Tuesday 21 December 2010

Garden Consultations - are they worth it?

Unexpectedly for a bleak December day I received an email request for a Garden Consultation from a keen gardener who felt 'she had lost her way'. Now this type of request for the help of a Garden Designer is reasonably common and it highlights how our experience and training can, often in a single visit, help to answer any queries and also to reassure, or put a fellow gardener on the right path.

My client had a fabulous period property with a large, shadey, woodland-style garden, full of collected memorabilia and antiques, wine-crates, pots and artefacts arranged attractively, mostly in her 'courtyard area'.  She was very hands on and loved growing vegetables and also flowers from seed. She was aware of the limitations of her garden but also knew that it could be even more attractive.  Recently retired she was determined to iron out the few problems she was facing and focus on making the garden less labour intensive and more rewarding. Hence her internet search and request for me to help her.

Our correspondence neatly summarises what took place:

enquiry: I would like to add a gazebo / pergola in our courtyard to add some interest. Courtyard is a walled garden approx 17ft x 20ft but on 2 levels. Gazebo would probably be in area 10ft x 10ft.  We are in Ryde. Would you be able to arrange a site visit to give some advice please. 

So an appointment was made and armed with this information I planned my visit.  Now, it is important to stress that a Garden Designer can not 'design' on the spot.  But because of our general horticultural  and design experience we can often lend a fresh eye to a situation and provide real help to someone who wants to sort out a problem for themselves.  Often, an initial consultation can lead to further design work and also a follow through contract to build the garden.  But, in this case I knew I had a practical gardener to meet.
My email and notes sumarise that:

Hi Sue,  Good to meet with you yesterday and to discus ideas for your intriguing garden.  Here are the summarized notes of the issue including plant choices we discussed:

The Courtyard Area:
1. Introduce 2/3 very large containers to make a statement
2. Include large characteristic plants e.g. Olives, pencil thin Cypress trees or the hardier Fastigiate Yews
3.  Simple evergreen box plants in large  balls give substance and have a calming effect amongst all the collectibles
4. Define the edge of the change in levels
5. Introduce scent especially night-scented plants e.g. Trachelospermum jasminoides, Rosa Alberic barbiere or Rosa Mme Alfred Carriere,
6. Large feature pots of Citrus trees are evocative as are Angels trumpets (Brugmansia) but both of these will need winter protection.
7. White plants look great in the night especially Nicotiana sylvestris (tobacco plant) grown from seeds( can also be used in the garden)

The Main Garden:
Create new clearings by eradicating ground ivy etc., improve the soil and then plant in repeated drifts ( 7- 10) through the evergreen areas:

  • Digitalis purpurea var. alba( seed)
  • Anemone japonica alba/'Honorine Jobert' ( perennial plant)
  • Leucojum aestivum ( Snowflakes) bulbs
  • Lunaria  rediviva (Honesty) (seed)
  • Hydrangea 'Annabelle', 'Snowflake' or Quercifolia( shrubs)
  • Miscanthus 'Morning Light' (tall, stately perennial grass)
  • Euphorbia amygdalodes var. robbiae ( perennial) limey green flowers
  • Geranium phaeum 'Album' - white hardy geranium ( perennial)
  • Epimedium perralderianum ( perennial) soft yellow flowers, evergreen Anemone nemerosa ( wood anemone) bulbs
  • Galium odorata ( Sweet Woodruff) ground covering perennial with white flowers
  • Acanthus mollis ( perennial) big architectural perennial , leaf motif often used in mediterranean gardens 
Finally, the on-line company to check out is www.roominthegarden.co.uk  for the rusted metal garden features. They have a bespoke service so you could send in your own designs/measurements. Check out the 'Walled Garden' page and you will see a delightful gazebo, covered in white roses against a tall wall, very like your area. It should inspire you.

Good luck, Chris

A fairly immediate reply informed me that the time had been well-spent.  Very satisfying to enable a fellow gardener to take control again of her garden.

Hi Chris
Thank you so much for your time on Thursday and for your notes.  It's good to chat things over with someone new, and to have a new set of eyes looking over the place.  I'm starting to research the Mediterranean / Moroccan ideas.  I had a look at 'Room in the Garden' - fabulous ideas, and gives me a good sense of direction and will keep me more disciplined - I think that's what I need - find a style/theme and stick to it.
Thank you also for the planting notes - I'm going to get started and sort out which seeds I can start off now, and print myself off a shopping list, so I don't get waylaid in the garden centres!!
All the best, and I'll keep a regular look out on your website.

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