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Gardens Blog

My first public commission in flower


As a garden designer I approach the commission of designs for public spaces with pleasure;  the wider landscape offers me the scope to think big and to plant in multiples of 10 rather than the small quantities required for domestic settings. In spring 2015 the Royal Automobile Club approached me with the suggestion that I redesign an area of their Epsom country club grounds which had formerly been used for a centenary logo which was no longer required. And so it was that I took up the opportunity to redesign the Centenary Bank, aware that this part of the estate is on view all year round. My response to the site was that the planting had to be in keeping with the restrained and elegant style of Woodcote Park, offering visual interest for as much of the year as possible, harmonising with both the golf courses and gardens. The design had to address the steepness of the sloping ground, be beautiful and yet not too attention seeking, respectful of the ancient Cedar trees which stand behind it. The concept I submitted for approval was a simple evergreen hedge of Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’ along the top of the bank, to increase safety of members using the path along the top of the site, a mixture of Hydrangeas, H. paniculata ‘Early Sensation’, H. paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ and H. paniculata ‘tardiva’ in the centre and flowing round the existing yews, with a foreground planting of Viburnum x burkwoodii ‘Anne Russell’. All the blossom is white at some point, with touches of pink, contrasting with the greens of the foliage. Work began in early April with the construction of lateral timber supports across the slope at regular intervals to prevent the soil from being washed down the site, the replanting of existing heaths, and the addition of compost and fertiliser. Following this 60 Viburnum tinus, 85 Hydrangea and 90 Viburnum x burkwoodii were set out and planted, and were then watered and mulched the area thickly to retain moisture. The cool spring allowed the plants a little time to settle in before starting to bloom and the view across the Fountain lawn is now one of a bank covered with soft creamy plumes of flower. This new area of the gardens has attracted a very positive response from Members and the Woodcote bees alike and I am looking forward to next year when the plants have become completely established and will be in full bloom.

My next project for the Club is the planting of some 350 Alliums and 50 scarlet Crown Imperial Fritillaries in a border opposite the main building to provide colour and interest in June.

Velvet Time

Dark Velvet Rose

Recently, when referring to the intensity of colour generated by lower light levels at this time of year, Monty Don called late summer in the garden ‘the Velvet Time’, which struck me as a beautiful expression, and started me thinking about texture in the plants we use.


A Thought on Colour

Lavender Wind Farm, Whidbey Island

If I lean out of an upstairs window at home I can see the steeply-pitched tiled roof on an old Sussex farmhouse up the lane. The house itself must be at least three hundred years old and the roof, while it has undoubtedly been replaced over time, has that wonderful soft glow of clay tiles which have mellowed in sunshine and withstood rain and snow over the seasons. And looking at it recently it made me think about how rarely we use stretches of single colours in our gardens. (more…)

My favourite plant… June

abiqua drinking gourd hosta

In a month which is so flower-packed and full of colour and fragrance, my favourite this June is chosen instead for its unusual leaves. No, not variegated, striped, blotched or fringed, but instead almost sculptural. Take a look at Hosta ‘Abiqua Drinking Gourd’ and you will see exactly what I mean.


My favourite plant… May

New Bulbs for 2011

How do you choose a favourite from the myriad treasures currently vying for your attention? Given the warm April and very cold May, many of my usual May stars are still under wraps so any plant which is prepared to get up, dress up and show up, ignoring the chill, deserves a special mention and this year, I have to award my Favourite Plant status to the wonderful Camassia or Quamash.


Sun Salutation

Bumblebee on Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)

It often seems to me that spring is very much about ‘firsts’ – first tulip, bumble bee, wood anemone, blossom on the old plum tree by the gate, first – not good, this one – scarlet lily beetle. Perhaps, as winter finally leaves, we are so starved of softness and warmth that we clutch at signs that the ground is warming up at last. Unless you live in Scotland and still have snow, in which case I send you my sympathies from here in the soft South…


My favourite plant… March

Iris unguicularis - Jardin botanique Henri-Gaussen

A few years ago, the delightful elderly lady who lived in an even more elderly cottage across the lane from us, took the difficult decision to move into a care home and enlisted my help in the task of editing her possessions down to a core collection which would fit into her new surroundings. Having dealt with all the books and other items, she then turned her attention to her dearly loved garden and dispatched me outside with a trowel while she directed operations through her open window.


My favourite plant… February

Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis'

Are you looking out of your window, searching for signs of spring and returning colour? If, like me, you constantly scan your branches and borders for new buds and shoots then perhaps this little tree will help to bridge that cold dismal space between the end of autumn and the arrival of that delicious veil of pale green chiffon over trees and hedges which announces that the warmer weather is finally on its way.


Organic Pest Control


It seems odd to be writing about pest control when there are hardly any plants showing right now but I was watching James Wong on the BBC series ‘Great British Garden Revival’ recently and was struck by his suggestion for protecting lilies from predations by the scarlet lily beetle which does so much damage. His solution is to grind up old garlic cloves which contain a chemical which is effective at discouraging beetles from feeding on the lily. He then adds water and puts the mixture into a small hand sprayer.


Things I have learned….

Winter Garden Golf Resort Achental

At this time of year it seems traditional to exchange small volumes of (occasionally) humorous wisdom on a wide range of subjects, most of which remain unread in the downstairs loo. So, for the purposes of your enlightenment and entertainment, here are my Christmas Horticultural Wit and Wisdom offerings: