You have to look the hardest in February for beauty. January is survival time, March and April throw themselves at you but in February, Spring is around the corner yet nowhere to be seen or felt. You can make a start by going to a nursery to find plants in colour now and plan a surprise for yourself next year.
Regent's Park has many wonderful secrets and here are a few of them, including a bronze sculpture in St John's Garden. Spot the images- the oldest tree, an oak, in the park, the strange nodules of Taxodium distichum (no one knows why they appear), the unusual Helleborus 'Silver Dollar' and an old Horse Chestnut silhouetted against the sky.
To my mind there are five golden principles for garden design.1) Making a garden serve the functional needs of the person2) Having good structural bones3) Proportionally well balanced4) Interest throughout the seasons5) An adventure in colour and toneThe following photos I took on my trip to Australia. Notice how the background colour is just as important as the focal colour (You can imagine swapping it for another colour and notice how that would change the whole composition)
Normally when you design a planting scheme you need to get the structure right- this is the right proportion of volumes and shapes. Next is tone - creating a mix of deep dark foliage plants, light airy plants, making sure the leaf textures and light reflective qualities of each plant make a good contrast. My oil painting teacher, Jason Tremlet, suggests looking at your composition with blurred eyesight so as not to be distracted by colour.But then there is colour. Glorious colour. It is not really a matter of painting by numbers. Indeed often particular colour scheme might be what a client [...]
This garden design, which we implemented this February, aims at creating what you might find in an hour walking in the countryside, into a single space. We extended the patio and made new brick planters with more formal planting. We created a formal lawn from high quality turf and in the remainer of the large lawn area we seeded with acid perennial wildflowers and an annual cornflower mix. This wildflower meadow will flow down the garden and on the right hand side reach a new wildlife pond. Behind the pond we planted the dark green Portuguese Laurel to v=create [...]
I took this set of photos in Holland.I think they show both the different tones in nature and also the different balance of shapes.The trick with garden design is bringing the essence of these shapes into smaller, urban gardens or mid sized country gardens. If you look at the photos carefully and put your designer hat on: How can you bring the foreground, mid ground and background into your garden so that your garden feels more spacious. Can we reproduce the lovely white backs of the sheep into a formation of stones perhaps? Or clumps of wild, white flowers? Or the [...]
My Italian friend, Paola, sent me this photo from Simione in Northern Italy. This exquisite little garden has formed in a metal ring used for inserting parking prevention posts. I love the microcosm created from at least four different plants, from little seeds drifting on the wind, landing on a scrap of soil. Weeds are the greatest pioneers and even in the cracks of pavements they can give us hope- little green creatures full of innocent determination.
Being a garden designer means looking out for inspiration wherever I am. The combination of colours on butterfly wings, strange metal twisted by the elements, the intricate pattern on a Dragonfly's wings, a tree wind-blasted in Sydney Botanical Gardens and seed pots pregnant and ready to drop. I tried to share this with my daughter recently- everywhere one looks, it can be beautiful- if not beautiful, deeply interesting. If you look at something for a long time meaning can reveal itself.
Here is a little tropical garden we put in this week. The smaller the garden the more achingly important are the plant choices. It is harder in some ways that a medium sized garden where if a plant gets a little bigger than intended the garden can wear the extra growth. Getting a ten foot palm through a small Brighton house was a challenge. Also today, a mysterious flock of white pigeons on a roof in the town of Storrington, a still life of a humble apple, a door in Parham House, West Sussex (look at the black metal markings [...]
I've been saving these images up for a rainy day. An enormous Echium from the Canay islands that has landed in the front garden of a tiny house in the Laines, Brighton, a giant Californian Redwood just off the motor way in Dorking, a Prickly Pear tree shaped into an umbrella again in the back garden of a home in surburban Dorking and two Mexican Agaves in the front garden of a terrace house in Brighton. We can grow almost everything in the UK!