Welcome to our Blog. Inspiration, updates and industry trends from the team at Landscaping Solutions.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
What’s the secret to a successful build when the landscaping involved clearly offers challenges?
Flexibility and communication.
Without these, a garden build becomes confused, mistakes are made and jobs have to be redone.
With them, you can win a prestigious BALI award.
Client, Quentin Zentner with the BALI award at the ceremony earlier this month.
We won’t pretend that our award-winning garden in Barnet, North London, was easy. From planning to completion has taken over four years, as work was postponed more than once to allow for the client’s family circumstances. On top of this, a major refurbishment of the house overlapped with the garden build, which meant that we were sharing the site—and the storage space in front of the house—with builders working on the interior. Work schedules needed rejigging to allow for the late arrival of the gas supply to the barbecue. And, as you can imagine over a lengthy build, the client honed their requirements further, resulting in the installation of a Rensen canopy which needed an electrical run laid down and a relocation of pleached trees that had already been planted.
The lower part of the garden offers different areas for seating.
Designer Jilayne Rickards had her work cut out from the beginning, with a triangular-shaped back garden that tapered from 7 metres width at the back of the house to 4.5 metres at the bottom. “The garden isn’t big, and the clients wanted several areas—different “rooms” with entertaining spaces,” she explains. “They’re very much party people. They had teenage daughters at the time, and they like to have family around and dance.”
Lighting is an important element in this party-orientated garden. “I wanted to make it intimate,” says Jilayne, “with the water feature, screens and sculpture lit and making a focal point of trees and main features.”
This awkward-shaped plot also offered a 2-metre drop from front to back, restricted access the width of a wheelbarrow, and heavy clay which, as winter progressed, became totally waterlogged. “You couldn’t move,” says Jilayne, “for getting that great big lump of clay around your foot that weighs a ton.” This meant, not just waiting out the worst and shifting schedules as we worked around the weather and soil conditions, but an enormous amount of soil amelioration in the form of bucket-on-shoulder shifting of horticultural grit and manure for border preparation.
Our BALI award-winning garden, designed by Jilayne Rickards, with trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants supplied by Europlants.
In circumstances like these, you have to be flexible, ready to reconsider your options, and understand exactly what jobs can be shifted around each other and which can’t. You also have to communicate with all parties involved, every day if necessary. This job clocked up hundreds of emails and hundreds of phone calls, keeping the right people informed, checking up on details, pinning down timings.
Sharing a small site with other contractors who are working to their own agenda is often one of the challenges of high-end builds, as refurbishments indoor and out tend to take place at the same time. Our team on site was headed by James. “He’s one of the best foremen I’ve ever worked with,” says Jilayne. “The contractor was doing the lighting with the client in charge, so we didn’t always know what was happening, and the contractor didn’t turn up or finish when they said they would.
“It was quite troublesome,” she adds, with a degree of understatement. “James, the foreman was just phenomenal—one of the best foremen I’ve ever worked with. He offered lots of solutions along the way and didn’t lose his cool.”
The front garden, designed to make the most of sunlit grasses supplied by Knoll Gardens.
The results speak for themselves.
Out front, the clients wanted a pretty, welcoming garden with grasses lit by sunlight and space for cars. The sunny, dry gravel garden includes a dry-stone wall using quartzite paddlestones and Irish barley quartz gravel supplied by CED. There’s also a Sureset resin-bound drive which wasn’t on our schedule but which we slipped into our schedule to install after another contractor let them down.
The front and back garden are very different spaces, so Jilayne made the connection between the two with materials and design details. The client was keen to use Cor-Ten steel and include Arabic patterns. In the back garden Jilayne combined the two with laser-cut screens.
Cor-Ten steel, stipulated by the client, makes a statement front and back.
As these were a bespoke design, there was no tried and tested way of mounting them, so we devised bespoke fixings, minimising the chance of corrosion from contact with the soil by constructing a stand that was then fixed to a feature and bolted into concrete. Cor-Ten steel continued into the front garden in the lighting posts, while the Arabic pattern was repeated in the steel drain cover—a detail which particularly delighted the client.
Trendy Black Porcelain paving, sawn sandstone coping and resin-bound gravel create a perfect finish with the bespoke gully cover.
Trendy Black Porcelain from London Stone was used as paving throughout, linking front and back, and we created a modern, minimalist wall cladding with the same material for the built-in seats around the Fire Magic gas barbecue, complementing the choice of granite for the worktop and bespoke water feature.
The side passage maintains continuity between front and back gardens with the use of steel, Trendy Black Porcelain paving and gravel leading into the rear space.
The awkward shape of the plot was disguised with a diagonal design, creating two areas below the patio, with intimate seating between panels, allowing party guests to enjoy a quiet chat, and ending on a lawned area, completely hidden from neighbours, ideal for deckchairs on a Sunday morning, reading the papers.
The finish is always important, but it can make a particular impact where materials are repeated to create cohesion. A jarring defect in one area will then cast a shadow over all the work in that material.
The Cor-Ten steel screens and sculpture are highlighted at night.
“The finish was exquisite, because that’s how Landscaping Solutions work,” said Jilayne. “I went round looking and I wanted to find something, but I couldn’t fault anything. Everything was finished perfectly.”
We’ve loved working with Jilayne so we’re delighted that she feels the same about us. While the project proved a long, arduous journey with plenty of challenges along the way, its BALI award proves all the hard work worthwhile and shows what can be done when everyone on a project is fully engaged, communicating and aiming at the same result.
Some of the Landscaping Solutions team who worked on the project: (from left) Ben West (at back) Jack Comer, Chris Makepeace, Sam Gilbert, Tom Underwood, Morris Manole.
“I’d work with Ben again in a heartbeat,” says Jilayne. “It’s just great working with people who have such high standards.”
If you’d like to discuss a garden design project and what we at Landscaping Solutions can do for you, please give us a ring on 0208 2412402 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s that time of year again, with the nights drawing in, December fast approaching and the anticipation mounting it can mean only one thing...no not Christmas, the BALI National Landscape Awards 2018.
Recognised throughout the industry as one of the biggest landscaping events of the year the 42nd BALI National Landscape Awards will pay tribute to BALI members who have demonstrated exceptionally high standards of professionalism and skill within the landscaping and design sector.
As BALI members and winners of this years Domestic Garden Construction Between £100k - £250k category the Landscaping Solutions team will of course be in attendance.
This will be our fifth BALI award to date and, as always, it stands as a great testament to the hard work, craftsmanship and enthusiasm of all our staff. Two of those five award have been of ‘Principal’ status which is awarded to the best garden in its respective category. We are hoping that this year will be three out of five. Fingers crossed.
Situated in the London Borough of Barnet our award winning garden was designed by Jilayne Rickards Garden Design. Jilayne’s commitment and attention to details is of the highest order and we look forward to bringing more of her contemporary garden designs to life in coming years.
As part of the initial brief for this particular design the client had requested a usable family space with a unifying architectural theme and colour scheme. In addition they wanted year round interest in the planting, to hear the sound of running water and to have interesting textures, shapes and heights be incorporated in to the planting.
Modern hard landscaping features, privacy screens, overhead patio shades, a built-in barbecue and fireplace and a bespoke water feature are just some of the many features we installed to meet the clients needs.
In the early stages of the design process the client had also expressed the importance of ensuring the finished garden had a ‘unique’ and personal feel, requesting personalised elements be included in the scheme.
With this in mind a number of bespoke Cor-Ten features were commissioned and installed through the rear garden. A bespoke mounting method had to be devised to allow for their installation.
From these bespoke installations, through to restricted site access and unfavourable ground conditions it is fair to say the project was not without its challenges. Luckily we don’t shy away from challenges at Landscaping Solutions and so with good communication, meticulous planning and hard work we were able to transform the garden in to a clean and clear functional space that satisfied all of the clients requirements.
With the hard work done, We are certainly looking forward to celebrating with fellow BALI members at the awards ceremony in December and as always, it is an honour to have our achievements recognised by the industry's number one trade association and our peers.
The competition in each category is fierce so we would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the other category winners on a job well done.