Vive La Evolution!

Gardens evolve. It’s just what they do. Plants grow. New plants are added. Circumstances change. Paint colours are updated. New focal points are added. It’s part of the beauty of gardening, watching and helping them evolve over the months and years. Our own garden has changed a lot over the last four years. Read on to see how…

Gardens evolve. The deck has changed a lot this year

The deck has changed a lot this year

Back in 2010, we were itching to get out into the garden and transform it. We had spent the previous couple of years completely renovating our house and the garden had been put on the back burner. The design was ready – we had been beavering away perfecting it every time we had a minute so we were sure it covered everything we wanted it to.

The garden design

The garden design

 

Another driving force to get the garden completed in 2010 was that we had decided to get married in it that September. Cue asking all our friends for help!

We had inherited a modest sized garden (approx 15m x 15m) and it was pretty much a blank canvas. We knew there were some amazing views hidden behind an overgrown hedgerow and an old rotten apple tree – it was a priority for us to showcase that view again.

Before: the blank canvas and the hidden view

Before: the blank canvas and the hidden view

Other must-haves on our list included a morning patio, a large deck for entertaining in a sunny corner, lawn, a veg patch and to attract wildlife.

The first job was to bring in the BIG machinery and clear the garden:

The diggers arrived to clear the garden

The diggers arrived to clear the garden

We could then work on adding in some new boundaries. We opted for a contemporary horizontally slatted fence to the sides but in order to maximise the views and to work with the landscape beyond we created a log fence to the rear of the garden. You can see through the fence as well as easily seeing over the logs and we chose to paint them black to keep them contemporary as well as to be a great backdrop to the planting. A new “archway” added height to the garden. Raised veg beds were a priority so that we could get some home produce on the go:

The fencing, veg beds and archway take shape

The fencing, veg beds and archway take shape

The next consideration were seating areas. The sunniest corner was up beside the new log fence which also had a risk of being a bit boggy from the fields. We decided a raised deck was our best option but we didn’t want any ordinary deck! Firstly we built brick troughs with bespoke seating in between for additional seating:

 

The rendered troughs and seating start to take shape

The rendered troughs and seating start to take shape

Thermawood was our choice of material for the decking and we laid this in different patterns to create interest. We also added large glass blocks with lighting set underneath and in-set a feature Prunus Serrula tree.

The deck boards are laid and lights fitted

The deck boards are laid and lights fitted

[[image:blog-vivelaevolution-7.jpg=The deck boards are laid and lights fitted]]

The morning patio was our next task on our list. A contemporary limestone was our choice of material for this part of the garden:

The morning patio is laid in limestone

The morning patio is laid in limestone

We were keen to get planting in ASAP so that it could fill out as much as possible before the wedding. Laying out the plants that we had and markers for those which we we still had to source took a lot of time and planning!:

Planting starts to take shape

Planting starts to take shape

We are always telling clients that journeys and focal points are an important part of all gardens, no matter the size. As we wanted our garden to be wildlife friendly a water feature was something we were keen to include and thus the “canal” was born. The long, rectangular pond had stepping stones across it which were to become the aisle for the wedding in the coming months. At the far end we placed a bespoke sculpture made of a corten steel globe to draw the eye upwards to the wonderful view beyond:

The "canal" and the metal globe

The “canal” and the metal globe

A curving path leading up to the main deck would become obscured as the plants matured over time, adding mystery to the garden. Some turf completed the garden build (for now…):

The curving path leads you to the main decked area

The curving path leads you to the main decked area

The garden was completed just in time for the Big Day!

The chairs set out ready for the wedding ceremony

The chairs set out ready for the wedding ceremony

 

The newly married couple on the "aisle"

The newly married couple on the “aisle”

As with all gardens, they mature and evolve. And as lives change so do your garden requirements. A HUGE change for us was welcoming our little Lulu into the world in 2012. We knew we wanted the garden to be a safe place for her to play and enjoy being outdoors. Whilst there are ways of securing ponds to make them child friendly (we are about to install pond grid on a project we are undertaking for Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre) our pond was suffering from alkalinity issues which were impacting on the aquatic plants. We decided that it was best all round to fill in the pond and create a larger, grassy area for Lulu to run around.

Lulu came along and the garden evolved again

Lulu came along and the garden evolved again

To stop Lulu wandering off we put a gate on the garden made from old pallets. We also made a few herb pallet planters for our herbs:

Jingles the cat inspects the new pallet gate

Jingles the cat inspects the new pallet gate

And while we were at it we used even more pallets to create this personalised sand pit on the morning patio:

Lulu gives the sand pit her seal of approval

Lulu gives the sand pit her seal of approval

Storage became more of an issue so we made our own garden shed out of old pallets and some fence slats. A living roof, a spoon handle, love heart peephole and chain overflow added to its quirkiness. A bespoke bird table made from left over timbers and some samples of cedar cladding was also added to the garden.

The new shed and bird table

The new shed and bird table

We decided we wanted to add a splash of colour to the garden so we introduced some lovely pink pots to our morning patio:

New pink pots add a splash of colour to the patio

New pink pots add a splash of colour to the patio

The pink then inspired us to give the troughs on our deck a bit of a makeover:

The pink spread to the troughs!

The pink spread to the troughs!

Upcycling has been a big theme for 2014 and we created a new “pot” for the deck out of some old trailer tyres:

The upcycled tyres painted bright colours

The upcycled tyres painted bright colours

And the wheel rims didn’t go to waste either. Lulu sowed some bee and butterfly friendly seeds in them:

The tyre rims planted with wildlife friendly plants

The tyre rims planted with wildlife friendly plants

The veg patch has filled out and provides lots of lovely fruit and veg for the family:

The veg patch has really filled out

The veg patch has really filled out

The planting has matured nicely and the curving path now leads you round to discover what lies beyond. A new corten steel lantern is one of several new focal points which have been placed in borders:

The planting has done its job in obscuring the deck

The planting has done its job in obscuring the deck

The planting has filled out nicely and the bees love it!:

The planting has matured nicely]

The planting has matured nicely]

The globe is still a key focal point and is now surrounded with pretty planting:

The globe is still a central feature of the garden

The globe is still a central feature of the garden

So over a short period of time our garden has grown, matured and evolved and continues to give us all a great deal of pleasure.

For more information on transforming your own garden please get in touch.

Best wishes,

All at Vialii

Book Review: Scotland for Gardeners (2014 Edition)

A preview copy of the newly updated Kenneth Cox book Scotland for Gardeners landed on the door step of Vialii Towers this weekend and, as usual, we didn’t delay in checking it out and putting it to good use…

Scotland for Gardeners

The shiny new 2014 edition

 

We already have a very well thumbed copy of the original version of Scotland for Gardeners. It is packed full of pieces of paper and leaflets and paraphernalia relating to the wonderful array of gardens contained inside.

For those who haven’t come across the original, Scotland for Gardeners covers literally thousands of gardens throughout Scotland. From the grand estates with coffee and gift shops to the private gardens which are only open on certain days of the year the book is a must have for anyone who loves to visits gardens on their travels. There are also nurseries, wildflower walks, parks and all sorts of lovely public areas to explore. If it’s a garden and it’s open to the public then you will likely find it in this book. Scotland for Gardeners is the largest survey of its kind and also the only guidebook dedicated solely to visiting gardens in Scotland. The newly updated version contains over 100 new gardens.

Scotland for Gardeners

The book is packed full of beautiful photography

Those who have met Kenneth Cox and been regaled of his wonderful knowledge of rhododendrons and gardens in general you will know that this book has been well researched and lovingly put together. Kenneth has a passion for gardens and for Scotland in particular and the book reflects this wonderfully. The book is also crammed with beautiful, full colour photographs taken by Ray Cox, Kenneth’s brother.

The only criticism we could make of the book are the maps and even then it is a minor point. The maps are invaluable but we feel it would be clearer if those parts of the map which don’t relate to the chapter in question were greyed out. Perhaps a page number over that greyed area linking to the relevant chapter would help too? That way if you are on the border of a region it would be much easier to explore the surrounding areas. A small point but perhaps one that can be considered on the next update.

Scotland for Gardeners

The maps make it easy to explore by certain areas, perfect for holidays

We have already used the original Scotland for Gardeners to explore a great many gardens on our travels. Here are some of our favourites which you may want to include in your own itinerary…

p376: Garden of Cosmic Speculation, nr Dumfries

The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, the garden belonging to its designer Charles Jencks, is a firm favourite of ours. Nestled just outside Dumfries and only open one day a year, you need to make a bit of an effort to see this one. But, boy, is it worth it! From the infamous Jencks landforms to woodland walkways and sculptures at every turn, there is never a dull moment in this garden. The garden is inspired by mathematics and science and beholds features such as the Blackhole and the DNA garden. Entry money goes to the Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres which were set up in memory of Charles’ late wife, Maggie Keswick Jencks.

The Blackhole in the Garden of Cosmic Speculation

The Blackhole in the Garden of Cosmic Speculation

p385: Logan Botanic Gardens, nr Stranraer

Tucked away beside the Solway Firth in the South West of Scotland, Logan Botanic Gardens enjoys  being situated in the Gulf Stream, thus allowing for exotic plants to flourish. From its mighty tree ferns to a gunnera bog, Logan can showcase plants you wouldn’t normally expect to see in Scotland. We particularly loved the serenity of the Water Garden. Kids will love to explore through the gunnera jungle or if you are a fan of plants, enjoy meandering around the Walled Garden which is a blaze of colour from Spring through Autumn and is a real celebration of the world of plants.  Or if grasses are your thing, the Rock Gulley showcases grasses from around the world.

The almost Jurassic tree ferns at Logan Botanic Gardens

The almost Jurassic tree ferns at Logan Botanic Gardens

p180: Drummond Castle Gardens, nr Crieff

These gardens are just a stones throw away from our home yet we only discovered them in recent years. The public can’t access the Castle, but who would want to with such amazing gardens to explore? The gardens are a perfect example of formal gardens in the style of the 17th Century Scottish Renaissance. They were recreated in Victorian times and then renewed again in the 20th century. The symmetry is stunning, the topiary first class and there are some fine examples of statues throughout the garden. If you like your gardens well kept, you are unlikely to find a finer specimen. The reveal as you arrive at the top of the steps at the entrance to the garden will simply take your breath away.

The stunning formal gardens at Drummond

The stunning formal gardens at Drummond

p382: Glenwhan Gardens, Dunragit, nr Stranraer

Another wonderful garden near Stranraer, Glenwhan is a series of discoveries and wonders. Filled with sculptures, ponds, walkways, wildlife and stunning plants you can happily ensconce yourself in Glenwhan for the day. Plants range from rhododendron and magnolia to lovely bog garden favourites such as rodgersia, primulas and hostas. Take good footwear as there are lots of hills and rocky terrain to climb to take advantage of the best views. Not the best garden for wheelchairs and buggies but you will still be able to see parts of the garden. There’s a coffee shop and plant sales to revive you when you are flagging.

Beautiful sculpture at Glenwhan Gardens

Beautiful sculpture at Glenwhan Gardens

p259: An Cala, Isle of Seil, nr Oban

An Cala can be visited under the “Open Gardens” scheme in Scotland and we are so glad the owners allow people to share in the beauty of their garden. The garden doesn’t look too big when you enter but it has been cleverly designed with a myriad of paths taking you in all directions. Beautiful ponds, waterfalls and rills make water an important feature of the garden. There is a quirky gazebo decorated entirely in pine cones. Wire sheep sculpures add a bit of humour to the garden (and bring a new meaning to baa-rbed wire!) And from fragrant roses to delightful deutzias the planting is a dream too.

Sheep sculptures at An Cala

Sheep sculptures at An Cala

For more information on Scotland for Gardeners visit the publisher’s Birlinn’s website. Available from 27 June 2014, priced £25.

To read more about some of our own favourite gardens in Scotland and beyond click here.

Happy reading and garden visiting!

All at Vialii