Picture this – you’ve designed a lovely garden. Everyone is happy with it. Even the builders have followed the plan to the letter, no one has changed or accidentally botched the design! It’s almost finished. You know on completion it will look great…
All that remains is to complete the garden design is to put in the perfect planting scheme and viola! It’s done! (Yes I know I’ve spelt “voilà” incorrectly but as you will see, my version is more relevant!).
I’m commissioned to do a garden design in Spain. It is situated in a stunning location. Beautiful house, beautiful scenery. Awkward shape garden (the type I love to design) and the potential to create a lovely courtyard garden. And it’s in SPAIN, did I mention that? They have sun there!
I get the call to go out and do my thing at the exact point I’m beginning to set up the Successful Garden Design website to help show people how to design their garden. In order to help people understand about garden design, it helps to show examples. So with permission from the owners, I video the whole process from garden survey to the build.
Super – my first set of garden design video tutorials will be set in a beautiful location (with sunshine). Much nicer for viewers, much nicer for me. The garden is built, bar the paving (that’s being shipped over next Spring). It’s November and a good time to get the plants in.
Falling Flat on Face Time…
Here’s where it’s turning into a bit of a drama/unmitigated garden design disaster (depending on how melodramatic you are feeling). Now it’s come down to plant choices I’m tearing my hair out. Mr Client wants to bring half of England out with him…
Going back to where we are, in Spain, with its Mediterranean climate, the sentence “I want to bring out a load of winter-flowering pansies” wasn’t something I was expecting to hear. EVER! At first, I thought it was a joke and laughed. Big error on my part – it is no joke. Seriously pansies! I asked “Why?” and the answer was “Because it’s not something they have out here”… No kidding!
And the list of unsuitable plants for this garden design doesn’t end with pansies. Normally I’m very good when it comes to client wishes. I am very aware that it’s their garden. I don’t let client changes upset me, I work with them. So what’s happened this time? This time I’m emotionally involved. I’m passionate about this garden design because I’m making the FATAL mistake of viewing this as ‘my’ garden.
The full picture…
There is one more piece of information you need to have the full picture. The clients I’m working for are my parents. They say never work for friends or relatives and now I see why. I’m incapable of being impartial. I thought I could be but I can’t.
I think the main issue is coming at the garden design from two different perspectives. I want the garden to look good and work from a landscape design & location perspective – I see exotic, Med planting with palms and Bourganvillias. A wonderful opportunity to grow all the plants we can’t grow well in the UK.
My father, on the other hand, is a plantsman, garden design isn’t his first priority. He loves plants as much as I love design. He is passionate about individual plant characteristics. He loves each and every plant and views them as living, breathing beauty. He’s not a plant snob. If he likes something, he likes it – including winter-flowering pansies.
He also wants the palms but he wants to put them with everything else on his list. And I’ve not yet mentioned his love of colour – bright daffodil yellow and shocking pink together have been past favourites…
The Key to a Successful Planting Scheme
I am beginning to feel like the cruel daughter as I write this but the designer in me knows that you can’t just put all your favourite plants together and have it look good. It’s not as simple as that. Good planting design is about shape, form, colour and control.
Can you imagine what a disaster it would be if you were cooking and put ALL your favourite ingredients into one dish! And I mean everything – every single thing you love to eat in one dish. Imagine the conflict on your palette!
Designing a garden planting scheme is no different from cooking a good meal – you need to be disciplined with the ingredients or it will be disastrous. Too many random ingredients and your visual palette will get indigestion.
Even if you cut down on the ingredients, you still need to have harmony with the flavours you are creating. Mustard and marshmallows, for instance, are going to be an awful combination. I feel the same is true about palm trees with pansies.
Not entirely sure how I’m going to resolve this situation – I may have to face facts that I can’t and let my father get on with it – it is his garden after all…
Have You Had Garden Design Disasters?
Out of all the gardens I could have chosen to spend months filming from start to finish, the one that’s meant to promote the Successful Garden Design Course and show hundreds/thousands of people how best to do a garden could turn out to be my worst design nightmare!
Do feel free to laugh/commiserate or offer pearls of wisdom – leave your comment in the box below. In the meantime, I have hair to pull out!
P.S. I will be answering your garden design queries in the next post – if you have trouble visualising your finished garden design, we will look at how you can use that to your advantage…
In the meantime, if you would like the Successful Garden Design cheat sheet and video on how to add the WOW factor to your garden please add your email address below (don’t worry we don’t spam and will NOT pass on your address to anyone else!).