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As a garden designer, I find that planting is the thing that clients have been struggling with the most; Making  your garden look interesting all year round takes thought and planning and some knowledge. But the information is available if you look for it. You may have a theme for your planting in mind, this is a good idea, it could be a colour scheme, such as a white garden, or it could be a style, such as modern contemporary, or regional, like a jungle theme: A theme will help to narrow down the plants that you put in your initial list.

Here are a few pointers that we professionals use with every plan regardless of style of garden.

  1. Make a list of plants and put them into groups: Trees, Shrubs, Climbers, Herbaceous Perennials, and Bulbs. (you can also sub divide these into Evergreen and Deciduous)
  2. Make a note of the details of each plant, where does it like to grow, sun or shade, both? Acid soil or neutral? How tall will it grow in the next 10 years, how wide will it get. You can find this information easily these days on the internet or RHS books.
  3. I usually note the shape of each plant too. Is it going to be a round shape, a tall thin shape or a spreading shape, this is relevant for all types of plants, and you want a mixture of shapes for an interesting garden.
  4. Also make a note of the season each plant is at its best. It is fine to have a full splash of colour in summer, but make sure you have something to look at in other seasons.
  5. It is easy to get carried away, so if you have hundreds of plants try to reduce the list down as much as possible, it is better to have a few plants repeated in the garden than lots and lots of things that only appear once. The same goes for colours, a few key colours is better than lots.
  6. Start with the tallest plants first. If you are putting in trees begin with where they are going to be planted. Remember that as they grow they will cast shade, so think about what is planted beneath them. Trees give a garden structure, they can hide ugly views or frame a pretty one.
  7. Shrubs are next, these are really important to give the garden year round interest. Use a mixture of evergreen and deciduous flowering shrubs, leaf texture and colour can also add interest. Make sure you haven’t just got dark green evergreens. Size is key, if space is limited choose plants that won’t get too big or you will be cutting them back all the time.
  8. Climbers are the next layer, you may want them on the house, or along boundaries, ensure they get enough light or they will climb to reach it and you may not see the flowers.
  9. Herbaceous plants and flowers, These bring the colour and life to a garden, make sure they are in a place they will thrive, woodland plants in shade, prairie plants in full sun, choose plants the suit your gardens ‘climate’;  stick to varieties that are reliable. Have fun mixing colours, shapes and heights.
  10. Bulbs are the very last layer, be generous, more is more when it comes to bulbs, as with all other plants some prefer shade, other sun. Bulbs are not just for spring either, snowdrops in winter through to nerines in Autumn and everything in between.

If all this is bewildering and I’d be surprised if it isn’t there are so many people willing to share their expertise, so don’t be frightened to ask for help.

The post 10 Top Tips on how to do a planting scheme. appeared first on Holley Designs | Professional Garden Design and Creation.

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How to create a beautiful garden without needing to mow


Lawns can be a wonderful asset to a garden. However they can consume an enormous amount of time and can use a lot of resources. In many areas a lawn may not be practical, for example in a small city garden, in a drought area, a very shady garden and above ground sites such as roof gardens.

If you want a garden without the hassle of a lawn, there are many varied ways to achieve an amazing garden that will look different to a traditional English garden, and can still have a lush green space.

Filling your garden with concrete is never going to be good for the soul or the environment:  A garden must have some plants: it needs to be a space that you want to spend time in, or is beautiful to look at. It is also important to remember drainage with a patio: water must be able to run into the ground somewhere, either into generous flowerbeds, or a simple slot drain.

So where to start?

  • Careful planting is key when you don’t have lawn in your garden. There are numerous amounts of evergreen plants that can be used to create a leafy haven and soften the hard landscaping materials you have used.  With a great planting plan and a good knowledge of plants you should be able to create an amazing green garden; that offers interest all year round.
  • A mix of materials or mixed media can add both colour and textural interest.  This is where you are mixing two or more materials together in a space The results can create a dynamic contrast. When thinking of doing a mixed media garden it is always important that the materials work well together. 

Here are some great materials that can add interest to your garden without lawn.

  • Natural stone paving – A more obvious choice, a beautiful range of colours and finishes to suit your budget, mixed with other materials this can give a long lasting, easy to maintain surface.
  • Brick – brick is available in many sizes and colours and can be set in an endless variety of patterns. Brick combines extremely well with plants and looks great near water.
  • Pebble and gravel gardens – a pebble garden can create both a formal and informal look that can be easily altered or be permanent and durable. Pebbles are available is a wide range of sizes and colours, which means there are numerous of combinations that can be used to create a design that will be unique and different.
  • Resin bound gravel – A great treatment of tiny pebbles mixed into a clear resin, the choice of colours in endless, and it can be used for driveways, paths, patios, and is completely porous.
  • Tiles – A terrific way to add colour is to extend this idea by using mosaic, this can be pebble, ceramic, glass, Victorian tiles, anything you choose, it adds a distinctive ornamental quality and will be completely individual to you.  A mosaic pattern can be used as a path or can be used to create a shape within a patio, or simply on ornamental pieces around the garden.
  • Hardwood Decks work really well in sunny south facing gardens and are a great and stylish way to replace grass. They are great to use as an entertaining space. When well designed they can look attractive and stylish and can suit a contemporary garden very nicely.
  • Newer materials through specialist suppliers include polished concrete, porcelain tiles, composite decking,

Your options are many, but keep your materials to a few, more than 3 and the whole look becomes messy and cluttered, let your imagination go and you can create something truly unique.

The post Hints and tips on creating Gardens without Lawns appeared first on Holley Designs | Professional Garden Design and Creation.

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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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