• Landscapes & Gardens,  Nature,  Path

    A winding garden path

    A Winding Garden Path

    A winding garden pathPergola and Well features

    We added these lovely features to an executive’s garden that was designed and built a number of years ago.

    They were part of a ‘Wish List’ we established with the client as we developed the masterplan.

    Planning really is the secret to a successful outcome for your project too. So here are a few pointers to help you.

    The Wish List.

    The secret to a beautiful landscape project is the wish list – here is a typical one we have developed over the years.

    Brief description of what you are looking for :

    How you use your garden :

    Do you have animals ? : Yes / No.

    Do children play in the garden ? : Yes / No.

    Do you like gardening ? : Yes / No.

    Do you like cutting grass ? : Yes / No

    Do you entertain in the garden ? : Yes / No.

    Do you like relaxing in the garden ?Yes/ No.

    What sort of Budget you would like us to Design
    to : ……………………………………………………
    (It helps enormously if we can have a figure to
    work to, we should be able to produce a Design
    within 10 percent )

    Some items to consider :
    Lawns. Yes / No

    Shrubberies Yes / No.

    Rockeries Yes / No

    Ponds Yes / No.

    Streams Yes / No

    Fish / Koi Ponds Yes / No.

    Paths Yes / No

    Patios Yes / No.

    Terraces Yes / No.

    Walls Yes / No.

    Ground contouring Yes / No

    Vegetable gardens Yes / No.

    Garden Features :

    Garden Shed : Yes / No.

    Power & Lighting Yes / No.

    Irrigation Yes / No.

    Summerhouses Yes / No.

    Greenhouses Yes / No

    Gazebo’s Yes / No.

    Pergolas Yes / No

    Seating Yes / No.

    Please add any other comments on the back of this sheet, the more we know the better the design.

    I would recommend that this is something the homeowners complete themselves without a salesmen/designer being present. You would be amazed at how many couples have different ideas!

    Remember to keep a little of the budget back as these things always cost more than you expect.

    Once you have a wish list, start to gather examples of the features you like from magazines. Taking pictures etc. Pretty soon you will have a good idea of what you would ideally like.

    Now it’s time to have that chat with the Designer or put pen to paper yourselves..

      Visits: 322

    • Landscapes & Gardens,  Nature,  Path

      Paths in your Garden

      Paths have been around awhile.


      Granite sett path – these setts traveled from Portugal in the 1800’s as ships ballast and were then used on London’s streets.

      They were a very convenient group of sizes namely ;-

      • 4 inch x 4 inch x 4 inch
      • 4 inch x 4 inch x 6 inch
      • 4 inch x 4 inch x 8 inch

      These regular sizes enable a module to be used, which makes the overall finished visual much more attractive. It’s also easier to lay – below you see a radius layout using just 4 inch x 4inch x 4inch setts.

      Seeing as we have snow today, I thought it might be an idea to talk a little about paths and paving materials. Not all paving is equal as they say, concrete for instance is often more slippery than say asphalt ( there is a standard called CBR – California Bearing Ratio, this is basically a coefficient of slipperiness. Often only used for roadways and cars.)

      So lets take a look at some paths


      This gravel path works great, except when frost is just coming out of the surface, when it gets very sticky.
      This gravel path works great, except when frost is just coming out of the surface, when it gets very sticky.

      Gravel paths are both attractive, economical and if laid on a suitable base long lasting, a simple rake and roll often restores the path to its near original state. Keeping on top of surface weed growth is essential.

      Paths should be at least 5ft wide to allow a couple to walk side by side..
      Paths should be at least 5ft wide to allow a couple to walk side by side..although,in a garden this is often impractical.

      This beautiful path leads all the way around the garden, making it a fabulous way to explore the differing views created.

      This scented path uses camomile
      This scented path uses camomile planted within the ‘p-shingle’.

      We used old railway sleepers and camomile to create this pathway, the camomile grows and covers the widened joints. When you walk on the camomile a lovely scent rises up.

      A more formal gravel path
      A more formal gravel path – this is a white limestone and approximately 4ft 6 inch wide – just wide enough for two people to stroll (promenade) around together

      Here the path is dressed in graded white limestone, this creates a much more formal garden for the client.


      The next is designed in a series of straight lines using a brick module.

      Here a zig-zag brick path leads from one section of the garden to another
      Here a zig-zag brick path leads from one section of the garden to another

      Using stock bricks that compliment the house colours is a good way to ‘link’ a garden design to a house. Walking on a larger sized clean gravel, is both fun due to the noise and a safety feature as you can hear someone or something approaching.

      Here we used a larger stone size to add that lovely crunching sound as you walk on the path
      Here we used a larger stone size to add that lovely crunching sound as you walk on the path
      Natural random rectangular stone
      Natural random rectangular stone leading to a bound gravel pathway.

      Perhaps the most expensive form of path, the steps are laid in natural random rectangular stone, which is expensive to purchase and time consuming to lay..

      Natural stone steps
      Natural stone steps

      It was a hot day when they completed these steps….

      Probably the best material for steps
      Probably the best material for steps

      To finish with some of my favorite materials. I’ve always tried to use natural materials on projects as the colour does not fade with time, they are often long lasting – if laid correctly. They always look soft and blend in so well with the surroundings..but natural comes with a significant cost increase..

      Mixed brick and random rectangular yorkstone patio

      A quick word about patios, if you are using the patio for entertaining a normal table with four chairs requires an area of approximately 10ft 6 ins ( 3m) x 10ft 6 ins (3m) to accommodate the table and chairs.

      Laying small unit sett paving of almost random size in a radiating pattern requires skill and patience....
      Laying small unit sett paving of almost random size in a radiating pattern requires skill and patience….

      Do send us a comment or a request

        Visits: 54

      • Edibles,  Education,  Face Time,  Farming,  Food,  Home & Garden,  Landscape design,  Landscapes & Gardens,  Landscaping,  Nature,  Podcasts,  sustainability,  Vegetable Growing,  World Wide WEsponsibility

        GT106:Sustainability for the world today.

        Ann and Chris interview Rich Sapienza and Bill Sosinsky  we talk about sustainable solutions for the world today. It's fascinating, interesting and very enlightening. Sustainability must work on its own, grow on its own, support itself with the built-in ability … Continue reading

        Visits: 59

      • Edibles,  Food,  Gardening,  gardens,  Healthy Living,  Home & Garden,  Landscape design,  Landscapes & Gardens,  Nature,  park,  Vegetable Growing

        What do our kids really know about plants?

        I was reading an interesting article the other day, it was discussing what today’s children know about plants.

        The part that caused me to sit up and wonder was this line..  “Today’s children can identify about 1000 company logos but only identify 10 plants outside

        I wonder how accurate this statement is?

        So a quick test – could you identify the plant below?


        or perhaps this one.?


        Thinking a little about it, brings to mind the simple realization that many  children do not really understand where much of our food comes from.

        We really need to change this for many reasons, perhaps our internet radio show, can help?

        Listen at
        Listen at

        We want to engage ‘Granny Growers’ and introduce them to the ‘Growing Uppers’ , to start this rolling we’re heading off to interview a few senior citizens  in our retirement community, to ask them what they learned and how they think we can help our grand children.

        if you have some ideas , we would love to hear from you to… just drop us a line

        Visits: 108

      • Edibles,  Food,  Gardening,  Home & Garden,  Landscapes & Gardens,  Nature,  Planting,  Vegetable Growing

        Fall & Spring Program

        Our internet radio show Growing Trends has attracted listeners from across the globe, we’ve been really amazed how many people comment and listen – thank you all so much, it really is a lot of fun to produce.

        We would love to hear from you with your ideas & suggestions on the shows content.


        We’ve interviewed some amazing people, from many different walks of life, with many differing interests in our outside environment – from a keen homeowner gardener, to a commercial grower, to an environmentalist to an estate gardener, to a very knowledgeable bee keeper, to an expert consultant. All have fascinating insights into the hugely diverse world of horticulture and our environment.

        We are making some programming adjustments to our fall schedule to better reflect this diverse interest.

        You can still listen daily at 1pm & 7pm on, or download direct from the site as a podcast, or just visit our own web site and click on the ‘listen here’ page.

        Our new segments.

        Time to Eat – Everything about growing your own food


        .Gardenesque – All about gardens & landscapes.

        The softer low timber wall looks at home here.

        World Wide Wesponsibility – A little more serious about sustainability and how we can be good custodians of our planet.

        City center Green Roof

        Face Time – Interviews with experts on topics of interest.

        Let's dance !

        Have an idea for an interview ? send us an email and we will be in touch..

        "We need more plants"

        Drop us a line with your comments & suggestions, or even a request for an interview.. you can complete the form below or just email us Ann & Chris at

        Visits: 77

      • Edibles,  Food,  Gardening,  gardens,  Healthy Living,  Home & Garden,  Landscapes & Gardens,  Nature,  park,  Vegetable Growing

        How do you see garden landscapes evolving ?

        Many years ago, we often introduced new ideas and products into our designs on a fairly regular basis. Some were because we developed our own ideas, products and subsequently ‘different’ offerings, we then ‘sold’ them to our customers.

        Natural brisk drive hand pointed

        When we started offering irrigation systems, we had to find a way to sell them to our more affluent customers, without making the costs too high, but most importantly by not disrupting or destroying the landscapes we had put in only a few years earlier.

        Hydraulically installed irrigation
        Hydraulically installed irrigation

        We achieved this by finding a rather interesting hydraulic mole from Germany that used compressed air, it worked really well at a depth of 900mm and was pumped a distance of around 5m , which when reversed pulled the water pipe back through the drilled hole. This simple tool saved huge amounts of time and reinstatement costs – more importantly it amazed our clients who were thrilled that we could install such sophisticated systems without a huge amount of disruption.

        Next came low voltage lighting systems, which made landscape lighting safe and easy to instal, the picture below isn’t our work  it’s a Park in Paris, but it serves it’s purpose quite well.

        Park  in Paris
        Park in Paris

        Today we seem to have slowed down on major changes or have we?

        Commercially vertical walled gardens are becoming quite popular and are definitely a recent development.

        A Green Wall

        Whilst in Gardens we have built for over 30 years eco friendly  ‘Green Retaining Walls’ such as this one

        Treated Structural Green Wall
        Treated Structural Green Wall

        Roof Gardens have been around for years, we were designing and building them back in the distant 1980’s

        Wooden pathway on Roof Garden
        Wooden pathway on Roof Garden

        Home owners are developing a taste for their own food production.

        An example from a Chelsea Flower Show exhibit
        An example from a Chelsea Flower Show exhibit

        Herb & Vegetable gardening is becoming very popular today.

        Weekend Garden Kit from Picagardi

        I’m seeing a huge demand for food production, but currently the solutions are traditional cold frames, cloches or greenhouses, all very time consuming and with varying degrees of cost.

        Today with all the concerns over GMO crops, with apparent excessive use of pesticides, more and more people are either buying from local organic farmers or starting out on the incredibly satisfying journey of producing their own fruit and vegetables.

        We’ve been developing an easy to use kit that makes selection, planting and growing much easier and for a much longer time frame.

        We call it ‘Hort Cuisine’ our way of saying it’s fun, friendly and offers tasty treats when you gather your crops.

        Hort Cuisine Grid
        Hort Cuisine Grid

        The patented system enables almost limitless combinations of plants to be selected, enabling designs for any climate region.

        Creating those beautiful ‘Knot’ gardens just became a simple process.

        Potager 1

        So here are a few questions……

        What new ideas have you seen recently?

        What would you like to see developed?

        In the last 5 years what is the best landscape invention you’ve seen?

        What would your customers like to add to their garden landscape?

        Drop us a line with your replies we will  have a follow up blog shortly.

        or follow our internet radio show at

        Visits: 56

      • Edibles,  Food,  Gardening,  gardens,  Healthy Living,  Home & Garden,  Landscapes & Gardens,  Nature,  Vegetable Growing

        Where do you find inspiration….

        Changing a Landscape.

        Starting with an existing landscape is always a challenge..


        How do you develop an idea?

        Does it just grow on you?


        I’ve often been asked this seemingly simple question

        ‘Where do you find your inspiration? ‘ or perhaps it might be

        ‘ Where do you get your ideas from?’ .

        A Garden Lover's Garden img2

        At first it was from seeing new things and figuring we could apply them to specific projects we were working on, albeit with a different slant, or approach. As we gained more and more knowledge ( experience) we instinctively knew what would work and what would require more thought ( more thought equates to time, experimentation and thus expense) – That’s not to say we didn’t make errors, because we surely did, luckily most times these ‘mistakes’ were of a limited nature, involving us spending more time than we expected.


        I’ve always been happy to let staff experiment as long as there’s a learning process, in which they figure that making the same mistake more than once is avoidable. I’ve also found that the good old notebook and pencil is an invaluable tool, even today, writing information down has saved all manner of accidents from occurring, both financial and construction wise.

        The beginnings of a well

        Well base

        The finished well, using bricks, oak and peg tiles.

        Wishing well feature with trellis back drop

        Today our emphasis is firmly on simplifying ‘How to ‘ , in particular , with the huge changes to the worlds weather, we’ve been working hard on adapting our patented techniques so that home owners growing their own veggies & herbs in a quick ,efficiently and simply method as possible.

        We are also close to enabling an 11 month growing cycle for anyone living in zones 5 and above.

        Using well tried & tested, mainly low tech solutions , to achieve this.

        Our “Hort Cuisine Kit” will be available soon !

        Hort Cuisine Grid
        Hort Cuisine Grid

        Using our internet radio show & this blog , has enabled us to reach hither too undreamed of audiences across the world – currently we have been listened to or read in 43 countries, so a big thank you to you all for keeping on reading.

        Growing Trends a new style of garden Show on
        Growing Trends a new style of garden Show on

        We would love to hear from you – Ann my co – host and I are hoping we can find as many ‘Granny Growers’ as possible and link them to ‘Growing Uppers’ ( our grandchildren ) , so that the knowledge, skills and techniques learned over generations of growing our own food, can be passed down before we all succumb to the mass produced, widely transported, heavily chemically sprayed, produce that has changed our once balanced diets.

        Visits: 37

      • Edibles,  Food,  Gardening,  gardens,  Healthy Living,  Home & Garden,  Landscapes & Gardens,  Nature,  park,  Vegetable Growing

        How much do we really know about soil?

        “We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot.”  – Leonardo Da Vinci

        Living a healthy lifestyle can mean many things, regular sleep, exercise, reduced stress, enjoying work, balanced eating, learning something new everyday, exploring new sights, meeting friends & relatives or a gentle stroll around a park.

        Japanese Gardens Portland

        Almost all involve going outside at some stage, or even spending time outside. Like this walk across the Jura Mountains in France.

        Walking in France

        When we were kids we used to dig in the ‘dirt’ , now it turns out this passed beneficial microbes to us. Plenty of microbes on the Farm.

        On the Farm

        Today we hear of parks and recreations departments that are banning pesticides and herbicides from play areas, and sports fields – 40 years ago we were more concerned with flint stones breaking the surface of the grass and ‘skinning’ kids knees when they played sports.

        Field hockey needed a very even playing surface of grass to be played well, so it was often heavily compacted and over fed to keep the grass green & growing !

        Field Hockey

        Research shows time and again how beneficial taking a walk in a woodland is, or sitting under a tree, or making a garden or landscape.

        The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art , Sculpture Park

        Yet most of us, move from one hermetically sealed air conditioned room, to our hermetically sealed air conditioned car,


        to our hermetically sealed air conditioned office – is it any wonder we are losing a connection with nature?

        Offices , New York

        Those folks lucky enough to live outside cities and away from the urban sprawl , are indeed fortunate.

        Le Poizat, France

        They can leave windows open at night, refreshing the air inside, removing stale contaminated air, rarely using air conditioning.


        We figured a hedge around the house and a tree canopy above was more than enough to reduce the inside temperature 20 degrees or more. It creates its own microclimate between the hedge & the house.while also providing a fair degree of privacy.

        The planning process hasn’t helped much either with 140ft set backs, single story developments , individual car parking areas for each business and strip malls, that encourage you to ‘hop’ in the car to go from store to store.

        Strip Mall

        Then same style sub divisions, with all vegetation ‘stripped’ , the topsoil structure almost non-existent at the construction stage, then hardly any landscaping to create interest, shade, or harmony with surrounding areas.

        In fact it wouldn’t be too far to say that the effect is boring !

        I wonder how many years it takes before this picture changes?

        Sub Division

        All this contributes to built in obsolescence within 25 years, the developments have very little diversity of style and worse a total lack of walking from home to the stores, – one of the healthiest pursuits for us all.

        One of the major advantages of living in towns or cities is this easy connection with homes, stores, work places and amenities.

        A tree lined sidewalk

        We all tend to be creatures of habit, so this routine is a hard one to alter

        There are signs of a healthier approach.

        Trams making a welcome return

        Mass transit provides a wealth of benefits, less pollution, easier and quicker commuter travelling, safer travelling, an opportunity to connect with fellow citizens. A more relaxed journey.

        Green walls in the urban environment soften an otherwise ‘hard’ landscape, reducing the carbon footprint of the area, making a much more ‘pleasing’ view.

        A Green Wall

        Roof gardens make a more focused impact, they improve the carbon foot print, offer a new habitat and an amenity for the buildings users.

        New York Roof Garden

        It seems all those ideas, methods and activities from yesteryear were not all that bad for us.

        Our connection with nature is again expanding  with more and more people exploring the option to grow their own food, or seek out farmers markets.

        Could you grow these?

        I suspect for this to become even more popular there will be a need to initially at least simplify the mysteries of growing your own?

        The Community Garden or Allotment is a great way to learn the ‘tricks of the trade’ – these are either individual growing areas  ‘Allotments’ or the more common these days communal ‘Community Garden’


        Of course there is the local ‘Pick your Own’ farms for all those inseason goodies.

        These look yummy !

        From ‘Farm to Table’ might be best said as from ‘Grower to Consumer’ – if this were local, it would have a huge impact on carbon emission reductions ( a lettuce travels 1400 miles to reach your table, not sure how that could ever be described as fresh!).

        Weekend Garden Kit from Picagardi

        The more we as professionals make this process easier the greater the likely uptake by households in towns and cities, where new skills will need to be developed.

        A really easy start.

        A stacked group of herbs, perfect for a compact space.

        Stacked herb pot.

        or much more complex, this lovely exhibition garden shows how to create small garden boxes of produce.

        An example from a Chelsea Flower Show exhibit

        Now all we need is a simple method for the consumer… It will need to have an option which includes a growing medium as many urban yards have very poor soil conditions.

        This system can be found at

        herb cube

        Using a unique patented layout grid. enabling almost anyone to place plants in the correct positions is an option.

        Listen to our up coming internet radio show all about developing gardens at  we call it ‘Hort Cusine’ !

        Hort Cuisine Grid
        Hort Cuisine Grid

        The very popular and effective Square Foot Gardening Foundation, developed by Mel Bartholomew has been around for many years, with countless books, examples and users.

        As has the New Organic Grower & Four Season Harvest to name but a few from Eliot Coleman, an amazing grower in Maine.

        It’s time to really try and add herbs & veggies into our urban landscapes.

        We as landscape professionals need to promote home grown food more when we plan new landscapes for clients.

        Visits: 161

      • Edibles,  Food,  Gardening,  gardens,  Nature,  park,  Vegetable Growing

        Planting plans made easy to use at home!

        It’s been 40 years since I first grappled with a traditional planting plan. All those lovely latin names – like Fagus sylvatica,  Fritillaria meleagris, etc.,

        Hand drawn

        In the drawing office, it was a matter of using a thick graph paper so the electric eraser didn’t make lots of little holes in the paper as we repositioned plants, or corrected the many mistakes or changes in mind. Sometimes we used a plant stamp, then labelled by hand. As you can see interpreting the labels isn’t easy.

        The whole process was time consuming, difficult to make into a quality finished drawing.

        This next version once CAD was introcuded is a combination of hand drawn and CAD drawn, easier to interpret, but still not easy to set out.

        Using CAD system
        Using CAD system

        On  site, in those days these were cumbersome beasts, usually printed on dyeline, so it was dark, difficult to read with scribblings and such in the margin, fragile, and ruined once wet. Wrapping in plastic sort of helped, cutting into smaller sections then laminating was better..

        Checking off plants

        Wielding  one of these around on a damp morning picking out the plants, with the planting foreman, and then placing took for ever.

        Setting out plants

        Trying to mark off those plants you had placed and then moving on to the next batch, with a few areas missing….

        For some odd reason even though the nursery managed to price  all the plants, they never seemed to be able to deliver them all to site completely in one go, or even to the company yard, so the whole process was both time consuming, expensive and worse annoying to a client who by now had had enough of three or five members of staff working in what was their space.

        I hear a gentle nod of agreement or perhaps sigh of frustration?

        It got so bad that we used to change our standard estimate to something like..

        ” To carefully prepare ground, incorporating peat and fertilizer at each planting station, to supply & plant  in  ‘xxx’ number of flowering & ornamental shrubs, carefully watering in on completion, then applying a 50 mm depth of planting mulch”

        Here’s a plan without this case a veggie garden area.

        An Isometric plant plan.

        This gave us a contractual escape clause, but wasn’t what we wanted to portray to our clients. We even tried to restrict the planting selection to plants we knew we could obtain, but designers & clients have pet likes and dislikes being restrained to just a few varieties caused all manner of objections!

        We even tried an even more generic look – with areas just designated for planting.

        Plan with Artist's Impression

        We also found most of our clients actually really wanted to do some of the work themselves, the idea of planting was often the most appealing, as the ground was prepared, the turf laid and all the ‘hard’ structural stuff was completed.  The feeling was that just a bit of planting wouldn’t take long and they could then say ‘we did this ourselves’….

        There was one small issue, understanding the ubiquitous planting plan. Setting out plants in the damp, with a tape, scale rule and a large piece of paper was a task best left to the experts.

        We solved this problem with our Weekend Planting Grid. A really easy to understand ‘garden bedding system’. Today we even have this simple system patented, it’s even incorporated into one of the more easy to use CAD programs.

        Photo Realistic Design

        The system cuts setting out times in half, for anyone, acts as a  landscape fabric or paper mulch, reducing weeds and watering and makes the whole process as easy as 1,2,3 ! – costing only marginally more than just a landscape fabric.mulch.

        No longer do you need a setting out plan, just a plant position is all that is required.

        New style Planting Plan

        It makes it very easy to place the plants in position, so now any combination of annual, bulb, corm, perennial, shrub, even tree  can be used with little risk of them being placed incorrectly. In fact there is no need for a planting plan at all ! Just a series of grids will do. The fabric is left to act as a landscape mulch mat, preserving water and reducing weeds, all it requires is a 2 inch layer of mulch to keep attractive.

        Setting Out Grid

        If you use the CAD program you can design your own arrangement , create them with photorealistic images and then print out their positions. The CAD program automatically generates the grid layouts, positions the plants, prints out a planting position list, even prints out a plant label with position for the plant pots, then generates a quotation and plant care notes – amazing really !

        Difficult to set out designs are now easy…

        Use four to make a quick 'Knot Garden"

        Complicated Herb and Veggie gardens are a breeze. With positions shown on a simple patented grid system.


        Even more fun is the simple PicaGardi that you can download and use it’s available on the iTunes store, Google Play and Amazon

        We are planning a Growing Trends radio show just about design and designers soon, we would love to hear your comments, suggestions & ideas.

        Ann & Chris

        Visits: 60

      • Edibles,  Food,  Gardening,  gardens,  Landscapes & Gardens,  Nature,  park,  Vegetable Growing

        Would you like to be part of our show?

        Fall Colours

        Ann & I have been simply amazed by the interest in our blog & our Growing Trends   (click on Growing Trends to go to the site)  radio show. Thank you all so much, we have been listened to or our blog read in over 40 countries in just the last three months.

        Autumn Planning

        As we plan the next series of shows & blogs, we thought we would ask you our readers & listeners if you would like to participate.


        So, if you would like to be part of the show, all we ask is for an interesting ‘garden or landscape’ project,preferably with before & after pictures, together  with a short note about how you were involved in the garden or landscape. – we do have a small request to ask.

        Please could you send your description in English ?

        We will pick a selection and the very best responses, who will be invited to participate in some short interviews for a show.


        Some suggestions to get you started.

        Some of our more successful blogs have been when we have shown ‘Before’ and ‘After’ pictures of projects. Here are a few to give you some ideas, Let’s start with the usual mess that greets the team. Here’s a before picture just as the machinery arrives and the builder leaves…….


        Here’s how we were able to transform the mess above into a peaceful oasis, of course everything has to dry out first before you can work the magic,  then the skills of the team are paramount to obtaining a ‘finish’

        Front drive

        This next one, is actually in a book by Prince Charle called ‘A Vision of Britain’, we also received an award for the work. The very heavy clay was not easy to work with. As usual the builder created a huge mess.

        Ok your turn !
        Ok your turn !

        The landscape architect for the project, Ian Doughill is seen carrying out a post completion inspection. We maintained the site for a couple of years to ensure complete establishment.

        After working a little magic !
        After working a little magic !

        This exhibition site is both world famous, fun, hard work, but immensely satisfying to participate in.. a before picture of the Chelsea Flower Show. It’s not your usual mess this time, just an organizational nightmare, with so many firms attempting to bring in supplies and complete their superb work on time.

        Chelsea Flower Show 'Before'
        Chelsea Flower Show ‘Before’

        The outlines of the garden can just be seen, with the low wall taking shape on the left hand side. We build a full 6ft (1.8m ) high retaining wall with 3ft (1.2m ) side wall to ‘enclose’ the garden.

        The back wall is almost completed.
        The back wall is almost completed.

        The space has been transformed in three weeks for just four days of exhibition, when over 110,000 people will visit and millions view on television

        . The completed garden

        If you have some ‘Before’ and ‘After’ pictures you would like to share, Ann & I would like to hear from you, just send us a reply with a some contact information on the form below.

        We are always looking for sponsors to help with the running costs, this year we thought we would try a small campaign on StartSomeGood.

        Our radio show is starting it’s fall funding campaign you can find details at Growing Trends .

        Ann & I thank you all so much for your support and comments.

        Visits: 32

      • Edibles,  Food,  Gardening,  gardens,  Landscapes & Gardens,  Nature,  park,  Vegetable Growing

        It’s all in the detail !

        Today, I thought some technical stuff was in order.

        I’ll try and make it interesting, no doubt you will let me know ?

        I spent almost as much time as a Quantity Surveyor as I did a Landscape Architect & Contracts Manager… the worst part was as you grow a business you have to give up various aspects of the work, allowing others to do it instead.

        The secret is always find someone better than you to do the job you are relinquishing…

        Then catch them doing it right and praise them, whilst simultaneously stopping them from doing it wrong, without to much rancour.

        Quiet garden in Primary School

        Some years ago, just after I graduated I found myself working in the minor engineering and technical department for a large London Boroughs Parks Department – today you would be called a Landscape Architect, but in those days the Parks Managers wanted folks with hands on experience. This meant we not only knew how to design, but we also knew how to build and even better we knew how to manage the project, including the labour, right down to the work study times it took to build a specific item. We looked after Schools, Parks, Playgrounds, Golf Courses, Verges, Allotments, Open Spaces, Housing Sites and the odd Airfield.

        It's time to re connect with nature

        I always wondered why we frantically completed a valuation of work ( right down to the allowed minutes of time each element took) every Monday morning , then rushed the ‘bonus’ sheets over to the treasurers department on Tuesday morning  so the staff could be paid their bonuses on time each Friday – hourly paid staff were paid weekly in England ( us salaried staff were paid monthly, we even worked flexi time with every other Monday off, those were the days as they say !).

        In later years these standard minute values that had so painstakingly been obtained turned out to be especially useful when pricing large scale contracts, as they were actual times not  priced rates.

        What was more interesting though was they enabled someone to build up a time and thus rate for all manner of projects. So we could accurately figure out how long a BBQ would take to build for instance, or how long 5 tonnes of tarmac would take 3 men to prepare, lay, roll and clean up.

        Car Park

        When semi automatic pricing came along in the form of access based databases it was easy to ‘plug’ these times into the program to use for pricing projects.

        This worked great for projects where you weren’t tendering for a job, as you were usually able to produce a fair price, quickly and accurately.

        Saddleback coping with dark mortar.

        The projects that went out to tender were much more of a lottery, as depending on who was pricing and why, often dictated how the pricing went… No one minds losing a tender by say 1-2% and if everyone has a similar price. It would suggest that the bill of quantities , drawings and specifications are usually going to be an accurate reflection of the work in hand, without any unforeseen errors.


        What is intensely irritating  from a contracting point of view is when you carefully price a project and then lose by more than 15%, I’ve often wondered why during the assessment phase a  tendering body doesn’t add up all the tender values, then divide by the number of tenderers and use that mean figure as the basis for the work – we found that more often than not when we did this in the parks department that was the final cost of the project. I believe the Dutch usually take the second lowest price as this makes it almost impossible to ‘buy’ a job by underpricing !

        Street Planter & Paving

        One of the early ‘tricks’ we learned, was how to be asked to price the better projects if we eliminated the ‘snagging or punch list’. The client put us to the top of their use list. More often than not our site staff ‘snagged’ as they went along, this saved us so much time we gave them a bonus.

        Another trick was to put the projects up for a national award – we were fortunate to receive 17 national awards over the years, they were great for staff moral , even better for our clients who then asked us to price some fabulous projects.

        Hand Asphalting

        We have always tried to be professional, to do the best job we could for a client, avoiding confrontation as much as possible, sure we negotiate hard, but not too aggressively. – the saying ‘Under promise and over perform’ is a great way to work.

        Consistent Pointing

        The pointing above is typical of our approach, when it comes to the finish it is essential to maintain a clean consistent finish, it looks good, keeps everyone happy..

        The finished raised brick patio

        The real pearls of wisdom are ” Quality is remembered long after the price has been paid ”

        Have you visited one of your old projects recently?

        What did it look like?

        Listen to Ann & Chris at Growing Trends 

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      • Edibles,  Food,  Gardening,  gardens,  Landscapes & Gardens,  Nature,  park,  Vegetable Growing

        From “Concept to Completion” – a complete project!

        Ever wondered how a landscape project is conceived, designed, planned and then implemented?

        Completed Project

        We have created quite a few over the years, so we thought we would attempt a trial of one here that we did some years ago.

        There is an ulterior motive for this, Ann & I would like to attempt to follow a project  from ‘Concept to Completion’ on our radio show ‘Growing Trends’ 

        This project started because the owners, a young couple, were starting a family, and wanted the swimming pool that dominated their back garden removed, partly for safety reasons and partly because as you can see it didn’t leave much space for a user friendly garden.

        The Garden Before

        The first step was to survey the garden, in this case we needed to take fairly accurate levels to enable us to quantify the amount of work to do.

        This has a number of benefits ;-

        When working in tight areas , there was only a side gate access, it is very wise to design in such a way as the least amount of material is taken away or brought in to complete a project – all that hauling is wasting the clients budget.

        Secondly it is jolly hard to accommodate too much material when the entire site is being worked on.

        Here you can see the access restrictions

         With such restricted access the design whilst needing to be imaginative, had to be practical and effective.

        So we folded the pool in on itself

        The solution was to use the existing access path level as the main level,  demolish the pool surrounds, break out the base of the pool, to allow for drainage, then backfill in layers the excavated  pool , paving and surplus material  to bring the levels up to create a much larger patio.

        Enlarged patio

        We even salvaged some of  the brick wall to mix in with the new london stocks to create the imposing planter that acts as a statement as you walk around the side of the house to the rear garden.


        The new paving extends all the way around the house to give continuity, we added a stock brick edge to the paving so we could link the low black stained timber retaining walls, the raised patio diaz, and the black stained timber edged step to the rest of the garden.

        Brick edged surround

        The stained timber edge is protected with polythene sheeting and has a gravel pressure release drain set behind, to prevent water incursion onto the light coloured patio stones, which would stain very easily otherwise.

        Much enlarged patio

        There is now a much enlarged patio area ideal for young children to play on, which is both safe and secure.

        Step detail

        The step detail is modulised to provide continuity and ease of use when walking on, planting the edges will over time soften the strong straight lines and allow the planting to seamlessly flow into the step area.

        Planting bank

        The steep banks are now lost in the planting, supported by the low stained timber wall, creating a feature rather than an aftercare issue as before.

        Completed Project

        The completed project, is much easier to maintain, has a huge amount of safe space, opens the garden up, into an interesting useable space, for play, entertaining , whilst giving more light to the inside of the house and a feeling of spaciousness.

        You can hear Ann & Chris talking to garden owners and the experts that help them on Growing Trends ( just click this link) it will send you to our internet radio show.

        If you have an interesting garden or story to tell do drop us a line, we will get back to you in a few days.

        We would love to hear from you..

        Ann & Chris

        Alternatively take a look at our web site at it’s packed with helpful hints.

          Visits: 82