A fantastic weekend pursuit

It's such an exciting time to be out looking at gardens as the season of the Yellow Book is at a crescendo. But how can this fantastic weekend pursuit help us inform our own gardens. I'm always looking for new plants and plant combinations, but a most useful exercise is to consider how we look at a garden. What is drawing you into the garden? How do you feel when you're walking through it? Does the space flow well? Creating gardens is so much more than just the plants within it and to make a successful garden, the balance of hard landscaping to soft has to work; the structure, whatever that may be must be in the right place, there should be enough focus but not too many! If it's in the yellow, there will be plenty of seating, but is there plenty of interest and reward for your efforts once you've sat down? So a tip is to very much look up and think how instinctively the space is 'talking to you'- pompous as that may sound, if it's a garden to spend time in, you have to feel comfortable and be given pleasure to be within it. So whilst enjoying all those delicious plants (and cakes!) also take time to look up and consider how you feel.

Posted by Lizzie Tulip Friday, 19 August 2015

With the lush foliage and bright colours of our perennials now only fading memories, this time of year exposes the bare bones of our gardens but it doesn't have to leave us with a feeling of emptiness.

Many evergreens, which see us through winter with their deep festive foliage, can also provide structure and therefore interest when used as topiary.

Box is perhaps the best known of these, but it is not the only evergreen with something to offer. Ilex crenata and Viburnum tinus, both compact and easy to maintain, can be worked into bold topiary shapes such as cones, boxy hedging and pillars. Opting for a sense volume and presence, over fussy and detailed topiary, gives a winter garden definition, whilst providing a quiet frame and backdrop during the colourful months of spring and summer.

The slow growing Ilex crenata is happy in all types of soils and can tolerate some shade, while the variety 'Golden Gem' with its yellow gold foliage provides a lighter contrast to other rich evergreens.

Viburnum tinus can eventually reach around 3m tall, however, it is easily pruned in early summer to maintain its shape and will produce white flowers through winter.

We have one other favourite for a winter garden worth a mention here. Whilst it isn't a candidate for topiary Prunus x subhirtella 'Autumn Rosea' proffers delicate winter colour with its semi-double flowers flushed with pink which open during mild weather.

Posted by Lizzie Tulip Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Autumn glow, on a smaller scale

At this time of year we are delighted to see the rich autumnal colours transform our landscape. For those who have a more modest garden it can be difficult to bring this glorious glow home. Without the space for large trees and shrubs, where can we look for these rich honey tones and deep reds?

Ornamental grasses can provide a textured alternative and there are plenty to choose from. Even in smaller spaces it is important to consider height, and whilst trees may be out of the question, the majestic honey-coloured Stipa gigantea offers not just colour and texture from its flowerheads, but at up to 2.5m tall it can also provide drama without casting a heavy shadow. On a slightly smaller scale Miscanthus sinensis 'Ferner Osten' carries dark plumy red stems into autumn and Molina caerulea 'Morehexe' can provide rich mellow tones.

The Euonymus family, often associated with the accommodating evergreen shrubs also has a palette of plants which are small and provide some of the best foliage colour at this time of year. The Euonymus europaeus ‘Red Cascade’ being the finest of them all, and can tuck nicely into a small space.

Grasses also have the added advantage of providing you with structure in your garden through winter, although they will benefit from the removal of the old stems in spring to allow room for the new year's growth to come through. The Euonymus will also respond to a spring prune to retain a good shape.

Posted by Lizzie Tulip Friday, 30 October 2015

An unexpected love affair

I'm having an unexpected love affair at the moment with the Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald Gaiety'. OK, so this is a plant often associated with mass municipal planting and is often seen lurking in unforgiving corners, so why does this standard shrub keep catching my eye? On a number of jobs recently Euonymus have been sulking on the peripheries and we have dug them up, abused them during the construction process and then replanted. They repaid us, not by sulking or grumbling with some die-back, but by flourishing in glory and continuing to put on fresh foliage. It's variegated leaf, whilst subtle and pale, manages to lighten a border and gently 'lifts' the green foliage of surrounding planting and, as an evergreen, quietly softens the edges of pathways all year round. Planted with the ballooning blue of Geranium 'Brookside' or the tough purple flowering Vinca minor 'Atropurpurea', it contrasts and shines. So will this affair continue…we shall have to see.

Posted by Lizzie Tulip Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Early delights

During winter our minds often wander to the early delight of snowdrops. My favourite, although not the most unusual, is Galanthus S Arnott. Its slender, lengthy leaves give rise to the heavy nodding delicately scented flowers which hold the characteristic green markings. These slender white delights look graceful through the purple flowers of Crocus tommasinianus in any well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade. We should also during these early months be giving careful consideration to the backbone in our borders. The pleasure of plants such as the stalwart evergreen Euonymus fortunei is often underestimated to mix into a border with bulbs. Many have a sprawling habit, with creeping 'fingers' finding their way between other plants. An underrated and often tricky to find variety is 'Silver Queen' which grows quite broad so gives useful height to borders with bulbs, complementing well with its creamy white margins.

Posted by Lizzie Tulip Friday, 9 Janaury 2015

Self-sown beauties

Whilst we see ourselves as getting back to nature as we go about our gardening, the act of gardening is not natural at all: we are actually taking control of nature, or trying to, with the hope of making our gardens beautiful. Nothing wrong with this at all, as we know, plants thrive as we prune, trim and cut back. But there are often plants which self-seed in unexpected place, that are ‘fighting back’ against our gardening. One of the many plant which self-seeds profusely is Centranthus ruber, the Red valerian. Whilst it’s been banned from National Trust properties because of the effects of the root system, I have a real love for this plant. It can be anything between dark red and flushed pink and white and can grow out of the tiniest of crevices and arches upwards in a graceful habit during its lengthy flowering period between late Spring and late Autumn. So what do we do? Exclude such a beautiful, easy growing plant from our borders, or be strict: deadheading after flowering and pulling out in places we don’t want it, occasionally leaving in where it gives unexpected delight?

Posted by Lizzie Tulip Monday, 24 November 2014

Light in the garden

At this time of the year it becomes increasingly important to understand how much light you have in your garden and where it falls, to ensure that not only your plants are happy but that you are happy; either knowing where you can best sit out to catch the most of the daylight, or knowing how you can avoid the glare from the low autumn sun.

The overall amount of light depends on the aspect of your space and the best way to check this is with a compass, as well as carefully watching the shadows in your garden.  Remember that north-facing gardens get the least light and can often be damp, south-facing gardens get the most sun light. East-facing gardens get morning light and west-facing gardens get afternoon and evening light.  There's no point in fighting the facts, once you've worked out the aspect- it's best to work with what you have.   By knowing the light levels you can make informed decisions about where to put your seating area, or move your bench to and what to plant where.

Plants which can light up the garden and add interest at this time of year include the wonderful seed heads of the grasses such as Calamatrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ which adds beautiful colour and movement with the wind and golden sunlight.

The best plant for stunning autumn foliage is Euonymus alatus europeus ‘Red Cascade’ as the leaf shape and colour cannot be rivalled.

Variegated plants such as Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Irene Patterson’ and Euonymus fortuneii ‘Silver Queen’ or ‘Katy’ offer evergreen foliage which brighten up your garden as the light levels fade into autumn and through to winter.

Little surprises in the garden at this time of year are the perennials which keep going with their extended flowering season such Gaura ‘Whirling Butterflies’ and Geranium varieties which, if deadheaded will still be offering pockets of colour to delight!

Posted by Lizzie Tulip Thursday, 16 October 2014

Creating a garden from a blank canvas

I visited a new client last week with a beautiful new home and a blank canvas to work with in their garden. Talking through ways of how to start the ball rolling reminded me of how daunting I use to find this process when I first started designing. Whilst it now comes instinctively, it was good to be reminded, whilst setting things out for my client, how to focus on the elements which matter most first, before allowing yourself to consider the fine detail. My advice for the first brainstorming is as follows:

If you manage to get these points answered and thought through, you’re well on your way to having the space mapped out for a successful design.

Posted by Lizzie Tulip Thursday, 6 March 2014