Breathing new life into a Teddington garden

I’d been looking after N’s garden for a number of years and whilst it was looking ok both N and I agreed it could look a lot better. However, a major house refurbishment took priority and parts of the garden were used as a workshop by the builder. Eventually the work on the house was completed and N and I could focus on the garden.

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This is a north-facing garden with quite a few trees so sunlight was in short supply. The lawn was in a sorry state and the borders needed restocking. The starting point was to remove this very mature weeping birch to allow more light in. It’s not something I was keen to do as I liked the shape and cutting down any tree needs to be considered carefully these days.

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Most of the hard landscaping was fine, it just needed smartening up. Builder Marcin made some slatted trellis to go on top of the fences, both of which were painted black to disappear into the background. He also completely refurbished and painted the existing pergola, cleaned and oiled the deck and refurbished and painted the shed and clad it in the same trellis.

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The lawn was reshaped with sweeping curves to lead the eye round the awkward corners. N wanted to keep the stepping stone path and Marcin had the great idea of putting it in the border rather than in the lawn. The lawn itself was given a lot of tlc with lots of water and feed and regular mowing - no need to rip it out and returf.

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The garden was ready for some new plants - a pleached hornbeam was added to complement the existing ones and a row of pleached crab apples were added as a screen on another boundary. The crab apples will have spring blossom for pollinators and autumn fruits for birds.

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The rest of the planting is a rich palette of purple, dark red, pink and white for the sunny areas and a quieter mix of white and pink for the shady parts. The stand out features here are a couple of elegant tree ferns.

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In the sunniest part of the garden we added a shallow water bowl in corten steel. It’s a magnet for people and wildlife and the reflections change the views of the garden.

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The lighting is nearly complete and an irrigation system has been installed. Of course, since then it’s hardly stopped raining.

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It’s at this point I always want to fast-forward a couple of years to see the planting fill out. But to do that would mean missing out on the pleasure of seeing the garden develop, sometimes in unexpected ways.

Marcin Builder -

Corten water bowl -

Pleached trees -

Perennials -

Green & Gorgeous Flower Farm

I found out about Green & Gorgeous in a magazine and paid a visit on a Saturday late in June. It was a blisteringly hot and eyeball achingly bright day. Not ideal for photography but hey it was a bit of a trek to get there so I had to make the best of it.

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On arrival I was sent off to the sweet pea borders. If ever there was proof that if you’re going to do sweet peas properly you’ve got to plant an awful lot of them then this was it. I could smell them before I could see them. Unfortunately my photos of the sweet peas weren’t very good but if you scratch your screen here you can smell them.

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Although the main business here is growing flowers for cutting, particularly in summer in full wedding season, Green & Gorgeous is open on Saturdays for you to pick your own sweet peas and select just-picked stems and produce in the shop. Some perennials are also on sale.

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I asked if they minded me taking photos and they didn’t so off I wandered. It was a very pleasant way to spend an hour or so, it was just a shame there wasn’t really anywhere to have coffee. Maybe there was but the poor lady in the shop was on her own and I didn’t have the heart to ask as she was pretty run off her feet.

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As well as creating floral bouquets for events they also run courses on topics ranging from how to set up and run a flower farm business to flower arranging, and garden photography with Eva Nemeth.

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The photography on their website is lovely and the Instagram feed is pretty impressive too. It was great to see a successful business selling local, seasonal produce that doesn’t have a huge carbon footprint.

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For those of you desperate for a coffee or other refreshments there’s plenty on offer in nearby Wallingford or Goring & Streatley (if you can find somewhere to park).

Green & Gorgeous -

Did anyone scratch?

New Wimbledon planting project

E&S were having a bit of a nightmare with their garden. The removal of a Eucalyptus tree revealed a hotch potch of different height fences and exposed the garden to their neighbours’ gaze. Sorting the fence out resulted in the loss of a lot of established plants.

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The fencing contractor made quite a mess which E&S’s gardener managed to resolve. And E’s first attempt to get some help from a garden designer ended in disappointment. This is how the garden looked when I first saw it. Not the worst starting point but I had quite a task on my hands to make up for all the frustrations of the previous year.

The garden had been very green and lush with none of the neighbour’s houses visible. E wanted to get this look again, but with more flowers and colour. The borders also needed reshaping to give a better structure to the garden.

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The first thing that struck me was that the shed was in the wrong place. We moved it from the sunniest spot in the garden to a shadier corner, swapping places with a seating arbour. We also made the stepping stone path more of a feature and by using the same paving as elsewhere in the garden the overall look came together better.

The borders were reshaped from awkward corners and wiggly lines into sweeping curves. And then we selected a palette of plants from evergreens to shade-lovers to E’s favourite vibrant blues and yellows. It was all planted in October so E&S have had a nine month wait to see it all come to fruition.

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Clematis Minuet Wimbledon new planting project Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg
Stachys officinalis Hummelo Wimbledon new planting project Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg
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Clematis Romantika Wimbledon new planting project Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg
Veronicastrum Wimbledon new planting projects Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg
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This project proves that you don’t need a lot of hard landscaping to make a massive difference to a garden. It’s amazing what you can achieve by reshaping the lawn and investing in the right plants.

Thanks to the efforts of E and her gardeners the garden is looking immaculate in July. And it is by no means at its peak, there’s still Rudbeckia, Asters and Sedums to come later this summer. And by next year it will be looking even better.

The best long-flowering plants

At the height of summer some gardens are beginning to run out of steam. I'm always on the look-out for flowers that have staying power and these are some of my favourites.

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Verbena bonariensis is one of the most requested plants by my clients, even if they don't know its name. It flowers on tall wiry stems from June until mid-autumn and will only lose its structure after a heavy frost. It doesn't live long but as any gardener will tell you Vb self sows with complete abandon, almost to the point of being really annoying. Give it lots of sun and almost any soil except really heavy clay. Vb's little brother Verbena lollipop grows well in a pot if you're strapped for space.

Looks good with Echinacea purpurea, Helenium Waldtraut and Calamagrostis x acutiflora Karl Foerster.

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Anthemis tinctoria starts a bit earlier in the year. Most, like A.t. Sauce Hollandaise or EC Buxton, prefer light and free draining soils and should be cut back hard after flowering. They make good cut flowers if you can bear to take them out of the garden.

Looks good with Geranium Rozanne, Knautia macedonica and Verbascum chaixii.

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One of the stars of the late summer garden Aster x frikartii Monch starts flowering in July and will go ontil mid-autumn. Loved by insects, this plant likes fertile soil with some moisture to produce its best efforts although it will survive most conditions.

Looks good with Euphorbia characais Humpty Dumpty, Penstemon Alice Hindley and Rudbeckia fulgida var, sullivantii Goldsturm.

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Penstemon Garnet is my go-to plant for a reliable red flower that doesn't get powdery mildew and lasts more than one summer. Like many plants in this list it likes full sun and fertile soil. I've had some disasters with heavy clay soil. It is not 100% frost-proof so whilst I dead-head it through the summer I don't cut it back fully until early spring. Confusingly this is also callled Penstemon Andenken an Friedrich Hahn and you will often see both names on the label. Most Penstemons are equally long-flowering and other favourites of mine include the deep purple P. Raven and the light blue P. Alice Hindley.

Looks good with Centranthus ruber Alba, Pennisetum Red Buttons and Salvia sylvestris Dear Anja.

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Another great red flower, Potentilla Gibson's Scarlet is at the fire-engine end of the spectrum. It's great for the front of the border but give it plenty of room as the flower stems reach out further than you would think if planting early in the year. Full sun and well-drained soil will keep the plant happy.

Looks good with Geum Princess Julian, Agapanthus Black Pantha and Gaura lindheimeri Siskyou Pink.

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If you can only have one of these plants in your garden this is the one I'd go for. Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii Goldsturm flowers from July until late autumn and continue to look good through the winter if the weather is not too wet and windy. And, even better, it loves heavy clay soils, perfect for London.

Looks good with Helenium Moerheim Beauty, Verbena bonariensis and Phormium Yellow Wave.

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Rosa Iceberg can be grown as a shrub but as it is pretty vigorous I think it's better as a climber. It produces a magnificent flush in June and if you dead-head properly it will continue to flower on and off until December. It doesn't have a strong scent but is usually pretty healthy. Like most roses is is as happy as Larry in clay soil.

Looks good on its own.

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Winner of the RHS Flower of the Decade competition Geranium Rozanne doesn't really get into its stride for a month after most of the other blue Geraniums like G. Orion or G. Johnson's Blue. But once it does get going there is no stopping it, most I know go on until November and they don't need dead-heading. It will even grow in quite a bit of shade but for the best results plant in full sun in almost any soil except that which is waterlogged.

Looks good with Persicaria amplexicaulis Firetail, Phlomis russeliana and Salvia nemoraosa Caradonna.

Echinacea purpurea Magnus Arthur Road Landscapes.jpg

The poster flower for the millenial trend of prairie planting Echinacea purpurea will probably outlast many others that don't like the general dampness of our climate. Strikingly architectural, even after the colour has faded, they are a favourite of gardeners and pollinating insects alike. It can take a few years to bulk up so it's not a plant to be impatient with. It likes full sun and well-drained but not dry soil - not picky at all - but worth it. This one is E.p. Magnus Superior but there are many different varieties and colours. I've not had much luck with the orange ones but E.p. White Swan is a reliable and good-looking culltivar.

Looks good with Gaura lindheimeri Whirling Butterflies, Sedum spectabile Autumn Joy and Calamagrostis brachytricha.

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And finally, Erigeron karvinskianus, sometimes called E.k. Profusion or Mexican Fleabane. This is the plant you will see self-sown in the paving at National Trust properties. It flowers ceaselessly from May until November and does not need dead-heading; the newly emergent flowers are white, fading to pink as they age. It's great at the front of the border, keeping weeds at bay with its carpeting growth, and I like to plant it in pots. It's fairly unfussy about the conditions it grows in making really good value for money and it's self-sowing habit means it's quite difficult to kill!

Looks good with Olea europea, Stipa tenuissima and Sisyrinchium striatum.