Multi-stemmed Parrotia persica


Chelsea Flower show gardens of recent years are a rich seam of inspiration.  Luciano Giubbilei is an astonishingly stylish Italian designer and this was part of his Laurent Perrier garden in 2011.

Here the pale grey, twisted stems of Parrotia persica multi-stemmed trees stand out against the hornbeam hedge. They do so in a more understated way than the stark white bark of birch trees.

The leaves turn amazing shades of yellow, orange and red in the autumn.

I am hoping to incorporate a couple of these trees in a garden where the backdrop will be a Yew hedge. They are reputed to require a neutral to acid soil, but like Acers, they can be found growing perfectly happily on chalk. They don’t like to dry out though, and benefit from shelter.

Thank you Luciano for the inspiration.

Less is more


I love the work of garden designer Dan Pearson.

His advice when creating a planting plan is to choose plants appropriate to the spirit of the place, plants that are right for the soil and situation, and plants that sit well together. Make a list of your favourites – then halve it. Less is more.

It’s true that sometimes it is tempting to plant a variety of plants in a space in an attempt to give year long interest, but then a border is in danger of never quite having the wow factor, at any time. Dan’s advice is to aim for simplicity; limit the palette and bulk up the quantities. Also give credit to the green in the garden. That way it will always be interesting and easy on the eye whether it is in flower or not. Wise words!

Curving paths using Vande Moortel pavers


This is a Chelsea Flower show garden by Cleve West, back in 2008.  The curving paths are made with Vande Moortel pavers They are small narrow pavers, like vintage bricks, and they lend themselves to both traditional and contemporary gardens.

The planting here is very pretty. However I notice the centrepiece in this border is a silver Astelia – very striking and architectural but sadly not hardy in our British weather. An alternative could be a silver leaved Artemesia, excellent for setting off those mauves and deep purple irises. The splash of orange (looks like geums) adds some interest to the scheme. I also like the lemon yellow spikes provided by Tellima grandiflora.

Front garden driveway


Today I visited a garden I designed last year. The driveway entrance required widening, and an extra space for a car /turning circle was needed. It was nice to see that it has turned out well, and the clients were happy with the result.

organic shapes


Organic shapes like these really create a wow.

Perfect pot, perfect place


This is an example of how the right pot in the right place can make a big impact. The size, shape and colour all complement the garden. The colour of the pot picks up the orange geums and hemerocallis, and also the baton trellis. Credit to London garden designer Kate Gould.

Wrought Iron garden gate


As so many front gardens are being converted into driveways nowadays, there are lots of garden gates to be found on the second hand market. Some of the cast iron gates are going rusty and they do need restoration.

The beautiful Victorian style gate above originated from Clapham and was found on Gumtree going for a song. The wall was then built around it.

Re-claimed granite setts driveway


This front garden in Chipstead has been redesigned to make the steps safer and easier to manage, and also the driveway is being extended to accommodate more cars. The original stone of the steps has been re-laid, vintage re-claimed bricks sourced, and to carry on with the theme, re-claimed granite setts are being laid for the driveway.

The setts were originally from Kings Cross Station, and bought locally from Horsham Stone reclamation in Broadbridge Heath, Sussex, It will look gorgeous when the job is finished and cleaned up and in this case a sealant will be applied to enhance the beautiful colours of the stone.

For some people, there is nothing quite like the real thing when it comes to stone, but as an alternative, Marshalls landscape supplier offer a man-made version called ‘Cobbletech’:

In the above example a mixture of the colours iron grey and canvas is used, which is a nice idea, as being a man-made product, it can otherwise look very monotone… which of course some may prefer. It’s all a matter of personal choice.

Screening trees required!


Screening is an issue that comes up time and again, and here is an example where it was desperately needed to break up the view of next door’s flats. Not least to give the people in the flats some privacy too.

3 x multi-stemmed Prunus serrula (the Tibetan cherry) were chosen. Given time, they should fill out the space nicely.

When it came to choosing the trees, deciduous was favoured; evergreen trees were considered too heavy, and the disadvantage with evergreens such as Quercus ilex, can be that over time as they get larger, it becomes difficult to grow anything underneath.

Birch were on the shortlist, however their ultimate height meant that we opted for something that wouldn’t outgrow the space so quickly, and would bulk out widthways too.

The mahoghany bark showed up well in the rain today. When they were planted last winter, the sun lit up the ragged edges of the bare branches making them look like they were on fire. The fresh green leaves of spring will turn fiery shades in the autumn. The little white flowers have come and gone, they are insignificant, not like other showy cherries.

The lovely old wall with tiles on top makes a gorgeous backdrop – you wouldn’t want to cover that up. So the trees make the main statement in this border and are underplanted with some topiary Yew balls, grasses, Tellima grandiflora, foxgloves, salvias and achillea, anemones and crocosmia. Plenty to look forward to!

Prunus ‘Shirofugen’


Prunus ‘Shirofugen’ looking lovely at the moment, underplanted with wild garlic (Allium ursinum).

‘Shirofugen’ has tasteful pale pink double flowers which droop languidly, and are accompanied by the emerging bronze foliage.

This tree is growing in a front garden in South Croydon, on thin chalky soil. It was planted 9 years ago, and as you can see it is the perfect size for the space. The client kept the label and we noted the height guideline ’23ft at maturity’. It will be many years before it is anywhere near that size, so there’s an argument for saying don’t be too put off by these figures – enjoy the tree for the years that it is manageable, and the tree can be removed if and when it gets too big.