New Year New Start in the…Garden

As January settles in I once again have this great urge as I look around my garden to have a change in style. The problem is I can never make up my mind what direction I want to go in.

 Two years ago I was in my minimalist period then it was back to an Italian Style Garden, inspired by Monty Don exploring magnificent Italian gardens, on his excellent BBC programme. 

Of recent I have settled on the English cottage style which is rightly in vogue at the moment as it is a very practical style, maximum in colour in the summer and very resilient in its winter dormant period and in many ways the way nature intended it to be. 

As the garden is dormant In the depths of the Winter months , It’s a good time to examine how one might go about giving the garden a new look, and how to adjust its look rather than ripping it up and staring again. This is something I have always been reluctant to do, as a general rule, I try to retain where possible as many plants as feasible and not blind the client by ripping out the old mature plants just for the sake of it. This is a good time of the year for moving plants as most are dormant. I have managed on occasion to move plants in full growth .Last May I oversaw the  successful relocation of a 1.5mt high 8 year old Japanese Maple but you have to take your time and know exactly what you are doing and hope for the best. 

If you have to move plants in the Spring or Summer then make sure to water the plants well before the move. This insures that the whole plant will be hydrated. Transplant when it is overcast or during the cooler evening hours and never leave the roots exposed to sun, heat or wind and make sure to have some water in the new hole before you place the moved plant into it by filling it halfway with water. Allow the water to settle in the soil around the roots and then finish filling the hole with soil.

 If one wants to pursue a Japanese inspired garden then there are three basic principles, reduced scale, symbolization, and a borrowed view. For example creating a mountain view and rivers can be accomplished by using miniaturized stones, sand and gravel.  The Symbolization, which is used in almost every Japanese garden, is created by raking sand or gravel this, can symbolize rivers and groupings of stones and rock can represent islands. 

Awaterless rock and sand garden, is a very well known type of Japanese garden. This style could easily be incorporated into a small are of a garden and includes a limited plant life, mostly moss, raked gravel symbolizing streaming water, and groupings of rocks and stones. One style that could be attempted is the Tea garden.This type of garden needs a Japanese lantern a crouching water basin and stepping stones that takes you to a waiting place. This is a small enclosed garden, with the purpose of the design being to create an area conducive to peaceful relaxing area.

The thought of designing Italian style garden maybe daunting for some, however if a few guidelines are followed you can easily suggest a strong Italian theme in your garden. Aim to create a shaded patio area near the house, where you or guests can sit and dine ‘al fresco’on summer’s evenings, or enjoy a coffee in the mornings, with easy access to the house and all its amenities. Scandinavians in my opinion have the right idea as they like there sitting area in the heart of the garden, which is a style that is under used, in this part of the world we seem to want to attach sitting areas to the back of the house 

In the pursuit of the Italian look add Italian-style furnishing, relaxed, yet colourful Italian features, like rusted iron chandeliers and candle holders will instantly suggest an Italian ambience and colourful bowls of fruit add a homely Mediterranean touch. 

 Plants like Box (Buxus sempervirens) will add a touch of elegance if placed symmetrically either side of doors or other entrances and White Hydrangeas such as Hydrangea Macrophylla ‘Annabelle’, in large terracotta pots can make up the body of the planting and elegant evergreens like Osmanthus fragranss will fill the area with scent on summers evenings and will create a very important and often overlooked feature of the garden…perfume!

Tough evergreen Mediterranean plants like Oleander, Viburnum Tinusand Pittosporum Tobiracan be used as simple yet sturdy structural plants. A trimmed cypress tree will instantly add an Italian feel. Cypress trees can be maintained at the height you wish, with careful annual pruning and (if pruned) can even be grown close to the house, without causing serious root damage. Olive Trees should be added as well, though as we discovered in recent Winters, they need to be kept an eye on when temperatures drop below -5.c which will damage the plant and below -10.C will kill them off.

Start planning now and by late spring you should have all your homework done for a new look for even part of the garden. I would not recommend a complete change of a garden theme without professional help.  

It is important not forget that new plants need a certain amount of TLC when new in the garden and especially if in pots, as the rain will not be sufficient as a general rule in the Summer to penetrate the roots in the pots let alone in the ground. And finally a seaweed based fertiliser will bring great results.

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