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Monday April 19 , 2021

Blue Daisy Blog

Blue Daisy blog written by Nicki Jackson & Jules Clark - for news, views, garden design, gardening and plant observations and thoughts.

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Garden Design Quick Tip: Sound

Posted by on in Garden Design
WaterSound can often take a back seat in gardens as most people tend to favour elements for our other senses.  Do you know what sounds are in your garden?  There will no doubt be bird song but can you hear any others?   Sit out one day for 10 or 15 minutes and make a note of all the different sounds you can hear.   Are the sounds in your garden satisfactory?  Are there any you want to disguise like a train or traffic in the distance?  Are there any you want to hear more? Once you have the answers to those questions you can begin to alter the sounds to fit your personal needs.
 
There are four main ways to incorporate sound: surfaces in the garden, wildlife, water and plants.  The use of different surfaces can create sounds that suit a particular area in your garden for example, gravel has a distinctive crunch, bark is soft and quiet and paving will have a low impact thud all of which will let garden creatures know you’re approaching!   Increasing the sound of wildlife in the garden can be achieved by attracting more birds through using specific plants and installing a feeding station.  Choosing plants that attract pollinating insects such as bees will increase the soft hum they create whilst busy at work.  Frogs and toads create sounds by not only their croaking but also by plopping into water!
 
Water is a well known element for creating sounds in a garden but be sure of the kind of effect you would like.  If you want to have a relaxing ambience you’ll be leaning towards a soft trickle or if you would like a refreshing and stimulating atmosphere then perhaps a rhythmic cascade of a series of waterfalls.   Apart from attracting wildlife other plants like ornamental grasses will create rustling sounds when the wind pours through their leaves.  Plants react differently to wind in different seasons; in the autumn for instance seed heads filled with seeds rattle as well as leaves swirling and rustling on a blustery day.
 
Three great plants that can be used to create sound in the garden are: 
 
  1. Bamboo particularly the Phyllostachys varieties e.g. Phyllostachys nigra has foliage that rustles in the wind but on a blustery day the canes knock together producing a hollow sound.
     
  2. Nigella damascena also known as Love-in-a-mist with its blue flowers is quite popular in traditional cottage gardens, likes a well drained and sunny border, on a windy day its seed heads rattle.

  3. Briza maxima known also as greater quaking grass stands around 60cm in height is an annual ornamental grass preferring full sun, will self seed around the garden and has nodding flowers that rustle in the wind.
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Great British Garden Revival - Episode 3

Posted by on in News & Views

Carole Klein - Cottage Gardens

cottagegarden2Most people associate cottage gardens as being filled with plants brimming with flowers, dripping in colour and attracting pollinators. We are in danger of losing some of these plants and the pure ethos of what a cottage garden is because they are seen by many as being out dated and old fashioned, but they are firmly fixed as part of our horticultural heritage.
 
Margery Fish who with her husband, created the lovely gardens at East Lambook Manor also managed to influence people to create cottage gardens all over the globe.  She created these beautiful, informal and relaxed schemes combining both modern and old fashioned plants that today are the epitome of what a cottage garden is.  Carole admits that she has been heavily influenced by Margery and her style of the informal and mingled planting defining how she has gardened and continues to garden today.  East Lambrook Hall is open to the public and has been lovingly restored in Margery’s style - reflecting her principles and ideas.  We are told that these gardens will inspire the more experienced and the novice gardener alike, everyone can take something away to use back in their own gardens.
 
Another famous traditional cottage garden is situated in the Lake District. Hill Top Garden, formerly the home of Beatrix Potter; is open to the public through the National Trust.  The garden itself provided Beatrix with inspiration for her writing and was featured in the children’s books she wrote.  She created informal borders with flowers and vegetables complementing each other, paths navigate you around the garden so you can see the mingled planting at its quintessentially English cottage garden best. 
 
Carole believes that the cottage gardens are quite easy to maintain if you get the planting and structure right because it’s about pottering and tweaking rather than taking great pains to get the lawn edges perfectly straight and all plants standing to attention.  A traditional cottage garden evolves over time with plants being swapped with friends, family and neighbours, plants being mixed with productive crops, informal planting, using companion planting and attracting those pollinators we are so desperately in need of.  Typical traditional cottage garden plants are Phlox, Alchemilla, Aster, Rudbekia, Cosmos all intermingled with tender perennials like Dahlias. 
 
There are also some cutting edge modern cottage gardens that are very popular such as Dove Cottage which uses plants like Sanguisorba, Achillea and ornamental grasses to create movement and energy.  The owners believe that a true cottage garden creates its own identity by self seeding and creating new areas and as such the garden feels more natural rather than contrived and controlled.
 
You can create your own cottage garden by swapping plants, taking cuttings, collecting seeds and growing your own. Carole believes it’s not just about a style it’s about friendship and sharing plants, seeds and experiences together.
 

Tom Hart-Dyke - House Plants 

houseplantsTom is a modern day Plant Hunter who is passionate about reviving house plants because they have fallen out of fashion with some having even had bad press such as the Cheese Plant and Rubber Plant!  The UK buys less house plants than any other European country but there are so many species that will thrive in our homes. Modern families don’t believe that indoor plants are important but here in the UK they were once very fashionable and back in the Victorian era it was essential to have a sense of the garden inside the house.  Charles Darwin was also a plant hunter for a few years, he brought back plants to our country and he saw them as a fundamental part of the home. Back then their plants were needy, they required tending and nurturing to ensure they flourished and this is possibly one of the reasons why people now don’t want house plants because they believe they will take too much time to care for.  
 
RHS Wisley has a very large glass house, it is the equivalent of 10 tennis courts and is said to be one of the most extensive collections of house plants in the world.  Tom says there is a houseplant to suit any situation, a cold and drafty spot, a sunny windowsill, rooms with low light levels, needing no or little care or for someone who wants to tend or water it every day!  Three of the most popular houseplants today are the Tillandsias better known as the Air Plant which is very low maintenance, Streptocarpus in particular ‘Crystal Ice’ which flowers continually for 12 months and Begonias which are used to low light levels, are easy to grow and propagate. 
 
In previous episodes we saw that plants help to reduce pollution and this principle can be applied to our homes too, there are so many toxins in the air especially in the winter when we don’t open the windows.  NASA trialled some plants and it is thought that the Peace Lily is the best for removing toxins out of the air.  Studies have also been carried out using plants in the work place and it has been proved that having a few plants on or around your desk helps to improve wellbeing and it can increase productivity by up to 15%.  So if you aren’t convinced to try some in your home, get some for work – they are good for you.  If you want some help deciding what plant to have where get in contact with us we can help guide you and supply you with the right plants.
 
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Great British Garden Revival - Episode 2

Posted by on in News & Views

Rachel de Thame - Topiary

topiaryRachel began by explaining that the topiary art form is an important part of our heritage, it was extremely fashionable in the Tudor and Elizabethan era.  In its heyday all sorts of shapes were created not only because it was the height of fashion but also because many of the plants we have in our gardens today hadn't been discovered and brought into the UK. This meant that even in the depths of winter the gardens still offered colour, interest and excitement in bucket loads!  Topiary went as far as the creative mind and individual's skill allowed from huge domes of Box, imposing archways of Yew through to rabbits, birds, chess pieces and even a teapot on the top of hedges!

In the 1800s a lot of our topiary gardens were removed to make way for the new naturalist garden movement that was sweeping the country.  Levens Hall in the Lake District is said to be one of the most extensive topiary gardens in the world, is one of the few places in the UK where the owners through the years steadfastly maintained their love of topiary.  Today it still attracts many visitors to marvel at the existing and unique living structures and forms.

Sadly topiary, having played such an important role in our histrory, is an art form that is being lost.  Purist topiarians (I believe this could well be my own word - I'm not sure whether people who do topiary are called topiarists, topiarisers or topiarians!) use hand tools and say they can become completely absorbed in creating new structures. It's a time comsuming skill and by all accounts can be completely addictive!! However, for unskilled and less confident topiary fanciers there are companies that construct welded metal wire frames which can be purchased in a particular shape. These frames can be placed over Yew or Box plants and then snipped and pruned to that shape and after a few years the wire frame will be hidden.

Creating low cost topiary plants can be achieved by taking softwood cuttings, planting them straight into a well prepared nursey bed and after a few years these can be the start of a new hobby. Whether you are creating imposing arches or spirals in containers be creative and have fun because topiary can be included in any garden regardless of style or size.

Roof Gardens - James Wong

roofgardenJames looked at roof gardens in London both past and present. Living in cities means that access to green spaces is limited but by using a roof as a garden it allows us to access all these spaces currently not doing anything.

When you talk to people about roof gardens they often think of them as a modern introduction or even a trend but in many other countries around the world - where space is literally unheard of - roof gardens are an absolute must, a way of life and a standard part of urban planning. Inner cities are known for being 6-8 degrees hotter than rural areas because bricks and concrete retain the heat from the sun, this is known as the Urban Heat Island effect. Creating spaces such as roof gardens with plants helps to cool the air, create shade, absorb water, reduce pollution and provide a haven for wildlife.

Roof gardens aren’t new to us here in the UK either, they were a modernist dream over a hundred years ago, being cited as the future model that would become common place. In the 1920s Selfridges in London created their own flamboyant pleasure garden on their rooftop to entice their customers. Soon their competitors, the other department stores, began to create their own with putting greens, ponds, ornamental and productive gardens all being included. The Kensington Roof Garden was created, a 1.5 acre rooftop oasis split in to three main themes, Tudor gardens, a woodland garden (with fully grown Oak and fruit trees in 1.5m soil!) and a Spanish garden all of which bring their own wildlife including flamingos! This garden is still in existence and is open to the public. Sadly many of these floating oases were destroyed during the blitz and were seen as too costly and ostentatious to recreate and repair in post war years.

Today a roof garden is very possible and the logistics of getting materials up there is easier with the use of a crane, for smaller items they can be carried up stairs or in the lift. A lot of thought needs to go into the logistics and planning, including discussing with a structural engineer what weight the roof can take and working with a garden designer to make the dream a reality. Consideration is required for the plants, most new beds or containers will have depth restrictions of around 45cm (18ins) for root space and the sheer creation of a garden in the sky means it is more exposed to winds. Plants that will survive in little soil and being on a manmade cliff are, for example, coastal plants and ornamental grasses. Ensuring you have the right plant in the right place means that most of your work can be done at the outset.

Lightweight containers are much better than heavy terracotta not only for weight but also because terracotta will absorb water and this evaporates quickly meaning there is more work for you to do keeping the plants well watered. Using a product like expanded clay is good too because it retains water and is light to lift, remember to finish off with a mulch like gravel which will help retain moisture and reduce weed growth. Creating a roof garden means you are ultimately responsible for creating the right conditions for plants to grow so you don’t have to work with and keep the heavy clay soil the rest of us have to when we buy a house here in the Midlands!

birminghamlibraryroofgardenIn Birmingham the new library, a very modern building, has received criticism and has been applauded equally for its futuristic architecture also has a roof garden which is open to the public (left). The community can come and simply look out over Birmingham or bring a book up to read and enjoy the green space. Volunteers take turns in caring for the plants and borders; they are growing both ornamental and productive plants some of which are used in the cafe. This whole process also helps with offsetting the building’s carbon emission. I visited in November 2013 and was struck by the vastness of the space we were in, the garden was lovely and you can imagine what it would be like in the height of the season. Looking out over Birmingham left me feeling cold though, there wasn’t one other roof garden it was simply a concrete jungle crying out for greenery.

Even if you only have a few square metres and you create a roof garden, it will change your life. It will help to bust the stresses of modern life, cool the city, absorb pollution and create an environment for wildlife to co-exist. If you want more information on creating roof gardens get in contact with us for an initial chat.

 

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Futurescape 2013

Posted by on in News & Views

I visited a landscaping event in November at Kempton Park Racecourse called Futurescape, it was packed full of suppliers of all manner of products from wildflower seeds, pergolas, paving, lighting, gravel, tools and many more.  I found it very useful in terms of being able to talk to directly to suppliers and ask them questions which helps me to improve my knowledge for when I specify their products in garden designs. A lot of suppliers had products on their stands so we could really look at them properly rather than in a brochure which sometimes can be difficult especially where colours are concerned.

I also attended a few workshops too, one was how to create the perfect wildflower meadow and this was delivered by the person respsonsible for all the wildflower turf that we saw inside the stadium during the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony - a great opportunity to hear how it was all done!  Early afternoon I listened to a lighting specialist who gave a talk on how and when to use lights in the garden, the benefits of the 'less is more' principle.  Late afternoon there was a question and answer session with a panel of 5 of our industry's top designers and landscapers who sat and answered questions possed to them. It really was an excellent opportunity to hear how they overcame obstacles both now and in their early career, how they deal with certain situations and how they started in their chosen profession.

All in all it was a really great day, I thoroughly enjoyed learning, networking with other designers and landscapers and of course meeting suppliers.  I came away feeling inspired, enthused and excited to take on whatever 2014 brings!

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Great British Garden Revival - Episode 1

Posted by on in News & Views

Episode 1:  Wildflowers and Front Gardens

Wildflowers - Monty Don

wild-poppiesDuring his childhood Monty grew up with wild flowers in abundance - as did many of us and our parents - but now a staggering  98% of our wildflower meadows have gone which has meant that our landscape has changed drastically.  He gave his tips for creating a wildflower area, including using yellow rattle which is semi-parasitic and will act as a grass suppressant thereby giving other seeds a chance to grow.  He also showed us how to prepare an area that is already laid to lawn by cutting it on it's lowest setting, raking thoroughly and exposing soil in some areas to make it impoverished before sowing seeds.  Monty also looked at the ancient ways of cutting the meadows down at the end of the season by using a scythe which whilst very Eco-friendly looked extremly hard work!

Interestingly we also got to see how wild flower seeds are mixed by specialist growers - super low tech but an incredibly bespoke approach - so anyone can buy seed to match the precise conditions in their garden.  He showed us his passion for wildflowers whether creating large or small patches regardless of the size of our gardens and he urged us to do so for the sheer pleasure of it as well as to help the ecosystms that rely on these types of flowers.

Front Gardens - Joe Swift

concrete-jungleFront gardens used to be places where we showed off our horticultural prowess but now they have become concrete jungles all across the country.  The decline of the front garden has been traced back to the 1960s largely due to the increase of cars and the need to park them. The result of all this paving though means that in heavy rain our sewers can't cope with the amount of water being run off into them and this often leads to flash flooding.  These paved over gardens whilst offering a practical solution, have proved to adversely affect our well-being, contribute to flooding and have reduced the biodiversity in our gardens.  Joe's message came through loud and clear, he wants us to breathe life into our front gardens not only for those reasons but also for social well-being and civic pride!  

It is true that we need hard standing areas for our cars but we can also have areas for our plants too and by directing water to those borders it will help our front gardens cope with run off.  If each householder made a conscious decision to mix both practical and environmental considerations it would have huge and positive repercussions for us as a country.   By placing plants next to the road they soak up a great proportion of pollution and therefore reduce the amount that gets through to our homes - I loved the idea that front garden plants act like filter paper, soaking up the pollutants before the nasty bits get to us. He showed viewers some ideas from grid system hard standing areas to using semicircular trellis that cover drain pipes so plants like clematis, honeysuckle, jasmine and other climbers can all grab on, work their way upwards and hide those ugly pipes.  

If not for the reasons mentioned above, improving your front garden can help you sell your house or rent it out so there really is no reason not to.   Read what we say about creating that kerbside appeal here.

 

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