Thursday, 6 December 2018

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens - Hampshire

Sir Harrold Hillier (of Hillier Nurseries and Garden Centre fame) began developing these gardens back in 1953. As with many great gardens they mature and improve with age. His specimen tree planting has left us with some magnificent and unusual specimens to enjoy today. 

The garden is famous for its seasonal interest. As we are now into December, I headed straight for the Winter Gardens. I have found that many of the winter gardens around the country have similar plants and planting combinations but this was one of the best I have visited. The plants had been used in a very clever way; contrasting to accentuate a specimen or working in harmony to reveal a picturesque scene. 

Ivy is a often overlooked as an invasive weed or worrying wall invader but here it was used in an interesting and manageable way. I will be borrowing this idea for one of my own design projects!

The often brown and muddy garden of winter can be brightened up with splashes of colour. Here are a few of the plants that I thought looked particularly lovely in these gardens in December.

Callicarpa bodinieri

Acer griseum / Paper Bark Maple

Betula albosinensis / Chinese Red Birch

Photinia davidiana / Chinese photinia

Cornus sanguinea / Bloody dogwood

Sarcococca confusa / Sweet box
You will smell this plant before you see it, a heavy sweet smell fills the air. 

Euonymus hamiltonianus / Spindle Tree

When plants and trees stand bare during winter, the structure and layout of the garden becomes visible and important. The long border may have lost its showy flowers but the layout and hedges are impressive in their own right. 

Sculpture and punctuation create focal points and allow the eye to move from point to point around the space. These have been cleverly achieved in this garden with a mix of man made artworks, specimen trees and a mixture of the two. 

Another tip that I picked up in this garden and will be sure to use in my own landscape creations was the pyramid Box hedging. The problem with normal hedging is that one side and the bottom of the hedge become shaded and produce less leaves. I loved this simple idea that will allow more light to the hedge sides and create a greener, thicker, healthier hedge. 

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Stowe Gardens - Buckinghamshire

What a privilege it is to be able to walk around a garden that was created 300 years ago.
With an abundance of purpose built monuments, ornate bridges, waterfalls and Gothic temples you could be harsh enough to call it the Disney Land of the 18th century. However, this would not do justice to the workmanship and political and moral stories woven into the landscape here; I wonder if some of our modern tourist attractions will still be standing in 300 years time?

Various famous Garden Designers of the 18th century worked on the gardens, the most famous being Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. This resulted in the gardens being laid out in 'The English Landscape Style', which we now naturally think of as synonymous with large country estates. Before this the gardens would have been very formal with borders laid out in symmetrical patterns and having hedges or fences between the garden and the rest of the estate. The idea of The English Landscape Style was to create sweeping vistas and blend the surrounding countryside with the pleasure gardens.

Today we may think of a garden feature as a water fountain or pergola but if you were a rich Viscount in the 18th century then a garden feature may well comprise of a church, folly, monument or even, as in Stowe, a Gothic Temple. These building have been used at Stowe to create stunning views as you walk around the landscape. There are very few areas of the garden where you don't catch a glimpse of some fabulous building or happen upon a long avenue with a classical temple as its focal point.

One monument of note is The Temple of British Worthies. It contains busts that themselves would be valued work of arts. Here they sit in a grand curved wall and look down on you as you marvel at their grandeur and muse their influence on our lives today.

The garden is set out so as to take you on a moral journey, weaving you amongst trees and around lakes that separate the vice and immorality of The Temple of Venus and the moral aspirational intellectuals at The Temple of British Worthies.

This garden is so grand and contains so much hidden meaning that this taster does not do it justice, I hope to return and bring you a 'Stowe Gardens part two' one day.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Winter Countryside - The Lakes, Cumbria

My winter walking holiday in The Lake District revealed a stunning landscape as well as some ideas that can be used on a more domestic scale. 

Snow Day

I was lucky enough to get a day where the landscape was transformed into a magical winter wonderland. When the world is transformed into black and white a whole new perspective of form is revealed and colour takes a back seat. 

Seating and Sculpture
Sometimes it is better to think laterally about garden features; a bench doesn’t always need to be an off-the-shelf wooden bench. Working with the landscape and taking inspiration from surroundings can result in a far more interesting and interactive space.

Garden Buildings
You might not have room for a boat-house but this does show us that garden building such as sheds and utilitarian structures can actually add to the landscape and improve the space.

Colour and Texture
The middle of winter may be thought of as dreary combinations of browns but we can use this to our advantage when showing off bright greens or splashes of colour. A bright strong stem or shot of Lichen green can look stunning against a winter background.

Indoor Plants
Bringing plants inside the house, especially where you have a view through to your garden blends the border and brings the outside in. Not only this, but having some plants in the house will improve your air quality and generally make you feel better.

Inspiration from Nature
Man may try to dominate the landscape but whether you are in the countryside or the city you will see signs that inevitably nature will claim it back.