Archives for October 2013

Garden pots – How to use decorative pots in your garden

Garden-PotsThere are an amazing selection of garden pots available these days. Everything from classical terracotta, through to modern glazed urns in different shapes, sizes and colours.

Pots can make a great focal point, regardless of whether they have plants in them or not. If you have a nice urn shape, they are very well-suited to just standing empty in amongst planting as shown in the photographs above.

Grouping pots

Normally, when you group things in the garden, a group of 3-5 or any odd number tends to look best. But I find, with empty pots, two next to each other in different sizes looks really good and breaks the odd number rule. However, if you are planting the pots, then the rule applies. Odd numbers together do look better for plants.

Pots can add a dash of colour and a solid shape into a planting border that brings clarity in amongst the planting. You don’t have to use them solely to put plants in on the patio.


An urn on its side looks good surrounded by cobbles

You can also use the urn shape pots on their side with cobbles around them as shown in the photograph on the left, which creates an interesting focal point.

If you have pots dotted about on your patio, they do tend to look better when grouped. Also, having a colour scheme running through them helps bring clarity to the grouping, rather than having an odd assortment of different types of pots.

If you have an odd assortment of pots that people have given you over the years and have collected, then a trick to make them work together well is to have certain plants that you repeat through the planting in the pots. So, for example, you have now Alchemilla mollis that’s in several different types and style of pot mixed in with everything. The repetition of the plant brings clarity to the mixture of different types of pots.

What style of pot should you choose for your garden?

Try to choose garden pots that are in the same style as your garden i.e. traditional or modern. If you have an assortment of pots that doesn’t suit the style of your garden, then consider painting them. Even the most boring of old terracotta pots can be completely transformed with a coat of paint.


Painted terracotta pots look great both on the ground and raised up on walls

Pots also don’t have to be relegated to ground level. You can put them onto window ledges, into metal frames or suspend them from the wall. Or just attach them to the wall as they do in the patio gardens of Cordoba in Spain, as shown on the first of the three images above.

The pots used in the patio gardens are suspended away from the wall slightly with the use of a small piece of wood behind each one and they watered them very carefully to make sure they don’t stain those lovely white walls.

Garden pots used correctly can really liven up any garden and make a great gift if you’re stuck for what to get a garden loving friend.

BUT do be warned, features like pots  will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

Register on this page:

Comments or questions?

Leave them in the boxes below…

Garden walls – How to choose the right style for your garden

Be it for a raised bed or a retaining wall, when it comes to materials for garden walling there is a lot more available to you then using just simple brick. That’s not to say brick walls aren’t good in the garden, they are, and it can be nice to use bricks that match your house wall, it’s just there are a lot of alternatives available to you, which might look better for your situation.


What’s the best type of material to use for a retaining wall?

Retaining walls do need to be strong, so it’s important whatever you choose has the strength to retain the soil behind it. If you want something very decorative, then you could have a block wall that actually retains the soil, and then put the decorative part of the wall attached at the front to the blocks.

You can also use timber for retaining walls, but it doesn’t have the lifespan of brick or stone walls, even if it’s pressure treated. Timber walls should last at least 15 to 20 years and are a much cheaper alternative to brick.


Timber walls – pressure treated, oak and painted sleepers

What type of wall should you use for a raised planter?

This will all depend upon the style of your garden and house. If you have a contemporary style, then rendered blocks can look really good. There are renders available these days that don’t require you to ever paint them because the colour is already in the render, and this cuts down on the maintenance.


Rendered block wall

Climate will also play a factor as to what type of wall you use, for example the tiles you see in the Mediterranean, will simply not work in frosty locations.

Consider using local stone and rock, as they can look really nice. If you create really straight edges, you can have local stone look very contemporary. If you want a more rustic feel, then use lots of different size stones and have them with not quite such defined straight edges.

Basically, the more perfect and straight edged the material is, the more contemporary it will look, the more uneven or rounded the material, the more rustic or traditional it will look.


Rock walling

How deep should your wall be?

It will depend upon how much soil the wall has to retain, and also if you are planning to sit on the wall. I like to have walls constructed that are at least 20 cm deep, which makes for a nice seat, especially if the wall is about 45 cm high.

I find the walls that are only one course of brick deep, always look a bit puny, even if they are low walls, so visually having a double course of brick, does look better, even if you don’t need it.


Stone walling

It is important to waterproof behind the wall


Water proof behind the wall to prevent the soil from staining the front

Having a waterproof lining on the parts of the wall that are touching soil, is essential. This is especially the case with rendered walls, as it stops the water getting in behind the render and damaging it, and also staining it. There are special bitumen paints that you can use, or plastic sheeting etc, anything really that will protect the wall from having contact with the soil is beneficial.

How to correctly position retaining walls

Whenever you put a wall in a garden, no matter how low it is, your eyes will immediately come to a full stop at the wall. Even if there is a large area of garden behind the wall, your eyes will still stop at the wall. Therefore it’s really important that any steps that you are going to put in to get to the next level line up with the main windows or doors that you use. Steps will automatically lead your eyes from the lower level to the upper level of the garden.

Also, just because there is a change in level at a certain point down the garden, doesn’t mean that you have to have your retaining wall go straight the way across. You can curve or stagger the retaining wall to create more interest.

Comments or questions?

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Want to see how a garden is planned to include raised wall planters?

If you’d like to see the planning process I use for incorporating walling take a look at this courtyard garden design video tutorial. I will warn you, it was one of my first ever videos – so you’re not allowed to laugh at the intro! ;o) Or if you are looking for help with your garden, look at these Online Garden Courses that I put together.

BUT do be warned, features and materials alone will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

Register on this page:

How to deal with a small awkward shaped garden – Case study

Not all gardens are the perfect square or rectangle, sometimes they are an awkward and odd shape. Don’t let that put you off though. There’s some really simple steps you can take to transform any awkward shape garden into a beautiful one.


Step 1

The 1st thing you need to do with any awkward shape of garden is to find a way to disguise the awkward angles.

Circles are fabulous at making small spaces look larger, and they also make you focus on the shape of the circle, not the shape of the garden.

Basically, your job is to disguise that angle in any way you can. So, you can see from our case study garden below, your eyes are focusing on circular shapes and the intricate paving detail and the planting fills in the rest of the area and hides the awkward shape of the garden.


Step 2Pergola

Adding in a vertical element like a pergola or arch is also a good way to help take the eye off any awkward angles. The use of strategically placed focal points like an urn or statue, will also help take your eyes away from any awkward angles.

Step 3

The most vital part of using clearly defined shapes is that they must be lined up with the house and not the angle. Now obviously for circles, it doesn’t matter, but if you use any straight lines, then make sure they are at a 90° angle to the house, and whatever you do don’t follow the angle of the fence or wall as that will accentuate the problem.

The garden featured above was on a slope, and by creating different levels and terracing it, the raised retaining timber wall around the circles added interest with the height and also accentuated the circle more, by taking the eyes further away from the angled corners.


Need help with your small space garden?

If you’d like to learn more about the exact steps involved with making a small garden look larger and more interesting then take a look at the Small Garden Formula course at

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