Transformers – Gardens in Disguise! Part 1

We love pretty much all aspects of running our own gardening business. Even doing the admin is enjoyable as it can give us an excuse to hide indoors with a cuppa and a cat on our knee on a rainy day! But one of our favourite things about being both garden designers and landscapers is that we get to see the transformations through from beginning to end and we LOVE seeing the end result and how much the garden has changed from the sad space we first visited. So here is the first in our series of blogs on some of our favourite garden transformations…

A Garden for Entertaining, Bridge of Allan

Before: an ugly garage wall needed to be disguised as well as the rest of the garden being overhauled.

Before: an ugly garage wall and monoblocked patio

Before: an ugly garage wall and monoblocked patio

After: we used square-profile timbers to clad the back of this garage and instantly create a modern, stylish screen. A new patio as well as a deck with bespoke seating created different areas for entertaining.

After: a stylish screen provides a lovely backdrop to the new patio

After: a stylish screen provides a lovely backdrop to the new patio

A Japanese Garden, Bannockburn

Before: the garden had poor access and few redeemable features.

Before: the garden desperately needed a makeover

Before: the garden desperately needed a makeover

After: we transformed the garden into an oriental paradise complete with water feature and bespoke pergola.

After: a tranquil Japanese garden packed with interest

After: a tranquil Japanese garden packed with interest

A Low Maintenance Garden, Stirling

Before: a waterlogged lawn and no seating areas meant this garden was rarely used.

Before: the garden was boggy and lacked interest

Before: the garden was boggy and lacked interest

After: beautiful sandstone was used in both the patio and the troughs which incorporate extra seating and soft planting. The lawn was raised and a gravel finish keeps the garden low maintenance.

After: a large sandstone patio for entertaining is a key part of the new garden

After: a large sandstone patio for entertaining is a key part of the new garden

A Contemporary Terraced Garden, Stirling

Before: this inaccessible sloping garden was unmanageable for our clients.

Before: the garden was inaccessible and overgrown

Before: the garden was inaccessible and overgrown

After: we used chunky sleepers to create terraces at interesting angles and shapes with wildlife planting to soften.

Before: the garden was inaccessible and overgrown

Before: the garden was inaccessible and overgrown

If you are interested in discussing how we could transform your own garden, please get in touch for a free design consultation. To see more of our garden transformations click below:

Garden Transformations, Part 2

Garden Transformations, Part 3

All at Vialii

A Sustainable Future

It’s a common misconception that sustainability and being kind to the environment equates to being unkind on the wallet. Here are some ideas of how you can create a stunning sustainable garden whilst still doing your bit to help the planet and without breaking the bank…

Sustainable garden: A mosaic ball is fun to create and reduces landfill

A mosaic ball is fun to create and reduces landfill

RECYCLE

Re-use all sorts of otherwise useless objects in the garden to create interesting features. Old bamboo canes, broken pots, egg cartons and old bricks can all be used to create a trendy wildlife tower. Or try using old slates stacked on their ends to create an interesting feature. Old concrete slabs are commonly lifted to be replaced by something more modern. However, they can be broken and re-laid to be a modern take on crazy paving. Or, if you are feeling like trying your hand at some crafts, how about making a mosaic ball out of left over tiles for a unique garden ornament.

FREECYCLE

Freecycle is a fantastic grassroots movement which matches people who have something they want to get rid of with people who are looking for such an item. In doing so it avoids these items ending up in landfill and reduces the requirement to manufacture and transport yet more goods. The best thing is that everything is absolutely free – you can even list what you are looking for too. At the time of going to press, our local Stirling Freecycle website was offering an apple tree, garden furniture, various lengths of wood and even some horse manure!
Freecycle is a wonderful organisation

Freecycle is a wonderful organisation

SHARE THE LOAD

Seed sharing is a great way to get free plants. Often a pack of seeds gives you far too many of the one plant. Swap some seeds with like-minded gardeners to widen your plant choice. Alternatively, you might have sown all your seeds but have too many plants for your own garden and have excess you are happy to give to a good home. Or perhaps you have excess fruit and veg you can’t get through yourself? There are some great websites that you can swap through or perhaps, if there is demand, we can create something locally. Let us know if you are interested.

SALVAGE YOUR GARDEN

There are salvage yards which are dedicated to supplying “scrap” for garden use. From sculptures and fountains to furniture and planters there are plenty of items which will make your garden completely unique and you will be saving it from landfill. If are looking for something a bit more unusual, look at non-garden salvage items and consider how it could be adapted to some use in your own garden such as an old wheel as part of a handrail.

This upcycled wheel makes a great handrail in a garden in Canada

This upcycled wheel makes a great handrail in a garden in Canada

SOURCE FREEBIES

If you are about to embark on a garden project, before you head to your local DIY superstore consider alternative ways you can source the required materials. Local builders and landscapers often have left over materials they don’t need or scrap they have removed from a job which is destined for the local tip. Contact them to see if they have materials which suit your needs – what might have been someone’s deck in a previous life might become the frame for your new green roof.

CIRCLE OF LIFE

Re-use items from your own garden to create interesting new features. For instance, an old felled apple tree could be cut up into sections to create a contemporary wildlife log feature in a quiet, unused corner of the garden. By tempting wildlife into your garden, they will help you deal with the various pests in your garden in a non-biological way.

A trendy wildlife tower is a great way to recycle materials

A trendy wildlife tower is a great way to recycle materials

HARD CHOICES

Consider your choice of hard landscaping carefully before you commit. Not only can paving be very expensive, many varieties are non-permeable, thus impacting on water levels in the area. And we all know how prevalent flooding has been recently! Consider alternatives such as gravel which is cheaper and allows excess water to permeate more easily.

SEED OF THOUGHT

If you have the time and patience, grow plants from seeds. Not only does it save money (especially if you have got them free as discussed earlier) but you avoid additional costs to the planet by avoiding the plastic pots which plants are sold in in garden centres. You are also avoiding transport costs of the plants from nursery to wholesaler, wholesaler to retailer then retailer to consumer. And of course there is the immense satisfaction of growing your own plants from tiny seeds. Priceless.

Growing plants from seed is immensely satisying

Growing plants from seed is immensely satisying

GO ORGANIC

The word “organic” can strike fear into the hearts of many a shopper as it can often seem an excuse to charge the customer more. However, when it comes to gardening, it can be a cheaper approach to horticulture, whilst doing your bit for the environment. For a start you won’t be buying any of those expensive chemicals to kill pests or keep them off your prize plants. Clever approaches such as companion planting is cheaper, can look pretty and keeps your conscience guilt free. Attracting wildlife into your garden, using some of the tips above, helps deal with the pests too. And simple old hard graft is the cheapest, most effective and kindest way to deal with your weeds (and great for calorie burning too!).

So now you can sleep well at night knowing you’re doing your bit for both your bank balance and the planet.

All at Vialii

Wild About Your Garden

Bio-diversity. Sustainability. Eco-friendly. They are all buzz-words in the world of gardening as more and more people realise that it can be cool to care. The United Nations have even declared 2010 as the Year of Biodiversity. No longer does having a wildlife garden mean that you just leave an area of your garden to go “wild” and inevitably become an eye-sore.

Having a wildlife garden can be truly beautiful

Having a wildlife garden can be truly beautiful

Even the Chelsea Flower Show this year featured heavily on wildlife gardens with one garden planted entirely with a wildlife meadow. Wildlife gardens can fit whatever style of garden you choose, from contemporary to traditional cottage garden. And even the smallest and most urban of spaces can attract the most surprising of visitors.

So, how can you create a wildlife garden and what, more interestingly, can you attract?

Perfect Planting

Planting should include native species and have some of the key features important to wildlife. Look at what grows naturally in the wild and what grows really well in your neighbours’ gardens. Native hedgerows such as beech, hazel or hawthorn will provide a haven for hundreds of species of wildlife.

Birds love winter berries so plants such as cotoneaster, viburnum, holly and skimmia are perfect.

Include plants that are efficient for bees to collect pollen from such allium, echinops and foxgloves as well as broad-leaved perennials which allow easy access for bees such as asters, sunflowers and echinacea. Avoid double flowers which make it difficult for bees to access pollen.

The bees loving the echinops in our garden

The bees loving the echinops in our garden

The world’s bee population is still in decline and it’s crucial we all take steps to reverse this trend. Einstein once said “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

Plants such as buddleja, lavender, scabious, forget-me-nots and lonicera (honeysuckle) are perfect for attracting butterflies into your garden.

Don’t deadhead plants as soon as the flowers go over. Instead leave seed heads which not only look beautiful throughout the winter but are also perfect for birds looking for seeds. Ideal for plants such as echinops, sedum and angelica.

Different species of trees and shrubs provide nectar and other food sources throughout the year so make sure you have a good mix of plants.

Grow climbers against walls to provide shelter for birds.

If you want to take it a stage further and if you have space, why not incorporate a wildflower meadow. The gold winning HESCO garden at the Chelsea Flower Show this year proved wildflower meadows can be beautiful as well as a haven for wildlife. Packets of wildflowers seeds or trays of plug plants are readily available from garden centres or online these days but make sure they originate from the UK.

Wildlife such as spiders, caterpillars, butterflies and moths, bees, birds and small mammals will all be tempted into your wildflower meadow.  Nowadays wild flower meadows are extremely rare – we have lost 95% in the last 50 years. Planting one in your garden will really help local wildlife.

Water Wonderland

Incorporating some form of water feature into your garden is a great way of attracting wildlife. Water can be incorporated no matter what size or style your garden is and can be made child-friendly too.

If your garden is small then even a half barrel can be made into an effective water feature and will attract frogs and other wildlife which will feed happily on slugs and snails.

Water is a great way to attract wildlife into your garden

Water is a great way to attract wildlife into your garden

If your garden is a bit bigger, look at a larger pond. Incorporate “floating” stepping stones to make your pond very on-trend. Make sure there are sloping edges to your pond though so birds can bathe, frogs can spawn and  hedgehogs can escape if they fall in. A mesh can be incorporated to make ponds child-friendly too.

Go Organic

Avoid using slug pellets and pesticides. Many are harmful to the “good” wildlife you are trying to attract. Instead look for alternatives. For weeds, hand-weeding, mulches, ground cover plants and weed suppressant fabrics will all help keep weeds at bay. And once you have started attracting wildlife in, they will do a lot of the work for you such as eating slugs.

Happy Habitats

Create the sort of habitats that are perfect for the wildlife you are trying to attract:

Put a nesting box in your garden. These can range from the traditional wooden boxes to boxes in trendy shapes and colours to suit all styles. Boxes will attract birds and possibly even bats. Many gardens have plenty to offer birds to eat but nowhere to nest.
Create a log pile somewhere quiet in your garden, perhaps hidden behind your shed. If you are lucky hedgehogs and toads may set up home there and help keep garden pests at bay.

Introduce a wildlife tower into your garden. It can be built out of old pieces of wood and the different sections incorporate different recycled materials such as bamboo canes, egg cartons and broken pots. The tower will provide a focal (and talking) point in your garden and be home to a myriad of wildlife.

Water is a great way to attract wildlife into your garden

Water is a great way to attract wildlife into your garden

Include bird baths and bird tables in your garden to encourage our feathered friends to visit. Be careful where you site them though for curious cats…

Other easy additions are rock piles, a garden shed, a window box or even a simple hanging basket. All will entice wildlife into your garden.

Sustainable Gardening

Take simple steps to help our planet as well as saving yourself money:

So from lady-birds to lace-wings, hedgehogs to hoverflies, bees to butterflies or dragonflies to damselflies, gardens are a place both humans and wildlife can enjoy side by side.

We’d love to see pictures and hear stories of some of the wildlife you have tempted into your garden. Please get in touch with some of your tales.

All at Vialii