Monday, 23 January 2017

Garden design for a Passivhaus

I was recently asked by Passivhaus architect Mark Stephens to write a guest blog for him about what type of garden is appropriate for a Passivhaus.  Here's a link to my response to that.

Sloping Garden Design Challenges

I specialise in designing sloping gardens, and the are always tough to get right.  The challenges of landscaping a steep garden can be summarised as follows:-

1. How to create flat, usable spaces

This is the trickiest part.  The only way to get flat areas that can be used for seating areas, lawns, garden buildings, etc on a sloping site is to cut into the slope and build a retaining wall to hold back the soil from the higher parts of the garden.


 Sloping garden design Kenley, Surrey

Walls should be no more than 1m high, any higher and you'll need to ask the advice of a structural engineer in order to ensure they will be strong enough.  Ideally, put in more, lower walls and create multiple terraces.


Sloping garden design Reading, Berkshire

Many people make the mistake of taking the highest point of their garden and building out from there, putting in huge raised decks and patios.  This is not only antisocial - it creates a platform from where you can view all your neighbours' gardens - it is also illegal.  There is a piece of planning legislation in the UK that prohibits the raising of the existing ground level by more than 150mm and it was designed to prevent exactly this situation.  Instead, dig into the slope and reduce the ground level to it's lowest point.  This way you and your neighbours will retain privacy when using your gardens.

Sloping front garden design Woking, Surrey
 
2.  How to access all the garden safely

Having created terraced, flat areas you'll need to get to them in order to use and maintain them.  Ramps can be tricky as they should not be too steep and therefore need quite a lot of space to keep the rise over their length to a comfortable incline.  Steps are usually best in a small space, but will make it difficult to get lawnmowers and other heavy garden equipment up and down the garden.  Step risers in a garden should be lower than those inside the house - no more than 150mm high. Step treads should be at least 300mm deep - I always make them deeper. 

 Sloping garden design Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire
 
3.  How to use the garden safely

Railings will be needed to prevent accidents.  A wooden, or metal railing of 1.2m high will prevent people from inadvertently stepping off the terraces or pushing out a chair too far.  Railings can be fixed to the tops of retaining walls or set inside borders adjacent to the walls.

Sloping garden design Binfield, Berkshire
 
4.  How to create borders

It is hard to get larger shrubs and trees to establish and grow well on slopes, so this is another case where flat spaces are required.  In the same way you need terrace for seating areas and lawns held in place by retaining walls, planted borders are much better if they are flat.  Build retaining walls and give your plants a level surface so they can establish without being staked and so that water will stay around their roots rather than running off down the slope.

Sloping garden design Sunningdale, Berkshire
 
5.  Drainage

If you are putting in paving around the house and the slope falls towards the house you'll need to put in some extra drainage to ensure the patio doesn't fill up with water and flood the house.  A simple slot type drain routed into a soakaway is usually sufficient unless you have particular problems with drainage - heavy clay or a high water table, for example.


Sloping garden design Bracknell, Berkshire

6.  Cost

It's pointless to pretend all this excavation and construction of retaining walls doesn't come at a cost.  Building a sloping garden can be very expensive and even in a small garden you'll need to allow upwards of £30,000 just for the hard landscaping.  Many people don't realise how much it costs to get rid of soil and other material that is left over from excavating the bank and digging wall foundations.

 Sloping garden design Guildford, Surrey

However, if you can spend the money you will be left with a spectacular garden that has interest and a wonderful varied journey even in the smallest space.  The level changes add dynamism and drama to the space and also look wonderful when lit up at night.  Improving a sloping garden so that it is useable and beautiful will also add value to your property and make it easier to sell if you decide to move.

If you would like help designing your garden, please drop me an email, or visit my Web site for telephone contact details.  You can also see examples of my work on my Facebook page and Houzz profile.











Thursday, 12 January 2017

Sensory Garden Design for Alzheimers & Dementia Patients



The healing power of gardens is widely acknowledged and providing a sensory/memory garden can really help patients suffering from age-related degenerative disorders.  

Patients with Alzheimers and dementia have very specific needs and a garden needs to be designed that caters very carefully to these requirements.  Alzheimers and dementia sufferers tend to wander and get lost and are easily confused when given too many choices.  Declining mental function causes anxiety and disorientation and in some cases aggressive behavior.  Having access to a garden has been proven to speed up recovery from injury, reduce blood pressure, anxiety, stress, pain and aggression.  

As well as helping reduce the physical symptoms of age-related diseases a garden designed specifically for those with Alzheimers and dementia can help the psychological welfare of patients.  A well designed garden can assist with remembering past experiences and provide subjects for discussion with family and friends.  It can stimulate the brain with refreshing colour, scent and sounds of wildlife. The garden will be a sanctuary, provide space for private reflection, and  allow patients to re-connect with the outside by creating a more normal, familiar environment.

A sensory memory garden for dementia and Alzheimers patients must be safe and easily navigated.  The garden should have only one entrance and exit and be accessible by a level, circular path that allows people to walk around without feeling lost.  There should be covered seating areas as destinations and stopping off points and places for quiet reflection.  



It's important to create shade without dark shadowy areas as these can appear threatening those with age-related degenerative conditions.  Distinctive landmarks like brightly coloured pots, or a summer house, or maybe even a bus stop will help patients orientate themselves in the space, feel safe and reassured.  


 
 Boundaries should be screened so that users feel enclosed and safe as a view of a busy street might be scary and confusing to garden users.   If any residents are more able a vegetable garden or space for keeping chickens can be really beneficial.



 Other features should be included that stimulate memory and conversation and create a feeling familiarity.  These include feeding stations for birds and other wildlife, old telephone boxes or post boxes, and traditional plants like Roses and Lavender.  




The garden should also important to stimulate sensory memory.  A small water feature with a closed water reservoir will give the sound of running water without presenting a safety hazard. 




 Plants should be selected for scent and texture with leaves and flowers that can be touched and picked.  Plants that can be touched should be non-toxic and without sharp spines, or prickles.  Plants should be included that attract birds, insects and other wildlife into the garden. 







  Practical considerations are also important when designing a garden for those with age-related conditions.  All paving should be flat and even so that users with mobility problems can navigate safely – use ramps rather than steps where necessary.  Raised beds make great casual seats and ensure that wheelchair users can see and smell the plants.  



The memory sensory garden should be a rich environment that can be enjoyed throughout the four seasons of the year and needs to be carefully planned to make a person with dementia or Alzheimers feel safe and willing to explore the enclosed world around them.

If you would like help creating a sensory memory garden you can contact me through my Web site.  You can seem more examples of my work on Facebook, Pinterest, and Houzz




Friday, 6 January 2017

Garden Design Ideas

Here are some dramatic before and after shots of garden design projects I've completed in Berkshire, Surrey & Buckinghamshire over the years.

  1. Transformation of a shady family garden in Bracknell, Berkshire

Family Garden Design, Bracknell, Berkshire - Before

 Family Garden Design, Bracknell, Berkshire - After

 2.  Creating a Mediterranean style garden with a courtyard in Windsor, Berkshire:


Mediterranean Garden Design, Windsor, Berkshire - Before
 
 Mediterranean Garden Design, Windsor, Berkshire -After

3.  Updating a large, steep family garden in Kenley, Surrey

Large Family Garden Design, Surrey - Before

 Large Family Garden Design, Surrey -After

4. Creating kerb appeal for this front garden in Woking, Surrey
 Front Garden Design, Woking, Surrey - Before
  Front Garden Design, Woking, Surrey -After

5.  A contemporary update for the sloping garden in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire

 Sloping Garden Design, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire - Before
 Sloping Garden Design, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire -After


Each garden I design is unique and designed to a list of requirements from every client.  No two gardens are the same, but all have my own creative input to ensure quality and attention to detail.  If you are looking for a garden which is special - beautiful, unique and tailored for your specific needs and tastes please get in touch.  Contact details are on my Web site, and you can see more of my work there and on my Facebook page, as well as Pinterest, Houzz and Google+.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Contemporary Garden Design

Contemporary garden design means different things to different people.  But, in my mind it is simple, geometric layouts with clean lines and modern features.  Contemporary gardens do not need to be sterile places covered in concrete with no plants.  They are usually very practical spaces with plenty of outdoor rooms for sitting and enjoying being outdoors.

I have designed many contemporary gardens over the years.  Here are some photographs of some contemporary gardens I have designed.




 Contemporary sloping garden design in Reading, Berkshire.



Contemporary garden design in Silchester, Berkshire

Contemporary garden design in Surbiton, Surrey 


Contemporary garden design in Bracknell, Berkshire

 Each garden I design is unique and designed to a list of requirements from every client.  No two gardens are the same, but all have my own creative input to ensure quality and attention to detail.  If you are looking for a garden which is special - beautiful, unique and tailored for your specific needs and tastes please get in touch.  Contact details are on my Web site, and you can see more of my work there and on my Facebook page, as well as Pinterest, Houzz and Google+.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Garden Design - Crowthorne, Berkshire

This a modern bunglalow in Crowthorne, Berkshire is set into a plot on a steep slope.  The garden is an L-shape and was crowded with overgrown conifers, had dated landscaping and there was hardly anywhere to sit outside and enjoy the space.  The garden was difficult to navigate and desperately in need of an update.

The brief was to create a contemporary space with outdoor rooms where the clients could relax and entertain their friends and family.  The existing garage was to be kept, but screened (it's not the most beautiful thing), and a new driveway created at the front of the property.

The new design includes a retaining wall along the boundary with the garage that lowers the garden enabling multiple flat, easily accessible areas to be created.  This boundary is also screened with single rail pergolas infilled with slatted/baton screens.




Sloping Garden Design, Crowthorne, Berkshire - Before (Side View)




Sloping Garden Design, Crowthorne, Berkshire - After 



There are now three rooms.  The first is a large paved terrace with a fireplace table and built-in bench seating.  This terrace is accessed by two wide shallow steps and has space for a barbeque, table and chairs, and loungers as well as the built-in benches.


 Sloping Garden Design, Crowthorne, Berkshire - Terrace Before

 

Sloping Garden Design, Crowthorne, Berkshire - Terrace After

 There are two steps through archway from the raised terrace down into a lawned area with perennial borders.  Two more steps lead down into a smaller paved seating area that catches the evening sun.  This area is covered with a pergola and surrounded by mixed planting and has plenty of room for some outdoor sofas.


Sloping Garden Design, Crowthorne, Berkshire - Before (Side View)




 Sloping Garden Design, Crowthorne, Berkshire - After


 There is a new front entrance with plenty of space to park at least two large cars.  The front of the house is separated from the side and rear gardens by single rail pergolas with baton screens which block the view of the rest of the garden from the road and provide security.  the driveway is paved with stabilised gravel and has plenty of planting soften the boundaries.


  Sloping Garden Design, Crowthorne, Berkshire (Front View) - Before




Sloping Garden Design, Crowthorne, Berkshire (Front View) - After

The new garden is a practical, attractive space that gives the clients much more space to enjoy being outside without making huge demands on their time for maintenance.


 

 Sloping Garden Design, Crowthorne, Berkshire (SideView) - Before



 Sloping Garden Design, Crowthorne, Berkshire (Side Garden Screens) - After

If you would like help designing your garden, please drop me an email, or visit my Web site for telephone contact details.  You can also see examples of my work on my Facebook page and Houzz profile.



Saturday, 29 October 2016

Plants for Autumn Colour in the Garden



This season of mists and mellow fruitfulness can be a bit damp and dreary, but its saving grace is a flurry of spectacular leaf colour as trees get ready to shed their leaves for winter.  Here are some of my suggestions for creating a fiery farewell to your summer garden

Most Acers have great autumn foliage colours, but I love watching plain green Acer palmatum dissectum light up in the latter part of the year. 


Euonymus alatus is a wonderful shrub with a layered outline and interesting stems with lateral projections.  It really comes into its own with spectacular fiery autumn foliage earning it the common name of ‘Burning Bush’.  It also has lovely, delicate fruits that the birds feed on through the winter.


Callicarpa bodinerii is notable not for its colourful foliage, but for the clumps of gorgeous bright violet fruits that decorate its bare stems throughout the winter.


Cornus kousa is a fantastic tree for many reasons, not least of which is its deep burgundy red autumn colour. 

Rhus typhina is not a fashionable plant, but you can’t beat it for gorgeous flaming autumn tints.


Ginkgo biloba is a wonderful tree and its lemon yellow autumn foliage is unique and extremely impactful.  If you have the space it’s a must.




Parrotia persica is another spectacular tree with pinkish red flowers on bare stems in late winter/early spring, then lush green leaves throughout the summer that turn yellow, red, orange and purple in the autumn it's a real star. 



Liquidambar styraciflua is a fabulous tree with cork like bark and leaves rather like a maple.  It is renowned for it's deliciously coloured autumn foliage. 



If you would like help designing your garden, please drop me an email, or visit my Web site for telephone contact details.  You can also see examples of my work on my Facebook page and Houzz profile.