Archives for May 2017

Chelsea Flower Show 2017 – Ideas for your garden

The Chelsea Flower Show, for those of you outside the UK, is the highlight of the gardening calendar.

Designers from all over the world want their gardens to win a gold medal or better still ‘best in show’.

I won’t go though…

I will admit to having a bit of a love / hate relationship with it as there tends to be more ‘showmanship’ than practical things you can put in the average garden.

My misgivings aside here are a few of the gardens that have caused a storm at this year’s show.

Best in Show!

Unsurprisingly, this garden has caused a lot of controversy winning best in show. To my mind Chelsea is a bit of a garden fashion show – just like most clothes on a cat walk you wouldn’t actually want to wear, but the seeds of fashion ideas are there – you’ve just got to tone them down a bit!

So while this is not my cuppa tea, I think that a handful of stone blocks in amongst the natural style planting would work well… so don’t dismiss the idea completely!

Effective use of colour

I like how the colourful fins divide up the space and provide a solid backdrop for the lush green and purple planting.

Obviously a giant fin in the garden isn’t going to be for everyone one. Instead, think about painting a wall or fence panels some bright colours just like a feature wall in the home.

Traditional wins the day…

You can’t go far wrong with the tried and tested cottage garden style of planting that Chelsea has in abundance every year. If you combine the traditional look with the current fashion of the ‘just got out of bed’ look of somewhat messy and unruly planting – it can be surprisingly stunning.

One of my favourite planting schemes in the show was really there! The gorgeous planting behind this stand is a photograph – beautiful!

Check out the exhibits…

If you really want some usable ideas from the Chelsea Flower Show, I often find more inspiration in the trade stands and smaller gardens than the ‘show gardens’ – love the bright accent colours in this one!

There’s always one, if not several, these days…

There are more and more gardens at Chelsea that leave me scratching my head and wondering why?

Why try to recreate a natural beach scene, or a rock scree, or an old building overrun with wild plants, or some weird, funky assortment of random metal objects that look like they’ve come out of a scrap yard??

Just take a walk in nature – there’s plenty of that lying around! Perhaps Londoners don’t get the chance to see the things everyone who lives out of cities sees in abandoned scraps of countryside…

But anyway, it’s clearly just me who moans about such things as the crowds at Chelsea seem to grow every year (another reason I refuse to go these days!)…

Photo credits: The lovely Herry Lawford who braved this year’s show and took such great photos!

What does it take to create a beautiful garden?

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Long, narrow, awkward side yard garden makeover – Case study

When it comes to garden design, some gardens are definitely more challenging than others. A particularly tricky one  is the long narrow side garden, which often ends up as a junkyard. It’s not really large enough to do anything with, that’s the problem.

Well actually, with a few cunning design tricks, you can turn that awkward side area into something eye-catching and dramatic that becomes an intrinsic part of your whole garden.

So, how do you design an awkward side space garden?


Step 1

The first thing you need to do in any long narrow space garden is to try and make it look wider. The wider you can make it, the more interesting a garden design it will look and the less likely you will be to use it to store junk!

The way to make any garden space look wider is to draw the eye from one side of the garden to the other. You do this by having either focal points strategically placed or by the garden design shapes you use. In the garden featured below we did both. The planting punctuated each changing direction and the different types of gravel were used in a sweeping serpent shape which forces your eyes to move from one side of the space to the other.

Step 2

Make a dark space look brighter. The dark wall segments were rendered and painted cream. The lighter colour helps bounce light back, making the space brighter and therefore look larger.


Step 3

Link the side area into the main garden. It’s important that the garden works as a whole entity and isn’t seen as a series of unrelated parts. By having the gravel path and stepping stones wrapping round the decking area at the end of the garden, it helped link the two areas together. The continuity of materials also helps link the two areas together.

By clearing out the junk, lightning the walls and creative use of the space, this dark dingy side garden looks twice the size and will hopefully never be used to store junk again!

Need more help?

If you have a long, narrow or rectangular shaped garden and would like ideas, plans and a step-by-step guide on how to transform it, check out the long garden formula. It’s an online course with written content and video tutorials that will guide you step-by-step on everything you need to do to completely transform any long garden into something amazing.

View our FREE training on designing LONG gardens

If you’d like to join in our upcoming web class on the Fast Track Formula for designing long gardens, please visit:

The FREE training is approximately 1hr and will show you exactly what it takes to design your garden quickly and easily.

Plant Selection – Magic in May

May is my favourite month of the whole year in the UK. Mostly, because it’s the start of some great flowers appearing and all the signs are there that summer is on its way…

May Plant Selection

Here are some of my favourite planting combinations for this time of year.  They can be used as an add on to April’s plant selection. In fact, I encourage you to do so. The two combined will give you a wonderfully vibrant combination of flowers and foliage.
MAY-plants-selectionRight click on this link to download a larger version of the plant selection – file ‘Save As’

Geranium pratense ‘Black Beauty’

This particular variety of geranium has the most amazing dark purple foliage. The flowers are a stunning shade of violet. This is a relatively low growing variety, only reaching about 30 cm high. It will flower on and off for months, from May to November, in a good year. It can grow in most soils and can take full sun to partial shade.

Allium Purple Sensation

These striking flowers are members of the onion family. The flowers, and strap shaped leaves, come up from bulbs every year. They are the perfect plant to repeat around the garden. They are ideal for placing in between other plants as a gap filler. They mostly flower in May and in to June. They prefer full sun, but will take a little shade.

Iris Black Swan

I absolutely love irises. It’s not just the exquisite and unusual shaped flowers that draw me to them. For me, their glaucous spiky foliage is a very appealing and an attractive break in any flower border. They grow from corms, which are similar to bulbs, and need to be just above the soil level, so that they can be baked by the sun. This is definitely a plant thrives in hot sunny conditions.

Euphorbia wulfenii

This is one of my favourite Euphorbias. The lime-green flower bracts make the perfect backdrop to purple flowers and foliage.They also look great with the deep blue of the Ceanothus. They are semi-evergreen with blue green leaves, in quite an architectural form to the overall shape of the plant. They grow in quite a wide variety of soil conditions and will take full sun through to partial shade.

Ceanothus ‘Blue Sapphire’

The vivid blue flowers of this Ceanothus along with the almost purple green foliage and stems, make for a very attractive shrub. However, whilst it is incredibly beautiful, compared to other Ceanothus, it is a little on the weedy side. Whilst some Ceanothus can take cooler conditions, this one will only survive with little or no frost. Because of its colour, I still think it’s worth trying. But if you know you’re in an area that has a lot of winter frosts, then it’s probably best to avoid this particular variety.

What are your favourite plants in May?

Leave your plant suggestions in either the Facebook or comments boxes below.

Want to learn more about combining plants?

Check out the Plant Design Formula, where I will share all my top tricks on how you successfully put plants together to create stunning combinations.

BUT do be warned, plants 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…

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