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In 2006 I formed Glorious Gardens, gathering together skilled practitioners to offer not just design but implementation of these designs and maintenance packages where we could look after the gardens once we had created them.

Throughout my career I have designed gardens to inspire people with the heart aching beauty of nature, with shapes, colours, moods and proportions to pleasure the body and calm and delight the mind.

I am also an artist who works with colour and abstract shapes and I bring this sensitivity to the 4 dimensions of a garden.

I am very good at listening to clients and I’m able to draw out the essence of what a client wants for their outdoor space.

Garden Design for Winter

When you look out your window how does your garden look this Winter?

It is full of colourful berries and brightly stemmed shrubs, the bark of selected winter trees, interesting structures like internal hedges and topiary plus colourful evergreens peppered amongst winter branches?

If not you might like to read on.

A Winter Garden can be a thing of great beauty. As the cold and the lack of sunlight have denuded the garden and the rich juice of Summer has retreated into roots and trunks and bulbs, the bare bones of a garden can give a deep sense of artistry and peace. We accept that things die, the twilights of winter remind us that all things come to an end, and yet life is powerful and patient.

A Good Structure

A garden no matter how small needs to have a well proportioned and interesting structure from which Spring and Summer can burst out of. As a designer I know that if the structure 

I have created looks good in Winter nothing much can go wrong with the infilling of plants later on. That’s why garden designers put most of their energy into making sure the layout works first before anything else.

A good structure can be created by many elements. Internal hedges can paradoxically make the garden feel bigger by separating areas and making smaller ‘rooms’ in which a person needs to wander and explore from space to space.

Good hedging that looks good in winter are Beech, Yew, Holly and Portuguese Laurel (please avoid Cherry Laurel. There is enough of it already in the world plus the bright green, plastic looking leaves can almost deny that Winter is here which I think is a shame.)

Topiary

Topiary doesn’t have to be just Box balls and squirrel shaped shrubs. You can ‘cloud’ prune all manner of hedges and shrubs into interesting pyramids, clouds, saucers, columns and blobs which can create a strong presence in Winter especially if you have a few of them well balanced in different areas.

Also you can choose plants that have a sculptural appearance. Imagine lots of the conifer Prunus mugo Carsten’s Wintergold placed throughout the beds.

Pots and Sculpture

Once the flower show is done, ornamental pots and sculpture come into their own in Winter and they are no longer having to compete with the effulgence of nature. If you place them in focal point locations they will lift your garden onto a different level. If at all possible, go Big with them. Even in a small garden they will get lost and look twee if too small and cheap looking.

Small evergreen plants

As well as the obvious Winter shrubs and trees that don’t loose their leaves think about combinations of a few plants dotted around together.

Some examples of perennials with striking Winter foliage are:

Cotton Lavender, Stacys bizantia, Rosmary, Bergen delavayi with its fat purple leaves, Hebes, Liriop miscarry and Tiarella Spring Symphony.

Seedheads

Seadheads are very popular today. They are good for wildlife and look great in Winter sunsets or in the morning covered in frost.

Some examples are:

Rudbekia laciniata, Sedums, Monada, Verbenba bonsariensis, Veronicastum virginicum and Phlomis plus the great slightly goofy flower heads of Hydrangeas.

Colourful deciduous plants.

Shrubs and trees with interesting colours and textures are:

Acer griseuk, Acer negundo ‘Winter Lightening’, Betula Grayswood Ghost, the twisted branches of Corylus contort, any of the Cornus especially Midwinter Fire, dwarf Willows like ‘Nana’ plus Rubus cockburnianus (this name sends giggles into any horticultural class as you can imagine)

Grasses

Half the value of having ornamental grasses in your garden is that during Winter they go a hay/ bronze colour and still move wonderfully in the wind. Grasses that really retain their shape are Calimagrostis Karl Foerster, Panicum Heavy Metal and and of the Miscanthus varieties.

Berries

Pyracantha, Catoneaster and Berberis all keep their berries way into Winter and are great cheap birdfeeds.

Fruit and Flowers

Some trees and shrubs have learnt to come on stage when for most the show is over.

Malus Red Sentinal keeps its bright red fruit on its branches almost the whole way through Winter. Mahonia Lionel Fortescue has lovely fragrant yellow, plus other flowering plants make their appearance. Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’, Helleborous, some of the Clematis, Winter Jasmine, Winter Heather and of course Snowdrops.

Water

Having water in the garden can be a really wonderful luxury but in Winter it becomes essential. It reflects the ethereal sky and emphasises the stillness of Winter. So after a day Xmas shopping and having retreated yourself from steaming at the queues, the worries that you have forgotten something and the extra mince pie you know you shouldn’t have eaten, let your Winter garden help you pare down to what is most important and beautiful in life.

Things to do in January

Time to prune your roses

All the shoots from last year’s Wysteria growth can be pruned back to two beds from the flowering spur apart from any runners you want to direct into a framework.

Apple and pear trees need reducing depending on their age

You can begin to force Rhubarb now

Greenhouses and sheds can be cleaned and sorted out

Where to visit

I was struck recently by by visit to East Dean near Levant, West Sussex. It has some wonderful Winter Structure with flowing hedges, smart rows of Vistorian greenhouses, cloud pruned Yew trees plus classical pergolas and a pool. Also their are lots of trained fruit in different shapes and Winter is the perfect time to see how they have been pruned and how the structure of the branches has been created. Well worth a trip this month.

Below are some pictures Ii took there recently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Plant Combinations

As Autumn leaves us and Winter frosts starts to explode the cells in plant leaves and stems and wilt our Summer's efforts, I am reminded of these photos I took of Autumn plant combinations.

Creating a garden design for your garden needs to factor in not just particular plants but how they go with each other- the tones of green foliage, the colours, the height and the frothiness of plants, the season they comes into their own and how they look as they die back.

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Temple of fruit storage

In the gardens of East Dean, West Sussex there lies an old fruit drying house.

Even to this day East Dean's fruit from it's collection of 100 apple varieties and 45 pear species are stored here.

When I stumbled upon them they were like precious jews glowing in very centre of the cold, grey afternoon, full of last Summer's sun, wind and sky.

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Garden Design Transformation

Believe it or not we only finished the garden three months ago but because of the warm Autumn the smaller 2 litre Perennial flowers have grown and blossomed!




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Highdown- garden design on Chalk

Highdown- Heritage Garden at our Doorstep

 

Highdown Garden in Worthing is one of the best green secrets in the Sussex. It is the biggest and finest chalk garden in the UK with wonderful tree and shrub specimens and a mecca for anyone who wants to know what they can grow if their garden is chalky and therefore alkaline.

It is also a very atmospheric garden, a labyrinth of small and larger spaces with different levels including a fish pond, a larger pond at the foot of the chalk cliff and lawn areas for children.

Originally the area was a lime quarry in the 18th Century where chalk was burnt to produce lime for agriculture and building. (The lime building is still in the garden.)

In 1909 Sir Fredrick Stern, a rich Edwardian, bought up the site and tried to turn it into tennis courts. However glare from the chalk cliff put players off and Stern went about trying to solve the problem by lowering a workman on ropes to try and dig out planting pockets in the chalk to plant and hopefully cover up with plants the whole of the cliff face. When this failed a love affair ensured, as Sir Stern spent the rest of his life leaning and experimenting with plants to create a garden that would grow on chalk.

He sponsored some of the great plant collectors of the day to go to China and other far flung places to bring back seeds so he could continue his experiments. For example, as you enter the garden a huge avenue of Pittisporums welcomes you. They were planted right at the beginning of the birth of the garden in 1909.

In the 1960’s another passion was born. Gary Prescod as a child used to grow plants on his little balcony in South London. He went on to study Natural Science at Cambridge University and the Chelsea Physics garden. He is now Head Gardener at Highdown and loves the place.

“There is myself and two other full time workers plus we have an apprentice at the moment and a volunteer two days a week who was the daughter of the Head Gardener who worked here many years ago.

“This is the finest chalk garden in the UK and we have the National Collection of Sir Fredrick Stern Introduced Plants here.

We have the largest Catoneaster in Europe and the biggest Himalayan Musk Rose outside of China.”

He points to an absolutely exquisite and delicate tree. “And that is the largest Chinese Weeping Hornbeam in the UK” . The sun pours through the delicate leaves. “The seed was brought back by Reginald Farer in 1913.

We have a lot of berry trees for Autumn interest as it is mainly a Spring and Summer garden in terms of colour.

He brings my attention to an enormous shrub about 12 foot high with masses of red berries. That is a Viburnum beechulifolia.  Earnest Wilson, nicknames Chinese Wilson, brought that seed back with him 100 years ago.” The birds don’t like the berries so some of the clusters stay on the branches till the next year’s flowering. 

And that is Euonymous grandifolia salicifolius which George Forrest brought back in seed form in 1914.”

The mature specimens in the garden reads like a Who’s Who of early 20th Century plant collectors and many of the mature trees were grown from the original seeds.

“Chalk is very difficult to grow on. The top soil is often only inches deep and roots find it hard both to penetrate and then find any nutrients. Then the water and nutrients constantly drain out. We mulch as much as we can but still in Summer the leaves can look faded as the plants dry out. There are some surprising exceptions to what one thinks one can grows here. That for example!”

He points to a lovely specimen of an Arbutus uendo, the Mediterranean Strawberry tree with it’s viivid smooth bark that is normally considered an acid lover.

“This Yew tree is a rare yellow fruiting variety and every Autumn the branches turn yellow as birds try to wipe the poisonous seed from the fruit they want to eat.”

For the local gardener who puts their spade in the soil and hits chalk this garden has huge amounts to offer.

You can see smaller plants like Liriope, Dianthus, Stocks, Knuatia, Wall flowers, Geraniums, Sarcococca and  Epimedium and shrubs like the Euonymous europa. Unusual plants like Virginia Pokeweed and Canary Island Echiums as well as mature trees like Gleditsia Sunburst, Pittisporum, Holme Oak plus a rare Afganistan Judas Tree can all be seen in the garden and it will give you confidence to go out and buy them.

There is even a blue floretted Hydrangea aspera velosa that dates back to the 1920’s.

Because bulbs are shallow rooted Daffodils and Cyclamen go well as well as Winter Aconites and there is a huge collection of Snowdrops. In fact for the first time Highdown will open its gates on a Sunday in February to offer a Snowdrop tour.

Gary is passionate about the garden and has recently applied for Heritage Lottery Funding.

“My wish is for this garden to be properly conserved so that everyone can recognise its importance. For example that huge Acer grisem over there was grown from seed brought back by Chinese Wilson. Of the 100 seeds that were then grown by the Veich Nursery, which specialised in exotic and rare species, only a handful remain. And they are dying out in China which makes its preservation that much more important. We have recently get Kew Gardens Millennium Seed bank involved.

“We want to create a Visitor’s Centre here, interactive stations for children and label the plants to help inform people of the rare specimens they are looking at. Also there is so many documents that relate to the garden that I don’t have time to go through and archive. Apparently there were over 500 species of plants here at one time. We have so little time we haven’t even got a proper audit of what is still growing.”

Unbelievably, entrance to Highdown incurs no cost and is upkept by Worthing council, as in 1967 Sir Stern’s widow passed the garden onto the people of Worthing so they could enjoy it for free. (Their beautiful flint mansion is now the hotel that can be seen next door.)

The garden receives up to 30,000 visitors each year but it is so intricate that it retains an intimate feeling.

Opening Times

Cost- Free

Winter -1st October to the end of March

Monday to Friday 10-4.30pm

Summer - 10-6pm including weekends

 

 

 

 

 

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