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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.

Garden Design Quick Tip - Trees for structure in small gardens

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amelanchierOne of the elements of garden design that designers use is that of structure. While perennials and annuals come and go within a garden accenting it, it is the more permanent aspects of a garden - manmade like arbours or pergolas, or plants like shrubs and trees - that gives it structure, adding strength and often character to a space.

Trees are brilliant structural plants. When our horizontal opportunities are limiting trees allow us to capitalize upon the vertical possibilities often making the space feel bigger. They also add definition to a space too; for instance a single tree planted in the centre of an island bed defines a space in one way but a line of trees along a pathway adds a different dimension cmpletely. The age of a tree can also add a sense of history or context to a garden while the tree itself brings layers of biodiversity to a garden through the different species it supports. All in all a tree's reassuring presence throughout the seasons makes it a first port of call for any garden designer looking to add structure to a garden.

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Tobermore - Factory Visit

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Tobermore3-425A while ago I visited the Tobermore plant in Belfast.  Tobermore produce concrete paving and walling.  I have generally used natural materials in my designs but was really keen to see a product that would compare well for a limited budget.

Tobermore use German technology and machinery to produce their wide range of products. They pride themselves on having managed to reduce the occurrence of efflorescence.  Efflorescence is the cause of those unsightly white marks that can appear on concrete setts after laying.  With new manufacturing methods, their concrete pavers last longer and produce less customer complaints in comparison with those of some of the UK market leaders.  

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Garden Design Quick Tip: Flow

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flow1Flow is quite an important element to consider when planning your garden, it can be what holds it all together and is often about how we move people through the space.  Whether we know it or not regardless of the style of garden people like to know the rules for example, where to enter, how to get around, where to look and where to sit.  As humans we relate to order, we find comfort in that and a smooth transition of these areas creates a comfortable and enjoyable flow through the garden to a destination.
 
To create flow you would need to firstly look at the garden entrance, it is here that we need a bold statement which should say ‘this is the way in’ it must be extending the invitation to us to enter.   This can be created with elements such as arches or pergolas which are obvious and can’t be missed or even clever planting either side of the entrance can also encourage us to enter. 

Once inside the garden we need to know how to navigate around it and how to get the most out of the space; this could be in the form of pathways.  Depending on the mood of the garden the pathways could, for example, be a loose material e.g. gravel or bark which would create a slower pace; or if you wanted people to speed up a lawn with its even surface invites a quicker pace taking us to the next garden area.  A lawn is often used as a unifying element as it offers a calming effect with its restful green colour which leads us on through the garden.

Focal points that draw the eye to different areas within the garden create interest but also by keeping a similar theme will unify these elements and help the garden to flow by tying those spaces together. It can be in the form of repeat planting for example, box balls (Buxus sempervirens) can be used in this context; or it could be a repeat of the hard landscaping materials throughout the garden.  Continuity is critical; by using the same paving or gravel in different garden sections it will stop the eye from jarring at the varying colours and textures.  Instead it will allow the eye to relax and the order and transitions to flow more smoothly.

Creating a little mystery in a garden makes it more interesting but it needs to relate to the rest of the garden. By teasing people with a desire to find out ‘what’s around the corner’ we elicit a positive interaction with the garden and a more diverse experience – through a different perspective – of the space.

However large or small your garden is you can create a good flow through the space successfully by following these few rules. 

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Garden Design Quick Tip: Sound

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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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Garden Design Quick Tip: Repetition

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RHSWisleyA well known fact in our industry is that people often impulse buy when at garden centers and end up with one of this and one of that.   Whilst it feels frivolous and perhaps even rather extravagant ‘dot’ planting really does leave a garden feeling uneasy, busy and sometimes even restless.   Next time you’re buying get a larger quantity, even if that is 3 or 5 and plant them together to form a larger planting area of one plant.  

To really get repetition right you would need to repeat that planting again further down the border, so you could buy 9 of the same plant and plant 3 lots of 3, or if you had 3 small borders you could plant 3 in each.  If you only have one border and a few small containers you could repeat the planting from border to container.  These methods have a great effect of steadying the planting design and it helps each area relate to each other giving a calming and more harmonious effect.  

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