The Elephant in the (Garden) Room

Tue, Mar 19, 2019

When designing planted areas for my clients I’m always thinking ahead and planning for colour in the garden for as many months of the year as possible. Colour in summer is easy, but I firmly believe that a garden is for life, not just for summer, and it should look (and be) interesting in Spring, Autumn and Winter too. In fact these are the times when a garden should work its hardest, as you’re less likely to be spending time in it and more likely to be looking out at it from indoors.

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When the going gets turf

Mon, Mar 11, 2019

For the horsey types and punters travelling to this week’s Cheltenham Festival, the state of the turf is sure to come up in conversation – is it wet or dry, hard or soft, and how’s it going to suit the glossy supermodel you’ve put your money on for the next race? If, instead, you’re planning to spend this long weekend on your own turf, you’ve picked the perfect time, because weather permitting, March is ideal for laying a new lawn.

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Shady Customers

Mon, Mar 04, 2019

Plants that thrive in the shade are often overlooked by gardeners as it’s easy to be distracted by showier individuals who need sun to do well. Most gardens have shade in some form or another though, depending on the time of day or time of year, or the particular aspect of the plot. It’s always handy to have a few shade lovers up your sleeve for these spots, so that you’re getting the most out of every inch of space. Many shade lovers tend to flower earlier in the year, as they would in their natural woodland habitat, before the leaves of the trees overhead block out whatever sunlight there is. Here are some shady customers that are looking well right about now.

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The Visionary who changed the Rose Garden

Fri, Feb 22, 2019

As winter continues to drag its heels, it can feel at this time of year that spring and summer will never come. Although there are green shoots and colour from early bulbs, we’re still a long way away from the glorious colours and abundance of summer – which is why a little planning for the season to come can do a lot to lift the spirits. Choosing new roses is a great form of retail therapy that will make the garden sing this summer without breaking the bank.

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Gearing up for the Gardening Year

Mon, Feb 18, 2019

Welcome back to Gardenwise for 2019 and I hope you missed me! I’m looking forward to sharing all things gardening with you this year as we, and our gardens, emerge shivering from another winter. There might be a few more weeks of it to go yet, but the days are beginning to lengthen out and you can be sure that spring, green and growth are not too far away.

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Taking stock and making plans

Tue, Dec 04, 2018

As the days get shorter and the winter solstice approaches, spending time outside happens less and less. This is the time to take stock of how your garden is working for you, and consider any changes you’d like to make in time for spring. Mind you, it might seem as though you’re working for the garden rather than the other way around, with mowing, trimming and tidying taking more time than you’d like, so if you’d like to change that, it’s worth considering some improvements to your garden layout and planting.

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Looking after the Little Ones

Mon, Nov 26, 2018

There must be few things as rewarding as looking after the birds in your garden. This garden has lots to attract them, and as I write a glossy blackbird is lunching on the bright red pyracantha berries outside the kitchen window. Goldfinches, blue tits and sparrows are jostling for space at the bird feeder, occasionally swooping down to the water bowl. The wise little robin – my absolute favourite – who doesn’t love the robin? – has just landed on the edge of the raised bed, where the snowdrops will be showing in a few week’s time, and eyed me through the window, as though to say, “I know you’re talking about me”.

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Compost – it’s a state of mind

Mon, Nov 19, 2018

As the mucky season is well and truly upon us, what better time to talk about the very best kind of muck – homemade compost?

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White and gold – the Christmas rose

Tue, Nov 13, 2018

Beautiful garden blooms are thin on the ground at this time of year, so this week I thought we might consider one of the most unusual of them – the Christmas rose. Not a rose in the usual sense, it’s a member of the hellebore family, and its botanical name is Helleborus niger. Many keen gardeners will be familiar with its cousin, Helleborus orientalis, whose speckled, drooping flowers are amongst the earliest to bloom in January and February, and which is commonly known as the Lenten Rose. While the Lenten Rose typically has petals from cream and yellow to pink, purple and dusky plum, the Christmas rose’s flowers are usually pure white, beautifully set off by golden stamens and large, sturdy leaves of deepest green.

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Must We Mulch?

Mon, Nov 05, 2018

I’ve noticed when discussing garden plans with clients that there’s a lot of confusion about mulch – what is it, do you need it and how much do you need? It’s not that hard really, and it makes sense when you consider what mulch is for and what it does.

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Bonfire Glow

Tue, Oct 30, 2018

Fancy some flaming autumn colour in the garden? This is a good time to choose trees and shrubs for autumn leaf colour. The hot, sunny summer and mostly dry autumn have allowed deciduous plants to appear at their best this year, and you can view them in all their blazing glory till the leaves come down and they nod off to sleep for winter. Here are a few of my favourite picks for a bonfire blaze at this time of year, with something included for all garden sizes:

Liquidambar styraciflua – also known as the sweet gum tree, a group of these stopped me in my tracks recently on the NUIG campus. Even on a drizzly, grey day they seemed lit from within.

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Taste the difference

Tue, Oct 23, 2018

At an apple tasting in Cheshire recently, my eleven year old couldn’t get enough of the heritage varieties of apple being offered to visitors by a group of National Trust volunteers. Although delighted he was packing in his five a day in as many minutes, I couldn’t hide my surprise, as when offered an apple at home, he typically reacts as though I were trying to poison him. The difference, I suspected, was in the taste – confirmed when I nibbled a few samples myself.

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Acers – How to Ace it

Mon, Oct 15, 2018

The Acer palmatum, or Japanese maple, seems to be high on the wish list of trees for gardens and often when I meet clients to discuss their garden plans it’s one of the plants they’d like included. I’m not surprised as it’s such a pretty, elegant tree – but if you’d like to grow one there are a few things it’s useful to know.

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Narcissi – it’s now or never

Tue, Oct 09, 2018

A few weeks ago we spoke about the tiny, early spring bulbs that flower in late winter and at the very start of spring. This week let’s consider narcissi – known to most of us as daffodils. As a rule of thumb, the smaller the bulb and the earlier it flowers, the sooner you need to get it in the ground to allow root and shoot formation in time for the main event – blooming. It’s still a bit early for tulips as current advice is to plant them when it gets really cold – November or December is fine and you can even get away with planting them in January, as all but the early ones don’t flower till April or May.

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Late Bloomers

Tue, Oct 02, 2018

If I asked you to name shrubs that flower in autumn, I wonder how many you could think of? I’d imagine many of us would struggle as a lot of our favourite garden shrubs tend to flower in spring and summer. Then you have the wonderfully scented winter blooming shrubs, daphnes, witch hazels and lots of other gorgeous things, but we tend to associate the autumn months with fruiting and berrying plants and those whose foliage gives us the spectacular display of gold, scarlet and copper. There are some shrubs that will offer you flower colour at this time of year though and its well worth finding room for one or three in your garden, to keep the flowering season going just that little bit longer. These three will look super alongside bright autumn foliage too. Here are a few to consider:

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Don’t Look Back in Anger.....

Tue, Sep 25, 2018

Now that the Autumn Equinox has passed and it’s absolutely, officially, positively autumn, it’s time to take stock of this summer, or this growing season in the garden, and decide what worked for you and what didn’t. If nothing at all worked and it’s time for a redesign, you know where to find me. (Hint – look at the top of the page). If it was mostly a good year though, and you’re happy with things in general, now’s a good time to plan a few tweaks.

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Soft and Gentle

Mon, Sep 17, 2018

Today I thought we might look at some soft, gentle colours for planting schemes. Softer colours make for a restful scheme, but even if you’re fond of brights and like to have pops of vivid colour in the garden, paler pastel shades are a good way to offset these, and a good way to link groups of more vivid colours.

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Pretty Little Things

Mon, Sep 10, 2018

I know it feels as if summer is only just over and there’s still a lot of this year left to go, but it’s already time to be thinking about next year and planning for the early months of 2019. There’s something special about the very earliest of spring bulbs. After a brown and grey winter, with little colour apart from green, it gives me a great sense of hope to see tiny shoots poking their tips out from the cold earth, ready to burst into blooms of glorious colour. Although they’re tiny, they’re not deterred by cold, frost and rain, they just carry on regardless, and this is one of the reasons why I love them.

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Thinking Big

Mon, Sep 03, 2018

Let’s think about scale today. I wonder if you’ve considered scale in the garden, at least in terms of plants? If not, it’s worth considering, as playing with different sizes can add an extra dimension to the space. As a garden designer, I’m always thinking of proportions – the layout of a garden on the ground has to be worked out until it’s just right before moving on to planting, and the proportions of all the different elements have to work, not just for the property to which the garden belongs, but for the human beings who will be using and enjoying it.

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Throwing Shapes or in Good Form?

Tue, Aug 28, 2018

Have you ever thought about shapes in the garden, or to be more exact, in the planted areas? It’s worth thinking about because a well-planned garden will include a variety of plant shapes to achieve the most visually pleasing look. It can be tempting as a new gardener to focus only on the flowering potential of your new best friends, and I understand this completely, having once been a rookie myself. It’s so tempting to wander through a garden centre and be seduced by the colour, texture and fragrance of blooms, and to fill up your garden with attractive flowers.

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