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?

​RHS CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW - USEFUL GARDENS OR MERELY THEATRE?

One of the smallest services performed by us this month was actually one of the most enjoyable. After all, even the smallest job takes on a certain cachet, when it entails visiting RHS Chelsea.

RHS Chelsea CAMFED Garden Designed By Jilayne Rickards.

The CAMFED Garden designed by Jilayne Rickards, bringing Zimbabwe to Chelsea. Photo credit: Helen Gazeley.

Attention to detail is an aspect of the job that we take really seriously at Landscaping Solutions, and if there’s one place you’ll find it in spades, it’s Chelsea Flower Show.

Jilayne Rickards, for whom we were delivering materials to add some finishing touches to what was her first Chelsea show garden, designed the CAMFED Garden - promoting “Giving Girls in Africa a Space to Grow”, an initiative by the Campaign for Female Education. Intended to bring rural Africa to central London, it incorporated an open-air classroom to underline CAMFED’s commitment to education. Made using the same techniques employed in Zimbabwe, it has a completely authentic air.

Mark Gregory’s Welcome To Yorkshire Garden, RHS Chelsea 2019.

Mark Gregory’s Welcome to Yorkshire garden at RHS Chelsea 2019. Photo credit: Helen Gazeley.

Further down Main Avenue, Mark Gregory created his second show garden for Welcome to Yorkshire. Last year, his Gold-winning design recreated a hillside complete with stone bothy and trickling beck. This year a canal scene incorporated two full-size sets of genuine lock gates, towpath and, behind the scenes, fifteen different pumps creating the water effect.

Dramatic, certainly, and Mark’s in particular generated a huge amount of media interest…but are they gardens? It’s a question that raises its head every year. After all, is anyone coming to the show really going to go home determined to put a Yorkshire waterway in the back garden, any more than they’ll want to install an African classroom?

Thinking like this misses the point. It’s easy to argue that there’s little for the public to take away from the Show Gardens and the RHS seem to have taken that on board with their introduction of Space to Grow gardens, a category which replaced the controversially contemporary Fresh Gardens last year.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019, CAMFED Garden.

Details make the picture in Jilayne Rickard’s CAMFED Garden for RHS Chelsea Flower Show, 2019. Copyright RHS. Credit: RHS/Sarah Cuttle.

What these carefully constructed scenes do, though, is demonstrate attention to detail. Designers and builders reproduce a scene so faithfully on such a small area of ground that for a moment you’re there.

To create that moment, the attention to detail, not to mention the thought and planning behind it, is phenomenal. And if you can do that with a show garden, then how much more are you going to be able to think your way around a design conundrum in the real world and create the perfectly detailed garden for a client?

There’s been criticism in recent years about an apparent lack of attention to the plants and too much focus on design, but the show gardens at RHS Chelsea have a serious purpose: to demonstrate what designers and contractors at the height of their game are capable of achieving. Theatre? Yes. This is true performance.

Landscaping Solutions is no stranger to the accuracy and attention to detail required by gardens like these. Apart from five BALI award-winners, we’ve constructed several Gold and Silver-Gilt award-winning gardens at RHS Hampton Court.

Matthew Childs Winning Garden At Hampton Court Flower Show

Light at the End of the Tunnel, Matthew Childs Gold-winning garden at Hampton Court Flower Show 2012.

Part of Landscaping Solutions’ vision is to create a fulfilling work environment for our staff because teamwork is at the heart of award-winning gardens. Our teams love a challenge, and show gardens give us the chance to show our true colours in a place where there’s no place to hide. Next month we’ll be putting all our skills to work for the fourth time at Hampton Court Flower Show, for Michelle Brandon’s The Forest Will See You Now.

Come back next month for more details. In the meantime, for information on how Landscaping Solutions can put show garden detail into your outdoor space, contact Ben on 0208 2412402 or email info@landscapingsolutionsltd.co.uk.

DOLPHIN SQUARE AND ITS LISTED GRADE II GARDENS UNDER THREAT

Save Dolphin Square

If you follow us on social media you may have noticed some of our recent posts regarding the iconic Dolphin Square and its Grade II listed gardens.

Built between 1935 and 1937, Dolphin Square is located by the River Thames in London's Pimlico.

As one of the largest and most famous apartment blocks in London, Dolphin Square has had somewhat of a colourful past and has been home to princesses, politicians, spies and actors throughout its 80 year history.

A Conservation Area in its own right, the beautiful and tranquil landscaped gardens were originally designed by Richard Suddell and have just recently been listed Grade II by Historic England.

The site itself has changed hands various times over the years but was most recently acquired by US based property company Westbrook Partners in 2005. Unfortunately, Westbrook have recently put forward a planning application proposing a £400 million revamp of the entire site.

If approved, the plans would see the northern block of Dolphin Square completely demolished. A 10-storey building would then be erected in its place, with an additional floor being added to all the remaining blocks.

Two huge basement areas would then be excavated to allow for an underground swimming pool and sports facilities and the famous art-deco shopping parade would also be demolished as part of the proposed works.

If Westminster Council were to approve the planning work on the five year redevelopment could potentially start as soon as 2020.

The northern half of the listed gardens would be completely lost forever as a result of redevelopment and at the very least, the character and fabric of Dolphin Square would be destroyed.

Westbrook Partners claim to have invested approximately £40 million into the upkeep of Dolphin Square and have stated that the proposed works are a necessary solution to the ongoing repair costs.

The scope of work however is quite clearly an expansion and not a refurbishment and when you take in to account the fact that Westbrook has declined to divulge how many of the new homes would be set aside for affordable housing (a council requirement) it is clear the motive behind the revamp is based purely on profit.

For further information regarding Dolphin Square or to sign the on-line petition to save it please visit the Save Dolphin Square petition page at change.org

RHS AWARDED £4M NATIONAL LOTTERY GRANT

RHS Garden Wisley

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) announced recently that they have secured a £4 million grant from the National Lottery. The grant money will allow the RHS to construct the world’s first National Centre for Horticultural Science and Learning, as well as develop three new gardens covering 1.2 hectares and restore their current laboratory.

Set to open in 2020, the proposed centre will be constructed at RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey and will feature state-of-the-art research facilities, as well as showcase over one million nationally important science and heritage items for public viewing.

Items such as the Chilean potato plant brought back by Charles Darwin in 1834 (from which our modern potatoes are derived) and lavender collected in France in 1731 are just some of the items that will eventually be showcased.

More than 86,000 herbarium specimens, 24,000 insect specimens, 30,000 pieces of botanical art, 250,000 photographs and 100,000 books charting more than half a millennium of gardening history, will also be moved to the new centre when it opens.

The development of 1.2 hectares surrounding the centre will also see the creation of three new gardens - the Wildlife Garden, the World Food Garden and the Wellbeing Garden. Designed by RHS Chelsea Flower Show gold medal winning garden designers and RHS scientists the gardens themselves will act as living laboratories for the centre.

The third and final stage of the development will see the iconic RHS Garden Wisley’s Grade II-listed laboratory restored and opened to the public in 2021.

RHS Director General, Sue Biggs, said: “For more than a century RHS scientists have been working away behind closed doors in our modest laboratory conducting ground-breaking research that impacts us all.

During this time, we have researched the best plants to soak up air pollution, to cool buildings and to help pollinators, and these new facilities will enable us to enter a new era of discovery.

Over the next five years, thanks to National Lottery players, we will reveal incredible horticultural treasures to the public so people can experience the wonders of gardening and see why we need everyone everywhere to garden and grow plants for the good of people, plants and the planet”.

The National Lottery grant is undoubtedly a great boost for the development of such an ambitious project and the funding will obviously enable RHS Garden Wisley’s to get the project off the ground. However a further £2 million does still need to be raised in order to see the project through to completion, ensuring RHS Garden Wisley’s buildings, gardens and collections are protected for future generations.

If you would like to support this project or other RHS initiatives then please visit the RHS website for further information.

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