Monday, 22 February 2010

3.Sentimentality (in; How to get your garden done)

So, you have figured out – roughly what you want, a vague idea of your budget, and now you are nearly ready to get the experts in...but not quite.
I have included sentimentality - because as well as having a new garden built for you – there will inevitable be existing things in the garden (trees, bushes, features), that you want to keep, but a great deal will need removing.  Some of these things really shouldn't be in that location and are only there for what I call Sentimental reasons. E.g. 'It is so big, we couldn't remove it', and 'I've just got so used to it now' and ' the previous owners planted it on their 10th wedding anniversary' - aha but not in the right place!

One of the most important parts of a designers job is to see through what is already there and to create a vision for the future. I see this as my talent. Sometimes however this is compromised by the desire to keep something through sentimental reasons alone.

Common examples;
· An Ash tree (or similar) that has self seeded, been left unattended to grow and has now become a feature blocking out the sunset in the evenings or is in obviously awkward place.
· A large Magnolia grandiflora planted against the wall of the house (when it was popular to do so) and is now taking light from the house and beginning to damage the house itself.
· A water feature lovingly put in – but in entirely the wrong place.
· The remains of an old garden – where much of the original plan has been worn away, died or where plants that do remain look tired and lonely.

And it happens to the best of us.
I inherited a 10ft high Camellia (Camellia japonica 'Nobilissima') from an American client in London. It was in a massive pot and already 7ft high. How I got it to my house is a mystery from his 3rd floor balcony, before it stayed in its pot in a perfect position for 3 years flowering abundantly twice. Of course it came with me to the country when we moved 4 years ago, and it had by that time outgrown its massive pot. So with much thought and considerable effort I planted it out.
Unfortunately my garden has changed and my big 10ft friend is just unhappy. It has flowered pitifully only once and looks sick.
But I’ve kept it and tried to nurture it (see this article on camellia care) and ignored the fact that it is now not fitting in to the garden as it should, but after all that effort I am loathed to move it.
So what have I done.
Well my blogren you decide. Here it is, - your suggestions please. (I’ll show you what I have done later)

The point is – be open to change and relish your opportunity to stamp YOUR mark on YOUR garden right now. Have a good look at the garden and make a note of the things you really really want to keep. For all the trees or shrubs that need to be taken down remember that you can put two of each back somewhere else.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

2. How much can I spend ?– what is my budget? - Part 2

Before I set up GardenEye, a customer wanted to screen off his view of the road with some mature evergreen shrubs. It was impossible to get him to understand that big plants cost lots of money. I got a plan in place for about a 10k spend – which seemed reasonable, after shopping around at three reputable nurseries. This was then reduced to a 5K budget which reduced the plan to its skeleton. Even after explaining that this was a minimal requirement for the plants (if he wanted them mature - which he did) and a digger would be required, compost brought in, stakes, ties, making good the site AND labour – and this was a fairly big area – he still couldn’t get it.

‘Can’t you just dig a hole and shove ‘em in?’... well, No, I can’t.
Eventually he bought half a dozen small random evergreen 10 litre pots and, well, shoved ‘em in. If I had known that he would be happy with small evergreens, I could have helped, but I was not given a budget and therefore he could have avoided some interesting planting choices and arrangements as a result. 
So the point is, whether you have a small part of the garden that needs redoing, or a fence - or the whole thing - Try and get a feel for your budget spend.  GardenEye can help you by understanding the budget and giving you sensible clear advice and direction to have the garden you desire.

If you can’t give a budget then there is the likelihood that the garden budget will be guessed for you. That will be determined by what cars you drive, how you dress, the style of the house etc. And it is horribly presumptuous.
This generalising gives landscapers a bad name, because if the client says he wants everything, has a good appearance, a new million £ house and cars etc, there can easily be an assumption that he might be prepared to spend 100k on his project rather than the 30k he actually had in mind, and this affects the entire garden project.

GardenEye however is designed to work with the client and serve their best interests at all times. If the budget is 20k and three companies price on exactly the same thing -at over 25k –then that is how much it is going to cost, and either the materials or the plan will have to change. We will not be fooled or conned by the contractors but we ensure that they are charging sensibly themselves and will highlight odd prices when they come in.
We try to give the client the reassurance that they are paying the right money, and get great value for their project, and contractors the opportunity to avoid the wrath of the client and a project handed to them from GardenEye. Win, win for all.

As a Rule of Thumb and a rough cost guide for having a complete garden redevelopment is half the amount you have or are likely to have spent on doing up your house or 5-10% of the value of your property  – if you want a better garden than just a few random evergreen plants shoved in... or you can concentrate on having areas done bit by bit as your budget allows. 

...And a glorious reminder of what flowers look like, roll on Spring.

Away from Gardens for a brief fantasy

Aside from gardening for a moment.  The National Lottery Euro Millions last Friday had a whopping jackpot of £133 million.  I recently decided that buying a ticket on line every now and again is the only way to avoid looking like a very sad fool at the newsagents.
SO, eagerly awaiting my e-mail to tell me 'News about your ticket' - this is what I was told would happen if you won,- my e-mail promptly went down for all of Saturday and most of Sunday.
THEN all 600 previous mails came flooding into my inbox and right at the top 'News about your ticket'! Oh my God - (the reports were 2 winners, 1 in the UK, £65 million each...) I've done it - I can design the greatest garden in the history of gardens!
AND I opened it up. 'Congratulations you are a lottery winner' it said.
£6.90 it also said.
BLAST. Back to the drawing board!
Of course the good news is that I am still available to give you the greatest garden in the history of gardens...

And to the second half of Budgeting soon...

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

2. How much can I spend ?– what is my budget? - Part 1

If there is a landscape/garden designer out there who doesn’t tear his/her hair out at this one, let me know your secret.
For me – knowing your budget is the biggy. And it is hopelessly misunderstood.
The normal scenario is this. -coming towards the end of the consultation,
‘so Mrs P, you want this, this, this, that, that and the other, could you help me, by revealing what your budget is for the garden. This is so that I can design your garden appropriately .’

‘I really have no idea’. – Meaning that, ‘I’m not going to tell you, otherwise you’ll rob me blind’ or
‘I have a vague idea that it’s going to cost one hell of a lot more than I think it should.’
Sometimes it really is ‘I have no idea!’ In which case be prepared for a steep learning curve.

Gardening is one of those things where a client wants to spend some money getting it right –but can be too ignorant to know the price of things, and is in fear of his life for being ripped off. And in Gardening/Landscaping as in any other industry you pay for what you get – so just how much is that?
You know the price of a car, you can look it up on line, ring up etc and you will be able to narrow it down to a few pounds before you’ve even seen it. No chance with a garden though, they are all different, have different things in them and demand different things from them. It is a skill and an art to get this right one for you and you need to be on the ball about what you want and how much you want to spend.

It’s actually one of the main reasons I set up my business. I am trying to deliver trust, honesty and value for money, in a clear and logical fashion to help this sometimes tricky process work for you.

Oh and a photo of the beach last week near where I live, on the South Coast near Rye.

Friday, 5 February 2010

The Domestic Landscaping Process. How to get a garden done.

Whether you are moving house, building a new home, renting a property, inheriting or simply updating or revamping the garden, it most probably needs attention – and the sooner the better.
In my experience both in the domestic and commercial markets, gardens get left to the very end, when the budget has been blown, the client is sick and tired of workmen and the fantasy project gets thrown out of the window or put to the very back of the back burner, because they don’t know where to begin, what it is likely to cost or who to use. But help is out there for you to sort it all out.
So over the next few weeks I will explore, with you I hope, the ins and outs of getting that project back on track or starting a garden afresh.

The first thing to do is to get excited about it, and dream of those hot summer days, fruit, flowers, kids running around, BBQ's and all the things you want your garden to be. It is your garden and it’s there for you to enjoy.

1. What do You want in your garden?

Have a fantasy – an idea, go for it all and then trim it down, to suit your budget (next instalment). You really do know what you want but have probably never asked yourself the right questions.
The most popular retort to this is ‘well that’s why we got you along, you’re the expert’. True, but designers have to start with you first and find out what you actually help us out! The designer needs a ‘brief’, and without one there can be some quality time and money wasting.
Any designer worth his/her salt will give you a wish list sheet with ideas for you already written down to help you along which can be a great exercise for you.
Try and figure out:
· How much sun your garden gets (where the sunny spots are when you get back from work and in the morning)
· If you want an area to eat out on – a paved or brick or gravel area.
· Do you want flowers and herbs- Likewise to grow vegetables or fruit.
· A lawn to play on or a formal lawn (or both)
· A pond or a water feature or other features.
· Things you want to hide.
· Views you want to enhance.
· Bigger things such as Tennis Courts, Swimming Pools, Croquet lawns, Children’s play areas.
· A new drive or parking area
· A wildflower – habitat area.

The list can go on and on. I think that understanding why you have a garden also helps you understand what it requires.
Many people will sell you the idea of your garden as an outside room. This is fine except the carpet grows, the walls grow, the sofas grow – and then, however hard you try for three months of the year it is unliveable in and looks dreadful.
All gardens require work and that needs to be understood but not feared. Even the low maintenance garden needs help if it is to have any merit. But it can be the most rewarding of all places, your little Eden shaped and performing for you alone. It is tranquil and peaceful, fun, exotic and most of all its yours. Enjoy it, visit my web site to understand some of the feelings gardens can generate.

GardenEye 2010

Welcome to the New Gardening Season

The big freeze has melted away. A new season beckons.
Looking back at last year I've been re-invigorated by some of my photos of some of the plants I put in two years ago. And if fills me with joy and hope for the season ahead. With this in mind, I've created a video of some of the flowers in my garden taken late summer.
Have a peek at the embedded YouTube video I've created. I hope you feel as excited as I am for the year ahead.
Garden Designing has never been so dynamic. Check out my choice page for an innovative garden design and project management solution.
In the meantime in the next few weeks, I've got 10 premium garden design tips that I always consider when viewing a garden, regardless of size. You may well find these useful.
Happy gardening

Beautiful Snow - plan your garden now!

The snow.
It really is beautiful. The road into Rye was truly a rare painting, with the snow enshrining every small branch and twig in a breathtaking avenue, it was enough to make you skid off the road. The Tobogganing was terrific in the car and also with the kids on the slopes, although I sympathized with the old British Rail who so famously cancelled their trains due to 'the wrong kind of Snow' - I'm sure that was the case this year - with the sledging, it was slightly the wrong kind of snow unless you had a piste basher... and that was it, that's as good as it gets...
And no one in their right mind could look out of their window at 1ft of snow and consider that 'I really must get the garden sorted out'. It doesn't work like that and you can bet that when the first daffs poke their noses out of the ground we will be besieged with calls.
So a gloriously beautiful time but ultimately frustrating for us indoor outdoorers, I would say however that this is the best time to plan your garden - so that when those daffs do come you might have a garden for them to glory in.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Well a sample - Hollyhocks still on fire! and Marigolds in the veg patch

I have just been to see a client who has seriously caught the gardening bug. Living in a Sir Edwin Lutyens house with a wonderful artistic heritage he has built himself an amazing garden.
One of the things in the garden that struck me was a 100m border about 3m wide that he himself has built with the planting style of the great Gertrude Jekyll naturally, and it is my job to get the borders weeded and sorted out.
What struck me is how dated the borders are in these times. There were no grasses, no annuals or biennials and none of the formal shrubbery/topiary to define the different topics in the garden and no roses amongst the perrenials
I am still enjoying the garden at home even having a foxglove in flower! (in October), the grasses looking dazzling, the odd rose still in bloom, my Irises in flower and the cosmos' still going strong whilst his is ready to put away for the year.
I like the mix and the longevity of the beauty. I'm tempted to post this months flowers to prove my point!
A garden is everyone's experiment - long may it be that way...