Mediterranean gardens evoke a relaxed, ‘holiday’ feel. With their gravel paths, patterned tiles, clipped hedges and drought-tolerant plants, this budget-friendly style offers plenty of ideas for a sunny south-facing garden or border. And, because it’s low maintenance and water-wise, it suits our changing climate too. By Louisa Gilhooly
The typical Mediterranean garden is a place for relaxing, so for this garden I’ve embraced the concept of an outdoor room, providing for a bit of sunbathing and al fresco dining.
In sun-baked gardens shade is essential; a shaded seating area means the garden can be used all day, and is more comfortable for dining and entertaining. Pergolas and arbours make striking features, especially when covered in climbing plants. Parasols and sun sails such as the canopy used here provide a less permanent screen and can be removed in winter to let in more light.
Here we’ve gone for natural materials to create the seating areas and access paths: wood, gravel and natural stone for the patios and pathways. Or, you could recreate a beachy-boardwalk feel with decking and replace lawns with swathes of gravel.
Nothing says ‘Mediterranean’ quite like a few terracotta or colourful glazed pots in assorted sizes. Use them as focal points or for container gardening: they’re versatile, portable and have the added bonus that you can change the plantings. They’re ideal for collections of herbs by the kitchen door.
There’s a fantastic selection of plants to choose from: stick to those that hail from the region so they complement each other for a more authentic, cohesive look. Many drought-tolerant plants have adaptations that make them better able to cope with hot, dry conditions. Look out for leaves that are grey-green (glaucous) or silver, needle-like, or which have a hairy/waxy/oily leaf. These features protect them from scorching summer sunshine and help them conserve moisture and thrive in arid conditions with very little irrigation. Many of these plants are also wonderfully fragrant, visually striking and some are delicious to eat.
Cistus, santolina and stachys are ideal for adding texture and colour, while lavender and rosemary bring scent. Together they’ll provide plenty of nectar and pollen for visiting insects.
Fleshy-leaved succulents also perform well in hot, sunny locations: echeverias, sempervivums (houseleeks) and agaves look striking in containers. Sedums and hylotelephiums have fleshy, water-filled leaves and perform in late summer, extending the season of interest into autumn and winter.
Use drought-tolerant shrubs Rosemary, Genista lydia (broom) and cistus all hail from the Med. They’ll look sleek and glossy all summer, with colourful flowers loved by pollinators.
Create a plant screen This small screen stops you seeing the entire garden at once, making the space feel bigger. It also introduces the idea of zones – separate areas for different activities, improving the sense
Let fragrance waft indoors Planting lavender and other scented plants close to the patio doors allows the fragrance to filter into the house, adding an extra dimension to the garden and softening the boundary between indoors and outdoors.
Make a focal point This big terracotta pot has been left empty, but you could add a small tree or collection of herbs or grasses. Or, install a pump and solar fountain to create a water feature, to cool the air in summer and add reflected light and sound.
Create height and drama Three columnar juniper trees direct the eye upwards for a chic, Italianate look. Here Juniperus scopulorum ‘Skyrocket’ adds height and also screens neighbouring properties without taking up too much space.
Plant between the pavers Fill randomised gaps between paving slabs with low-growing thyme. This helps soften the paving’s appearance and brings fragrance to the dining area.
Add movement with grasses Grasses add height to a planting scheme without making a solid barrier. Stipa gigantea creates a ‘transparent’ veil between different areas and its elegant flower stems move gently in a breeze.
Hide walls Stop the garden from looking small and boxy by disguising walls and fences with fragrant Mediterranean climbers. Trained on wires, star jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides, fills this small garden on summer evenings.
GET THE LOOK:
Aquart lux copper and cement garden shower £209 Made in Design 020 7692 4001; www.madeindesign.co.uk
Terracotta Egg Planter D43cm £39.99 Primrose 0118 903 5210; www.primrose.co.uk
Kookaburra waterproof breathable shade sail from £29.99 (3m triangle in 30 colours) Primrose 0118 903 5210
www.primrose.co.ukOleron solid teak sun-lounger on wheels £324 and Sunny cushion £66 Maisons du Monde 0808 234 2172; www.maisonsdumonde.com
Giant jars from £895 (H75cm/30in) Whichford Pottery 01608 684416; www.whichfordpottery.com
Denia wooden 4 seater dining set with 4 chairs £182 B&Q 0333 014 3357; www.diy.com
Olive Grove tile £39.50 per m2 Baked Tile Company 01792 439239; www.bakedtiles.co.uk
Shell pot feet from £11.50 Whichford Pottery 01608 684416; www.whichfordpottery.com
PLANTS TO USE:
Lavandula angustifolia ‘Imperial Gem’ Compact, bushy English lavender with silver-grey foliage and masses of tightly packed, dark purple flowers July-Sept. Neat, compact form. H60cm (2ft) S45cm (18in)
Stachys byzantina ‘Big Ears’ Perennial with rosettes of large, silvery-white, felted leaves from which soft spikes of woolly, purple flowers rise June-Sept. Loved by bees. H45cm (18in) S60cm (2ft)
Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Sissinghurst Blue’ Upright, medium-sized evergreen shrub with aromatic, needle-shaped leaves and blue flowers in spring, summer and autumn. H1.5m (5ft) S1m (3ft 3in)
Santolina chamaecyparissus ‘Nana’ Compact ever-grey shrub with aromatic, dense silvery foliage and yellow button-like flowers hovering on wiry stems July-Aug. H50cm (20in) S1m (3ft 3in)
Juniperus scopulorum ‘Skyrocket’ Elegant, columnar evergreen conifer with dense grey-blue foliage. Easy to grow in full sun in most soils, but doesn’t tolerate soggy ground. H6m (20ft) S1m (3ft 3in)
Verbena bonariensis Tightly packed clusters of lilac-purple flowers top tall branching stems June-Sept. Open, transparent branches ideal for screening or front of border. H2m (6½ft) S45cm (18in)
Stipa gigantea Majestic grass with arching stems of golden, oat-like flowerheads above clumps of slender, evergreen, grey-green leaves. The flowerheads last well into winter. H2m (6½ft) S1.2m (4ft)
Cistus argenteus ‘Silver Pink’ Drought-tolerant ever-grey rock roses form a neat mound and produce masses of papery, silver-pink flowers June-July. H and S1m (3ft 3in)
Trachelospermum jasminoides ‘Star of Toscana’ New star jasmine with butter-yellow scented flowers June-Aug and glossy evergreen leaves tinted bronze in winter. H9m (30ft) S3m (10ft)
This month our Design Solutions guru Louisa Gilhooly uses bright flowers, textural foliage and bold accessories to transform a garden.
The fundamental factor most gardeners think about when designing their own piece of paradise is colour. It creates interest and variety and is often used as a focal point. The colours of plants, flowers and garden features have properties that can affect our emotions, spatial perception, light quality and balance. Many people have at least one favourite colour they’d like to include in the garden, but are unsure what to put with it to create a pleasing colour combination. When choosing a scheme, think about how colour affects your feelings. Ask yourself: is the garden a space for relaxation and healing, or a space for entertainment activities? Some colours are ‘introverts’ (quiet, calm and tranquil) while others are more extrovert (loud, boisterous attention-getters) as in this example. Here I’ve created a scheme that pops with colours from the hot side of the colour wheel. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but the colours do harmonise and with its exotic, tropical, party vibe it’s a great space for entertaining on summer evenings.
Bold-hued cannas, dahlias and begonias are complemented by the architectural foliage of fatsia, agave and chamaerops, with the glossy green hedge and outrageous pink walls providing different types of foil. Remember that plant size, shape and texture are more enduring than fleeting flowers, so consider how leaf textures and shapes can be combined to look good once flowers have faded. Colour is also found in plant foliage, bark and fruit. Foliage typically provides the overall background colour for your borders and green, in all its various shades, is usually the dominant colour by quantity. Yet plants such as Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, heucheras and Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ can still grab attention. Building materials can influence colour schemes too. Natural stone and wood typically have muted colours in variations of buff, grey, and pale yellow. For something brighter, use man-made materials such as painted furniture, sculptures, colourful ceramic containers and glass ornaments.
BUILD A FEATURE WALL This south-facing wall is painted bright bubblegum pink so it will glow in sunshine, even in winter. Made from block work and render, the feature wall provides a focal point for the garden and a bright backdrop for plants. Best of all, it’s quick and easy to change the colour whenever you feel like it.
CREATE ARCHITECTURE WITH PLANTS Structural plants such as big-leaved fatsia, spiky agave, large ferns and hardy palms such as Chamaerops humilis can provide drama and interest all year round. They help add to the exotic, tropical look, providing a jungly context for the colourful flowers.
POP IN SOME JAZZY REDS Herbaceous crocosmias and tender begonias provide dazzling reds in this far corner of the garden that will jump out against a lush green background. Use reds sparingly – you don’t need many of them to create a powerful effect. Both these plants offer exciting foliage shapes for the rest of the summer.
BRING IN SOME GRASSES The swooshy movement and graphic stripes of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ look striking in the summer months. The flower plumes will give interest through winter too. Tall grasses like this can introduce another exotic layer to the planting.
CREATE COLOUR ECHOES The hot pink colour of the feature wall is repeated aorund the garden in the low retaining walls and in the flowering plants (dahlias and crocosmia) to give a cohesive look. It’s also picked up in garden accessories such as the chairs.
ADD IN COLOURFUL GROUNDCOVER Evergreen plants with colourful foliage such as heucheras and ophiopogon will keep the interest throughout winter. Use these so their foliage tumbles over hard lines of paths to create a softer look.
CREATE DESTINATIONS The design leads you from the decking by the house over to the colourful sitting area, then back round the central lawn to the garden cabin, adding a sense of journey. Taller screening plants help to hide the cabin, adding a sense of mystery.
MAKE ZONES Areas of lawn and paving help to demarcate the seating areas, which are both highlighted and contained by a colourful pink wall.
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This month our Design Solutions guru Louisa Gilhooly transforms a small modern garden into a romantic cottage sanctuary, using mixed paving and a riot of plants
The phrase ‘cottage garden design’ might seem a bit of an oxymoron, since the best cottage gardens look as though they planted themselves and have a very un-planned feel! There are, however, certain characteristics of the quintessential cottage garden that can serve as a helpful guideline when creating one from scratch.
Traditionally, these humble plots were modest in size and yet highly productive: every square inch was used to grow fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers, all jostling among eachother. This dazzling diversity creates a relaxed, informal feel that’s plant-orientated (with little hard landscape), romantic, disorderly and often wildlife friendly. If you’re a tidy gardener by nature, this charmingly natural effect can actually be quite difficult to achieve!
To compliment this relaxed planting style, keep the garden’s layout simple. The outline of the hard landscaping elements (paths, steps, patios) will soon be lost when the plants get going, so avoid overly complicated shapes and routes round the garden.
Start with a bit of rustic texture underfoot, choosing a mixture of different hard landscaping materials such as stone, reclaimed bricks and gravel, rather than modern matching paving slabs.
Architectural features such as raised beds, arbours, arches, pergolas and trellis screens can be used to divide the garden into different areas. They’ll also act as focal points or work as a device to lead the eye from one part of a garden to another. Taller structures are perfect for supporting climbers such as wisteria, honeysuckle and climbing roses that will grow into fragrant, billowing living screens.
Position benches and chairs strategically throughout the garden to invite visitors to sit and spend time watching the bees raiding the blossoms. Consider adding seats to a hidden corner or even smack in the middle of an especially pretty flower bed - provide stepping stones to guide the way.
Nothing in a cottage garden should look too polished or new. In that vein, try to select accessories that have a vintage feel – car boot sales are a great place to pick up mis-matched, time- and weather-worn planters and garden tools.
POSITION SEATS AMONG THE PLANTS Benches and chairs located in different parts of the garden offer varied views. Choose the quietest spot close to scented plants to create a small, clear space for enjoying a peaceful moment.
USE REPETITION FOR RHYTHM Dense plantings with a mixture of ornamental and edible plants is typical of the cottage garden look. Repeating colours or plants with a strong form throughout the garden will help the the eye travel through the space and create a sense of cohesion.
ADD HEIGHT WITH A PERGOLA Pergolas, arbours and fences built with traditional or antique-looking materials will add height to the garden and help to block out unwanted views. They also provide extra planting space for climbing plants. Be mindful not to over-use them – too many will simply clutter your garden.
USE STEPPING STONES A stepping stone pathway through the plants allows you to enjoy the colours and scents up close. It also creates a sense of ‘journey’ – a useful trick for making a small garden feel bigger and more exciting to explore.
SOFTEN PATH EDGES Here plants are allowed to spill over the edges of walkways and to grow in gaps in the paving. This gives a casual, less formal feel and makes the most of self-sown treasures.
MIX PAVING MATERIALS A mix of paving materials including bricks, setts, gravel and natural stone creates a more rustic texture underfoot, and an eclectic, mix-and-match cottage feel. Reclaimed materials can be mixed with new to create interesting juxtapositions.
LOOK FOR VINTAGE FINDS Garden pots, ornaments and furniture made with natural or traditional materials will give the impression of an old-fashioned country garden materials.
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Transform a tricky slope with gravel and handsome Japanese plants, says Louisa Gilhooly
A GARDEN full of billowing, herbaceous borders is fine if you’ve got plenty of time on your hands, or staff. But, let’s face it, most of us haven’t the hours or energy for all that staking and deadheading. If you want a truly low maintenance garden, this Japanese-inspired gravel garden might provide an answer. We can
all take inspiration from the minimalism, calm and simplicity of this centuries-old Oriental style.
Giving your garden over to gravel not only looks stylish, it’s also cost effective. It’s easy to install and can offer environmental benefits – reducing flood risk and suppressing weeds. By planting the right
drought-tolerant plants you won’t need to water them as much – what’s not to like?
This design gives the illusion of water with a dry stream bed – essentially a shallow depression in the ground filled with gravel and pebbles. Although decorative, such a feature provides a practical solution to poor drainage too, by collecting rainwater and allowing it to percolate into the ground slowly. Creating a gentle curve in the stream bed gives a more natural appearance, with small pockets for ‘special interest’ planting.
Varying the size of the gravel and stones, and placing them as randomly as possible, makes for a less contrived look and adds drama in key locations. A group of large boulders can be placed to create an outcrop, perfect for showcasing special plants.
Choose a gravel colour to match the brickwork of your house or other hard landscape materials. Light-coloured gravel looks particularly good against render or white-painted brick, and grey gravel is handsome against brown, black and natural wood stains. You want the gravel colour to blend in rather than provide contrast, to create a serene backdrop for your plants.
You don’t need a lot of plants for this minimalist look, so keep to a simple planting palette of low-maintenance, high-impact specimens and repeat them throughout the garden. They’ll look all the better for being offset by a background of rocks, pebbles, gravel and paving.
Try to include subtle differences in texture, form and colour: bamboos and pine trees in soothing shades of green provide year-round interest, while seasonal colour comes from the ornamental apricot (Prunus mume ‘Beni-chidori’) and eye-catching Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Shin-deshojo’). Evergreen cloud-pruned trees provide a strong silhouette in winter, combining well with many perennials and grasses. A simple bowl of moss and a deer scarer (a bamboo pipe on a pivot that clacks as it drops when filled with water) provide a subtle finishing touch.
Use sound and movement Black bamboo Phyllostachys nigra provides height and makes a semi-transparent natural screen, introducing the elements of sound and movement. Plant in a pot if you’re worried about it spreading.
Hide the boundaries Dwarf conifers, such as Pinus mugo ‘Mops’, on the top terrace create a mini alpine woodland that disguises the furthest boundaries of the garden
Add a seating area A small seating terrace has been cut into the slope to give a new perspective on the planting below. A barrier of vertical oak sleepers offers a feeling of security when looking down.
Create a focal point Cloud-pruned topiary provides year-round interest – the tree’s foliage is trimmed using the ancient Japanese technique of niwaki.
Use colour accents Plants such as iris ‘Shaker’s Prayer’ and Acer palmatum ‘Shin-deshojo’ provide shots of colour, picked up by heuchera ‘Fireworks’, which leads the eye through the garden.
Introduce moss A large moss-filled bowl provides a simple, velvety focal point in verdant green.
Add a second sitting area A timber bench forms another sitting area that offers an alternative view of the garden.
Plant for seasonal colour Prunus mume ‘Beni-chidori’ (ornamental Japanese apricot) is a fabulous choice for adding a bright flash of pink blossom on grey mornings in the new year.
Go easy on the ornaments Too many Japanese ornaments can clutter up the garden, so go for one key piece such as this traditional deer scarer, or shishi odoshi, which adds a combination of beautiful sounds – a gentle water trickle and the occasional clack of bamboo.
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Treat yourself to fresh flowers every week in summer says Louisa Gilhooly
HAVING A constant supply of fresh flowers for the house might seem a bit decadent, but when you’ve grown them yourself from seed they’re ever so affordable. Besides, they not only make us feel good, they also brighten up the house and make a thoughtful gift for others.
Supermarket flowers might seem a cheap and cheerful option, but on closer inspection there’s a uniformity of blooms, plastic wrappings and in many cases the hundreds of air miles they’ve travelled – which can be off-putting.
Harvesting blooms from your existing plants is one way to go about it, but in practice it’s awkward raiding borders to bring flowers indoors. For one thing you’ll deplete your garden display and for another, taking your secateurs to newly developed buds can feel a bit brutal.
Fortunately, it’s possible to have the best of both worlds, by creating a separate flower patch just for cutting and harvesting. Having a dedicated area, no matter how small, creates a clear distinction between plants for the garden and blooms for indoors.
A cut-flower garden might sound like an extravagance when space is precious and you need areas for play, eating and entertaining. Yet if you consider the design here, it’s easy to incorporate this productive area within an attractive garden space. Besides, dividing up a small garden can actually make it feel bigger by providing separate areas for different activities and preventing you from seeing the whole garden at once. The key is to keep things simple – using the proportions of the house to guide your dividing lines and sticking to two or three key landscape features to link the areas together.
In this plot two gardens have been created in one; the first an open lawn framed by a small pergola and surrounded by mixed borders; the second a space to eat, sit and grow cut flowers. The areas are separated by a simple post and wire fence, which takes up minimal space and allows you to grow colourful climbers. Even very small gardens can accommodate various seating areas, allowing you to follow the sun’s progress and offering alternative positions from which to view the garden.
Once you know how to grow your own cut flowers, you’ll never go back. They’re better-looking, more environmentally friendly and easier on your purse. Have a go and you could soon be enjoying huge bouquets of homegrown loveliness for months on end!
1. Plant seasonal stars Malus robusta ‘Red Sentinel’ has pretty white-pink blossom in spring and red fruits that last well into winter. Both look attractive in floral arrangements.
2. Repeat materials Long-lasting European oak weathers to silver and links the raised beds, pergola and fence posts together. Brick paths echo the house materials.
3. Choose trees & shrubs for shape Twisted Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ (corkscrew hazel) branches bear yellow catkins in late winter and early spring. Stems make a shapely addition to floral displays.
4. Mix flowers, edibles & bulbs As well as cut flowers, include attractive veg such as rainbow chard and kale. For spring flowers, plant daffodil, tulip and hyacinth bulbs close together to maximise yield. Complement spring bulb arrangements with sprigs of crab apple blossom or hazel catkins.
5. Build raised beds Fill raised beds with high quality soil to make planting, weeding, staking and harvesting your crops easier – but don’t make the beds too wide!
6. Sow annuals Hardy and half-hardy annuals are a good place to start – they’re cheap and flower all summer long. Plus you can change your selection each year.
7. Use box balls for winter Position evergreen topiary at the end of each raised bed facing the house, to provide interest in winter when the annuals have finished flowering.
8. Choose flowering shrubs Hydrangeas produce excellent flowers for cutting in summer, take on beautiful autumnal tones and are perfect for drying. Also try lilacs (syringa), viburnums and peonies.
9. Create a focal point A water feature provides a decorative focal point surrounded by thyme in the gravel. This symmetrical layout creates an orderly potager look, making the space feel less like a working garden.
10. Divide your space A slender fence of oak posts and tensioned wire is clothed with clematis and sweet peas to create a ‘living screen’. This creates intrigue by preventing you from seeing the whole garden at once.
Use shrubs and trees to create a small woodland garden, says Louisa Gilhooly
We all enjoy relaxing outdoors at the end of a busy day, but many suburban gardens in built-up areas are overlooked by neighbouring houses, which also cast shade for most of the day. To combat both problems, this woodland design features tall, leafy shade-loving plants.
A simple group of trees, or a multi-stemmed specimen, underplanted with shade-tolerant shrubs, herbaceous plants and bulbs, can create a woodland effect in any size garden.
Choose naturally airy trees with an open canopy, so plenty of light reaches the planting underneath without having to prune. I’ve used three betula utilis jacquemontii ‘grayswood ghost’, a cultivar with the purest, most luminescent white bark. Robinia pseudoacacia ‘frisia’ is another good choice – its rich golden-yellow leaves create a brilliant splash of colour from spring to autumn. Snake-bark maples, such as the striking acer davidii, have fabulous autumn colour and attractive winter bark too.
As a focal point, acer palmatum ‘sango-kaku’ is a bright and eye-catching specimen, with its coral-red bark, graceful habit and dazzling gold autumn foliage.
For the most overlooked areas, evergreen ilex ‘nellie r stevens’ is a good-looking berry-bearing female holly with glossy, emerald-green foliage. Birds love its reliable, long-lasting crop of orange-red berries.
Foxgloves thrive in dappled shade at the back of the garden, their tall spires looking striking against the dark fence in summer. Elegant japanese anemones follow, flowering from august well into autumn, lighting up shady spots as the days shorten. Shade-loving geraniums provide a delicate display of flowers as they colonise the ground beneath trees. Attractive g. Phaeum has dark markings on the foliage matching the dramatic flowers.
The bold forms of dicksonia antarctica tree ferns add an architectural element to this naturalistic planting scheme, their shape echoed by native evergreen polystichum setiferum, the soft shield fern.
Woodland gardens have a relaxed and natural look and, as a bonus, many of these carefree plants are low maintenance too. Keep the area mulched to retain moisture and reduce weed growth; the only other tending your garden should need is occasional pruning as required.
1. Make fences disappear Painted black, property boundaries seem to disappear into the background, making a small garden seem larger and less boxy. Black is an excellent colour to help fence panels (and sheds) recede.
2. Layer your plants Layered planting allows you to include more plants in your borders without the garden looking cramped. Start with small trees at the back, then plant a layer of shrubs around and in front of them, then add perennials and bulbs around the shrubs.
3. Screen the most exposed spots Plant a tall, dense evergreen such as this holly tree to hide neighbour windows and provide year-round screening.
4. Create year-round interest Choose a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs with good autumn colour, berries and bark for winter interest. Include topiary specimens for shape and add flowering plants to provide seasonal colour accents.
5. Build an outdoor firepit Enjoy the garden on cooler days with a firepit. Store firewood under a fireproof concrete bench.
6. Incorporate organic matter Soil beneath trees can dry out, so add lots of well-rotted organic matter such as leafmould when planting, and mulch generously in spring.
7. Add a focal point Choose an eye-catching specimen tree such as Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’ for its autumn colour and winter bark. Here it’s planted with Polystichum setiferum ferns.
8. Choose shade lovers Look to nature when selecting plants for a shady corner of the garden. Woodland plants offer both attractive foliage and flowers that can brighten even the darkest corner – especially when you choose a variegated form, or white flowers that glow in the gloom.
9. Provide a foil for plants Bright gold, lush green and silvery white foliage looks even more vibrant when set against black fence panels.
10. Naturalise bulbs Brighten up a woodland garden by naturalising spring and autumn bulbs in the lawn and planting them under deciduous trees and shrubs. When planting, go for a natural drift or make a shapely swirl or circle in the lawn.
11. Orientate the garden at 45deg In very short or narrow sites, a 45-degree orientation takes the emphasis away from the closeness of the boundaries and can make a garden seem longer than it really is. This garden feels screened and protected, but not boxed in.
Formal geometry can bring order to a front garden, says Louisa Gilhooly
SIMPLE AND classic, the formal garden never goes out of fashion. Its clean lines and smart geometry hark back to the 16th-century Italian Renaissance, and the grand parterres of famous French chateaux such as those at Villandry and Versailles. Yet despite these historic beginnings, the formal style is surprisingly well-suited to modern gardens, where the same basic principles of balance, symmetry, straight lines and geometric shapes tend to be more pared back. If you’re a fan of minimalism, this style is for you!
A dreary front garden is the perfect place to start. Touches of formality can be introduced on a very small scale – a simple pair of box spirals in ornate urns, either side of the front door, creates the formal look in an instant. What’s more, the orderly layout is easy to navigate, so visitors are directed straight to the front door.
Formal gardens often have an emphasis on imposing order over nature, using a combination of geometric shapes – rectangles, circles or squares – and straight lines. Beds, borders, layouts and views can be symmetrical or asymmetrical, but must always feel balanced. (Even awkward-shaped plots can have some formality applied, as shown here.)
The strength of this style lies in the underlying framework, usually in the form of hedging, walls and paths, softened by flowers and foliage. By using lines taken directly from the house (such as aligning a path with the front door) harmony is created between house and garden.
Elements such as sculpture, a small fountain, specimen plant or attractive pot are ideal as a focal point to draw the eye. Line the feature up with sight lines from the house, such as the view from the sitting room window. In a formal garden all the elements need to relate to each other, so your focal point can become the starting point of say, a small avenue or the centre of a circular planting scheme.
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Create a more productive garden space with this fruit-filled design, says Louisa Gilhooly
You don’t need acres of land to grow your own fruit. Many fruit trees can be trained up walls or grown as miniature forms, and soft fruit can be grown in pots on the patio. Even the smallest back garden can provide its owner with fruit all year round, space for relaxation and nectar-rich flowers for wildlife.
This design aims to create an attractive cottage-style garden using plants that are ornamental as well as edible. It centres on a working/sitting area, surrounded by fruiting and flowering plants that spill over onto the pathways. Functionality is key and here the different levels of the existing space offer the perfect opportunity for raised planters. The tiny lawn has been replaced with four small beds separated by brick paths and the shed moved to provide an extra vertical growing area in sun. Decorative obelisks will support climbing plants such as gourds or sweetpeas for cutting.
If allowed to grow naturally, most fruit trees will easily become too tall for most small gardens. To overcome the problem, choose trees grafted onto dwarfing rootstocks, which have a more compact habit. These generally grow to around 2m (6ft), or smaller if grown in a pot. You need M27 rootstock for a tiny apple tree, Quince C for pear, Gisela 5 for cherry and Pixy for plum.
Small fruit trees and shrubs will happily grow in pots on a patio. Blueberries intensely dislike alkaline soil, but will grow happily in a tub of ericaceous compost; ‘Top Hat’ and ‘Nelson’ are both self-fertile. Tender plants such as small citrus trees can be taken inside in their pots to protect them from frosts. The lemon ‘Meyer’ is a compact, reliable form.
Growth is restricted by growing in pots, allowing you to grow monsters such as this ‘Brown Turkey’ fig. Underplant a standard potted fruit tree with low-growing herbs or annuals.
Create a seating area A sheltered seating area with a rustic table and mis-matched chairs provides an area to enjoy homegrown meals as well as an outdoor potting table
Plant cordons on the slant These plum trees are trained into a single stem and lean at 30-45 degrees. Plant them in sequence, 75cm-1m apart (29-39in), so the repetition is visually appealing and helps to add a more ‘designed’ feel to the garden. Restricting their growth also results in more fruit. Here I’d use plums ‘Czar’ and ‘Blue Tit’ and the gage 'Denniston's Superb’ against the rear fence.
Train a fan or two Here the fences and the side of the shed have been clothed with fruit trees that have been coaxed into specific shapes to save space and encourage fruiting. A fan shape is best for peaches, apricots and cherries. Espaliers (an elegant structure of horizontal tiers) are best for apples, pears and figs.
Plant stepovers A stepover is a tiny hedge (technically a single-tiered espalier trained into horizontal stems 30cm/12in high) grown along the border edge. They’re usually an apple or pear tree on dwarfing rootsock; buy one ready-trained or prune it into shape. Here I’ve used apples ‘Egremont Russet’, ‘Greensleeves’, Scrumptious’ and ‘Katy’, and pears ‘Concorde’, ‘Beth’, ‘Doyenne du Comice’ and ‘Invincible’ as low 'stepovers’ – a selection that ensures pollination.
Bring in pollinators Annual flower mixes allow you to change the look of your garden each year and will help encourage bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects into the garden. For a cottage garden feel, try cosmos, zinnias, foxgloves, poppies and borage.
Edge borders with strawberries Alpine strawberries are tolerant of partial shade, the fruits are not as large or sweet as the cultivated fruits, but they are very pretty. Use them at the front of the border, lining the edge of a path, or spilling over the edges of a large container.
Grow your own Pimms! This bed in full sun is lined with strawberries ‘Cambridge Favourite’ and ‘Honeoye’. Cucumber ‘Tokyo Slicer’ and apple mint (Mentha suaveolens) grown nearby provide all you need for a classic summer drink
Add a sun-loving grape Grape vines need a warm, sunny, sheltered site such as this south facing fence. The strawberry grapevine ‘Fragola’ has attractive foliage as well as delicious fruits.
Find space for a small crab apple Most crab apples are perfect for small gardens. In late spring malus ‘Red Sentinel’ has pretty, scented, single white flowers, followed in autumn by clusters of cherry-like, glossy, deep red fruits that persist well into winter… or if you prefer, made into jelly.
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By Louisa Gilhooly
THERE’S NOTHING more uplifting in the depths of winter than heading outside for a mooch around the garden. Botanic Gardens and National Trust properties across the land have got wise to this idea and are busy developing their own tailor-made Winter Walks – usually a meandering path through shrubs, trees and bulbs chosen for their winter interest. It’s a lovely, uplifting idea, but these grand landscapes don’t always translate well to our own, more modestly sized plots. Besides, it makes no sense to neglect the other seasons.
Here I’ve created a layout and planting scheme that provides real inducement to get out into the garden when the weather is a bit dreary, while offering interest throughout the rest of the year too.
A shot of colour on a cold, grey day livens up your outdoor space immensely. Here a cluster of showy scarlet Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ stems are partnered by the acid-green flowers of evergreen Helleborus foetidus to give a wallop of bold, contrasting colour.
These are complemented by the glossy, burnished-maroon leaves of bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’, an evergreen groundcover perennial that produces magenta-pink bell-shaped flowers in early spring.
Garden fragrance also provides a huge boost in the depths of winter. Catching an unexpected whiff of scent during the coldest part of the year is a wonderful surprise that can make a garden quite magical.
Sarcococca ruscifolia chinensis ‘Dragon Gate’ thrives in shade and never outgrows its space, so is perfect for smaller gardens. The tiny white flowers appear December–March and can fill a garden with the most delicious scent. Sarcococca can also be loosely clipped into shape to create repeating forms, making it a useful, and fragrant, alternative to box.
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Box hedging and topiary can smarten up even the smallest garden, says Dawn aac
Since their heyday in the 16th century, knot gardens have been a favourite feature found in traditional English country gardens. The key element is to create the impression that the low hedges are in fact knotted together – a horticultural trick of the eye. To amplify the effect, you can use high contrast colours such as purple berberis and silver santolina, or go for a more restrained palette as we have here with a standard and variegated box.
There are many other ways to give a standard knot garden a more personal stamp. For a looser and more relaxed effect choose shrubby herbs instead of box, as these tend to form a softer hedge line. The spaces in-between the hedges also offer opportunities. Here we have employed a rill and pool to add movement and interest, but equally, you could use different-coloured gravels and mulches to add interest.
Our knot design includes parterre beds. With their reliance on clipped hedges to make the formal patterns, these are a good accompaniment to the knot garden. However, in parterres, the spaces between hedges are typically filled with seasonal flowers such as spring bulbs, roses and lavender, which brings an extra layer of interest to the design.
TRANSFORM A BLANK CANVAS
When designing a new garden from scratch it can be hard to know where to start. At least with a knot garden you’re sticking to formal geometrical shapes – lines, circles, squares and triangles – to make your knot pattern. Measure and draw the garden to scale on a sheet of graph paper first, then sketch out your knot – try a simple Celtic design, interlocking circles or diamonds, or copy one of the many layouts online. Keep to a symmetrical pattern for simplicity.
Hide fences with espalier trees and climbers Clematis and scented roses add colour throughout the growing season and interest to boundaries, making the garden seem less boxy.
Create the ‘knotted’ look The design uses normal and variegated box plants to provide a subtle contrast in colour. The hedges are clipped to slope down 5cm (3in) at the intersections, which gived the impression the two hedges are woven around each other.
Use water for sound and movement A formal rill and central pond with a small fountain intersect the two sides of the knot garden. This adds another sensory element – reflections, sound and movement.
Place statues on the perimeter Two pale stone statues provide a formal, classical note. They act as symmetrical focal points, adding height at the far end of the garden.
Plant parterre beds To complement the central knot design, a parterre runs around the border of the garden with the box sections interplanted with groundcover plants and bulbs.
Lay gravel paths Pale gravel pathways lead around the garden. The gravel colour is echoed by the stone edging around the planting beds, rill and pool.
Trim up some topiary trees To echo the formality of the garden layout, clipped box topiary sits within the knot, while taller clipped bay trees add height in the parterre beds around the garden perimeter.
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MODERN GARDENS have to work hard these days – especially if you want to grow a mix of ornamental and edible plants all in the same small space. The answer is to create a potager garden, where flowers and attractive fruits and vegetables grow side by side.
In France, where the word originates, potager referred to an ornamental as well as practical space, and brought together not only vegetables and flowers but also herbs, medicinial plants and fruit trees and shrubs, often with some well-clipped topiary on the side.
With gardens short on space today, there’s much to be said for a design style that’s both productive and beautiful. The key to achieve this is establishing a strong pattern in the layout that will still look good even when crops have been harvested, offering structure throughout winter. Formality works well, and helps echo the traditional straight lines so often associated with vegetable growing and cutting gardens.
It’s helpful to include permanent design features that add height, as we have done here with the gourd and bean arches, along with the shaped yew hedge, which shields the compost bins from view.
And finally, never forget to stop and enjoy the view – and the harvest! The garden seat offers a view along the centre of the garden, while a good-sized dining terrace next to the house (not pictured) allows you to eat your produce within the space where it grew.
BEFORE: The regular, rectangular shape of this empty garden is perfect for introducing a formal layout that relies on a concentric pattern of L-shaped, cut-away island borders. No border is wider than 1.5m (5ft) and they’re all separated by even gravel paths of the same width, which means the crops are all easy to access from either side.
Create formal geomtery
The garden is laid out using a strong, geometric pattern that creates an attractive formal garden design all year round.
Divide space with stepover apple trees
Grown on dwarfing rooting stocks, these stepover apple trees are trained as a single horizontal stem and are perfect for growing fruit in an attractive, space-saving way.
Add a bench under a gourd arch
An attractive bench has been placed under a strong wire framework that will support eye-catching, ornamental gourds in autumn.
Create bean archways
Different bean varieties can be grown up a wire archway to create a leafy tunnel as well as providing an easy way to harvest the beans.
Hide compost bins with yew
This elegantly shaped yew hedge adds both year-round structure to the garden as well as usefully hiding a view of the compost bins from the house and dining terrace.
Grow cut flowers Potagers often include rows of cut flowers and here there’s plenty of space given over to growing blooms to cut for the house.
Use companion planting The beds contain a mix of herbs, vegetables and flowers allowing for plenty of companion planting opportunities, such as chives planted with carrots or pot marigolds alongside tomatoes and beans.
Lay sweepable brick paths Basketweave brick paths give a traditional feel and are also practical – any mess made during cultivation and harvesting is easy to sweep up.
Keep compost looking neat Two compost bins, each a cubic metre in capacity, sit side by side to allow for turning. The wooden slats at the front are removable to ensure the finished compost is easy to access.
Train fruit into a fan No space is wasted as even the fences and walls are used to support fan-trained fruit trees, which look attractive all year round, from spring blossom and autumn fruits to their winter skeletons.
THE WIDE OPEN plains of North America might not seem like an easy starting point for a domestic garden, but the work of Dutch plantsman Piet Oudolf and others over recent decades has seen this landscape become an inspiration for even the smallest plot.
If you’re lucky enough to border fields, you can visually ‘merge’ with
the wider landscape by framing and borrowing views, but in suburbia you may have to be more inward-looking. However, provided you have a relatively open, sunny site, incorporating plenty of grasses and swathes of herbaceous perennial plants will immediately
give a prairie flavour to proceedings.
Hard landscaping, hedging or topiary will provide year-round shape and interest, and curving paths will echo the planting’s gentle, rolling mounds. A raised deck lets you enjoy the beauty of your prairie from an elevated position, such as from an outdoor rocking chair.
1 No hard standing area to sit and enjoy the garden
2 Large expanse of lawn and lack of planting
means there’s no seasonal colour
3 Neighbouring properties block surrounding views
4 Current shed offers insufficient storage space
Build decking In a sunny spot, a hardwood raised deck provides a useful space for outside dining and entertaining.
Create a veranda Adding swing seats or an outside rocking chair to a raised deck evokes the classic wooden veranda you’d find in the homestead architecture of America’s Great Plains.
Lay curved gravel paths Meandering paths that wind through the planting areas are easy to create with metal-edged self-binding gravel.
Add ranch-style fencing Small sections of classic post-and-rail fencing will not only make the deck safer, but will also evoke the type of boundaries found on prairies.
Plant grasses Ornamental grasses are essential for the feel of a prairie and add height and movement to the space. A good rule of thumb is one-third grasses to two-thirds perennials.
Create blocks and drifts It’s best to limit the number of perennial species so the impact of each is greater. Choose a dozen or fewer species, supplemented with early bulbs to give colour at the start of the year.
Plant for winter interest Adding small sections of fencing or hedging or incorporating some sculpture or topiary will mean the garden has shape and form even when perennials and grasses are cut down at the end of winter.
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THE TRADITIONAL MOROCCAN garden is usually a small open courtyard encircled by the house. However, you don’t need to follow this model to create an intimate garden with a Moroccan feel. Instead, embrace the essence of these gardens by focusing on beauty, shade, perfume and calm – an oasis in which you can truly relax.
In a North African climate, cool tiles are a must but if these stretch the budget you can use them as highlights and choose a more cost-effective main flooring such as stone chippings.
A central water feature lends authenticity and soothing sound effects, as do plenty of architectural foliage plants. Moroccan gardens often feature potted plants but for a lower-maintenance layout you could plant in beds instead. Make sure you add some perfumed species, such as highly fragrant roses.
Finally, don’t stint on colour. For an immediate Moroccan hit, add cushions, throws and even curtains in jewel-like tones. Team these with ornate lanterns peppered with tea lights and you will be transported to Marrakech in an instant.
Use outdoor tiles
Recreate the Moorish tiled look with exterior-grade tiles in geometric patterns. Choose relatively neutral tones to avoid an overpowering look.
Add a water feature
A central water feature is typical of Moroccan gardens. Add a fountain to create a gentle sound and mask background noise.
Create a green oasis
Add bamboo in restricted beds as well large terracotta pots with striking foliage plants such as bananas, Fatsia japonica and Dicksonia antarctica to create the feeling of a green oasis.
Enjoy more shade
Add a shade sail over seating areas to make sitting out a more pleasant experience.
Plant a fig
If you have a south-facing garden or house wall, plant a fig tree. Use a pot or restricted planting pit to keep the roots in check and encourage more fruiting.
Choose soft furnishings
Add plenty of cushions and throws in striped or jewel tones. Look for exterior-grade fabrics so these can be left outside year-round.
Add relaxed furniture
Use low sofas, day beds and coffee tables to create a relaxed atmosphere. Carved wooden versions add a suitably Moroccan feel.
Light up, with lanterns
Intricate metal fretwork lanterns hang from the pergola with tea lights inside to illuminate the garden at dusk.
The house doors are enhanced and brought into the design with colourful exterior curtains hung on etier side of the doors. These match the colours of the cushions and throws.
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Do your bit to help our most colourful pollinators by planting their favourite flowers and foodplants, says Dawn Isaac
BUTTERFLIES are the fabulous divas of the insect world, but like all divas they’re fussy about their needs. They can only fly when the weather’s warm enough, so you need to provide them with a sunny spot. Their wings can also be damaged in strong winds, so it needs to be sheltered too.If this only applies to a section of your garden, you can always develop a small butterfly border within the larger space, using dark-coloured ‘sunbathing’ rocks and manmade butterfly puddles as well as the most important element: plants.
Don’t forget that butterflies are only the final stage in a lifecycle that begins with eggs and caterpillars. This means that a complete butterfly garden needs to include not only nectar plants for the adults but also plant species that feed the early caterpillar stages too.
But don’t worry: although many of these plants are considered weeds (such as nettles and thistles) there are plenty of alternative, better-behaved sources of food that you can grow instead (see below).
Trees can create a leafy look that’s perfect if you’re overlooked, says Dawn Isaac
Trees are the answer to hiding your garden from interested neighbours; you can plant a few smaller, multi-stem specimens in all but the tiniest garden, creating a mini woodland effect. The key ingredient is patience. As the Chinese proverb says: ‘The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.’ But don't be downhearted. You may already have some established trees that you can add to and plant around. And even if you have an empty plot like this one here, it's encouraging to remember that the younger trees are planted, the better they establish and the faster they’ll grow.
There’s more good news too: woodland gardens tend to be light on the hard landscaping, which means you can avoid the most expensive part of any garden build. Once established, they’re also relatively easy to maintain, provided you mulch well to retain moisture and keep the soil well fed.
Of course the trick is to get the planting right. Start by building up layers, with the top tree canopy underplanted with smaller trees and shrubs, and a low woodland floor layer growing beneath everything else. To break up a green fog of leaves, scatter in some changes of texture and inject some colour. This is relatively easy in late winter and spring as there are legions of bulbs pre-programmed to do their thing before the tree canopy steals the light. For summer and autumn, use the shade-loving perennials listed overleaf.
1 Bare walls make the garden seem boxy and hemmed in
2 Lack of planting means there’s no seasonal interest or colour
3 Absence of trees and tall plants means the garden is overlooked
4 Without plants the entire garden can be seen all at once
5 Large neighbouring house wall is a bit of an eyesore
By introducing trees and shrubs the garden immediately enjoys more privacy, shade and shelter. These leafy plants create habitats for wildlife and can bring seasonal flowers and berries for colour and fragrance. By planting in layers there’s interest at different levels with plenty to look at and explore.
Frame the entrance Made from peeled oak sections, this rustic arch marks the entrance to the woodland path
Exploit reflected light The pale colour of this gravel reflects light and makes the path easier to see and navigate. It’s also easier to walk on than bark chippings
Mulch beds Tree roots are greedy for food and water, so mulching beds with organic matter in spring or autumn helps all plants to thrive
Add multi-stemmed trees When a tree produces multiple trunks its energies are diverted, leading to a smaller tree. This makes them ideal for a small garden
Create layers of planting Smaller trees and woodland shrubs create a lower layer beneath the upper canopy, and shade-tolerant species will cover the woodland floor below
Choose a wooden seat A simple seat made from logs and wooden planks fits with the theme perfectly, offering a vantage point to sit and enjoy the garden
Stack up some stumps A pile of cut tree trunks creates both an attractive garden feature and a perfect wildlife habitat in the form of a simple stumpery
Soften the hard edges The hardness of the brick wall has been visually softened by growing an ivy to cover it. This can also be used to clothe the fencing, making the boundaires disappear
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Dawn Isaac brings Oriental flavour to a new suburban plot.
Traditional Japanese gardens are one of the hardest to create. Every part of them is carefully thought out and planned to reflect a philosophical or aesthetic quality. Of course you could study the art of Japanese garden design and try doggedly to learn all the rules and nuances of the various styles, but this might take years. Instead, throw your hands up and declare you are simply looking for some Japanese inspiration! This way you can take elements that work for you and adapt others to suit your own taste.
For most of us it’s about creating a garden that’s serene and soothing; a space that encourages you to sit and contemplate. A Japanese garden is restrained in its colour palette, and mostly populated with evergreens such as conifers, as well as flowering shrubs, forest perennials, sedges and mosses. If you carefully place these alongside rocks and water, you can create the mini landscapes and picturesque tableaus so reminiscent of Japan. Add to this a teahouse-style garden building, Japanese bridge and lanterns, and the result can look very authentic.
1. Bare fences and house walls create a hemmed-in feel
2. Lack of planting means there's no interest
3. You can see the garden all at once so there are no surprises
Train trees and shrubs to create clouds of soft foliage floating in the garden with this ancient Japanese technique.
Large, well-worn rocks, mosses and sedges create the micro landscapes and picturesque tableaus reminiscent of Japan.
A garden building which takes its inspiration from the traditional Japanese teahouse adds an authentic feel and forms a focal point for the garden.
This feature, complete with small islands, is created from gravel that is raked to imitate the flowing movement of water.
The narrowest point of the dry lake is crossed by a Japanese single-rail bridge, traditionally painted red, but just as commonly left a natural wood colour.
Bamboo or reed screening help mask modern fences and adds an 'instant' Japanese flavour to the boundaries.
A bamboo deer scarer gives a regular hollow knocking sound that complements the serenity of the garden.
Flowering cherry trees create a stunning cherry blossom display in springtime, whilst adding a serene and soothing feel to the space.
There are many styles of Japanese lantern, each designed for a different purpose and effect in the garden.
Bold planting can transport your plot to the tropics, says Dawn Isaac
We might not have the hot and humid climate of a tropical rainforest, but it is still possible to conjure up a jungle-inspired design in a British back garden. Set the tone with bamboo or rattan furniture as well as log paths: the materials to hand in a tropical landscape. However if you want longer lasting features you can go for imitation or synthetic versions which are better able to survive our cold and wet weather.
But the most vital element by far is the planting. A lush tropical feel demands large leaves and lots of them. Thankfully many exotic looking plants are hardy enough to withstand our climate. In filling your borders it is also worth making sure you have evergreens aplenty so your carefully layered beds not denuded in winter.
Colour is less important to the overall look, but you can inject some with shade tolerant species, or by adding splashes of flowering plants in more open areas. If these are grown in pots, you can even introduce some truly exotic species that can then be overwintered in a conservatory or greenhouse.
1. Bare walls and fences give a hemmed in look
2. Lack of plants means there are no seasonal surprises
3. There's nothing to hide the neighbouring houses
4. Although the garden seems spacious, you can see it all at once
Birch trees help mask neighbouring properties whilst also providing a light shade upper canopy to create a forest feel to the garden
A thatched roof hut creates a jungle themed dining area and a focal point in the forest 'clearing'
Foliage rich planting
Large leaved foliage plants creates a lush tropical feel, with deciduous, tender plants balanced with hardier evergreens
Reconstituted stone stepping stones replicating cut logs creates a hardwearing path feature set amongst gravel
Curving paths create a sense of discovery as new views open up around each corner
Large leaved water lilies cover a circular pond which is crossed by a wooden bridge with bamboo balustrades.
Rattan effect furniture creates a tropical feel whilst being hard wearing and a hanging chairscreates an additional relaxed holiday feel to the space.
A water shoot delivered via a large bamboo stem brings jungle-inspired sights and sounds into the garden
Top 10 Plants for a Tropical Look
Acanthus mollis - Bear's breeches forms an enormous architectural plant with large glossy leaves up to a metre in length and tall summer flower spikes of white blossoms hooded by purple bracts. Height 1.5m, spread 90cm.
Hedychium gardnerianum - one of the hardiest ginger lilies, this has dramatic foliage reminiscent of banana plants and then a giant spike of sweetly scented flower in late summer and early autumn. Needs winter protection. Height 1.5m, spread 1m.
Musa basjoo - the hardiest of banana plants with dramatic paddle-shaped leaves up to 3m in length. Requires winter protection for its foliage and crown. Height 5m, spread 4m.
Fatsia japonica - a useful evergreen shrub with glossy dark green palmate leaves and unusual rounded flower spikes in autumn. Needs some protection in cold areas. Height and spread 4m.
Trachycarpus fortunei - The Chusan Palm has large and distinctive fan-shaped leaves and a dark brown fibrous trunk. Will take full sun or part shade but needs winter protection from hard frosts. Height 20m, spread 2.5m.
Crocosmia 'Lucifer' - Sword shaped leaves give rise to arching red flowers in August and September that add a dash of hot colour. Can take partial shade. Height 1m, spread 80cm.
Asplenium scolopendrium - This hardy evergreen fern with its wavy edged frond is useful to grow in shady and even dry spots (when established). Height and spread 60cm.
Polypodium vulgare - an evergreen fern native to Britain which will happily colonise areas under trees where other plants may struggle. Height 30cm, spread 1m.
Hosta 'Sum & Substance' - a yellow-green hosta with enormous corrugated leaves and pale lilac flower spikes in summer. Height 75cm, spread 1.2m.
Dicksonia antarctica - a tree-like fern with roots forming a trunk and tough, long fronds. Trunk and crown needs to be well watered in growing season and the crown protected in winter. Height 6m, spread 4m.
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Newbuild gardens present a wonderful blank canvas... but sometimes it helps to introduce a theme to help you get started, says Dawn Isaac
Fans of the great British coastline will find it relatively easy to recreate this look in their own back garden. A sunny spot will always work best as this will suit most coastal-style plants but as long as your space is relatively light and bright it's really about choosing the right materials.
Stone, shingle and even sand can be teamed with decking, sleepers and rope to immediately set the right tone. Sheds can become beach huts with a little effort and firepits and hammocks will automatically take on a seaside feel when set against this backdrop. Add in some ornamental grasses, glaucous evergreens and colourful Mediterranean or coastal plants to finish the look.
1 This typical newbuild garden is just laid to lawn
2 Nothing invites you into the garden
3 Lack of stimulating space for relaxation or play
4 Bare walls and fences create a boxed-in feel
Splitting the garden into distinct areas for relaxing and entertaining makes the space immediately more interesting and useful. A large pond in the centre gives a waterside feel, offering reflections of plants and sky. Decking creates a jetty-type feel beside the water, offering spaces to pond dip and relax by the beach hut in the far corner.
Add sculptural sleepers - Railway sleepers used as upright sculptures or windbreaks offer an accessible alternative to driftwood
Paint the shed to make a seaside hut - An off the shelf shed can soon be turned into a beach hut with clever use of woodstains, well placed shutters and a length of two of bunting
Add grasses - Recreate the grass-peppered look of sand dunes by introducing plenty of ornamental species around the garden
Create a waterside deck - If you have oodles of space and plenty of budget you could consider adding a swimming pond, but even an ordinary pond can get a beach-side feel when teamed with a projecting decked area
Make an urban beach - Import plenty of fine play sand to a geotextile-lined area to create an urban beach. If visiting cats are a worry, you can cover the area in sections of artificial turf when not in use
Entertain around a firepit - No beach party is complete with a sing-along around a fire so add a firepit and rope ottomans to set the mood
Add posts and rope - Edging the decked area in posts with rope swags evokes waterside
Laze in a hammock - Enjoy lazy summer days on a hammock set amongst the planting
Lay stones and gravel - Plant coastal style species through a geotextile membrane and add shingle and stones on top to give a beach feel to the garden
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Slatted screens, hedges and transparent grasses will avert the gaze of neighbours and passersby, without spoiling your view, says Dawn Isaac
We might love our neighbours, be naturally gregarious and like nothing more than a chat, but none of us wants to feel we’re on show the moment we set foot in our garden. At the same time, if you have a lovely view, or much needed light, then erecting six foot high walls is going to rob you of these delights.
There is of course a compromise. You can use plenty of designer tricks to create a sense of privacy without feeling like you're trapped in Colditz. Planting can create enclosures and screening at the same time as adding colour and form, and even filtering out some wind. Structures and clipped forms can direct and distract prying eyes while well-placed boundary structures can add to a sense of security and privacy.
1. Featureless concrete paving bank
2. No gate at front
3. Garden wide open to footpath users
4. Bins and washing on view
Train pleached trees - It takes time and skill but pleaching fruit trees can create a high screen between neighbours that is also a productive one
Use distraction planting - Swapping paving for planting on the slope will attract the eye of passers by and keep them on the bank rather than the garden or house
Plant a screen of grasses - Tall grasses such as miscanthus, Stipa gigantea or Calamagrostis creates a fluid and semi transparent screen for most of the year
Grow multi-height hedges - A low hedge at the centre ensures the view can still be enjoyed from the house but by increasing height at the side a private seating area is created behind
Add a pergola with side slats - As well as providing screening from above, pergolas can also provide screening at the side either with outdoor curtains or trellis panels as used here
Gate the entrance A delicate iron work gate marks the entrance and gives an added sense of privacy and security without feeling heavy and obstructive
Hide the bins - No one needs to see you popping out the rubbish so delicate overhead beams and a trellis screen mask this area from view
Add gentle noise - A water feature and wind chimes add sounds to the garden which help camouflage conversations and make people feel less audibly on show
Plant a small tree - It takes time to have an impact but planting a spreading tree will eventually screen off whole areas from outside view as well as creating private spaces beneath the boughs
Window plants - Planting around the house windows makes them less visually obvious and so reduces the temptation for passers by to peer inside
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Give flooring, fences and furnishings a new lease of life using vibrant colour that complements your planting, says Dawn Isaac
As gardeners we have a tendency to think of planting as the key way to add colour to our outdoor space. However, this is only the start. Where colour is concerned it’s worth thinking of a garden as an exterior room. From flooring and walls to soft furnishing and even artwork, there are a huge number of ways to add vibrant shades.
As a starting point, work out what you want from your colours. Reds are vibrant and warm, yellows are eye catching, blues add mystery and depth whereas greens are calm and tranquil. And, as with so much in design, less is more, so sticking to a single colour – such as the orange in this garden – gives the space a sense of unity.
Before rushing into a decision, it makes sense to purchase a few sample pots of paint and paint old off cuts of wood. If you place these around the garden you can judge the effects of light, weather and other garden features of planting which can all change how a colour performs.
Finally, remember that colours are changeable so don't be afraid to change the whole look whenever you tire of it.
1. Little planting to add colour
2. Evergreen shrubs and trees dominate
3. No entertaining spaces
4. Small stepping stone path provides minimal access
Create an ‘entertaining wall’
A low wall with black limestone coping creates an extra seating area and breaks up the space. Painting the render in orange masonry paint adds a splash of colour
Match up the scheme with painted pots
Old pots are given a new lease of life with a couple of coats of masonry paint, making them the perfect match to the new wall.
Create a feature wall
The outdoor building has been painted to create a bright orange feature wall outside, with a dark grey door adding contrast.
Fix up removable mesh trellis
A steel mesh grid has been attached to hooks on the wall allowing climbers to be taken down when the wall is repainted
Add coloured curtains
A metal gazebo gives a covered entertaining space with colourful curtains to liven up the area.
Create a colourful seating area
A wooden tree seat has been stained a bright orange to match the key garden features.
Make a contrast with dark flooring
Black limestone flooring provides an effective backdrop to the hot and vibrant colours in the garden.
Banish the boundaries
The fences have been coloured with a black wood stain so they recede from view and become an effective foil for the planting in front.
Invest in weatherproof cushions
To soften the seating on the low wall, outdoor cushions have been covered in exterior fabric that can withstand the vagaries of the British weather.
Plant for high contrast
Bright orange and purple flowers are set alongside acid green and deep purple foliage to create a stimulating colour contrast scheme
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