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March 2011

Border planting - low maintenance front garden

Last year I had the chance to help a client redesign a front garden that had been planted when the house was built.


This house sits on a lovely size plot. There are Oak trees shading some of the area, which dropped large amount of leaves in Autumn, and large amounts of grass to mow. So the owners were feeling that the garden was a chore rather than the pleasure that this size of space should be.

They also felt that the borders were boring and lacked colour. They'd tried to perk things up with hanging baskets and pots, but they weren't working. Given that the garden was large, they also felt that the space for parking wasn't big enough.

Low maintenance doesn't have to be boring, so I set to work giving them a space that was easier to look after.


The mowing used to take a long time as there were "odd" areas to do, and places where the grass went right up to the building, meaning that strimming was needed. If hard landscape is designed to be at the same level as the grass, then mowing right up to the edge is possible, meaning that straight lines, - the fastest part of mowing, is possible all over the area.

Instead of overcrowded shrub borders, we put in large flower spaces, to break up the larger areas of hardstanding.

The overgrown conifers and foliage shrubs in the slightly shady spot in front of the living room were replaced with Dicentra, Fuchsia, Hydrangea and Sarcococca. Which could all be seen from the living room, as the view was no longer blocked.


For the entrance borders, we used easy to maintain bulbs, sedums, and geraniums, which complimented the smaller size shrubs and climbers that we put in to be the stars of the future in the coming years.


these photos were taken just 3 months after it was all planted

For my client, not only has she now got space to park, less time to spend mowing, and colour to look at, - she's also got admiring glances from neighbours and a topic of conversation to talk about.

Think big and go for it

This evening is a case of phew....

My first big commercial project report is in.

I've worked my socks off this week, stretched myself, worked at the very limits ( and sometimes beyond) of my comfort zone, and managed not to annoy any of my other clients in the process.

I have supplied, to deadline. the planting listing and plan for a rather wonderful ( or will be when it's finished) conversion project in Ealing.


I read this blog post, just a month ago, and realised that although the main reason for my business is to be able to collect my son from school, and be there during most of the holidays. That doesnt' stop me from doing what I do well on a bigger scale than I'm doing now.

Just 3 weeks ago I was asked through a contact to give a quote for visiting and advising a company who were renovating some houses in London (yep, inside the M25). Two weeks ago I set the Sat Nav, and found my way to my first ever Site visit. I survived the backing out watched by workmen, and was invited to supply them a planting plan.

When I saw the suggestions already in for this project. I gasped. - A neutral soil, with shade from an Oak. The front garden to a presitigious multi million pound project, and an stylish Edwardian villa to boot, and the suggestions were "carpark" plants,- Aucuba, Fatsia japonica, Mahonia, Cytisus Allgold, Skimmia Rubellla and Hebe.

That's when I realised that I can do this kind of project, - I do know the "right" plants for this (or any) type of project, and I can add value to what they are showing off to their clients

Now the project has the plants it deserves, - Stylish, Elegant, Easy to care for, With fantastic interest during the months this garden will be on display as the show house.

Here's part of my plant palette.


with many thanks to Fiona for inspiring me with her blog, Jo, for seeing that what I do in private gardens could help a commercial project, and The Horsley Network, for bringing us together

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day March 2011

Spring is here in Southern England, and the county of Surrey has blooms popping out all over the place. It's a lot sooner than last year, - about 2 weeks for a lot of things, - in 2010 for the March GBBD, I had very little in bloom in my garden.

This year, i've even got my early tulips coming out


last year I only had 3 tete a tete narcissus, - 2011, has them all in full bloom


Continue reading "Garden Bloggers Bloom Day March 2011" »

Top tips for planning your best garden ever. No 3 - The Plants

Planning and designing in the garden, is often about the hard landscaping features. - Making paths, raised borders, patios and height structures are all very important, but to me (and let's face it it's not suprising when you look at my company name) The MAIN thing is the plants.

So my Four main things to think about when you're planning the planting are

1) Theme your border


This is a cottage garden cutting border.

If you can't think of a main theme for your border, it will be very difficult to get plants that "hang" together -

This is a sunny summer flower border


Your theme may be about the situation, - Sunny, Shady, Heavy Soil, low maintenance. It may be about the Main flower colour, White, Pastel, Bold Reds and Yellows. Or it may be about the style, Flowery, Bold shapes, Contemporary.

2) Don't plant one of anything


An island bed that has oneofeverythingitis.

Same bed, with a theme, and lots of each of the key plants


3) Overdo it with Bulbs

There are bulbs for all the year, and they are mostly very easy maintenance, and cheaper than the equivalent number of plants.

Start the year with Snowdrops, Cyclamen Coum and Crocus, Move on to Narsissus, Tulips and Leucojum, Summer Alliums are a must have, then move through to Gladioli, Lilies, Cyclamen hederifolium, Autumn crocus, Dahlias and Nerines. - These last are my favourites for brightening up the borders in September and October.


4) Only use the Right plants

You have to use the right plants for the soil, pH, situation, your style and budget.

Need help? - Plantpassion works in the Horsley and Guildford Area's of Surrey,


Top tips for planning your best garden ever. No 2 - Empty your Compost

Ok, hands up, who's got a compost bin at the bottom of the garden? - good, most of you with your hands up, - keep those hands up, if you've emptied it in the last 6 months? - where did all those hands go?

Ok, so compost isn't the most glamourous topic, but especially if you've got a free draining soil as those of us near the North Downs and in the Surrey Hills have, - you need as much compost and mulch on it as possible.

I emptied my compost bins this weekend, and spread the contents on the vegetable beds and filled a couple of large pots that i'll be growing veg in. - i've got three bins, and I empty them at least 3 times a year, sieveing  the contents with my mega machine.

This means that I get fine compost, and put the partially decomposed stuff back in the bins to be got out in a couple of months time.

But if you havn't emptied your bins recently, that probably means that you havn't got anywhere to put this years supply of grass clippings/kitchen waste/soft weeds and hedge trimmings/shredded paper or card (50% or each please)

At this time of the year, your borders are fairly empty, and have lots of new shoots poking through that would love a warm carpet of compost to help them through to May, - take pity on your borders, and empty your compost bins.

Top tips for planning your best garden ever. No 1 - Photos

This morning I talked to a lovely local group of gardeners about how to plan your best garden ever. My first tip- and one that I had everyone nodding their heads sagely at me was -

Takes photos, - regularly and from the same position or with a "landmark".

This for me was a revalation. When I started my own business, I took photos in clients gardens, but they were just snapshots, and when I looked back on them the next year, I could never see the part of the garden that I needed to work on for comparison.

It took starting this blog, and finding about Garden Bloggers Bloom day, to realise that I needed to take photos on a monthly basis, and as well as close ups of the good bits, - I needed "warts and all" pictures of whole borders if I was to be able to progress and improve their planting.

Here you can see an example

Last April, my front garden border (that's the one that everyone in the village can see as they go for their dog walking strolls or their Sunday afternoon promenade to the pub) looked like this.

(notice the obolisk by the tulips, that's the "landmark" for all the photos)

i'd obviously realised there was an empty space at this end of the border, as the Thalictrum pots had been there since the Autumn!

By late May, it was doing this


At this stage, it still looked like there were some gaps in it particularly to the right of the obolisk.

By the end of the end of the summer, it was rather full

and that "gap" turns out to be a rather large clump of Helenium with Aster Violetta in front of it.

I'm so glad I took these photos, because last month I was out there thinking

"can I fit anything else in?"


Pruning late flowering clematis


Clematis Viticella, is a fantastic blast of colour in late July and August, and I love these bright climbers for their easy to look after nature.

Now is the time to be pruning them back, and you can be fairly hard to them. The clematis I cut back yesterday were taking over a pergola.

During late winter the dead stems of the Viticella produce lots of new season growth.


These sprout all the way up the stems, but to promote the new growth, and to ensure that your Clematis doesn't take over your obolisk or pergola, you need to cut it back to 30-60cm from the ground.


Here's the one I did yesterday.