Fill the gaps: Block planting in garden design

In an ideal garden design, there would be every plant under the sun and zero limitations in terms of what we could plant, regardless of the climate we live in. This, however, is not sustainable, neither for the maintenance of our garden nor for our pockets. To remedy this planting problem, we would suggest repetition of planting or “block planting” in your garden design. And I don’t mean square planting beds here either! Here are a few reasons why this planting is effective: Uniformity in your garden design Block planting can add seamlessness...

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Foraging for food – the good, the bad and the ugly, part 1

Whilst undertaking a road survey recently, I came across a super example of "food-for-free" in the Irish countryside when this apple tree presented its fruits to me. [caption id="attachment_3354" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Wild Irish apple tree![/caption] This native Irish apple tree is growing right alongside the N6 motorway in Westmeath and is a fantastic example of the bounties that our hedgerows and woodlands can offer us in the autumn.  All we have to do is look what's around us and we have the best natural foods available in our own countryside. [caption id="attachment_3356" align="aligncenter"...

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Using plants to divide up and create an interesting garden space

Just mulling over something I come across repeatedly on garden consultation visits which is that many gardeners are under confident when it comes to extending planting from the boundaries of the garden inwards. [caption id="attachment_3268" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Typical dreary garden scene in Ireland - basically lawn and devoid of plants[/caption] I am not sure why this is exactly: perhaps it is because they are afraid that if the plants don't do well that their mistakes will be too visible or maybe they just feel that plants have no place in a garden’s...

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Garden design enrichment – get it now!

A timely reminder, if you don’t mind, that the seminal Irish garden design event of 2013 (Bloom in the Park excepted) is taking place this weekend in Blanchardstown, Dublin. If you live in Ireland or indeed the UK and you are interested in what’s new in garden design then I would urge you to attend the Garden and Landscape Design Association's seminar Simply Gardens…Design Inspiration for your Soul’. This is the seventeenth successive annual design gathering held by the GLDA, which is no mean feat in these straightened times. [caption id="attachment_3034" align="aligncenter" width="413"]...

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Garden hedges using native, wildlife-friendly plants

The weather is a bit windy, wet and wintry here at the moment and maybe the very last thing you are thinking about is the state of your garden.  But if you had been considering a revamp of the garden perimeter with a bit of new planting during the course of last year then you need to know that now is the perfect time of year for planting a new hedge. It’s time to take action because we are currently in the dormant season for deciduous trees and shrubs and this...

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Coppicing trees in the garden and coppice woodlands

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="615"] Mature coppice in Herefordshire[/caption] Whilst I was working with the BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) a number of years ago (quite a number actually!), I completed a super training course in woodland crafts at the Greenwood Trust in Ironbridge, Shropshire.  Since then, I am in the habit of advocating coppicing not only as a useful and productive way of managing woodlands (of all sizes) but also as a method for controlling the size of trees  in small gardens, especially where space is at a premium but the...

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Planting trees in your garden

[caption id="attachment_2358" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Fabulouos oak tree avenue in Kilmacurragh, Co. Wicklow[/caption] Yesterday's 'tree day' for schools, organised by the Tree Council of Ireland, got me thinking about how important trees are to the Irish landscape in both a physical and a cultural sense.  Many of our most special trees are part of property boundaries and/or are contained in gardens.  And I feel that it is incumbent on both gardeners and garden designers that we make a worthy contribution to Ireland' stock of trees, whether we are using native or exotic...

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Garden design tip 4: paving, part B

When it comes to picking stone for your garden personal choice and taste is important but you should also consider how the stone will fit in with what you already have. [caption id="attachment_1907" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Front garden design (by Tim Austen) featuring granite setts and kerbs to tie-in with the granite windowsills of the house.  Colour of gravel also complements the red-brick of the house.[/caption] A good starting point is your house: the colour and finishes on your house should be used as a guide for materials selection for the garden.  For...

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Weather forecasting for the garden

It is not my intention that my blog is used as a long term climate recording tool, but the ongoing variability in our weather is so dramatic that I will continue to comment on it as long as I feel it is impacting on the plants in our gardens.  So for the record, today is dry, sunny, but quite cold at c. 8°C. Sadly, my Amelanchier (Juneberry) blooms were completely removed by yesterday's wind, so it will be interesting to see if there will be any fruit on them during the...

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Mossy marvels on an Irish woodland floor

As a garden designer, I seek to take inspiration from nature whenever I can.  Last weekend, I took these photos on a lovely walk through a coniferous woodland in Wicklow.  Although the wood was predominantly commercial evergreen species, there were some deciduous species, such as, Birch and Beech  present and understory trees like Holly here and there.  But the most striking thing about this woodland was the beautiful carpet of spongy moss spread throughout. [caption id="attachment_477" align="aligncenter" width="574"] Mossy woodland floor[/caption] [caption id="attachment_484" align="aligncenter" width="594"] Moss close up[/caption] It reminded me that I...

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