https://www.digbystone.com

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salvia astrantia corokia

Japanese Maples – Beautiful trees for small gardens

Japanese Maples

If you’re looking for a tree suitable for a small garden, a Japanese maple is the perfect choice! They are small deciduous trees that are happy in the border or large container. They are one of my favourite trees as the foliage is really pretty and in autumn they turn the most beautiful colours.

The best time to plant them is in the autumn in a sheltered sunny or part sunny spot as they don’t like cold winds or frosts.  You can protect them with horticultural fleece during the winter. The sun can scorch their delicate leaves, so a dappled shaded area is perfect for them.

They prefer slightly acidic, nutritious, sandy, well-drained soil, but will generally grow well in most soils; however, they don’t like water-logged soil, overly dry or very alkaline conditions.

If you’re growing in a container, keep the compost moist and feed with a slow release fertiliser in spring and summer.

Care & maintenance

If your tree needs cutting back, do it when it is dormant – ideally between November to January. When a maple is cut it will bleed sap which could weaken and ultimately kill the tree, so it’s best to keep pruning to a minimum.

If you need to reduce height and/or width, simply cut back to a side branch and also prune crossing shoots which will keep the framework looking good.

Here are some of my favourite Acers that look fabulous:

Acer palmatum Sango-Kaku

Acer palmatum sango-kaku

This can be a shrub or small tree as it can grow upto 6-8m tall and spread 2.5-4m.  It likes a sheltered sunny or part-sunny spot in the garden and is deciduous but suitable for all soil types. I love the gorgeous red stems with contrasting green leaves, which as you can see turn a lovely yellowy-red colour in autumn.

Acer palmatum dissectum Inabe Shidare

Acer palmatum dissectum Inabe Shidare

This tree is so pretty – the spreading shape and the finely cut leaves are stunning. This variety grows to around 2.5m tall and also likes a sheltered position in a sunny or part sunny garden. It’s happy in all soil types too.

Acer palmatum ‘Tsuma gaki’

Acer palmatum tsuma_gaki

How beautiful is this leaf? It looks so delicate with its reddy/pink-blushed edges surrounding a yellow leaf. The leaf turns lime green as it matures, which in turn becomes a stunning red colour in autumn. It grows to around 2.5m x 2.5m so it’s ideal for adding a bit of height in a container garden.

Acer palmatum ‘Shigitatsu sawa’

Acer palmatum shigitatsu_sawa

This tree grows to around 4.6m tall and 3.7m wide so its better suited to a larger garden. It has fabulous cream leaves with dark green veins and certainly creates the wow factor in any garden. As the leaves mature, they become green and then turn red in autumn.

Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’

acer_palmatum_shishigashira

This is a bushy upright Acer which is happy in all moist but well drained soils in part shade or sunny areas of the garden.  It grows to around 4m tall and 2.5m wide.

If you would like to visit a nursery specialising in Japanese maples, I can recommend Howle Hill Nursery or their new plant centre at Huntley (both not far from Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire). Photographs were taken there in the spring and autumn. Further details and opening times www.howlehillnursery.co.uk.

These trees are a perfect addition to any of the Border in a Box designs and I used Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Omatum Fontana’ in my Platinum award winning show garden border at BBC Gardeners’ World Live 2018. You can recreate this design with the Wellbeing version of Border in a Box.

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Border in a Box Wellbeing sensory planting plan

 

Border in a Box Wellbeing

 

 

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