Welcome to our Blog. Inspiration, updates and industry trends from the team at Landscaping Solutions.
Landscaping Solutions MD Ben West explains why we need to get back in touch with nature and that compromise is key.
In last months article I focused mainly on the theoretical and practical problems we face in our relationship with the environment. If we are to continue to pursue the goal of ‘economic growth’, this term must come to mean something very different than hitherto. Going forward, all our actions must be scrutinised through the lens of sustainability or regeneration. Our current nescience in this area stems from our conceptual disconnect from nature. I stress ‘conceptual’ because it is all in the mind; literal disconnect from nature is impossible, for what are we but natural through and through? We have lost sight of this truth and therein lies the problem.
Lifestyles and schooling have blinded us to nature and our place in it. Worse still, many of us are filled with fear of plants, insects, fungi and the landscapes they inhabit. Those blind to nature have no incentive to love and nurture it. When we fall out of love, indifference and neglect set in. When we fall out of love with nature, we neglect ourselves.
COVID-19 can rekindle the flame. Nature is courting us again. She has asked us to slow down so that we might renew our acquaintance. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and there’s blossom on the vine. She is giving us another chance to remember who she is and how good we are together. Maybe we could give it another shot? Let’s allow ourselves to fall under her spell once more. Let’s reaffirm our vows, and this time, let’s honour them. We would do well to remember that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. If we fall back into our gallivanting, will her benevolence endure?
Successful relationships are built on compromise. For this relationship to be more than just a fleeting affair we need to meet her halfway. We need to surrender the conceit of the world as dead matter at our disposal and dismantle our dominator culture in order to learn lessons from life forms far older than us that have evolved to live harmoniously with nature; plants, for instance. They can be the great levellers. Let them be our teachers and the garden our classroom - or more appropriately our forum, for this is a conversation, an exchange of ideas amongst equals.
All gardens have something in common whether we like it or not - weeds. I’ve written previously of the biodiversity benefits of allowing weeds to grow. What if I told you consuming weeds can also help us remember who we are? As I write I see before me a host of garden weeds; dandelion, herb robert, nipplewort, plantain, sow thistle, sorrel, ramsons, goosefoot, cleavers, bittercress, burdock. I could go on. All have long nourished and healed us. The rediscovery of a forgotten world of varied flavours and textures, a world beyond the restricted palette of supermarket fruit and veg, is liberating and empowering. It’s also an act of defiance; we are connected once more to our ancestry and environment on a visceral level. Food and medicine are not only found upon shelves, they are products of the feral earth. The health benefits are myriad, both in the inherent nutritional value of the wild foodstuffs and the healing communion with nature. Thousands of years of evolution cannot be quashed in a handful of generations. This stuff is deep within us. Most describe this kind of reconnection as a ‘coming home’.
Weeds in ‘wild’ gardens expose us to a more intimate, egalitarian, interconnected understanding of nature, and thereby of ourselves. A great deal is at stake if we do not regain our capacity to converse with her. Small steps shall set us on our way.
Landscaping Solutions team of talented garden designers and craftspeople are passionate about creating and managing ecological, sustainable and resilient gardens fit for the 21st century. Get in touch to get the ball rolling on your project in 2021.
Ben West, Landscaping Solutions.
Garden designers and landscapers are in a unique position. We not only build gardens but bring an enormous pool of knowledge that influences the materials used, the plants chosen…and the wildlife that will visit them.
We’ll all take our own lessons from these lockdown weeks, but one of the precious things that they’ve given, rather than taken away from us, is time to think, to reassess and to create intent.
One of the most prevalent shared experiences of these weeks seems to be a greater appreciation of Nature, of its therapeutic value and how much we miss it when we cannot access it. Birdsong has become more noticeable, the air clearer. Butterflies seem more plentiful in the gorgeous weather.
Here in South West London, I’d venture that the leaves look a brighter green because of the lack of pollution.
Last year, the summit meeting at Futurescape concentrated on how the landscape industry might address climate change and I was on the podium as part of the discussion panel. When I looked around the meeting room, I saw impassioned and informed individuals seeking unity on the subject and itching for more progress within the industry.
It’s a matter that has been close to my heart for a long time. At Landscaping Solutions we began to increase the sustainability of the business some time ago. Seemingly small actions mount up to a much larger overall impact. But we believe there needs to be a more unified approach across the landscaping world.
Sustainability begins at ground level, before a spade is lifted. Putting it at the very beginning of a garden design project opens the opportunity for dialogue-rather than deciding on a material and us looking for a way to increase its sustainability through the supply chain or installation methods, it offers the chance to discuss materials and methods that the home-owner might not know to specify but which fulfil the brief.
Regenerative designs-those which add to the environment, rather than take away-are far more realistic, achievable and cost-effective for the average garden-owner than the slightly sterile designs that are so often to the fore in show gardens and which have such influence. We hope that trend-setters in the landscaping industry will push hard to move away from the unsustainable schemes that have been in vogue for so long.
This is an exciting time, full of hope. The Futurescape event made clear the hunger that members of the industry have for a different approach. There are designers around the country who put deep thought into how to make projects more sustainable, whether finding required stone onsite, using suppliers who propagate plants using peat-free compost, getting rid of waste products on Freecycle instead of sending them to the tip. There are many small steps that incrementally make a big difference, especially across an entire industry.
Here at Landscaping Solutions, we’re in the process of adding to our sustainability measures. Already, in sharing our knowledge of how to make gardens more attractive to wildlife, even with very small, easy-to-manage additions, we encourage garden-owners to widen the possibilities and create habitat that will sustain insect-life and the birds that feed on them.
For the future, we are looking to integrate an ecological assessment for each design and build. We’re examining ways to make the business zero-carbon or, at least, carbon neutral. We’re looking into the opportunities afforded by permaculture design. Can we create a suppliers’ carbon register, letting us align ourselves with suppliers with a good environmental approach? The possibilities are much wider than might immediately appear and many more ideas are under consideration.
What this means to home-owners is that they will know that their garden is not only contributing to the well-being of wildlife, giving their outdoor space an additional element to enjoy, but has made the least impact possible during its creation. It doesn’t have to mean a high-maintenance garden: minimising the necessity for power-driven maintenance tools is also a factor in the sustainable garden design.
For garden designers interested in working this way, Landscaping Solutions offers a sympathetic, enthusiastic partnership: solving problems, sharing knowledge, co-operating on plants and materials in a shared ethos, with no loss of quality or attention to detail in the build itself.
These lockdown weeks have given much food for thought to everyone, about our own lives, our working practices, the importance of personal contact, community and friends. In the context of gardens, they’ve shown us just how much we need a natural environment to recharge our batteries, to enjoy better health, to find serenity.
Now is the time to plan to act on this understanding. At Landscaping Solutions, we build award-winning gardens. We also want to build a better environment for us and our children.
We look forward to the exciting opportunities afforded by working with like-minded designers and suppliers. If you’d like to discuss the opportunities for your garden design, contact us at Landscaping Solutions now.
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.