Recently, our regular columnist, Andrew Staib, Director of the garden design company Glorious Gardens Sussex, has literally branched out and formed Glorious Woodlands.
Sussex Local decided to see what he was up to!
What exactly is Glorious Woodlands?
This is a design service I am offering to people with a spare field or few. We are offering a bespoke woodland design, to help people create a lovely addition to their house and garden. I am interested in both the ecological benefits as well as including beautiful elements like tree circles, paths, contoured mounds and ponds. Clients can even chose their favourite trees. It is a opportunity for people to offset their carbon usage as well as leave a profound legacy for future generations.
What got you interested in designing woodlands?
Oh I’ve been obsessed with woodlands all my life- it was called ‘the bush’ growing up in Australia! They are very peaceful places for me and at the same time full of interesting wildlife- my head nearly falls off looking out for things. And the shape of trees and that particular English green tone as the sunlight filters through the canopy.
There is also an environmental urgency in me, to save as much of the remaining wildlife as we can. I have two daughters and my heart breaks thinking that they won’t see sparrows or hedgehogs apart from in a zoo.
Doesn’t it take a long time for a woodland to mature?
Yes at least 15-20 years! So we can buy in some bigger trees to start things off, as well as faster growing trees and shrubs that will give the area a lush full feeling while the bigger, more structurally important trees catch up. Within months clients will notice new wildlife visiting and new ground cover species appearing. I remind clients that the process of their woodland developing is even more exciting than the finished product.
How much space do you need?
There is a Japanese movement called Tiny Forests which aims to create a forest ecosystem in spaces as small as a tennis court. So from this size up to many hectares.
How do you go about designing a woodland? Can’t you just leave the field and see what happens?
Yes – great question! And over time something wonderful will happen. But the design process allows me to think about introducing aspects that might not happen accidentally- ponds for wildlife, a ring of oak trees to create a glade for clients to sit around a fire, where to site temporary accommodation so clients can sleep out in summer, a collection of different types of Birch trees. I am also interested in restoring some of the undulations to the land that might have got ploughed out over the centuries. Choosing the right plants is also where my design comes in – making sure the plants will tolerate the particular soil, wind and moisture conditions. I generally choose native plants but there is a lot of research now advising planting a selection of more drought hardy trees. For example there is speculation that the beech forests in the chalk areas of the Sussex Weald will disappear as the chalk dries up more each year with global warming. So I am thinking short and long term.
How much does a woodland cost to design and put in?
For a lot of woodlands we can apply for one of a number of grants which can cover 50%-80% of the tree an planting costs. So a hectare might cost £10,000 plus design and survey fees. Some land needs deer fencing as well. The grants have some restrictions so if clients want really bespoke designs they can pay us directly. There is also regular maintenance which is especially needed in the first 5 years while the trees establish themselves.
Yes on that note how much maintenance would a new woodland need?
If it is a new woodland, the main tasks in the first 5 years is to stop weeds from growing around the base of the new trees which can take away nutrients and moisture. Bracken and brambles need to be managed and some trees need replacing. We will generally plant 2 year old trees and they have a 90% success rate. Also you want to create open glades and grass paths through woodland to allow the sun to reach past the canopy. This helps a heap of different species to live that might not otherwise.
What would happen if someone booked you in?
Well we would meet up and I would go through where they want their woodland, what type of woodland- proportion of evergreen, deciduous trees and open spaces- and what elements they want to include. Some people want a Gypsy caravan, others want an extensive water and bog area to grow particular plants. Also clients like particular trees so I would go through this with them.
Then we would do a lot of searches and make sure all the legal requirements are met, as well as doing a survey of the land- what is living and growing there already and what is in the adjoining countryside. We then draw up the design and present it. I’ll often do sketches to bring the planting plan to life.
Where to go in October
This is a good time to visit the Knepp estate. Isabella Tree’s pioneering work to rewind a part of West Sussex. You can turn up at the car park (before 5.30pm) and you will be given a map of the rewilded areas. Ring for more information on 014037412235.
What to do in your garden in October
Now is the time to move plants around the garden or plant up new ones.
The soil is still warm for the roots to establish but there is less chance of the plants drying out.
You can divide most Perennials now including Rhubarb and balance up your garden by taking the other half to a different place.
You can still plant lettuce and can start sowing Chinese winter greens and Spring Cabbage.
Repairing your lawn can start now with the cooler weather, either using pre grown turfs or seeding into prepared earth.
Your lawn treatment can start this month with aerating the garden with a strong fork and raking out moss and thatch.
Lastly you can cut back shrubs like Buddlea and Lavatera to about half their height to neaten them up and prevent strong winter winds rocking them about- the more fundamental pruning happens in Spring
Perfect time to order and plant bulbs.