Expert Advice from Award Winning Landscape Designer

We’ve joined forces with Cowley White London, an award winning Landscape design company. Cowley has an extensive knowledge of landscape design and we’ve extracted his expertise to give you an insight into what it takes to design and create a gorgeous garden. We are taking a closer look at our project in Richmond, which went through a huge garden transformation.

The importance of planning & having a realistic schedule of works

It’s really worthwhile to plan everything in great detail before commenting any landscaping works, especially if it’s to be installed in stages. A masterplan of the whole site, even if only parts are to be constructed to begin with, is ideal as it’s great to have a clear plan of how the overall look will be for a cohesive design.

Also, forward planning ensures that any later works are considered and no abortive work is carried out. For example, the need to trench for future cabling… ducts can be installed under the landscape for any future additional phases.

Using existing trees

It’s always ideal to retain existing trees to ensure a mature effect, and in some cases it is obviously essential for planning purposes.

If you are lucky enough to have beautiful existing trees on site, such as this project, it’s a fantastic start to a beautiful new garden. They will look amazing illuminated from below.

Creating a curvilinear landscape around the existing trees creates movement and can make the garden appear larger than its actual size.

In this garden the curved pathways lead you to the end and invites you to explore the whole garden. Porous resin bound gravel is ideal as pathway as it’s easy to create curves and it has a softer appearance than paving. Also being porous, it reduces the hard landscaping element whilst still maintaining an easy walking/ kids cycling surface.

As far as style goes, I think it’s really important to consider the house and surrounding landscape views (If you’re lucky enough to have them) and ensure the garden is designed to blend with these elements, rather than simply roll out the latest fashionable trend. The design has to correlate and be pertinent to your home.

It’s wise to limit the palette of materials to 2-3, and ensure they link with the architectural style of the house itself. Using compatible materials and colours that reflect the architecture ensures the house and it’s garden flows well, avoiding an extremely contrasting style. Natural materials such as stone, timber, brick and gravels help create a softer look and work particularly well with period properties.

I think it is sometimes a mistake to create an extremely contemporary style garden adjacent to a period house. Although, some elements can work well together and it is possible to create a classical contemporary style, that appears modern but still cohesive with the house… If you spend time on the design and consider all possibilities.

The flow from inside to outside is essential to get right too, so that the key areas, such as outdoor living rooms and kitchens are well located for maximum use.

It’s important to ensure the sunshine and warmth / wind protection will be there at the appropriate time of day so you can actually use the space. Choosing the right location is essential.

Garden colours

Considering the colour palette of the garden plants and flowers is fundamental in creating a space that relates to the house interiors.

Selecting a limited palette of colours creates a more stylish look, and if multiple colours are to be used it can work best to create compartmentalised areas of different colour themes.

A mixture of evergreens and deciduous plants and all year round interest will extend the beauty of the garden further throughout the year, rather than just the summer.

Large swaths of the same plants in groups will create a more impressive effect when in flower and if these are flowing at different seasons, will be more visible from inside the house during winter. White flowers show particularly well during darker days.

Positioning of your plants and flowers

Of course its essential to position the plants correctly for their ideal situation and effect, but part from the more obvious issues such as ensuring the plant can tolerate the light and soil conditions where it is to be planted, its important to consider the effects throughout the year, for example that there is still structure and form in all areas at all times.

Ideally not locating all the herbaceous plants in one place and then during winter it completely disappears and will throw off the balance of the garden. Unless it’s a dedicated herbaceous border of course, but that is best defined and framed so that its still has pre scene in the winter.

It’s wise and not necessary in most cases, to over-plant a garden too densely, if you are prepared to wait a while.

I think its best to invest in the larger skeleton structural plants , such as hedges, topiary and trees, but plant everything else smaller and let it develop. the small category of plants quickly establish.

Popular plants and flowers and where to buy

Some popular plants with clients at the moment are green and white flowers and various shades of green foliage with a limited colour palette. Also white gardens are popular still.

Sadly box hedges can struggle badly due to the caterpillar and Blight issues and so alternative options such as Ilex crenata ‘Dark Green’, which is a great substitute, are extremely popular and difficult to get hold of.

Good places to buy plants are Trade nurseries, if you are using a landscape contractor, but also if you are buying yourself, National Trust garden shops for unusual plants and specialist nurseries for a wide range and good quality.

Although they can be excellent, be careful ordering plants from online sellers as they can arrive a lot smaller than you expected!

Lawns and lighting

The classic English lawn is always a success, although it’s definitely the highest maintenance area of any garden, due to the frequency of cutting.

Ensure its large enough for possible parties or lawn games and a possible marquee in the future, if space allows.

Lighting is essential too due to so much of the year being dark, you can appreciate the landscape from within the house at all times of the year.

You can successfully blur the boundaries of the plot by highlighting random trees and features which creates the illusion of depth beyond and a larger garden than it is.

A well designed and constructed garden will give a great deal of pleasure, especially now we are all noticing nature much more than we did before the lockdowns, and its certainly worth planning it carefully first, to reap the rewards later.

We hope you enjoyed this piece. Please keep an eye for future expert blogs by April Hamilton & Guests.

Cowley White London was not involved in the design or landscaping in this particular project. April Hamiltons images used for point of discussion.

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