Shades of Green Garden Design is a professional garden design service and consultancy business based in Scotland, specialising in rural gardens and using planting to create form and flow in the garden. Whether high and cold, windy, coastal or wet, they have probably helped to create a garden in similar unpromising situations.
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
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).
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
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)
Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’
I hope you are enjoying your garden this autumn too!
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!
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)
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
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
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.
From 22 March to 5 April 2018 I will be taking off my Shades of Green Garden Design boots and donning my Uphill Trust charity hat as I travel to Uganda, along with two other trustees, to visit the small rural school we support.
Click on photo to go to the Trust’s website
We set up the Uphill Trust (Scottish registered charity no: SC045385) in January 2015 to support the establishment and development of a small primary school with kindergarten in an impoverished rural area of western Uganda, not far from the place where my husband Max spent the early years of his life.
Uphill children working hard in class, despite the cramped conditions
Conditions at the school are very basic, but getting better, thanks to the generosity of a strong community of donors in the UK (and beyond). Since the Uphill Trust began supporting projects at the school there are now: good quality pit latrines, 3 permanent classrooms on school-owned land, 7 temporary wooden classrooms, a new administration block under construction, a playground for the kindergarten children, large rain water harvesting tanks and 13 teachers receiving regular salaries. All in just over three years!
The Uphill Trust is a zero overheads charity – we donate all our time running the trust and travelling to Uganda for free – so all donations are used to support projects at the school. Not many charities can say that!
Want to find out more about what I do in my ‘spare time’? Check out our website at www.uphilltrust.org.
It’s been an unusually snowy month in the Shades of Green patch – not so bad for design work in a nice warm office but tough on the contractors building gardens out in the cold.
This month one build has been completed, three are in process and there is plenty of design work and planting design going on. Plant lists are being lodged with the trade nurseries and dates are accumulating in the diary for planting work in the spring. A fairly typical February in the garden design world…
The completed build in Falkirk includes terracing of the sloping garden, plus some nice upgrading of hard landscaping closer to the house:
Original precipitous steps leading from the back door
Upgraded steps being inspected by the family hound
Original patio access – note the wooden step!
New step down to patio, and then down to lower garden levels
Planting design has now been completed and approved for this garden, and includes some lovely structural shrubs such as Hamamelis mollis, seen here in the Shades of Green garden in the February snow:
Witch hazel flowers, in the snow
Perennial planting plan for the Falkirk garden
Other work this month has included phase 2 planting for a garden near Rosyth built last summer, planting design for a garden in Kinross that it nearing completion, initial consultation recommendations for a large garden in Fife, concept design for a new project in Kinross, revision of plans for a new build home outside Milnathort, and landscape plans for planning permission for an off-grid house in Perth and Kinross:
One of the landscape plans requested by the planners before site work commences next month
Since 2012 I have had the privilege of working in a rural garden in Glendevon. The garden has been developed in phases, with extensive hard and soft landscaping projects in most years.
The client owns a large area of land around the garden and this too is being progressively upgraded. Extensive woodland planting has been undertaken by local firm Eamonn Wall & Co and over past three years a large wetland system, planned by The Paul Hogarth Company, has been under development. Now it is time to plant the wetland…
It is always rewarding to get to grips with a new style of planting, and this will be no exception. Given the size of the areas to be planted, and its rural location, small cell-grown plants will probably be sources from a Scottish supplier, for planting in the spring. The area will probably be newly planted when the garden opens in May for Muckhart Open Gardens 2018, but in future years the wetland will just get better and better.