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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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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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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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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Autumnal Asters – how to add colour to your garden borders

Aster purple flower

If your borders are lacking colour right now, then pop along to the Picton Garden at Colwall, Worcestershire for some inspiration and you will see some stunning Aster’s, commonly known as Michaelmas Daisies which are a vibrant edition for any garden.

I met with owner Helen Picton to find out more about the home of the Plant Heritage National Collection of autumn flowering Asters.  The Picton Garden & Old Court Nursery has been a family business since 1906 and they specialise in breeding and growing Michaelmas Daisies.

There are over 400 varieties to choose from and the peak flowering season is September and October, with Michaelmas day falling on the 29th September. They vary in colours from the palest blues to striking pinks – no matter which one you choose they will all look fabulous especially if you combine them with other plants such as grasses and Rudbeckia.

Rudbeckia yellow daisy Picton Garden

 

Picton Garden aster grasses

There is lots of inspiration to take away with you such as this combination of Verbena bonariensis with Aster x frikartii ‘Wunder von Staffa’. This would be great if you have a narrow border as the verbena will give the height and this aster is shorter, so will create interest at a lower level.  Add in some spring flowering bulbs too, and you will have a simple sunny border that flowers from spring through to the autumn.

Picton gardens verbena bonariensis

Other favourites of Helens’ are:

New England Quinton Menzies aster

Aster Novae-angliae ‘Quinton Menzies’

Picton gardens purple aster

It has large deep purple-pink flowers with strong woody stems that need little or no staking, it’s mildew resistant and flowers from late September and grows to around 140 cm.

Rosy Veil aster

Symphyotrichum ericoides‘Rosy Veil’

Picton gardens rosie vale aster

This aster has fine foliage which is smothered in tiny pale purple-pink daisies from late September. I love it and it grows to around 100 cm tall.

 

Helen Picton aster

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘Helen Picton

This plant was raised by Helen’s dad who named it after her.  It has large, rich violet-purple flowers from September into October and grows to around 120 cm tall.

Asters can grow in most soils in a sunny or part sunny border.

If you would like to visit, the garden is open from August until mid-October including many days for the National Gardens Scheme, so check their website to make sure it’s open. Website: http://www.autumnasters.co.uk/

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Garden Designer vs. Landscape Gardener: The difference and why you probably need both

 

You’ve got a garden that is looking less than interesting and after being inspired by the home and garden makeover shows on TV, you’re thinking how hard can it be? But you soon realise you need some professional guidance, so who do you call, a garden designer or a landscaper? The truth is you probably need both and I’ll explain why.

What is a Garden Designer?

A garden designer is someone who is trained in, and has experience with, designing and planning a garden project. This could be the modification of an existing garden or creating a completely new one. Garden designers specialise in combining colours and forms to create something beautiful out of your preferences and ideas to enhance your home. They know their stuff when it comes to plant placement and choice and are always up to date with the latest trends in colors and garden elements such as paths and patios. If you are looking to make-over an existing garden or create a new one and want a garden that absolutely wows and stands the test of time, then you need to work with a garden designer first. They will discuss your garden needs and come up with a design called the Master Layout Plan, which a landscaper can provide a quote for and then build the garden.

What is a Landscape Gardener?

Landscape gardeners are the ones who get down and dirty and deal with the actual gardening. They are the ones who do the installation of your garden design. They take care of the purchasing of materials and many companies even provide maintenance and ongoing support to ensure it continues to look beautiful. Landscape gardeners usually offer maintenance services for existing gardens to keep them looking great and many companies also employ arborists for tree maintenance. While landscapers can advise on garden choices and often have suggestions of their own it is advisable to work with a designer.

Why Both?

To get a truly amazing garden that will add value to your property and joy for years to come, you really do need both. Think of a garden designer as an architect and the landscape gardener as a construction company. You wouldn’t want to just pay a construction company to build your house without a blueprint. You want the best person for the job at hand and the creation of a garden with the right plants for you that will continue to be amazing as it matures requires both an expert in design and the artistic side of it as well as experts in the practical aspects of gardening.

Pink floral border

 

If you would like a bespoke planting plan for your garden, I can create this for you regardless of where you live, here’s how I can help – https://borderinabox.com/bespoke/

Further blogs available:

  1. How much does it cost to design a garden – https://borderinabox.com/budget-cost-design-garden-uk/
  2. Creating a low maintenance garden – https://borderinabox.com/creating-low-maintenance-garden/
  3. How a nice garden adds value to your home – https://borderinabox.com/improve-your-home-add-value/

 


 

Container gardening using thrillers, fillers & spillers

Whether you have a small balcony or a sprawling country estate, containers can be a really useful way to add year-round colour and interest to your garden.

You can grow plants in just about any kind of container, as long as it’s large enough to hold compost to suit the plants’ needs, and it has drainage holes in the bottom. If you live on a windy site, consider the stability of the plant and the pot, particularly if you’re growing something tall.

Containers are great in that you can move them around the garden to fill empty gaps and create seasonal displays. Concrete or stone pots are more difficult to move but are sturdier. Plastic pots are less stable, but easier to move. One way around this is to place a plastic pot inside a stone pot to make it easy to interchange plants through the seasons.

When I’m creating a garden, I take into consideration the plants, the pots and their location, along with colour schemes and style. There’s a lot to think about! Here’s an example of how one plant – a pittosporum – can look different depending on the container and the background. The traditional terracotta pot stands out much more against the blue background than the brick wall, while the white pot contrasts well with both backgrounds and has a more modern vibe.

For drama and impact, choose colours opposite one another on the colour wheel such as red and green, yellow and purple, or blue and orange. For harmony and tranquillity, choose similar colours that tone well together, such as purples and blues. Here’s an example of a harmonious pot, with a burgundy phormium combined with pink scabiosa and forget-me-nots.

So, what do we mean by thrillers, fillers and spillers? The thriller is the star of the container – the attention-grabbing, dominant eye-catcher. The fillers do exactly that, and fill the pot around the thriller, while the spillers are the trailing plants over the side of the pot.

Now the weather is warming up and frosts are less frequent, you can fill your containers with summer bedding plants. Try a pelargonium (thriller), combined with petunias (fillers) and trailing lobelia (spillers). If you need plants that are pollution tolerant, try dwarf buddleia, or evergreen skimmia, yew or berberis. For hotspots, you can use more exotic plants such as cannas or ginger lilies.

One last thing to bear in mind is watering. Container plants need watering more than those in the ground, so add water-retaining crystals to the compost and mulch the surface to minimise evaporation. Smaller pots will need watering more often than larger ones.

 

summer bedding plants in a pot

patio pots in a large garden

white flower pot with plants blue background

 

 


 

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