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Some hints and tips to make your garden really glow this Autumn

(Don’t write the outdoor life just yet)

What a fabulous summer we have had in Britain, I was lucky enough to go away in the middle of summer and some of my plants suffered a little due to lack of water, and the lawn is looking far from its best, but with a little rain, some TLC and milder temperatures, sure enough plants have rallied and the lawn is limping back to life.

Once the schools go back many people seem to think that time spent in the garden is over, but opportunities for enjoying the garden and working in it during autumn are far from over. Winter is a way off; (in my humble opinion mid December is the start of winter proper these days) so here are a few pointers to getting your garden looking amazing this season.

  • Add some autumn flowering plants: If you’ve not got any colour in your garden right now, the next few months are what us garden people call planting season. The soil is warm, there is usually plenty of rain; plants can settle in and get established well before the hard frosts arrive in winter.

For instant impact try some perennial plants: Aster’s, Echinacea, Rudbeckia, Verbena, and Japanese anemone’s are really coming into their own in late summer and autumn.

  • If you don’t have the changing colours of autumn happening outside your window, with leaves and berries changing from green to glorious golds and reds now is a great time to plant shrubs for next year and make your garden glow.

You can’t go wrong with a Japanese Acer shrub or tree. Or add some fire to your winter border with a Cornus midwinter fire.

  • Keep mowing! If the sun is shining and the raining is falling the grass will keep growing. I have been known to mow as late as December when the weather is unseasonably warm. But don’t pack your mower way at the end of September. It will make your job so much easier in the spring if your lawn is neat and tidy at the start of winter.

(Don’t however mow in wet or frosty weather)

  • Boring and back breaking it can be, but weeding is still a necessary chore, if the grass is growing so will the weeds be.
  • Take stock and re arrange plants that aren’t so happy, or those that are overcrowded. Moving plants costs nothing but time, perennials can often be divided to get more free plants. You may have self-seeded plants that could do with a new home, either in your garden or in a friends. (don’t forget to feed and water any plants moved.)
  • Mulch your borders. A good layer of compost can feed the soil and it acts like a blanket as the temperatures drop.
  • Why not plant some spring bulbs. There is so much choice in the garden centres right now, from early flowering crocus, to late spring alliums, you can have colour from January through to May with only a few pounds spend on bulbs. Best get them in before December.

We have four seasons and with careful thought and planning now, all of them can be glorious in the garden.

The post The Glory of Autumn appeared first on Holley Designs | Professional Garden Design and Creation.

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Get those senses tingling in the garden

A sensory garden should stimulate all 5 of our senses, and encourages those in the garden not only to look, but to touch, smell, hear and taste what is in the garden. What you choose to use to stimulate the senses may depend on who you are creating the garden for: for teaching children or a reflective space for the elderly, a garden for the visually impaired, or a safe and exciting space for wheel chair users to enjoy getting in the garden. The materials you use and the plants you choose need to be suitable for the user, but the principals are the same.

I will attempt to give some tips one sense at a time.

Sight

  • Use winding pathways, with interesting materials; for a sophisticated look a herringbone brick path would draw the eye, some beautiful sculptures, or for a real impact a rainbow painted deck path, brightly painted planters or raised beds and structures to create layers of height to draw the eye. Mirrors are also a great idea.
  • Planting for sight needs to be full of colour, as much variety as possible, and don’t forget to include use bulbs for spring and a variety of evergreens for winter interest. You could also choose some interesting topiary to top it off.

Sound

  • Water and wind can work wonders in the garden, water features and wind chimes can provide a range of tones to suit most ears. You can also include gravel in areas to crunch under foot.
  • Included plants that rustle such as bamboo, or grasses; attract birds into the garden with seeds and berries, flowers will also attract the gentle buzz of bees, so why not put up a bug hotel to give them a place to rest and stay.

Taste

  • If you have space for a small kitchen garden, include plants that can be eaten raw, raspberries, tomatoes, peas for example. Salad crops such as lettuces and Herbs of course are a must for any taste sensation and can be grown in small pots.
  • There are also edible flowers that can be added to salads to give a real wow factor, hardy geranium flowers and nasturtium flowers, day lilies also have a peppery taste.

Touch

  • For landscaping you can include different materials to decorate your garden, glass, pebbles, wood, mosaic, all offering a diversity of touch sensations.
  • The plant world offers a huge range of tactile opportunities, ornamental grasses with fluffy flowers, lambs ears with their velvet leaves, a hint of jeopardy with some spikey globe thistles, fleshy succulents, just for starters. I would suggest staying clear of anything too thorny like spikey roses, or yucca near pathways.

Smell

  • From freshly mown grass to beautiful roses, the garden is a wealth of fragrance. Fresh herbs and aromatic plants such as Lavender, Rosemary, and Santolina, all give off perfume when brushed, place near a pathway for best effect.
  • Fragrant roses, Jasmine, Honeysuckle, Philedelphus, thyme paths, all can add amazing smells from tip to toe, the choice is literally endless, whether you want high perfume or chocolate and vanilla, there are plants out there to cater to your fragrant wish.

The post 10 ideas for creating a simple sensory garden appeared first on Holley Designs | Professional Garden Design and Creation.

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5 Great ideas to get your children out in the garden during the summer holidays

Gardening is a great activity for everyone, but especially for children: It is not only a life skill, it can be very inexpensive and it is mostly done outside in the fresh air. As well as this it uses a bit of science, a little patience, mindfulness and teaches us to care for something that depends on us for food and water. At the end you have something amazing to look at or to eat. Here are some fun ways to get started. If you are new to gardening start with one thing at a time.

  1. Grow flowers from seed: Seeds can be free, (collect them from your own plants or swap them with others) or very inexpensive from the garden centre. Seeds can be planted in the ground or in a pot. Why not try annuals Cornflowers, Foxgloves, Californian poppies, Sunflowers, Candytuft, Marigolds and Nasturtiums. These are colourful, and easy to grow. Don’t worry about a tasteful colour scheme, go crazy with whichever colours your child likes best. Once you have grown your flowers enjoy them as they are; cut them and put them in a vase, take photos or press the flowers, or use them in a collage.
  2. Grow edibles: There is nothing more satisfying than eating something you have grown. You can start by sowing seeds cress on wet kitchen paper, to growing tomatoes, canes of runner beans, raspberries and beds of strawberries, courgettes, or herbs on a window sill: If you are thinking longer term plant a fruit tree. You can buy seeds or plug plants to get you started. Water well and keep weed free. Make it a daily task, measure how tall you plants grow. Once you have your fruit or vegetable then some perhaps cookery lessons can follow.
  3. Create a wildlife corner: This is perfect if you have an untidy corner of your garden, at the back of a border or behind the shed. Piles of leaves, twigs, stones, are great places for critters to hide. Water is a key element, whether a small pond, or water bowl, that birds and mammals can drink from. You can try putting bird seed out all year round and plant flowers for bees and other insects. If you build it they will come. See if you can watch bugs going around their business. Count how many different animals, birds, and insects you can see.
  4. Create a sensory garden: you can have a simple water feature, or wind chimes for sound. Sensory plants to play with include rattling poppy seed heads, furry Stachys byzantina, smelly curry plant, lemon balm, and chocolate cosmos.. Or simply see how many different colours, textures, smells, sounds you can see in your garden or park. Include everything, plants, weeds, bugs, stones, soil, bird song, airplane noises…
  5. Create a mud kitchen: If gardening is not your strength but you want to get your little ones outside, why not create a mud kitchen. This can be a semi-permanent feature with a pallet work top, an old sink, if you are handy or simply a ground sheet, some cups, or pots, some top soil, sand, compost, old spoons and sieves whatever you can spare and some water. Add an imagination and experimentation. How much water do you need to make mud castles, and mud cakes? What is soil made of? What happens when you mix in compost or sand? Get creative; use seeds, leaves, flowers, twigs to decorate your creations.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Summer is a great time to be outside, and getting up close to nature is a great way to teach children all sorts of things, and allow them to be creative and start taking responsibility (a packet of seeds is cheaper than a pet!!). If you want to know more there are numerous blogs on line or look at the RHS website for ideas.

The post Gardening for Children and so much more appeared first on Holley Designs | Professional Garden Design and Creation.

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10 Tips to help you get it right in your small garden.

What is a small garden? To be honest it is all relative, out here in the ‘burbs’, we have a real variety of garden size from the few acres to a few metres, what I am talking about here is anything under 100 square metres (1000ft)

There are some restrictions on small gardens, but they should not include the imagination. Here a few insider tips to remember when planning your own small garden.

  1. Decide on the character of your garden. What do you want to use it for? Is it a play space, an entertaining space, do you want to grow food, fill it with plants? Will it be lush and vibrant or orderly and formal?
  2. Choose your hard landscaping materials carefully, and only use one or two materials. Any more and the garden will feel cluttered and messy. It must be laid well as mistakes are more obvious in a small garden.
  3. Identify the functional and usable space you need early on. If you need a table that seats 6 people plan this space well and generously. Leave room to move around. No one wants to fall into the flower bed when they are eating dinner.
  4. Be generous with your planting beds. This creates a sense of depth, and allows plants to be layered creating interest and texture. (Wider beds get a better chance of collecting rainfall.
  5. Use height: Create structures that draw the eye upwards and don’t be frightened to use trees in the garden, (choose wisely) but introducing tall plants creates interest and can shield you from ugly views.
  6. Changes in level: if you garden slopes this can be a real visual feature, make sure your steps are clearly visible, consider lighting, be as generous as space allows for safety.
  7. Irrigation: many small gardens are very dry, especially when surrounded by buildings. A simple irrigation system can be set up with a timer so that you garden gets the water it needs and may not get from rainfall.
  8. Plant choice. Consider your plants carefully. They need to be suited to your particular space, and the character of the garden you want to create; whether it be a sun trap or a shady spot. The smaller your space the smaller the number of species you should consider. One of everything you like will just be a chaotic tapestry where nothing stands out and everything gets lost. Using plants such as wall shrubs, climbers and trees a small space can feel larger if you can’t see the edges.
  9. Storage: A small garden needs to be practical, but be creative with storage solutions and where you put them. They should not be the key focal point of your garden, unless they are beautiful.
  10. A small garden can be more expensive per meter than a large garden to build. Remember that plants are always cheaper than hard landscaping and don’t need an expert to plant.

The post Making the most of a small garden appeared first on Holley Designs | Professional Garden Design and Creation.

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Who should look after your trees? (Why does it matter?)

What is the difference between a chainsaw man, a Tree surgeon and an arboriculturist? sounds a bit like the beginning a bad joke, but a question that my clients ask me all the time is who can I get to sort out my trees?  I was also inspired to write this after watching a neighbours tree being butchered and left as an eyesore.

As a property owner it is my responsibility to look after the trees within my boundaries; to know if any of them are protected, and to ensure they are well maintained, disease free and safe.  Now that is a lot of information to know and even as a qualified gardener and garden designer, my tree knowledge is limited to some basics, and you are never going to find me climbing a tree with a chain saw. So it pays to call in the experts. (NB. If a tree is listed it does not mean it can’t be pruned, but it cannot be removed without special permission from your local tree officer.)

In answer to the title question, it matters a great deal who you choose, if you want to preserve your trees, and keep them healthy for as long as possible. One thing these job titles all have in common is it is likely they all know how to use a chain saw, but not necessarily in the same way.

Your chain saw man, may have cut down many a tree, and taken off plenty of dead branches, but it is unlikely that they will know how the tree will be impacted by the cuts they make. In the worst case scenario they can do a lot of damage to trees and surrounding properties. If they can’t identify your tree, don’t let them near it with a chain saw.

A Tree surgeon: will have training and qualifications in tree surgery. They should be able to identify your tree. They will be properly insured, and will generally work in a team, for safety reasons. They should be aware of how much of a tree can be removed, for it to remain healthy and within any tree regulations. Unless you want to keep the logs, most will quote to take away and shred any cuttings. They should be able to spot if a tree is suffering from a disease, they won’t however necessarily know how to treat it.  Be wary if they offer to ‘top a tree’. This often means taking off too much growth and causing a mass of regrowth making the tree misshapen, and prone to disease.

An Arboriculturist should know all this and much more.  If you have a tree that has a preservation order on it, I would strongly advise getting an arboriculturalist to take a look at it before any work is carried out.  An arborist or arboriculturalist is trained to understand the mechanics and biology of a tree, and everything that’s going on within it. (including the root system) He or she will be able to give you a detailed assessment of its health, vitality and safety. They can advise on treatment for trees and shrubs, and carry out the necessary work to preserve a tree, or if need be remove it. They should also be able to advise on the right thing to plant to suit your garden and aspect.

It may cost you more to hire the right person for the job, but it could save an ailing tree from the chop or the pain and heartache of seeing a beautiful tree mangled by thoughtless cutting.

If you aren’t sure where to find your tree experts you can find local qualified Trees surgeons and Arboriculturalists at www.trees.org.uk, and putting in your post code.

Never be shy to ask to see qualifications or insurance when hiring a professional.

The post What is the difference between a chainsaw man, a Tree surgeon and an arboriculturist? appeared first on Holley Designs | Professional Garden Design and Creation.

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What is a focal point and 5 reasons why you should have one?

Firstly, what is a focal point? If you look the word focal up in a thesaurus, it says; principal, pivotal, central, crucial, important and main.  Indoors a focal point may well be a TV, a fire place or a picture, or a something else, that draws the eye. Here are some pointers on why you might want one to more in your garden.

  1. To get people to notice your garden: it is good to have something; a focal point, to draw the eye into the garden. Once the interest is captured then you can notice other parts of the garden. Without a focal point the garden has no sense of punctuation, the eye will scan over the garden without really noticing the details.
  2. To add your personality to your garden space: The choice of focal point in a garden can really be anything that suits you; A piece of junk that you have made into something unique, it could be a striking tree, or shrub with unusual or colourful bark, a bird bath, a statue, an obelisk, or even a large boulder. It could even be as large as a patio, a pergola or a summer house.
  3. To add interest in winter months: A pretty bench, an ornament or brightly coloured shrub like dogwood, can give the garden interest when the rest of the garden is looking drab and dull. You could also use a structure such as a pergola, or an arbour.
  4. Camouflage: Quite simply no one wants to look at a dull shed, the bins, or compost heaps. A focal point can hide or distract away from these necessary but unattractive areas. They can also be used to disguise the shape of the garden. For example Focal points placed on the diagonal can make a short garden feel longer
  5. Creating unity in the garden: This is important in a larger garden; thoughtfully placed focal points can tie different parts of the garden together. This could be a shrub repeated at key points, a simple bench, or a number of large planters.

Whatever you choose, it is worth taking the time to make a choice you love, as it will be the first thing that catches your eye every time you look at your garden.  If you are still not sure which is the best feature for you, a garden designer has a wealth of knowledge and experience and access to suppliers not on the high street.

The post Five reasons why you should have a focal point in your garden appeared first on Holley Designs | Professional Garden Design and Creation.

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Attract Bees and pollinating insects into your garden

It won’t have escaped anyone’s notice who follows the news and media, that there are a lot of people worried about bees. Bee numbers around the world, are in decline along with other pollinating insects such as butterlies, moths and hoverflies. Of the 270 species of bees found in the UK only one is the famous Honeybee.

Most Honeybees are kept by beekeepers in colonies of managed hives. The rest of our bees are wild, including 25 bumblebee species and more than 220 types of solitary bee.

The familiar Bumblebees live in social colonies – usually in holes in the ground or tree cavities. Solitary bees tend to nest on their own, as the name suggests. Each female builds and provisions her own nest with food. Solitary bees include Mining bees which nest in the ground, as well as Mason bees and Leafcutter bees that nest in holes in dead wood, banks and walls.

Why pollinating insects are important and how gardeners can help

Flying insects such as bees and hoverflies which visit flowers for their nectar and pollen perform a vitally important pollination service. Pollination is where the pollen from one flower is transferred to another flower, bringing about fertilisation. Some flowering plants are pollinated by the wind but the majority rely on this service from insects and without it plants would fail to produce seed and, in some cases, fruit.

By planting nectar and pollen rich flowers over a long season, gardeners can help reduce this trend. In return, an abundance of pollinators will ensure garden plants continue to reproduce through seed and that many fruit and vegetable crops such as apples, strawberries and tomatoes successfully set fruit.
How to attract and support pollinating insects

  1. Aim to have plants that are attractive to pollinating insects in flower from early spring to late autumn. Winter flowering plants can also be of benefit.
  2. Grow garden plants with flowers that attract pollinating insects.
  3. Avoid plants with double or multi-petalled flowers. Such flowers may lack nectar and pollen, or insects may have difficulty in gaining access.
  4. Never use pesticides on plants when they are in flower.
  5. Where appropriate, British wildflowers can be an attractive addition to planting schemes and may help support a wider range of pollinating insects.
  6. Observe the plants in your garden. See which ones attract bees and plant other varieties.
  7. Encourage bees by keeping honeybees yourself or allowing a beekeeper to place hives in your garden. Nest boxes containing cardboard tubes or hollow plant stems, or holes drilled in blocks of wood will provide nest sites for some species of solitary bees. Such nests are available from garden centres or you can make your own.

A selection of Perfect for Pollinators plants

The Royal Horticultural Society have long lists of plants that can be found on the following website, https://www.rhs.org.uk/science/conservation-biodiversity/wildlife/perfect-for-pollinators should you wish to select your own plants.

If you don’t have time to digest the full lists or you just want a taster of Perfect for Pollinators plants to use in your garden, try this attractive selection of 10 wild and 10 garden plants from the RHS Website to get you started:

 Wild plants

  • Achillea millefolium (common yarrow)
    • Centaurea scabiosa(greater knapweed)
    • Digitalis purpurea (common foxglove)
    • Eupatorium cannabinum (hemp agrimony)
    • Lonicera periclymenum (common honeysuckle)
    • Origanum vulgare (wild marjoram)
    • Thymus pulegioides (large thyme)
    • Trifolium repens (white clover)
    • Verbascum nigrum (dark mullein)
    • Viburnum opulus (guelder rose)

 Garden plants

  • Caryopteris × clandonensis (caryopteris)
    • Dianthus barbatus (sweet william)
    • Hesperis matronalis(dame’s violet)
    • Hyssopus officinalis (hyssop)
    • Jasminum officinale (common jasmine)
    • Lavandula angustifolia (English lavender)
    • Lychnis coronaria (rose campion)
    • Monarda didyma (bergamot or bee balm)
    • Verbena bonariensis (purple top)
    • Weigela florida (weigela)

 You could also ask your gardener or garden designer to put a list of plants together for you that will suit your garden. The list of plants that attract pollinators is long and covers all seasons, all colours.

The post How to create a Bee Friendly Garden and why it is important appeared first on Holley Designs | Professional Garden Design and Creation.

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New Extension vs Old Tired Garden

If you are adding a new extension to your home then hopefully it will be everything you dreamt of: plenty of light and space, a smart kitchen, the latest gadgets, mood lighting and a comfy family sitting area.

However, have you considered the impact your ‘old’ garden will have in your new space? It is well worth thinking about this as early as you can.

Now your beautiful bi-folding sliding doors present you with a generous view of your old garden! Your old garden may be out of harmony with your new home. It will need at least a few new pieces to bring it up to date with your stylish extension.

Here are some ideas on how to achieve this:

  1. When planning your extension, it may be worth thinking about garden access. If you are planning a full width extension, I advise planning your garden and getting any hard landscaping done before access is lost. This will save you a great deal on labour later.
  2. You will very likely need a new focal point to draw your eye to, perhaps taking attention away from unsightly views or dishevelled features such as old sheds or fencing falling apart. A small tree or a nicely placed, planted border will do the trick. If you want something more architectural, try placing an urn or a bench framed by planters.
  3. Consider carefully where to place your new deck or patio. Don’t immediately assume it should go at the back of the house, straight outside the garden doors. Find out where the sun will be in your garden at the time you will be eating outdoors: that is where your dining area should go.
  4. Don’t make the widespread mistake of placing a table and chairs in the garden by your sliding doors,It’s neither practical nor aesthetically pleasing. It is much better to have a sitting area for sofas and armchairs one side of the doors and a dining area the other.
  5. What also looks great is to have a gorgeous planted border directly in front of the new glazed areas to feast your eyes on from your cosy inside, come rain or shine.
  6. Consult with your architect or garden designer about how the transition between indoors and outdoors will be resolved.Most people these days want a perfectly flush finish between indoor and outdoor floor level but this is not always possible for technical reasons. The exterior level should not breach the damp proof course of the house; this typically means a patio should be 150mm below the DPC or airbricks. Otherwise damp can get into the structure of the building. This is a case where style shouldn’t prevail over substance.
  7. If your extension faces South or West, it is likely to get very hot. To keep it at a pleasant temperature, you can have specially treated glass that reflects the sunrays away, or you could have some kind of window treatment: sheer curtains, shutters, etc. Alternatively, you could address it from the outside: with an awning, a pergola clothed with deciduous climbers or a well-placed tree. Make sure you choose deciduous varieties: they will filter the sunlight in the growing season but allow it to come through in winter.
  8. Lighting: Placing a few subtle lights in the garden, perhaps up-lighting a few shrubs or a particularly nice tree, will incorporate the view of the garden into your interior space at night, making it feel bigger. But make sure you also light something immediately outside the house or otherwise you will just get the reflection from your interior lights bouncing off the glass, turning the exterior into a black hole.
  9. Your old path may be in a nonsensical place, leading from the now defunct old back door. New paths leading you to the new seating areas you have created with give the garden a journey that makes sense.
  10. Employ a professional, ideally an SGD accredited, Garden Designer to help you through.Having spent all that money on your extension, why not invest a little on your outdoor space? A garden will mature and become more beautiful over time, giving you pleasure for years to come.

The post 10 top tips on linking your new extension and your old garden appeared first on Holley Designs | Professional Garden Design and Creation.

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