This months guest blog post has been written by Frances.
Here we are, currently into our third week of Lockdown. And how the world has changed in the last month, spending more time at home than ever before, as a family unit.
Apparently the average time that a couple spend together BC (Before Covid) was 2.5 hours a day, and now….well, those hours are endless aren’t they!
Having a young family, we have found ourselves debating and overthinking even the most menial DIY task; todays was the creation of a new Mud Kitchen in the garden. Home improvements are the top of our list, those small imperfections of our BC lives have now become glaringly HUGE urgent problems that need to be sorted ASAP. This is especially true of our gardens; the glorious sunshine has meant that the whole country has been outside in their garden, whether that manifests as a yard or a few acres, nature doesn’t understand the Lockdown, and the buds continue to swell with fresh hope even when we are at our lowest.
For those lucky enough to have a garden, it is really important, especially in these turbulent times, that there is a flow between home and garden. I want my garden to hit me in the face when I come downstairs in the morning, punching before even the coffee hits. I want to be able to wander outside with a G and T, taking in every change to the plants that really do happen daily at this point in the year. This ‘wow’ factor can be achieved in so many ways in a garden, and in so many styles, whether you have a cottage garden, or an ultra modern garden.
Firstly; let’s briefly touch upon the transition between house and garden, and this is where Kettell come in. There are now so many options for creating wide reaching views and access to your garden. Of course, bifold doors are the obvious choice, and work so well at effectively taking a huge ‘chunk’ out of your house to allow you to really turn your garden into an extra ‘outdoor room’. Another option that is becoming increasingly popular are very thinly framed sliding doors, creating an almost frameless effect and working really well if you are lucky enough to live in an area with an exceptional view to highlight. Don’t also forget that not all ‘vistas’ from a home need to be doorways, a simple square window framing a feature pot or plant in the garden can create a piece of ever changing artwork from within your home. I myself have aluminium bifold doors; with only a small garden we wanted to create the ultimate flow from kitchen to the garden. Kettell designed and installed our doors and they are the highest quality bifolds I have come across, and believe me, I’m design-led and fussy!
Now, returning to creating a ‘wow’ factor in our gardens….the first, and most important design tool that can be used in a garden is SIMPLICITY. And by this I don’t mean, add a great grey hulk of new paving outside your bifold doors, but instead, think about using strong, repetitive shapes. Add a curve into your garden. Ideally, create yourself a circular lawn or interlocking circles, but of course this depends on the shape and size of your garden. By creating a true radius circle, the eye is drawn around the garden, and also allows for you to create some interesting borders for graduated planting too.
Make your garden full of interest. If your garden has plenty to look at within the site, your eye will be caught from all rooms within your home, really bringing the ‘outdoors in’. This may seem totally bonkers in small gardens, but adding structures such as pergolas, summerhouses and additional seating areas away from the house provides a real little oasis for you, whether there are houses beyond the garden fences or not.
Lots of people think that the secret to making your garden have ‘wow factor’ is to make it look as big as possible, and the way to do this is to send the lawn right to the boundary, however, that is not the case. ‘Blur’ the boundaries. Adding generous borders to surround boundaries, and covering those fences with shrubs 6 to 8 feet in height, as well as climbers will help to make the garden seem more contained. You can even include mirrors on your fences to create an ‘illusion’ that the garden continues. Creating graduated mixed shrub and herbaceous planting to the boundaries creates the illusion that the garden is larger than it actually is, and also once again, creates masses of interest within the site itself.
Of course, the stars of the show in any garden are the plants, and here are a few of my favourites that really give ‘bang for buck’ through the whole growing season. This means that not only will they be flowering in May, but they will also be flowering in October! In my view, these are MUST HAVE plants for every garden!
Penstemon are just a fantastic family of hardy perennials; they not only have gorgeous bell shaped flowers that last through the season, but they also have very attractive fine leaves, that are evergreen in all but the coldest winters. The flowers of ‘Firebird’ literally glow coral-pink and catch the eye, so do make sure that you include it in a few spaces through the garden so that your eye is drawn around the space. Do just be careful of pruning, wait until the hard frost are over before you give it a hard prune, otherwise you may find that it doesn’t return!
Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’
The Perennial Wallflower. And it certainly is perennial in terms of flower. A lovely evergreen perennial, which has tall spires holding soft purple flowers. The only problem….when to prune to keep the shape, because it really does just constantly flower! There is a gorgeous Perennial Wallflower in a front garden on Meeting Street in Quorn that is an amazing mix of orange and purple, all on one plant……any ideas of the name would be gratefully received as I have coveted it for years.
Schizostylis coccinea ‘Major’
Not often come across, this is also known as the Kaffir Lily. With strappy evergreen foliage (think Iris), this is a late summer bloomer on paper, but I have seen mine flower in Spring, and at Christmas time too! It has lovely dainty coral-red-pink coloured open flowers during a time when really everything else is winding down. It is very good at spreading through a space, but in a helpful manner rather than an invasive manner! Looks like nothing when you plant it, but you truly won’t regret it.
Cistus ‘Silver Pink’
I just have to the Sun Rose in this list, and all varieties can be included really, although Silver Pink is my favourite, not only because it has lovely pale pink flowers, but it also has grey-green felt leaves held on the shrub throughout the year. The flowers emerge in May, and keep on emerging through the whole season, successionally, so there is always a flower on this beauty. The flowers are like crepe paper, with a sweet yellow centre. The key to making this shrub work for you is pruning; it has a tendency to get leggy, but make sure that you are keeping it on a tight leash, pruning any wayward branches so that it forms a satisfying tight dome.
Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’
This Cranesbill has a truly fantastic coloured flower, of the brightest magenta, offset with a lovely dark eye to the flower. Ann Folkard has lovely finely cut leaves, and scrambles around the ground in a loose, relaxed way. The new growth is sort of lime-green, which provides a gloriously eye catching contrast with the flower colour, even if it sounds truly ghastly as I’m writing this on paper! Google it….totally gorgeous I promise! A hard cut back halfway through the season when the Geranium has flopped ensures another flowering period in late summer or early autumn.
Hopefully this blog post will have inspired you and given some thoughts for your future plans; plants keep growing, flowers keep blooming. And our job in these turbulent times; keep planning, keep contacting local businesses such as Kettell (and me too!), because our homes and our gardens will still be here when, not if, we come out of the other side.
For more information and inspiration, take a look at my new website, www.franceshuntgardendesign.co.uk, and feel free to email me with any queries or questions, firstname.lastname@example.org.