A bit of spring Lawncare

I have added a post to the lawncare blog about how to aid aeration and and root growth and how to change the make up of the top surface of your lawn. Enjoy.


More lovely plant pictures from Philip Simmonds

Philip has just sent a few more photos from his Chelsea garden:

Below is the wonderful Ligusticum lucidum – a feathery fennel like leaf shape, with Hosta ‘fire and ice’ behind and the lovely grass Luzula nivaea on the right

Below is a similar combination, this time with the delightful Verbascum ‘Merlin’ the dusky pink central plant with Hosta ‘fire and ice’ behind. The taller red stems of the Angelica Archangelica are visible in the background and the floaty white flower of Luzula nivaea again. The Hosta to the front right is Hosta Devon Green, and the slim floaty grass is Festuca amethystina.

Below, against the wonderful colour of Philips’ stunning piece, is Veronica gentianoides on the left, with Luzula nivaea on the right. You can also see a close up of the wonderful sawn stone which tones so beautifully with the ceramics.

Below you can see the tall shapes of the elegant Angelica archangelica, underplanted with Hosta Devon Green, Luzula and Iris sibirica

The pots are unveiled…

For those looking for the plants I have edited the post to capture the plants we actually used (as opposed to the other van load we took back to the office!) You will find all the photos and names in the previous post. 

Philip Simmonds has now unveiled his amazing sculptural ceramics (can’t really call them pots!) and they look simply wonderful. This has been a delightful collaboration where the pieces are the stars of the show, and the planting is designed to complement and dress the garden. We think it very successful. Our thanks to all of Philips’ team as well as our own of course. The atmosphere at Chelsea is always a delight, and we are proud to be part of it. Looking forward to the preview day tomorrow.

Chelsea planting for Philip Simmonds

We are again delighted to be planting for Philip Simmonds on his Chelsea stand. if you are lucky enough to be visiting Chelsea, do go and visit Philip and have a look at his wonderful sculptural ceramics. He is again in a prime position on the Rock Bank. We know that many people see plants they like and want to know the names, so rather than trying to give Philip and his team some extensive cue cards I have listed below the main ones! We are planting tomorrow and will be up at crack of dawn to get into the Chelsea mayhem again. Wish us luck!

Verbascum ‘Merlin’ A great example of why I always choose my plants in person- the photos of this on the web make it look much brighter whereas the colour is a delightful dusky pink

Lavandula stoechas ‘nuance blu’ Apparently featuring heavily at the Malvern show too, this particular variety is one I had not seen before- the picture darkens the tone which in reality has a lighter “head” with small purplish accents that fade to an almost red colour.

Viburnum plicatum ‘Maresii’-almost all viburnums are lovely. This one is not scented but the structure is wonderful. We liked it so much we used 2 of them.

You can just see my lovely Iris Siberia in front- Iris Siberia ‘Tropic Night’ 

Festuca amethystina – delightful grass with almost black seed heads

Hostas ‘Fire and Ice’ and ‘Devon Green’ I know the slugs love them but who can blame them!

Luzula nivaea– a good hardy grass that is very tolerant of a wide range of soils and gives this wonderful floaty effect

Cenolopheum denudata cow parsley to you and I- but one of a range of these plants that are a delight

Dill (Anethum graveolens) fluffy foliage and attractive flower heads 

Angelica archangelica– Star of the show with purplish stems and magnificent height and structure! Not quite sure how we are going to place these to make sure they don’t get in the way of Philip’s wonderful creations, but we are going to try!

Ligusticum lucidum– not ligustrum as it appeared on my delivery note from the supplier giving me a bit of a heart attack! This is a beautiful member of the ever popular cow parsley type plants, but the form is particularly elegant.

Coolgardens are off to Chelsea!

Its that time of year again and we are off to Chelsea. Phil is working with Dan Pearson on his fantastic show garden, and the design team are again planting for Philip Simmonds for his lovely sculptural ceramics- www.philipsimmonds.co.uk  Since we selected from our chosen stock yesterday we know that we have some lovely Cenolophiums, and unusual white lavandula stoechas, huge Angelica and floaty Luzula (images below) do come and see them and meet Philip if you are coming to Chelsea- we are on the rock bank almost next to Dan Pearson.

Some of the team will be at Chelsea on Wednesday and Thursday, as well as dropping in at other times so do let us know if you are in and come and say hi. 

Good luck to all at Chelsea- the larger gardens will have been there building for 2 weeks already and we are looking forward to seeing how it is all going. 

More hedge notches..

Thought I would share the notch looking the other way as it looked lovely this morning- rather than coming out of my kitchen door to look at a hedge, the small notch frames a longer view of the oak beyond. I think this a simple and effective way of linking to the landscape beyond.

Hedge ideas…my cunning notches!

I have for years been telling people that a large hedge can be not only a thing of beauty and a screen, but also create a frame for a view and a change in perspective. I often cite the notches in my own mixed native hedges since these are not often thought of as decorative in the way that a more formal yew hedge might be. 

Below is the view from my kitchen sink- anyone would think I planned it! A large hedge forms the boundary and protects the house from the north wind across the field, but the notch allows us to see the views beyond, and frames the marvellous oak in the next field.

Yes I know the hedge needs a trim, but I have been dealing with moles and the hedge is lower on my priority list! The rape field is a stunning vision through the notch nonetheless.

Cranes and trees…

We have just spent several months planning how to get some very large trees into the back garden of a new house being built in Northwood. The planning had to be meticulous and the health and safety (and insurance) details onerous, but on the day the lifts went well and the trees are in position.

One of the hardest bits is that one the trees are over the house we still have to move them into position on the site, so not only do the trees have to go over the house but so does the large digger!

Well done to Phil, Carl and Danny as well as our colleagues at the specialist tree movers- it took much perseverance to get the job done. Whilst crane lifts are more common for roof terrace work, it can be the best way to deal with houses built tightly into a plot as the access arrangements are often tight.

Moving trees…

 Realised I didn’t post this- wrote it back in March and my feet haven’t touched the ground since! A few more to come then….

Today was a chilly day down in Dorking where we were laying out planting for a client we have been working with for a while. Whilst there we worked with the groundworkers to help them move some large Acers before a building project goes ahead. We have now (in April) seen the trees safely into their new positions and they are putting on growth so it is looking good.

January…thoughts of wisteria..

More on wisteria below- but an image here to whet your appetite while I ramble on towards that topic!..


Yes its January- I had to scrape the ice from the car windscreen before leaving the office yesterday evening in the dark which was a bit depressing. Nevertheless working in Penn Bottom does remain pretty much the best place to be. Our lovely barn is now toasty warm and the red kites are serenading us this morning- I actually thought someone was out in the car park whistling until his call broke into the more familiar kite warble.

2015-01-07 08.34.50

January gardening tips:

Sort all the bits you can do whilst staying warm- get mowers serviced before you need them and check the fencing and trellis for rot- treat them with preservative if you can get out there.

We are experimenting this year with using as much of the fallen leaf cover directly as a mulch as we can- this is Knowle Gardens’ top tip for keeping weeds down and moisture in with lower effort. They simply drag the leaves from the lawn and put directly on the beds. Their style of gardening is very low maintenance and they do little digging. The balance is to make sure that the plants we want to come through can, so I am currently playing this by ear and will perhaps do a bit of excavating in the next few weeks.

Deciduous shrubs can be gently pruned (avoid doing acers and vines this time of year-they don’t like it and should be pruned earlier)- aim to remove dead or diseased wood from the other deciduous stock and prune back to shape a bit. It is personal taste but I avoid like the plague turning everything into a ball- most shrubs have a geometry of their own that you can gently bring out and experiment with- arching branches and layers add texture to the garden that clipped ball shapes dont (although they have their place). Clearing the lower stems of mutistem trees and shrubs can be very effective and this is a great time to embark. Corylus contorta in particular look amazing treated in this way- it reveals the wonderful twisted stems and brings out the beauty of what I do feel otherwise looks often rather a messy shrub! Our wonderful Hampton Court garden featured these to great effect..CG Hampton13-47

Avoid pruning evergreens or anything tender until after the frosts-  pruning encourages new growth that is frost prone.

Wisteria pruning time is upon us- I really fancy one of these wisteria arches and I live in hope! In the meantime, prune whatever you have- cut all stems coming off the main framework back to 2-3 buds and tie into wires, vine-eyes or whatever else you are using. Feel free to be brutal- they are generally thuggish growers. I have one that is currently trying to (pretty successfully) climb into our bedroom window. They can damage a fair bit of guttering, weatherboarding and the like so it is worth keeping them in check.


Keeping them off the house and on a frame as in the arches above is a great idea- if you have a large garden you can make a real feature of this. Smaller gardens can use one of my favourite forms which is the standard tree…they will grace almost any garden and the form means you can keep them neat and clipped outside of the flowering time.

The images below are from my Islington garden many years ago- the wisteria was one of a pair framing the white garden section- as you can see it turned out not to be white, but since it flowered so beautifully i didn’t have the heart to remove it and when the crocuses joined in with the rebellion I gave in and my white garden became a purple and white garden.


Gardening is full of such compromises or shall we say happy accidents. I guess Vita Sackville-West resisted all such colour storms at the Sissinghurst white garden, and to wonderful effect…

sissinghurst white garden

I always imagine her walking in the garden considering carefully whether a particular shade of buttery cream is a bit too close to a yellow for the garden and perhaps ruthlessly removing it- I doubt my wisteria would have lasted more than a few moments from the buds emerging!