Garden Visit: Leven’s Hall, Lake District

It’s been a busy old summer at Vialii Towers but we managed to sneak away for a couple of weeks holiday. We visited Northumberland in our first week and Lulu had a ball doing the Fairytale Treasure Trail at Alnwick Gardens. We headed west-ward for week two and finally made a long-awaited visit to Levens Hall Gardens in the Lake District. Read on to see what we thought…

The amazing topiary at Levens Hall Gardens

The amazing topiary at Levens Hall Gardens

As you enter the gardens you are treated to a pretty, open expanse of lawn and some wonderfully ornate pots. However, it’s not until you pass through the next gate that you are treated to the wonderful sights that Levens Hall is famous for – its topiary!

Topiary at Levens Hall

Looking for shapes hidden in the topiary was fun. We thought this one looked like a grumpy Buddha!

The topiary is in a league of its own and it certainly lives up to its claim as being the finest, oldest and most extensive topiary collection in the world. It is everywhere to be seen and it is immaculate. We loved that no-one has been tempted to create topiary animals or twee shapes. The gardens are a wonderfully eclectic mix of random shapes and sizes which complement each other really well. The “top hat” tree was one of our favourites! It also shows the wide array of plants which can be used in topiary from the commonly used yew and box to the less used holly.

Off exploring the impressive hedges at Levens Hall

Off exploring the impressive hedges at Levens Hall

From the topiary section we walked along (and inside!) the tallest and widest hedge we had ever seen. It was fabulous to be inside the hedge and appreciate its amazing structure.

From there we happened across the most beautiful herbaceous border which was a wonderful array of blues, purples and whites. Again, the garden was immaculate and lovingly tended by the gardening team.

Herbaceous border at Levens Hall

A fabulous herbaceous border. We’re not sure who liked it most, us or the bees and butterflies!

From there we discovered a wonderful array of features from orchards, rose and herb gardens, grow your own areas and water features.

Water features at Levens Hall

There were wonderful focal points at every turn

Tucked away down the bottom of the garden was a small play area and bug house. Our three year old daughter Lulu loved playing down here and hunting for bugs and it was a welcome addition to the garden. Levens Hall had also thoughtfully put together a wonderful children’s quiz where you have to hunt for the details in the garden. It kept us all amused for the whole day and is perfect for children of all ages.

Lulu loved hunting for bugs

Lulu loved hunting for bugs


Elsewhere, we can recommend the cakes in the cafe and the shop had some lovely gifts with thought being put into offering local and relevant gifts for visitors. We purchased some wonderful prints of the garden which will forever remind us of a wonderful day at Levens Hall. Make it a MUST SEE on your garden list. We’ll certainly be back.

All at Vialii

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

Transformers – Gardens in Disguise! Part 3

You loved Part 1 of our Before & Afters feature. And you adored Part 2 of our garden make-overs. So we are back with the third installment in our ever popular feature on our garden transformations. Below are some of our recent projects with our clients’ favourite feature – the before and after photographs!

A city retreat, Edinburgh

Before: with the old garage removed, the garden needed to be restored

Before: with the removal of the garage, the garden badly needed tackling

Before: with the removal of the garage, the garden badly needed tackling

 

After: two new patios, two water features, a dry-stane seat and new planting all combined to transform this garden into a peaceful haven in the city.

After: garden transformations for the clients and the wildlife to enjoy

After: a garden for the clients and the wildlife to enjoy

A low maintenance garden in Stirling

Before: A waterlogged garden with no focal points

Before: a waterlogged garden with no focal points

Before: a waterlogged garden with no focal points

After: A dining patio, evening patio with pergola, new veg area, standing stone water feature, wildlife friendly planting and artificial grass all transformed this garden.

After: all parts of the garden were now usable

After: all parts of the garden were now usable

A front garden makeover, Stirling

Before: This front garden was really difficult to access and maintain

Before: poor access and difficult to maintain

Before: poor access and difficult to maintain

After: The garden was given a make-over with a sandstone cobble path combining with a curving gravel path and lush green planting.

After: even in a small garden journeys can be created and interest added

After: even in a small garden journeys can be created and interest added

A contemporary courtyard garden, Larbert

Before: This back garden had terrible drainage problems and was overlooked.

a waterlogged and overlooked garden

a waterlogged and overlooked garden

After: A new drain along with fencing, patios, a bespoke water feature and feature shrubs transformed the space.

contemporary fencing encloses this garden whilst still exposing the historic wall

contemporary fencing encloses this garden whilst still exposing the historic wall

If you are interested in having your own garden designed, click here to contact us for a free design consultation.

Thanks for reading.

All at Vialii

Transformers – Gardens in Disguise! Part 2

Earlier this year we blogged some “Before & After” pictures of a few of the gardens we have designed and built. Here are some more of our recent garden transformations…

A Room with a View, Brightons

Before: the garden had become overgrown and was on an awkward slope.

An overgrown, sloped garden

An overgrown, sloped garden

After: this garden was completely transformed with new lawn, planting and the addition of the fabulous garden “pod”, allowing the garden to be enjoyed in all weathers.

One of our garden transformations

The tranformed garden with the amazing “pod”

A Plantsman’s Garden, Larbert

Before: the garden was water logged and lacked inspiration.

The garden had no seating areas and lacked focal points]

The garden had no seating areas and lacked focal points]

After: Additional slats to the fence, new paths and patio, reshaped lawn and some beautiful planting perfected this makeover.

The new garden is packed with interest

The new garden is packed with interest

A Low Maintenance Family Garden, Bridge of Allan

Before: there was little to be kept in the existing garden except an apple tree and rhododendron.

The apple tree was one of the few things to keep

The apple tree was one of the few things to keep

After: The existing apple tree was given a good “hair-cut” & became the key feature of the new patio in this garden. New lawn, gravel borders and structural planting all completed this transformation.

Curving lawn, a new patio and structural planting transforms this garden

Curving lawn, a new patio and structural planting transforms this garden

A Contemporary Wildlife Garden, Bridge of Allan

Before: The wonderful view beyond was hidden in this garden by overgrown hedgerow. There was nothing to keep in the garden at all.

There was nothing to keep in the garden

There was nothing to keep in the garden

A new log fence, morning patio, raised deck, lawn and veg beds were all carefully designed to complete this garden with a view.

The new deck provides a contemporary space to enjoy the lovely views

The new deck provides a contemporary space to enjoy the lovely views

If you are interested in having your own garden designed, click here to contact us for a free design consultation.

Thanks for reading.

All at Vialii