THE LANDSCAPING SOLUTIONS BLOG


Welcome to our Blog. Inspiration, updates and industry trends from the team at Landscaping Solutions.

NATURE-FRIENDLY GARDEN DESIGN A SPECIALITY

Do you secretly long for a more Nature-friendly garden but fear the work involved? If you’re a garden designer, do you struggle to inject Nature-friendly elements into a brief because of clients fear it will result in an unwelcome workload?

Easy care shrubs and perennials, Daphneand and the Hellebores.

A low-maintenance corner of easy-care shrubs and perennials like the scented daphne (in background) and the hellebores in the foreground offer sustenance to insects early in the year. (Picture: Helen Gazeley)

Gardens are many things: a place to relax, to entertain, a play area for the kids, a haven, perhaps just somewhere for the cats to laze in the sun. Whatever it is, it certainly shouldn’t be a burden.

A garden is also where the natural world comes closest to our lives.

If we allow it to.

Garden-design briefs often veer towards pushing Nature away. Even as the merits of trees and plants in controlling pollution and producing cooling effects, the advantages of wildlife corridors across cities, and the physical and mental health benefits of looking out at a natural scene are increasingly understood and extolled, we lay more artificial grass, cut down trees, and even pave over entire gardens, generally in the interests of Low Maintenance.

Mea culpa!

The Outdoor Room

In part, it is the landscaping industry’s fault. We have spent the last two decades, since Groundforce took TV viewers by storm in the 1990s, describing the garden as an outdoor room, making it out to be an extension of our living space. And while we can certainly extend our day-to-day living into the garden, it is most certainly not a room.

What has been the effect of calling a garden an outdoor room? We suggest that it’s subtly altered expectations, and had a major impact on the look of gardens over the subsequent decades. If the garden is another room, it should look pretty much the same all year round and, if it’s a room, then all it needs is a quick dust, Hoover and tidy-up every so often, just like the lounge indoors.

In many ways this is ideal. Low maintenance is understandably one of the most frequent demands for a garden design, with mowing, weeding, leaf-blowing and pruning kept to an absolute minimum.

But what is missing?

Benefits of a Nature-friendly garden

A Bee on a single flower.

A single flower gives bees the chance to collect pollen where double flower sometimes don't. (Picture: Helen Gazeley)

A nature challenge run by The Wildlife Trusts in 2015 asked participants to do one “wild” activity every day for a month. Participants reported at intervals on how they felt. It turned out that even simple activities like feeding the birds and planting bee-friendly flowers made a difference, with an increase of 30% in participants reporting themselves in excellent health at the end of the challenge.

Other research has demonstrated how a view of nature reduces the need for pain-killers, aids healing, rests the mind and reduces negative emotions.

Children gain enormously from interaction with the natural world. In fact, research into human development portrays childhood as a time when we particularly want to explore it.

And none of the above is possible without the building blocks of a Nature-friendly garden that will attract the wildlife to give you the restorative and stimulating environment that will make a haven for you and a playground for your children.

The landscaping industry’s role?

At Landscaping Solutions we believe that we all have a responsibility towards Nature.

We feel privileged to be part of an industry which is uniquely placed as a bridge between the needs of our clients and the natural world. We can distance people from Nature, or we can create a manageable environment which harmonises with Nature.

If we look after it, it will repay us, with all the benefits listed above.

Client-friendly AND Nature-friendly

Garden Design, A mix of summer shrubs.

A mix of summer shrubs and self-seeders creates a nectar-rich corner. (Picture: Helen Gazeley)

What does this mean for your garden or, as a designer, your clients’ garden? At Landscaping Solutions, we’re not advocating creating a wilderness outside the back door. We have built award-winning gardens that major on high-quality hard landscaping, with very formal designs and minimalist planting. We’re not going to preach about what should and should be in your or your clients’ garden. However, we choose our materials and plants mindfully.

And this is where we can help. Most garden-design briefs allow plenty of room for Nature-friendly elements. They may not be things that you immediately associate with a low-maintenance garden but, if properly installed, they require little attention while enhancing the design, bringing the pleasures of Nature closer to your window, and making a more sustainable design for local flora and fauna.

Here at Landscaping Solutions we have an excellent understanding of how to introduce tiny differences with a big impact, adding a Natural element and yet give you a living space that you can use as part of your daily life and not slave over.

Ivy fruit

Ivy makes an ideal, easy-to-trim fedge (mix of hedge and fence) and strikingly structural fruit which feeds thrushes in winter. (Picture: Helen Gazeley.)

From choice of productive shrubs, trees and nectar-rich flowering plants that will attract and feed wildlife, choice of grasses and wildflowers for the lawn and minimum grass-cutting regimes, to the installation of safe ponds and small areas of locally appropriate habitat, we have plenty of tools in our toolbox to create a design that will give you an interesting, sustainable garden throughout the year.

We work sympathetically with designers who want to expand the Nature-friendly extent of designs. We can also provide a garden design service. Alternatively, if you would like to make some changes, however small, to your existing garden with a view to supporting wildlife and are wondering what you could reasonably do, we’re happy to advise.

For more information or an informal chat about options, contact Ben West.

STOP PRESS:

At Futurescape on 19th November, Landscaping Solutions’ Ben West will be taking part in the Summit at the end of the day.

A leading industry event, taking place at Sandown Park Racecourse, Surrey, Futurescape brings designers, landscapers and contractors together from all over the UK, creating a stimulating platform for industry debate. Ben will be asking exactly what are our responsibilities as an industry in creating outdoor spaces, and how can we reasonably fulfil them?

​GARDEN DESIGNER PAMELA JOHNSON

Here at Landscaping Solutions, we’ve got to know some of the garden designers we work with pretty well.

Completed garden in Hampton, Surrey, designed by Pam Johnson

A garden in Hampton, Surrey, designed by Pam Johnson. She describes her designs as having become increasingly “planty” over the years.

One of the great pleasures of working with the same person on a variety of projects over the years is becoming familiar with another’s working practices so you virtually start from where you left off when the next garden design brings an opportunity to team up again.

“It’s the team you end up working with that’s critical,” says Pamela Johnson. Pam’s had twenty-five years’ experience in the business, training at the College of Garden Design when it wasn’t so much a growing profession, as she says, but a very small growing hobby. Things have certainly changed in a quarter of a century.

Landscaping Solutions ground preparation, Surrey

For Pam, there’s no substitute for good ground preparation. “If it’s not done properly, it’s hard to get a garden working when it all starts growing.”

Since she started, Pam has designed many gardens in and around London, but has now moved to Dorset. “I had enough of tiny London gardens and the logistics,” she says; if you’ve any experience of the problems of parking, access and spoil removal in Central London, you can probably sympathise.

While she was here, though, the result was some truly gorgeous gardens, of which we’ve been lucky enough to build a large number. Building relationships with designers is equally precious to us. “Ben’s very good with clients and good at running a team, which is critical,” says Pam, “but the next person who’s very important is the foreman.”

A Landscaping Solutions garden in Hampton, Surrey, designed by Pam Johnson

Another view of Pam Johnson’s design for a garden in Hampton, Surrey.

The foreman is the one who heads up the team on site, keeps things running smoothly, liaises with the client and keeps the designer informed on a day-to-day basis.

“As a designer,” adds Pam, “that’s the person you work with most.” Here at Landscaping Solutions we have three permanent teams and the foreman of each stays with a project from start to finish. “That’s critical, too,” adds Pam. “If a foreman has a good sense of design themselves, and an understanding of your design, is good with the client and understands your relationship with the client, then it’s good combination. If you’ve not got any of that, then it’s a nightmare. Tom, whom I worked with, is delightful, very talented.”

Beautifully balanced garden design

A beautifully balanced design which won a BALI award for a Surrey garden.

Pam approaches a garden very much from the point of view of the client. “I interpret within their means, manage their expectations. You don’t want something inappropriate to the circumstances. If I was to design something that I wanted, it wouldn’t fit the brief.” At the forefront is always the understanding that, as she says, “It’s not my garden, it’s the client’s garden. And it’s important for the landscaper to respect that too.”

There’s quite a skill to marrying up expectations with circumstance to create a happy solution. Some clients came to Pam because they loved the look of her own garden. “Aspirations can be tricky,” she says. “Unless you were a really good gardener, you wouldn’t be able to achieve that.”

Now in Dorset, Pam is taking a break from designing and, instead, is concentrating on working on the blank canvas of her new garden, currently mostly gravel. “It needs proper structure,” she explains, and she plans to do things gradually, seeing how they develop. “I’m doing it very slowly, rather than all at once. ‘Slow gardening’,” she laughs.

Landscaping Solutions, BALI award winning garden, Surrey.

Pam used a sinuous path to echo the border of the pond in this BALI award-winning Surrey garden.

Starting when garden design was so young an occupation, Pam spent many years as a member of the Society of Garden Designers, which has presided over an improvement in working practices within the profession. “The SGD has set out quite rigid guidelines about how to conduct business, making sure everything’s done properly and professionally.”

This has turned out to be to everyone’s advantage, from the client, who knows that sensible quotations have been obtained, to the landscaper, who gets as full a brief as possible from the start. “The guidelines inform the way you deal with contractors,” explains Pam, “so you get comparable quotes for a specification. If all contractors quote for slightly different things, that means nothing.” As a client, it’s vital that your designer understands how to specify and get quotes. “There’s always an anomaly,” adds Pam, “but that’s the designer’s problem to work out.”

As anyone who’s had a garden designed and built knows, “something unseen”, as Pam puts it, is likely to crop up. If a problem occurs, it’s usually the site conditions at the centre of it. “The weather,” explains Pam, “or something buried, or a neighbour who complains.

“A landscaper can be instrumental in working something out,” she adds. “You need someone with good people skills. Ben will have a talk with a difficult neighbour and then say, ‘We had a problem, but we’ve sorted it.’ It’s great when someone does that.”

Garden design by Pamela Johnson

It’s important that a garden matches the needs of its owner.

Not only that, but we understand that the project we’re working on won’t be the only iron you, as a designer, have in the fire. “If you want him to, Ben’s very good at stepping in and dealing with stuff that would have been the designer’s job if, for whatever reason, the designer can’t do it,” adds Pam.

The better a designer and landscaper get to know each other and the way they work best, the easier it is to liaise and anticipate any difficulties in a build. That’s why we believe in the importance of getting to know how the designers we work with like to do things and in building up a relationship. We’re proud also to have contributed to the success of a number of award-winning gardens in London and the South-East.

Pam will eventually open her new garden for the NGS, but it won’t be very soon. In the meantime, however, keep an eye out for a blog about her new garden and courses on gardening. We’ll give you a shout on our social media when they start.

“Designing gardens is a delight,” says Pam. We couldn’t agree more!

If you’d like a chat about how Landscaping Solutions can help you achieve the design you want, then give Ben West a ring on 0208 2412402 or email info@landscapingsolutions.co.uk

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