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Children growing up and leaving home is often a trigger to finally ‘do’ something with the garden. Sometimes it is  the absence of footballs and projectile hazards that reduces the need for a large expanse of lawn and allows more interesting planting options; or it may be that time and energy once spent bringing up a family can now be channelled into creating and maintaining an attractive outdoor space. This month’s case study shows one of these ‘change of use’ transformations:

Large area of grass plus low raised beds with shrubs that need to be pruned hard each year to keep them in check

Slippery shady paving (at a very odd angle) forms the route from the house to the garage

Messy borders with shrubs out growing their spaces and ‘spreaders’ taking over despite the clients’ best efforts

During my first visit, I suggested turning the garden around and having a new seating area so that the clients could look at a view of planting and mature trees, rather than the houses on the other side of the road. One of the clients stood and marked the spot as an aide-memoire for the concept design stage

During the initial consultation visit,  the main problems the clients were having with the garden came to light:

  • maintenance had become an unrewarding fight with the existing plants
  • views from the sun room were boring
  • views from the patio were unappealing and being overlooked by the houses opposite felt uncomfortable
  • there were too many straight lines in the garden

After this meeting, in February 2018, I provided the clients with a change of use diagram that informed the subsequent planning process.

The concept plan was agreed in March 2018 and a contractor was engaged to prepare an estimate to build the new garden

All the existing elements of the garden were removed and the new raised beds and circular patio were installed (August 2018)

The planting was planned and completed in two phases – structural plants (shrubs and ornamental grasses) in September 2018 with the perennial infill plants going into the ground in April 2019

The second phase of planting included a client coaching session to help get to grips with other areas of the garden…

The finished garden: Evening sent by the client once all the plants were in the ground – I believe a glass of wine was to hand when the photo was taken! This garden will only get better over time, as the plants mature and the wide range of herbaceous perennials help to create a colourful and interesting vista from both inside and outside the house

“Thank you very much for advising and helping us on Friday, we finished the planting yesterday. The garden looks absolutely wonderful with your great design, Lee’s (Creating Eden Ltd) groundworks and the beautiful plants. It’s an amazing transformation…it’s such a pleasure sitting on the bench with a glass of wine, looking over the plants, knowing that they are all where they are for a reason and that it will look even better as time goes on.”

Job done!

The post From play garden to adult garden appeared first on Shades Of Green Garden Design.

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I often keep in touch with clients for a few years after a fully planted garden is handed over and return visits are used to provide advice about garden maintenance and to teach clients new gardening skills/techniques. Due to the severe illness and eventual bereavement of one of my clients, the Japanese-inspired meditation garden I designed in 2011 was left to it’s own devices until March 2019…

At the start of this month I was contacted by the widow with a request for help and guidance to refresh the garden, as she was getting married again and the garden was going to be the backdrop for the ceremony. How could I refuse?! Time was limited so we agreed to work together for an afternoon when I would show her how to prune the plants that needed it and provide advice on other problem areas. This is how it turned out:

Before 1: Fallen leaves and moss were making the gravel and cobbles areas look messy and a number of shrubs needed some remedial pruning

Before 2: The cloud pruned Ilex crenate had been maintained but the Phyllostachys area was overgrown and starting to wander

After 1: Gravel areas were raked to loosen the surface and dislodge weeds and unwanted moss was removed from the stepping stones. A leaf blower was then used to remove the detritus and residual pruning material

After 2: Bamboo canes were thinned and lower leaves and side shoots were removed to reveal the polished pebble ‘stream’.

It only took 1.5 hours of concerted effort to get this small garden looking very much better, and now the client and her new partner have the knowledge and maintenance skills to continue to tidy up the garden and keep it looking good into the future. All in all, a very satisfying afternoon!

You can find photographs of the newly built garden HERE.

The post Client coaching: Helping a client refresh an 8 year old Shades of Green garden appeared first on Shades Of Green Garden Design.

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I often keep in touch with clients for a few years after a fully planted garden is handed over and return visits are used to provide advice about garden maintenance and to teach clients new gardening skills/techniques. Due to the severe illness and eventual bereavement of one of my clients, the Japanese-inspired meditation garden I designed in 2011 was left to it’s own devices until March 2019…

At the start of this month I was contacted by the widow with a request for help and guidance to refresh the garden, as she was getting married again and the garden was going to be the backdrop for the ceremony. How could I refuse?! Time was limited so we agreed to work together for an afternoon when I would show her how to prune the plants that needed it and provide advice on other problem areas. This is how it turned out:

Before 1: Fallen leaves and moss were making the gravel and cobbles areas look messy and a number of shrubs needed some remedial pruning

Before 2: The cloud pruned Ilex crenate had been maintained but the Phyllostachys area was overgrown and starting to wander

After 1: Gravel areas were raked to loosen the surface and dislodge weeds and unwanted moss was removed from the stepping stones. A leaf blower was then used to remove the detritus and residual pruning material

After 2: Bamboo canes were thinned and lower leaves and side shoots were removed to reveal the polished pebble ‘stream’.

It only took 1.5 hours of concerted effort to get this small garden looking very much better, and now the client and her new partner have the knowledge and maintenance skills to continue to tidy up the garden and keep it looking good into the future. All in all, a very satisfying afternoon!

You can find photographs of the newly built garden HERE.

The post Client coaching – helping a client to refresh a garden built 8 years ago appeared first on Shades Of Green Garden Design.

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2018 – a year of late snow followed by remarkably hot, dry summer, both of which have proved challenging for gardeners, landscapers and designers.

Despite the weather we managed to build 5 new gardens, plant 6 other gardens, and make progress with 13 ongoing design projects. In addition, I helped 17 other clients on a short-term consultancy basis.  Hats off to the landscaping teams at Creating Eden and Kare Gardens for making it through both the cold and heat this year and  living to tell the tale!

It has also been another busy year for The Uphill Trust, with a 2 week trustee visit to Uganda at Easter. The baboon below was relaxing at the side of the road as we passed by on one of our regular journeys to the wee primary school our charity supports.

 Juggling garden design and charity administration can be a challenge at times, but everything eventually gets done, often to my surprise!

I have also had a busy motorcycling year, with trips to the outer Hebrides, various destinations across Scotland, Wales and England plus two weeks riding pillion in Turkey in September. The work-life balance trick has become important now that my husband has retired and is in Scotland full time.

I wonder what 2019 will bring? In the meantime…

Shades of Green Garden Design will be closed for the holidays from Friday 22 December 2018 to Thursday 3 January 2019

The post Merry Christmas and a Happy New Gardening Year! appeared first on Shades Of Green Garden Design.

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Autumn in the UK is a traditionally time of golden colours and falling leaves, but in gardens it can also be a time of fresh flowers, colourful fruits and foliage ranging from full green, through tawny tones into deep vibrant reds and oranges. This year, due to the summer heat, the foliage colours are even more intense. I took a walk around the Shades of Green garden to see what caught my eye (and camera lens).

Fresh flowers

Fuchsia magellanica var. alba

Rosa ‘ Graham Thomas’

Aster novi-belgii (cultivar unknown)

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ alongside autumn foliage of Paeonia lactiflora and Eupatorium purpureum

Tawny fruits and foliage

Paeonia lutea

Cotinus ‘Golden Spirit’

Malus ‘Golden Hornet’ with the tawny seedbeds of Calamagrostis brachytricha

Russet fruits and foliage 

Hydrangea macrophylla and H. quercifolia, looking particularly colourful this year after the hot summer

Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ (small patio tree form)

Parthenocissus henryana

Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’

I hope you are enjoying your garden this autumn too!

The post October can be a glorious month! appeared first on Shades Of Green Garden Design.

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A biennial visit to the Japanese Garden Cowden seems to be becoming a Shades of Green habit.

I first toured the overgrown and neglected site in 2012 and in 2013 was delighted to hear that fundraising was being put in place for a phased restoration project that would eventually bring this magnificent Japanese stroll garden back to it’s former glory. Click the date links to see what the garden looked like in the early stages of the project (2014)  and two years later (2016).  This year the garden has opened to the public for the first time, initially via the Scotland Garden Scheme in June, and then for five days a week until the end of October. On the first weekend in September the garden hosted a well-attended Summer Festival, and these are some photographs of this event.
I was delighted to meet up with Professor Fukohara of Osaka University once again – I worked with him on another project in 2012 and 2013.  The Professor and his team are overseeing the restoration of the Japanese Garden Cowden and their attention to detail and the authenticity of the restored features is evident in all aspects of the garden.

A great deal of construction work and planting has been achieved since I last visited the garden and the next set of photos is entitled ‘Bridges Over Water’:

Restored yatsuhashi – zig zag bridge – to island; a rebuilt curved bridge leads from island to the north lakeside

Construction detail of new arched bridge

Small bridge over one of the water inlets to the main lake

Construction detail, and reflections of the sky above

Bridge at the west end of the lake, looking towards the curved bridge leading to the small island

As a garden designer, I am often attracted to the details and unique features within a garden and these are just a few to the things that caught my eye on this visit:

This lucky racoon figurine on the small island was donated to the garden by Professor Fukohara. The hat signifies that you will always have safety and shelter, the fat tummy indicates that you will never go hungry, the sake bottle in the left hand shows that you will always have plenty to drink and the accounting book in the right hand indicates that you will have plenty of wealth. Lots of good omens in one appealing stone critter!

The original lantern stones were reclaimed from the lake – where pieces are missing, substitutes are used

Bamboo screens on each side of the main gate

Niwaki pruning – opening up the framework of mature shrubs and trees to reveal views – one of my favourite garden maintenance techniques

Natural water basin – one of the lovely details in the garden

In addition to the delights of the garden, this weekend’s festival had other examples of Japanese arts on display. Being a student of Japanese and Chinese martial arts,  I was particularly attracted to these displays, but other visitors enjoyed learning about Japanese Calligraphy, Kimono tying and Ikebana (the art of Japanese flower arranging). These are some of the extra memories I have from this memorable day in Sha Raku En:

Japanese ladies in traditional dress enjoying the garden

Kyudo – the art of Japanese archery

Taiko drumming – centuries old folk art from Japan

Iaido – the art of Japanese swordmanship

And my last photo? It has to be Junya-san’s soukaido (Japanese work shoes) – brilliant!

The post Japanese Garden Cowden – Summer Festival 2018 appeared first on Shades Of Green Garden Design.

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I make several trips to SW England teach year to visit family and I always make time to catch up with very a good friend whilst I am in the area. Were it not for this lady, Shades of Green Garden Design would not have come into being as it was she who suggested that garden design might just be the perfect career change I was seeking…

Whenever I visit with a day to spare we always take ourselves off to see a garden. In her company I have been introduced to RHS Rosemoor and Coleton Fishacre (National Trust) and I have introduced her to the Hauser-Worth garden. In the past, when she lived in Surrey, we enjoyed RHS Wisley,  Sissinghurst (National Trust) and Great Dixter. This time, it was the gardens at Overbeck’s (National Trust) on the south Devon coast. A good gardening friend indeed!

Jennifer Cooper Designs

Coming from Scotland, where I work with a restricted palette of ‘bomb proof’ plants, the range of sub-tropical exotics growing happily in the steep but sheltered terraces of the Overbeck’s garden was a sight for sore eyes. Many of the “What’s this?” and “Could I grown this in my garden?” questions had to be answered with a repetitive “I am not sure, but I will find out for you”! 

A few things caught my designer’s eye, and I didn’t get good photographs of all the exotics that were growing happily in this garden, but these are a few of the memories I took away with me: 

Stone terraces feature strongly at Overbeck’s and there were a few corner seating areas like this one around the garden

Lower down the slope, in the informal woodland area of the garden, there are some fabulous mossy stone outcrops

A bold take on crevice gardening

Box topiary ground cover – very effective on one of the high terraces next to the main lawn

Fabulously gnarled olive tree – the garden hosts quite a number

Hydrangea villosa – wonderfully hairy stems and leaves with large flower heads (now senescing)- taller than me!

Clerodendron bungei – another plant with ‘oooh’ factor but with a tendency to sucker, I gather

I always love to see Yucca in flower – an exotic that survives even up in Scotland (with enough shelter)

Last but not least, nicely traditional signage for the facilities (and a lovely mossy wall beyond the gate)

The post An exotic garden in Devon appeared first on Shades Of Green Garden Design.

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Summer has carried on where spring left off – a constant juggling of projects – and with amazing weather!  Wall to wall sunshine is fantastic for those of us used to more changeable weather patterns, but it did add the burden of regular watering into an already busy schedule.

May to July had me running between old and new projects – with planting taking priority. These are just some of the gardens that have kept me busy:

The most urgent project was finishing and planting up a private rear garden in Kinross, before the clients arrived back from their overseas winter home. You can see more photographs of this garden in the Portfolio.

Planting a new garden in the heat of May 2018 – constant watering was needed!

Shades of Green ‘trademark’ black shed and mirror trellis – just the job for lowering the visual impact of garden buildings and screening eyesores

Meanwhile I was also designing a new garden area for an existing client who has moved to a large rural garden. There were three key aspects to the brief: 1) It needed to feel ‘natural’ and to create a garden-within-a-garden, 2) The client had recently visited Japan and wanted to plants in the new garden area to remind her of her trip, 3) It needed to easy to implement as she was going to ask her regular gardener to make the changes for her.

New planting inspired by client’s Japanese holiday

Garden area to be upgraded. The new space will be lush and enclosed – very different from the area as it is now

Another existing client contacted me for phase 2 planting recommendations for his large rural garden. Last year I provided him with detailed plans for a new sheltered belt which will eventually filter the wind that currently batters his house and garden. Now he and his wife would like to improve the planting in a boundary bed that they can see from the house.

Recommendations for improved planting in and extended mature shrub border

Planting design is the next step in another ongoing project – a large rural garden in East Fife. The garden was built early this year by Creating Eden Ltd and the client plans to plant in stages, starting in the autumn. These clients have been very involved in the design process as they wanted to garden to be ‘just right’. 

Planting plan for trees and shrubs, using client’s preferred planting list

Terraced borders, large seating area, undulating path, and new lawn areas ready to be sown by the client with slow-growing lawn seed

Before the landscaping started, the clients got set out the new path as they wanted it, and it works really well (see photo above)

It is always very rewarding to go back to visit gardens as they develop, and to see photographs that clients send me. Here are two gardens that are developing nicely and giving the clients great pleasure.

The first is a rural garden with extensive new landscaping  and planting around a new extension and garage:

Part of the mixed shrub, grass and perennial planting surrounding a new seating area outside a large extension – planted April 2018

Mixed border between new circular patio and parking area. In time this will help to obscure the garage and cars.

The second in a small rear garden designed and planted for a couple who have a profoundly disabled  little boy. You can see more photos of this garden in the Portfolio:

Sensory garden – landscaped and planted a year ago. The client is adding lovely touches to make it her own space and is learning how to ‘garden’

Another garden that is giving great pleasure not only to the clients but also to the visitors to Muckhart Village Open Gardens – (Scotland’s Garden Scheme) is Mount Stewart garden in Glendevon. This garden opened in May 2016 and again in June 2018. The project has been ongoing since 2013, with different areas of the garden being developed over time.

Stone circle seating area – one of the first garden areas to be developed in 2013

Maintenance path behind herbaceous border – it’s the detail that counts!

Double herbaceous border, backed by bank of mature Rhododendron

Quiet viewing bench in the Acer grove

Border in front of dining patio in main garden area, developed in 2016

The post Summer projects 2018 appeared first on Shades Of Green Garden Design.

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A garden designer’s remit can be very varied, and the projects that have been occupying me this spring are no exception. This is just some of the work that has kept me occupied in the last couple of months.

New work – mix of consultation and new design projects

Providing a client with some ideas to create structure and planted interest

Landscaping planning for a new build site – using photos and architect plans

Rural garden with flooding problems from adjacent field

Advice for client living in the dark

Helping a client deal with weed-infested borders before replanting

Ongoing design work and construction projects

Helping a client to visualise the impact of trees in an ongoing project

Site visit during construction – part built seating area in rural garden

Communicating first responses to a site to the client

Plan developed from initial thoughts above – now out to contract

Planting Projects – always a lot going on in the spring

It’s busy time for plant sourcing – this is just one of the many planting projects

The post Spring projects 2018 appeared first on Shades Of Green Garden Design.

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I arrived back to a very chilly Scotland on 6 April, following a very productive and enjoyable trustee visit to the school that our small family charity, The Uphill Trust, are helping to develop.

The school is in a stunning location in the crater lake hill region of western Uganda, with the Rwenzori Mountains rising high in the background. This photo was taken from Isunga Lodge – a new guest house that has been established in the area by a Scottish couple (the Scots get everywhere, it seems!).

Before I retrained as a garden designer, I worked for a number of years in education and one of the highlights of my time in Uphill Junior School this trip was sharing expertise with the kindergarten and lower primary teachers  – I was showing them how they can use the books we had taken out to the school in previous years for Shared Reading activities. I now need to go shopping for ‘more big books please’!

The joy of visiting equatorial Uganda during the rainy season are the plants – I never tire of the ‘houseplants in the garden’ experience.

Hippeastrum – growing here outside a Ugandan home whilst back home in Scotland they cluster in pots on a sunny windowsill inside.

It is easy to get plants for the garden – roadside nurseries like this one line the roads on the approach to most towns.

The botanical gardens have a different emphasis too – they concentrate more on saving indigenous species, learning how to cultivate them and providing education about their medicinal uses (essential in a country where western medicines are often unaffordable and not readily available outside the urban areas).

I plan to take a detailed ‘medicinal plants tour’ in the Tooro Botanical Gardens on my next visit…

On Easter Sunday we had a day off from our charity responsibilities and took a drive out into the hills north of Fort Portal. These steep slopes are farmed by local people, without the aid of terracing, which I find quite amazing.

Back home, spring seems to be moving along nicely now that the snow has melted and it’s back to the garden and planting design work for another year.

The post From Uganda to Scotland appeared first on Shades Of Green Garden Design.

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