• 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

    Views: 108

  • 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

    Views: 56

  • 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.

    Views: 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

    Views: 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.

    Views: 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 

    Views: 64

  • 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.

      Views: 84

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

      Growing Trends that have been around awhile….

      Let's dance !
      Let’s dance !
      When Ann & I started  ‘Growing Trends’ the web site, blog and radio show, we weren’t sure how to engage all of you. It seems a little wit, the odd anecdote and should I say a touch of knowledge has helped us enormously.

      In a very short time we have built an audience of readers, listeners and fellow Horticulturists, they have come from :-

      United States, Canada, Venezuela, Argentina, Columbia, Germany ,United Kingdom, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Hungary, Denmark, Romania, France, Netherlands, Jamaica,Barbados, Egypt, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Japan, India,  Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Republic of Korea,

      We are just stunned…  thank you all so much. Please if you have time send us a picture of your favourite space, garden or landscape with a few notes, we would love to hear from you.

      Today, as we have a holiday weekend here in the USA, it seems that our blog should be a little in this spirit, so I’m going to try and find a bunch of pictures of projects we’ve completed along with pictures of unusual items used in the urban landscape that perhaps some have not seen before.. hope you enjoy them..

      So let’s start with a really big tree being  moved, it was one of many on this site, weighing some 600 tons and approximately 60ft tall!

      Really it's that large !

      One of my favorites a flower clock in Geneva, Switzerland.

      Geneva, Switzerland
      Geneva, Switzerland

      This one was ‘snapped’ in Amsterdam, it’s an old cannon, now serving as a vehicle bollard !

      An old cannon being used as a bollard

      The next is fairly common – creating a bubble fountain using an old natural millstone wheel.

      Original granite millstone fountain
      Original granite millstone fountain

      This method completely softens a brick pier and makes it look ageless – we used a single canted brick on each corner, and added a double layer of tiles ‘Creasing Tile’ before the soldier course, the resultant ‘shadow line creates interest and helps the wall to ‘weather’ much better.

      Brick Pier with creasing tile
      Brick Pier with creasing tile

      This one is much harder to do, it’s a circular patio of natural setts – they tend to be slightly different sizes. When laid like this, in a circular pattern creates a feeling of movement and space, in what is a fairly small area.

      Small setts laid in a radiating pattern
      Small setts laid in a radiating pattern

      When you have a natural random wall it is always hard to create a ‘finish’   , we solved this by bonding a brick coping to match the drive brick edge.

      Brick Coping Course
      Brick Coping Course

      What is really interesting is, if you look really carefully you can see the brick coping running into the driveway as the wall ends, this looked so good, the red tarmac ( which is quite expensive) helps with the overall effect.


      Many years ago, we needed to find away to create ‘Raised planters’ on a roof that were exceedingly light weight, contained and yet attractive. We think we succeeded with these specially made by us artificial rock faced grp planters. – we won an award for the project , which was fun !

      Artificial Rocks
      Artificial Rocks

      Some 30 years ago we started building gravity walls with ‘TimberGrid’ , then we thought let’s add some plants, it worked great..!

      Treated Structural Green Wall
      Treated Structural Green Wall

      It wasn’t long before they started to ‘Grow’ well you know if you try hard enough it becomes a ‘Trend ‘

      Tall timber gravity wall
      Tall timber gravity wall

      Sometimes it’s fun to experiment, so here we came up with a ‘curved’  wall

      Creating movement
      Creating movement

      Finally a simple picture on a very clear day !

      Looking Up
                             Looking Up

      Hope  you have enjoyed,  do drop us a line

      or visit our website at

      or listen to our internet radio show  Growing Trends

      Ann & Chris



      Views: 70

    • Landscape Design & Build,  Landscapes & Gardens,  park

      Have you taken the kids to a park recently?

      This classic park surrounding the simply stunning Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is in Kansas City.

      It is a great place to start – as long as the temperature are being kind !

      Anyone for Badminton?
      Anyone for Badminton?

      The museum has an exhibit which kids would really enjoy, as long as they are accompanied, it’s a glass Labyrinth.

      Picture credit to Chris Smart
      Picture credit to Chris Smart

      In other countries..

      Alternatively, if you were across the pond in say Paris, France.  You could visit a more modern looking park. I think this is  Parc de Villette

      Park in Paris
      Porte de Villette, Paris

      or perhaps a more tropical park in say Honolulu.

      A stunning park in Honolulu

      Sometimes just the local school has a pleasant surprise in store, as this school in south London achieved.

      A school quiet garden
      A school quiet garden

      Most parks are designed and built to a  high engineering standard. They can last a long time without needing costly repairs.

      Over the years we designed & built a huge array of children’s play areas, mostly in parks or on community housing sites, occasionally in a school, the one above was a really fun project, quite a few years ago now.

      The idea was to have a theme for the closed in ‘quiet’ area, so the architect suggested a ‘Kentish Riverbank’  We developed a dry river bed using kidney stones set in a flowing pattern, added a jetty to link the ‘Oast’ house from the ‘Kentish Barn’ , included a loading ramp – to enable wheel chair access. 

      Then created a few sail boats with trees for masts and sails. All the planting was native to a Kentish riverbank along the dry river, with more architectural plants around the edge.

      We added a ‘hump back bridge’ in natural stone & a fallen oak tree, from years back when there was a very large storm.

      A Quiet School Garden
      School Garden

      One of the art teachers had the kids create a whole series of ceramic fish which we set into the river bed,  they make excellent brass rubbings !

      Ceramic Fish for Riverbed.
      Ceramic Fish for Riverbed.

      Children love to interact with nature, they also enjoy movement. They oddly like some risk. You will notice though that here we kept away from moving objects as this was a ‘Quiet Garden’ .

      City parks in recent years have tended away from moving pieces of play equipment, mainly due to the liability from accidents, they use a more static type of play equipment, although the classic swing is still in evidence in many parks to this day.

      More awareness of other dangers has lead to many play areas being fenced in, to protect the children playing.

      Visiting a local farm is yet another wonderful experience “Pick you Own’ farms can be a wonderful treat for the kids..

      Fruit picking
      Fruit picking

      Here in Weston, Missouri we have a classic old style farm that is just enchanting.

      Early one morning , Weston Red Barn Farm
      Early one morning , Weston Red Barn Farm

      Ann & I, interviewed Farmer Steve last week he will be on our show very soon, to tell you how busy he is kept with  all his animals and field of fruit and pumpkins not to mention around 15,000 kids visiting his farm each year !

      You can hear our other interviews at  Growing Trends

      Or you can visit our show web site at Landscape   to read more

      Enjoy your weekend, thank you for reading our blog, we would love to hear from you.

      Ann & Chris

      Views: 35

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

      Have you included herbs & veggies in your landscape?

      Could you grow these?
      Could you grow these?
      The Victorians, were an inventive bunch, they invented and developed so many things, today we seem to spend more and more time with new technical inventions rather than try and solve the many issues facing us with the environment.

      Perhaps its simply we do not spend enough time outside to enjoy the sun, stars,landscape and the water?

      Going back to the Victorians, they have been credited with developing the regimented summer bedding displays, they developed huge estate layouts with ponds or should I say lakes, they were instrumental in cut formal lawns, I think Ransomes was one of the first with a horse drawn mower?

      What they also did was include vegetables within the garden landscape,as did the Germans and French, it’s a great way to grow veggies and herbs as it is almost invisible, yet so effective and pleasing to grow your own.Plus invariably the food is both fresh & free of those pesky pesticides.

      Have you included herbs & veggies in your design? – a question for your landscape designer perhaps?

      The marigolds help reduce the bugs
      The marigolds help reduce the bugs

      Our first interview for our Growing Trends radio show,was with a couple that do just that, – we are due to return shortly to see how the fruits of their labour has gone..

      Their garden has between 350 – 400 Trees,Shrubs, Perennials, Annuals, and at least 75 Herbs & Veggies. It still has this beautiful pool to relax in !

      Can you spot the herbs & veggies?
      Can you spot the herbs & veggies?

      Even if you only have a small area it is very beneficial to grow say just a pot or two of herbs, not only are they fresh, they keep on producing throughout the season, (saving lots of money) all you need to do is water, and take any seed heads off as they form.

      Stacked herb pot.
      Stacked herb pot.

      For the more adventurous a larger area can be created, this requires more commitment, the rewards are much greater with more produce grown and the satisfaction of growing your own food.

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

      Of course you could get completely carried away, employ a full time team and develop a world class garden, that attracts thousands of visitors a year.. feeding an awful lot of folks into the bargain !

      Simply stunning !
      Simply stunning !

      How do I start ? I hear you say. Well the best way is always start in a conservative way, the easiest is probably to start with herbs, which will grow throughout the growing season, once thats mastered, try a quick growing veggie such as lettuce, it has a short cycle and is relatively easy to grow. If you don’t want the hassle of growing from seed initially, it’s possible today to buy ‘plugs’ that are pre started and likely to produce quite quickly, then progress from here, adding interesting varieties of say garlic, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes….

      Weekend Garden Kit from Picagardi
      Weekend Garden Kit from Picagardi

      This garden was planted just 2 weeks earlier with pre started plants. The trick if you haven’t grown many plants yourself is to start small, then as you find that the weather and conditions are unpredictable, you can try a more adventurous approach. Remember though that even hardened gardeners find that some plants some years just do not flourish as expected.

      The rewards are so worth the effort, producing your own food, saving money and having a healthy outdoor activity.

      Hort Cuisine anyone ?
      Hort Cuisine anyone ?

      Ann & I will be talking to some new gardeners, along with some seasoned,experienced gardeners in the next few weeks… the trick is always to have fun and experiment just a little !

      You can hear more of our interviews at  Growing Trends 

      Or drop by our website at  

      We would love to hear your suggestions, comments or requests….and we would really appreciate a like on Facebook !


      Ann & Chris






      Views: 32

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

      It’s all about the people !

      Digital Radio, always on, step through and listen now !
      Digital Radio, always on, step through and listen now !

      Listen here

      Most people are so interesting, it’s just a matter of coaxing them to talk to you, then asking the right questions.-

      Are you passionate about your garden ?,

      Do you have a favorite  landscape ?,

      Would you like to be interviewed ?

      We started this series of horticultural based interviews with one simple idea, which was, that within our very diverse industry there were many people :-

      both Homeowners,

      Designers or Creators,


      or Visitors  and Admirers,

      who had fascinating stories to tell about their everyday lives.

      We have not been disappointed , in fact, we have been surprised by how many folks have a real passion for all things outside, particularly by how many people would like to reconnect with nature.

      Tiger Rhus
      Tiger Rhus

      So with that in mind here is a day in the life of… Ann & Chris. the co-hosts of Growing Trends, we ventured out last Saturday, bright & early, just as the sun was rising :-

      5.00 am Saturday

      Ann & I had literally, a ‘field day’ on Saturday.

      We each got up at the crack of dawn, and went to interview Farmer Steve, at Weston Red Barn Farm

      We arrived at 7.30am and had already missed Steve, who had picked a crop of fresh peaches for Cindy ( his lovely wife) to take to market some 50 miles away.

      Early one morning , Weston Red Barn Farm
      Early one morning , Weston Red Barn Farm

      Steve & Cindy have, for the past 25 years been slowly developing Weston Red Barn Farm to a traditional working farm, specifically to show kids how farms are part of the community. They have Apples, Peaches, Chickens, Goats, Horses, a Farm Shop, Pumpkin fields,  along with a wedding venue. It keeps them very busy throughout the summer and autumn.


      One of Steve’s farm workers arrives to feed the chickens, goats, ducks, and horses, calls Steve for us, who appears over the horizon in a 4 wheeler…

      We set up the Mics, the recorders,then we interviewed Steve for around an hour, it could have been much longer, Steve had a fascinating journey and one that you will be able to hear on our show shortly at  Growing Trends Internet Radio

      A few snippets : –

      They have an amazing 12,000 – 15,000 school children visit them every year !

      They have 67 weddings at the farm in a year.!

      Old Milk Churns
      Old Milk Churns

      I happen to know one of the current family members , of the family that invented the milk churn, their company was called Express Dairies, they developed the original milk churn to take milk from the ‘shires’ to London on the newly built railways, for the burgeoning population of the city.Needless to say they made a handsome profit !

      Of course these days most milk isn’t delivered by horse & cart, or by electric milk floats – yes way back in the 60’s milk in England was delivered by battery powered eco-friendly milk floats, as a youngster I often helped the ‘Milkman’ on his rounds for an extra shilling or two.

      Express diaries
      Express diaries

      Ok, so back to the interview.

      The Farm is about to lay out it’s Pumpkins for sale so Ann found a few pumpkins lying around and ….posed for a quick picture – they sure look impressive !

      It's fun here...
      It’s fun here…

      There was even time for a spot of ‘picking’, in my miss spent youth we would go ‘Scrumping’

      These look yummy !
      These look yummy !


      With our interview completed, it was time to rush back to interview our second fascinating person of the day.

      Alan Sargent was over 4000 miles away, and 6 hours ahead of us, in Petworth, West Sussex in England.

      A must for Head Gardeners.
      A must for Head Gardeners.

      Alan has a most varied career in horticulture :-

      He has Built or,

      Designed and Built dozens of Chelsea Flower Show Gardens,

      Design & Constructed Award Winning Landscapes.

      Formed a Trade Association,

      Judged Garden Exhibits,

      Written Books

      Found time to be a Head Gardener at one of England’s finest and busiest Estates – the 12000 acre Goodwood Estate – with its 44 acre gardens, airfield, horse racing,and motor racing circuits.

      Goodwood estate
      Goodwood estate

      the race course…

      The Race Course
      The Race Course

      the motor racing circuit. – or for the Petrol heads as Alan refers to them !

      goodwood 4

      Alan’s skills are legendary, and he has a keen eye for detail – I am a detail freak too, so I love his workmanship !

      One of those more famous English Schools
      One of those more famous English Schools

      His stone work is superb.

      Ann and I were to coin an English expression ‘Plum Tuckered’ – you will need to look up it’s meaning, here’s a clue to replenish the reserves we stopped for breakfast..

      10.30am back home.

      It was time for that quick breakfast, and of course coffee – coffee in America is so good …

      Then we quickly reviewed the recordings, packed up the recording gear. Headed off to the lake some 53 miles away for a well earned break, sailing our little racing cruiser ‘Stiletto’

      Stiletto - Capri 25
      Stiletto – Capri 25

      It’s amazing how relaxing an afternoon sail can be.. this week it was a tad hot at 100f but still fun.

      This Weeks Show

      This weeks show will be about a fantastic store that brings in it’s very own miniature pony each weekend, where it has a small coral in the ‘Fairy Garden’ at the back of the store. – you can buy all many of things for creating a miniature garden !

      We are also talking to Richard Benfield a Garden Tourist Guru, whilst he is on his travels, around the world, we caught up with Richard in Western Australia..  do listen to the show at..  Growing Trends Internet Radio  if you, or you know someone that would be fun to interview drop us a line and we will get back to you.

      In the meantime we have a website telling you more at

      You will be able to hear all about Weston Red Barn Farm, along with Alan’s adventures in the coming weeks.

      If you have someone in mind we could interview drop us a line briefly explaining who & why.

      Ann & Chris.

      Views: 27

    • Edibles,  Food,  Garden Design,  Gardening,  gardens,  Landscape design,  Landscapes & Gardens,  Landscaping,  Nature,  park,  Planting,  Vegetable Growing

      When did you last walk in a park, or a garden?

      Ann & I thought it would be fun to explore in a little depth the opportunities to re-connect with nature and the ways we can all achieve this within our busy schedules.

      Recent reports have shown that even a simple stroll in a woodland has beneficial results, as the trees give off a scent that is very calming to us all – the Japanese even have a word for this.

      Green entrance 1

      We also know that the soil contains beneficial microbes that act in a similar way to anti-depressants – perhaps this is why so many gardeners are happy dedicated folks ?

      Our promenade starts at home…. with a stroll around a garden.

      Taking a contemplative stroll in a garden is very relaxing
      Taking a contemplative stroll in a garden is very relaxing

      By adding the artificial stream we created more interest as you walked around the garden.

      We added a small stream to flow alongside the path
      We added a small stream to flow alongside the path

      Many of the gardens we have designed and built contain a pathway to walk around the garden, they are wide enough for two people to walk side by side, usually constructed of a long-lasting, hard wearing semi flexible surface, ( we avoided concrete as its everywhere in the urban environment, and we have found that natural materials almost always look better)

      Here the pathway is made of bound limestone and leads around the garden, directly from the brick terrace.
      Here the pathway is made of bound limestone and leads around the garden, directly from the brick terrace.

      Here the path acts as transition between the shrub beds and the more formal lawn, further over was a fenced in swimming pool.

      Path along lawn edge
      Path along lawn edge

      The amount of traffic, will to some extent dictate the types of finish materials best suited to the task – all will need a sub-base preparation that can withstand the intended loads. ( a reminder for designers).

      A lunch break walk, or special trip to the museum , brings a different style of path.

      The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art , Sculpture Park
      The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art , Sculpture Park

      This beautiful pathway was repeated on the other side of the parkland setting

      This heavily trafficked walkway above , is constructed of large rectangular pieces of natural stone, with a suitable load bearing base beneath, it is designed for many years of use.

      Anyone for Badminton?
      Anyone for Badminton?

      Some of us are lucky to have offices with roof top garden for us to relax in for a few moments, this one was attached to the staff restaurant in central London.

      Wooden pathway on Roof Garden
      Wooden pathway on Roof Garden

      This Roof Garden walkway is constructed of pre-treated wood and then stained, it’s laid on a spreader system, to allow the loads to be evenly distributed across the roofs entire surface ( one of those engineering requirement when working on a roof). We stained the wood green to soften it’s impact and to add to the whole ambiance.

      Back home for a moment , this stepping path acts as a beautiful transition from lawn to path to pond

      A little more adventurous, next to a small pond.
      A little more adventurous, next to a small pond.

      Walking to the rose arbor from the house….

      The rose arbor was connected to the house by the pathway.
      The rose arbor was connected to the house by the pathway.

      Constructed of large wooden pieces, this treated timber, then stained black stepping path has pea-gravel between the pieces so we could add scented herbs , which release their essence as you step on them, the edges of the shingle are stopped off with bricks set between the wooden pieces. Creating a soft, but effective pathway.

      Some years ago at a Dutch Floriade we came across this superbly, educational pathway.

      A somewhat unusual pathway
      A somewhat unusual pathway

      Designed so that users could observe nature on the floor of the pond, it was both inspirational and educational.

      Almost all gardens benefit from a method to transit from one space to another, here we created a gravel path that took the place of a traditional lawn, serving two main purposes, it significantly reduced aftercare, and reduced watering, yet looked as if it was meant to be here.

      By breaking up the gravel path with two angled lines of paving and setting a pergola between the illusion of a larger space was created.
      By breaking up the gravel path with two angled lines of paving and setting a pergola between the illusion of a larger space was created.

      This garden was only 10ft wide by the shed !

      This roof garden, was the subject of an exhibition, so a great deal of work was required to create a suitable pathway around.

      Sometimes it is necessary to go to great lengths to create pathways
      Sometimes it is necessary to go to great lengths to create pathways

      The roof top garden was tracing the history of London’s gardens from the middle ages to the present time – well some 20 years ago.

      Here’s how it finally looked..

      Museum of London
      Museum of London

      I’ve no idea how it looks today !

      Finally, if you want very low maintenance, it’s best to stick to hard surfaces, like this granite sett pathway..

      This granite sett pathway is extremely hard wearing  and yet very rustic looking.
      This granite sett pathway is extremely hard wearing and yet very rustic looking.

      If you want a softer look , using natural bricks ( as long as they are frost resistant) is another alternative to consider.

      Brick makes a very attractive pathway
      Brick makes a very attractive pathway

      or perhaps for the busy executive, a pathway that’s covered by a pergola on either side…

      The pathways are on either side of this beautiful lawn
      The pathways are on either side of this beautiful lawn

      Hopefully we have inspired you to step outside and wander down to your nearest park, playground or just enjoy outside.

      Find out more, listen to the amazing folks that create, tend, are passionate about or just have built these beautiful relaxing gardens, our show is all about the people

      To hear our internet radio show Listen here   or our web site visit  Growing Trends Web Site

      We would love to hear from you.

      Views: 53