Tasteful hanging baskets

People can be sniffy about hanging baskets. Some find them the height of bad taste and make derisory comments often due to the planting being garish. 

If we consider what the essence of a hanging basket is they do deserve more time from us. They are plant displays brought up to head height so we can appreciate the softness and interest of plants close to without having to stoop. 

Here we see an oversized hanging basket with restrained flower free ferns casually positioned to the side of an entrance door. Surely the height of good taste?


Sunny tree hollyhocks

Hibiscus syriacus or tree hollyhocks are delightfully strong shrubs with showy trumpet flowers.

They need the sun and are late to leaf but equally flower late from August to October and forms can be found to suit most colour schemes.

Upright in form and requiring little pruning and no support they are a helpful inclusion in borders for colour later in the year. 






Traditional rose borders


Roses sit comfortably in mixed borders and can be grown on wires up walls from relatively small areas of ground. If space allows a traditional rose border is a joyful addition to a garden. 

You have to realise that it will flower for three to four weeks June into July and should flush again for a few weeks August to September, but those periods of colour are worth all the effort involved. 

Cut back hard late Spring, after flowering in July and tidied again in October you then have a few feeds to consider and ideally three or four sprays April to July. They take some effort. 

But the colours, the scents, the softness. Underplant rose borders with catmint or rosemary and with bulbs in numbers and they will be pleasing for much of the year. 

Comforting cow parsley


Anthriscus sylvestris, cow parsley, should be regarded as being a well behaved plant. In its green or purple, Ravenswing, forms it flowers for quite a good spell and then subsides as quickly as it appeared, as if it had not been there. 

Multiplying with ease each year it can create a sea of frothy flowers each May which sit happily in woodland and perennial borders alike. If in the latter cut its thin form down quickly after flowering to allow later emerging plants their proper chance. 

People generally like cow parsley, it is very English and its fullness and softness gives us comfort every year.  

Challenging colour combinations

We work on planting schemes covering the full spectrum of colours.

Here we see the white blossom of double wild cherry, Prunus Avium Plena, above orange and and yellow mid-season tulips toward the end of April. This makes for a fresh and strong palette.

Some clients are happy with single colour schemes with calm white or pretty pink popular whereas other clients want colour combinations.

We have country schemes being planted at present combining slightly shocking red, orange & blue and rich and soothing cream, pink & purple.

In town we have strong pink, purple & red schemes and more gentle blue, purple, yellow & white schemes being planted.

Last Autumn we planted a scheme with brown flowers which we made successful by teaming brown flowers, of which there are more than one might first imagine, with the palest pink & darkest burgundy flowers.


Early morning light


Another month, another obelisk. The image seen in our February post shows a sister obelisk to this obelisk each placed either end of a narrow passage running across the width of this garden. 

At the end of March the narcissi in this cutting garden stand to attention awaiting the chance to viewed indoors in vases. 

Catching the early morning light soon after six the softness of the emerging leaves of hornbeam, pear and apple can be seen around this opaque scene.   

Monochrome planted structure

Winter allows us to consider well the structure that can be created using planting. Trees and hedges trimmed into shape become walls in fully formed outdoor rooms. 

Add snow in bleak February and colour is drained from yew, laurel and grass, only the hornbeam retains its copper colour in what is otherwise a monochrome landscape. 

The inclusion of a narrow stone path leading to a simple obelisk provides a focal point and draws you deep into  the garden space. 


Colour in Midwinter


Maintaining interest in gardens throughout the year is a challenge but one we relish. November and December remain difficult after the Autumn colour of falling leaves. 

But come January a range of options starts to become available for colour to be splashed throughout planting areas. Here we see Cornus Midwinter Fire teamed with Hamamelis x intermedia Jelena toward the end of January.

Tricks we have learnt are to cut the Cornus hard back to a foot in height toward the end of March each year and to place it within a structured space in which this loose planting can grow throughout the year. 

Dramatic grass terracing

Grass terraces are rarely used now in more formal garden design. Modernists use lawned slopes when building landforms but these tend to be mostly organic and asymmetrical in nature.

Here we see the immense grass embankments to the south of Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. Originally built in the seventeenth century and reworked in Victorian times the castle appears to sit on top of grassed wedding cake tiers.

Height changes remain key to creating drama and visual pace outdoors and we look to include regraded lawns creating constant slopes wherever a site lends itself to such a treatment.   


Ground plane detailing


Successful landscaping can be seen to incorporate both architectural design and exterior decoration.

Whilst the proportions of the structural elements of outdoor space need to be correct in terms of both client use and spatial cohesion the detailing of hardscaping needs to be considered carefully.

Sometimes hard surfaces can be left plain and unadorned but sometimes they require additional detailing either to soften the extent of the hardscaping or to bridge the gap between hard materials and nearby softer planting. 

Here we show large pebbles laid simply in concrete, on the perimetre they are organised in a row whereas they are set haphazard elsewhere. The different treatments offer interest and energy in what might otherwise have become a dull space. 

Wisteria draped pergolas


We use wisteria in many of our gardens, purple, pink and white forms. Grown across fences, as shrubs in pots or low along parapet walls its speedy growth and two flowerings help bring life to new gardens. 

The classic uses of wisterias grown over the facades of houses or over the open frames of pergolas cannot be beaten for clothing otherwise hard built structures. 

This pergola with materials in a restrained palette built in a classical manner matched with straight forward Wisteria sinensis creates a strong space in which to sit and take in the adjacent garden.

Bespoke greenhouse design


We work with the leading greenhouse manufacturers when including new glasshouses in our projects. 

Each greenhouse presents new opportunities to create a new outdoor room and require careful landscaping around the new building to ensure it is settled into its wider surroundings. 

The inside of each greenhouse offers the opportunity to make what might otherwise be a straight forward greenhouse bespoke and in keeping with the connected home.

Supporting walls can be detailed, floors can flow through from paving outside and each can be furnished with appropriate plants, pots, furniture and lighting. 

We were particularly taken with the trellis work added around the entrance doors to this glasshouse just outside New York which makes the space quite feminine and detailed. 

Pretty pink bignonias


Found across the Americas, Africa and Oceania Bignonias are a large family of typically woody plants. 

Here we see a species happy in a temperate coastal location, similar to Bignonia Podranea ricasoliana Comptesse Sarah. 

Its arching form and dainty yet generous flowers provide prolonged flowering ideal for Mediterranean locations. 

Intimacy and grandeur

The grandest of buildings, here a Robert Adam greenhouse, can be married with planting that is both witty and informal. 

The use of asymmetric island borders positioned directly in front of the greenhouse without any direct route to or focus on the building makes the composition much more intimate. 

The use of Verbascum olympicum in the planting scheme adds a modern twist to the overall scheme and suggests that we shouldn't take things too seriously. 


Traditional long borders


There is something truly timeless about traditional long borders facing one another across a long sward of lawn. Here at Castle Kennedy near Stanraer the gardeners have made this exercise in gardening look easy but they have enlisted support. 

Beneath the planting around 50cm off the ground is a web of wide netting through which the perennial and annual plants have been grown affording great support as the plants grow taller and flower. 

Installed in mid-May and removed mid-October outside these months the borders can be mulched and have Spring flowering bulbs free of the netting structure. This support system is essential to prevent traditional border planting from collapsing mid-Summer.

Stylish nursery beds


It was something of a surprise to find Australian tree ferns, Dicksonia antarctica, planted into a lawn at Logan Botanic Garden in Scotland.

The fiburous rooted trunk-like rhizomes with frond rosettes from Tasmania are full and semi-shade loving plants yet here they are planted out in full sun in the sunniest corner of Scotland. 

The youth of the plants allows them to be brought on for a while drinking in the sun and their grouping in what is effectively a nursery section of the garden is highly stylish.   

Shaded darker leaves


Studying plant development over time is fascinating and highly educational. In the studio yard, fully shaded and surrounded by walls on all sides, the evergreens, Junipers, Camellias, Sarcococca confusa, Pachysandra terminalis, even Pinus pinea, all are noticeably shinier leaved than they might be were they enjoying more direct sunlight. The deciduous planting of Hostas and Athyrium filix-femina provides more vibrant greens from May onwards, yet all are dark leaved. 

Here we see a shaded  border within a walled garden in South West Scotland where dark leaved plants revel in the Scottish rain and shade. Euphorbia stygiana and Dicksonia antarctica scramble over low box hedging, their larger thinner leaves made darker green by the greater levels of chlorophyll necessary for plants in shade that struggle with photosynthesis due to lower light levels. 

Strength from simplicity


Gardens need not be complicated and the simpler the structure often the more impressive the outcome. 

Russell Page is a garden design hero and here at La Mortella on Ischia he devised numerous yet simple water features around which a plantsman's garden was made by the English composer Sir William Walton and his Argentinian wife Susana. 

Arriving at the garden you follow a fast flowing rill of water through densely planted sub-tropical spaces up toward fountains and ponds at the base of the house on the cliff above. 

The effect of this simple rill is great as it provides a focus as a strip of light passing through an otherwise dark space reflecting the light from the sky above leading the way up to the garden beyond.  

Humourous garden backdrop


Many gardens lack a view, vista or focal point. It is possible to create a central internal focus but if larger spaces are left relatively uncluttered and open you invariably continue to look toward the boundaries of the garden space. 

Here we see a garden made by Penelope Hobhouse for the Queen Mother at Walmer Castle. The view is taken from a rendered and roofed pergola across a long pond often occupied by ducks. We look toward what is now evidently a crenellated castle shaped over a long period from yew. 

Situated atop a mound presumably made with spoil from the pond and other garden excavations it is only after time that the garden now has the backdrop it was previously missing. This backdrop is provided with great witticism as it faces back toward the similarly crenellated Tudor fortress.  

Plants with presence


Composing garden spaces often requires the introduction of new structure. This can be provided by hardscaping such as walls, pergolas, paths and terraces but the proportion of planting, the softscaping, really should be greater than that of hardscaping. 

Here a dozen huge holm oak columns rise either side of a simple brick path providing an imposing dominant presence. Their volume and solidity cannot be questioned, and yet this strength is only being regained as they receive their annual Autumnal clipping. 

The more mass and structure is introduced to a garden the greater the scope for looser and wilder planting within its confines. Here lavender, veronicastrum and roses ramble around the bases of the columns adding lighter shades to an otherwise dark and somber backdrop.