September Highlights

September is here and there’s definitely a chill in the air.  Summer perennials are starting to fade, and the trees are showing the first tints of autumn.  I’ve just been for a walk round the garden and there are still plenty of pops of late summer colour – here are some of my favourites:

Hydrangeas

Mophead hydrangeas are a particular favourite of mine, with their large pompom flower heads in shades from bright pink through to blue.  These shrubs like a moist, well-drained soil in partial shade.  Their flowers last from mid-summer all the way through autumn making them a good value addition to the garden.

Fuchsia

In total contrast to the Hydrangea, Fuchsias are graceful arching shrubs with dainty pendant flowers.  There is a huge variety with flowers ranging from white through to deep pinks and purples.  These shrubs like a sunny, sheltered position and will flower from mid-summer through to the first frosts.

Penstemon

Penstemons are semi-evergreen perennials, with upright spikes of thimble-shaped flowers, rather like foxgloves.  Colours range from pale pink through to deep red and blue.  They like a moist, well-drained soil in sun or part shade.  Flowers last all through summer until the first frosts in autumn.  This is a good one for the bees!

Rudbeckia

As the days start to grow shorter Rudbeckia begins to flower.  These perennials, with their sunny daisy-like flowers provide a cheerful sight in the late summer border.  The attractive looking seedheads provide food and shelter for wildlife over winter.  With varieties ranging in height from around 0.5m to 2m there’s a Rudbeckia to suit any sunny spot in the garden.

Crocosmia

These perennials have strappy bright green leaves and arching stems of small tubular flowers from August through to October.  They grow from corms beneath the ground, dying away over winter and producing new growth in spring.  With their bright orange flowers, they provide a tropical accent to the garden.

Japanese Anemone

Also known as windflowers, these clump-forming perennials have tall stems with delicate saucer-like flowers in shades of pink and white.  Reaching heights of around 1m the flowers appear to float above surrounding foliage.  The prefer a sunny, or partly shady spot and will flower from August through to October.

Spring Jobs in the Garden

While we’re all home during lockdown, it’s an ideal opportunity to get out into the garden and tackle those jobs we don’t normally have time for or try something completely new.

With the nice weather we had over Easter I’m sure most of us lucky enough to have a garden have already been out making the most of it.  If you haven’t started yet – don’t worry, it’s not too late!

The first thing to do is give the garden a Spring clean.  Empty out old pots and give them a good wash. Clean your garden tools. If you have a greenhouse, clean that too.  Sweep or power wash any paths, patios and decking.

In the borders, get rid of any plants that have died over the Winter.  Cut back seedheads and dead foliage on perennials before this year’s growth starts to take off.  Once Spring bulbs have finished flowering deadhead the flowers – leave the foliage to go brown before you remove that.  And start to tackle the weeds!  Weeding is nobody’s favourite job, but if you get on top of them early in the year before they start to flower and seed everywhere, it will make life easier later in the Summer.

Once you’ve done all the preparation it’s time to think about the nice bits!  If you have a garden that’s full of foliage, why not think about adding some perennials in between for some seasonal colour?  Or maybe you have a border where nothing grows, and you’d like to add some new plants.  I can help with remote planting plans and there are local nurseries like Macplants https://www.macplants.co.uk/ and Binny Plants https://www.binnyplants.com/ who are still supplying during lockdown.  Maybe you’d like to add some instant splashes of colour – why not add some annuals to pots on your patio?  Pentland Plants https://www.pentlandplantsgardencentre.co.uk/ offer a range of colourful bedding and hanging basket plants.

A bed of newly planted perennials

This is also a great opportunity to try growing your own veg.  It’s a great activity to get the kids involved with too.  Salad crops like lettuce and rocket are very easy to grow, either on a windowsill or in a tray outdoors.  Radishes grow very quickly and will be ready to harvest within about 4 weeks of planting.  Beans, such as broad beans and runner beans are fun to grow, and some have very pretty flowers too.  Plant seeds in cardboard toilet roll tubes filled with compost and keep indoors until the seedlings reach about 10cm tall.  Transplant into a sheltered spot in the garden, tubes and all!  Potatoes are also easy to grow, either in the ground, or in pots or sturdy bags on a patio.  Harvesting them is like digging for buried treasure!

Whatever you decide to plant, just remember to keep it well watered.

Happy gardening.

Bringing the Outdoors In – The Wellbeing Benefits

In this time of uncertainty, it’s never been more important to look after our physical and mental wellbeing.  The health benefits of gardening are well-known, but if you don’t have a garden, or are unable to get outside and start digging you can still reap the benefits by bringing the outdoors in.

Indoor gardening allows us to grow plants which wouldn’t grow in our gardens!

There is extensive research to suggest that indoor plants can boost our physical health by improving the atmosphere: houseplants can help to remove some toxins from the air, as well as producing oxygen and increasing humidity.  In short, indoor plants help provide a clean and comfortable environment for us to live in.

As well as physical factors, there are many mental wellbeing benefits associated with indoor gardening.  Studies show that humans feel relaxed and less stressed in a natural environment.  Getting back to nature improves happiness and wellbeing.  Adding green foliage plants to your living space brings a little bit of nature indoors, helping to create a soothing, comfortable atmosphere.

Colours can help to lift the mood – sometimes there’s nothing cheerier than a bunch of fresh cut flowers in a vase.  But why not make that splash of colour last longer by planting seasonal perennials in a window box?  Spring and summer bedding plants could work just as well in pots on a windowsill as in the garden.

The activity of gardening is very therapeutic: when you’re tending plants, you are focussed on the task in hand and the stresses of life are momentarily forgotten.  Even something as simple as watering houseplants can be a beneficial exercise in mindfulness.

Nurturing plants and helping them grow brings with it a sense of responsibility – this sense of purpose can be another boost to our mental health.  Coupled with that are the feelings of reward and achievement when the plants flower or show new growth.  For the ultimate reward why not try growing something edible?  Herbs or salad leaves will grow well on a sunny windowsill, or perhaps a tomato plant if space allows.

Pea shoots thriving on a sunny windowsill

Even in this time of lockdown it’s possible to order plants online – local suppliers including https://growurban.uk/ and http://www.pentlandplants.co.uk/ are supplying to the Edinburgh area and there are plenty of online retailers from which to source plant and vegetable seeds.

Why not invest in your wellbeing today?  Happy growing!

Don’t be Afraid of Sloping Gardens

To many people a sloping garden seems like a bit of a headache – there’s nowhere flat to put a patio or lawn so the garden isn’t really usable, yet the thought of bringing in heavy machinery to create terraces and build retaining walls can be slightly terrifying!

In fact, a sloping garden presents a whole raft of opportunities: the creation of terraces enables the garden to be divided into distinct ‘rooms’ with different character.  The addition of steps and pathways linking the terraces makes the garden a dynamic space with movement and drama.  Sloping sites provide different perspectives – you may be able to create a seating area at the top with views over the whole garden or use the levels to disguise sheds or bin stores.  Finally, sloping gardens are ideal for anything that is assisted by gravity, whether it’s a water feature or a kids’ slide!

If the gradient is quite gentle it may be possible to use the contours of the ground to create undulating slopes, giving a more natural feel to the garden.  With steeper gradients, creating a series of flat terraces may allow a more practical use of space. Adding terraces will mean the introduction of retaining walls. There could be a significant cost associated with earthworks and wall construction – if the budget is restricted consider creating level areas only for paving and lawn with the planted areas on graded slopes.

Retaining walls can be built from a variety of materials – timber sleepers are a cost-effective material.  Other options include dry stone walls, rendered concrete, brickwork or stone-filled gabions.  It’s important to choose a material in keeping with the style of your house.  Remember that you will need to include appropriate drainage alongside any retaining wall.

There are some important factors to consider when modifying a sloping garden.  Number one of course is safety – steps should be sized to allow users to walk safely through the garden.  Changes in level above a certain height will require balustrades. Even if no balustrade is needed consider adding a planted bed at the top of a retaining wall to prevent anyone from coming close to the edge.

When reprofiling your garden consider your neighbours – you don’t want to create a raised platform that enables to you to peer over into their garden.  Conversely, you don’t want to lower the levels to the extent that their garden starts to slide below the fenceline into yours!

Topsoil on slopes is likely to be thin and prone to erosion – don’t leave it bare.  Choose a selection of groundcover plants, and plants with deeper roots to help stabilize the soil.  Avoid plants that require a lot of maintenance since accessing them is likely to be tricky.  Using evergreen plants will mean the soil is protected by foliage even in Winter.  Tops of retaining walls can be planted with trailing plants to tumble over and visually break up the hard landscape.

In summary, a sloping garden presents an opportunity to create something really exciting, which needn’t cost the earth.  For help with your sloping garden please contact jane@artisangardendesign.net

Spring Colour in Your Garden

February can be a quiet month in the garden – the summer perennials have been cut back, but the new buds have not yet sprung to life.  If you planted bulbs back in the Autumn, you might be seeing them poke through the ground – some may even be in flower by now.  Even if you didn’t plant in advance there are plenty of things available just now in nurseries and garden centres to brighten up an early Spring garden.

If you have empty pots on your patio, why not fill them with some stunning blue Iris reticulata mixed with sunshine yellow Narcissus?  These are in flower just now and you can keep the bulbs to use again next Spring – either in pots or in the ground.

Other attractive-looking bulbous plants include the strappy leaved Muscari and the very delicate looking Fritillaria.

Shady borders can sometimes seem challenging to fill but there are lots of Spring flowers that do well in a shady setting below shrubs.  Hellebores, for example, come in a range of shades from white through to plum.  These can look particularly lovely planted alongside Wood Anemones and spotty-leafed Pulmonaria in a woodland style setting.

Shrubs too can provide interest at this time of year.  Sarcococca confusa has glossy foliage and small highly scented white flowers in Winter and early Spring.  It will grow in most conditions, including shade.  For a sunnier spot, Daphne odora is another evergreen shrub that has delicate scented flowers at this time of year.  Plant it in a sheltered position near a doorway or window to enjoy the fragrance.

My all-time favourite in Spring has to be Hamamellis, or Witch Hazel.  These large deciduous shrubs have scented flowers in Winter and early Spring that look like little starbursts along the branches.  Most are yellow in colour, but there are also varieties with rich orange flowers.

So, whether you are looking for instant colour in pots, or some Spring flowering plants to add to your borders there are plenty to choose from!  If you’d like more advice specific to your garden, please get in touch – jane@artisangardendesign.net

All photos courtesy of www.gardenersworld.com

Why Employ A Garden Designer?

The new year has arrived, and many of us will be planning what changes we’d like to make to our homes in the next 12 months. Maybe you’ve decided that 2020 is the year to tackle the garden – if so, you may well be wondering where to start.

One question you may be asking is who would be best placed to help meet your requirements – a gardener, landscaper or garden designer? In simple terms, a good gardener will be able to overhaul existing plants and will be invaluable in helping keep an established garden looking its best; a good landscaper will be able to lay a new patio for example or build garden features such as walls or pergolas. A professional garden designer will have the knowledge and expertise to look holistically at your garden and help you get the most out of the space, within the available budget.

A garden designer will be able to plan the layout of your garden bringing creativity in terms of where to position paving, decking and garden features. They will be able to help you solve particular problems such as privacy issues, sloping sites, or shady corners. They will also be experienced in selecting plants which achieve the ‘feel’ of garden you are looking for and are appropriate to the local conditions. A good garden designer should also be able to provide you with construction drawings and a specification to enable a landscaper to accurately price and construct the works.

A garden design is effectively a blueprint for your garden – it ensures that, whether you choose to construct the whole garden in one go or in phases, perhaps to suit budget, all areas of the garden will complement each other and fit together as a cohesive space.

Completely revamping your garden can be a big investment – it’s not uncommon to spend a figure of 5-10% of the value of your house on achieving your ideal garden. This might seem a lot but consider how much you might spend on a good quality kitchen, and how much value this adds to your home as well as to your quality of life.

An experienced garden designer will always work with your budget in mind and will be able to suggest cost-effective solutions to meet your requirements. They should be able to provide you with a range of options for materials and planting to fit within your budget.

Once the design is complete, the garden designer should be able to help you source quotes from landscapers to carry out the work. While some designers have one landscaper that they prefer to work with, I advise clients to competitively tender their project to two or three reputable landscapers. This provides the client with peace of mind that they are getting value for money.

Garden design fees vary depending on the complexity of the garden and the services which the client requires but are no doubt a cost that has to be factored into your project budget. However, when balanced against the sometimes costly mistakes of DIY garden projects, it can be a small price to pay to achieve the garden of your dreams.

A professional garden designer will help you maximise the potential of your space and leave you with a garden you will love for years to come.

You will find more details on the garden design process at http://www.artisangardendesign.net/stages-of-the-design-process/

If you would like to have a chat about your garden, please get in touch!

Winter colour in your garden

I was recently invited by Edinburgh-based Interior Designer Emma Hoyle to be a guest writer in her Facebook Group – Stellar Interior Design Edinburgh (check out her page at
https://www.facebook.com/Stellarinteriordesignedinburgh/ ) As we were in the middle of some pretty dreary weather I decided to write some top tips for adding a splash of colour to the garden in Winter:

Winter is definitely here – the Summer flowers have gone, and even the bright Autumn colours are beginning to fade. That doesn’t mean the garden has to look bare and colourless for the next few months.

It’s easy to add Winter interest and instant pops of colour to even the smallest garden through window boxes and pots.

Solanum, Skimmia, Cyclamen and Ivy
Calluna, Cyclamen & Euphorbia

🌀Cyclamen and Winter pansies provide flower interest in shades of purple, pink and white. The cross-looking faces of the pansy flowers always bring a smile to my face!

🌀Solanum and Skimmia have brightly coloured berries, which also provide much needed food for birds. Skimmia varieties such as ‘Fragrans’ have the added bonus of clusters of heady fragranced flowers in Spring

🌀Combine these with bushy evergreen Calluna (heather) or grass-like Carex for added foliage interest.

🌀Plants with variegated foliage such as Ivy or Euonymus are useful additions in a shady spot – the trailing nature of the Ivy provides another dimension to the planting.

🌀To extend the season of interest further, try popping some bulbs into your pots to enjoy once the Winter-flowering perennials have finished. In my mind, you can’t beat snowdrops – that first sign of Spring! Or an array of multi-coloured tulips – from slender, long-stemmed single blooms to frothy-looking fringed varieties, there’s a tulip to suit every taste and garden.

So go on – spend a couple of hours in your garden this weekend and you’ll be reaping the benefits for months to come!