• Home & Garden,  Landscape Design & Build,  Landscape features

    Creating mystery & intrigue with Timber Walls, Fences & Trelliage

    Last time we talked about paths.

    Today I thought it might be advantageous to discuss ‘Timber Walls & Fences’.

    We will include Trelliage as they all have a role to play.

    Helping to create a certain kind of mystery within a garden landscape.

    We’ve discussed hedges recently, so you can scroll down to that article if you would like.

    These ‘vertical materials’ are acting as a visual or physical  barrier between differing areas.

    This leads the eye on to a new discovery or perhaps just creating an interesting space.

    At some time fairly soon we should add ‘Green Walls’ which are gaining in interest and can look absolutely superb.

    I wonder how long it is before we develop these to grow vertical edibles ?

    Having designed and built a huge number of gardens over the years. We have gained valuable experience in what works best in a given situation.

    Using Timber.

    The garden below, was primarily designed to reduce aftercare. Taking care to keep the beautifully rustic boundary fencing, which blends in to both the surroundings and the new work so well.

    It was necessary, to repair the odd arris rail, a couple of fence posts and some slats, re-hang the side gate etc. Overall by keeping the original fence the rustic feel was, I think, you will agree maintained.


    Low hit and miss side fence with 6ft feather edged boundary fence & framed gate
    Low hit and miss side fence with 6ft feather edged boundary fence & framed gate

    Start with what is already there.

    It’s nearly always best to work with what is already there, rather than ripping out everything. My first task is always to look up and see how the tree canopy is. Then beyond the space we are working with.

    To see what impact, we may be making without perhaps realizing how a neighbor might view our endeavors.

    Very low maintenance, Mediterranean style
    Very low maintenance, Mediterranean style

    In small gardens complete barriers tend to make the garden smaller.  It is best to create more of an illusion of a barrier. This is often best created by using trellis. Here is an example that we stained black.

    A word of warning, trying to make a gate from trellis is fraught with problems if you do not add a full frame that is braced. When you add this, it tends to upset the look of the trellis, so think carefully before using as a gate. As without the frame the gate will change shape over time!


    The trellis here was primarily to separate the more formal ‘Front Garden’ with the more relaxed ‘Play Garden’ at the rear and side of the property.



    To improve the strength of this gate we added metal framing at each corner, both inside and outside, it was only partially successful.

    A black stained trellis gate
    A black stained trellis gate

    If a more substantial barrier is required, say in the form of a structural wall to hold back a bank then there are a number of ways to achieve this.

    Low Timber Retaining wall.

    Here we used vertically set timber as a retaining wall. We did place a waterproof membrane behind the timber and a gravel pressure release drain. So as not to have unsightly stains running across the light colored paving.

    Low timber retaining wall
    Low timber retaining wall

    A quite pleasing effect can be achieved.

    The softer low timber wall looks at home here.
    The softer low timber wall looks at home here.

    Roof Gardens

    Roof gardens benefit from the light weight of timber. Its ability to be ‘modulised’, as can be seen here.

    Low timber walls on roof garden
    Low timber walls on roof garden

    Structural Timber Walls

    Some years ago, now, we discovered. Well perhaps I should say a local native of our area wanted someone to test a new product he had found lurking in New Zealand. So, as we had won a number of awards for our work, and our teams were well known, he persuaded us to try this product.

    Structural Timber Walls
    Structural Timber Walls

    It was fantastic. Ok I should add some provisos, it is treated wood, it lasts a very long time, I have pieces from 30 years ago that are still unblemished. Maybe bleached a little but otherwise fine. It will twist if not constructed correctly, although it is unzippable and thus fairly straightforward to repair. If you introduce plants into the wall, it looks amazing. Infact the plants protect the timber.

    Here’s a much taller one we completed.

    It is essential to use a structural engineer to carry out the necessary survey, and calculate the design criteria for these ‘Gravity Walls.’



    Once established they can look like this..

    Planting covering a timber wall
    Planting covering a timber wall
    The timber wall blends in so well
    The timber wall blends in so well

    Some years back we were even asked to build a play area within a timber stockade. The posts were about 16 ft long and required some ingenuity to place correctly.

    Treated timber barrier in play area
    Treated timber barrier in play area

    Here’s how we did it..

    Using a 4in1 bucket on a bobcat
    Using a 4in1 bucket on a bobcat

    Moving to more decorative uses, let’s explore trelliage and low walls..

    Wishing well feature with trellis back drop
    Wishing well feature with trellis back drop

    We sometimes add some whimsy to our designs. Here we used a rather deep drainage shaft, disguising it as a wishing well. To make it stand out we added a trellis surround to enable us to plant climbers to enhance the visual impact. Here its just been completed.

    Pergola with Wishing Well at end of path
    Pergola with Wishing Well at end of path

    Ornamental Trelliage

    Here we used a cloud trellis to add some movement to the landscape. To help hide the boring stepped trellis in the neighboring garden.

    Cloud trellis adds movement
    Cloud trellis adds movement

    Here the trellis has been painted white next to the house it gives a very clean look.

    Painting trellis white adds interest
    Painting trellis white adds interest

    Here we had a custom-made heavy-duty trellis, note the pencil edges soften the whole fence.

    Superb detail for trellis
    Superb detail for trellis
    The completed trellis barrier
    The completed trellis barrier

    Ann & I will spend a little time on the radio show talking about materials. When we interview our next guests who will be Designers.

    In the meantime, do come and listen at  Growing Trends

    We would love to hear from you with ideas, comments, suggestions and requests…

    Ann & Chris

      Visits: 323

    • Hedge,  Landscape Design & Build,  Landscaping

      Privacy Planting a Garden Hedge

      Garden Hedges,

      Hedges are often used to create a boundary between sections of gardens. They can help lead you around a garden. Although often their primary role is to act as a privacy barrier. A hedge can be a very useful garden tool.

      Personally, we’ve even used ones for security. BY choosing a suitably thorny subject, it can make it impossible for someone or something to get through the branches.

      The picture below, shows a hedge being used as an entrance into a garden, creating some privacy and yet leading the eye to the main terrace doors.


      A hedge can be grown using almost any plant material that will withstand constant clipping. The list of suitable plants is quite large. At the smaller end you have the traditional box hedging often used in kitchen gardens, or to surround ornamental flower beds, as seen below.


      Types of Plants to use.

      To create a less formal barrier, you could use forsythia – but remember that forsythia flowers on last year’s wood. So pruning and shaping should be restricted to just after flowering if possible. Hornbeam, Beech, Rose, Escallonia, Cotoneaster, Laurel, Yew, Leylandii, Thuja all make a nice hedge.Image

      Of course the height you desire the hedge, makes a difference in choice of plants to use as well.


      Heights of hedges.

      The height is also dictated by how often and by what method is used to keep the hedge clipped. As can be seen below, this hedge would take many hours of work to keep it in this condition.


      Trimming a hedge can be a simple job, with a handheld trimmer or a more serious project with lots big of equipment.


      Clearing away the cuttings

        Visits: 348

      • Book Reviews,  Landscapes & Gardens,  Podcasts

        Could we ask for a little help from you?

        An exhibition garden

        I’ve been really surprised at all the positive comments the site has been generating from everyone – Thank you all so much, it’s fun to write, improves my awful spelling, maybe my grammar as well ?

        You can let me know on that one !

        Some of you asked if I would make it possible to donate on this site, I’ve tried to avoid that, as well as adverts as I was trying to be impartial, with the content.


        As you may know we do have a fun internet radio show, where we interview folks from around the globe about their Gardens & Landscapes.

        Find some inspiration for your Yard today…

        When we started this radio show the aim was to find interesting people who had a passion for their Garden or Landscapes. Little did we know what would happen. In just a few months we have an audience stretching across the globe in 43 countries.


        We soon added a web site www.grotrends.com to provide details of schedules, information on guests and sponsors, and a growing information area with details of techniques, ideas and examples of projects.

        Working to complete an exhibition garden

        The show Growing Trends concentrates on the clients, the designers, the creators, the maintainers and the experts that help them, we would welcome any suggestions on who we should contact – the schedule is filling quickly, which brings me on to how you can help.

        Note how clean the working area is

        We have two one hour shows a day seven days a week, with a little funding help we can update the interviews more often, and tell the story of you, or your friends work, or your garden or landscape.

        Can you help us in just a small way ? Contributing just $5 ?

        Here’s the link to StartSomeGood   the crowdfunding source we are using for this fund raising campaign

        A Japanese style garden exhibition

        Growing Trends is fun, friendly, informative, interesting, amusing & entertaining.

        A project in Florida

        This one acre pond has a water change almost once per hour !

        A final interesting project from just outside New York. This fully structural gravity wall is almost 27ft high !

        Fully structural timber wall

        Note the access is less than 4ft !

        We really would appreciate your support, so we can interview maybe you, or your colleagues or friends, across the globe – thank you all for your support & comments.

        You can also find us on Facebook 

        Ann & Chris.


        Visits: 102

      • 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

        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 www.grotrends.com it’s packed with helpful hints.

          Visits: 82

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

          Why natural materials invariably look superb.

          There are a number of reasons why, let’s start with this picture of a French Restaurant not that far from Lyon.

          A welcoming French Restaurant

          Natural materials, always weather well, they tend not to lose their colours so quickly, being much less affected by UV light. The wood for instance changes colour slowly,  blending into the other colours, with a softer patina. The natural stone stays basically the same colour apart from the addition of dirt and moss etc., the rendering isn’t really natural, it was something started in the 1950’s for some reason in villages throughout France, some have returned to a more natural stone look by hacking the rendering off, others as here have allowed the rendering to weather and blend in.

          Of course it helps to have the walls half covered in virginia creeper, with the windows festooned with trailing geraniums. The over all effect is soft on the eye and pleasing.

          When selecting materials for a project, it’s always a good idea to see what natural ones are available first.

          A selection of natural materials

          All the materials in the picture above are ‘natural’  as you can see they have a softer look to them.

          They  ‘weather’ in much better and seem to last longer.

          Bound Gravel Driveway

          This beautiful driveway was constructed with natural bricks to form the rain water gulley run offs – it actually took three bricks to form the channel.

          The top wearing surface is a double coated natural dried Pea Gravel that has been applied with fibreglass rovings and a special binder to form an impervious surface. Surfaces like this need to be re applied every 5 years or so to keep up appearances.

          The beauty of such a surface is that the gravel isn’t likely to ‘fly around’ much, and the surface lasts longer because it is more or less water proofed.

          Gravel and granite path

          This attractive Gravel and Granite surface, will basically never change colour, it will always looks warm and inviting, sure it will need some aftercare to keep weeds and encroaching plants at bay, but it will be the same in twenty years time as it is today.

          Secret Garden

          This secret garden, is really easy to construct, its basically larger gravel rolled into the soil, with stepping stone flat rocks leading to a a stone bench with a small statue acting as the main focal point… a great place to listen to Growing Trends  our downloadable internet radio show.

          Small bridge & low rockery


          Here we used a low natural stone rockery with a low bridge across a pathway around the garden, as a starting point for an artificial stream, adding differing sized stones and rocks into the stream bed to create a natural appearance.

          We will be having an interview  with an ex Head Gardener of one of England’s great Estates shortly.

          Do listen to Growing Trends and let us know what you would enjoy hearing about.

          Ann & Chris



          Visits: 28

        • Gardening,  gardens,  Landscapes & Gardens,  Nature

          Interview spots


          We thought one of our interviews should be on board a sailing boat, after all it’s about as tranquil and peaceful as

          a lovely garden – unless like yesterday it was blowing at about 40 mph ( then it requires a little more skill and a lot less sails)

          First however our next interviews are going to be fun.


          The first is in an absolutely amazing sculpture garden, that has 13 Henry Moore sculptures among a host of others that are equally interesting. Sculptures are fantastic for creating a interesting focal point in a garden, leading the eye from one part to another as you travel through the garden and it’s story unfolds. Sadly sculptures like these superb Henry Moore’s are beyond most folks budgets, although a number of firms make very acceptable stone sculptures, urns and statues.

          The next is with a truly traditional  organic vegetable grower, this is a growing trend as we discover more and more information about some of the effects of GMO seeds and the long term effects of today’s insecticides & pesticides.

          The opportunity to design, develop and use the garden landscape is now more important than ever, with the erratic climate swings we’ve been experiencing, growing your own vegetables is both economical, generally healthier in many ways, and fun.

          Schools are beginning to realise that not only is it a learning resource but also a huge cost saving when it comes to providing nutritional foods for the kids to eat – the kids learn where their food comes from, how to grow it, and then how to prepare and eat it – a truly win, win , win situation.

          With the advent of vertical gardens, and mixed planting in pots, it’s possible to grow herbs and vegetables even on the smallest of spaces, all you need is light, protection from extreme heat and cold and of course water.


          This herb pot is quick & easy to create and will last most of the summer.





          Visits: 66

        • Gardening,  gardens,  Landscapes & Gardens,  Landscaping,  Nature,  Planting

          Sometimes it’s the pool that just has to go !

          The before picture, oddly we often removed swimming pools, especially when young families moved in.


          Now here’s the after picture….


          and one looking down from above.. quite a transformation



          Visits: 44

        • Gardening,  gardens,  Landscapes & Gardens,  Landscaping,  Nature,  Planting

          Green Walls

          Green Walls

          We built our first green wall in 1984, in rural Kent, not far from a famous racing circuit. The wall was built on a chalk escarpment so to make it more interesting we added plants into the wall, the wall was fully structural, quick and easy to build. As you can see quite a wide variety of plants was used to see what would develop best in this situation.

          Visits: 55

        • gardens,  Landscapes & Gardens,  Nature

          We’re ready to record our radio show..!


          We would really like to hear what you think about our program, and to ask you what you would like to hear on the show, or even be interviewed about any of the topics we are planning to present.

          Here’s a typical weeks content:

          The show is intended for the homeowner, with input from homeowners & experts around the world.

          Discussing Edibles, Vegetables and Herbs, what are the easiest to start with, where & how  should I grow them.

          An interview with a homeowner that grows veggies and herbs interspersed within flower borders – growing peppers, rosemary, parsley, beans,cabbage, lettuces, tomatoes, etc., are quite easy,

          Amusing anecdotes from some 40 years of landscaping gardens & commercial sites across the globe.

          Interviewing a small organic vegetable farmer in the MidWest, what they are growing ,how they get to market…

          Around the world trends in growing vegetables & herbs from our colleagues abroad, looking at for example – Allotments in England, Balcony raised beds in Europe,

          Coreopsis 1

          The next week will be:

          Choosing the right plant  – how to plant, prune, and maintain flower beds and plant containers.

          Interviewing a sustainable garden designer in the USA – how to save water, prepare ground, aftercare, etc.,

          More anecdotes from around the globe.

          Trends in Playgrounds, Roof Gardens, Paving, Parks, Grass areas from around the world..

          If you have a question you would like ask, please send us an email with the question we will try and answer questions each week, we may even call you ! We will also send you details of where you can hear the program.

          As the program will be on internet radio, it will be possible to record directly from the web, enabling you to play back when its best for you.

          Visits: 37

        • Environment,  Landscape Design & Build,  Structural Walls

          A large green retaining wall

          A green retaining wall

          Fully retaining gravity walls can be made from specially treated wood..this one is 25ft high!

          Treated Timber Gravity Wall
          Treated Timber Gravity Wall

          Cellular construction


          Completed & Planted


          These walls are quite easy to construct with a small crew, they are light weight and adaptable. We have found that adding small planting ‘burrito’ works really well. The timber weathers much better if covered with planting, it helps to prevent the wood twisting, the planting looks really attractive.



          The top of the wall

          Here you see a green wall some years after completionAfter planting establishes

            Visits: 133

          • Landscapes & Gardens,  Nature

            Some tips and tricks for that dream landscape

















            A somewhat larger residence, with a lovely brick gulley detail.


            Our first green wall way back in 1984, this superb timber product (guaranteed for 50years) is fully structural to a retained height of about 27ft (9m), this wall is about 14ft in total, and terraced to make the best use of the available space. We added the planting to give this steeply slopping garden a softer look.


            This larger residence was developed as a modern Arts & Crafts style garden, using random rectangular yorkstone paving, natural bricks and knapped flint walls – knapped flint is a difficult  product to use, necessitating us to develop a modern approach to using a ‘live sand/lime mortar, we added stainless steel butterfly ties every 9 inches ( 250mm) to enable a quicker laying time.



            Finally the classic English stripped lawn…from one of our clients gardens


            Visits: 42