Welcome to our Blog. Inspiration, updates and industry trends from the team at Landscaping Solutions.
If you’re motivated to make a difference to biodiversity or simply wish to while away the day watching wildlife then you need a pond in your garden.
A professional garden or landscape designer will know where best to place a pond in your garden.
Here’s how to make it happen;
Take time to select an experienced professional to work with. A garden or landscape designer with a passion for creating naturalistic spaces will know how to attract wildlife to the garden and have an instinctive understanding of where best place to place the pond. This might be a natural dip in the lay of the land or an open area away from overhanging trees, preferably in a sunny spot as most insect and plant life thrives in warm, shallow and sunlit conditions. However, we ensure there’s at least two to three feet of depth at some point so hibernating frogs have a place to overwinter. Pond sides should gently slope to the depths to provide trouble-free wildlife access so we always create a shallow ‘beach’ area at one end.
A shallow beach area at one end of the pond provides trouble-free access for wildlife.
A clever designer will plan to save and reuse as much excavated material as possible during the build process. Fertile topsoil can be used to create borders or banks elsewhere in the garden and less fertile sub-soil can be used as growing media in the pond.
Then it’s time to get creative with the planting. Our planting schemes utilise oxygenators such as Hornwort, Water Crowfoot or Spiked Milfoil along with some floating species such as Frogbit, Fringed Water Lilly and Water Soldier. A smattering of emergent species and marginal plants such Amphibious Bistort, Brooklime, Water Avens, Purple Loosestrife, Marsh Marigold, Water Mint and Hard and Soft Rush can be planted directly in to the soil layer in and around the pond.
Boulders and deadwood are great for providing a hiding place for amphibians.
To make the pond more naturalistic we add boulders, stumps, deadwood, bark and branches to provide hiding places for amphibians and perches for birds and dragonflies. Now it’s time to sit back to see what comes in. It won’t be long before beetles, backswimmers, water boatmen and pond-skaters start to arrive. Snails won’t be far behind followed by frogs, toads and newts once the vegetation establishes. Within a year or so you’ll have a fully functioning ecosystem helping to redress the balance of habitat loss in the wider countryside and a constant source of enjoyment and learning.
In late 2019 we collaborated with Jilayne Rickards on a small urban garden she designed for a great client in North London. Jilayne christened the scheme ‘The Urban Retreat’.
The Urban Retreat in North London, designed by Jilayne Rickards and built by Landscaping Solutions.
Jilayne’s vision was for the garden to be both beautiful and sustainable. In December last year we discovered the garden had picked up four British Association of Landscape Industries awards. The most satisfying of these for us was the award for best use of recycled and reclaimed materials. The recognition this garden received from BALI and the interest and acclaim it has garnered from the wider public offers hope for what we call ‘The sustainable aesthetic’. The more media coverage gardens of this type obtain the more they will come to be considered desirable by the general public and the more likely their guiding ethos will become mainstream thought.
Reclaimed Douglas Fir decking, one of the many recycled and reclaimed materials used throughout the garden.
What is the ethos of the sustainable aesthetic and why is it important? The sustainable garden weathers well in the British climate, blends in with its surroundings, accommodates and encourages interaction with wildlife and does not damage the environment in its creation. It follows a number of principles;
Protect and nurture the holy trinity of soil, plants and insects. Do this and good things will follow. In ‘The Urban Retreat’ all soil was kept on site.
Reduce waste. In this garden all existing pots and planters were recycled along with the brick work. Paving sub-base materials were re-used where appropriate or sent for off-site recycling with any green waste produced. Energetic waste can also be reduced by designing closed systems and features that have multiple benefits. For example, planting Comfrey for its aesthetic appeal, ability to attract and feed insects, provision of composting material and medicinal applications.
We can further reduce waste by working with the existing lay of the land, soil type, microclimate, ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ vernacular, moisture levels, ‘habitat’ type, etc. The existing garden had a woodland edge feel and Jilayne used this to inform her plant choices. Woodland edge gardens are cooling and relaxing in the heat of a city summer.
Existing pots and planters were recycled and wildlife friendly planting was retained.
Useful, wildlife friendly planting was retained and any unwanted plants were donated to other gardeners. A mature Elder was a prominent existing feature. What plant can better connect us to the environment and other lifeforms? In winter it looks a wreck and we wonder will it manage to limp on through to spring? But what a change once the sap starts to rise. The leaves come on early, connecting us to the cycle of re-birth out of decay. The summer flowers are an insect magnet and can be made in to refreshing drinks. The autumn berries feed birds and small mammals whilst boosting our immune systems through winter when processed in to medicinal food and drink. Dried out Elder canes are also the best material for the hand drill-one of the first ways our ancestors kindled fire. Try it yourself to fully appreciate their achievements! Plants of this kind re-connect us with our history and birthright and, in doing so, help dispel the illusion that we are somehow ‘outside’ of nature. Through constant exposure to the damaging aspects of our existence we have grown to believe degradation is our hallmark. Gardens are the one of the arenas in which we can reassert the positive elements of human intervention and perhaps see our purpose on this planet.
Specify plants and hardscape that don’t need mollycoddling. Opt for resilient plants and stone and timber types that don’t need constant sealing or cleaning. Reclaimed materials achieve this end and also tick the sustainability box- they have not been newly created and therefore no further finite resources have been consumed. In terms of timber, we used reclaimed Douglas Fir decking and shelving and reclaimed Oak for the seating block/retaining wall in this garden. Reclaimed slate and granite was used for the paving. Jilayne and the client went shopping in local markets for the second hand furniture, fixtures and fittings. All the reclaimed materials were of British provenance. When reclaimed wood cannot be used specify locally sourced FSC-certified timber from trusted suppliers.
Reclaimed timber, slate and granite were used throughout the garden as well as second hand furniture, fixtures and fittings.
Permeable surfaces allow rain water to percolate back in to the ground and to that end gravel was used extensively in this garden. More generally, look to make surfaces more porous with the aim of increasing biodiversity. Block and brick retaining walls could be replaced with gabions which allow unwanted existing materials such as paving and walling to be used as in-fill.
Sustainable gardens aim to be as ‘soft’ as possible. Planting should be diverse, successional and nectar-rich. Utilise a range of trees, shrubs, climbers, grasses and bulbs to provide food and shelter for wildlife. Don’t forget; attractiveness to humans is of equal importance if the garden is to be considered a success by the client!
Go easy on garden lighting and chemical weed and pest control. Neither were used in this scheme.
However, the garden wasn’t a perfect example of sustainability. There were a number of areas where our activities were damaging;
- Cement and adhesives were used. Both material have a high environmental impact.
- Fossil fuels were consumed and pollutants produced in travelling to and from site.
- Space restrictions dictated all deliveries were bagged. To reduce waste specify loose deliveries wherever possible.
- Gravel extraction degrades wildlife habitat.
How can we improve? At Landscaping Solutions we are committed to continual professional development through seminars, courses, workshops and personal study. Integration of environmental assessments to our CDM process helps us think about how we can reduce our impact and guides our landscape design decisions and installation techniques. This is a great tool but can only take us so far due to the fact that much of the raw information is based on intuition. There is a need to develop an industry accepted framework to help us better understand the relative impact of various materials and practices. For instance, we might assume artificial turf to be more impactful than paving but in some instances artificial turf allows the ground to ‘breath’ more than paving. Leave artificial turf to its own devices and it develops into ‘habitat’ much quicker than paving, rapidly hosting an array of plant and invertebrate life. However, can it be recycled satisfactorily? And which of these is most environmentally impactful; quarried British Yorkstone or Italian porcelain? What about quarried Indian sandstone v Italian porcelain? Or Indian sandstone v Indian porcelain. Yorkstone v Portland Stone? Portland stone from open cast extraction v undersea deposits? These are complicated questions.
Regular brainstorming sessions helped guide our design decisions and installation techniques.
Responsive clients might be encouraged to engage with food production be it wild or cultivated and on whatever scale possible. This takes the pressure off the industrial agricultural system, promotes personal resilience, self-sufficiency, understanding of our role in the ecosystem, empathy with other life forms and mental and physical health. Studies have shown low-input vegetable and fruit allotments to be the most biodiverse land use in the country. They can be further improved by providing a body of water and adding on-site composting facilities.
One last piece of advice; don’t forget to have fun!
At Landscaping Solutions we’d like to assure you of the measures we have put in place to protect our clients and our staff during the Covid-19 outbreak.
“Landscaping and building work is still permitted, and obviously staff are unable to work from home, so our policy is to continue with business as usual but working closely to the following guidelines,” says Ben West.
If you’re one of our regular maintenance clients, you’ll already have received an email outlining the procedures we have in place to protect you and our staff. If you’re worried about any aspect at all, please give us a ring or email us and we’ll talk it through with you. We will, in any case, be in contact before our arrival at your home.
We work with a number of award-winning garden designers in Surrey and South West London and now is an excellent time for your clients to think about what changes would allow them to enjoy their garden all the more.
If you’re a homeowner, this period of enforced staying at home is an opportunity to really appreciate the garden and consider those changes you’ve wanted to make for so long.
We’re happy to advise over the phone or on a site visit (adhering to our new modus operandi outlined above), whether you would prefer to defer work to a later date or get a beautiful new garden to enjoy before the arrival of full summer.
Contact Ben to discuss.
The design by Cassandra Crouch meant that the garden and house felt right together.
At Landscaping Solutions we work with some of the leading garden designers in the UK. We regard our role as providing a safe pair of hands when it comes to delivering the design, taking worry off the shoulders of both garden designer and householder. This is exactly what we did for Cassandra Crouch with this beautiful space on the edge of Richmond Park, South West London.
BALI award-winning garden, in South West London, designed by Cassandra Crouch.
Typical of family gardens, this one had a wide-ranging brief. It needed areas for:
And while the clients were not particularly keen on gardening, they did want a variety of heights and textures in the planting to create year-round interest.
The house has a rectilinear, minimalist feel, and Cassandra’s design gives it a strong sense of place with the use and overlap of strong squares and rectangles in the design - even the trampoline is square. Cassandra’s Crouch’s design marries the garden to the building, creating a relaxing space that feels right at home.
Beams made by Leighton Ironcraft support a hanging seat that offers a contrasting shape to the lines and rectangles.
Generous beams support the hanging seat; grassed and paved areas have straight edges and ninety-degree angles on their corners; the fireplace feature and barbecue are strongly rectangular.
A design like this needs a highly accurate finish - imperfections in angles and straight lines are immediately visible. At the same time, the variety of materials requires skill and experience to integrate them seamlessly, as well as very careful attention to detail to ensure that levels match and surfaces move smoothly from one texture to another.
We pride ourselves at Landscaping Solutions on creating a luxury finish. “They are passionate about construction,” says Cassandra, “and strive to achieve very high standards.”
Sawn Grey Yorkstone and Smoked Oak Millboard combine textures in this garden designed by Cassandra Crouch in South West London.
High-quality materials completed the sense of luxury. The patio uses Sawn Grey Yorkstone (supplied by London Stone) which tones beautifully with Millboard’s Enhanced Grain Smoked Oak composite decking, laid at the access to the house and around the gym/studio, while adding contrasting texture.
This was a garden design that required a wide range of landscaping skills. As well as laying different materials and recycling existing paving to allow access to a storage area hidden behind the gym, we installed textured tile cladding and stainless steel beading to the fireplace, put in the barbecue and then rendered and painted its housing to tone with the overall colour scheme. Light-coloured aggregate around paving stones was retained in a stabilising system to prevent gravel migrating to beds and paving and to make a stable surface to walk on.
Round box balls, uplit at night, add contrasting shape and texture in a garden which the owners wanted to be easy to look after.
Lighting, which picks out shape and texture at night and focuses on the barbecue and seating area for extended evening use, was installed by Electrosafe Landscape Lighting Ltd, overseen by us at Landscaping Solutions. The drip-irrigation system, which we installed, will reduce work in the garden and ensure the survival of plants while the home-owner is on holiday.
So far, so normal for our teams at Landscaping Solutions. However, this build introduced an interesting additional element - badgers in a neighbouring garden.
Badgers are protected by law, as are their setts, and if works needs to be done in their vicinity, a licence is required from Natural England.
Landscaping Solutions happily shouldered the responsibility of ensuring everything was done as it should be. Natural England required the installation of night cameras to monitor sett entrances for two weeks. With no badger activity recorded, work could progress.
“I was really pleased to have had the challenge,” says Landscaping Solutions’ Ben West. “It means we learned best practice for the situation and allowed me to get up close and personal with one of my favourite British mammals. I’ve been badger-watching since I was a young lad so it was second nature for me to want to do the best by the badgers.”
Textured tiles clad the outdoor fireplace with stainless steel beading to finish the edges.
In the meantime we shifted our schedule to make progress in other areas of the garden, away from the badger area. Good communication with garden designer Cassandra Crouch and the homeowners meant we could be flexible in our approach and work out an efficient reorganisation of the sequence of jobs required.
We completed the build in a couple of months, in June 2016. It went on to win us our fourth BALI award, and our second Principal Award, this time in the category of Domestic Garden Construction (£60K-£100K).
“The team are professional and pleasant to work with,” said Cassandra. “Both the client and myself are extremely happy with the result. I would not hesitate to recommend them to clients in the future.”
See our other award-winning gardens.
Contact Ben West to find out how we can help you create a luxury garden to the highest standards for your clients. If you’re a home-owner looking to enhance your living space, we can refer you to talented garden designers. Just get in touch to discuss.