Tag Archives: advice

Garden Makeovers – part 3

Garden Makeovers – it’s easier than you think!


We thought we would do a few mini-makeovers with our border designs, so you can see how you can adapt them to any space.


This weeks garden is on a down slope. It’s fairly small with raised beds and a shed.

There is a raised patio that looks down onto the garden, a lawn and a rectangular shingle bed by the fence. There are only a few small plants in the raised border, as a consequence the garden appears rather barren and all you really notice is the shed.




Down slopes are lovely in the sense you can get a different perspective on the garden, but the view of your garden has to also compete with the view all around as well.

If the view outside the garden is gorgeous, then lucky you, however, if what you see outside the garden is not particularly inspiring, then you need planting that will capture your attention and hold it inside the fences.

On the plus side, this garden is sunny and because it’s on a slope, drainage is good. However there is a large rectangular shingle bed by the fence which isn’t adding to the visual layout of the garden. This, along with the original lawn shape needs a bit of a dig!




The first task, is to remodel the lawn. Offsetting the oval lawn and taking it right up to the fence line widens the garden and the curve of the lawn now mirrors the curve of the patio you are sitting on, which makes it look a whole lot better.


rich velvets loud pinks


As the view is not terrible beautiful outside the garden, we have gone bold and loud with the planting, using our Rich Velvets & Loud Pinks design.

The fence panels have been left unpainted and so have taken on a silvery grey colour, which we all know goes really well with pink, the patio is also a grey stone so again the planting will compliment what you already have.

All you need to do is add a few pots on the patio and ‘voila’ a garden worth looking at.

And don’t forget to have a hedgehog hole!

How to get Low Maintenance Planting for Pots

Low Maintenance Planting for Pots


Well this is a bit of a misnomer  planting in pots will always more labour intensive than planting in soil.

Plants were not designed to grow in a pot and so will be more demanding. There are ways to reduce the time you spend tending to your pots.




So what are our top tips to getting a gorgeous pot collection that not only looks lovely but also survives the summer sunshine and the winter rains!


What type of Pot?


DSCF7984Gone are the days we could only have terracotta pots, now you can get any shape any size and almost any material – so what are best.


You need to know the conditions your pot will be inDSCF7985 in order to pick the best material.

For example, if you have a sunny patio, then thin metal planters are going to absorb lots of heat and cook the roots of the plants, or if you have a plot that is prone to frost, thin terracotta pots will easily crack and break.

So the rules are this:


  • In hot sunny sites, use pots that have good thermal insulation, like wood or terracotta and avoid dark colours that will absorb more heat.
  • DSCF7974  Wooden pots and planters must have a liner or inner pot, to prevent the wood becoming rotten.
  • Metal pots must have a layer of insulation inserted, otherwise both the sun and the frost will cook and freeze the roots that curl around the edge of the pot.
  • Plastic or fibreglass pots are lighter and so should have some ballast added to the bottom of the pot to prevent them falling over.
  • Stone or large pots try to use castors under the pot before you plant. You will want to move the pot at some point – and you don’t need a hernia doing it!


  • DSCF8004Urns or Round pots look lovely, apart from when you need to repot or remove a plant.

Getting an established plant out of a pot with a narrow neck without breaking the pot is tricky.

So either choose insert a pot that sits in the neck of the urn or only plant in pots that are wider at the top!



  • fibreglass_red_ball_planterTerracotta pots, the cheaper ones  aren’t usually frost hardy and are prone to cracking in winter. If you are investing in a nice pot, make sure it is – the rims usually break first.



Have enough holes!


All pots need drainage holes, sadly many modern pots don’t seem to have them. Whilst this does prevent muddy puddles, it also drowns the plants.

So make sure there are 3-4 holes in the base. And if you have a large plant in a pot, check the roots aren’t blocking the holes up too.  In winter, raise the pots off the ground a little to prevent soggy bottoms!



Get the right filling.

The problem with multipurpose compost is that it’s just that – multipurpose. Your planted pots are going to need a bit more to grow well and stay looking good.


  • Multipurpose compost dries out really easily – which means more watering.
  • Once dried out this compost is hard to rehydrate, the compost shrinks and compacts making it hard to absorb the water.
  • If you plant certain types of plant in compost, they grow all fat & floppy and won’t produce enough flowers because the compost is too rich, they just produce green leaves.
  • Multipurpose compost is not good if you are planting perennials or shrubs, i.e plants you want to last. The compost loses any mineral elements pretty quickly so the plant is left starving and looking decidedly peaky.


So what to do.


  • Mix 2/3 topsoil with 1/3 compost in a pot mix. Plants know how to grow in soil….the compost just lightens the mix. Soil takes longer to dry out than compost and it hold nutrients better, so your plants will grow better for longer.
  • If you have plants that thrive in poor soils you can use a mix of topsoil, compost and also sand or grit or some subsoil. The plant will grow lean and mean, so it shouldn’t flop, droop and should produce more flowers!
  • Plants that love a rich moist soil, add water retaining granules, topsoil, compost and manure to give the plant the best start.


3 different plants requiring 3 different conditions


Aeonium type succulentThe succulent on the left hand pot appreciates a well drained soil.

It is drought tolerant (but tender) so it can thrive in a smaller pot that might dry out a bit more quickly.


canna wThe Canna on the right is a different kettle of fish.

This plant loves a rich moisture retentive soil, it won’t appreciate being waterlogged. It will look decidedly peaky if all it has to grow in is multipurpose compost. So use a mix of soil, multipurpose and a bit of garden manure to help it grow.


Box Ball 2Finally, the Box. This plant will last for years, so it is best to plant this in a pot that is predominantly soil as opposed to compost.

You will need to topdress with a feed and ensure it doesn’t dry out, every few years replenish with fresh soil.


THe upshot is; if plants have good growing conditions you won’t have to look after them so often!

Put the right stuff in the pot for the place you want it!


Apologies for maybe stating the obvious, but seeing as we are looking at ways to reduce unwanted garden chores, what you put where is really quite important.

  • In hot sunny areas, make sure all the plants you add to the pot will thrive in hot conditions.
  • Similarly in shade, don’t mix ferns and sun lovers for example.
  • Pots containing a mixture of plants look wonderful in magazines and garden centres but they are actually tricky to keep well fed and watered.


Filling your Pots:


pot fill 1  All Pots need ballast at the base to aid with drainage. Leave a gap at the top to allow for easier watering. The plant’s root ball should occupy the area shown in darker brown, that way the plant has enough room, which encourages new root growth.


  pot over fill Here the pot has been overfilled, so the water will simply run over the edge and not get into the soil.


  tall fill If you have a tall pot, you don’t need to fill the entire pot with expensive soil & compost. You will need some ballast for stability and to aid drainage at the base, add a lightweight layer above. This can be old polystyrene plant trays or empty plastic pots. Above that you add a membrane to prevent the soil being wash through and then add the soil as before.


Finally have little pot collections, rather than dotting individual pots here and there around the garden. It makes it much quicker to water them all.


Pots will always require more care and attention than plants in the ground. By choosing the type of pot and by thinking a little more about the compost and the plants, your plants will look healthier and last longer!

For more ideas tips and advice….

plotting shed blog


Next week As Spring is really starting to take hold:  how to revamp little bits of your garden with our Mini Makeovers.


What is a Low Maintenance Garden – part 2

How to actually create one!

We all love the idea of having a low maintenance garden, it conjures an image of lazy summer days spent in your garden watching the bees buzzing and you just relaxing. The reality though, generally involves you spending far too much time on mowing the grass, trimming the edges, weeding paths and taming the triffids!

But with a little planning it is achievable – honestly! So how do you go about it?

more hours mowing

Well if you read last week’s post, part 1, you know some of the hard landscaping pitfalls to avoid and the idea that creating a low maintenance garden really involves creating a garden that minimises the stuff you don’t like doing.

This week we’ll take a closer look at what in your garden creates the maintenance, so you can avoid it!

Design tips for low maintenance gardens

The aim of a low maintenance garden, is to reduce the time you spend doing stuff you don’t like doing. So take a look at your garden, jot down how much time and effort you spend on certain tasks.

80% of your garden should require only annual attention or only a few minutes a week spent tidying up.

gdn maintenance 1

This house owner is a garden lover, there are lots of plants that require regular attention, which is fine if you love gardening.

Once you have seen which elements of the garden require regular bursts of activity, you also need to consider how long each activity takes. In the image below, there are large hedges and a box parterre. The hedging may only require clipping twice a year, but if it takes several hours each time, you can decide if really sharply clipped hedges are your thing!

Low maintenance garden 3

Size is not the key determinant of the amount of time you spend gardening, although it obviously is still relevant, the types of plants you have are also crucial. The main workload in the image below comes from keeping the grass cut and the border edges neat. The rest can be tackled pretty much with one day’s gardening a year and a few little trips in between to dead head the roses.

gdn maintenance 2

So you have identified those elements of the garden that are either regular chores or take up an inordinate amount of time that you would prefer doing something much more enjoyable!

What is next?

Changing what you have

Mowing the grass:  Reduce time and effort mowing by;

  • Keeping the shape simple, so there are no fiddly corners to mow round.lower-maintenance
  • Reduce the size of the lawn by adding in borders with low maintenance planting.
  • Do not have small lawns (especially in the front garden), where’s the benefit, you don’t need the grass to walk on so get rid of it entirely.
  • Let the grass grow, create mown paths through some parts of the grass, why do you have to mow it every week? You can add bulbs in spring and summer, so you only need to mow in the autumn.
  • Trim the edges of the lawn regularly but reduce the mowing frequency, since when did 1 inch become the height lawns MUST be kept to?

Plants and Planting: You will need to know a little bit about the plants in your garden!

  • Get rid of plants that you don’t like, for example ‘triffids’. We’ve all inadvertently got some; plants that never seem to stop growing. But they won’t ever stop growing, so if it’s too big for it’s boots get rid of it or give it away.
  • Make your borders at least 3 ft wide, it’s much easier to get a good display. The borders don’t have to run the whole length of the garden either! Creating deeper borders helps the plants grow and prevents the plants flopping over onto the grass all the time.

borders 1           borders 2

side drawing fence                       side drawing fence 2

Both images have the same ‘plants’, but the borders in the right image will grow and look much better

  • Avoid planting too many annuals, bedding plants, or plants that require staking, tying in, or lots of feeding and watering. Choose plants by how they make you feel and what you want them to be used for.
  • Don’t plant right up to the fence, all that happens is the plant grows away from your fence and will flop over the grass.
  • If you are going to plant climbers, then invest in really sturdy trellis – and allow for the growth of the climber! If it will grow to 14ft, you need to make sure there is at 14ft of trellis for it to grow on!
  • Never attach the trellis directly to the wall or fence, as the growing plants just fall off the front of the trellis. It’s much better instead to hang the trellis on sturdy brackets, that way, you can unhook the trellis if you need to get to the wall or fence.

Pots and Containers: These tend to be more labour intensive, so to keep unwanted chores to a minimum, follow these tips:

  • Avoid hanging baskets, unless you have automatic watering systems.design-garden-sidebar
  • Use a mixture of bulbs and perennials in pots, so they last for more than one season.
  • Avoid using only multipurpose compost, it dries out too easily. Use soil or a mixture of soil and multipurpose, plants will thrive better if the pot doesn’t keep drying out and soil is heavier so the pot is less prone to being blown over.
  • If using pots in sunny places, mix in water retaining granules with the soil.
  • If you are using pots with a thin skin, like aluminium, insert a thin insulating layer of polystyrene to protect the roots from heat and frost damage.
  • Keep all the pots together in collections, it looks better and takes less time to water!

Creating a low maintenance garden or at least one that minimises unwanted chores is achievable. You may need to be a little bold and decide to get rid of the elements of the garden that don’t work for you, even if it means your plot stands out from the neighbours gardens as being different – if it works for you, then it’s a good garden!

We have loads of free help and advice for your garden and we even have come up with lots of garden border designs that you can browse through as well to help get your garden the way you want it to be.

Next week: How to make your paths lower maintenance.

great garden

What is a Low Maintenance Garden? part 1

What is a Low Maintenance Garden and how can I have one?


We would all love to have a beautiful but low maintenance garden, but what do we really mean by the phrase ‘low maintenance garden’?


english-country-garden-1529106 - Copy


Reducing the amount of time spent on unwanted chores in the garden is always desirable, but really low maintenance gardens take a lot of planning to get right, so if you would love a low maintenance garden how do you go about achieving one?


First let’s debunk a misnomer, low maintenance does not mean no maintenance – the only option for you not having to maintain your garden is to hire someone else to do it for you.


So if you have a garden, you are going to have to get dirty and do some gardening, it’s just a question of how much and how often.


To start with, you need a piece of paper and a pen, list down all the jobs you loathe doing in the garden, all the bits of the garden you like and lastly what you enjoy doing most in the garden.


                     stuff i hate note        stuff I like note


This gives you a good starting point to work out how and what you need to change.


What you are really saying is not that you want a low maintenance garden, but you want to create a garden that minimises the stuff you don’t like to do but does have stuff you do like doing!


That’s the easy bit though, working out what you like and dislike, but how do you change what you have and actually get a garden that doesn’t require constant attention.


A good place to start is to know what bits of the garden take the most time and effort to maintain, of course, the level of neatness is up to you, but to achieve perfectly preened gardens all these are pretty labout intensive!


High maintenance stuff!

Lawns – especially those who love weed free, bowling green flat stripy ones

Vegetable Gardens – require constant attention all year

Pots – unless you have automatic watering systems, pots need a lot of feeding, watering and preening

Pergolas – look gorgeous but you will regularly be tying up those climbing plants

Topiary – only looks good if you regularly clip and neaten your ‘artwork’

Plant Divas – plants that require a lot of attention to look good!

Fruit Trees – all fruit trees create work, falling fruit and a constant battle with hungry birds

Large Trees – leaf fall, twig fall, seed drop, dry and deep shade all creates extra work

Ponds – It’s you vs the green algae and duck weed trying to take over

Shingle – a cheap and ‘covers a multitude of sins’ paving solution, but under deciduous trees or even worse, conifer or pines trees it’s a raking nightmare

Stone Mulches – these may seem an easy, cover all decorative fix to hiding bare soil and weeding, but beware, once down, weeding, clearing, cleaning and raking becomes a right royal pain in the proverbials. Especially white stone it goes green and if you don’t put them on a membrane, they gradually all sink into the ground.


Learn from others mistakes and garden bloopers!

Friends and neighbours can be valuable sources of useful advice, prevention is always better than cure. This is especially true if you are about to spend money on hard landscaping.


Picture 081


Patios and Paving


Paving is expensive to put down and even more expensive to put right.


Drainage – where will the rainwater run off to and can it handle it, does the paving drain water away quickly or are you left with puddles.

Shade – will the paving become slippery when wet or get covered in slippery green algae from being shaded.

Sunshine – will the slabs get too hot to walk on?

Trees & Birds – apologies for being crude, but droppings! Fruit droppings, bird droppings even fruit coloured bird droppings. Is paving the right surface for here?

Joins/Mortar – what to have; sand is cheaper but prone to weed seedlings popping up, concrete costs more but also costs more to repair if it cracks

Roots – there is nothing worse than roots that get under the patios, they are so difficult to get rid of. Have you really dug out any unwanted invaders before you lay any slabs?

Lastly, think about the planting around patios, especially if you use sand as a base, you don’t want lots of self seed experts upwind of the patio!

nightime-patio-1419782 - Copy


Shingle or Decorative Stones


Shingle covers a multitude of sins and is quick and easy to use, but there are pitfalls to shingle.


Trees – trees always drop lots of stuff, twigs, seeds, leaves. You can rake
shingle easily, but wet leaves and small seeds are more difficult to
rake and pines needles are impossible to remove from shingle!


Membranes – if you don’t want weeds growing up through the shingle, you can put down a weed membrane. This is great if you don’t want to plant anything else in that area, but is not a good idea if you want to plant bulbs for example!


If you add shingle on top of bare soil, then over time, the shingle will sink
into the soil, so regular top ups of shingle will be needed.


Paths – shingle paths are not nice to walk on in bare feet. If you have them near your doors, be prepared for shingle to appear in the house too.


Decorative Stones – look fantastic, but are a devil to keep looking fantastic especially in the shade or under deciduous shrubs and plants. White pebbles will also quickly go green.


Is this really low maintenance, pebbles are hard to weed between and keep looking pristine like this garden.




Some years ago, decking was everywhere, a wooden deck is admittedly, lovely to walk
on barefoot. If you are considering decking, then do consider the following before you start.

Shade – decking is great in full sun, but extremely slippery in shaded areas.


Vermin – rats can move in under the raised deck, they are attracted to leftover BBQ food, so ensure you can access under the deck if it becomes necessary.


Weeds – you must make sure the ground under the deck is properly weeded before you build the decking, it is so annoying for perennial weeds to keep growing through the gaps.


Creating the right garden for you starts with understanding what you want it to do for you. It may be you love lots of flowers but hate mowing, in which case large areas of lawn in the garden would not create the low maintenance garden you are after.


You have your lists of likes and dislikes, use these ideas to change your garden around so that you can minimise the impact of the negatives aspects and maximise the positive. You may need to be a bit radical, but if you really hate mowing lawns, why have one?


Gardens are spaces that should be enjoyed, not places for you to do even more chores.


Next week – learn how to reduce the time spent on unnecessary garden chores and create a garden that works for you.

Hedgehogs and why you need one

Why help hedgehogs?


Despite the fact they adorably cute and have been on this planet for about 20 million years, we’ve lost a third of our hedgehogs over the last 10 years.

It seems likely from long-running surveys that there are fewer than a million hedgehogs left in the UK.

sadness 2000


If that isn’t reason enough, hedgehogs actually play a vital part in the UK ecosystem, occupying an important part of the food chain. They mostly eat invertebrates, such as slugs, caterpillars, millipedes, and a range of other creepy crawlies. The more they decline, the more the ecosystem and food chains are disrupted, which is bad for all involved.


And as far as us gardeners are concerned, having hedgehogs in your garden is like having your very own pest controllers. Hedgehogs are far more efficient bug hunters than we ever could be!


So how do I encourage hedgehogs?


There are a few simple and easy things you can put in your garden that will help encourage hedgehogs. These suggestions are from Hedgehog Street and the Hedgehog Preservation Society, charities that are both working hard to conserve our hedgehogs.


Link your garden.


hedgehog climbing the fence

According to research, Hedgehogs can travel a mile every night on their search for food or mates. With the increasing urbanisation of the countryside, hedgehogs are finding it hard to move from one garden to the next thanks to secure fences and walls.


Give your hedgehogs treat & revamp your garden this year…they’d love it!

This is why it’s important to create hedgehog holes were possible, by either:

removing a brick from the bottom of a wall
cutting a small hole in your fence the size of a CD
or digging a channel underneath your fence or gate
swapping fences for hedges, which can also help birds and bees.

Some fencing companies are now supplying ready made fencing with hedgehog holes...so helping open up the gardens couldn’t be easier.

Log piles.

ebay pics 011

These are one of the best features you can create when encouraging wildlife in your garden. Not only do they attract and produce insects as the wood rots down, making a hedgehog buffet, they can also provide a safe place for breeding and hibernating. You can either collect any wood you cut from your garden, or ask a local park, landscaper, or tree surgeon. Place the logs in an undisturbed corner of your garden and replenish with newer logs every now and again.


Open compost heaps.



Again, these are great sources for insects and invertebrates, but just be careful when you come to turn the pile with a garden fork, in case you’ve attracted any hedgehogs. Oh and they don’t have to be perfectly tidy either, just accessible.



Revamp your garden, dig up those borders – the hedgehogs will love slug hunting in them

Leaf piles.


These not only provide good sites for nesting and hibernating, but also good bedding material for other nesting sites and hedgehog boxes in the local area. It’s helpful to think of your garden as part of a local network, rather than a home for one population of hedgehogs. Again, be careful when clearing away, in case you find a sleeping hedgehog.


Wildflower patches and overgrowth.

Now this is a good one, not only do you get a hedgehog friendly area – you don’t have to do so much gardening!


Leaving one corner of your garden untrimmed and overgrown can help both insects to thrive all year-round, as well as providing nesting and hibernation sites for hedgehogs. Wildflower patches can also attract more wildlife such as caterpillars and other insects hedgehogs can eat.


Pop in a Pond.


While you may think ponds are dangerous to hedgehogs, hogs are actually very good swimmers. A pond provides them with a year-round water supply, and also a place where insects, frogs, and even lizards can thrive, which means more food for the hedgehog. Just ensure the ponds have gently sloping edges so any hedgehogs can escape.


Have a Hedgehog house.


You may as well go the whole hog (pardon the pun) and build a specially made hedgehog house. There is a range of designs and styles of houses you can build, and a house will really help a hedgehog breed, nest, and hibernate. Hedgehog Street has a fantastic guide to building hog houses.


Gardens are lifelines for our wildlife, so by us being a little more wildlife aware and maybe a little less worried about everything looking perfect, to coin a well known phrase. ‘every little helps’, just think how much ‘help’ we could all create together!


Let’s change the law too!

We’ve set up a petition also, simple easy solutions are usually the best. We want to change planning law so all new house builds need to incorporate a run of hedgehog holes in the garden boundaries. Just think all those thousands of housing developments have acres and acres of gardens that our hedgehogs could safely forage in.


It’s a cheap simple win:win situation,  you get a fantastic bug hunter for free and you will help conserve our hedgehogs.


P.S – sadly we didnt get enough signatures to change the law, but you know what Have a hedgehog hole anyway…

back to home


How ‘green’ are Bedding Plants?

How ‘Green’ are Bedding Plants?


A strange title you may be thinking, of course bedding plants are green – they’re plants and all the plants we put in our gardens must be good for the environment surely?


In the UK nearly £1bn is spent on bedding plants each year – that’s a lot of money and an awful lot of plants, millions and millions of fuchsias, petunias, pelargoniums, lobelias and millions of ready prepared hanging baskets and tubs.




So what’s the issue here?


Well, before we start analysing bedding plants, what actually are bedding plants?


In general they are described as Annuals, Biennials, Tender Perennials or Half Hardy Annuals – so they are all plants that;


a) Won’t last more than one season
b) Will last more than one year, but will conk out the following year
c) Will last for a few years as long as you have somewhere to keep them for the winter
d) Are only supposed to last one season, but may in milder climates do rather better


The upshot being that most of these plants won’t last very long. To compensate for their short lifespans, bedding plants are designed to ‘live the life of a rock star’ i.e party hard and die young!


Bedding plants provide us with loads fantastically coloured flowers. These are very often bred to be much larger than a plant could sustain naturally and the plant is designed to keep on going…right until the end.


However, in order to ensure our little plants can ‘rock on all summer’ they do need rather a lot of attention, regular feeding, dead heading, plenty of water and protection from bugs and other nasty munching insects. If we do all that religiously all spring and summer – then we can be rewarded with fabulous displays that look like this.



So, what’s the problem with bedding and why isn’t it ‘green’?

In order to churn out millions upon millions of uniformly grown plants at the right time of the year, the production of bedding plants is very tightly controlled;


Uniform temperature control in vast greenhouses
Ultra sensitive humidity and climate control systems are used
Lighting controls stimulate growth even at night
A carefully managed system of chemical fertilisers is constantly applied
Insecticides and biological controls are added prevent any unwanted visitors
Fungicides and other chemical are used to ensure the plants are disease free
Plants are carefully bred and selected to ensure conformity
Plants are often bred to be sterile to insects as this prevents any unwanted cross fertilisation


All this for plants most of you throw away at the end of the year.


So much for reduce, renew, recycle!


The average gardener can spend £9500 over their lifetime on plants and a significant part of this is most likely spent on bedding plants. Why spend all that money on something to throw away, simply because it’s colourful for 13 weeks of the year.


The problem with bedding is that not only does it want to behave like a rock star, it also usually begins to act like a petulant teenager as soon as you get it home. Bedding plants have been grown in the most ideal perfect conditions. They have been cosseted, preened and pampered, then the plants go home with you.  The sudden change causes them to ‘sulk’ at the less than perfect environment. On top of which, horror upon horror, you, like the rest of us, occasionally forget to water. These plant diva’s invariably then shrivel up, never to recover!


We spend nearly £1,000,000,000 on plants like this each year!


Surely there has to be a better way, we are not advocating boycotting the bedding. More suggesting there are better alternatives for your garden than buying lots of bedding plants each year.



Is this garden pretty?


The question here is not which garden is prettier, as that is always open to your own personal preference. the key question is whether gardens should be about pleasing only humans. Is the overall effect of mass planting of bedding worth all the investment in time energy and chemicals.  Should gardens have more than just an aesthetic appeal?


Bedding has an appeal, but our gardens need to more than just colourful spaces.

The plants below are also colourful. However, they also will continue to perform next year and the year after without you having to spend any more money.

insects 034

Or is this garden prettier?

Bedding Plants require disproportionate amounts of energy to grow


The issue here is not that bedding plants are bad for the environment.  Rather that the production of bedding plants is an extremely controlled and intensively farmed process. Much of the bedding produced is mostly for our aesthetic benefit, providing little if any benefit for pollinating insects.


In an age when we should all looking to reduce our environmental footprint in all areas of our lives, gardens are often forgotten places to be consider being more ‘green’ in.


So it’s a balance, have some bedding by all means, but balance your bedding purchases with plants that do benefit pollinating insects.

Spend the same amount of money as you would on bedding plants, but buy plants that will last for more that one season instead.

Only buy bedding plants that the label says are insect friendly.


Gardens are miniature ecosystems that we create, so before you buy the bedding, think ‘what good will this bring to my garden’ first.


V3 real gardeners and spray

We won’t promise perfect borders but at least all our designs contain insect friendly flowers. Take a Look

Who are flowers for?

Who are flowers for?


Flowers are for us to admire – right?


Well absolutely yes they are, but flowers aren’t just for us, many of today’s modern blooms however are created primarily to please the human eye – but are we forgetting who flowers are really for?


What would butterflies think v1
Let’s take you back a few hundreds of millions of years to when flowers began. The plants that survived and thrived were those that evolved the best strategy to reproduce effectively. The emergence of flowers and nectar allowed plants to attract insects and this improved the efficiency of the pollination process and allowed plants to proliferate.


Flowers evolved over millions of years to attract the best pollinating insects or they formed a symbiotic relationship with certain types of insect to develop a really efficient reproductive cycle. It created a win-win situation whereby flowers provided the insect with much needed food and the insects took the pollen and redistributed it.

Now Horticulture has thrown a ‘spanner in the works’


For millions of years this system has worked well and then humans discovered how we could ‘breed’ bigger and better flowers. Careful selection and cross pollinating meant we could create more colourful blooms. We could develop flowers with modified and elaborate petals and stamens and produce blooms in all the colours of the rainbow. Horticulture also developed the ability to create more bountiful crops and fruits.  We also managed to increase the range and variety of many hundreds of species of plants and thereby widen the available larder for many pollinating insects.


However, a whole industry has evolved to create flowering plants whose appeal and use to insects is pretty limited but to us humans they look spectacular!

These plants produce many flowers over long periods of time, often the flowers are bred to be larger and more elaborate and the colour combinations created are really quite astonishing.


Are these really flowers though?


1390282_29761392 overly bred rose

If a bee cannot recognise this as a flower….aren’t we missing the point?


These plants have been cross bred over time to create blooms that could never be created in nature. The stamens and petals are so modified, insects can’t access the nectar or transfer the pollen. The plant cannot reproduce itself. In fact many of these plants are sterile and so cannot reproduce without human interference.


Thus if the flower produced is incapable of performing the function for which it originally evolved – is it really a flower?

Now you may argue that it doesn’t really matter. These plants can’t cross pollinate with other plants and what’s the harm in planting them in the garden.  Flip that thought process round and ask what’s the good of planting them in the garden either.


The problem arises if too many highly developed flowers appear in domestic gardens – bees and butterflies would expend so much energy trying to find food.  They will have less food to store and this reduces their ability to survive the winters.

If we all try to do just a little bit…


Domestic gardens are becoming far more important to native wildlife than ever before. Do you really want to fill your gardens with plants that cannot provide any food for butterflies or bees?


All that is required is a little more thought before you buy any plants. If you go to a garden centre to buy your plants, have a look at the displays.  Do you see any insects flying around (now the Garden Centre could have sprayed the plants), but with that concentration of plants in flower, you would surely expect to see some bees buzzing around.


Flowers image B Roslett

image B Roslett


Bees see in Ultraviolet, so what we admire in a flower is not actually what attracts the bees to it. It is unlikely that commercial plant breeders check the UV look of the flowers in development to see how and whether a bee is attracted to it and it wouldn’t be commercially viable to do so.

It is quite possible therefore, what you see as a spectacular flower is totally unrecognisable to a bee or butterfly.


A simple check on the plant label will normally tell you whether a plant is good for bees.


We all love to fill our houses with beautiful things. However, you wouldn’t buy a kettle that didn’t boil water just because it looked nice. Good design is about form AND function.

So before you buy your plants for the garden, think what benefits this plant can bring to your garden.



Not sure which plants are best for bees?

All our designs use insect friendly flowers as much as possible, why not have a browse?

Good Garden Advice for Selling your Home – part 8

Good Garden Advice for Selling your Home – part 8

My garden isn’t peaceful or quiet


It would be lovely for buyers to step out into your garden and only hear the birds singing away in the trees, lucky for some eh? So if your garden is not the peaceful tranquil oasis you would like, what can you do to minimise the impact of traffic noise or at least stop prospective buyers noticing it too much?


How to reduce the impact of noise around your garden



1: Try to avoid booking viewings at the noisiest times

Ok, it’s not really a garden tip, but it’s a pretty obvious and easy solution – so instruct the Agent to avoid certain times of the day for showing buyers around.


2: Visually hide what’s causing the most noise

If we can see what’s making the noise as well as hear it, we will pay more attention to the noise. Tall planting will be required to block out this view, rather than going out and spending lots of money on large plants or new fencing, see if any tall plants can be moved from elsewhere in the garden. Plant noisy plants i.e ones that rustle in the wind, not only will this distract you from the noise, foliage disrupts the sound waves thus helping to muffle the volume a little.


3: Humans have 5 senses – use all of them

Cotinus and Cardoon 2

Use strong bold shapes and colours

Rhododendron Luteum flowers

Rhododendron Luteum – an amazing scent in Spring

This is all a distraction technique, the external noise will hit the ears of your buyers – so we need to hit them with sensory input from all other 4 senses equally hard, so any noise is not so prominent.

The two senses to concentrate on are sight and smell. Create a real visual impact as they step into the garden, (it doesn’t have to mean the whole garden – just the first area the buyers will see). Use height, movement (grasses are cheap and very DSCF8006useful plants for noisy ‘swishing’ sounds) and colours to capture their interest. Just a note, use 2-3 colours it will have more impact than including every possible colour.

Secondly SCENT – pack the area full of lovely smells. Then add plants that people will love to touch, you can also add some nice noise – be careful it’s not irritating, some windchimes are awful but some are more relaxing. You could be more inventive …and have some bird song music playing! Lastly, taste, how about a couple of pots packed with strawberry plants within easy picking distance…? 


You are in the process of SELLING the house don’t forget and the message you want them to remember is how lovely the garden is, not how noisy.


Read also: 

You’ve some prospective buyers arriving soon:

If you have prospective buyers due to arrive, make sure the front garden create the best first impression – after all it’s usually the first thing they see when they arrive.

What to do if your garden is not quite up to scratch:

We all want to maximise the value of our homes when selling – without having to spend a lot of money in the process.

Oh, there is no view – sorry!

Buyers will always look out of the window to see ‘the view’ – but if your view is not the most appealing, what can you do? 

Yep – that’s exactly how big the garden is!

We cannot escape the garden boundaries, however they highlight to the limits of the space people are looking to move into. So if you have a small garden and your are surrounded by fences, is there any way to minimise the negative impact of lots of fencing and enhance your garden more?

I’m not the world’s keenest gardener!

Your garden can be one of your best sales assets, although an unloved garden is unlikely to put off an interested buyer, it is not going to encourage them to bid up the price either!

Ah yes, we don’t use that bit of the garden – at all!

Don’t let the garden work against your sale.  Buyers will spot all the tricky bits of the garden before they see the nice bits…so you need to have a plan to disguise the difficult bits better!

Well, the neighbours are really quite lovely…(most of the time)

Very few of us live in splendid isolation, we all have neighbours. Now that is all well and good, but will the neighbours garden style help or hinder your sale!


If you would like some more design advice for your garden…

Garden Design for Beginners


Solve even more Garden Problems


back to home

Good Garden Advice for Selling your Home – part 7

Good Garden Advice for Selling your Home – part 7

The garden is a really awkward shape


Many gardens have ‘dead space’ areas that are awkward shapes and they usually end up as dumping grounds for all your garden stuff or your garden is a really difficult shape to have a garden at all – so how can the garden help in selling your home?


Selling is about emphasising the good whilst making sure the not so good is less noticeable.


How to make the most of your garden 


1: Turn negative into positive

hiding bins behind trellis

There a 3 wheelie bins here – but do you really notice them?

This means, if you have a dud area, rather than try to hide it, put something there that is good to look at, then the buyers will notice that and not what it’s hiding. A classic example is with the bins. We all have them, and we all try to stuff them into a corner where we hope noone will notice…but they do. So a very simple solution is a free standing trellis, a couple of posts, a trellis panel and some annual climbers will create something pretty to look at.



2: You ‘control’ what the buyer sees

ten pin bowling in yellows

This has visual impact

It’s a simple principle, you place something really noticeable in front of the area you don’t want them to notice. So put some chairs and a table out with the parasol up, put a tablecloth on the table. Add a colourful plant pot on their too.  Or you make a feature of the best area of the garden so the rest is not so noticeable, i.e clump all your pots together to create a real impact – have some tall planting or raise pots off the ground. Visually it becomes a large feature in the garden and the bit buyers are most likely to remember.


3: Stop them seeing all the garden at once

Human eyes follow lines, in an odd shaped garden this means the eye follow the lines and notices all the odd shaped bits easily. So if we break up the lines and create new shapes your buyers eyes follow the lines of the nice shapes you create.

narrow garden line drawingThis is a really long and narrow garden, you view a long straight road with a shed at the end and nothing stops it in between.

First we make the eye move left and right by creating a couple of beds on either side.

narrow garden - ready for planting

A couple of curved beds make a big difference

Then we stop the eye getting to the end of the garden by the use of trellis. Before a buyer comes to visit, you mow the lawn following the contours of the new curve, the curvy stripes all help to make eyes wander left and right this will make the garden feel wider than it is.


narrow garden - feather planting

Light airy planting and tall trellis stops the view all the way to the end.

Read also: 

You’ve some prospective buyers arriving soon:

If you have prospective buyers due to arrive, make sure the front garden create the best first impression – after all it’s usually the first thing they see when they arrive.

What to do if your garden is not quite up to scratch:

We all want to maximise the value of our homes when selling – without having to spend a lot of money in the process.

Oh, there is no view – sorry!

Buyers will always look out of the window to see ‘the view’ – but if your view is not the most appealing, what can you do? 

Yep – that’s exactly how big the garden is!

We cannot escape the garden boundaries, however they highlight to the limits of the space people are looking to move into. So if you have a small garden and your are surrounded by fences, is there any way to minimise the negative impact of lots of fencing and enhance your garden more?

I’m not the world’s keenest gardener!

Your garden can be one of your best sales assets, although an unloved garden is unlikely to put off an interested buyer, it is not going to encourage them to bid up the price either!

Also what can you do if the garden is not the house’s best asset!

We can’t change the environment outside the garden, but we can lessen the negative impact on the garden. Here’s how

Well, the neighbours are really quite lovely…(most of the time)

Very few of us live in splendid isolation, we all have neighbours. Now that is all well and good, but will the neighbours garden style help or hinder your sale!


If you would like some more design advice for your garden…

Garden Design for Beginners


Solve even more Garden Problems


back to home


Good Garden Advice for Selling your Home – part 6

Good Garden Advice for Selling your Home – part 6

The garden is a little unloved…!


If your garden is a little unloved you are not making the most of one of your properties biggest selling features, it won’t probably put people off buying the house, but it won’t help get you the best sale price either.


What message are you sending the prospective buyer?


This garden is so much work and effort to keep on top of…

Your garden isn’t a nice place to be – so there is no point in using it?

Are they worried there may be problems that are hidden by the mess?

Whatever it is, the garden will certainly not be helping the sale – so you have to get your hands dirty and start to sort things out….but where to start?


Top Tips to get your garden looking a little bit more loved


1: Paths and Patios


Keep these edges neat and straight.

You don’t need to have a perfect patio or path, just a weed free one with neat edges. So you may need to use weedkiller (spray on a calm day to prevent partially killing your garden plants too) to clear the path weeds. Make sure the edges between borders or the lawn and your patio/path are neat. If they are not use an edging spade to neaten them up. Make sure as your buyers walk outside on the patio or down any path – they are not going to get swiped by overhanging branches or attacked by that long bramble shoot!


2: Flower Beds and Borders

border clean up

Stopping flopping and a neat edge make a real difference

They are probably rather weed infested, so you are going to have to do some clearing up. Try to remove roots as well as leaves as much as possible. To keep the ground weed free for as long as possible, add a mulch, this could be either bark chippings or a ground conditioner. Spread it really thickly over the weeded soil and around the base of your plants.

If you have some unruly plants that flop onto the path – don’t cut them back it is better to tie them up and put in plant supports. Not only will this keep the garden looking more green and abundant, you will avoid creating large bare patches or showing off stumpy plants.


 3: Make a feature of something!

It sounds a little counterproductive, if you don’t think your garden is up to much, but a little effort in one area after you have tidied up can make a world of difference.

Looking at the images below, this garden isn’t totally unloved, but it doesn’t say garden lover either. Once you remove the unnecessary, you can see what you have, and the feature in this garden is the pergola, but at present it is dominated by the shed and the yew.


In the last image, the shed and pergola work together, the bright pink flowers are complimented and contrasted by the cream of the shed and the dark green of the yew. A few large plants have been added (which you could put in pots to take with you when you move) then enclose the area and says – look at this isn’t this bit lovely!


shed planted


Read also: 

You’ve some prospective buyers arriving soon:

If you have prospective buyers due to arrive, make sure the front garden creates the best first impression. It’s usually the first thing they see when they arrive.

What to do if your garden is not quite up to scratch:

Maximise the value of our homes when selling – without having to spend a lot of money in the process.

Oh, there is no view – sorry!

Buyers will always look out of the window – but if your view is not the most appealing, what can you do? 

Yep – that’s exactly how big the garden is!

We cannot escape the garden boundaries, however they highlight to the limits of the garden. In a small garden is there any way to minimise the negative impact of lots of fencing and showcase the garden more?

Also what can you do if the garden is not the house’s best asset!

We can’t change the environment outside the garden, but we can lessen the negative impact on the garden. Here’s how

Ah yes, we don’t use that bit of the garden – at all!

Don’t let the garden work against your sale.  Buyers will spot all the tricky bits of the garden, so you need to have a plan to disguise the difficult bits better!

Well, the neighbours are really quite lovely…(most of the time)

Very few of us live in splendid isolation, we all have neighbours. Now that is all well and good, but will the neighbours garden style help or hinder your sale!


If you would like some more design advice for your garden…

Garden Design for Beginners


Solve even more Garden Problems


back to home


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