Artistry from Chelsea’s past


Never mind that I won’t be going to this year’s Chelsea Flower Show (it’s now sold out), I am still gleaning lots of inspiration from the show gardens of years gone by.

This was the Laurent Perrier garden from 2010 designed by Tom Stuart Smith. Multi-stemmed Betula nigra trees are beautifully underplanted with Hakonechloa grass, Astrantia major ‘White giant’, Euphorbia wallichii, Iris sibirica ‘Tropic Night’ and Cenolophium denudatum (Baltic parsley).

Frothy clouds of delicate parsley are set against structural box clouds.

A very memorable, inspiring garden.

I’m looking forward to seeing what this year’s Chelsea flower show brings in a couple of week’s time. There’s nothing quite like it  - an overload of eye candy and innovation!

Planting for a shady spot


Lovely combination here of lime green Dryopteris ferns and dusky purple astrantias. Perfect partners for a damp shady spot.

Pruned Pittosporum


This variegated pittosporum ‘tree’ has been pruned to reveal the lower branches, which is a great idea.

Pittosporums are bought as shrubs, and they tend to grow into rather unshapely lumps….and then keep growing to tree height! Once they get to this height, they look great pruned in this way, especially in a small garden. Still providing structure and screening, but now looking much more elegant. This is a garden designed by Daniel Shea.

Yew domes


Topiary domes are all the rage! I have to share with you these Yew domes, they look divine dotted alternately along an organic shaped pathway. They are arranged so that the foliage overlaps over the path – it wouldn’t be the same otherwise. The whole effect is just gorgeous! Designed by Adam Frost for Chelsea flower show 2015.

Therapeutic garden for Gt Ormond St hospital


BBC TV’s DIY SOS this week showed Chris Beardshaw’s 2016 Chelsea garden being moved to the Gt Ormond St hospital roof. Amazing feat and a very special garden.

I particularly love the gorgeous cut out oak leaf panels for the oak pavilion, and the uplifting piece of sculpture amongst lush planting.

The garden has created a calming space for the children, parents and staff to relax in, reflect and gather thoughts amid the distress and turmoil they experience. A place to soak up the healing effects of nature in the middle of bustling Central London.

So creating a garden is not such a frivolous job after all; as demonstrated here, there can be times when there is great therapeutic value in what we do. Quite an uplifting thought in itself!

Willow sculptures


These boxing hares are a great addition to this country garden. My client chose them herself for the centre of a large herbaceous border benefitting from a focal point.

All sorts of animal willow sculptures like these are available now, pigs….horses, elephants!

Sculptures or ornaments in the garden can hold special memories or meaning which is nice. For example we have just incorporated a Moai statue into a shady border under an acer, bought by my clients as a reminder of their holiday in the Antarctica. It fits in perfectly and is surveying the garden!

Such features are often a very personal choice, but if need be, I am more than happy to be asked to advise on and source them. The same applies to pots and containers of all kinds, and garden furniture. These things might be thought of as the finishing touches, but in fact they play a major role, enhancing the garden no end.

Salvaging fuchsia ‘Mrs Popple’


Whenever I plant up a garden it is always rewarding to salvage plants from existing borders if I can. As long as they are not plants my client loathes, they are healthy, they fit in with the scheme, and they are not too big to be moved or split up.

Today we decided to salvage a Fuchsia ‘Mrs Popple, in full flower. It was in the wrong place, and causing a nuisance flopping over the lawn. But where to put it? Ah, next to the pond! It settled in nicely there, and the colourful arching branches near the water’s edge were a pretty addition.

It’s surprising how,  in a new position, surrounded by complementary leaf colours and shapes, or a pleasing backdrop, plants can sometimes take on a different character and even transform your view of them.

Fuchsias are a bit of a marmite plant, and seem to have fallen out of fashion. We often see ‘Mrs Popple’ in gardens as a survivor from borders planted in the seventies as it is so hardy and easy to grow.

I have never been a big fan of fuchsias, but today this one showed me what a performer it can be; not only because of it’s out of season vibrancy, but also because of it’s delicate graceful nature, particularly fitting near a pond. It might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it is actually one of those valuable long flowering plants that give great value. At a time when most plants are bedding down for the winter, this fuchsia is still out to play for a while yet.

Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Kinshiden’


This Chaenomeles has proved a hit. Planted against a fence in a north-facing border with clay soil, it has established well. It flowered beautifully in Spring, and gave another flush again recently. It produces lime green apple like fruits (not edible).

The double white flowers, tinged with yellow stand out in the shade and easily associate with other plants.  Against a fence in a narrow border, it just needs training back with screws and wires to make sure that it doesn’t drape over the lawn, and is encouraged to grow upwards. Otherwise, in a larger border it can be allowed to bush out more.

Garden furniture takes centre stage


One of the most important aspects of a garden is it’s use as a seating/ dining/lounging area. The term ‘Outdoor Room’ is a bit of a cliche, but in good weather the garden really does become the alternative lounge and dining room (and kitchen..!)

It’s a great advantage to consider the size, colour and style of furniture at the start of a garden project, so that it becomes integral and complementary to the design.

In this space there is a lot of furniture, which could look bulky and unsightly, but because the soft browns tone in with all the wood and overhead structure, it manages to look easy on the eye.

This is a garden by Luciano Giubbilei. The overall effect is particularly pleasing because the shape of the chairs and table echo the square paving design and the lines of the house. The furniture is given it’s own paving, tying in with the cushion covers. It is as if there is a rug underneath the chairs.

Seen from another angle, it is clear how the sociable seating area takes centre stage in the garden. It looks very comfortable and restful. The garden is uncluttered and the result is effortless style. Here is a link to buying this furniture

Furniture sets can be large, and it is nice to afford them a generous amount of room so that they don’t look squeezed in.

Garden furniture shouldn’t be an afterthought – make it a main attraction!

Block themed


I love this beautiful contemporary garden, designed by Paul Martin and built by Kent based RDC Landscapes It won a gold medal earlier this year at Chelsea.

The block theme works so well. It is repeated throughout the garden with the garden building, steps, walls, path and water feature.

Using the one type of structure, but varying it with colour, size and shape brings a cohesiveness to the garden.

The rust coloured Corten Steel wall complements the orangey brown leather loungers and the square orange lamps,  which is so clever. It is the final touches such as these that make the garden so special.