Getting it right, from the start
or how experience teaches us how to think ahead.
There’s nothing more frustrating than having a great plan that fails because it’s based on the wrong information. It’s the same with landscape gardening. Whether you’re rejuvenating an established garden or creating something brand new, careful preparation is key to success. The right planning will deliver gardens that are not just a long term pleasure, it will unlock the hidden wonders of the natural world.
Thinking: inside or outside the box?
And there’s nothing like experience to show us how things can be done better. Only through experience is it possible to properly understand quite why specific choices will have particular outcomes.
Of course, we can all do some research and find information online (and in books!) and we might even be able to produce appealing garden designs, based purely on theory. But it’s only with experience that the garden designer, plantsperson, and landscape specialist will be able to develop the sense of vision that produces truly great results.
“Right plant, right place.”
This now popular phrase was a favourite of Beth Chatto, the iconic garden designer made famous by her first book, The Dry Garden. In the 1960s and 70s, faced with cultivating a dry and windswept corner of Essex, she decided that a new approach was required. Rather than try and impose what she wanted on an inhospitable environment, she set about finding plants and trees that would flourish there naturally.
In this way she and her husband were able, very successfully, to create harmonious and dynamic gardens where their contemporaries had doubted anything would grow. Today, this seems fairly obvious. But at the time, it was a radical solution and we can all be grateful that she captured her experience in her ground-breaking book. It’s an approach that experienced modern garden designers use now, frequently. We make use of natural features, the soil specific to the location, and microclimates as well as the prevailing weather.
Adapt and prosper
Now, 43 years after the publication of The Dry Garden, the lesson has come full circle. We need to learn from those 20th century revelations and apply that approach to our own experience of climate change. Although the future is never certain, it seems clear that we are likely to have hotter summers and wetter winters than before. We need to translate that information into landscape and garden design, right down to the details of which plants go where.
Some plants, of course, will tolerate the changes. However, there is undoubtedly going to be shift towards plants that are more Mediterranean in style. In some areas this will also need to accommodate the possibility of water logged soils in the winter, which may become rock hard in a long dry summer. Choice of plant will never be more important. Getting it right will save money. More importantly, getting it right will mean that our gardens will continue to be places to love and enjoy for years to come.
As well as careful choice of plants, the whole design of a garden – whether domestic, corporate or civic – also has a huge impact. Exactly what goes where has always been important; and never more so than today. So consider how large features relate to small ones, how trees can be placed strategically to provide just the right amount of shade, and how thinking ahead can keep gardens easy to maintain as well as beautiful.
Don’t be afraid to seek advice from someone with experience. Most of us like to watch a good television programme, but relatively few of us know how to produce or direct one. If we had to, we’d need an expert to help; and it’s the same with gardens. Find a professional from whose experience you can benefit and listen to what they have to say. It’ll be worth it.
E. Williams Landscapes is a Hampshire based specialist garden design company, expert in creating perfect outdoor spaces. They are a5-Star RHS Chelsea Flower Show Award winners, with many accreditations and a reputation for imaginative designs that complement any context. They have considerable experience in projects of all sizes, in both commercial and residential settings. They’re known for the care they take to achieve outstanding results with gardens both beautiful and practical.